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Antec’s Three Hundred leads our cooling, noise, and efficiency charts, but it’s an unfortunate fact that today it cannot be found at our intended $50 price point (it's now $10 higher than that on Newegg). Yes, it was cheaper a few weeks ago when Antec shipped it. But users who want superior quality should be willing to pay the extra $10 to get a unit that’s 33% thicker, more durable, better at cooling, and quieter than its competition.
Next up is the Enermax ECA3171-BR-AP, with three cooling fans sporting red LEDs and an unbelievably low $50 price tag. An obvious pick for the best case at or below this predetermined price point, our only concern is that its price will go up before anyone can click the “buy” button. For now, the chassis remains priced at $49.
Cooler Master’s Elite 430 takes third place overall, and we’re happy to see that it looks at least as good as it performs. Cheaper at the beginning of the month, it jumped up to $55, and is now back to $49 online--right where we were hoping it'd land. It only has one fan, but does well considering that fact.
The only real loser of the cases we're looking at today is AeroCool's VS-9. The thing started falling apart as we were assembling the system, it did little to nothing to muffle the noise of internal components, and it twisted so easily that we had to weigh it down with a power supply just to keep it sitting flat. We’ve not seen a case this weak since the Hades earned our ire a few months ago. But at least the VS-9 has a comparatively low-cost. We’ve even read user reviews that tell others how to beef the VS-9 up to the standards of other $50 cases but—armed with this foreknowledge—we’d just as likely chose a better starting point.
Of course, it's too early to declare one overall winner of our case comparison. We have four more models to add to our data here in Part 2. Look for that follow-up soon!