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Best Of The Best, Part 1: Who Makes The Most Elite PC Case?

Best Of The Best, Part 1: Who Makes The Most Elite PC Case?
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Which ATX tower is the most elite? We invited more than two dozen brands to compete. Today, Azza, In Win, Rosewill, and SilverStone (the first four to respond), face off in a battle to out-do each other in price, features, performance, and pizzazz.

The Tom’s Hardware Elite award is reserved for the very best products in their class, from graphics cards to motherboards and even complete systems. Yet, we have the easiest time crowning a component "best" when it's able to outperform the competition in a suite of smartly-chosen benchmarks. Quantifying our results means we can demonstrate why a certain choice ranks up there at the top.

It's a bit more difficult to do that for cases. The quietest examples are either hot or heavy, so they certainly don't earn the favor of gamers who want to stay somewhat mobile. And even if we restrict ourselves to full-sized cases, differences in drive capacity and the ability to support oversized motherboards are more important to some readers than others. We’ve refined our performance metric, comparing cooling to noise. But that won't help us say, definitively, for example, that a full-tower is better than a mid-tower enclosure capable of similar performance.

Sometimes it’s easier to define the negative. While we can’t say that an elite case needs to use exotic materials, we can say that it shouldn't use flimsily-thin steel sheet. We can’t say that an elite case must be silent, but we can say that it won’t be noisy. Putting this back into a positive approach, “quality everywhere” is the first priority in our search.

We didn’t specify a list of “enthusiast features” for today's story, but we will be looking for them along the way. And we didn’t limit our search to premium brands either, instead hoping that we might also find a few surprises from budget labels.

  Azza
Genesis 9000
In Win
Tòu
Rosewill
Blackhawk Ultra
SilverStone
Fortress FT04
Dimensions
Height25.9"23.0"25.0"21.5"
Width9.7"10.7"9.4"8.6"
Depth25.1"25.8"26.3"19.0"
Space Above
Motherboard
0.5" - 2.0"2.1" - 2.8"3.0"1.1"
Card Length14.0" - 14.7"15.1"15.6"13.3"
Weight34.5 Pounds30.3 Pounds36.3 Pounds26.1 Pounds
Cooling
Front Fans
(alternatives)
None
(None)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
2 x 140 mm
(2 x 120 mm)
2 x 180 mm
(3 x 120 mm)
Rear Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
None
(None)
1 x 140 mm
(1 x 120 mm)
None
(1 x 120 mm)
Top Fans
(alternatives)
2 x 230 mm3 x 120 mm
(None)
2 x 230 mm
(3 x 140/120 mm)
None
(None)
Left Side
(alternatives)
None
(2 x 120 mm)
None
(None)
1 x 230 mm
(9 x 120 mm)
None
(None)
Right Side
(alternatives)
2 x 120 mm
(+ 1 x 230 mm)
None
(None)
None
(1 x 120/92 mm)
None
(None)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalNineOneFourTwo
3.5" External1 x Adapter BracketNone1 x Adapter BracketNone
3.5" InternalFive***Three10Seven
2.5" InternalFive*Two10*Four
Card Slots10Seven10Eight
Noise Dampening
SidesNoneNoneNoneFoam
TopNoneNoneNoneFoam
FrontNoneNoneNoneFoam
Price$170 $999 $190 $200
*Shared on 3.5" tray **w/o Center Cage ***By 5.25" Adapter Tray 

Perennial provider of value-oriented products, In Win was first to look beyond its roots in search of an exhibition-worthy offering. I'd have to guess that as much as half of its lofty price is committed to replacing any parts broken during shipping, though superb packaging includes thick foam and ½” plywood box lining.

Conversely, SilverStone attempts to add value to its flagship Fortress line by pushing a $199 to $267 price for its cast-aluminum-faced Fortress FT04.

Azza and Rosewill attempt to move upscale by making more space for multiple, oversized components. Traditional design and materials could toughen the climb to elite status, but there’s always a chance they might have perfected these features.

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  • 4 Hide
    blackmagnum , May 20, 2014 11:29 PM
    Does elite mean most unattainable purchase prices?
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , May 20, 2014 11:38 PM
    Quote:
    Does elite mean most unattainable purchase prices?
    We would have been happy if In Win could deliver that case for under $300. Unfortunately, I think the company budgets $300 of its $800 MSRP just for replacement glass and glass shipping.

  • -2 Hide
    AndrewJacksonZA , May 20, 2014 11:41 PM
    Oh please! What rubbish is this?!?! One can't abuse the word "elite" when talking about a case! It depends on the individual and each individual's needs and, perhaps most importantly, aesthetic taste!

    **go to heat and noise page and then the last page from the first page**
    I really don't have the inclination to read each - and - every - page in this article based on a piece of rubbish idea. Really Tom's, what on earth possessed you to do thi...**sees the picture of the In Win Tou**

    Hmmm...

    **reads to the In Win Tou pages**

    Wow. Ok, that case is quite the looker. Gee, that construction kinda justifies the stratospheric pricing. What a beautiful case! With some nice watercooling this case will be quiet AND cool AND cool-looking! I agree with you that this is the most elite, erm, showboat-iest case of these four!

    Thanks for making your readers aware of products that they would've otherwise missed Tom's! :-)
  • 0 Hide
    samesdf , May 21, 2014 12:11 AM
    Did Rosewill copy from CM 690 II Advance or the other way around?
  • 0 Hide
    Shunrei , May 21, 2014 12:24 AM
    Will wait for something from NZXT might miss something..
  • 5 Hide
    Crashman , May 21, 2014 12:59 AM
    Quote:
    Oh please! What rubbish is this?!?! One can't abuse the word "elite" when talking about a case! It depends on the individual and each individual's needs and, perhaps most importantly, aesthetic taste!

    **go to heat and noise page and then the last page from the first page**
    I really don't have the inclination to read each - and - every - page in this article based on a piece of rubbish idea. Really Tom's, what on earth possessed you to do thi...**sees the picture of the In Win Tou**

    Hmmm...

    **reads to the In Win Tou pages**

    Wow. Ok, that case is quite the looker. Gee, that construction kinda justifies the stratospheric pricing. What a beautiful case! With some nice watercooling this case will be quiet AND cool AND cool-looking! I agree with you that this is the most elite, erm, showboat-iest case of these four!

    Thanks for making your readers aware of products that they would've otherwise missed Tom's! :-)
    The article was actually conceived as a showcase for two different cases, one of which didn't show up and the other arrived late enough to be reserved for Part 2 of this 2-part series :) 
    Quote:
    Did Rosewill copy from CM 690 II Advance or the other way around?
    Rosewill buys its cases...I'm not even certain it has a mechanical designer. Most other case brands design a case based on an existing case, so there's always the possibility of two different products coming from the same supplier and sharing some stampings.
  • 2 Hide
    Mac266 , May 21, 2014 1:07 AM
    Sees cases. (Yeah, not to bad) Sees pricing. Sees Win Tou pricing. Picks jaw up off ground.
  • 1 Hide
    weavermsi , May 21, 2014 1:28 AM
    Dear lord that In Win thing is an abominable turd. The only case here with any pedigree is the Silverstone, and that's easily the ugliest object they've produced. Please, NZXT and Corsair, put us out of our misery.
  • 0 Hide
    Memnarchon , May 21, 2014 1:53 AM
    Since we are talking for the best of the best,... Where is the Silverstone's TJ11?
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , May 21, 2014 1:59 AM
    Quote:
    Since we are talking for the best of the best,... Where is the Silverstone's TJ11?
    Great question, since they sent a cheaper model! It was probably neglected due to age.

  • 0 Hide
    mamasan2000 , May 21, 2014 2:08 AM
    The most elite is one which you cant find commercially available.

    http://www.forbes.com/pictures/fkim45flf/1-dark-blade-2/

    20 of the most elite
  • -1 Hide
    4Ryan6 , May 21, 2014 2:21 AM
    Since many are going to water cooling that needs to be addressed in the build possibilities of these cases and not just the CLC capabilities they all can handle, but complete kits of today as well.

    What size radiators can be fit into these cases?

    With all due respect, there's a whole lot more regarding a case review, than has been covered.

  • 2 Hide
    Redspeed93 , May 21, 2014 4:00 AM
    I would argue the Phanteks Enthoo Primo needs a top spot. Darn good case!
  • 2 Hide
    AndrewJacksonZA , May 21, 2014 4:44 AM
    While we're throwing out suggestions, I vote for the Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 and Deep Silence 6 cases: Understated elegance with cool and very quiet performance.

    However, they have almost zero bling, so I guess they might not fit this series. For me though, they're the cases I want to own right now. I don't do much showing off of my computers.
  • 1 Hide
    ubercake , May 21, 2014 4:45 AM
    I like how the In Win case looks, but I could never forgive myself for spending that much money on a case. Now a couple of video cards?... Heck yeah! But a case? No.

    The NZXT Phantom 630 (aside from some of the angles), in my opinion, is the most practical case I've had the pleasure of working with to this point. The innards and internal case design just make sense.

    'Elite' definitely doesn't mean practical.
  • 0 Hide
    velocityg4 , May 21, 2014 4:53 AM
    It seems to me all these case have an inefficient design for airflow. They need to be designed with open air flow from the front to the back. So that you get a solid wall of air moving across. Which is why I modded a PowerMac G5 case for ATX components.
  • 0 Hide
    Reynod , May 21, 2014 4:59 AM
    crash nice work mate ... as always.

    A bit of advice ... don't feed the trolls !!

    Don't bother responding to the idiots with the stupid questions, and if they follow up with more tripe then let the mods clean up for you.

    You will get all worked up and then we have to come around with a bottle of Jacks and sedate you ...

    :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , May 21, 2014 5:01 AM
    Quote:
    crash nice work mate ... as always.

    A bit of advice ... don't feed the trolls !!

    Don't bother responding to the idiots with the stupid questions, and if they follow up with more tripe then let the mods clean up for you.

    You will get all worked up and then we have to come around with a bottle of Jacks and sedate you ...


    :) 
    So it's a go then? :p 

    I used to mine in the Elitist Jerks pool, until I figured out that I was too good for them...
  • 0 Hide
    Reynod , May 21, 2014 5:18 AM
    :) 

    I was scratching my head over what to call the front fan on the Win case as well ... almost like it was an afterthought.

    Can't wait to see part II.

    Back in the day the V1000 ... V6000 Thermaltake cases were pretty good ... huge great honking things. The 1000's were steel ... mine could have taken a 7.62 round and kept going. Reminded me of my Combi Van ... had fans everywhere. Heavy. I took to it with a bosche nibbler and improved it no end in terms of airflow.
  • 9 Hide
    4Ryan6 , May 21, 2014 6:22 AM
    Crashman, Did you send any invitations to CaseLabs or Mountain Mods as these are the Best of the Best cases money can buy?

    I was wondering if they refused to participate?
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