System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2011: $500 Gaming PC


We don't have any glaring caveats looming over this build, as it pretty much went off without a hitch. We’ve already used this motherboard on a few occasions, so discussion here focuses on the NZXT Gamma case.

Some builders may value the cooling and ventilation options provided by the Gamma. But, left unpopulated by fans, these vents could have adverse effects. The components inside were too visible and too audible for my liking, and the single rear exhaust fan is not suitable enough on its own considering the case's front, top, rear, and left side are peppered with vents and mesh. At the very least, a design this open warrants the inclusion of a front intake fan for aiding front-to-rear airflow, along with hard drive/motherboard cooling. By the time you start packing in extra cooling fans, some of the Rosewill or Antec offerings (which often include more bundled fans) might become more attractive.

We didn't have any problems with the sideways-mounted internal 3.5” drive cage, although it’s pretty tight with data and power cables attached. The motherboard tray does have holes for cable management, but the right panel fits too close to effectively route wires and hide spare power connectors.

Both steel side panels seemed flimsy and arrived warped, at times making their reattachment a chore. It's also hard to understand why the manufacturer chose to include an air filter mounted flush behind the angled front bezel, and then render it useless by including large bypass openings on the sides.

Lastly, as with any bottom-mounted power supply installation, a short eight-pin power lead for the CPU could introduce problems. Ours stretched from bottom to top, so long as we routed it under the graphics card. We didn't have much length to spare, though.

On a more positive note, this is a $36 case with the potential to move a large volume of air through its chassis. Prepping was a breeze; thumb screws and drive rails are included and work just as you'd expect them to. Also, an easy-to-remove front bezel helped simplify the optical drive's installation. This is a fairly roomy case, capable of accommodating graphics cards as long as 11 inches (though you'd have to scale that back a bit on boards with power connectors on the ends).