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Cougar Cratus Mid-tower Case Review

Thinking Outside the Box

Mitch Gassner Posted:
Hardware Reviews 0

Since the beginning of time, PC cases have been boxy. Even though we’ve come a long way from the giant full-tower cases needed to hold a myriad of drives, unless you want to build a custom case, you’re still stuck with metal and glass panels slapped together at right angles. Cougar has at least one designer who thinks outside the box, though, and their latest creation, the Cratus mid-tower case, is anything but square. It may not be as flashy (aka gaudy) as the Conquer or Blazer Essence, but the Cratus would still look right at home in any sci-fi movie. Looks aren’t everything, so let’s crack this thing open and see if the Cratus is the rig of your dreams.


  • Price: $499 (Amazon)
  • Form Factor: Mid Tower
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 283 x 636 x 635mm (11.1 x 25 x 25in)
  • Motherboard Type: Mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, CEB, E-ATX
  • 3.5” Drive Bays: 2
  • 2.5” Drive Bays” 3 SSD trays + 2 hardpoints
  • Cooling Fan Support
    • Front: 120mm x2 or 140mm x2 (120mm x2 ARGB pre-installed)
    • Top: 120mm x3 or 140mm x2
    • Side: 120mm x3
    • Rear: 120mm x1 (120mm ARGB pre-installed)
  • Water Cooling Support
    • Front: Up to 280mm
    • Top: Up to 360mm
    • Side: Up to 360mm
  • Max CPU Cooler Height: 190mm
  • Max Graphics Card Length: 460mm (325mm with side-mounted fans/radiator)
  • Max PSU Length: 200mm

The Design

The Cratus isn’t your father’s PC case. Almost every design feature of the Cratus makes it stand out in the crowd, starting with its steel tube frame that looks more like a motorcycle chassis than a PC case. Yeah, that’s it, a motorcycle frame. Or, from directly in front, maybe a spaceship. Not some sleek fighter, but some big space freighter heading out to gather minerals off a distant asteroid. But hey, I digress.

Back to the frame. Between the four pieces of tempered glass, steel tubing, and the bits of plastic holding it all together, the Cratus is a chonky fella, weighing in a hair under 33 lbs. Cougar presents the Cratus as a mid-tower case. Although its core structure loosely adheres to a mid-tower design, the steel tubing and semi-open design push the overall dimensions of the Cratus closer to the full tower range. 

Shaped like the C from the Cougar logo, the steel tube frame is the foundation for the Cratus’ pseudo-open-case design. The rest of the external chassis is connected to the steel tubing with plastic brackets and aluminum bits to give the Cratus a rough rhombus shape. All the bits and baubles are held together with simple hex screws so that the entire case can be deconstructed down into its individual parts. Want to paint the frame or brackets something other than their original black matte coloring? Or maybe you want to 3D print some new pieces to the case? Just strip the case down and do it. Compared to buying a pre-built system with a custom paint job, it’s a relatively cheap way to add your personal touch to an already unique case.

We’ll start our tour of the exterior of the Cratus with the rear of the case since that is the only part that resembles a typical PC case. Below a handle that attaches at the top of the case, there is the standard space for an I/O shield and rear fan at the top of the back plate. Below is the bracket for the expansion slots. There aren’t any vertical slots built into the rear panel, but the horizontal bracket can be replaced with an included vertical bracket (riser cable not included). The vertical bracket is an all-or-nothing choice that completely replaces the horizontal slots, making it a poor option for anyone with additional add-in cards.

From there, it gets a little weird. To match the Cratus’ unique shape, the motherboard tray sits at about a twenty-degree angle, sloping upwards from the front of the case to the back. Because of the angled motherboard tray, the power supply isn’t enclosed in a shroud. Instead, it hangs from the bottom of the case (but still inside the steel frame) from two brackets, one on each end of the unit. The rear bracket is attached flush with the rear of the case, while the front bracket has multiple mounting points to accommodate power supply units up to 200mm long. If your power supply hanging from the bottom of the case sounds like a bad idea, you might as well stop reading right now. 

If you’re still with me, let’s move to the front of the case, where you’ll find a mounting bracket with two 120mm fans with halo-type RGB pre-installed (along with a third on the rear of the case). The pre-installed fans can be replaced by two 140mm fans or up to a 280mm radiator. Flanking the fan bracket are two “wings” that serve as mounting points for the front and side tempered glass panels. The front glass panel is held in place by two ball and socket grooves on each side, leaving a gap of approximately one inch for airflow. We’ll talk about that more in a little bit.

Putting additional lighting on the front of a case is something Cougar likes to do, so above the curved front glass is another apparatus that holds a single light bar. Nicely concealed as part of the lightbar’s apparatus are two buttons. One serves as the power button, while the other can be connected to the included fan controller to cycle through some preset lighting configurations; the cable is long enough to serve in the typical role of a reset switch. Below the light bar, the case’s front I/O panel includes one USB Type-C port, four USB 3.0 Type-A ports, and an audio jack.

Making our way to the top of the case, we find our second piece of tempered glass. Underneath the glass is a mounting bracket large enough to hold three 120mm or two 140mm fans. There is also enough space to accommodate up to a 360mm radiator, with enough clearance for a push/pull configuration without overlapping the motherboard.

Finally, we have the tempered glass side panels. Each panel sits inside a small support bracket attached to the front bottom of the case. In addition to the bottom support, each panel has two grommet holes to attach them to the front “wing” bracket and two additional holes to attach it to the rear of the case.

Like the rest of the case, there is nothing rectangular about the side panels; each piece is cut to mirror the outline of the case. The only exception to this is the top of the glass. The top of the case slopes slightly downward from the rear to the front. It’s so subtle you probably wouldn’t even notice it without the glass in place. But the top edge of the glass is perfectly horizontal, so you notice that difference. There’s only about an eighth of an inch difference from front to back, but once you see it, it may as well be a mile. 

Building In The Cratus

There is a lot of open space inside the Cratus framework, partly due to its sloped design. Besides being angled to match the other angles of the case, the motherboard tray is a standard mid-tower design. The motherboard plate can easily accommodate an E-ATX board on the front side, with enough room left at the front of the case to accommodate a column of three side-mounted case fans or a 360mm radiator. The extra large interior can also hold up to a 240mm radiator in the front of the case or a top-mounted radiator up to 360mm. While a side-mounted radiator or fans will interfere with any graphics card longer than 325mm,  there is enough vertical clearance at the top of the case to hold a radiator equipped with both push and pull fans without overlapping the motherboard.

Speaking of the motherboard, installation of the motherboard and other components was super easy. I always make things as difficult as possible to see what problems a novice builder would encounter. The Cratus has so much room that even waiting to plug in all the power cords until the motherboard was in place didn’t cause any problems.

Whether you’re a novice or an expert builder, there is one major obstacle between you and a hassle-free build - the plastic mount for the glass panel blocks easy access to the top two expansion slot screws. So although slotting my GPU in place wasn't an issue, it was a major pain screwing it down. Even a stubby screwdriver wouldn't fit in the space between the bracket and the back panel, so the only option is to remove the bracket to gain access to the screw holes. It's not the end of the world by any means, but it is an annoyance that could have and should have been avoided by better placement.

On the back side of the motherboard tray are three removable 2." drive mounts and a fan controller. The fan controller has six PWM  and ARGB headers. Three of each header type are already occupied by the three fans included in the case. I plugged the light bar at the top of the case into the controller, leaving three open PWM and two ARGB headers. That is underwhelming, considering the case can hold up to nine fans, not to mention additional fans if you go with an air cooler for the CPU. Many ATX and larger motherboards will have the extra headers you need, but I still expect better out-of-the-box support for a $500 case.

Along with the removable drive mounts, a solid door hides the main cable route and two more drive bays. The bays can hold either 3.5” or 2.5” drives, but they are directly behind the fan mounts on the motherboard's front side. The solid door already makes for limited space to vent any air pushed through by fans on the front side of the tray, so adding any drives here would make any fans nothing more than decoration.

If you don’t need the space for hard drives, the area behind the door can also be used to hide wires. Any wires running behind the door can still be seen from the front side of the case, though, so just leaving stuff loose behind the door is not an option. Given the open layout of the case, any wires have to be dealt with or become an eyesore.

There are also no metal holds or channeling for wires on the back of the motherboard tray. Cougar does include six cable ties that can be placed anywhere you’d like with the included adhesive, but I wasn’t too keen on such a permanent solution. I opted to use velcro strips and twist ties to secure all of the cables in place along the various brackets that make up the case. The whole process took a few hours, but the end result was much better than I ever expected. I could even keep the extra cabling usually hidden by the PSU shroud out of sight with a few velcro pieces.

The Thermals

Throughout testing, the following system was used:

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen R7 3700X, all cores set to 4.0GHz
  • Video Card: ASUS TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3080, core clock +120MHz, memory +100MHz, 80% fan speed (2140rpm)
  • Memory: 2x16GB GSkill Ripjaw V @ 3200MHz
  • Storage: Gigabyte Aorus NVME Gen4 1TB
  • PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower GF1 850W
  • CPU AIO Cooler: Cougar Poseidon 360GT
  • CPU Air Cooler: Cougar Forza 135 Dual Tower

During testing, we kept the case fans in their default positions (2 front, 1 rear) and ran them at their maximum speed of 1000rpm. The AIO cooler was tested in both the top and side-mounted positions. The Poseidon 360GT uses three Cougar MHP-120mm fans which were positioned in a push configuration (Some pictures show the AIO in a push/pull configuration. That configuration was only used to verify space clearance and to add some additional RGB bling on photo day). As with past case reviews, the AIO fans were set at 1500RPM, slightly below their 1900rpm maximum to keep the sound level from creeping too high. 

I would suspect anyone willing to spend $500 on a PC case would be using at least an AIO cooler, if not a custom loop, but I figured we might as well check out the Cratus’ air-cooling chops anyway. The Forza 135 Dual Tower cooler has two fans, a Cougar MHP-120 on the front face of the fin stack and a Cougar MHP-140 in between the two towers. The MHP-120 was set at 1500rpm, while the MPH-140 was set at its maximum speed of 1400rpm.

All tests were run from a cold boot. Each test was run for 15 minutes to allow things to heat up. After hitting the 15-minute mark, temperatures were recorded for the next 10 minutes, with the average temperature used as the result.

To start things off, we tested all configurations for idle temps. We then followed that up by running Cinebench R23 to see how the Cratus handled a CPU-intensive load. Next, we used 3DMark (GPU Test 1 on a loop at 1440p) to isolate GPU thermals. Finally, we went with a worst-case scenario and ran a torture test with Cinebench and 3DMark running simultaneously.

Idle temperatures were pretty good, with the CPU having only a 1.2 ? variance between the three configurations. The side-mounted AIO did yield the worst GPU temperature at 1.8 ? and 1.1 ? above the top-mount and air cooler config, respectively. In the Cinebench and 3DMark solo tests, the top-mounted cooler was the clear winner, with the side-mount and air-cooled configs trading off for the number two spot.

The most interesting of the synthetic tests was the torture test. On the CPU side, the top-mounted cooler bested the side-mounted cooler by 4.4 ?. The air cooler landed a distant third, 8.2 ? behind the top-mounted Poseidon. As for the GPU, the top-mount configuration was again the clear winner, but in a surprising turn of events, the air-cooled config fared quite well while the side-mount configuration finished over 10 ? behind the top-mount config.

With the synthetic benchmarks yielding some unexpected results, I tested each configuration with a few games. Again, a 15-minute warm-up followed by a 10-minute recording session was used. Like with synthetics, the top-mounted AIO configuration produced the lowest temperatures for both the CPU and GPU while playing games. And again, the side-mount and air-cooled configs had similar finishes in the CPU department, though the results were much closer than before. The GPU results were the same, too, except that the same significant variance found in the synthetic tests was still there.

So what the heck was going on? If you had asked me before testing, I would have predicted slightly different results. With the front case fans pumping fresh air across a side-mounted radiator, I thought the cool intake would be enough to offset the narrow exhaust flume created by the door covering the wiring channel. Add to that the heated air rising from the GPU into a top-mounted radiator, and I would have expected the side-mounted radiator to be on par with or slightly better than the top-mounted Poseidon. And we are talking about a lowly Ryzen 3700X here, so a dual-tower air cooler shouldn’t have any trouble keeping temps under control, right?

As for the GPU, I expected all three configurations to have a minimal impact. The case is roomy, and with all the open edges for airflow, I wasn’t worried about the GPU getting too hot. For what it’s worth, the GPU never even came close to its thermal threshold, but the 10 ? variance in water-cooled configurations was a little confusing. But looking back, the actual results should have been obvious. All it took was an incense stick and a little smoke to sort things out.

Regarding the side-mounted radiator, it benefited from the air coming from the front fans. And the three MHP-120s were strong enough to overcome the narrow exhaust channel. They were too strong. The door hiding the wiring on the side of the case is far from airtight. And since the three fans were pumping air into the channel faster than it could exhaust out the top and bottom, it was blowing out all of the gaps and right back into the front side of the motherboard tray, where it was being pulled back into the AIO radiator!

This also affected the GPU. The cyclone at the front of the case meant that none of the fresh air coming in from the front of the case was making it to the GPU. A little bit of air does make it into the GPU fans from the gaps at the bottom of the case, but most of the air going into the GPU was the recycled air that was being pulled back into the case by the radiator fans or air that had just exited the GPU’s own heatsink.

As for the top-mounted configuration, a couple of things were at play. First and foremost, the three radiator fans exhausting air out of the case at 1500rpm far outweighed the intake of the two front fans and their wimpy 1000rpm. The negative pressure created means that air was coming in from everywhere. Fresh air from the bottom of the case fed directly into the GPU, resulting in some great temps. The GPU exhaust was mitigated by the air coming in from the front fans, and the AIO fans were pulling in fresh air from the gaps at the top of the case as well. It is almost a perfect scenario if you don’t mind some dust entering your case.

And that leaves just the air cooler. To make a long story a bit shorter, the two front case fans aren’t strong enough to pull in large quantities of air. Without an abundance of fresh air, the GPU again pulls air from the bottom of the case, but this time the exhaust makes its way into the CPU cooler’s fin stacks. Even so, the CPU only reached 55 ? above ambient in the torture test and no higher than 33 ? in the game tests, leaving plenty of headroom for overclocking.

Final Thoughts

All in all, the Cratus not only looks cool, but it runs cool as well. It’s not perfect, though, and there are a few things to consider before you pick one up. Right off the bat, there’s the size. Although the Cratus may be oversized, it’s still just a mid-tower case. Assuming you’re going to deck the Cratus out with a complete set of fans (and you know anyone willing to pay $500 for a case won’t even second guess buying a full complement of RGB fans), the unique shape of the case leaves you with limited hard drive space. The two 3.5” drive bays are directly behind the side fan mounts, so those are out of the question, leaving you only three 2.5” SSD slots. Still, that’s plenty for most gamers, especially with NVMe drives taking over the high-end space.

As for the included fans, the halo-style RGB fans that come with the Cratus just aren’t good enough. They look cool, but even if you could find identical fans to fill in the rest of your build, their 1000rpm maximum speed limits their usability.

Finally, building in the Cratus will take some time and patience. I’m not talking about installing your hardware in this case; besides the hassle of screwing down your video card, the installation was a breeze. I’m talking about cable management. With four glass panels, the entire inside of the case is visible to the naked eye. I spent hours figuring out the best way to run all the cables and tie them down. The six tie-downs included with the case aren’t enough to do the job, and they would look tacky at best. Just be ready to grab some extra zip ties or velcro to hold everything in place. Ultimately, it was worth the time and effort; I just wish Cougar would have met me halfway by giving cabling a little more thought during the design phase.

The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Products purchased through our links may result in a small commission for the site. Authors are not compensated by clicks or commissions. 
7.5 Good
  • Unique looking in every way
  • Large size makes DIY work a breeze
  • Four tempered glass panels to show off all of your hardware and RGB
  • Great for modding
  • Easily becomes a desktop showpiece
  • Difficult cable management
  • Included fans are underpowered for the size of the cased
  • Longer GPUs (326+ mm) can block side fans/radiators
  • The side panel bracket blocks GPU screws
  • Very expensive


Mitch Gassner

Part-time game reviewer, full-time gaming geek. Introduced to Pac-Man and Asteroids at a Shakey's Pizza in the '70s and hooked on games ever since.