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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [07.19.04]
Manufactured by: Cooler Master 

Price at Newegg.com: $113 (incl. 350W PSU)
Find other versions of this case here!

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It's been a while since we last reviewed a Cooler Master case (actually two). Since then, they have taken their cases to a new, simple direction. They would now have towers and desktops clearly marketed for different segments. They planned to release only a few models at a time; at most 2 for each segment (this simplification is what caused some employees to leave and start their own company, which has had great results so far).

Since we reviewed those wonderfully simple, tasteful designs, we've been reviewing cases aimed at "gamers" which ranged from the outlandish, to the evil, to the completely distasteful.

Every time we reviewed such a case, we loved the functionality, but left the looks up to each individual to decide upon. Some people love those Alienware-inspired plastic bezels, but others find them to be complete eyesores. More often than not, the feedback has been "why do you keep reviewing these expensive, ugly premods?". Well we heard you guys loud and clear! I sought out to find a case that offers tasteful design that can stand on its own, or be a perfect basis for a case mod.

Enter the Cavalier

Cooler Master has hit this target perfectly with the Cavalier series. The T03 pictured above can be found for $113 at Newegg, and that includes a 350W PSU (hey, we should all have a backup PSU just in case, right? ).

Guessing from the price, you might expect the Cavalier to be a full aluminum case (their original Wave Master, from which this case derives its design is just $140 or so without a PSU - a difference of only $27). Unfortunately they used aluminum for the front bezel only, and steel for the rest.

While the case may be of steel construction, that doesn't mean it is going to be like the cheap $20 jobbies you get with the purchase of an OEM CPU at your local shop. The Cavalier is every bit as refined as Cooler Master's high end aluminum cases, as you're about to see.

The Cavalier series is available in two formats; the Tower we're reviewing today, and also a desktop which we will review this week or next.

Each case is available in a version with an analog sound meter that lights up blue. This can be a nice touch to the outside of the case; considering that the door covers every 5.25" bay, you won't be able to do much else in the way of minor mods to this case. I tend to think it somewhat ruins the smooth look of this case however. Nonetheless, the option is available to you for about $20 more than the standard model.

All models are available in either aluminum/silver or black anodized aluminum/black finishes. There is also a version of each with a side window, although that wouldn't really suit this case.

Check this out!

When I first saw this case at Computex last month, the first thing that caught my eye was the drive bay cover door:

  

The door can be easily configured to open to the left or right! This feature will be a benefit to pretty much every user out there, I can imagine. I know I would want my door to open to the right, but of the case was on the other side of the desk, that wouldn't be much good! Kudos to Cooler Master for introducing this handy feature, and making it so easy to do (just move the pegs from one side to the other; the top one is spring loaded).

Now that you've seen the door open, you know that there are five exposed 5.25" bays, and a single 3.5" bay. There are four more hidden 3.5" bays, although one of them

  

On either side of the Cavalier, you'll find the various expansion ports. This is probably the best solution considering the goal of keeping a pure, clean look on the front of the case. However, I think I would find it somewhat annoying to have my USB flash drive sticking out side of the case.

  

Thankfully, Cooler Master used a standard USB plug for the internal headers on the motherboard. If your motherboard is using a non standard config, it's probably time for an upgrade anyway. I haven't seen a motherboard use a non-standard config since the SDR days!

Also, I like the use of an internal FireWire port, as opposed to a simple passthrough plug. This makes for a much cleaner, convenient install.

Unfortunately, there doesn't yet seem to be a standard mic/headphone pin configuration, so Cooler Master were forced to use individual headers in this case. Nonetheless, this is a better solution than passthrough adapters, especially with today's sound cards featuring plug-sensetive ports.

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