The FSP CMT271A has a sturdy frame. SPCC Steel frame is used for the frame, motherboard tray, and internal and external panels. All cutouts are rounded and the internals overall has been manufactured in a way that does not present sharp edges to users.
Unfortunately, the expansion slots are an exception to the otherwise solid construction. The disposable expansion slot covers are attached by spot-weld and there are no thumbscrews or spare slot covers included. Caution is advised when removing these, as they do present a hazard to users and to installed components during removal.
Expansion cards are somewhat secured from above with a sliding retention bracket that is secured with a single thumbscrew. As there are threaded holes for retaining expansion cards and holes left in the retaining bracket for screws, sourcing appropriate screws for heavier cards – or just for a measure of reassurance – is recommended.
And this leads to the first real disadvantage we found with FSPs CMT271A – the expansion slot panel at the rear of the case appears to be manufactured with the same flexible steel as the disposable expansion slot covers and lacks the rigidity of the rest of the case. The panel visibly bows when the disposable covers are removed, and along with the retention bracket supplied in place of screws for expansion cards, represents a cost-cutting decision that we feel cuts a little too much.
Finally, FSP has not employed any noise reduction material in the CMT271A. This does limit the weight of the enclosure, but aside from the front panel providing a small buffer, a system built in the CMT271A will generally be as loud or as quiet as the components used.
FSP has outfitted the CMT271A with one stock 120mm fan mounted in the single rear fan position. While a single stock fan is par for the course in this price class, the included fan has a large four-pin Molex connector instead of a traditional fan plug, preventing automatic fan speed control as well as fan monitoring. On the positive side, the fan will always run at full speed – and on the negative, the fan will always run at full speed. Thankfully the fan isn’t that loud.
Fan options all around are limited to 120mm. As the third 120mm fan position on the front extends through a shallow cutout made in the partition between the two compartments, radiators are limited to 240mm when mounted on the front or top pair 120mm positions. Note that a front-mounted radiator will limit maximum installable GPU length.
With a maximum CPU cooler height of 170mm, nearly all tower coolers on the market are covered, including the Noctua NH-U12A used for this review which Noctua lists as 158mm in height.
For liquid cooling, FSP recommends using the top fan positions if a radiator is desired. As there is very little vertical space between the top of the chassis and the top of the motherboard, builders are advised to be very careful with component choices as it is likely that a thick radiator and fan combination will interfere with motherboard DIMM slots and auxiliary power leads.
To help keep the motherboard compartment tidy, a pair of 180-degree 8-pin PCIe adapters and a 90-degree ATX adapter were used. This helped with the unruly power cables included with the entry-level Corsair TX850M, though this also results in having to unceremoniously bunch even more excess cabling in the PSU compartment.
In addition, it’s worth mentioning that the space behind the motherboard becomes cumbersome. FSP states that there is 20mm of space for cable routing behind the motherboard tray, and while that would indeed be plenty in most scenarios, for us this made the combination of the chunky 24-pin ATX cable, two 8-pin PCIe cables, and the always unruly USB3 cable a challenge to secure tight enough that the right case side panel may be closed without undue effort, let alone with a modicum of tidiness.
Our Build Recomendations
Therefore, being somewhat cramped, users building from the ground up are advised to plan their build-out. Here are some recommendations:
- Expansion slot covers should be removed before installing the motherboard
- If using the lower drive cage, install drives before installing the PSU
- If using a longer PSU, attach any modular cables to the PSU before installing and securing it
- Avoid using the top 2.5” mount without careful planning for alternate cable routing
- The FSP 271A is a fingerprint magnet – we advise using gloves as much as possible during builds to maintain the out-of-box look, as it is difficult to clean!