When it comes to PC cases, there are two schools of thought. For some, their case is an extension of their gaming persona, with glass panels and RGB lighting high on their list of required accouterments. Others couldn’t care less about a case’s visual appeal; airflow and lower temperatures are their only concern. With an interchangeable front panel, the Duoface is Cougar’s attempt to appease both audiences with a single mid-tower case. And they mostly succeed at meeting the challenge. Mostly.
- Price: $89.99
- Form Factor: Mid Tower
- Dimensions: 230 mm x 491mm x 386mm (91in x 19.3in x15.2in)
- Motherboard Type: Mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, CEB, E-ATX (up to 177mm wide)
- I/O Panel: USB 3.0 x2, USB 2.0 x1, 4 Pole Headset Audio Jack, Reset/RGB Button
- Drive Bays: 3.5” x2, 2.5” SSD trays x2
- Cooling Fan Support
- Front: 120mm/140mm x2 (140mm ARGB Cougar CR-140 x2 installed)
- Top: 120mm/140mm x2
- Rear: 120mm/140mm x1 (120mm ARGB Cougar CR-120 x1 installed)
- Water Cooling Support
- Front: 120mm / 140mm / 240mm / 280mm
- Top: 120mm / 140mm / 240mm / 280mm
- Rear: 120mm / 140mm
- Max Graphics Card Length: 330mm (13in)
- Max CPU Cooler Height: 190mm (7.5in)
The Duoface is Cougar’s attempt at adding some pizazz and flexibility to a mid-tower case while keeping things primarily utilitarian. Visually, it has some of the “gamer crowd” features without going over the top crazy like they did with the Conquer 2 case. To distinguish the Duoface from the rest of the utilitarian cases available, Cougar added a plastic molded angle to the front vertical edges. Instead of taking the typical approach of incorporating vents directly into the bevel, there is a three-eighths-inch gap between the edges and the front panel for airflow.
The Duoface’s namesake comes from its two interchangeable front panels. For aesthetics, there’s a tempered glass panel to match the tinted side panel. If thermals are your primary concern, you’ll probably switch to the mesh front panel. The panels attach to the case through a ball and socket design, and swapping between the two is quick and easy. A small addressable RGB strip built into the case sits behind the bottom of the front panel. The strip gives off a faint glow along the bottom of the case. As an added touch, the light also shines through the Cougar name printed at the bottom of the glass panel.
Regardless of your preference for the front panel, a perforated metal panel sits behind the main face plate. The secondary panel serves as a filter, is attached to the side bevels, and can be removed for cleaning. Unlike the ultra-thin mesh filters found in many other airflow-focused cases, the Duoface’s panel is approximately 1.5mm thick. In practice, the holes are too large to catch any small dust particles; however, they are small enough to reduce airflow into the case, and the “filter” is substantial enough to detract from the aesthetic gains of using a glass panel in the first place.
Beyond the front panel, the rest of the exterior takes on a familiar design. There is a removable metal panel that covers the entirety of the right side of the case. On the left side, a tempered glass panel sits atop a metal base that conceals the CPU. The glass panel has a metal bracket along the top and bottom edges. The bottom bracket has two tongues that slide into tiny slits in the metal base to secure the bottom of the glass. The top is held in place by two small magnets built into the case, and the bracket wraps around the back of the case where a thumb screw can fully secure the panel for transport.
The back panel is a typical mid-tower design, with a single fan spot positioned above seven horizontal slots for add-in cards. The extra width of the Duoface is put to good use, though. Anyone wishing to mount their video card vertically will find three additional vertical slots next to the horizontal ones. The cover over the vertical slots is hinged on one side and held in place by two screws on the other, so you can mount a card vertically without a third-party mount (you’ll still need a riser cable, though) or DIY modifications to the case.
Keeping the front of the case looking clean, the IO ports are located along the top of the case. Going from front to back along the right side are the power button, a reset/RGB switch, a headphone/microphone audio jack, one USB 2.0 port, and two USB 3.0 ports. I was surprised at the lack of a USB Type-C port. The remainder of the top panel is perforated with large holes and covered in a mesh filter.
When it comes to the internal design, there isn’t a lot to talk about. The case can accommodate virtually any size motherboard, from mini-ITX up to a 277mm wide E-ATX. There is room for a total of five 120mm/140mm fans - two on the front, two along the top, and one at the rear. Radiators up to 280mm can be installed in the front and top, and up to a 140mm radiator could fit in the rear fan spot. The power supply shroud is a solid piece of metal, so mounting a radiator or additional fans on the bottom of the case is an automatic no-go.
Cougar didn’t skimp when it comes to pre-installed case fans. The case comes with two Cougar CR-140 fans installed in the front and a CR-120 in the rear slot. All the included fans are ARGB, so you are already off to a good start if you like to light up the inside of your case.
It’s more of the same practical design when you open the right side panel and expose the back of the motherboard tray. As is customary these days, a removable hard drive bay large enough for two 3.5” mechanical drives lives under the power supply shroud, and there are a pair of SSD holders located on the back of the motherboard tray.
When it came time to build out my system in the Duoface, I was pleasantly surprised with how big the inside of the case felt, and installing the motherboard and other bits was a piece of cake. One area I often struggle with during a build is the top left corner of a case. Many cases mount the motherboard so close to the top of the case that it can be a challenge to get my hands into the tight corner to plug in the fan header and CPU power cords. Fortunately, there is plenty of space above the motherboard in the Duoface, and I could plug both connectors in without contorting my wrist into some uncomfortable angle while I blindly tried to align holes and pins.
That extra space at the top of the case also comes in handy when top-mounting an AIO cooler. The extra height of the Duoface leaves a gap between the motherboard and the bottom of the radiator fans. The gap isn’t big enough to be unsightly if you air cool your CPU, but it is large enough to fit a radiator and fans along the top of the case without them hanging below the top of the motherboard. Adding extra fans for a push-pull configuration will leave the bottom fans hanging below the top of the motherboard, but the wide chassis ensures the setup will stay clear of the RAM slots and VRM heatsinks.
While the extra height of the Duoface makes installing an AIO radiator at the top of the case a breeze, the extra wide chassis also leaves plenty of room for even the tallest air cooler. A potential issue does arise if you plan on front-mounting a radiator, though. Installing the radiator is easy enough; the face plate and filter are easily removed, and the case has mounting space for both 240mm and 280mm radiators. The problem lies in fitting a large graphics card behind the radiator. With a mere 3cm between my card (300mm long) and the front fans, the gap drops to just a couple of millimeters with a radiator added to the front of the case. With the radiator in place, the card blocks most of the airflow from the bottom fan, and a longer card wouldn’t fit at all. So although the Duoface is well suited for a top-mounted radiator, you’ll definitely need to grab a tape measure if you plan on front-mounting a cooler.
As for cabling, the Duoface routes everything along the top and side of the motherboard (ATX power, SATA, and fan cables) through small cutouts in the motherboard tray. The hole configuration is well thought out and lined up with all the major plugs on the motherboard, leaving only a minimal amount of cabling exposed.
Unfortunately, I do have a slight issue with the handling of the headers and cables along the bottom of the motherboard. This includes the HD audio cable, USB 2.0 and 3.0 cables, and any fan and RGB connectors your motherboard may have. It’s easy enough to plug all of these in; there’s plenty of space, especially before you slot in your GPU and any other add-in boards.
In many cases, including the Duoface, my problem is the aesthetics along the bottom of the motherboard. With only one small hole to thread all of the cords through, the Duoface design leaves several inches of the cables in plain sight. And unlike the cabling hidden behind the motherboard, there isn’t any way to cleanly secure them. A few more well-positioned cutouts, like there are along the top and side of the motherboard, would be enough to tidy things up.
Once all the cables are routed to the backside of the motherboard tray, there are plenty of hard points along the case's top and bottom to tie everything down. However, the placement of the vertical channels leaves a little to be desired. They served adequately enough to secure any cables running from top to bottom, but the hard points were placed too far from the recessed edges of the case to keep the multiple fans, and power cables tucked out of sight.
The included RGB controller also poses some cabling issues. Due to its placement between the main cable throughway and the left edge of the case, attaching fan headers to the controller can be challenging. If you can get the fan cables to stay in place, though, the controller is a godsend for anyone who doesn’t want to take the time to route fan cables individually or has limited RGB headers on their motherboard. The controller has six connectors, enough to handle the full complement of fans you could stuff into the Duoface. And while your motherboard’s software suite can control the lighting, a limited set of lighting options can be cycled through using the case’s reset switch; there is no need for one of those cheapo remotes that come packaged with some controllers.
The Duoface has solid build quality, is easy to work with, and the swappable front panels offer a duo of aesthetic choices. All of that is for naught, though, if the case can’t handle the heat of modern gaming. Throughout testing, the following system was used:
- Video Card: ASUS TUF Gaming GeForce RTX 3080, core clock +120MHz, memory +100MHz, 80% fan speed (2140rpm)
- CPU: AMD Ryzen R7 3700X, all cores set to 4.0GHz
- Memory: 2x16GB GSkill Ripjaw V @ 3200MHz
- Storage: Gigabyte Aorus NVMe Gen4 1TB
- PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower GF1 850W
To test the Duoface’s air cooling ability, we used a Noctua NH-U14S single-tower cooler. The air cooler was then replaced with a Cougar Poseidon 240GT AIO cooler with the radiator mounted to the top of the case. Finally, tests were completed with the radiator moved to the front of the case and the 140mm fans placed at the top to help with exhaust flow.
Throughout all tests, all case fans were set at maximum speed (900rpm for the 140mm fans, 1000rpm for the 120mm rear fan). The Noctua cooler uses a Noctua NF-A15 140mm fan (set at its maximum 1500rpm) to cool the fin stack, and the Poseidon 240GP uses two Cougar MHP-120mm fans, which were positioned to push air through the radiator. The AIO fans can ramp up to a loud 1900rpm, but we kept them at the same 1500rpm used on the Noctua cooler to try and keep things as equal as possible (and a little quieter, too).
For each configuration, we first tested idle temperatures. CPU and GPU temperatures were recorded 15 minutes after a cold boot. Unsurprisingly, the mesh faceplate resulted in better temps. The small side vents just don’t provide enough airflow for optimal cooling, but the difference in temperature with the system at idle is minimal, and going with the glass panel doesn’t make much difference during non-intensive tasks, either.
Choosing glass or mesh does make more of a difference when playing games. To test how the Duoface handles the extra heat produced from gaming, we tested each configuration with three modern titles: Total War: Warhammer 3, Cyberpunk 2077, and Dying Light 2. Starting from a cold boot, each game was played for 15 minutes to get the CPU and GPU heated up. Each game was then played for an additional 10 minutes, with the average temperature recorded during that period.
Although CPU and GPU temperatures varied by game, there were some common trends. Just like during the idle test, the mesh panel reigned supreme. CPU temps were still pretty close, though, with the glass panel adding only a couple of degrees to both AIO configurations. The front-mounted AIO setup gave the best CPU temps regardless of which front panel was used. Although CPU temps with the Noctua cooler were only a couple of degrees higher than the top-mounted AIO with the mesh panel, it struggled with the glass panel in place. The choice of the front panel had a more significant impact on GPU temps, with both AIO configurations having at least a three-degree increase and the Noctua configuration taking a six-degree hit under glass.
At first glance, the dual faceplates of the Duoface seem more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. I mean, is there really a need to ship a case with both a glass and mesh panel? I can’t recall ever having a conversation where someone mentioned that as a feature they wanted in a case. And it’s not like I’m going to put the glass panel in for maximum aesthetics, then slap in the mesh panel when I’m ready to do some hardcore gaming and need better temps. One panel or the other will get stored away and forgotten, but at least it doesn’t feel like the case is overpriced because of the extra material costs.
Whether or not the front panels are a gimmick, the Duoface is still a competent case. Even though there isn’t anything innovative about the design, Cougar doesn’t seem to have cut corners to come in at an $89.99 price point. The case is sturdy and well-built, with plenty of room inside the case to build and then show off your expensive tech. The included 140mm ARGB front fans feel like a luxury at this price point, and the light bar at the bottom of the front panel is an excellent addition for some extra RGB lighting.
All of the flaws I see in the case could easily be corrected. First, the extra thick metal filter behind the main front panel distracts from the RGB, and a finer mesh filter would probably catch more dust particles anyway. Second, while the rest of the cable management is handled adequately, there need to be more cutouts along the bottom of the motherboard to reduce the amount of visible wires. Finally, the placement of the fan controller puts it too close to the main cable runs, and moving it to another position would make it easy to attach the fan cables.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.