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Cougar Challenger case review

Cougar Challenger case review

Cougar Challenger case review

At Computex 2012, I wandered among endless halls of huge booths filled with computer cases. There were dozens of manufacturers that I’ve never heard of, and that aren’t on what many builders consider the “A-list” of casecrafters, but many of them featured some pretty compelling designs.

One of the booths I walked by caught my attention and made me stop, because their design aesthetic was eye-catching. That booth was Cougar, and today we’re looking at one of their newest cases, the Challenger.

Specifications

  • Mid-tower
  •  Micro-ATX / ATX
  •  268(W)x514(H)x523(D)
  • 3 exposed 5.25″ drive bays
  •  1 exposed and 7 hidden 3.5″ drive bays
  • 3 hidden 2.5″ drive bays (converted from 3.5″ drive bays)
  • External 3.5″ & 2.5″ HDD/SSD hot-swap bay
  • Maximum 3.5″ HDD installed quantity: 9
  • Maximum 2.5″ HDD / SSD installed quantity: 8
  • USB3.0 x 2 (internal), 1 mic jack, 1 audio jack
  • Maximum number of fans: 7
  • 7 expansion slots
  • 410mm maximum graphics card length
Cougar Challenger top drive bay

The SSD/HDD hot swap bay

The Challenger

Cougar Challenger dust filters in front bezel

The dust filters in the front bezel are serious

Let’s just get the one big thing off the plate: some people will immediately reject this case based on aesthetic alone, while some might want it on aesthetic alone. It’s a polarizing design that fits in with the younger core gamer demographic. My 13-year-old son loves the look. I think it looks kind of goofy (I’m 35). The case itself is a standard metal box, the kind that has been coming out of east Asia for years now, though quality has improved dramatically even in the last five years. I think it’s safe to say that the days of sheet metal so thin that a toddler could bend it and finger-shredding razor edges are gone. All of the cases I’ve seen coming out of China and Taiwan lately are at least a reasonably good manufacturing quality; fit and finish are finally acceptable across the board.

The Challenger aesthetic can best be described as race car/fighter jet. One of the things that is mentioned in their marketing material more than once is the red lid-covered power and reset switches, that are supposed to make you feel like you’re flipping open a missile launch switch or something. The rest of the case falls into the race car aesthetic, with glossy black and either orange, white, or more black highlights, depending on which color you choose.

Cougar Challenger switch lid

Fire ze missiles

Aesthetics aside, the Challenger has a couple of very nice features that bear mentioning right away: the dust filters on the side and bottom are magnetic and easily snap into place without worrisome plastic clips that tend to break. It’s very satisfying when they “chunk”  into place, perfectly aligned. It’s a well-designed system that other case manufacturers should imitate.

Magnetic clamps on Cougar Challenger

The top two USB ports have a hybrid internal cable that can be plugged into a USB 3 header if you have one, but also has a pigtail with a USB 2 header if your motherboard lacks support for internal USB 3.

Drives

Cougar Challenger drive cages

The big selling point of the Challenger, based on what Cougar seems to want to get across in their press kits, is the configurable drive tray system.

If you have a massive GPU that requires 410mm of clearance, you can remove an entire section of hard drive trays to make room for it. There are three configurations for hard drive trays. Here are the graphics from Cougar that explain it:

Cougar Challenger case details

Cougar Challenger case configuration

It’s a nice system, and the trays are very simple to swap around and move out if you need to.

The rails themselves are relatively flexible plastic, but they held my drives snugly and snapped into place without any problems.

Airflow

Cougar Challenger front 200mm fan

The Cougar Challenger case reviewAs a normal mid-tower ATX case, airflow is a little cramped. I’m coming from the lofty world of the NZXT Switch 810, so I may be biased, but at least there are enough cable management holes for most users. The Challenger comes with a single 120mm Cougar Turbine fan in the rear, and a giant 200mm fan in the front, which rests behind a relatively airtight filtration panel. The 200mm inhales while the rear fan is set to exhaust. The side panel contains holes to mount a side fan, and the top contains enough room to mount two 120 or 140mm fans or a single 180mm or 200mm fan.

If you opt out of a side fan, a grill with a dust filter is supplied, and it uses the really cool aforementioned magnetic mounts to snap into place.

Quality

Cougar Challenger motherboard standoff system

Cougar Challenger motherboard standoff system

As I mentioned previously, the build quality is better than I had expected. The motherboard tray was matte black steel, and had a large enough cutout for any sort of cooling setup you could throw in there. Instead of brass standoffs, the motherboard tray has raised mounts built right in. There is a single non-screw standoff post in the center, and the motherboard bolts directly to the case on the standoff bumps. I like this system more than having to install 6-9 standoffs.

Cougar Challenger bottom dust filter with magnetic mount

I encountered no quality issues with the case. Everything was solid, square, and fit together perfectly. The side panels were slightly flimsy, but they slid in and screwed in flawlessly.

Recommendation

Cougar Challenger build

If you like the look, this is a pretty decent mid-tower case. If you don’t, there’s no way you’ll buy it. The surprisingly decent build quality, the flexibility granted by the modular drive bays, the magnetic clamps for filters and panels, and the standoff system are all things that set the Cougar apart from their many peers.

If I had to categorize this, I’d put it firmly in the “decent, but not premium” mid-tier. At $65.99, it’s not going to break the bank, and you’ll find yourself with a good quality case.

The Cougar Challenger is available now from Newegg for $65.99.

Comments

  1. Thrax
    Thrax Looks like the offspring of a freaky NZXT/Corsair/Antec ménage à trois.
  2. fatcat
    fatcat now I know where all the plastic went...
  3. Evelon277
    Evelon277 That logo... Roccat, anyone?
  4. cherplunka
    cherplunka Mmmmmm, I love case reviews. I gotta say I see more Voltron than I do race care. Mind you, Voltron is on no way a bad thing.
  5. ardichoke
    ardichoke Anyone else see the name of this article and think it was about someone competing to steal young men away from older women?
  6. CB
    CB Sometimes a cover for the power switch is more than just aesthetic. I've got a make-shift cover - made from a water-bottle lid - covering the power switch on one of my systems because the cats kept stepping on it, and turning the system off.
  7. BuddyJ
    BuddyJ How's the space behind the mobo? It looks like the tray has plenty of slots for good cable management, provided there's room to route things.
  8. Canti
    Canti What I imagine CB's computer room is like now.
  9. Soda
    Soda Yeahhh...my cat does the SAME thing CB. It's lost me a few matches of Dota.
  10. midga
    midga It's an interesting look, but not really my aesthetic. I do like the internals and those nifty magnetic filter covers, though. I'll bet all that plastic makes it light as hell, too. If they made this in Volkswagon instead of Ferrari I'd seriously consider it.
  11. Tim
    Tim I like the look and I like the color combination, and the various configurations. The price isn't bad either.
  12. Nikolai
    Nikolai i'm doing my 1st build ever with this case. I'm not a huge fan of the external orange... the internal orange is fine... But i don't really care too much about looks... GOD, (as a 1st time builder), it was so hard to find a case that i was going to be happy with... i'm doing the installation now... just looking up some things to make sure i don't mess anything up.
  13. Annes
    Annes Good luck, @Nikolai! Building your own computer is incredibly satisfying. If you run into any issues, you know where to come :)
  14. Straight_Man
    Straight_Man @Nikolai , if you look on my site in Articles area, you will find a draft of a Computer Building 101 article with some hints and tips.

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