Best Cases

There's far more to consider than aesthetics when choosing a case. Good airflow is king when it comes to keeping things cool, and noise levels can be affected by everything from the number of fans to the shape of the fan mounts. Fortunately, we've already tested a bevy of cases over the years, and have prepared this awards showcase as a quick summary of the best models.

May 2016 Updates

The past month of case testing has brought us two candidates, the colorfully-lit Prism CR1280 from the new brand Riotoro, and the highly-configurable Enthoo Evolv ATX Tempered Glass from Phanteks. While also proving that performance is more about design than size, the smaller Phanteks case topped its price class both in price and class.

Our Best Picks

Smaller motherboards can always be installed in larger cases — e.g. Mini-ITX simply utilizes four of the mounting holes from the standard ATX specification. Yet the reverse is sometimes also true, as many ATX cases are designed to hold so-called “oversized ATX” motherboards. Often mislabeled as E-ATX, these motherboards technically fall short of the actual 12" x 13" Extended ATX specification. Therefore, we recommend that prospective buyers of any “oversized ATX" motherboards look at the photos, descriptions and measurements of any ATX case before making a purchase.

Best Cases

NZXT Phantom 410

2012 Editors' Choice

Awarded way back in 2012 for its exceptional value, NZXT's Phantom 410 retains its high value primarily because it hasn't gone up in price. Available in several colors with various discounts, these can be found for as little as $89 and average around $99.

Though the "modern" design of 2012 appears a little dated today, the Phantom 410 still combines high-quality manufacturing with medium-quality materials to reduce noise and increase durability. This was in fact the only case in its roundup to meet all of our performance and quality demands, so it either raises the bar for mainstream builds or lowers the cost of the high-end experience.

MSRP: $100
Buy @ Amazon
Buy @ Newegg
> The Review

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Fractal Design Define S

2015 Editor Recommended

Rather than try to up-sell customers on expansion packs after charging them for parts they don't want in the basic package, Fractal Design ships its Define S at far lower price. Supporting two triple-fan radiators straight out of the box, this durable mid-quality unit can be found for less than $70 on occasion.

This completely different approach to a specific market makes the Define S a better value for that market, earning it our Editor Recommended award. It still has the same deficiency of most completing cases in its lack of an eighth expansion slot, but big-liquid system builders who can live without it will find a fantastic price in the Define S.

MSRP: $90
Buy @ Amazon
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> The Review

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Enermax Ostrog GT

2013 Editor Recommended

Full of ventilation holes and cheap frills, the Enermax Ostrog GT just happens to be one of the coolest running mid-towers we've ever tested. It's also the cheapest mid-tower still on the market to have received an award. Moreover, the Ostrog GT is the only awarded mainstream mid-tower to have the true gaming credential of an eighth expansion slot — which is required for the installation of a graphics card in an ATX motherboard's bottom slot. That configuration is quite common in 3-Way SLI and CrossFireX, and we're not quite sure why we had to drop our budget to get that feature...

The Ostrog GT is more cheaply-constructed in nearly every way than its rivals, but that doesn't stop it from holding the top position in cooling performance. Being this inexpensive while supporting more graphics configurations makes the Ostrog GT special enough to deserve our Editor Recommended award.

MSRP: $75
Buy @ Amazon
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> The Review

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Fractal Design Define R4

2012 Editor Recommended

Unlike modern "gamer-themed" cases, Fractal Design's Define R4 resembles a small pedestal server. Unlike pedestal servers, the Define R4 uses a combination of thick steel panels and cloth-faced asphalt mat to deaden sound. This combination made the Define R4 both the coolest-operating and quietest-running part in our 2012 quiet case roundup. It was also the heaviest, its 26.5 pounds of heft limits portability, in spite of the sturdy panels that might otherwise encourage users to move it around.

Normally priced around $129, the Define R4 occasionally pops up for as little at $89, a difference of which is almost enough to pay the shipping on this brute.

MSRP: $120
Buy @ Amazon
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> The Review

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Cooler Master MasterCase 5

2015 Editor Approved

Designed to be all-things to all-builders, the semi-modular MasterCase 5 can be upgraded though additional components, or stripped-down to support over-sized liquid cooling systems. Examples of this flexibility include a front panel that supports 2x 120mm and 2x 140mm radiators, and can be expanded to hold triple-fan radiators by unscrewing the upper bay trays. Cooler Master offers additional trays, drive cages, optional side panels and a top panel radiator expansion as add-on components, though buyers can get some of those add-ons as standard equipment in the "Pro 5" version of the MasterCase 5.

Quality in the metal work, plastic and paint put the MasterCase solidly into the middle of the enthusiast market, where it's only major drawback is the lack of an eighth slot that's typically required to mount a graphics card in the motherboard's bottom slot. Since most performance enthusiasts won't do that, we found its $110 price to be completely reasonable.

MSRP: $110
Buy @ Amazon
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> The Review

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Zalman Z11 Neo

2015 Editor Approved

We like great cooling, but not when it comes at the cost of great noise. On the other hand, we like low noise, but not when it comes at the cost of poor cooling. Zalman sought the best of both worlds in its Z11 Neo, using sturdy materials and firmly attached plastic pieces to ensure low-noise, without adding the expense of acoustic foam. The complete solution came out 14.9% above-average in our cooling-to-noise ratio calculations, and combined with a moderate $85 price to earn a 24% above-average value rating.

A price drop to $75 after the review makes the Z11 Neo even more-deserving of our Editor Approved award.

MSRP: $80
Buy @ Amazon
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> The Review

Best Extended ATX Cases

Rosewill Nighthawk 117

2016 Editor Recommended

Builders still have room for a so-called 280mm (double 140mm) liquid cooling radiator offset away from the motherboard on the top panel, the case still has the required front and bottom removable dust filters, you'll still find a full complement of four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, and class-leading acoustic efficiency proves that it's hard to go wrong with 27 pounds of (mostly) steel. All of this goes to those who need it for a mere pittance, with current prices ranging from $120 to $150.

Builders still have room for a so-called 280mm (double 140mm) liquid cooling radiator offset away from the motherboard on the top panel, the case still has the required front and bottom removable dust filters, you'll still find a full complement of four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, and class-leading acoustic efficiency proves that it's hard to go wrong with 27 pounds of (mostly) steel. All of this goes to those who need it for a mere pittance, with current prices ranging from $120 to $150.

MSRP: $130
Buy @ Amazon
Buy @ Newegg
> The Review

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Corsair Carbide 600C

2016 Editor Approved

Clearly a conundrum, Corsair's Carbide 600C is one of the smallest cases we've tested to support oversized motherboards. This full-tower that really isn't uses tall feet to raise it over the 21" mark, yet still has room for a couple large radiators. This eight slot case is even designed with a row of cable access holes spaced perfectly for the XL-ATX-width boards that so often are mislabeled EATX for lack of a better term. With space for all of our cooling appliances, good looks, great quality and noise isolation, and even a concealed double bay for bay-mounted reservoirs, these oddities make the Carbide Clear 600C just about the perfect case for a wide variety of complex enthusiast configurations.

MSRP: $150
Buy @ Amazon
> The Review

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Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX

2016 Editor Approved

With an MSRP that's $10 higher than the non-glass-sided version, the Enthoo Evolve ATX Tempered Glass nearly breaks out of the high-end and into the premium market. Then again, $10 doesn't seam like much to pay for side panels that do a better job of containing noise while also offering a premium appearance compared to traditional plastic side windows.

Great ventilation and good containment of internal component noise allowed the Enthoo Evolv ATX to beat the average of its rivals by 12 percent in cooling-to-noise ratio, while triple-fan radiator support on both the top and front panels extend its appeal to liquid cooled component enthusiasts. The appeal of its enhanced quality materials and construction is unfortunately limited to buyers who don't need an eighth expansion slot or more than 10.4" of motherboard tray depth.

MSRP: $185
Buy @ Amazon
Buy @ Newegg
> The Review

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Azza CSAZ-GT 1

2015 Editor Approved

Combining the depth of EATX with the taller height required for nine-slot XL-ATX motherboards, Azza's GT1 pushes the boundaries of the full tower. It's also convertible from upside-down to rightside-up motherboard orientation, thanks to a second set of slide rails for its removable motherboard tray. Most builders probably won't need to remove that tray for any other reason, given the cavernous space within this beast.

Constructed of thick steel and loaded with five 5.25" to 3.5"/2.5" adapter trays, the GT1 appears to be Azza's attempt to show how much material it can cram into a single box for less than $150. It did well there, with some sellers now offering the GT1 for as little as $130. The base price alone was enough to get the GT1 our stamp of approval as the most affordable quality unit available for holding a pile of oversize components.

MSRP: $140
Buy @ Amazon
Buy @ Newegg
> The Review

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Rosewill B2-Spirit

2015 Editor Approved

Large enough to sandwich a 1.5"-thick 3x140mm radiator between two layers of 25mm-thick fans above an EATX motherboard, Rosewill's B2 Spirit provides the quality materials and construction of a upper mid-range gaming tower at a vastly-extended size. Its extra apparent quality gives it in a higher expected price than the similarly-sized Azza GT1, and Rosewill fills those expectations by charging around $40 more for the B2 Spirit. Buyers who believe quality takes third-string to performance and price should note that the B2 Spirit also offers better cooling at lower noise compared to the GT1, coming out 19% ahead in our combined performance metric.

MSRP: $170
Buy @ Amazon
Buy @ Newegg
> The Review

Best Mini-ITX Cases

Fractal Design Define Nano S

2016 Editor Recommended

The Define Nano S is a big little case, at 13.5" tall and 16.2" deep, yet most of its extra space is devoted to radiator provisions. That could make this a great way to carry a small heavy machine to your next gaming event. Supporting dual 140mm fans on both the front and top panels and having room to spare for radiators and pumps, the inclusion of a single intake fan and noise dampening sheets put it far ahead of the previously-awarded "high value" case in both cooling and noise. The combined performance advantage was more than enough to offset the Define Nano S's slightly higher (around $70) price in value calculations, prompting compact case editor Chris Miconi to recommend it above his previous budget-minded choice.

MSRP: $70
Buy @ Amazon
Buy @ Newegg
> The Review

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Cougar QBX - Mini-ITX

2015 Editor Recommended

Cougar's QBX stood out as a top value in a roundup that scaled the majority of mini-cube price segments. Buyers must always be willing to make small sacrifices to save money, and for the well-ventilated QBX that means either living with a single exhaust fan or buying fans to fill one or more of its empty mounts (80mm in front, 2x 120mm on top, 2x 120mm on bottom). Liquid cooling kits include fans, and the QBX's support for two-by-120mm radiators is excuse enough for a scarcity of fans in this sub-$60 model.

MSRP: $55
Buy @ Amazon
Buy @ Newegg
> The Review

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Lian Li PC-Q10

2015 Editor Recommended

For around twice the price of Cougar's sample, Lian Li offers buyers the elegance of a brushed aluminum anodized finish on sturdy, noise-isolating 1.5mm-thick panels and a side window to show off your work. More than just a pretty face, PC-Q10 smashed the field in thermal performance (lower temperatures) while ending in a dead-heat for noise levels, putting it atop our overall performance charts. A maximum graphics card length of 10.6" is the PC-Q10's biggest weakness, but that's still room enough for various gaming cards up to and including the 10.50" (reference design) GeForce GTX980 Ti.

MSRP: $130
Buy @ Amazon
Buy @ Newegg
> The Review

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35 comments
    Your comment
  • Simon Ayres
    Why are these the best cases? Cases are as much about personal preference to aesthetics as they are functionality, this list is arbitrary at best.

    That isn't to say these cases are not great, but to claim that they are better than all other cases in the respective categories is just disingenuous.
    5
  • Co BIY
    I think we need reviews of some smaller mid-Towers. The value cases that you build practical computers in. And maybe something that works well for a mATX with a moderate GPU but doesn't have to fit in the palm of my hand and require a special micro- ITX power supply.

    Is anyone building a nice slim tower designed with IGP and SSD in mind ? For when you build for others.
    2
  • detroitwillfall
    glad i ordered the tempered glass :D
    0
  • cdabc123
    im still not convinced i can beet buying $70 worth of acrylic and metal and taking the time to build a case exactly how i like it and to fit my parts perfectly. especially when you have a mobo larger than atx.
    0
  • DonkeyOatie
    Spell-check in Evolv seam = seem.
    1
  • BadActor
    Would have liked to seen some sub $50.00 cases in there. There are a few real gems and a whole lot of garbage.
    1
  • booboodo
    I don't think any of the clear panel cases or acrylic cases without a metalized coating will meet FCC EMI requirements. Are we all just ignoring the FCC rules these days?
    0
  • Onus
    I agree with Simon. The case is such a personal preference item, that it is impossible to label any "Best." You can measure noise or heat, so "quietest" or "coolest-running" would be fine, but "best" is too subjective. You might call this one "Editors' Favorite Cases" or some such, but not "Best Cases."
    0
  • Wayfall
    Well I just go the Obsidian 750D yesterday (moving over from a cheap Bitfenix case), I just need to fix my fans noise (I have 6 chassis fans) then other than that its amazing. If your lucky you can get it used for under £100 but I got it new from scan for about £120-30ish.

    http://imgur.com/AXSHROK

    Lighting may look blue but its actually white, it just my camera didn't pick up the colour very well for some reason.
    0
  • InvalidError
    Anonymous said:
    I don't think any of the clear panel cases or acrylic cases without a metalized coating will meet FCC EMI requirements. Are we all just ignoring the FCC rules these days?

    As long as all the individual components inside the case are compliant, the complete PC should still be compliant even if it was built in an all-plastic box with no shielding whatsoever. Having a metal box only adds an extra immunity/compliance margin on top of that.

    PC frames being made of metal may have more to do with fire resistance: contain the electrical fault until it burns out while the fire-retardant plastics melt away.
    0
  • Newbie 101
    It's a bit unclear from these brief descriptions/table of features which cases, especially in the ATX size, have the most recent USB ports (which certainly matters). At the same time, from an aesthetic perspective, I can't easily tell what the color options are for these cases either.

    Can we get that information added to the table?
    1
  • RedJaron
    Anonymous said:
    im still not convinced i can beet buying $70 worth of acrylic and metal and taking the time to build a case exactly how i like it and to fit my parts perfectly. especially when you have a mobo larger than atx.

    Except $70 isn't the total cost there. At the very least, you need to also add the cost of the tools you're using to shape and form the materials. Few people have the time, tools, or know-how in order to make something like that.
    0
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    Quote:
    It's a bit unclear from these brief descriptions/table of features which cases, especially in the ATX size, have the most recent USB ports (which certainly matters). At the same time, from an aesthetic perspective, I can't easily tell what the color options are for these cases either.

    Can we get that information added to the table?


    Yeah, I always want to know if they have at least two USB 3.0 slots, and I would like to know if they have anything new like a USB 3.1 Type-C port or something.

    I also want to know CPU cooler clearance, especially in the Mini-ITX cases. Very much a make-or-break factor in choosing a Mini-ITX case.
    0
  • powerincarnate
    Any best of list that doesn't include Case Labs is Disqualified.
    0
  • littleleo
    Quote:
    Quote:
    It's a bit unclear from these brief descriptions/table of features which cases, especially in the ATX size, have the most recent USB ports (which certainly matters). At the same time, from an aesthetic perspective, I can't easily tell what the color options are for these cases either.

    Can we get that information added to the table?


    Yeah, I always want to know if they have at least two USB 3.0 slots, and I would like to know if they have anything new like a USB 3.1 Type-C port or something.

    I also want to know CPU cooler clearance, especially in the Mini-ITX cases. Very much a make-or-break factor in choosing a Mini-ITX case.


    You can click on the links on the bottom of the article where the prices are listed and go to the recommended vendor site and see those types of details there.
    0
  • littleleo
    Quote:
    Why are these the best cases? Cases are as much about personal preference to aesthetics as they are functionality, this list is arbitrary at best.

    That isn't to say these cases are not great, but to claim that they are better than all other cases in the respective categories is just disingenuous.


    Perhaps these are the best of the cases submitted for review by the manufacturers.
    0
  • Wiltedjoint
    This is just advertising disguised as a 'review/recommendation". Take a stand and anoint just 1 case in each category.

    There was a time when Tom's Hardware had integrity, sadly those days are over
    0
  • Stevemeister
    There are so many cases out there that its next to impossible to test all of them. If you want quality and functionality Lian-Li are among the best out there. . . . but they are not cheap.
    0
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    Anonymous said:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    It's a bit unclear from these brief descriptions/table of features which cases, especially in the ATX size, have the most recent USB ports (which certainly matters). At the same time, from an aesthetic perspective, I can't easily tell what the color options are for these cases either.

    Can we get that information added to the table?


    Yeah, I always want to know if they have at least two USB 3.0 slots, and I would like to know if they have anything new like a USB 3.1 Type-C port or something.

    I also want to know CPU cooler clearance, especially in the Mini-ITX cases. Very much a make-or-break factor in choosing a Mini-ITX case.


    You can click on the links on the bottom of the article where the prices are listed and go to the recommended vendor site and see those types of details there.


    Sure, I know you can dig through each vendor's site to find out more info. The point here is that these factors are important to case buyers, and it would be helpful to display those items on their at-a-glance chart, rather than have to laboriously dig through vendor sites.
    0