Corsair Carbide Spec 02, Spec 03 Cabinets
Spec 02 - ₹4399
Spec 03 - ₹4599
Corsair has been making some brilliant high end PC cabinets and it now seeks to capture the budget gamer market with its Carbide Spec series. Following our review of the Spec-01, here is our review of the Spec-02 and Spec-03
The Spec-02 and Spec-03 are identical internally with the front panel layout being the only differentiating factor. It is a mid-tower designed to accommodate Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX and ATX motherboards and an ATX PSU. There are three 3.5” drive bays (That can also fit 2.5” drives), two 2.5″ SSD bays and two 5.25” bays for Optical Disc Drives. The case has six fan mount locations with two up front, two at the top and one at the rear and one at the bottom, all of which support 120mm fans, with the front slots also supporting 140mm fans. Corsair gives one 120mm red LED fan and one plain black 120mm fan at the rear with the case. The Spec-03 also has variants with two orange or white 120mm led fans in the front. The case is painted Black right down to the screws that come for fixing components in place.
The case is made of Steel and Plastic, with a transparent Acrylic panel for the side. The steel has been bent to ensure that no sharp corners will be found to cause cuts when mounting components. This does mean the case is a little heavy at 4.8kg, which can go even higher when filled with components. The Drive Bays and the Side Panels feature toolless mounting. The quality of materials used is quite good, but we found the paint job to be wanting. Paint could be easily scratched off especially underneath the screw holes. Corsair bundles extra screws for various different fixing needs and some zipties to help with cable management. The Front and bottom of the case also come with dust filters. The front panel includes two socket s for USB 3.0, Headphone out and Mic in which are fitted to the main case body.
We were quite happy with the design of the Spec-01, so it came as quite a shock to us to find that the internal design for the Spec-02 and Spec-03 was full of some fundamental flaws. The case has room for mounting two fans up front and supplies a set of long screws for fixing one of them. However the screws are too small for the holes provided and fail to secure the fan in place. The fans must be screwed in from the front and the bottom fan is hard to pin in place thanks to space constraints provided by the drive bay.
The motherboard mounting position is too high due which one is unable to fit fans in the top slots if one is using a custom tower type air cooler. Thus this case is better for folks with water coolers or stock coolers. This limits the potential customer base for the cases.
The side panels have protrusions to allow for more space within the case. The back side is deep enough to store all the spare cables which need to be stored there thanks to the presence of the bottom 120mm fan and the holes in the motherboard mounting plate are quite big to accommodate all the cables. The panel has a good locking system of metal loops that won’t accidentally go out of shape and the rear side has raised edges that serve as handles to easily open the panels. The flaw however lies with the design of the screws which needn’t be removed from the side panels thanks to their slender necks. While this works well in theory, practically you end up removing them fully anyway which widens their holes subsequently so that they will then fall off if kept in their holes.
The motherboard can be mounted easily with the help of a central stud with a raised notch. However, one must screw in the motherboard before mounting the top case fans as they can hinder access to the top three studs for screwing if one can even use the top fan slots due to the cooler type. The case has a huge clearance of 426mm for the gpu thanks to the gap between the drive bays. The 3.5” Drive Bays have plastic trays to allow for toolless installation of HDDs and SSDs while the 5.25” drives have a flappable locking mechanism. The clearance for the CPU Heatsink is 165mm which should accommodate most aftermarket coolers. Corsair suggests mounting the radiator fan for liquid cooling at the rear. The rear mounting slots have toolless screws to easily remove the slits but we found that they fit so tightly that you need a screwdriver for them anyway. Also being thick screw heads which must be fixed from inside the case, it leads to space constraints when mounting extra wide GPUs like Asus’s Matrix 780 Ti.
The back of the motherboard mounting is designed to allow for some decent cable management but it lacks enough loops to fix extra cables in place. The inlet hole for the cables is also quite large. However, cables from the front fans may show due to lack of cover between the drive bays. Since the back panel is closed off at the top, the 8 pin power cable must be routed along the front of the board and can’t be hidden.
The fan slots feature protrusions at the screwing holes in the front and protrusions of the grille at the top and rear. This leads to a vibration free case after mounting fans and any odd noises made by the case can be attributed to faulty fans only.
The case doesn’t have any handles to easily carry it around though. The front grille looks rather imposing and lights up brilliantly when the PC is on. The clearance between the drives ensures that the diffused glow form the LED fan also lights up components inside the case as seen through the acrylic window in the side panel. The aesthetics of the case should appeal to gamers who would like an aggressive looking rig.
The closed sides of the case ensure that airflow happens in a one directional channel.The ideal fan configuraytion for this case is suggested as follows. The front fans must act as intakes with one cooling the HDDs/SSDs and the other feeding the front of the motherboard and the GPU. The bottom fan must be an intake as well though this might case the case to suffer from a vacuum effect. The PSU should be mounted with the fan facing down, since it is an intake fan and comprises its own independent system. If one is able to mount the top fans, then the forward top fan must also be mounted as an intake to cool the RAM sticks and the backward top and the rear fan must both function as exhausts. This will ensure unidirectional airflow in the cabinet and lower temperatures of the components within. Some rudimentary cable management should keep this airflow clear.
We kept both cases in continuous operation for a week each to get an idea of how well they hold up to the dusty conditions prevalent in India. We found that the bottom and top dust filters to be quite effective at trapping dust though the front panel with its larger drilled holes isn’t as great at stopping dust. The bottom fan also has a vacuum effect where it sucks in dust from under the case.
The amount of dust we found in the case suggests that it needs to be cleaned on a monthly basis to keep internal temperatures in check. This is quite decent though having a finer mesh on the front would help reducing dust intake a lot. The dust filters are quite easy to clean but have sharp edges that can cut if one is reckless.
The Spec-02 is priced at ₹4399 while the Spec-03 costs ₹4599 and comes with a 2 year warranty from Corsair. The Spec-03 also has two more options besides the standard red for the front led fans which are orange and white. The size and price point of the cabinets are slightly on the lower side for those looking at a liquid cooling and SSD setup for their mid-range rig. However the same are on the higher side for those opting for stock or cheaper air coolers with just mechanical disks. The case design is fundamentally flawed though it does have some upsides. Our certificate of disapproval for it comes from the fact that screwing in all the components was quite tedious and resulted in aching hands.
We found that the top side of the cases can get extremely cramped when we try to fit components that stretch its space constraints and this forced us to drop some components. The ample clearances are good and the Airflow arrangement is okay. The cases seem to demand a one way approach to installing components in a particular order if one is to fit everything in. The cases fare slightly above average when it comes to dust resistance. However the poor quality of paintwork is rather disappointing at the price point they sell at.
+Great internal clearance
+Separate SSD mounting slots
-Top side of case can get too cramped
-Cables might show in gap between drive bays
-No handles for ease of carrying around
-Fundamental flaws in design