The $500 Gaming Machine, 2007 Edition

Case: Coolermaster Centurion 5 CAC-T05 Black/Silver

There is plenty of choice when it comes to cases. Cheap models start at approximately $30, but you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on a stylish aluminum case. Aluminum looks nice and reduces weight, but it's not really necessary. It's important for your case to be well finished, so it doesn't have sharp edges, and to have enough drive bays that are accessible. You will also appreciate a clean layout to make component installation as painless as possible. Removable drive cages and snap-in components are beneficial, but are not must-have items. Make sure that the case of your choice has sufficient spots where you can install case fans, or the case might come with some fans pre-installed. The larger a fan is, the slower it can rotate to move a certain air volume per minute. As a consequence, larger fans typically are quieter. Lastly, you should have an eye on front connectors such as front USB ports or jacks for your audio subsystem to hook up your stereo or headsets.

We picked a rather affordable mainstream case from Coolermaster. It starts at less than $ 50 and offers most of the features mentioned in the paragraph above. The main system fan has a diameter of 120 mm and runs rather quietly, even at high speeds. There is a second 80 mm fan in the front, which you may or may not need, depending on the type and heat dissipation of your components. For our $500 Gaming Rig, the fan isn't necessary. Yet, the second fan makes sense if you plan to use your machine to game most of the time. Remember, too, that our graphics card is passively cooled.

The case also has front USB ports, a front Firewire port and front audio jacks. Overall, it's hard to beat the overall value of this one, although other case makers have similar products in the same price range.

The interior is clean and straightforward, hence easy to handle.