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Six Low-Noise, Performance-Oriented Cases, Tested

Helping Define The High-End Experience

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 IVBitfenix ColossusFractal Design Define XLLian Li PC-B25SNZXT H2 ClassicSilverStone Raven RV02-E
Space Above Motherboard0.7"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
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
*case only **with power supply ***shared on 3.5" tray
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.