A unique enthusiast chassis
The Carbide Air 540 is a full ATX case that mixes things up with two side by side compartments.
The Corsair Carbide Air 540 is a very unique case. It fits a full size ATX motherboard and up to four dual-slot graphics cards but it's shorter than you might expect thanks to a design choice that splits the active components from the mostly passive ones. The result is a case that is more square than rectangular yet still combines the charm of Corsair designs with the performance enthusiasts want.
For the best view of the case check out the video review below and then continue on for some additional photos and commentary.
Divided into two side by side compartments, the Air 540 has a unique front style merging a mesh look on the left with matte black paint on the right.
The right hand side includes two 5.25-in optical drive bays turned 90 degrees to fit in the smaller right hand compartment. Honestly, I am looking forward to the day that a case vendor is gutsy enough to leave off optical bays completely in an enthusiast design as I just think they take away from the overall appeal and looks.
Under the bays you'll find the power and reset buttons, audio connections and a pair of USB 3.0 ports. I do wish we had more front panel connections as that is more frequently what I need to access.
The left side door features a full size window with a nice tint job on it so it can drive down the highway without being judged. Also it makes it easy to show off all your hardware.
As the main compartment this is where most of your hard working gear will go. A full sized ATX motherboard spans from top to bottom yet leave room up top for water cooling. This image shows a Radeon HD 7990 installed in the Air 540 as it is the longer current generation offering we had in the office; no problems there. Corsair includes a set of three AF140L fans that can move a lot of air without making a lot of noise, two in the front for intake and one in the back for exhaust.
Under the motherboard you'll see our red Corsair SSD and it is here we should note that the Air 540 will only hold two 3.5-in hard drives. Yes, two. Those sleds at the bottom of the case are hot swap capable which is nice, but users that want more than a pair of hard drives are going to need to look elsewhere or find some 5.25-in to 3.5-in drive bay adapters. Support for additional 2.5-in drives is available on the opposite side.
This diagram provided by Corsair shows the available locations for water cooling radiators and shows a lot of the Air 540's flexibility.
A look into the right hand compartment shows us where the power supply lives as well as the cables necessary for communications wind up. (Note: you should clean up your cables a lot better than this but even with this nest of wires in the back you can see how clean things look through the windows out front.)
This sled will hold up to four additional 2.5-in drives, SSD or HDD, freeing up those front sleds for the 3.5-in hard drives you'll likely still be using for a couple years to come. They are completely tool less and simply lock in place when pushed in.
My biggest complaint about the Carbide Air 540 is here: where the optical bay try would be if we hadn't removed it. Do you see that primary ATX power cable running through the cable routing hole? That is RIGHT where the edge of the optical bay tray would be if it were still there making it nearly impossible to feed the large power connector through without pinching our fingers. Since we weren't using any optical drives in this build, we simply removed it but I can't imagine why Corsair didn't find another way to set this up for easier installation of all components.
Despite that flaw and a couple of other nit-picks to be found in the video review above, we really liked our time building in and using the Corsair Carbide Air 540. It is a unique design that not only works easily out of the box but has a lot of flexibility for water and air cooling. At Quakecon 2013 this year I found several of the Air 540's in the BYOC that were great starter kits for modding.
Better yet, with a price tag of just $139 it is quite affordable! It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of other Corsair cases like the Obsidian series but it will make a great case for a lot of enthusiasts!