I make it no secret that I’m a fan of small form factor systems…as business desktops. When it comes to gaming, I’m more of a realist. Processors that dissipate 140 W just don’t do well in the confines of a cramped little box, nor do multiple graphics cards. Falcon Northwest managed to fit an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 and a pair of Radeon HD 4870 X2s in its FragBox QuadFire, showcased in our 2008 Holiday Buyer’s Guide. We didn’t have any stability issues with that configuration, but there’s no doubt that it ran hot—really hot. And at $4,000, you’re most definitely paying a premium for big muscle in a compact chassis.
Right now, the hot ticket—no pun intended—is Intel’s Core i7 platform. Overclocked, an i7 920 is actually a reasonable proposition. And with most of the X58-based motherboards we’ve seen supporting CrossFire and SLI, your choice for budget-oriented multi-GPU setups is more diverse now than ever before. So, in the interest of testing out some of the full tower chassis that’ve landed in our lab during the past three months, we’ll be loading each up with a complete Core i7 setup, a couple of Radeon HD 4870s, and an assortment of hard drives. We’ll build up each enclosure, take note of any snags that hamper our progress, measure acoustics, measure thermals, and compare design philosophies.
Just who, exactly, is on our dance card ? We have ABS’ Canyon 695, with its elegant looks and performance-oriented construction, Antec’s Twelve Hundred, with its 12 drive bays, seven expansion slots, and massive coolers, Cooler Master’s beefy HAF 932, able to accommodate eATX motherboards and up to seven expansion slots, and Thermaltake’s Spedo, armed with its optional Advanced Package, said to improve cooling and prevent hot air from being re-circulated.
prices range from $150 to $600, so there’s undoubtedly something for everyone. If you’re building a gaming box with hardware that really needs to breathe, you won’t want to miss this comparison.