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Four Sub-$100 Cases For Your 2013 Gaming Build, Reviewed

Four Sub-$100 Cases For Your 2013 Gaming Build, Reviewed
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Last week we previewed the first four mainstream gaming cases in our 11-way sub-$100 round-up. Now we get to build four systems and test them. What other features will we uncover along the way, and how will they affect thermal and acoustic performance?

A high-quality case can outlast even the fastest build. Ironically, though, value-oriented enthusiasts spend money on components that improve performance and tend to cut back on those that don't. You already know that a $30 enclosure won't give you the durability, airflow, or room to expand that a smart upgrade should be expected to offer. But there's no guarantee that a $300 chassis will give you anything more in those areas than a far cheaper model. Sometimes, splurging on a case is simply wasted expense.

Knowing that there are a few solid enclosures out there available for under $100, we made that our budget for this month's round-up. As you read in In Pictures: Four Sub-$100 Cases For Your 2013 Gaming PC, we received 11 total submissions, all battling for supremacy. Today's story is a follow-up to our first picture-based exploration, designed to go beyond our initial visual inspection and lead to more concrete conclusions. 

  Cougar
Evolution BO
Lian-Li
PC-9N
Nanoxia
Deep Silence 2
SilverStone
Precision PS06
Dimensions
Height20.2"18.7"18.4"20.8"
Width8.7"8.3"8.2"8.4"
Depth20.6"19.7"24.2"20.0"
Space Above
Motherboard
0.0"0.5"1.3"1.2"
Card Length12.1"17.3"13.6"12.1"
Weight19.1 Pounds10.8 Pounds24.6 Pounds19.5 Pounds
Cooling
Front Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 120 mm
(2 x 120 mm)
1 x 140 mm
(2 x 140 mm)
2 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
Rear Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 140 mm
(1 x 140/120 mm)
None
(1 x 120 mm)
Top Fans
(alternatives)
None
(2 x 120mm)
None
(None)
None
(2 x 140/120 mm)
1 x 180 mm
(None)
Left Side
(alternatives)
None
(1 x 140 mm)
None
(2 x 120 mm)
None
(1 x 140/120 mm)
None
(None)
Right Side
(alternatives)
None
(None)
None
(None)
None
(None)
None
(None)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalSixThreeThreeFive
3.5" ExternalNoneNone1 x Adapter1 x HDD Bay
3.5" InternalFourThreeEightFour
2.5" InternalFour*TwoEight* Four*
Card SlotsEightEightSevenEight
Noise Dampening
SidesNonePlastic CoversCloth/MatNone
TopNoneNoneCloth/MatNone
FrontNonePlastic CoverFoamNone
Price$90$100$90$100
*Shared on 3.5" Tray


Quality is the primary consideration for our round-up, though unusually good or unusually bad performance could certainly set a single case apart from the pack. Features are next up for evaluation, primarily when comparing price to value. Let’s take a closer look at the quality and features each case offers.

Display 33 Comments.
  • 6 Hide
    g-unit1111 , May 1, 2013 9:41 PM
    Nice choice of cases that aren't from the usual contenders. I'm a fan of Silverstone - I think I might use the PS06 in my next build, but the polished metal look of the Lian Li is awesome, I wish more case manufacturers would use that look.
  • 4 Hide
    mjmjpfaff , May 1, 2013 9:42 PM
    Nanoxia, in my opinion has produced a winner. It is pretty significant what they have been able to do with such a short time in the American market. My vote goes out for Nanoxia DS2. The size of it is a plus, as well as its looks. And of course it is aesthetically very pleasing, especially for its price.
  • 1 Hide
    ASHISH65 , May 1, 2013 9:57 PM
    Good review,i think there should have been more cases and contenders,but personally liked SilverStone’s case due to looks.
  • 1 Hide
    slomo4sho , May 1, 2013 10:47 PM
    I would like to see the temp ratings with a GPU that isn't using a blower style cooler since these seem to be the minority these days.

    Also, I would like to see more cases at this price point. The Cooler Master HAF XB is one I would like to see included personally.
  • 2 Hide
    vmem , May 1, 2013 11:15 PM
    I think Nanoxia is the winner in this contest imho

    HOWEVER, I'd be curious to see how it's GPU temperature problem can be alleviated by adding a few fans, and how that affects it's noise reduction. if the overall picture is still good, then it is the clear winner
  • 1 Hide
    dudewitbow , May 1, 2013 11:46 PM
    I think Nanoxia. albeit temperatures are one thing, silence is another. there is a trens for people to pick up better fans, and the trend of people using low end AIO WC units with Dwoods brackets to cool gpus.
  • 0 Hide
    rolli59 , May 2, 2013 12:43 AM
    I say it again any case that has a door for drive bays or a flap for ports, does not work for me. Making the Silverstone and Cougar cases my choice out of the lot but I would prefer both all black.
  • 0 Hide
    dalmvern , May 2, 2013 5:38 AM
    g-unit1111Nice choice of cases that aren't from the usual contenders. I'm a fan of Silverstone - I think I might use the PS06 in my next build, but the polished metal look of the Lian Li is awesome, I wish more case manufacturers would use that look.


    I was thinking the same thing g-unit. Im 90% sure im going to use the PS06 for my Haswell build in a few months.
  • 1 Hide
    major-error , May 2, 2013 5:59 AM
    vmemI think Nanoxia is the winner in this contest imho
    HOWEVER, I'd be curious to see how it's GPU temperature problem can be alleviated by adding a few fans, and how that affects it's noise reduction. if the overall picture is still good, then it is the clear winner

    I have the exact same opinion.
    If I had the case, I don't think I'd put a fan on the side panel. I'd be more inclined to install some stand-offs and install a larger baffle, allowing passive airflow but still keeping things quiet.
    Of course, if I needed more fans, I'd fill all the other slots with Noctua NF fans...
    http://www.quietpc.com/na-ds2

    Bottom line: I think this would be an excellent choice to replace my 14-year-old In-Win Q500 case.
  • 0 Hide
    BVKnight , May 2, 2013 6:20 AM
    Why does the Nanoxia look (inside) like a chopped-in-half version of the Rosewill Thor V2? Design characteristics, materials,and layout are almost exactly the same. Seems like both companies may have sourced from a Chinese general supplier in making these cases.
  • 0 Hide
    fimbulvinter , May 2, 2013 6:50 AM
    Nanoxia makes a sexy case. I'm glad there are more cases with subtle and cool designs like that. Not everyone wants a case that looks like it could guide planes in for a landing.
  • 1 Hide
    ericjohn004 , May 2, 2013 7:41 AM
    I think the DS2 is the clear winner as far as quality and looks are concerned. The GPU temps can be kept in check with 1 or 2 more fans so that's not a concern.

    To me, the most important part of a build is the case. If you have a nice case, then it at least looks like you have an awesome build. That's why I have the Fractal Design Define R4 w/Window. And for only 20$ more than these rather cheap looking cases, you can't beat it. I expected these cases to be 40-60$, except for the Lian Li and the DS2, they all just look really cheap. And the Lian Li, I think, was the one with no cable management. So judging my sheer looks and quality the DS2 is the clear winner.

    Personally I can't see anyone chosing to spend 100$ on these cases that wouldn't spend 20 more bucks for the Fractal R4.
  • 0 Hide
    nomnom9608 , May 2, 2013 7:59 AM
    We don't get those brands in my region :'-(
  • 0 Hide
    jesot , May 2, 2013 8:07 AM
    I just don't understand why someone over the age of 9 would want something that looks like that Silverstone in their house. And it's surprising to me because Silverstone typically makes classier looking cases.

    I've been considering the DS2 for my next build for some time. Also have been keeping an eye on Fractal R4 prices as I missed out when NewEgg had them for $80.
  • 0 Hide
    Avus , May 2, 2013 8:24 AM
    For med tower case around these prices... I like my Coolermaster CM690II USB3. It cost my $95CAD + tax. This case look similar to that Cougar case with nicer material.
  • 1 Hide
    hero1 , May 2, 2013 8:26 AM
    jesotI just don't understand why someone over the age of 9 would want something that looks like that Silverstone in their house. And it's surprising to me because Silverstone typically makes classier looking cases.I've been considering the DS2 for my next build for some time. Also have been keeping an eye on Fractal R4 prices as I missed out when NewEgg had them for $80.


    I totally agree with you on this one. These manufacturers need to stop making ugly cases. I don't like the plastic looks with ugly designs and it's the reason I am waiting for some panels to continue face lifting my Haf XM. If I had a choice between all of these cases, I would choose NDS2. And Lian Li need to stop making cases that don't have enough room above motherboard trays to handle even 27mm rad with push or pull configuration.

    I suggest you grab yourself the Fractal Design Define XL R2, slightly bigger version of R4 (minus removable fan filter) but tons of room and great cooling.
  • -2 Hide
    g-unit1111 , May 2, 2013 9:42 AM
    dalmvernI was thinking the same thing g-unit. Im 90% sure im going to use the PS06 for my Haswell build in a few months.


    Yeah if I were going to do a whole new build from scratch I'd use the PS06 from this article and get this:

    PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/UvWF
    Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/UvWF/by_merchant/
    Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/UvWF/benchmarks/

    CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($189.99 @ Microcenter)
    CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U9B SE2 37.9 CFM CPU Cooler ($59.99 @ NCIX US)
    Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($135.99 @ NCIX US)
    Memory: Mushkin Blackline 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($63.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: OCZ Vector Series 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($139.99 @ Newegg)
    Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($66.61 @ Outlet PC)
    Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card (2-Way SLI) ($379.99 @ Newegg)
    Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card (2-Way SLI) ($379.99 @ Newegg)
    Case: Silverstone PS06B-W ATX Mid Tower Case ($83.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 750W 80 PLUS Gold Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($119.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($17.98 @ Outlet PC)
    Total: $1638.49
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-05-02 12:44 EDT-0400)

    But then use the i5-4570K and Z87 motherboard.
  • 0 Hide
    RedJaron , May 2, 2013 11:36 AM
    I'm thinking the DS2 and PS06 win this round with the 9N in a close second. However, I'm not sure it's a fully applicable test with this particular hardware being thrown in these cases, though I understand why it's being done.

    I understand you're trying to put the hottest, loudest parts in the cases to really stretch their thermal and acoustic performance. I understand that these numbers represent a worst-case scenario, and that an average builder could and should expect better results than this. But that leaves me wondering just how much better results I should expect with a system I would actually build if I were to use one of these cases.

    I mean do I really worry about the higher GPU temps on the DS2 when current video cards run considerably cooler and quieter than the 580? What kind of CPU temps would I see in these cases with an OCd IB opposed to a SB-E chip, or with a better CPU cooler? And while I know you can't test using additional or aftermarket fans, is there a better way to use the stock fans included other than the arrangement suggested in the manual? ( I'm guessing you already do this. )

    I'm not meaning to complain that you're not doing a good job. I love the reviews and I realize you're often crunched for time. I would love it more if you could have a few standard hardware configs that you could put in cases to get a better idea of how they perform in varying situations:

    • High Performance/High Temp - i7-37XX, 7970 x 2 ( they're the loudest, hottest cards right now, correct? )
    • Balanced Gaming - i5, 670 GTX / 7950 HD
    • Budget - i3 / AMD FX, 7850 HD
    • Professional Designer - SB-E, Multiple FirePro/Quadro, large HDD array


  • If you had these configs set, then you just choose which one or two are most applicable to the case being tested ( obviously a budget build isn't going in a $150+ case and you won't throw a dream machine in a $50 chassis, ) just like you don't bother benchmarking games at low-res on high-end cards. I think it's better testing using components at the top end of mainstream rather than at the extreme. It gives a fairer look at the case for the majority of the readers while the fewer extreme builders will know they don't have quite so much wiggle room.
  • 0 Hide
    Au_equus , May 2, 2013 11:39 AM
    jesotI just don't understand why someone over the age of 9 would want something that looks like that Silverstone in their house. And it's surprising to me because Silverstone typically makes classier looking cases.I've been considering the DS2 for my next build for some time. Also have been keeping an eye on Fractal R4 prices as I missed out when NewEgg had them for $80.

    newegg has the fd-r4 for $80, but the sale ends today.
  • 0 Hide
    zakaron , May 2, 2013 12:41 PM
    Aesthetics and functionality I'd go with Cougar. Looks are not too vulgar and the symmetry of the top panel is nice. Offset color scheme works well, especially if you use more of their fans in the case.
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