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Four Sub-$100 Cases For Your 2013 Gaming Build, Reviewed

Which Of These Four Cases Impresses Us Most?

SilverStone’s Precision PS06 provides the best overall cooling-to-noise ratio, thanks in part to its huge downdraft fan. But the CPU is the sole beneficiary of that design. Graphics cooling is solidly mediocre. Nanoxia, on the other hand, takes second place in overall performance using nothing more than a traditional exhaust fan to keep the CPU cooler at prime efficiency. Nanoxia also has the highest GPU temperatures of any case in the round-up, earning its second-place performance primarily through noise reduction.

At the time of this review, Nananoxia’s second-place performer was $10 cheaper than SilverStone’s chart-topper, giving it a higher overall value score. So, is this the case that we’d pick?

Rules for this round-up centered around quality first, then performance and features. Nanoxia certainly surpasses our quality expectations, its durable steel panels further buffered with asphalt acoustic mat. There are no internal component fitment issues, as this is the only case in the round-up to support EATX motherboards. The Deep Silence 2 even provides the best overall cable management features. We did have some trouble getting all of the tabs lined up on its side panels, but that’s an inherent problem with long, slide-in side panels. We’re almost willing to ignore the problem of “not enough hands” in light of the unit’s overall quality.

This is still a gaming case round-up though, and some gamers simply need an eighth expansion slot to hold their bottom graphics card. And then there’s the DS2’s not-so-cool GPU temperatures, which are likely the result of running a silence-optimized design in a traditional gaming case comparison.

Cougar's Evolution BO takes second-place in our value chart using far lighter side panels than Nanoxia. The case does have a few more features, however, including a side panel that hooks to the front of the case and simply swings into place without the latch-alignment fuss. All of its features are valuable, and its cooling performance is rather spectacular. Then again, so is its noise.

The top two cases in our value chart cost $90, while the bottom two sell for $100, and we’re sure that most users will worry more about quality and features than a $10 difference. SilverStone’s PS06 has the best temperature-to-noise ratio in spite of using the same chassis structure as Cougar, likely because SilverStone’s solid window doesn't let out as much noise from our GeForce GTX 580 as Cougar’s mesh panel.

Lian Li’s PC-9N has the highest-quality metal work, its thick aluminum panels effectively isolating internal fan noise to make this the second-quietest competitor, behind Nanoxia’s fully-silenced DS2. Far from a cooling phenom, its mediocre temperatures are still low enough to prevent worry, especially when comparing its graphics temperature to Nanoxia. And best of all, like the SilverStone and Cougar samples, Lian Li's PC-9N has the eighth expansion slot that many gamers need for a bottom-slot graphics card. Unfortunately, a motherboard tray that resembles a step ladder with no further bracing provides similar results. It’s a little wobbly, in spite of those thick panels.

Most of Tom’s Hardware editors have slightly different case requirements, and most of us would pick a different case from this specific line-up. With no clear winner, we’re left to ask which of these you would choose. Let us know, and we’ll consider your thoughts as we review the next seven contenders in this contest.

  • g-unit1111
    Nice choice of cases that aren't from the usual contenders. I'm a fan of Silverstone - I think I might use the PS06 in my next build, but the polished metal look of the Lian Li is awesome, I wish more case manufacturers would use that look.
    Reply
  • mjmjpfaff
    Nanoxia, in my opinion has produced a winner. It is pretty significant what they have been able to do with such a short time in the American market. My vote goes out for Nanoxia DS2. The size of it is a plus, as well as its looks. And of course it is aesthetically very pleasing, especially for its price.
    Reply
  • ASHISH65
    Good review,i think there should have been more cases and contenders,but personally liked SilverStone’s case due to looks.
    Reply
  • slomo4sho
    I would like to see the temp ratings with a GPU that isn't using a blower style cooler since these seem to be the minority these days.

    Also, I would like to see more cases at this price point. The Cooler Master HAF XB is one I would like to see included personally.
    Reply
  • vmem
    I think Nanoxia is the winner in this contest imho

    HOWEVER, I'd be curious to see how it's GPU temperature problem can be alleviated by adding a few fans, and how that affects it's noise reduction. if the overall picture is still good, then it is the clear winner
    Reply
  • dudewitbow
    I think Nanoxia. albeit temperatures are one thing, silence is another. there is a trens for people to pick up better fans, and the trend of people using low end AIO WC units with Dwoods brackets to cool gpus.
    Reply
  • rolli59
    I say it again any case that has a door for drive bays or a flap for ports, does not work for me. Making the Silverstone and Cougar cases my choice out of the lot but I would prefer both all black.
    Reply
  • dalmvern
    g-unit1111Nice choice of cases that aren't from the usual contenders. I'm a fan of Silverstone - I think I might use the PS06 in my next build, but the polished metal look of the Lian Li is awesome, I wish more case manufacturers would use that look.
    I was thinking the same thing g-unit. Im 90% sure im going to use the PS06 for my Haswell build in a few months.
    Reply
  • major-error
    vmemI think Nanoxia is the winner in this contest imho
    HOWEVER, I'd be curious to see how it's GPU temperature problem can be alleviated by adding a few fans, and how that affects it's noise reduction. if the overall picture is still good, then it is the clear winnerI have the exact same opinion.
    If I had the case, I don't think I'd put a fan on the side panel. I'd be more inclined to install some stand-offs and install a larger baffle, allowing passive airflow but still keeping things quiet.
    Of course, if I needed more fans, I'd fill all the other slots with Noctua NF fans...
    http://www.quietpc.com/na-ds2

    Bottom line: I think this would be an excellent choice to replace my 14-year-old In-Win Q500 case.
    Reply
  • BVKnight
    Why does the Nanoxia look (inside) like a chopped-in-half version of the Rosewill Thor V2? Design characteristics, materials,and layout are almost exactly the same. Seems like both companies may have sourced from a Chinese general supplier in making these cases.
    Reply