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Thermaltake Wins!

Roundup: Four Gaming Cases Under $150
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With moderate noise suppression and excellent heat expulsion, the biggest case in today’s comparison wins. Yet, before we hear a collective “duh” from enthusiasts, we should also note that the smallest case in today’s roundup took a close second place in performance.

However, I don’t think any professional reviewer would settle for the second-place contender. At $100, NZXT’s Hades has panels as thin as most $30 cases and twists so easily that we were almost afraid to pick up the complete system. Other issues include a drive door that only swings to the right, while many of us require it to swing the other way, and the fact that no moderately-large CPU cooler will fit under its side fan. Living with the Hades thus begins to feel like living in Hades. We also have to question why anyone would want top-panel ports on a case that’s so small, since its only practical placement is on top of a desk where top-panel ports are hard to reach.

That last comment also applies to the sturdier Zalman Z7 Plus. The Z7 Plus would make a great low-cost desktop tower, if not for the fact that $80 is not a low price, and that putting it on top of a desk makes its top-panel jacks difficult to reach. Yet, with its solid design and top-quality finish, Zalman’s Z7 Plus at least looks and feels like an $80 case.

The most expertly-produced case in today’s lineup, Cooler Master’s Storm Sniper suffers from an almost-forgivable performance deficit. We say "almost" because it almost supports a double-fan radiator and internal liquid cooling that would more than compensate for its slightly lower air-cooled performance. The apparent effort Cooler Master put into design and production makes this tiny shortfall more of a big deal. Cooler Master, you could have won this one so easily.

The true winner of today’s comparison wasn’t perfect, either. We had trouble getting the Thermaltake Element V’s side-panel fan to work properly due to a slight misalignment of its surface-contact connector, and that connector isn’t even adjustable. The brush side of the connector is permanently attached to the fan, forcing owners to source any replacements directly from the factory. And the corners of the side panels were tight to the point that we had to yank the case open. Those are all elements that could have handed the win to a competitor, if not for its competitors' lack of an overwhelming feature.

Perhaps we shouldn’t expect perfection for $135. When the side fan works, the Element V is worth at least twice the $35 difference between it and the next-cheaper case, NZXT’s Hades, even though the cheaper model has a three-reading thermal display. The Element V thus gets our recommendation, with the reservation that buyers may need to exchange theirs if they encounter similar panel-fitment issues.

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Top Comments
  • 18 Hide
    skora , March 23, 2010 6:21 AM
    Good article. But I'm a little surprised that the Element actually found the Buy award. Usually seems like that's set aside for superior products that don't have the QC issues this did.

    I'm sure there will be request for this case and that and across a lot of price ranges.

    If you do enough of these, you could do a "Best Gaming Case for the Money" series. Or is that peeing in Don's yard?
  • 16 Hide
    sarsoft , March 23, 2010 6:26 AM
    No Antec Nine Hundred case...
  • 10 Hide
    4ILY45 , March 23, 2010 6:30 AM
    No CM 690 II??
Other Comments
  • 18 Hide
    skora , March 23, 2010 6:21 AM
    Good article. But I'm a little surprised that the Element actually found the Buy award. Usually seems like that's set aside for superior products that don't have the QC issues this did.

    I'm sure there will be request for this case and that and across a lot of price ranges.

    If you do enough of these, you could do a "Best Gaming Case for the Money" series. Or is that peeing in Don's yard?
  • 16 Hide
    sarsoft , March 23, 2010 6:26 AM
    No Antec Nine Hundred case...
  • 0 Hide
    p1n3apqlexpr3ss , March 23, 2010 6:28 AM
    That wouldnt be a bad idea tbh skora, would like to know what the best budget case is out there... not excactly a fan of the antec 200/300
  • 10 Hide
    4ILY45 , March 23, 2010 6:30 AM
    No CM 690 II??
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , March 23, 2010 6:36 AM
    Gosh, that Zalman is butt-ugly.
  • 3 Hide
    zoemayne , March 23, 2010 6:41 AM
    ANTEC 902?
  • 9 Hide
    sarsoft , March 23, 2010 6:49 AM
    More cases need to be added. There are other case under $150 that are better choices.
  • 4 Hide
    bk641 , March 23, 2010 7:00 AM
    the lancool (lian-li) k62 is a very, very good case for a sub $100 range. i'm using one, and it has pretty much everything you'd want in a mid-tower case. i especially like its HDD bay system, which can be configured to have the hard drives straight on, or perpendicular. in addition to that there are four quiet fans (two on top) and room for two 5870s.
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , March 23, 2010 7:04 AM
    sarsoftNo Antec Nine Hundred case...

    No OLD cases. The Cooler Master case ended up in here by mistake, it was supposed to be for stuff released from November onward.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , March 23, 2010 7:14 AM
    bk641the cm doesn't have a fan control option, afaik.
    Scroll up and look at the BIG KNOB in the picture maybe?
    4ILY45No CM 690 II??
    Got the CM Storm Sniper instead, was looking for 4-8 cases due to time constraints which means one per company.
    Tekkie9Gosh, that Zalman is butt-ugly.
    And the NZXT isn't?
    sarsoftMore cases need to be added. There are other case under $150 that are better choices.
    More companies were contacted. Every major brand who released a case between the end of November and the end of January was contacted. These are the ones Tom's Hardware got...most of the older-yet-popular cases have already been reviewed.

  • 1 Hide
    sarsoft , March 23, 2010 7:20 AM
    Quote:
    More companies were contacted. Every major brand who released a case between the end of November and the end of January was contacted. These are the ones Tom's Hardware got...most of the older-yet-popular cases have already been reviewed.

    Fair enough.
  • 1 Hide
    frozenlead , March 23, 2010 7:37 AM
    While the lack of connector on the side fan of the Thermaltake chassis is a bummer and you painted it as such, you don't necessarily have to get a replacement from the factory. From the looks of it, it still uses the same 3 leads that standard fans do - an 11 year-old with a soldering iron could get any given fan to run off it.
    I could, of course, be mistaken. There is only one picture of it.
  • -4 Hide
    evillman , March 23, 2010 7:57 AM
    No CM 690 II Advanced? :/ 
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , March 23, 2010 7:57 AM
    Quote:
    While the lack of connector on the side fan of the Thermaltake chassis is a bummer and you painted it as such, you don't necessarily have to get a replacement from the factory. From the looks of it, it still uses the same 3 leads that standard fans do - an 11 year-old with a soldering iron could get any given fan to run off it.
    I could, of course, be mistaken. There is only one picture of it.


    Yes, the connector was not removed to show the back side but anyone with wiring skills could wire the original connector to a generic replacement fan.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , March 23, 2010 7:59 AM
    Quote:
    Good article. But I'm a little surprised that the Element actually found the Buy award. Usually seems like that's set aside for superior products that don't have the QC issues this did.

    I'm sure there will be request for this case and that and across a lot of price ranges.

    If you do enough of these, you could do a "Best Gaming Case for the Money" series. Or is that peeing in Don's yard?


    It was a tough call. Compared to the other cases it's an incredible value, but only when the side fan works. Hopefully if Thermaltake sells enough of these and is forced to replace enough of these, they will eventually solve the problem at the manufacturing level!
  • 1 Hide
    haplo602 , March 23, 2010 8:18 AM
    ugly, big, expensive ... describes all of the cases :-)

    cannot help myself, but there's no case that would pass for a decent gaming case ... they are either ugly, have too many lights or too much wasted space or bad airflow.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , March 23, 2010 8:53 AM
    haplo602ugly, big, expensive ... describes all of the cases :-)cannot help myself, but there's no case that would pass for a decent gaming case ... they are either ugly, have too many lights or too much wasted space or bad airflow.


    The NZXT is tiny...and both Cooler Master and Thermaltake let you shut off the lights from the fan controller. IMO the big cases are too big, the small cases are too small, and if you're right about the looks than I guess you're not in their target market.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , March 23, 2010 8:56 AM
    evillmanNo CM 690 II Advanced?
    Got the CM Storm Sniper instead, was looking for 4-8 cases due to time constraints which means one per company.
  • 2 Hide
    4ILY45 , March 23, 2010 9:08 AM
    CrashmanGot the CM Storm Sniper instead, was looking for 4-8 cases due to time constraints which means one per company.


    That's understandable.. anyhow cheers..
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