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Best Of The Best, Part 1: Who Makes The Most Elite PC Case?

What Does It Take For A Case To Be Elite?

The Tom’s Hardware Elite award is reserved for the very best products in their class, from graphics cards to motherboards and even complete systems. Yet, we have the easiest time crowning a component "best" when it's able to outperform the competition in a suite of smartly-chosen benchmarks. Quantifying our results means we can demonstrate why a certain choice ranks up there at the top.

It's a bit more difficult to do that for cases. The quietest examples are either hot or heavy, so they certainly don't earn the favor of gamers who want to stay somewhat mobile. And even if we restrict ourselves to full-sized cases, differences in drive capacity and the ability to support oversized motherboards are more important to some readers than others. We’ve refined our performance metric, comparing cooling to noise. But that won't help us say, definitively, for example, that a full-tower is better than a mid-tower enclosure capable of similar performance.

Sometimes it’s easier to define the negative. While we can’t say that an elite case needs to use exotic materials, we can say that it shouldn't use flimsily-thin steel sheet. We can’t say that an elite case must be silent, but we can say that it won’t be noisy. Putting this back into a positive approach, “quality everywhere” is the first priority in our search.

We didn’t specify a list of “enthusiast features” for today's story, but we will be looking for them along the way. And we didn’t limit our search to premium brands either, instead hoping that we might also find a few surprises from budget labels.

Azza Genesis 9000In Win TòuRosewill Blackhawk UltraSilverStone Fortress FT04
Dimensions
Height25.9"23.0"25.0"21.5"
Width9.7"10.7"9.4"8.6"
Depth25.1"25.8"26.3"19.0"
Space Above Motherboard0.5" - 2.0"2.1" - 2.8"3.0"1.1"
Card Length14.0" - 14.7"15.1"15.6"13.3"
Weight34.5 Pounds30.3 Pounds36.3 Pounds26.1 Pounds
Cooling
Front Fans (alternatives)None (None)1 x 120 mm (None)2 x 140 mm (2 x 120 mm)2 x 180 mm (3 x 120 mm)
Rear Fans (alternatives)1 x 120 mm (None)None (None)1 x 140 mm (1 x 120 mm)None (1 x 120 mm)
Top Fans (alternatives)2 x 230 mm3 x 120 mm (None)2 x 230 mm (3 x 140/120 mm)None (None)
Left Side (alternatives)None (2 x 120 mm)None (None)1 x 230 mm (9 x 120 mm)None (None)
Right Side (alternatives)2 x 120 mm (+ 1 x 230 mm)None (None)None (1 x 120/92 mm)None (None)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalNineOneFourTwo
3.5" External1 x Adapter BracketNone1 x Adapter BracketNone
3.5" InternalFive***Three10Seven
2.5" InternalFive*Two10*Four
Card Slots10Seven10Eight
Noise Dampening
SidesNoneNoneNoneFoam
TopNoneNoneNoneFoam
FrontNoneNoneNoneFoam
Price$170$999$190$200
*Shared on 3.5" tray **w/o Center Cage ***By 5.25" Adapter Tray

Perennial provider of value-oriented products, In Win was first to look beyond its roots in search of an exhibition-worthy offering. I'd have to guess that as much as half of its lofty price is committed to replacing any parts broken during shipping, though superb packaging includes thick foam and ½” plywood box lining.

Conversely, SilverStone attempts to add value to its flagship Fortress line by pushing a $199 to $267 price for its cast-aluminum-faced Fortress FT04.

Azza and Rosewill attempt to move upscale by making more space for multiple, oversized components. Traditional design and materials could toughen the climb to elite status, but there’s always a chance they might have perfected these features.

  • blackmagnum
    Does elite mean most unattainable purchase prices?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    13332066 said:
    Does elite mean most unattainable purchase prices?
    We would have been happy if In Win could deliver that case for under $300. Unfortunately, I think the company budgets $300 of its $800 MSRP just for replacement glass and glass shipping.

    Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Oh please! What rubbish is this?!?! One can't abuse the word "elite" when talking about a case! It depends on the individual and each individual's needs and, perhaps most importantly, aesthetic taste!

    **go to heat and noise page and then the last page from the first page**
    I really don't have the inclination to read each - and - every - page in this article based on a piece of rubbish idea. Really Tom's, what on earth possessed you to do thi...**sees the picture of the In Win Tou**

    Hmmm...

    **reads to the In Win Tou pages**

    Wow. Ok, that case is quite the looker. Gee, that construction kinda justifies the stratospheric pricing. What a beautiful case! With some nice watercooling this case will be quiet AND cool AND cool-looking! I agree with you that this is the most elite, erm, showboat-iest case of these four!

    Thanks for making your readers aware of products that they would've otherwise missed Tom's! :-)
    Reply
  • samesdf
    Did Rosewill copy from CM 690 II Advance or the other way around?
    Reply
  • Shunrei
    Will wait for something from NZXT might miss something..
    Reply
  • Crashman
    13332113 said:
    Oh please! What rubbish is this?!?! One can't abuse the word "elite" when talking about a case! It depends on the individual and each individual's needs and, perhaps most importantly, aesthetic taste!

    **go to heat and noise page and then the last page from the first page**
    I really don't have the inclination to read each - and - every - page in this article based on a piece of rubbish idea. Really Tom's, what on earth possessed you to do thi...**sees the picture of the In Win Tou**

    Hmmm...

    **reads to the In Win Tou pages**

    Wow. Ok, that case is quite the looker. Gee, that construction kinda justifies the stratospheric pricing. What a beautiful case! With some nice watercooling this case will be quiet AND cool AND cool-looking! I agree with you that this is the most elite, erm, showboat-iest case of these four!

    Thanks for making your readers aware of products that they would've otherwise missed Tom's! :-)
    The article was actually conceived as a showcase for two different cases, one of which didn't show up and the other arrived late enough to be reserved for Part 2 of this 2-part series :)
    13332219 said:
    Did Rosewill copy from CM 690 II Advance or the other way around?
    Rosewill buys its cases...I'm not even certain it has a mechanical designer. Most other case brands design a case based on an existing case, so there's always the possibility of two different products coming from the same supplier and sharing some stampings.
    Reply
  • Mac266
    Sees cases. (Yeah, not to bad) Sees pricing. Sees Win Tou pricing. Picks jaw up off ground.
    Reply
  • weavermsi
    Dear lord that In Win thing is an abominable turd. The only case here with any pedigree is the Silverstone, and that's easily the ugliest object they've produced. Please, NZXT and Corsair, put us out of our misery.
    Reply
  • Memnarchon
    Since we are talking for the best of the best,... Where is the Silverstone's TJ11?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    13332524 said:
    Since we are talking for the best of the best,... Where is the Silverstone's TJ11?
    Great question, since they sent a cheaper model! It was probably neglected due to age.

    Reply