Part 1: Four Gaming Enclosures Under $50

Test Results

Remembering that the Enermax ECA3171-BR-AP’s $50 price is temporary, we also tested it using the less expensive ECA3170-BL’s single-fan configuration. The two configurations that include only an intake fan were also retested with the fan in back, since we know that the result will be lower CPU temperature at zero added cost to the builder.

Antec’s lowest-cost Three Hundred includes two powerful exhaust fans and no intakes, resulting in the lowest temperatures at both low and high fan speeds. Enermax follows it with a dazzling light show using three fans.

The VS-9 performs best out-of-the-box against the single-fan configurations because its unlit fan is mounted as exhaust. Moving the ECA3170 and Elite 430’s LED front fan to the same place allows these to pass the VS-9, though they lose their front lighting.

Noise levels are “where the rubber meets the road.” Antec’s Three Hundred uses thicker panels to minimize noise output by the graphics card and CPU cooler, though we did hear some escaping from the unused side-panel fan grille. AeroCool has the quietest fan, but the case did a poor job of isolating internal component noise.

Dividing the average temperature for all configurations by the individual temperature of each configuration gives us a percent scale that awards lower temperatures. Conversely, dividing the actual noise level for each system by the average for all systems gives us a noise scale that punishes the highest noise levels. Dividing the first result by the second yields the following Acoustic Efficiency chart.

Antec’s Three Hundred takes first and second place, depending on fan speed. We’d use the second-place “low-speed” mode, since few of us would want to work next to a pair of fans that emit 36.7 decibels constantly.

Enermax takes second place with three fans, while Cooler Master’s third-place finish is a good result for its use of only one fan, even though we had to move that fan to get this level of performance.

AeroCool understands that the rear fan does the real work, and knowing that it wouldn’t be easy to see the lighting with its fan in back, omitted any LED components. Had we not tested the other two single-fan enclosures in the alternative configuration, the VS-9 would have moved up to third place.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
    Your comment
  • rzilla91
    Great article!
    I have the Antec 300 and love it - my current build is/was my first build, and the Antec case was very easy to build in.

    My only (rather silly) question is how did you get the case fans to run on low? They appear to be plugged into your PSU, which is what i did, but that forces it to run on high.
  • falchard
    I think the Antec 300 and AeroCool models lose for 1 simple reason. They cannot house the longer ATI HD5850~HD5970.
  • gkay09
    ^ Did you read the Aerocool specs properly ? Card Length - 17.7"
    AFAIK there are no graphic cards that are longer than 12.5", so it would fit HD 5970...
    But as for the 300, I doubt it wont fit the 5970, but other cards would...
    But if you will be spending ~$600 for a graphic card, then am sure you wont skimp on the case...
  • Mark Heath
    Interesting to see the Antec 300 doing well even when the fan speed's put to low.
  • smithereen
    No NZXT Beta?
  • Anonymous
    rzilla91Great article!I have the Antec 300 and love it - my current build is/was my first build, and the Antec case was very easy to build in.My only (rather silly) question is how did you get the case fans to run on low? They appear to be plugged into your PSU, which is what i did, but that forces it to run on high.

    It should be equiped with speed-adjustmentable tri-cool fans, which should have added speed selectors to go from LOW to MID or HI, and back.
  • falchard
    I just reread the card length on the AeroCool.
    I would like a review on the NZXT Beta. Sub $50 market, you really aren't looking at any of those cases. You are looking at the Rosewills, NZXT, and cheap Thermaltakes.
  • Anonymous
    @falchard - My Vapor-X 5850 fit perfectly in my Antec 300. I don't know what you're BSing about.
  • rajangel
    I own the 300. It's a nice sturdy case, but in the end it really was a pain in the rear to put it all together. It's extremely cramped.

    Also don't ever buy Rosewill. EVER. Their products are terrible. I've bought a few items they've had on clearance (from newegg) and not a single product is worth the 90% discount. One case came bent and the power supply inside was missing some of the power plugs the manual said it had. One item came shipped with a driver all in Chinese. Customer service blamed it on whoever shipped it (right because Newegg is going to switch the power supply inside a case). Newegg switched the case out and the girl on the phone said they have a lot of problem with Rosewill products. The laptop pad was missing fan blades.
  • falchard
    Well thats your problem right there, you are looking at Rosewill for electronic products. You shop Rosewill for products that don't rely on electricity like a case.
  • vixiv
    I was expecting some of the $40-45 Raidmax, Foxconn, NZXT, CM, etc. cases. To be fair, $49.99 is under $50 =P

    Then again, cases in that range might be included in Part 2...
  • liquidsnake718
    You should have added the gigabyte I-solo 210, its a beast of a mid-tower case and very neatly designed. It has watercooling holes so its ready for watercooling.
  • belardo
    I've bought the Antec 300 case several times for $45~50 at Micro Center for friends and clients.

    I use the Antec 300 as a "normal" computer case because its priced cheap yet made well, looks good - and not so "kiddy" like. The power & USB are at a good position for FLOOR users. The fans are usually quiet... the blue lights are nice.
  • gio2vanni86
    I own the antec 1200 and its a beast of a case. When i was trying to come up with a cheap but efficient case for my friends build i couldn't deny Antec's 300 case. To this day my friend loves the case, its great at cooling, and it looks superb at doing just that =D Was as sturdy as my 1200 n only cost 1/3 the price.
  • Anonymous
    I have the threehundred chassi and I think its pure garbage to be fan is very loud and seems to be "vibrating" so the noise it gives is very annoying. Had to place a weigth ontop of the chassi, to keep the chassi is made from vibrating. Also hade som clearence issues with the cpu fan...
    Maybe it is good "for the price", but I will never ever buy another of those cheap ass antec chassis again.
  • h83
    I´ve bought an Antec 300 for 60€ and i couldn´t be happier!!! The case is silent, very cool and has a very nice construction quality.

    The only downsides are the tiny reset button (almost useless) and the inside of the case, that´s a little cramped and i don´t know if it can accommodate the bigger GPUs.

    rzilla91, both 120m fans that came with the case, have a small black cable with a little "button" on the end, that can be set on 3 positions; high, medium and low. That´s how you change your fans to low noise.
  • cmartin011
    i got a antec 1200 its all a pro air cooler could dream of and a water cool wouldn't mind could use a couple more drive bays tho
  • Anonymous
    zipzoomflyhigh is right the Antec 300 is always on sale somewhere. Canada Coputers currently has it for $49.99
  • jorjxmckie
    I have the three hundred and it works great. Video card noise is perceptible under high loads, but its still less than many other cases with similar cooling.

    In the article the author downplays the usefulness of the top mounted fan, I have a Noctua NH-U12P with fans on either side in a push pull and rotated to blow out to the top case fan. I find this configuration better at keeping core and case interior temps low when the back of the case is pushed back against a wall. May not be the most efficient airflow if the rear of the case is unrestricted but that is not always possible.
  • nukemaster
    The 300 is an unbeatable value for the price.