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Montech AIR 903 Base and Max Review

Rating: 7.5.

If you saw KitGuru's coverage of Computex 2023 you will have probably stumbled across Leo’s rundown of new Montech goodies. Today I look at one of the new cases in more detail – in fact, I have two versions of the case to analyse in this review. The Montech AIR 903 comes in Base and Max versions, the noticeable difference between the two is the fan configuration and ARGB controller, but another choice for you guys is whether you pick black or white. We take a look at both cases to find if they are worth their budget-friendly price tags.

Timestamps:

00:00 Start
00:58 Model Overview / pricing
03:41 The White Max
04:05 Some damage in shipping
05:22 A closer look at the Max
07:55 Cooling support
09:47 Motherboard and GPU support
10:34 Cable management support
11:21 Design / storage / PSU / ARGB
13:54 Floor of case
15:05 Hardware for the AMD build
17:14 Timelapse build
21:36 Build complete
23:08 Thermal and Noise Performance
24:18 James Thoughts
25:47 We got more cases, more damaged
26:58 Close out

Montech unveiled several new cases at Computex 2023, some of the new gear on show was very novel and innovative. The AIR 903 featured in this review was also announced at Computex, but this is a more subtle style airflow ATX chassis with a full mesh-covered front panel. The AIR 903 comes in two different versions, both the Base and Max models are available in either black or white colour schemes.

There are only subtle differences between the Base and Max models, Max is the more expensive starting from $75 in black and $79 in white. Max is equipped with three ARGB 140mm Montech HP140 fans in the front panel, a regular 140mm HP140 fan installed in the rear and an ARGB fan controller with connections for up to six devices.

The Base model is cheaper than the Max, prices for the Base start from $65 for the black version but again you pay a slight premium for the Base in white, which is priced at $69. The Base version has no ARGB but still comes with three HP140 regular 140mm fans, two pre-installed behind the front mesh panel for intake and one in the rear as an exhaust. Since the fans are not ARGB, no ARGB fan hub is included in the Base model.

Features

  • Both Base and Max models feature a magnetic mesh front panel with 51% porosity plus a 2cm side mesh panel for optimal airflow. Both panels can be easily removed for cleaning and maintenance.
  • Top-mounted front I/O connectivity consists of  2 x USB 3.0 Type-A ports, 1 x USB Type-C port, 2x 3.5mm audio jacks as well as power, reset and LED lighting control buttons.
  • The chassis top panel is also heavily ventilated and covered with a removable perforated metal magnetic dust filter.
  • Max model is equipped with four Montech HP140 fans – 3x ARGB in the front, and 1x Regular pre-installed in the rear – fan speed range 600-1500rpm.
  • The cheaper Base model is fitted with 3x regular HP140 fans – 2 x pre-installed in the front as intakes and a single exhaust fan in the rear.
  • Max also is fitted with an ARGB/PWM fan hub that supports a maximum of up to 6 devices so users can add their own ARGB lighting accessories. The ARGB hub can be controlled by the top panel button or synchronised to the motherboard lighting.
  • Cooling support includes up to 360mm radiators or up to 3x 120/140mm fan installation in the front and roof of the chassis, plus up to 180mm tall air coolers are supported.

AIR 903 MAX Specifications:

  • Pre-installed Fan: 140mm ARGB PWM x 3 + 140mm PWM x 1
  • Motherboard Support: E-ATX (SSI-EEB, SSI-CEB) /  ATX / Micro ATX / Mini ITX
  • Radiator Support: Top – 360/280/240/120, Front – 360/280/240/120, Rear – 120
  • Clearances: GPU – 400mm, CPU – 180mm, PSU – 240mm
  • Expansion Slots: 7
  • Drive Bays: 2.5″ SSD x5, 3.5″ HDD x 2
  • Fan Support: Front – 3 x 120/140mm, Top 3 x 120/140mm, Rear – 1 x 120/140mm, SPU Shroud – 2 x 120mm

AIR 903 BASE Specifications:

  • Pre-installed Fan: 3 x 140mm HP140 PWM
  • Motherboard Support: E-ATX (SSI-EEB, SSI-CEB) /  ATX / Micro ATX / Mini ITX
  • Radiator Support: Top – 360/280/240/120, Front – 360/280/240/120, Rear – 120
  • Clearances: GPU – 400mm, CPU – 180mm, PSU – 240mm
  • Expansion Slots: 7
  • Drive Bays: 2.5″ SSD x5, 3.5″ HDD x 2
  • Fan Support: Front – 3 x 120/140mm, Top 3 x 120/140mm, Rear – 1 x 120/140mm, SPU Shroud – 2 x 120mm

Thermal Performance Testing

To simulate thermal demand we run the Cinebench R23 multi-thread benchmark and 3DMark Time Spy Extreme stress test simultaneously in a loop for 60 minutes to fully load the system. This gives the CPU and GPU enough time to reach constant steady-state temperature. With this data, we can compare how the system handles the thermal demand and measure peak noise levels.

Thermal performance is measured with the case in various configurations, such as the default, with the tempered glass left-hand side panel removed and with the front panel removed to see how these configurations affect the CPU and GPU temperature. During testing, only stock case fans are used unless otherwise specified. All water pumps are set to maximum RPM and fans are set to a custom RPM curve by the Motherboard software/BIOS.

All temperature measurements are presented as Deltas – meaning the ambient temperature has been deducted from the CPU temperature giving us a Delta. Data shown in the charts represent the average component temperature over the length of the test as measured by HWiNFO and then the last 15 minutes of the data are calculated to get the average. The ambient temperature during thermal tests is between 20-22⁰C.

Test System:

Thermal Performance/Noise Overview:

Thermal Performance:

Noise:

Closing Thoughts

As budget cases go, you don’t get much better value for money than the Montech AIR 903. High airflow, good cooling, extensive hardware support and water-cooing compatibility are all things we expect from expensive high-end cases but Montech offers all this in the AIR 903 Base while keeping the price firmly in the budget sector. If you want to spend a little more for ARGB fans and a fan hub then the Max version is just $10 more which again sounds like excellent value for money, other vendors add much higher premiums for ARGB and controllers so take note.

For the most part the design of the case is good, the aesthetics might look a little dated compared with some other recent releases but it’s a functional front panel design that works well for cooling. During our thermal tests, removing panels had barely any effect on cooling so the front mesh and high airflow design is doing its job well. Montech provides a generous amount of fans with the case in both models which helps with airflow and also is kind to your wallet.

Hardware support from the AIR 903 is great, it supports up to E-ATX motherboards and beefy graphics cards so technically any desktop hardware configuration should fit inside the case with no problem whatsoever. The spacious interior and multiple radiator mounting locations mean that custom water cooling should also be possible with the AIR 903 which is great if you want to go down that route.

During the build process of our review, we didn’t come across any issues with component alignment or access problems, in fact, the case was good to work with. There is plenty of space at the top of the chassis for connecting EPS power and fan cables etc. Even with a big air cooler installed, you can still get in to connect cables at the top of the motherboard which is good. There are also plenty of cable cutouts and cable management features so the final product looks neat and tidy.

One issue that annoyed me slightly with the case was the design of the side panels and how they attach to the case. It’s not a big deal but the side panel only has a very small register where the pins locate it in place at the front, if you don’t get this 100% perfectly lined up then the panel drops off. Montech actually advises that you lay the case on its side to install/remove the side panel which seems a bit odd but it would prevent the panel from dropping off, It’s not a great design.

In terms of build quality, the case feels sturdy enough for a budget case. However, we were faced with some issues of samples arriving with damage which I mentioned in the video. The main problem was bent front mesh but other chassis damage was also noted. We reached out to Montech about the damage to the original samples who were shocked and surprised to hear that both cases suffered with imperfections or quality issues. The outer packaging didn’t appear to be damaged so we ruled out shipping as the cause.

Montech offered to send two more samples of the AIR 903 so that we could take a look at and base our final opinion of the case on those too. In the end we received six cases in total, three of each model. Out of the six cases, only two of them were ok with no visible damage but the other four suffered issues including bent front mesh and various other small but noticeable damage to either the chassis frame or outer case panels, which is quite disappointing and worrying for the consumer who might receive a damaged case upon purchasing.

Montech confirmed to us that they identified an issue with the product packaging and it has since been ‘rectified', but we've not heard any specifics as to what's actually changed. The issue with bent mesh wouldn’t put me off buying the case completely as it can be straightened out by hand but its certainly not ideal to have to repair something that is brand new, the alternative would be to return the case for a refund or replacement which would also be frustrating. But other than that problem, the case is good value and might be one to consider if you have a budget build planned soon.

We don't yet have a UK buy link for the Montech AIR 903. Pricing for the Base model is set at $65 for the black model and $69 for the white model. The Max is $10 more expensive for each colour option.

Update 30/06/2023 15.53: Montech responded to our concerns and have issued the following update, copied verbatim:

The main reason for the internal damage of the units, which was not immediately apparent from the outer packaging, was due to an oversized styrofoam cutout. This resulted in the units bouncing around inside the box during transit and causing the damages observed. We acknowledge this issue and have taken immediate steps to rectify it. 

I want to assure you that all mass production retail units are now equipped with a properly fitted styrofoam layer to ensure secure packaging. This improvement ensures that the units remain protected and undamaged during transportation. 
If any customers who have purchased the Air 903 find their units damaged due to this problem, we are fully committed to providing them with a full refund. Customer satisfaction is our top priority, and we want to make sure that every purchase meets the highest quality standards.'

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Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Extensive hardware support.
  • Good cooling options for both air and water.

Cons:

  • Various samples arrived with damage. (see above update)
  • Build quality is not perfect.
  • Slightly dated aesthetics.

KitGuru says: Montech AIR 903 could be worth considering if you are in the market for a cheap high airflow case due to its impressive thermals, choice of colours and RGB options. But we say this with caution as we received several samples with damage or imperfections.

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Rating: 7.5.

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