Looking around the exterior of the Cougar Archon, we find an all-mesh front panel, including the removable drive bay covers, which facilitates superior air flow into the case. At the top of the front panel, we find the reset button on the upper left, a USB 3.0 port to its right, headphone and microphone jacks in the center, a USB 2.0 port right of center, and the power switch at the upper right. Both the reset switch and the power switch include bright blue LEDs.
One thing that we find a little troubling about this front panel configuration is the choice to have one each of a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port. The majority of motherboard manufacturers’ current products that offer a front panel USB 3.0 header connection utilize one that supports two USB 3.0 ports via that connection. In light of that, what would be the point of not having two USB 3.0 ports that could easily be supported by a dual USB 3.0 header cable, and eliminate the USB 2.0 connection? USB 3.0 is backwards-compatible with USB 2.0, but not vice versa. The choice to include one each of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 seems unnecessarily limiting, and would likely increase the bill of materials cost to build the case. Other Cougar case models such as the Challenger have two USB 3.0 ports only.
Moving around to the left side panel, we find a vertical mesh opening on the rear half of the panel that supports installation of either one or two 120mm fans. The front half of the side panel contains a clear acrylic window that is offset slightly below the fan mesh opening. The only problem with this setup is that the window lines up mostly over the drive cages, instead of over the motherboard and any add-in PCIe devices. With the purpose of a side window being to show off your build and components, this one rather misses the mark. It would have made more sense to orient the fan mesh opening and the acrylic window horizontally, rather than vertically. The view would be much improved, without compromising the ability to add fans. Also, both side panels lack any sort of “handle” or flange to grip in order to slide the side panel off once the thumbscrews that hold them in place are removed.
Looking at the rear of the Cougar Archon, we find seven PCI expansion bay slots. The upper-most slot is left uncovered, as this is the one that will line up with the primary PCIe slot on most motherboards that would take the first graphics card. A blank, unvented extra cover is included in the hardware kit that comes with the case if you need to cover this slot if unused. The vented slot covers cannot be re-installed once they are removed, as they are a breakaway style. There is also an odd-looking vertical plastic cover to the right of the expansion bay slots that covers up the screw holes for mounting devices into the expansion bays. This is necessary as access to these screws is from the exterior of the case, rather than from the interior as is found on most other cases. This cover does remove fairly easily, and snaps solidly back into place.
The larger square holes in the expansion bay covers could pose a potential problem with allowing dust and other particulate matter to be drawn into the case from the rear, as the exhaust fan mounted directly above the slots will tend to also draw air from directly below. Most case manufacturers use much narrower slots or a mesh pattern to ventilate these covers, which reduces the opportunity for dust intrusion from the rear of the case.
Two rubber-grommeted tubing holes are present at the top of the rear panel to support liquid cooling. Considering that closed-loop coolers have become the defacto standard for liquid cooling, and custom cooling loops are pretty much now a very narrow niche market, why are case manufacturers still including them on any mass-produced case, let alone a case targeted to budget system builders? We can also see in this image the Cougar pre-installed 120mm rear fan.
The right side panel is blank, but does have a few millimeters of cable management bulge in the center two thirds of the panel. The top panel is a feature-less blank panel. The top panel does not offer any fan or liquid cooler mounting options. The right side panel, although removable, again has no handle area or flange to grip for removal. A palm placed flat against the panel and rearward pressure are required to remove it. The same is true of the left side window panel.
The bottom panel includes four sturdy, rubber-cushioned feet. Also present is an easy-to-remove and easy-to-clean air filter directly below the power supply mounting area. This filter would serve little purpose if one chooses to mount their power supply in a fan-upward orientation.