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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
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
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
*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.