Best Of 2013 - Cases: Corsair Air 540
Our final award for case of the year is taken once again by Corsair, but this was by far our tightest race. Phantek’s deluxe debut chassis the Enthoo Primo was a shock contender, and the ever reliable NZXT brought us the classy full-tower H630, but Corsair weren’t to be denied. Gaining their fourth 2013 award thanks to a unique and innovative design, the Air 540 is ideal for air cooling and use with Corsair’s own range of closed loop liquid coolers. Dave sums it up:
Corsair have boldly stepped into new territory with the Air 540 and have certainly pulled it off. A unique and innovative computer case can be found in the Air 540 – those who demand great air cooling for their enclosure should definitely consider this rather interesting and exciting new offering.
The Enthoo Primo is worthy of being singled out for special mention too. An ultra-high-end chassis similar to 2012’s Cooler Master Cosmos II, it’s a fantastic option for EATX systems and bespoke water cooling. Costing only £200, it’s also great value when you can expect to pay 50% more for similar features in competing solutions.
Final Thoughts - A Quick Year In Review
It was always going to be difficult to follow 2012 in terms of innovation and a challenging PC market could have spurred some conservatism amongst cash-strapped manufacturers. Thankfully 2013 still saw some distinct highlights for technology enthusiasts and value fiends, whether it be paradigm-shifting graphics performance from both NVIDIA and AMD or the continued downward trend in SSD pricing.
A definite disappoint for has been the relentless march of higher prices in memory; DIMMs which at one stage could be acquired for a pittance now command a premium price, greatly increasing the cost of budget systems. That has been offset somewhat by a normalisation of storage and motherboard pricing, but it has nonetheless made building a system a little more expensive than it might otherwise have been.
NVIDIA certainly called down the thunder with the GK110-based GPUs, beginning with GTX TITAN and finishing with the GTX 780 Ti. For a moment it looked as if AMD couldn’t respond and instead would concentrate on the mid-range and APUs now that the next-gen consoles had launched, but Hawaii took the world (especially the Bitcoin mining portion of it) by storm. Although we weren’t quite as full-throated in our plaudits as some publications, we’re nonetheless looking forward to partner versions in the first half of this year.
It seems that Intel are unchallenged in CPU performance, and they certainly seem to have taken their foot off the throttle in the desktop arena. New low-power chips from them are expected this year along with Haswell’s first revision, but when AMD can’t compete with the i7’s of this world it’s hard to imagine Intel really pushing the boundaries. Great things are expected of Kaveri, and we shall see more of that APU in time.
With that said, the most significant technologies and trends to look out for next year may not be the components themselves, but rather game-changing bonuses they may bring. NVIDIA have G-Sync monitor technology, whilst AMD’s Mantle may give their new APUs genuine gaming potential. ROCCAT’s Talk technology may finally gain some traction, and Corsair are releasing a full-colour mechanical keyboard in conjunction with Cherry. Finally there is the Steam Machine, a project backed by Valve, Intel, NVIDIA, AMD and supported by small form factor system manufacturers such as ZOTAC and retailers like SCAN.
There may be few explosive gains to be had in 2014, but it should still be an interesting (and at times challenging) time for the industry.
We'd like to thank our sponsors for this years awards, NZXT and Overclockers UK and more widely all the manufacturers and associated partners who are gracious in supplying us with products to review for you. Despite often heated disagreements over the merit of their innovations, we’re privileged to have an excellent relationship with so many. It’s this relationship that’s allowed us to bring you this years exclusive reviews at launch, trusting us to give an in depth and above all unbiased assessment.
Finally we'd like to thank you, our readers. We do our best to bring you the latest products with an unbiased eye, yet for all the cool technology which comes through our doors we simply couldn't operate without a consistent readership. All comments and feedback are valued so don't hesitate to leave them, and well will endeavour to bring you even more exceptional products in 2014.
The Vortez Team leaves you with this year's competition winners. Congratulations to each of you:
Kane Haywood Rogers