Best Of The Best, Part 2: Who Makes The Most Elite PC Case?

Which Case Offers The Best Features And Quality?

Our search for the most premium case puts the quality of materials and construction first, followed by features and performance. But should materials really trump features?

The reason we prioritize materials is because we’re using manufacturing cost to offset price. And CaseLabs certainly has the “quality of materials” situation wrapped up with its 2.3 mm-thick aluminum chassis with 1.6 mm-thick exterior panels. But the accuracy of construction is matched by Corsair and, for the most part, Thermaltake.

The Merlin SM08’s “Flex Bay” design is ideal for case modders or anyone who wants to run an extra-large dual-radiator liquid cooling configuration without any front-bay devices installed. That only leaves you with two 3.5” and two 2.5” drive bays behind the motherboard tray, though. And while those drive restrictions sound great to most of the enthusiasts running big liquid coolers, they might not appeal to the high-end market overall.

Corsair packs a killer feature too: those tool-free SSD trays are really great, and there are four of them. Then you have the six additional 3.5” drive trays that are 2.5”-capable (like Thermaltake’s). The Graphite 760T will even hold a double-fan radiator up front in addition to the triple-fan unit up top if you’re willing to sacrifice a few of its many drive bays.

The only factor really holding Corsair’s Graphite 760T out of award contention is its materials. You get the same medium-thickness steel and plastic as cases selling for half as much. And there’s not a lot of steel involved, either. The 760T weighs less than the all-aluminum Merlin SM08.

Not to be left out, Thermaltake steps in with even more cool functionality, including a set of drive cages that pull out to allow radiators with up to three 140 mm fans up front, and another of those on top. Such a configuration only leaves the Urban T81 with one 3.5” and one 2.5” drive mount, though. At least you can split the difference with dual-fan radiators, since the drive cages are modular.

The Urban T81 even looks the part of a premium case, with paint that rivals the Merlin surrounding anodized-aluminum inserts. A split side panel is also a little less cumbersome for us to work with compared to Corsair’s more aesthetically-oriented design. But the T81 is far from perfect. The shiny parts of its plastic trim are prone to hazing, and every effort to clean those surfaces increased that effect. Its rear door can be difficult to remove and install, given a recessed lower hinge that partially blocks the non-recessed portion of the side panel. And nothing short of a screwdriver can get the forward side door off without breaking the hinge.

The T81 also had a few “cheap case” quirks, such as a cable management area behind the motherboard tray that requires the wiring to be bunched towards the central protruding portion of the slide-on, right side panel. That idiosyncrasy is probably acceptable in a sub-$200 chassis, but it’s not going to make the cut in a premium case comparison.

The Urban T81 might win the value portion of this premium case comparison, except that it's not really a premium case. We still consider it worthy of consideration for power users on a budget. Then again, Corsair's Graphite 760T deserves the same respect.

That leaves us heading into part three reminding ourselves that we're on the look-out for an exceptionally high-end enclosure to crown our victor. There are three cases left to judge, so the competition remains up for grabs.

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  • blackmagnum
    Answer (YMMV): Thermaltake Level 10 GT.
  • Crashman
    749236 said:
    Answer (YMMV): Thermaltake Level 10 GT.

    You know the original Level 10 was probably "more elite",2594-5.html
  • vertexx
    Hope the Phanteks Enthoo Primo is part of the final - will we have to wait another 2 months for that?
  • ykki
    I wish that they would use the new powercolor devil 13 290x (their version of the 295X2) for their tests
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    Who makes the most elite cases? Corsair and NZXT, no need for investigation :) Still, a nice roundup.
  • Drejeck
    There are some cases CNC made, you should talk about this indipendent manufacturers. On SweClockers I saw the best mini ITX computer ever made, with 2 ssds, 2 fans, a picopsu and a discrete graphic card with riser card.
  • Drejeck
    Anyway my guess was Lian-Li and Silverstone
  • eklipz330
    isn't this a purely subjective article? how can this be quantified?
  • Neve12ende12
    I don't know much about cases, but I have an Azza Hurrican 2000 and I think it is pretty badass
  • firefoxx04
    Phanteks Primo plz
  • firefoxx04
    ID like to see these cases fitted with large radiators.. that is what the case labs is geared for after all.
  • xenol
    CaseLabs is just one of those companies I don't get. Sure they give you a ton of customization options but I don't know, for $300 on a case like that?

    At least the $210 I spent on a Silverstone FT02 was worth it.
  • beoza
    For the price of that CaseLabs case I'd rather get the CM Cosmos II, and save about $60. Sure it's an older design but it just looks so much better to me. The only downside with the Cosmos II is it's big and bulky weighing at just over 47lbs empty.
  • whiteodian
    There are some cases CNC made, you should talk about this indipendent manufacturers. On SweClockers I saw the best mini ITX computer ever made, with 2 ssds, 2 fans, a picopsu and a discrete graphic card with riser card.
    Links please : D

    Here is a link to something similar I won at a LAN party. Comes in a badass briefcase.
  • Electromikey
    Without having used any of the other cases, I can say that I had the pleasure of building a system in the 760T recently (a friend had me build him a monster rig), and it was one of my favorite builds I've ever done. The case looks freakin' gorgeous under his desk, too.
  • TheMentalist
    Every time i see articles like this one, it kinda bugs me that the Vengeance C70 is so underrated, damn love that case, even though it's old. Not saying that these cases aren't good.
  • redgarl
    Fractal Design R2 XL... best Full Tower case for 100$. Nothing came close.
  • redgarl
    Phantek Enthoo Luxe, Pro and Primo should be part of your next article.
  • Karsten75
    the TL;DR - we have an unrealistic benchmark, got some sub-par cases and non should be worthy of an award? Next time do't specify a price as cut-off.
  • Phillip Wager
    out of these the thermaltake would take my money but i think phanteks has the best "elite" case on the market right now.
  • beoza
    Funny I got down voted for liking a different case that looks better to me. To each their own, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I just like the Cosmos II more for a case that costs $300+.
  • Crashman
    We liked our Cosmos II, except that the company submitted it for an "ultimate liquid cooling" case article when it was new, and the huge radiator being used then didn't fit. Other radiators do. And now the case is old...which unfortunately means no new review.
  • Firedrops
    I don't get why they even bother testing with air-cooled components. Cases that can be even considered for this article are pretty much guaranteed to be able to handle that well. It's the radiator compatibility that should be the competition here.
  • junkeymonkey
    each time I do a new build for myself I go look at cases and in the end it goes in to this old antec sx 635