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Which Case Offers The Best Features And Quality?

Best Of The Best, Part 2: Who Makes The Most Elite PC Case?
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Our search for the most premium case puts the quality of materials and construction first, followed by features and performance. But should materials really trump features?

The reason we prioritize materials is because we’re using manufacturing cost to offset price. And CaseLabs certainly has the “quality of materials” situation wrapped up with its 2.3 mm-thick aluminum chassis with 1.6 mm-thick exterior panels. But the accuracy of construction is matched by Corsair and, for the most part, Thermaltake.

The Merlin SM08’s “Flex Bay” design is ideal for case modders or anyone who wants to run an extra-large dual-radiator liquid cooling configuration without any front-bay devices installed. That only leaves you with two 3.5” and two 2.5” drive bays behind the motherboard tray, though. And while those drive restrictions sound great to most of the enthusiasts running big liquid coolers, they might not appeal to the high-end market overall.

Corsair packs a killer feature too: those tool-free SSD trays are really great, and there are four of them. Then you have the six additional 3.5” drive trays that are 2.5”-capable (like Thermaltake’s). The Graphite 760T will even hold a double-fan radiator up front in addition to the triple-fan unit up top if you’re willing to sacrifice a few of its many drive bays.

The only factor really holding Corsair’s Graphite 760T out of award contention is its materials. You get the same medium-thickness steel and plastic as cases selling for half as much. And there’s not a lot of steel involved, either. The 760T weighs less than the all-aluminum Merlin SM08.

Not to be left out, Thermaltake steps in with even more cool functionality, including a set of drive cages that pull out to allow radiators with up to three 140 mm fans up front, and another of those on top. Such a configuration only leaves the Urban T81 with one 3.5” and one 2.5” drive mount, though. At least you can split the difference with dual-fan radiators, since the drive cages are modular.

The Urban T81 even looks the part of a premium case, with paint that rivals the Merlin surrounding anodized-aluminum inserts. A split side panel is also a little less cumbersome for us to work with compared to Corsair’s more aesthetically-oriented design. But the T81 is far from perfect. The shiny parts of its plastic trim are prone to hazing, and every effort to clean those surfaces increased that effect. Its rear door can be difficult to remove and install, given a recessed lower hinge that partially blocks the non-recessed portion of the side panel. And nothing short of a screwdriver can get the forward side door off without breaking the hinge.

The T81 also had a few “cheap case” quirks, such as a cable management area behind the motherboard tray that requires the wiring to be bunched towards the central protruding portion of the slide-on, right side panel. That idiosyncrasy is probably acceptable in a sub-$200 chassis, but it’s not going to make the cut in a premium case comparison.

The Urban T81 might win the value portion of this premium case comparison, except that it's not really a premium case. We still consider it worthy of consideration for power users on a budget. Then again, Corsair's Graphite 760T deserves the same respect.

That leaves us heading into part three reminding ourselves that we're on the look-out for an exceptionally high-end enclosure to crown our victor. There are three cases left to judge, so the competition remains up for grabs.

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  • -3 Hide
    blackmagnum , July 22, 2014 12:12 AM
    Answer (YMMV): Thermaltake Level 10 GT.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , July 22, 2014 12:32 AM
    Quote:
    Answer (YMMV): Thermaltake Level 10 GT.

    You know the original Level 10 was probably "more elite"

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/level-10-fortress-2,2594-5.html
  • 3 Hide
    vertexx , July 22, 2014 4:16 AM
    Hope the Phanteks Enthoo Primo is part of the final - will we have to wait another 2 months for that?
  • 0 Hide
    ykki , July 22, 2014 4:48 AM
    I wish that they would use the new powercolor devil 13 290x (their version of the 295X2) for their tests
  • 1 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , July 22, 2014 5:48 AM
    Who makes the most elite cases? Corsair and NZXT, no need for investigation :)  Still, a nice roundup.
  • 0 Hide
    Drejeck , July 22, 2014 6:12 AM
    There are some cases CNC made, you should talk about this indipendent manufacturers. On SweClockers I saw the best mini ITX computer ever made, with 2 ssds, 2 fans, a picopsu and a discrete graphic card with riser card.
  • 0 Hide
    Drejeck , July 22, 2014 6:24 AM
    Anyway my guess was Lian-Li and Silverstone
  • 3 Hide
    eklipz330 , July 22, 2014 6:42 AM
    isn't this a purely subjective article? how can this be quantified?
  • 0 Hide
    Neve12ende12 , July 22, 2014 7:28 AM
    I don't know much about cases, but I have an Azza Hurrican 2000 and I think it is pretty badass
  • 0 Hide
    firefoxx04 , July 22, 2014 8:19 AM
    Phanteks Primo plz
  • 2 Hide
    firefoxx04 , July 22, 2014 8:22 AM
    ID like to see these cases fitted with large radiators.. that is what the case labs is geared for after all.
  • 1 Hide
    xenol , July 22, 2014 8:26 AM
    CaseLabs is just one of those companies I don't get. Sure they give you a ton of customization options but I don't know, for $300 on a case like that?

    At least the $210 I spent on a Silverstone FT02 was worth it.
  • 0 Hide
    beoza , July 22, 2014 9:34 AM
    For the price of that CaseLabs case I'd rather get the CM Cosmos II, and save about $60. Sure it's an older design but it just looks so much better to me. The only downside with the Cosmos II is it's big and bulky weighing at just over 47lbs empty.
  • 0 Hide
    whiteodian , July 22, 2014 10:00 AM
    Quote:
    There are some cases CNC made, you should talk about this indipendent manufacturers. On SweClockers I saw the best mini ITX computer ever made, with 2 ssds, 2 fans, a picopsu and a discrete graphic card with riser card.
    Links please : D

    Here is a link to something similar I won at a LAN party. Comes in a badass briefcase. http://nfc-systems.com/mini/
  • 1 Hide
    Electromikey , July 22, 2014 10:18 AM
    Without having used any of the other cases, I can say that I had the pleasure of building a system in the 760T recently (a friend had me build him a monster rig), and it was one of my favorite builds I've ever done. The case looks freakin' gorgeous under his desk, too.
  • -1 Hide
    TheMentalist , July 22, 2014 10:58 AM
    Every time i see articles like this one, it kinda bugs me that the Vengeance C70 is so underrated, damn love that case, even though it's old. Not saying that these cases aren't good.
  • 0 Hide
    redgarl , July 22, 2014 2:20 PM
    Fractal Design R2 XL... best Full Tower case for 100$. Nothing came close.
  • 0 Hide
    redgarl , July 22, 2014 2:21 PM
    Phantek Enthoo Luxe, Pro and Primo should be part of your next article.
  • 0 Hide
    Karsten75 , July 22, 2014 2:41 PM
    the TL;DR - we have an unrealistic benchmark, got some sub-par cases and non should be worthy of an award? Next time do't specify a price as cut-off.
  • 0 Hide
    Phillip Wager , July 23, 2014 3:51 AM
    out of these the thermaltake would take my money but i think phanteks has the best "elite" case on the market right now.
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