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Roundup: Four Gaming Cases Under $150

Thermaltake Wins!

With moderate noise suppression and excellent heat expulsion, the biggest case in today’s comparison wins. Yet, before we hear a collective “duh” from enthusiasts, we should also note that the smallest case in today’s roundup took a close second place in performance.

However, I don’t think any professional reviewer would settle for the second-place contender. At $100, NZXT’s Hades has panels as thin as most $30 cases and twists so easily that we were almost afraid to pick up the complete system. Other issues include a drive door that only swings to the right, while many of us require it to swing the other way, and the fact that no moderately-large CPU cooler will fit under its side fan. Living with the Hades thus begins to feel like living in Hades. We also have to question why anyone would want top-panel ports on a case that’s so small, since its only practical placement is on top of a desk where top-panel ports are hard to reach.

That last comment also applies to the sturdier Zalman Z7 Plus. The Z7 Plus would make a great low-cost desktop tower, if not for the fact that $80 is not a low price, and that putting it on top of a desk makes its top-panel jacks difficult to reach. Yet, with its solid design and top-quality finish, Zalman’s Z7 Plus at least looks and feels like an $80 case.

The most expertly-produced case in today’s lineup, Cooler Master’s Storm Sniper suffers from an almost-forgivable performance deficit. We say "almost" because it almost supports a double-fan radiator and internal liquid cooling that would more than compensate for its slightly lower air-cooled performance. The apparent effort Cooler Master put into design and production makes this tiny shortfall more of a big deal. Cooler Master, you could have won this one so easily.

The true winner of today’s comparison wasn’t perfect, either. We had trouble getting the Thermaltake Element V’s side-panel fan to work properly due to a slight misalignment of its surface-contact connector, and that connector isn’t even adjustable. The brush side of the connector is permanently attached to the fan, forcing owners to source any replacements directly from the factory. And the corners of the side panels were tight to the point that we had to yank the case open. Those are all elements that could have handed the win to a competitor, if not for its competitors' lack of an overwhelming feature.

Perhaps we shouldn’t expect perfection for $135. When the side fan works, the Element V is worth at least twice the $35 difference between it and the next-cheaper case, NZXT’s Hades, even though the cheaper model has a three-reading thermal display. The Element V thus gets our recommendation, with the reservation that buyers may need to exchange theirs if they encounter similar panel-fitment issues.

  • skora
    Good article. But I'm a little surprised that the Element actually found the Buy award. Usually seems like that's set aside for superior products that don't have the QC issues this did.

    I'm sure there will be request for this case and that and across a lot of price ranges.

    If you do enough of these, you could do a "Best Gaming Case for the Money" series. Or is that peeing in Don's yard?
    Reply
  • sarsoft
    No Antec Nine Hundred case...
    Reply
  • p1n3apqlexpr3ss
    That wouldnt be a bad idea tbh skora, would like to know what the best budget case is out there... not excactly a fan of the antec 200/300
    Reply
  • 4ILY45
    No CM 690 II??
    Reply
  • bk641
    the cm doesn't have a fan control option, afaik.
    Reply
  • Gosh, that Zalman is butt-ugly.
    Reply
  • zoemayne
    ANTEC 902?
    Reply
  • sarsoft
    More cases need to be added. There are other case under $150 that are better choices.
    Reply
  • bk641
    the lancool (lian-li) k62 is a very, very good case for a sub $100 range. i'm using one, and it has pretty much everything you'd want in a mid-tower case. i especially like its HDD bay system, which can be configured to have the hard drives straight on, or perpendicular. in addition to that there are four quiet fans (two on top) and room for two 5870s.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    sarsoftNo Antec Nine Hundred case...No OLD cases. The Cooler Master case ended up in here by mistake, it was supposed to be for stuff released from November onward.
    Reply