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Which Chassis Delivers On Value? How About Quality?

Five Gaming Cases Between $80 And $120, Reviewed
By

NZXT’s Phantom 410 provides the lowest temperatures, lowest noise, and best acoustic efficiency of the five cases in today’s test. If this were simply a matter of performance, we could conclude our project without further description. However, Corsair’s performance is pretty impressive as well, and its price is also rather good.

Thus, anyone looking for the best bang-for-the-buck case will probably jump on Corsair’s 300R. Indeed, we were even able to find the case for $10 less than the $80 floor set for this story's budget range, and using that lower number would have given the case an even higher value score. But we're not really convinced that “mainstream” is the place for Corsair’s 300R. It's flimsy materials and limited number of ports are more closely-matched by several $60 models.

Xigmatek’s Midgard II takes second place in a comparison of performance to price, being the cheapest case in today’s article that really deserves to be called a mainstream gaming-oriented product. That judgement is based solely on material quality and features.

In Win’s Mana 136 looks the part of a mid-range enthusiast chassis, just like Xigmatek's, and it even has the heavy face panel and paint to match. Unfortunately, underneath those accoutrements lies the structure of a $30 budget box.

NZXT gets things right on quality, noise, and cooling, but falls to the back of the pack when it comes to value.

MSI's Stealth edges out the three lightweights on structural quality, but added features such as its SRF rubberized finish, USB charging port and VGA stabilizer brackets can't make us forget that it consistently lags behind when it comes to cooling, noise, and acoustic efficiency.

Value was supposed to be a primary consideration in today’s comparison. However, the highest value score goes to an enclosure built more like cases in a more entry-level class. We're looking for sturdier materials in the $80 to $120 segment. Quality was always supposed to be another important criteria in our round-up. And that’s where a single product really stood out.

Unable to make a clear case for a value award (Ed.: I see what you did there), we're choosing to recognize the case that won everything except the price battle. The only product in this comparison to meet all of our performance and quality demands, NZXT’s Phantom 410 gets our stamp of approval.

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Top Comments
  • 13 Hide
    TekN9Ne , May 25, 2012 4:53 AM
    The Phantom with the Gunmetal looks smooth.
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    TekN9Ne , May 25, 2012 4:53 AM
    The Phantom with the Gunmetal looks smooth.
  • 5 Hide
    hellfire24 , May 25, 2012 4:53 AM
    my vote goes to phantom!
    BTW,i recently saw Antec 1100 and it's a very good case.for 100 bucks,it's best in it's class-
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129178&Tpk=antec%201100
  • 9 Hide
    Ohmybad , May 25, 2012 4:58 AM
    I love the hell out of my 300R! i didn't want a show piece, Stylish and plain is fine with me!
  • 1 Hide
    sirencall , May 25, 2012 5:34 AM
    I almost got the Phantom case but I got the Raidmax Storm case instead....about the price range for this review but has some unique features like the motherboard is attached to a panel that hinges out so you can work on it very easily.
  • 0 Hide
    anxiousinfusion , May 25, 2012 5:40 AM
    I'm contemplating getting the 300r. It would be a big cooling boost over my Silverstone Sugo SG-03. I'm an idiot for trying to stuff a rig into that thing.
  • 2 Hide
    sirencall , May 25, 2012 5:45 AM
    anxiousinfusionI'm contemplating getting the 300r. It would be a big cooling boost over my Silverstone Sugo SG-03. I'm an idiot for trying to stuff a rig into that thing.

    CHeck out the Raidmax Blackstorm....you may find it a very pleasant choice, with good reviews and easy on the price.....and there is plenty of space lol
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 25, 2012 6:37 AM
    MSI Stealth now has a $20 MIR bringing it down to same price as the other cases
  • 5 Hide
    Crashman , May 25, 2012 7:10 AM
    sirencallI almost got the Phantom case but I got the Raidmax Storm case instead....about the price range for this review but has some unique features like the motherboard is attached to a panel that hinges out so you can work on it very easily.
    Hey guys, just remember this is the first Five of Fifteen. Your favorite brand could appear in a later part of this series!
  • -7 Hide
    amuffin , May 25, 2012 8:38 AM
    300R=OVERPRICED

    Better cases:
    NZXT Tempest 410
    Antec 300
    CM 690 II advanced
    Cooler Master Storm Enforcer

  • 0 Hide
    ojas , May 25, 2012 8:52 AM
    I wish you guys could review the HAF 912 Advanced ...but that's Asia only...
  • 3 Hide
    s3anister , May 25, 2012 10:16 AM
    Maybe it's time to buy a new case. I am still using my Antec Sonata II, after all...

    Can't wait to see what other cases Tom's has in store.
  • 2 Hide
    old mann , May 25, 2012 11:23 AM
    No top exhaust fan, no buy. Makes NZXT the best. I have to be honest I always use more expensive cases from Antec or Cooler Master.
  • 3 Hide
    roadrunner343 , May 25, 2012 12:04 PM
    Crashman,

    Since this is just the first 5 of 15, could the last article do a recap of all 15? That would make for an awesome article, and allow us to easily compare all the cases.
  • 5 Hide
    87ninefiveone , May 25, 2012 12:08 PM
    amuffin300R=OVERPRICEDBetter cases:NZXT Tempest 410Antec 300CM 690 II advancedCooler Master Storm Enforcer


    What??? It's overpriced at $70? Really? Did you read the article or do you just hate Corsair?
  • -6 Hide
    ct1615 , May 25, 2012 12:18 PM
    case A fits two 120mm fans up front & up top and one 120mm rear (like every other recently released case out there)

    case B fits two 120mm fans up front & up top and one 120mm rear

    case A comes with three fans yet case B comes with two so lets rate case A as good for internal temps and case B as poor.

    rating temps for a case is pointless. focus more on build quality and the cases ability to prevent dust-balls. a case with two fans has poor internal temps...oh wait i have two fans lying around the house...now the case has four fans and temps are so much better...
  • 6 Hide
    Crashman , May 25, 2012 12:41 PM
    ct1615case A fits two 120mm fans up front & up top and one 120mm rear (like every other recently released case out there)case B fits two 120mm fans up front & up top and one 120mm rearcase A comes with three fans yet case B comes with two so lets rate case A as good for internal temps and case B as poor.rating temps for a case is pointless. focus more on build quality and the cases ability to prevent dust-balls. a case with two fans has poor internal temps...oh wait i have two fans lying around the house...now the case has four fans and temps are so much better...
    1. More fans means more noise
    2. Noise is compared to heat
    3. The noise-to-heat comparison is given more consideration than either the noise or the heat
    4. Adding your own fans alters the price, so this is the only fair way to do a value analysis.
    5. It appears you don't care about performance-to-price. That's fine, the last two paragraphs are specifically what you asked for.

    So, what's the complaint?
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , May 25, 2012 12:41 PM
    I'd still choose the Xigmatek. That drive dock is a great feature; for convenience, space, and cable clutter it beats heck out of using a separate external enclosure. To expand on what ct1615 said, cooling and noise are both adjustable. With a single graphics card and a modest CPU overclock, the Xigmatek will remain cool and quiet even if another [low speed] top fan is added.
  • 1 Hide
    greenrider02 , May 25, 2012 12:50 PM
    I solve the oversized motherboard issue with half the cases in this round-up by only even considering the 12"x9.6" standard. If they can't fit those dimensions, they're cutting corners, IMO.
  • 3 Hide
    ct1615 , May 25, 2012 1:13 PM
    Crashman1. More fans means more noise2. Noise is compared to heat3. The noise-to-heat comparison is given more consideration than either the noise or the heat4. Adding your own fans alters the price, so this is the only fair way to do a value analysis.5. It appears you don't care about performance-to-price. That's fine, the last two paragraphs are specifically what you asked for.So, what's the complaint?

    1. i can stick 10 fans at 10db (scythe 800rpm) in a case or 1 one fan at 35db (scythe 3000 rpm), which makes more noise?
    2. noise is not compared to heat, see above example. one fan even at high speeds will not show better airflow then ten at slower speed.
    3. your test, your considerations.
    4. adding air filters to a case to stop dust bunnies also adds to the price.
    5. performance to price in a case is more theory then fact. some people prefer a case with sturdy sides, fewer fan ports for noise to escape, and filters. some want to stick a fan in every whole imaginable so they can attempt to create an internal tornado. some despise a metallic interior, LED fans, molex fan connectors, etc.,.

    My complaint is, each case has it's pros and cons. what am I giving up going from once case to another?
  • 4 Hide
    ct1615 , May 25, 2012 1:15 PM
    *hole not whole. can't edit
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