Best Of The Best, Part 3: Who Makes The Most Elite PC Case?

We continue our search for the best combination of quality, finish and features with three more cases. Do any meet our Elite criterion?

We can’t remember the last time we’ve issued an “Elite” award to a case, and there are reasons for that. Elite means “best”. An Elite case should have the best features, the best performance, the best build quality, and the best materials. Yet every single case we had recently tested had been nothing more than a bundle of compromises. Looking to avoid those issues, we began our search by setting a relatively-high $180 price baseline, and expected everyone to deliver something that was both costlier and worth the extra cost. Some companies still managed to shove mid-market parts into our roundup, as if anyone wanted to pay more than $180 for a mid-market product.

We trudged on into Part 2, and found two examples of the upper limits of mainstream product. The mainstream’s “ragged edge” if you will. And while those two examples might have been worth more than $180, any level of mainstream isn’t going to live up to our “Elite” expectations. Today we take our third swing at this beyond-value curve ball: Do Elite cases even exist, or will we strike out of this game?

  Mountain Mods
U2-UFO CYO
Nanoxia
Deep Silence 6
Zalman H1
Dimensions
Height18" (w/o 1.5" wheels)25.3"23.0"
Width18"9.9"9.4"
Depth18"28.2"23.8"
Space Above
Motherboard
4.7" (as tested)2.5"1.3"
Card Length16.3" (w/fans)16.0"13.8" / 19.1"**
Weight20.3 Pounds48.7 Pounds21.5 Pounds
Cooling
Front Fans
(alternatives)
6x 120mm
(as tested)
2x 140mm
(None)
1x 200mm
(None)
Rear Fans
(alternatives)
3x 120mm
(as tested)
1x 140mm
(1x 120mm)
1x 120mm
(1x 140mm)
Top Fans
(alternatives)
3x 120mm
(as tested)
2x 140mm
(3x 120 / 140mm)
2x 120mm
(2x 140mm)
Left Side
(alternatives)
None
(as tested)
None
(2x 120 / 140mm)
None
(None)
Right Side
(alternatives)
None
(as tested)
None
(None)
None
(None)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalSix (as tested)FourThree
3.5" ExternalNone1x AdapterNone
3.5" InternalSix13Six
2.5" InternalNone13*Six*
Card SlotsSeven10Nine
Noise Dampening
SidesNoneAsphaltNone
TopNoneAsphaltNone
FrontNoneFoamNone
Price$706 $230 $240
*Shared on 3.5" tray **w/o Center Cage ***By 5.25" Adapter Tray 

Mountain Mods produces custom cases, and the supplied configuration includes half-windows that are only available using its flash configurator. The price shown includes a $40 assembly fee, which advanced users won’t likely need. The case we received can be configured as a double-wide tower or a double-high desktop, as shown.

Zalman’s H1 is facing limited distribution in the United States, with the last in-stock vender charging $240. After it disappeared from that site, we re-confirmed price consistency at European venders.

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65 comments
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  • Menigmand
    Dinosaur cases...
  • Dayvy
    Hats off to Thomas Soderstrom and the work put into this series. There is a lack of comprehensive computer enclosure articles, which leaves consumers purchasing decisions to educated guesses, not definitive answers.

    This article highlights a sad truth; computer enclosures typically fall somewhere between gimmicky, foolishly designed, or needlessly excessive. I'm astonished by the difficulty manufacturers seem to have in engineering these things, unless it's blatant disregard. No matter what you purchase, you are forced into making sacrifices that are seemingly obvious fixes.

    Even the surface details, way above the depth this article explores, are insulting deficiencies. What sort of R&D department places USB ports so close together that two devices cannot be plugged in simultaneously? To me, that's not having an attention to detail, it's a microcosmic failure that is representative of the general design principles of computer cases. Do you really need to be an engineer to get a heat gun and observe the sources of heat in a modern gaming computer in order to devise an adequate ventilation system?

    Call me crazy, but none of it seems that difficult. Use a little ingenuity and intuition. If your design team is so out of touch with the amenities aftermarket builders seek, then have a public design contest. Many of us would be eager to show you a truly capable design.
  • Memnarchon
    Magnificent work Thomas Soderstrom! The best high end case test I ever seen in the web.

    It seems Silverstone engineers are far ahead from others. They are far ahead in the Temperatures Over Ambitient with high fans and far ahead in the Acoustic Efficiency with low fans.

    If the high fans wouldn't produce so much noise, I think it would take the elite award...
  • chaosmassive
    R9 290X reference cooler not noisy enough?
    need to use GTX 580 instead?
  • ta152h
    These are ugly boxes that no one needs to look at.

    An elite case could be something like the PC-CK101. It's beautiful, and actually works(the movement is kind of silly, and not very feasible). It cost me about $350, but every time I look at it, I feel like it's worth it.

    Granted, looks are subjective, but these things make no attempt at being anything but simple boxes. If you want a more functional definition of elite, their gruesome appearance is fine, because no one has to look at them, but then why even consider these knock-off brands, and not just get a SuperMicro? They're more attractive, infinitely better designed, and far better supported. They also make the best motherboards money can buy. They are a real server company, so if you're serious, that's the way to go.

    These knock-off companies don't have the experience, reputation (nothing says quality like SuperMicro), or long term support for their products. If you're going to pay that much money for a case, either get some really nice looking (or unique, or both), or at least consider something from a company that only makes high quality products, and has been doing it for a few decades. Their designs are very mature, and very refined.

    I can't say they're the best, because I haven't tried every brand, but they are clearly less riddled with problems than the normal cases from lower-end makers like Lian-Li (although I still buy them, and think they're fine for their price.). But, when you're talking around the $400+ area, you don't get a pass for "fine for their price". You better be near perfect, or exceptional in some detail. Because at that price, you are competing against the lower-end of real server boxes, with much better support. It's not clear to me these boxes justify the cost.

    It would have been interesting to include one for comparison. Even if you don't need it for a server, they are very nice cases, with so many more options directly available from the manufacturer. It's worth a look, if you have a part 4.
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Thank you for your efforts Thomas, that looks like it was a ton of work! If I may add a suggestion: Please include a summary photograph of all the cases in one photo. I feel that it would add to the "rounding off" of the article series and give a nice overview of all the cases' looks to the reader.


    After reading your review, I'd take a white Nanoxia Deep Silence 6, based on silence, performance and looks.

    Thanks again.
  • voltagetoe
    All these so called silent cases lack common sense. You can make a truly silent one yourself by using 25mm plywood and 30mm glass wool - very cheap materials.
  • burkhartmj
    229700 said:
    These are ugly boxes that no one needs to look at. An elite case could be something like the PC-CK101. It's beautiful, and actually works(the movement is kind of silly, and not very feasible). It cost me about $350, but every time I look at it, I feel like it's worth it. Granted, looks are subjective, but these things make no attempt at being anything but simple boxes. If you want a more functional definition of elite, their gruesome appearance is fine, because no one has to look at them, but then why even consider these knock-off brands, and not just get a SuperMicro? They're more attractive, infinitely better designed, and far better supported. They also make the best motherboards money can buy. They are a real server company, so if you're serious, that's the way to go. These knock-off companies don't have the experience, reputation (nothing says quality like SuperMicro), or long term support for their products. If you're going to pay that much money for a case, either get some really nice looking (or unique, or both), or at least consider something from a company that only makes high quality products, and has been doing it for a few decades. Their designs are very mature, and very refined. I can't say they're the best, because I haven't tried every brand, but they are clearly less riddled with problems than the normal cases from lower-end makers like Lian-Li (although I still buy them, and think they're fine for their price.). But, when you're talking around the $400+ area, you don't get a pass for "fine for their price". You better be near perfect, or exceptional in some detail. Because at that price, you are competing against the lower-end of real server boxes, with much better support. It's not clear to me these boxes justify the cost. It would have been interesting to include one for comparison. Even if you don't need it for a server, they are very nice cases, with so many more options directly available from the manufacturer. It's worth a look, if you have a part 4.



    You bought a case that looks like a train. That's not elite, that's niche as hell. On top of that, it's a Mini-ITX case which puts it outside the scope of these articles by default. Besides, if we factored in Mini-ITX the NCase M1 would blow your train out of the water.

    Other than some of their cases holding a lot of hard drives, I fail to see what makes SuperMicro cases amazing. They look unbelievably bland on the outside, and like every desktop I've ever seen on the inside [with the exception of the swinging HDD cage, which is of dubious necessity]. Of course I'm only looking at their freestanding computers, because rack cases are also outside of the scope of these articles. Honest request, point me to these outstanding and attractive SuperMicro cases that I'm missing. I'm not familiar enough with the brand to just say you're wrong, but I haven't found evidence myself to the contrary.
  • voltagetoe
    All these so called silent cases lack common sense. You can make a truly silent one yourself by using 25mm plywood and 30mm glass wool - very cheap materials.
  • Musaab
    Maybe you can consider LittleDevil LD PC-V8 with it's 299.99 price tag , Aluminum built and Pro lock.
  • Zepid
    Where are the Caselabs cases? They are clearly the most elite of all cases.
  • InvalidError
    What is "elite" is highly subjective if you start admitting anything beyond the fundamental functional elements and "niche as hell and priced to match" in the definition.
  • Yuka
    No Cooler Master Cosmos? I am disappoint 8(

    The Cosmos, albeit old, it is a great full tower case. The HAF X is another good option, but I'll concede it's not the best. The CM 932 is much like the HAF X, so the same goes for him.

    Also, no Lian Li? I have to say they might not be the cheapest options, but they're very good as well.

    Cheers!
  • Musaab
    Caselabs cases are super pricy. Great quailty look super cool, Pro, and alot of radiators and I think it worth money you pay
  • 3Dns
    LOL this Zalman Tower cost only 130€ in greece xD

    http://www.e-shop.gr/zalman-h1-full-tower-black-p-PER.812946
  • Karsten75
    I'm sorry to say that this article series is completely useless. It is no help in selecting a case or coming to any conclusion about cases. An "elite' nomination should not be for something that's as impractical as the Mountain Mod, nor should it have as a primary entry criteria a minimum price.

    You're like trying to survey the entire auto market for "vehicles over $75,000" and then commenting on their passenger carrying and road-holding capability while some entrants entered an airplane into the competition - and one or two even entered a boat!
  • Innocent_Bystander
    Quote:
    An elite case could be something like the PC-CK101. It's beautiful, and actually works(the movement is kind of silly, and not very feasible). It cost me about $350, but every time I look at it, I feel like it's worth it.


    I just looked it up, that's a hell of a cute case. I might end up doing a build for my kids with one of these. I'm sure it's capable of a lot more but... it's a freakin train! Thanks for mentioning it!
  • deftonian
    If I was in the 1% and could afford this, it would be my elite choice

    http://www.frys.com/product/7930060?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG

    Every time I pass by it as Fry's I just want to touch it and caress it. It's massive, it's construction beauty, it's built like a brick. It's.... my preeeeccciiiiooooouuusssss.
  • gallovfc
    Exactly, Yuca!! Where is the top COSMOS II ? I don't care if it's old or something, it has been my dream case for a long time now. =)
  • n3cw4rr10r
    Nice article. Man, them cases are expensive though. I still like my Corsair 300R.
  • Crashman
    1773426 said:
    Maybe you can consider LittleDevil LD PC-V8 with it's 299.99 price tag , Aluminum built and Pro lock.
    Look great! I just sent them contact information.

    1550377 said:
    Where are the Caselabs cases? They are clearly the most elite of all cases.


    You mean this?

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/atx-pc-cases-caselabs-merlin-sm8-corsair-graphite-760t-thermaltake-urban-t81,3865-2.html

    Done.
  • Patrick Tobin
    Where is the Phanteks Enthoo Luxe?
  • gallovfc
    How about a "Smart Buy" award for slim mini-ITX cases ?? I'm tryng to chose one to use with a Core i5 4430 and a GTX 750 Low Profile, to be my "console-PC"...
  • g-unit1111
    73949 said:
    No Cooler Master Cosmos? I am disappoint 8( The Cosmos, albeit old, it is a great full tower case. The HAF X is another good option, but I'll concede it's not the best. The CM 932 is much like the HAF X, so the same goes for him. Also, no Lian Li? I have to say they might not be the cheapest options, but they're very good as well. Cheers!


    The Cosmos II was reviewed in this article from 2012: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/switch-810-cosmos-ii-strike-x-hurrican-2000,3151.html

    That Mountain Mods case is insanely huge - it's the PC equivalent of the Ford F150s with the 6' diameter tires. :lol: