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Cooler Master NCORE 100 MAX Review – All The Power, But Smaller
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Cooler Master NCORE 100 MAX Review – All The Power, But Smaller

by March 12, 2024
Overview
Warranty

2 years (Case)
2 years (AIO)
10 years (PSU)

Price

RM1,799

Positives

+ Tiny desk footprint
+ Fits among the largest GPUs on the market
+ Pre-installed PSU & AIO
+ Tool-less access panels
+ Pre-routed & length-optimized cabling
+ Allows extended configurations
+ Manageable thermals, despite size constraints

Negatives

- (None)

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Pokde Rating
Appearance
8.7
Features
9.0
Materials
8.5
Performance
8.5
User Experience
9.0
Value
8.5
Bottom Line

If your desk space is limited, but still don't want to sacrifice too much in the performance department - the Cooler Master NCORE 100 MAX is the perfect answer.

8.7
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Meet the new NCORE 100 MAX from Cooler Master – the company has had a great history in SFF cases, so suffice to say we have reasonably high expectations for this all-new design from the Taiwanese case maker. In this review, we’ll talk you through the build process, and see if it’s any good for those who want to save good amounts of desk space.

Unboxing

For a small form-factor case, this box is rather sizeable – heavy, even – to carry around. It’s probably larger in terms of internal volume, too. In any case, Cooler Master offers two color variants for this case (Bronze and Dark Grey), and we have the latter with us. As the MAX model, it comes with a pre-installed power supply and AIO cooler, which will save you plenty of time in the build process.

Inside the box, you’ll also be greeted with a small accessory box that packs all the screws and bits needed to get the system up and running. Conveniently, the parts are all listed under the box (you can also refer to the user manual as well). Below are all the parts laid out (sans the case itself):

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Accessories

Cooler Master has organized the accessories into three sections: case, cooler, and PSU. For the case, you have various sets of screws and a standoff socket (lower right), whereas the AIO cooler uses the group of screws on the top left, as shown. However, there’s one set of screws that wasn’t accounted for – which is the four screws below the CPU standoff screws. Neither the box nor the user manual has made any mention of this set of screws, so our best guess is that they might be spares for the pre-installed screws on the case itself.

That aside, you also get the LGA115x/1200 and LGA1700 socket backplate, Intel/AMD pump bracket, and Cooler Master Cryofuze thermal paste for the AIO part. For the PSU, you have the AC cable, one SATA connector (for the single optional 2.5″ SSD drive), and three PCIe 8-pin connectors – in case your GPU doesn’t use the 12VHPWR connector, which is pre-installed in the case. Finally, you have a set of zip-ties for cable management, and a second top cover for the case for when the case is configured in Expansion Mode (for bigger GPUs).

Here’s a summary list of items:

  • AC power cord
  • 1x SATA power connector
  • 3x PCIe 8-pin connector
  • Intel LGA1700 backplate
  • Intel LGA115x/1200 backplate
  • AIO pump brackets (Intel/AMD)
  • Cooler Master Cryofuze thermal paste
  • 4x pump bracket screws
  • 4x pump standoff screws
  • 4x pump locking nuts
  • 1x standoff socket
  • 2x M.2 screws
  • 4x M.2 mounting pins
  • 4x motherboard screws
  • 10x cable zip ties
  • Large top panel (for Expansion Mode configuration)
  • User manual
  • 4x screws (unlisted, presumed to be spare case screws)

Appearance

While the NCORE 100 MAX is technically a small form factor case, the case is pretty huge in a certain way. The case is as tall as your regular ATX tower case, though the beauty comes from the footprint: it only occupies just one-third of the desk area compared to the same ATX cases. Even then, it’s got enough space to fit a full-blown RTX 4090, with some rare exceptions. Note that this case is currently in normal mode, which is slightly narrower and limits GPU thickness to 3 slots.

Up top, the case has an integrated mesh grille that serves as the exhaust for the AIO radiator placed on top of the case. Depending on the configuration (normal or expansion mode), you can swap this top cover with the secondary cover that accommodates extended width. Under the case is where you can find the GPU display outputs once it’s installed.

The power button is located in the front-left corner, with the I/O placed on the left side. Here, you have a pair of USB 3.2 Type-A 5Gbps ports and a single USB-C 20Gbps port, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack. Given how tall this case is once placed on the desk, connecting stuff to the PC should be a whole lot easier – no need to stand up and reach for that port.

The case panels are split into two sections, front-right and rear-left. Both provide tool-less removal – simply grab the top edge, detach the panel from the case, and lift outward to remove completely. Both panels are pre-installed with a mesh grille that can be removed for cleaning.

Specifications

Cooler Master NCORE 100 MAX

Case Form Factor SFF (Small form factor)
Motherboard Support Mini-ITX
Dimensions Normal mode: 155 x 212 x 481 mm
Expansion mode: 172 x 212 x 481 mm
Volume Normal mode: 15.8L
Expansion mode: 17.54L
Front I/O Panel 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) USB-A
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20Gbps) USB-C
1x 3.5mm headphone jack
Drive Bays 1x 2.5″ drive bay (SSD)
PCIe Slot Count Normal mode: 3-slot (62mm)
Expansion mode: 3.9-slot (79mm)
*240mm PCIe 4.0 x16 riser pre-installed
Vertical GPU Support No, specific installation only
Case Fan Support 1x 120mm (rear)
Pre-installed Fans 1x Cooler Master SickleFlow 120mm
Water Cooling Support 1x 120mm AIO (pre-installed)
Side Panel Type Aluminum (front-right + rear-left)
Onboard RGB Lighting None
Max. Graphics Card Dimensions Normal mode: 337 x 62 x 180 mm
Expansion mode: 357 x 79 x 180 mm
*Maximum space including GPU power connector
Max. CPU Cooler Height 48mm
Max. RAM Height 48mm
Max. PSU Length 100mm, SFX PSUs only
(Cooler Master V SFX Gold 850W ATX 3.0 PSU pre-installed)

Test System

CPU Intel Core i5-14400F
Intel Core i9-14900K
Cooling 120mm custom MasterLiquid AIO cooler (pre-installed)
Cooler Master Cryofuze (included)
Motherboard ASRock H670M-ITX/ax
GPU Sapphire Pulse AMD Radeon RX 7600 XT
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition
Memory TEAMGROUP T-Force Vulcan Z DDR4-3200 16GB x1
Storage HIKSEMI WAVE Pro 512GB SSD
Power Supply Cooler Master V SFX Gold 850W ATX 3.0 (pre-installed)
Case Cooler Master NCORE 100 MAX (as tested)
Operating System Windows 11 Home 23H2

Installation

For this review, we’ll be installing the components in the Normal Mode configuration, which allows a maximum GPU size of 337 x 62 x 180mm. Installing GPUs with over 337mm of length or thicker than 3 slots will require additional reconfiguration of the case layout before beginning the installation process.

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Here’s the first thing to start when both side panels are taken off. At the front is a tool-less quick-release “spine” that allows the side panel to anchor on it, and you can remove this by lifting the two locks according to the guides to lift it off the case.

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Here’s what the case looks like in its default form (with packaging foam removed). The Mini-ITX motherboard will sit below the PSU – which is the Cooler Master V SFX Gold 850W with shortened cables for easier installation. The GPU slot is located in the rear of both components, connected via a PCIe 4.0 x16 riser.

Here’s a closer look at the pre-installed components. A single CM SickleFlow 120mm acts as the side exhaust fan, although the space is pretty limited for this fan to pull the hot air out. Right in front of the fan is the CM SFX power supply we just mentioned, and below it is the pre-installed custom 120mm MasterLiquid AIO responsible for cooling the CPU.

The AIO is worth exploring a bit further given its unique design. The convention goes that 120mm AIOs are usually a bad idea, and you’re better off with a tower cooler instead – however, in this case, this is not the standard 120mm AIO with the relatively weak cooling performance often associated with them. As seen above, the radiator is significantly thicker than the regular AIO radiators, which means it should get more effective surface area in the same 120mm footprint for better cooling performance.

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Important: be sure the switch on the PSU is turned ON before proceeding with the installation process. In our case, it comes turned off by default, which meant I spent extra time figuring out why it didn’t turn on in the first place. You can do so by removing the two screws securing the AIO radiator enclosure, and putting the radiator aside, which exposes the controls as seen above.

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With that out of the way, we begin the installation process by first installing the essential components on the ASRock H670M-ITX/ax motherboard – which includes the SSD, RAM, and CPU. Pro tip: if your setup involves a GPU without a 12VHPWR connector, we recommend you begin changing the cable out at this stage and install the PCIe 8-pin connectors as needed before installing the motherboard. Connect the ATX 24-pin, EPS 8-pin, front panel connectors, and the included PCIe 4.0 x16 riser once the motherboard is screwed in place.

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Next is AIO, and for this it’s a pretty standard installation process. For those installing on Intel CPUs, pay extra attention to the orientation of the bracket to avoid clearance issues (best refer to the user manual if in doubt). Installing the brackets the wrong way may cause the pump to not come in contact with the CPU itself, and may cause the chip to trigger thermal shutdown as a result.

Moving on to installing the GPU: as mentioned, the PSU comes pre-installed with the 12VHPWR connector – though it’s not designed to exceed 450W of power (standard 12VHPWR connectors handle up to 600W, for reference). Avoid any RTX 4090 with increased TDPs in that case, and since in this case we’re installing the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 7600 XT, we’ll swap the cable out for a pair of PCIe 8-pin connectors in its place.

Side note – it can get pretty tight over here due to the riser cables sitting right behind the PCIe bus connector, so tidy up the cables as needed to avoid the GPU getting pushed at an angle. Remove the pre-installed PCIe brackets and install the GPU in its place, connect the PCIe 8-pin connectors, and you’re good to go. (Note: if your GPU is bigger than Normal Mode allows, you need to reposition the PCIe bracket frame and slot connector before installing.)

With the full build complete, here’s how it looks like – with side panels removed, and cables managed.

Now the build is complete, you can plug the display connectors through the GPU via the underside of the case as shown above. Connect the AC cable to the power source, push the power button, and now you can begin the normal setup process.

Performance

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For the testing, the first thermal stress test involves the modest Intel Core i5-14400F paired with the equally pedestrian Sapphire Pulse AMD Radeon RX 7600 XT, which pulls a total of 240W combined under sustained workload (peak TDP is higher due to Intel’s PL1 boost behavior). With the CPU sitting at a comfortable 59°Cthe  and GPU at 68°C – we also recorded the noise level of 45dBA. Quite a bit louder than your typical ATX tower case, but it shouldn’t bother you too much.

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Then, we brought the big guns: the second run involves much more power and heat demands coming from the Intel Core i9-14900K (power limited to 125W due to motherboard limitations), and the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti at full bore kicking out 350W of heat, totaling a maximum power draw of 475W sustained (we measured peak TDP to be around 550W).

Notably, fans push a lot harder this time around, and coupled with the relatively loud fans from the FE card, we measure 49.5dbA of noise on average – headphones are your best friend here. After 10 minutes, the CPU temperature reaches 76°C while the GPU is approaching 83°C, which is slightly close to the thermal limit of 93°C for the Ampere silicon.

Conclusion

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SFF cases come in many sizes, shapes, and forms; and for the Cooler Master NCORE 100 MAX, one way to describe the case is that it is a fusion of the NZXT H1 case and Corsair ONE pre-built PC (or a super-sized Xbox Series X, if you will). One of the best things about this case is that it takes the hard part out for you – cables are already pre-managed and shortened, so all you need to do is tidy up the cables and make sure it doesn’t interfere with anything else.

Should you need to open up the case for any kind of maintenance work, it’s also dead simple: simply pull the panel off, no unscrewing needed. I might even argue that this is probably easier to install than some of the ATX cases with how much of the hard work has been done for you by the case’s design itself.

Aside from being simple to set up, the modularity it offers allows GPUs as big as this PNY XLR8 RTX 4090 to be installed in this case, and I can only think of very few models that this case couldn’t fit. One of them is the ROG STRIX RTX 4090, which exceeded the maximum allowable GPU length by a mere 0.6mm, or this China-exclusive ZOTAC RTX 4090D PGF that managed to measurably out-size the case limits.

Cooling-wise, I’d say it’s pretty respectable. While the CPU side runs a bit hotter than your usual AIO does, you have to remember this is done with only a (thickened) 120mm radiator. For what it’s worth, you can put some powerful hardware inside and the cooler will take care of it with reasonable ease. Maybe don’t try to put the Core i9 at its full-bore 253W configuration (assuming you have the Z690/Z790 mITX motherboard to power it), though.

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Now, you might be surprised to find out that the price for this case is RM1,799. Yes, it is expensive on paper – but keep in mind this price includes the 850W power supply and the 120mm AIO cooler pre-installed for you, and when you combine the individual prices of these parts (with some guessing on the AIO’s part since it’s custom-made), the price does make a lot more sense.

If you’re just a newbie in the SFF PC space, or just want something that doesn’t eat away your precious desk space while still having the ease of installation and the power to go with it – the Cooler Master NCORE 100 MAX is quite possibly the best case to be had today.

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Note: The Cooler Master NCORE 100 MAX will be available in Malaysia from April 2024 onwards.

Special thanks to Cooler Master Malaysia for providing us with the NCORE 100 MAX case and associated components for this review.

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Low Boon Shen
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