Gaming cabinets from Alienware stayed true to their name by offering futuristic design elements that certainly gave an impression of alien tech. On the same lines, the exteriors of the Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha looks no less alien. Highly reminiscent of the turrets from the video game Portal, Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha’s feet play a big role in giving it that distinct look.
Although, there’s one glaring change that needs to be addressed – the optical disc drive slot has been removed compared to the previous version. If you’re looking out for a new gaming cabinet, this might make you ponder since many modern cabinets are dropping ODD support. Many local gamers don’t have the luxury of a high-speed internet connection and they are still dependent on physical copies for games. But this shouldn’t be really a concern since USB-powered external DVD drives are available that cost almost the same. This decision wasn’t the company’s alone and in fact, the request was honoured after feedback from owners of the older SPEC models. There are several aspects to talk about the SPEC Alpha, and in this review, we’ll be talking about its design, ease of cable management and assembling components, and several other prominent features.
Motherboard form factor: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ATX
PSU form factor: ATX standard
Front I/O: 2 x USB 3.0, Mic in and Audio Out, 3-speed fan control
Drive options: 3 x 3.5-inch HDD, 4 x 2.5-inch SSD
Fans: 3 x 120mm
Maximum GPU length: 380mm
Maximum CPU cooler height: 156mm
Maximum PSU length: 190mm
Packaging and Contents
The Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha comes packed in a cardboard box, wrapped in a plastic bag which is in turn protected by styrofoam on the top and bottom. This ensures that there are minimal chances of damage to the cabinet if it happens to undergo rough handling. On the box, you’ll find a few features listed and the schematics of the cabinet as is the case with any cabinet.
The other contents of the box include the different set of screws, separated in different nylon bags according to their sizes. You get screws for your HDD, SSD, short and long ones for fans, motherboard and one motherboard standoff screw, and six zip ties for cable management. Again, standard faire.
Design: Interior and Exterior
The interiors remain the same in the Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha compared to the previous Spec cabinets. With dimensions of 518 x 220 x 474 mm, this cabinet is able to house ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards. The front and top panels have an angled design with portions covered with mesh to allow air intake and exhaust, respectively.
The side-window panel has a transparent plexiglass which is susceptible to scratches so you’ll need to be extra careful while handling it. The cabinet ensures all your components are visible if your components all have LED lighting, and we’re sure that it will look far better with RGB LED lighting. The protruding nature of the window gives you some breathing space to fit in those huge CPU coolers provided they’re not taller than 156mm. Similarly, the same protrusion on the left panel makes it easier to accommodate all the thick cables running behind the motherboard.
Both the top and front panels are attached with the main body using locking tabs so there aren’t any screws here. To remove the front panel, you need to pull the front-piece while unlocking the tabs from the inside. The top panel has thumbscrews attached at the back of the cabinet and after removing them, the panel can be removed by sliding and lifting the top. The meshes on the top and front panel don’t have any dust filters and you’ll find only one at the bottom.
The cabinet stands at a considerable distance from the floor for air intake from the bottom (if you install an aftermarket case fan) thanks to its weird looking feet. If these feet look too alien and don’t impress you then you can buy those rounded rubber feet and attach them in the provided mounting holes at the bottom.
The front I/O panel includes the power button, two USB 3.0 ports, three-speed fan controller, mic in and audio out port, and the reset button. You may or may not find yourself shifting the fan speeds often, but ideally your fans should be running at full speed while gaming and can be brought down while running mundane tasks.
The back panel of the cabinet consists of a 120mm fan and seven PCI-E expansion slots. The slots are tool less thanks to the thumbscrews but if you are unscrewing them for the first time, expect some mighty resistance. You just might have to grab a screwdriver to attach your GPU or other PCI-E cards. There are no locking tabs as are seen in truly tool-less designs. There are rubberised holes to fit liquid cooling pipes and at the bottom there’s the PSU cage.
The thumbscrews don’t fall off their grooves, clinging to them which is something Corsair has been doing with their cabinets and should be adopted by other cabinet manufacturers as well. The side-panel can be adjusted to make it lean against the bottom feet which is quite helpful if you want to take a quick look inside rather than removing the entire panel.
On the other hand, we weren’t able to screw in the side-window thumbscrews on the Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha review unit we received, and we hope that this problem persists only on our unit. This also made the panel leave a wide gap at the front, making it look defective. One more concern that bothered us was about not having any grooves to pick up the cabinet.
The front panel comes pre-installed with two 120mm LED fans with sliding mounting holes that let you move the fans in case you plan on adding a third fan at the bottom. The top panel can house two 120mm fans as well. These fans can be controlled with the three-speed fan controller on the front panel. To be able to reach and install the third fan, you’ll have to remove the drive cage that houses three HDD slots and two SSD brackets, and additional two SSD brackets can be found behind the motherboard plate.
The HDD and SSD slots on the drive cage are completely tool less and installing your storage drives is a piece of cake. If you plan on replacing the stock fans with aftermarket coolers and radiators, or even if you want to install a second GPU (380mm in length), you will have to remove the drive cage.
Assembly and Cable Management
While assembling our testing rig, we didn’t have to beat our heads at any point throughout the process. The PCI-E expansion slots as already mentioned aren’t completely tool less, and the GPU had to be fixed using the thumbscrews. Attaching the SSD and HDD was a breeze since all you need to do is slide them inside the drive cage and they will lock on to the tabs. For a more cleaner look, we would recommend attaching the SSD behind the plate rather than the drive cage just to improve cabling.
The Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha offers a generous number of tie-slits and paths for cable management. The cutouts on the motherboard plate are well thought out to aid routing the cables to the necessary components from the PSU. But rubber grommets are missing on the cutouts, something you would expect on this cabinet. The liquid cooling pipe holes are the only place where you’ll find rubber grommets. The CPU power cable of the Corsair RM1000x PSU couldn’t fit through the top right corner cutout and the workaround was to pass the other end of the cable through the cutout. If you have a modular PSU, you will be able to employ the workaround. Otherwise, you’ll have to route the CPU power cable through the top middle cutout. This is a minor issue which holds true for certain cables only.
The absence of the optical disc drive certainly improves the airflow, even with the three stock fans. Spinning at full speed, the CPU lay stable at 62 degrees while running on full load using Prime95 for five minutes. FurMark is quite intensive and the Radeon HD 7790 heated up to 60 degrees in the preset settings (burn-in switched off).
|Test Bench Configuration|
|Motherboard||AsRock X79 Extreme9|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-4960X|
|GPU||AMD Radeon HD 7790|
|RAM||Corsair Dominator 2x8GB DDR3 (1333MHz)|
|SSD||Sandisk Extreme Pro II (240GB)|
|HDD||WD Red (2TB)|
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-L9x65|
Measuring the temperature zones revealed that the CPU area stayed cool at around 40 degrees which wasn’t a surprise because of the front intake fans and the rear exhaust fan working together. In full potential, which is three fans at the front, two on the top, one at the bottom and one at the rear, airflow will immensely improve and make the enclosure far cooler.
VerdicT: Corsair Carbide Spec Alpha
We were looking forward to having the cabinet grace our test labs. After having spent more than a week, tweaking and playing around with the fans and cabling, the Corsair Carbide SPEC Alpha stands ahead of its competition in terms of both, looks and pricing (Rs. 6,499). The quality of the motherboard plate and plastic parts are satisfactory, none of the areas are susceptible to bending. With enough time spent, you’ll be able to route all the cables in way that will ultimately improve airflow while giving it a clean look. We received the red and black variant, which actually looks better than the black and grey variant, but this is highly subjective. If you are looking for a new gaming cabinet, and wouldn’t mind the absence of the optical disc drive, look no further.
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Abhijit "BabuMoshaaye" Dey
This ape-descended life form believed that coming down from the trees was a bad idea until he was introduced to video games. Has spent endless hours playing Prince of Persia, Hitman, Assassin's Creed, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life and Left 4 Dead. This makes it three sentences, Half-Life 3 confirmed.