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Which Of These Four Cases Takes Top Spot?

Four More Sub-$100 Cases For Your Gaming Build, Reviewed
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Our second group of value-oriented cases looked good in the photo preview, but we really wanted to see how they’d perform with a load of hot gaming hardware. Will these beat their predecessors in terms of quality, feature, hardware support, or value?

Coincidentally, the alphabetic order in which the cases are arranged coincides with lowest price first. That certainly makes a nice-looking chart, since it’s difficult for any company to come up with a 5% performance advantage to overcome its $5 price disadvantage. With the average of all cases as the 100% baseline, we can see that BitFenix’s low-cost Shinobi tops the chart by 22% over-average.

BitFenix sells the third-place performer in today's round-up, and it uses a $5 price advantage to beat the second-place performer from Enermax. That company's Ostrog GT is the only case in our comparison to include an eighth slot. I recommend the eighth slot to anyone who builds serious gaming machines and occasionally swaps motherboards, simply because some motherboards have a PCIe x16 slot at the bottom. Performance-oriented graphics cards usually need two slots.

Enermax has a few other features that help justify its $5 premium, such as the pair of intake fans that help with its second-place performance finish, along with its dedicated SSD cage (even though it appears to have been tacked onto an older chassis). But I can’t hand an award over to Enermax just yet.

Next up on the value chart is Rosewill’s R5. The R5 can hold up to three times as many SSDs as the Ostrog GT, though most enthusiast-class machines top out at two anyway. The R5 also has flapped rubber grommets covering all of its cable passages for a cleaner appearance. Its incompatibility with slightly-oversized motherboards could be an issue, however, and its performance left a little to be desired.

At the top of the performance heap, Zalman’s high-end MS800 Plus takes last place on the performance-per-dollar chart only because it falls just within our $100 limit. This is one of the cheapest high-end cases I’ve seen, so a performance-to-price comparison with mid-quality parts isn’t exactly fair. And, as much as it might be the perfect case for many of us, a perfect gaming case should at least have an eighth slot. I’m also concerned that the shape of the motherboard tray might block access to some of the SATA ports on slightly-oversized platforms, such as the previously-qualified Asus P9X79 WS. Over the years, we’ve seen several 10.5”-wide boards marketed specifically towards the mid-budget enthusiast market.

So the highest-quality case in today’s comparison, Zalaman’s MS800 Plus doesn’t win our top prize simply because it’s not specifically designed for mid-budget gamers. Enermax’s mid-market Ostrog GT has the performance and features to make it the value-oriented pick over BitFenix’s less-expensive Shinobi, so the Ostrog GT gets our "Smart Buy" award.

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  • -6 Hide
    jdwii , May 28, 2013 9:27 PM
    Why no love for coolermaster its easily the best Case company out there, i rarely even consider anything else. For just 60$ they offer one heck of a deal.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , May 28, 2013 9:39 PM
    jdwiiWhy no love for coolermaster its easily the best Case company out there, i rarely even consider anything else. For just 60$ they offer one heck of a deal.

    Tom's HardwareOf the 28 companies we invited to participate, 11 responded with cases they thought would give the Tom's Hardware audience the best balance between quality, features, and price. We divided the round-up into three groups based on when each of the samples arrived.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , May 28, 2013 9:50 PM
    Sorry about the double post, I can't seem to find the delete button :)  Moderators?
  • 1 Hide
    griptwister , May 28, 2013 10:38 PM
    Wow! Looking for a new case! It's time to upgrade my Antec OneHundred windowed. it's too loud with all the fans. and the PSU. Looks like I'll be going with a Zalman MS800 for my next rig! I liked the look of the z11 better at first, but seeing what the MS 800 looks like with a few LEDs, it seems classy and sleek yet not overdone. Great review THW!
  • 0 Hide
    slomo4sho , May 28, 2013 10:48 PM
    Thank you for not doing a slide show for this like the other reviews.

    Also, still looking forward to a review of the Cooler Master HAF XB.
  • 2 Hide
    dalmvern , May 29, 2013 4:31 AM
    slomo4shoThank you for not doing a slide show for this like the other reviews. Also, still looking forward to a review of the Cooler Master HAF XB.


    Apparently you were unaware of the slideshow they released last week. What Toms has done with all of these round ups was take the pictures and post them, then once they get done with their battery of tests they post the results and commentary afterward.
  • 0 Hide
    nd22 , May 29, 2013 6:21 AM
    Excellent review! I like to get the best possible performance for the money I spent and it seems that these cases you reviewed are perfect for a mid-end gaming build I am planning to do! How about some exotic cases to review for us Tom? For example I would like to see a review of cooler master haf xb or fractal 304.
  • 0 Hide
    sincreator , May 29, 2013 6:49 AM
    It's about time Zalman sent you guys one of their budget oriented cases. I bought the Zalman Z9+ for $34.99 last year with free shipping from NCIX, and I absolutely love the case. Great quality with a huge amount of features for a case of that price. It has more features than my brothers Antec 900 surprisingly, and it probably should of been $70-80. I'm not complaining though. lol. I have recommended the MS 800 and the Zalman Z9+ to a few friends, depending on their budget. They all loved the cases and were shocked at what they got for the money. I'd love to see more reviews for Zalman's cases on Tom's.
  • 2 Hide
    ubercake , May 29, 2013 7:08 AM
    Ok. Where are the Tom's models?

    Inner butt cheek. Side boob. That's what's going to sell cases. :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , May 29, 2013 8:12 AM
    ubercakeOk. Where are the Tom's models?Inner butt cheek. Side boob. That's what's going to sell cases.
    Sorry, all the models near this location are BBW. I don't believe that would go-over with the majority :p 
  • 1 Hide
    slomo4sho , May 29, 2013 9:41 AM
    Quote:

    Apparently you were unaware of the slideshow they released last week. What Toms has done with all of these round ups was take the pictures and post them, then once they get done with their battery of tests they post the results and commentary afterward.


    I typically ignore any article that starts with "In Pictures"
  • -1 Hide
    sneidng , May 29, 2013 10:35 AM
    Why not include the Arc Midi R2. Retails for $100 but you can get it on sale for $70 and free shipping. It has excellent cooling support as well.
  • 0 Hide
    Edgtho446 , May 29, 2013 11:11 AM
    Any indication as to what the cases are made out of? Its important to me that they be aluminum; steel rusts here quite readily :/ 
  • 0 Hide
    SvRommelvS , May 29, 2013 2:19 PM
    The conclusion's final paragraph confused me quite a bit on first reading. I thought the Zalaman’s MS800 won it all and the wrong image was posted.
  • 0 Hide
    tourist , May 29, 2013 2:29 PM
    were there any temp readings coming out of the case taken ? It can be hard with open cases , but here in south florida it is a big concern.
  • 2 Hide
    RedJaron , May 29, 2013 2:38 PM
    Tom, honest question: why the insistence on an eighth slot? Yes, some mboards do have the slot on the very bottom that you can make use of. But in reading your reviews on mboards, it seems that most manufactures nerf the lanes going to that slot anyway ( getting only four when the main two slots get eight or even 16 lanes each. ) The mboards that do give extra lanes to the bottom slot are typically high-end fare. The sheer money it takes to go three-way SLI/CrossFire suggests a sub-$100 case is not a huge priority at that point.

    I'm guessing that the vast majority of gamers and enthusiasts run two cards or less ( with the majority of those setups single-card. ) I just think an eight slot on a budget case should only be considered a welcome addition, not a requirement.
  • 0 Hide
    Orlean , May 29, 2013 3:18 PM
    I was looking at the MS800 yesterday very nice case, simplistic looking, plenty of room. I needed something that would accommodate water cooling, was simple looking and sleek and wasn't expensive. I would have got the MS800 until I came across the Arc Midi R2 on sale at NCIX, got it for $67 shipped couldn't beat that.
  • 0 Hide
    ubercake , May 29, 2013 3:37 PM
    Quote:
    ubercakeOk. Where are the Tom's models?Inner butt cheek. Side boob. That's what's going to sell cases.
    Sorry, all the models near this location are BBW. I don't believe that would go-over with the majority :p 


    :lol:  I guess I'll shut up about it for a while then. Although... A 12-pack may change my perspective?
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , May 29, 2013 3:47 PM
    RedJaronTom, honest question: why the insistence on an eighth slot? Yes, some mboards do have the slot on the very bottom that you can make use of. But in reading your reviews on mboards, it seems that most manufactures nerf the lanes going to that slot anyway ( getting only four when the main two slots get eight or even 16 lanes each. ) The mboards that do give extra lanes to the bottom slot are typically high-end fare. The sheer money it takes to go three-way SLI/CrossFire suggests a sub-$100 case is not a huge priority at that point.I'm guessing that the vast majority of gamers and enthusiasts run two cards or less ( with the majority of those setups single-card. ) I just think an eight slot on a budget case should only be considered a welcome addition, not a requirement.
    No insistence, merely suggestion. It's a cheap feature, as is the extra 1" of space needed to mount a radiator internally, and both features are favored primarily by the gaming market. This is a gaming case roundup after all, and as the price gets closer to the $100 limit I start to notice more of the things that make a case a "gaming" design.

    Slot configuration really depends more on the chipset than the motherboard manufacturer. If the chipset has enough lanes for 16-8-8, you'll generally find that configuration. If Intel can't cut it for you in the mid-budget market, consider how many more lanes AMD offers :) 

  • 0 Hide
    RedJaron , May 30, 2013 11:44 AM
    Quote:
    No insistence, merely suggestion. It's a cheap feature, as is the extra 1" of space needed to mount a radiator internally, and both features are favored primarily by the gaming market. This is a gaming case roundup after all, and as the price gets closer to the $100 limit I start to notice more of the things that make a case a "gaming" design.

    Slot configuration really depends more on the chipset than the motherboard manufacturer. If the chipset has enough lanes for 16-8-8, you'll generally find that configuration. If Intel can't cut it for you in the mid-budget market, consider how many more lanes AMD offers :) 

    Thanks for answering. In reading the conclusion, it seemed to me you were a little harsher on the lack of an eighth slot than I would have been. I can see what you mean though, under $70 you just want a solid case and don't expect frills. Once you start bumping into the $100 mark, such things should be a little more common. At $150, an eighth slot and radiator room should be mandatory.

    I will admit, I don't care much for either liquid cooling or the eighth slot ( probably why I don't get why others DO give them more weight. ) I don't plan on doing liquid cooling anytime soon because air serves me just fine for less money. And even if I had the money, I'm not apt to add a second GPU, let alone a third one. I figure by the time it takes for me to save up money for a second GPU ( or am at the point where I can no longer play games at acceptable detail levels, ) I'll be almost two generations behind the current cards. In those situations I spend a little extra for a single newer card that gives me similar performance as two older cards while using less power and no micro-stuttering issues. If I needed multiple cards for compute purposes, obviously I'd do things different.

    Granted, I'll admit I'm a bit odd as a "practical enthusiast."
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