Four Unique ATX Cases Compared

Spotswood Custom L-18 Test Notes

Spotswood claims that its case is so well made and dampened that it's actually quieter than many steel enclosures, and this is partly true. The back panel is indeed weighted enough to make it nearly silent, but the front panel is only dampened by the intake fan mount.

The only noise issue concerning the front panel is its fan, which made quite a stir running at roughly 1600 RPM, estimated at 28 dB at one meter by comparison to lab-rated fans. This may seem odd for a fan that's rated at 19.6 dB, but this is mostly due to vibrations in the drum head side panel. Tightening the panel changed the frequencies at which the panel would audibly vibrate, but couldn't silence it completely. Lowering fan speed through motherboard controls reduced noise and pitch, but slight hand pressure against a large portion of the side panel (acting as a dampener) had a more pronounced noise-reducing effect.

Other than the intake fan the system was whisper quiet, so it made sense to test it both with and without the fan running. Cool 32°C CPU and 34°C chipset temperatures with the fan running increased to only 39°C CPU and 43°C chipset when the fan was stopped. By comparison, the open system temperature fell in the middle at 35°C CPU and 38°C chipset, so most users should feel free to run it with the intake fan disabled.

Spotswood might need to look at better-dampened intake fan mounting options, but users who think an inactive fan looks about as attractive as a third nipple can remove the fan and keep the grille and trim.

My only other suggestion is for the company to seek out the best available cable adapters for connecting a standard slimline drive to a standard desktop motherboard, and include those adapters with the case. These parts are quite simple and highly overpriced to users looking for them in a niche market, but Spotswood should be able to buy them in bulk for only a few dollars each. Adding the adapter cost to the price of the kit is surely better than asking customers to search out their own uncommon parts.


While modding purists claim that the only truly unique case you can own is one that you made yourself, a closer look at a lineup of customize enclosures at venues such as large LAN parties reveals that most people copy each other's ideas. As such, most "custom" cases are no easier to pick out from a crowd than the rush of "riced out" cars from the warehouse scramble in the movie "2 fast 2 furious." Quality modders are few and far between, as are unique ideas.

While not everyone has the time or skill to build their own case design from the ground up, there are several low-volume products with aesthetics that set these apart from every other design, and enough rarity that seeing another one is far less likely than spotting another silver Gallardo while dining at Spago.

Function may favor the more widely-available Lian-Li Memorial PC-777 and Thermaltake Mozart TX, but the more artistic Luxor Pyramid and Spotswood Custom L-18 make up for this in form. By way of being custom tailored to each order, the L-18 gets the stamp of "most exclusive."

Competition in niche markets has opened a wide range of options for those seeking uncommon designs, and buyers can look forward to further developments in low-volume enclosures.

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Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.