Roundup: Four Gaming Cases Under $150

A seemingly never-ending stream of press releases bombards the review world with flowery language and hard-to-prove claims of superiority, often from case manufacturers maintaining that a specific model is perfect for nearly anyone’s gaming rig. In the face of all this fluffy stuff, we have to ask ourselves what really qualifies as an ATX enclosure for gaming use. Is it a combination of features? The way certain graphics cards fit? Could ventilation be the deciding factor? Portability, perhaps? Or could the term “gaming case” simply be one of those nondescript descriptors that define nothing more than a styling theme?

Flat-black paint, top-panel ports, and manual fan control are three things that all of today’s competing cases have in common. Now that we know the similar features that chassis designers believe gamers desire, here’s a short list of differences.

  Cooler Master
Storm Sniper
NZXT
Hades
Thermaltake
Element V
Zalman
Z7 Plus
Dimensions
Height21.75"17.75"22.0"18.63"
Width10.13"8.50"8.81"9.0"
Depth22.50"21.95"22.25"19.62"
Space Above
Motherboard
1.75"1.06"1.82"1.0"
Card Length13.38"16.65"13.63"16.80"
Weight25.0 lbs.
16.0 lbs.31.5 lbs.17.0 lbs.
Cooling
Front Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 200mm
(120mm, 140mm)
1 x 200mm
(stock only)
2 x 120mm
(stock only)
1 x 120mm
(140mm)
Rear Fans
(alternatives)
 1x 120mm
(92mm, 80mm)
1 x120mm
(80mm)
1 x 120mm
(92mm, 80mm)
1 x 120mm
(92mm, 80mm)
Top Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 200mm
(2 x 120mm)
1 x 140mm
(2 x 140mm/120mm)
1x 200mm
(2x 200mm/120mm)
None
Side Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 200mm
(2 x 120mm)
1 x200mm
(stock only)
1 x 230mm
(1 x 120mm)
1 x 120mm
(2 x 120mm)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalFiveFourFiveNine
3.5" External1 x AdapterNone1 x AdapterCombo Tray
3.5" InternalFive4 x Adapters
(5x 5.25" internal bays)
2 x Three-Bay CageFour-bay/Five-HDD cage,
Combo Tray
2.5" Internal1 x AdapterTwo-drive TrayNoneCombo Tray
Price$140 $100 $135 $80


Zalmans’ small Z7 Plus stands out as having the most external bays, though four of these are consumed by an internal 3.5” drive cage. Meanwhile, Thermaltake’s Element V actually has 11 external bays, though the bottom six are covered in groups of three. With explanations like these needed for such a simple features table, a closer examination is required for each product before testing begins.

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  • 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?
  • sarsoft
    No Antec Nine Hundred case...
  • 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
  • 4ILY45
    No CM 690 II??
  • bk641
    the cm doesn't have a fan control option, afaik.
  • Gosh, that Zalman is butt-ugly.
  • zoemayne
    ANTEC 902?
  • sarsoft
    More cases need to be added. There are other case under $150 that are better choices.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Crashman
    bk641the cm doesn't have a fan control option, afaik.
    Scroll up and look at the BIG KNOB in the picture maybe?
    4ILY45No CM 690 II??
    Got the CM Storm Sniper instead, was looking for 4-8 cases due to time constraints which means one per company.
    Tekkie9Gosh, that Zalman is butt-ugly.
    And the NZXT isn't?
    sarsoftMore cases need to be added. There are other case under $150 that are better choices.
    More companies were contacted. Every major brand who released a case between the end of November and the end of January was contacted. These are the ones Tom's Hardware got...most of the older-yet-popular cases have already been reviewed.
  • sarsoft
    8708 said:
    More companies were contacted. Every major brand who released a case between the end of November and the end of January was contacted. These are the ones Tom's Hardware got...most of the older-yet-popular cases have already been reviewed.

    Fair enough.
  • frozenlead
    While the lack of connector on the side fan of the Thermaltake chassis is a bummer and you painted it as such, you don't necessarily have to get a replacement from the factory. From the looks of it, it still uses the same 3 leads that standard fans do - an 11 year-old with a soldering iron could get any given fan to run off it.
    I could, of course, be mistaken. There is only one picture of it.
  • evillman
    No CM 690 II Advanced? :/
  • Crashman
    48264 said:
    While the lack of connector on the side fan of the Thermaltake chassis is a bummer and you painted it as such, you don't necessarily have to get a replacement from the factory. From the looks of it, it still uses the same 3 leads that standard fans do - an 11 year-old with a soldering iron could get any given fan to run off it. I could, of course, be mistaken. There is only one picture of it.


    Yes, the connector was not removed to show the back side but anyone with wiring skills could wire the original connector to a generic replacement fan.
  • Crashman
    197004 said:
    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?


    It was a tough call. Compared to the other cases it's an incredible value, but only when the side fan works. Hopefully if Thermaltake sells enough of these and is forced to replace enough of these, they will eventually solve the problem at the manufacturing level!
  • haplo602
    ugly, big, expensive ... describes all of the cases :-)

    cannot help myself, but there's no case that would pass for a decent gaming case ... they are either ugly, have too many lights or too much wasted space or bad airflow.
  • Crashman
    haplo602ugly, big, expensive ... describes all of the cases :-)cannot help myself, but there's no case that would pass for a decent gaming case ... they are either ugly, have too many lights or too much wasted space or bad airflow.


    The NZXT is tiny...and both Cooler Master and Thermaltake let you shut off the lights from the fan controller. IMO the big cases are too big, the small cases are too small, and if you're right about the looks than I guess you're not in their target market.
  • Crashman
    evillmanNo CM 690 II Advanced?
    Got the CM Storm Sniper instead, was looking for 4-8 cases due to time constraints which means one per company.
  • 4ILY45
    CrashmanGot the CM Storm Sniper instead, was looking for 4-8 cases due to time constraints which means one per company.


    That's understandable.. anyhow cheers..
  • evillman
    Good roundup anyway.
  • SchizoFrog
    I understand that this review was for recently released cases (post Nov '09). However, I for one would find it helpful if you just added a small direct comparison between the previous winner and the winner of this article with a link to the previous case's full review. Then the overall winner (previous V current) can be rolled over to the next group review.
  • memeroot
    so in sumary... they're all a bit sh*t
  • thermalsig
    SchizoFrogI understand that this review was for recently released case (post Nov '09) However, I for one would find it helpful if you just added a small direct comparison between the previous winner and the winner of this article with a link to the previous case's full review. Then the overall winner (previous V current) can be rolled over to the next group review.
    Good idea. IMO, new product reviews should always have the data of the winner of the last roundup comparison in the article. It would make the article more complete and show us if the new cases are making any advancements over the previous roundups. Solid article though and it swayed my direction on the case for my next build, seeing as how I'm not one of the richer types and I have to buy with value/performance in mind.