In a world dominated by rectangular mid-towers, the HAF XB's squarish design is refreshing, and the fact that Cooler Master pulled it off without any major drawbacks makes this a very attractive option for gamers on the go or enthusiasts with a taste for the unusual. In short, it's the best LAN-friendly case we've worked with, we're attracted to its well-balanced aesthetics, it covers just about everything we'd want in an top-end chassis besides its limited support for 3.5" drives, and it's priced at only $100.
Although we just called this the best LAN-friendly case we've worked with, make no mistake: the HAF XB is still big and bulky. However, its cube-like design makes it less awkward to transport than traditional case designs. There are certainly more compact options available, but all of them come with tradeoffs that are mostly absent with the HAF XB, which can easily accommodate a full-fledged gaming rig with an ATX motherboard, a beefy aftermarket processor heatsink, a pair of flagship graphics cards and so on.
Not only can it house that kind of hardware, but it does so without complicating the installation process, which we've found to be fairly common among non-standard chassis designs. The HAF XB is flexible about the order in which components can be installed, whereas unconventional internal layouts often require specific build orders. For example, you might have to remove a handful of parts before removing an optical drive. A part of what sets the HAF XB apart is its dual 3.5" external hot-swappable bays.
Unfortunately, those are the only 3.5" drive bays available, so folks who need more than two desktop hard drives might have to get creative if they want to use the HAF XB. Another shortcoming worth mentioning is the fact that the HAF XB only ships with two 120mm fans (both front intake). Although this is probably sufficient for many rigs, investing in at least one 120mm rear exhaust is likely a wise investment for higher-end systems as it reduced our processor load temperature by up to 9 degrees Celsius.
As someone who reviews computer hardware for a hobby, I have access to nearly any case I might want. As I type, the Level 10 GT, Antec Lanboy Air, Bitfenix Colossus, Cubitek HPTX-ICE are collecting dust in my house, and yet I've decided to build a permanent system in the HAF XB because I like it too much to leave it empty. That's perhaps the best compliment I can offer and it serves as a testament to the HAF XB's all-around quality. We're glad to see Cooler Master's HAF series knock another one out of the park.
Pros: Excellent design means you get good looks and easy hardware installs. Cube-like figure, orientation make for an awesome test bed. Good value.
Cons: Still big and bulky. Only two 3.5" bays. Heat management not its strongest suit.