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

CaseLabs Merlin SM08

CaseLabs is one of the few build-to-order case vendors able to achieve production-class consistency thanks to interchangeable parts. You can, for example, order the case either with or without vents on the top panel, drive covers, and left side panel. Constructed of 1.6 mm-thick aluminum panels over a 2.3 mm-thick aluminum frame, our test sample arrived with all three of those options.

It also showed up with protective paper on the optional side window, which can only be peeled after removing the window. We left it there until the final step of hardware installation.

I was even jumping ahead with the lead photo, since the case ships without its feet attached. The standard rubber feet screw into any of the four caster-supporting holes in each of the bottom panel’s corners. That panel also accommodates up to a quad-120 mm-fan radiator, but only if you move the power supply to its secondary mount.

From the back, we can see that secondary power supply mount, which is covered by default (to the left in the image above). The motherboard tray features quick-release screws and a handle that's also not factory-installed.

Other features you can choose to use (or not) include a smaller set of feet labeled “Tech station kit” for using the motherboard tray as a standalone open platform, along with a set of eight front-panel brackets that support four 5.25” external drives and/or bay devices. Eleven pairs of bracket mounts along the front-panel edges give builders a wide variety of external bay and/or radiator mounting options, a feature CaseLabs calls “Flex Bays”.

With the case standing and the tray handle installed, it’s as easy to see the optional side-panel vents in the above photo as it is to understand the challenge of photographing an arctic-white case. Even a 15 W fluorescent bulb is bright enough to make the thing glow.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.