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Part 1: Four Gaming Enclosures Under $50

Part 1: Four Gaming Enclosures Under $50

Sometimes, overclocking is the key to getting budget hardware humming along at enthusiast-class performance levels. But getting there requires extra cooling. Today we're examining the performance of four low-cost gaming enclosures under $50 bucks.

Though low-cost cases are everywhere, a limited few are outfitted with the extra cooling capacity required by gamers boasting performance hardware. This is just as true for budget builders as it is for high-end systems, since the budget parts often are the ones that get overclocked to match the speed of pricier pieces. It came as no surprise, then, when only eight manufacturers responded to our broad search for the best-performing, low-cost cases. After all, this is a scary space to compete in if you're not proud of what you're selling.

We split this comparison into two parts, giving each model the added attention it deserves. Today, we look at the first four solutions.

While black paint is a good way to attract system builders with a penchant for gaming, each of today’s cases has more to offer in the areas of ventilation, ease-of-installation, and noise reduction. Here’s a few of the critical details:

Three Hundred
Cooler Master
Elite 430
Staray ECA3171
Space Above
Card Length17.7"11.1"12.4"12.2"
Weight12.9 Pounds15.4 Pounds10.5 Pounds12.0 Pounds
Front Fans
None (Up to 2 x 120 mm*)None (2 x 120 mm)1 x 120 mm (120, 140 mm)1 x 120 mm (Stock Only)
Rear Fans
1 x 120 mm, (92, 80 mm)1 x 120 mm (Stock Only)None (120, 92, 80 mm)None (120, 92, 80 mm)
Top Fans
None (2 x 120/140 mm)1 x 140 mm (Stock Only)None (2 x 120 mm)None (None)
Side Fans
None (2 x 120/140 mm)None (1 x 120 mm)None (1 x 120 mm)2 x 120 mm (2 x 140 mm)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalNineThreeThreeFour
3.5" ExternalUp to 1*NoneTwoOne
3.5" InternalUp to Five*
(*Shared Trays)
2.5" InternalNoneOneNoneNone
Price$50 $60 $55 $50

Two of today’s cases now cost more than the $50 limit, yet we’ve included them because they were submitted in good faith while priced below our cut-off-point. We could focus on whether the two more expensive models are worth the extra money, but we instead decided to examine the design merits of each case individually before testing its performance.

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  • 0 Hide
    rzilla91 , August 23, 2010 6:21 AM
    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.
  • 6 Hide
    gkay09 , August 23, 2010 6:49 AM
    ^ 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...
  • 1 Hide
    Mark Heath , August 23, 2010 7:06 AM
    Interesting to see the Antec 300 doing well even when the fan speed's put to low.
  • 1 Hide
    smithereen , August 23, 2010 7:25 AM
    No NZXT Beta?
  • 3 Hide
    radiovan , August 23, 2010 7:34 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    falchard , August 23, 2010 7:36 AM
    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.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , August 23, 2010 7:47 AM
    @falchard - My Vapor-X 5850 fit perfectly in my Antec 300. I don't know what you're BSing about.
  • -2 Hide
    rajangel , August 23, 2010 8:12 AM
    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.

  • 1 Hide
    falchard , August 23, 2010 8:24 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    vixiv , August 23, 2010 8:28 AM
    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...
  • 0 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , August 23, 2010 9:14 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    belardo , August 23, 2010 9:25 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    gio2vanni86 , August 23, 2010 9:47 AM
    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.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , August 23, 2010 9:50 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    h83 , August 23, 2010 11:08 AM

    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.
  • 0 Hide
    cmartin011 , August 23, 2010 11:17 AM
    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
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 23, 2010 11:46 AM
    zipzoomflyhigh is right the Antec 300 is always on sale somewhere. Canada Coputers currently has it for $49.99
  • 2 Hide
    jorjxmckie , August 23, 2010 12:14 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , August 23, 2010 12:45 PM
    The 300 is an unbeatable value for the price.
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