Six Low-Noise, Performance-Oriented Cases, Tested

We recently illustrated the features of our six low-noise cases, and today we get to find out how those features help them perform. We provide further detail on the hardware installation process before delving into heat and noise comparisons.

Some of us remember how automotive reviewers panned the Lamborghini Countach for being hot, extremely noisy, hard-riding, and difficult to control. And yet teenagers often dreamed about how the car performed under ideal driving conditions. Meanwhile, automotive enthusiasts with the money to purchase a Lamborghini typically bought a different, more refined performance-oriented car.

More recently, Chris Angelini revealed similar problems in his article AMD Radeon HD 6990 4 GB Review: Antilles Makes (Too Much) Noise and went on to praise a competing product for being detuned to help mitigate those issues. Of course, the most efficient way to quiet a high-performance PC is by choosing a better case.

While many of our readers still get hit with those teenage dreams of ultimate performance as they click through the pages of high-end hardware reviews, more have already passed that phase where, after living with one or two unbearably noisy systems, they're willing to pay a little extra for a combination of slightly-reduced cooling performance with dramatically improved acoustic performance.

Not all of the cases in today’s comparison are specifically marketed towards noise-sensitive buyers though, as each company instead sent us the lowest-noise gaming cases they could find. That could be an issue when gaming boxes are asked to compete against acoustic foam-lined products, but we also know that design plays as much of a role as material in noise reduction. Before we jump to any conclusions, let’s take a closer look at the hardware each of these systems supports, and then see how easily some of that hardware can be installed.

(Ed.: In case you missed it, a couple of weeks back we posted an extensive picture story with these six enclosures in a number of compromising poses. If you'd like to see more angles of each chassis, check out In Pictures: Six Low-Noise Performance-Oriented Cases.)

 Antec
Sonata IV
Bitfenix
Colossus
Fractal Design
Define XL
Lian Li
PC-B25S
NZXT
H2 Classic
SilverStone
Raven
RV02-E
Dimensions
Height17.3"22.6"22.2"21.4"18.4"19.8"
Width8.1"9.6"9.2"8.3"8.4"8.3"
Depth18.9"23.2"22.5"19.6"20.6"
Space Above
Motherboard
0.7"2.5"0.1"0.3"0.2"0.8"
Card Length11.2"13.2"13.2"11.6"12.2"12.2"
Weight20.2 lbs*34.5 lbs27.6 lbs17.0 lbs20.6 lbs20.0 lbs
Cooling
Intake Fans
(alternatives)
None
(None)
1 x 230 mm
(None)
1 x 140 mm
(2 x 140 mm +
1x 120 mm)
2 x 120 mm
(None)
2 x 120 mm
(None)
3 x 180 mm
(None)
Rear Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
None
(1 x 140 mm,
1x 120 mm)
1 x 140 mm
(1 x 120 mm)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
None
(None)
Top Fans
(alternatives)
None
(None)
1 x 230 mm
(1 x 140 mm,
2 x 120 mm)
1 x 180 mm
(None)
1 x 140 mm
(None)
None
(1 x 140 mm)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
Side Fans
(alternatives)
None
(None)
None
(None)
None
(1 x 140 mm,
1 x 120 mm)
None
(None)
None
(None)
None
(None)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalThreeFiveFourThreeThreeFive
3.5" ExternalNone1 x Adapter1 x Adapter1 x AdapterNone1 x Adapter
3.5" InternalFourSevenTen***SixEightFive
2.5" InternalOneSeven**Ten***NoneEight***One
Card SlotsSevenEightSeven +1EightSevenSeven
Price$165**$169 $150 $212 $100 $173
*case only **with power supply ***shared on 3.5" tray