In our 10+ years of reviewing PC cases, we have covered everything from slick looking cases like the Define r3, to the aggressive NZXT Phantom. Today we’re reviewing a case that is so radical that it makes the rest look like the boxes they came in, in comparison.
To say the Cougar Challenger is attention-grabbing is an understatement. Aesthetics are subjective of course, but I happen to like it. The bright orange glossy plastic and perforated grille have this ‘in your face’ look that I think is suitable for a gaming PC. You might expect that from a site with ‘hardcore’ in its name though! The question is, does this relatively affordable ($85 without power supply) gaming case have the bite to back up its bark? Let’s find out!
We’re not going to waste your time reposting the specs of the case – if you’re curious, you will be checking out the Cougar Challenger product page anyway. I will mention that for a mid-tower case that is around 50cm in height, it supports an impressive 9 hard drive installations, and up to 7 fans.
Also unusual for a compact case like this is support for 410 mm in length. Although we haven’t seen such a huge video card in years, knowing that there is no limit to graphics card length is good to have. This is due to a clever design that allows part of the HDD cage to be set up in three different ways:
The longest video cards today are the dual GPU cards like the GeForce 690 GTX and Radeon 7970, which at 280mm may still squeeze into the default configuration. The more likely reason to use “B-Mode” would be to use the 2.5″ bays for SSD installation. I can’t think of any reason to use C-Mode, unless you were going to install a really old system with a 3DFX card in there or something…
Let’s take a roundabout tour of the Challenger before installing a system:
Removing the front fascia is very easy, as there are no cables attached to it. In fact I would say it’s too easy – I have accidentally knocked it off a few times since using this case. Once removed, you can see the HUGE 200mm fan that comes preinstalled. As you can guess, a fan this big doesn’t have to spin very fast to move a lot of air, so it is very quiet.
2/3 of the top surface of the case is perforated, allowing for extensive exhaust output. You have the choice of either installing some fans, or just let convection do its work. As you can tell, all sorts of fan setups are supported – 2x120mm, 2x140mm, 1x180mm, or even 1x200mm. This is also a fantastic place to install a water radiator output, with so many different configurations supported.
The remainder of the top houses the exansion ports, which include two USB 3.0 ports (with backwards compatibility for USB 2.0 in a clever dual-header design), headphone and mic, and an external hard drive port. This type of hard drive port is much more useful than a standard E-SATA port in my opinion.
Taking a peak underneath the Challenger, we see that they have installed a dust filter, to prevent the bottom-mounted power supply from dying and early death due to overheating from being caked in dirt. There is also room for a 120mm or 140mm fan here, but even with a dust filter I personally don’t think pulling air from under the case is a good idea, unless you keep it elevated.
The rear of the case sports another preinstalled fan, this one is 120mm, and also silent. You can also see that there is yet another fan intake on the side panel, with support for a 120 or 140mm fan. The cover is magnetic, which we’ll look at more closely later.
As you can probably tell from this view, the case is quite wide – 28.8 cm – which should help with routing cables behind the motherboard tray. Speaking of which, let’s install a system in this thing, and see how well designed it is on the inside!