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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
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 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
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
  • Tamz_msc
    i7 2600K at 34.5 GHz? o.O
    Reply
  • the rv03 is out at less $$$ you guys should do a rv02-E vs rv03 round in the cooling side and thats because the rv03 has more fans
    Reply
  • dragonsqrrl
    Using a SilverStone Fortress Series FT02B-W here. Basically identical interior design, except in my opinion the exterior is more aesthetically pleasing. Glad to confirm the excellent cooling characteristics.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163161&cm_re=ft02_b-_-11-163-161-_-Product
    Another big plus with the Fortress 2 is the inclusion of sound dampening foam on every panel, but to be entirely honest with you, due to the open nature of the case, I'm really not sure how much sound it's actually dampening.
    Reply
  • henryvalz
    34.5 Ghz...

    Hell, yes! About time, pushing those extreme overclocks!
    Reply
  • Gamer-girl
    I think there needs to be info on how much space there is for graphics cards.
    Reply
  • xmaswraith
    34.5 gigahertz? 34.5 gigahertz? Great Scott!

    Marty, I'm sorry. But the only power source capable of generating 34.5 gigahertz of electricity is a bolt of lightning... (begin back to the future theme song!)
    Reply
  • JOSHSKORN
    henryvalz34.5 Ghz...Hell, yes! About time, pushing those extreme overclocks!I bet they were overclocking from Pluto.
    Reply
  • killerclick
    JOSHSKORNI bet they were overclocking from Pluto.
    Didn't you watch the news? Astronomers sent a dwarf in a rocket to remove Pluto so it doesn't exist anymore.
    Reply
  • Luay
    RV-03 pushes more air and cools better than the 02, but it's also louder.
    Reply
  • madsbs
    Yet, as a gaming case, the Raven 2 Evolution may not fulfill the aesthetic or storage needs of some computing professionals
    Reply