Cage Match: Four Open-Air ATX Chassis


Each open chassis we got our hands on today had its own strengths and weaknesses, with each suiting a slightly different market better than its competitors. But some readers are probably wondering which one we’d pick for our test labs. That choice again comes down to the peculiar preferences of each reviewer, but we do have a few casual observations.

Of today’s candidates, the easiest-to-use test bench is probably the inner frame of Antec’s Skeleton. Though its outer cage is more difficult to work with when swapping out hardware, convenient slide-in drive access and unobstructed motherboard access is the result when its outer frame is removed. Though doing away with the less-convenient parts also does away with the front-panel connectors and power button, many motherboards have power and reset buttons right on the PCB. The two biggest concerns with recommending it to a wide variety of testers is that the internal portion doesn’t have its own card support, and that most people probably won’t know what to do with the nicely-made outer part once they’ve decided to use only the inner part.

A close second choice for hardware testers is the Danger Den Torture Rack 2. Its exclusive use of screws for securing drives is perhaps the most notable inconvenience when components are constantly being swapped.

We’d love to use Microcool’s Banchetto 101 for hardware testing, with its beautifully-designed motherboard tray and triple-fan radiator support, but its expansion card stands aren’t secure enough for constant component changes, its reverse-mounted power supply causes cable management difficulties, and it still has the unfortunate need for screws to hold drives in place. Yet, its good features are so overwhelming that this tester is constantly considering modifications to improve its utility.

Buyers who don’t constantly swap-out components should take a closer look at each chassis evaluation page for details that could help in their own purchasing decision.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • johnny_5
    When I had a desktop I would just leave the door off. It was unfortunately fairly noisy, but these would suffer the same problem anyways.
  • 08nwsula
    the antec is the only frame that doesn't look incomplete
  • kikireeki
    I though the point of having an open-air Chassis is to be simple and fast but these are far-cry from that! very cool nevertheless.
  • Crashman
    kikireekiI though the point of having an open-air Chassis is to be simple and fast but these are far-cry from that! very cool nevertheless.
    I'm using the Torture Rack 2 right now to test several motherboards, I've added two push-through standoffs to keep them in place without screws.
  • Onus
    Have you done any EMF testing on these? It seems to me that could be a considerable con on any of them.
  • thackstonns
    I wanted the Banchetto 101, but found a skeleton for 100bucks new. A friend won it in a land contest and didnt want it. So I went with that. It is a good case the only thing that really pisses me off is I have to unplug all the front panel stuff to slide the tray out. Also I am building a bench for it to set on out of acrylic to house my radiators and pump. I cant figure out a good way to run the cpu waterblock though. The top cage does come off with 4 screws, But I have looked everywhere and cant find thumb screws that fit. Otherwise I would just use that instead of sliding it in and out.
  • dragonsprayer
    whats wrong with a table or desktop with mobo box and antistatic plastin? works great less hassle! here is a photo from years and years ago! best desk to set up is martin lab testing set up (photo of martin lab persmission given to copy his stuff) - this is the s$#t!:
  • dragonsprayer
    part 2: we build every system on a mobo box with anti static, we burn in the cpu/psu/mob/gou at max oc in the bios for 24-72 hours - i.e. 920 is burned in at 4-4.4ghz air cooled. we have done this since 2003. then hard drives are hooked up and the system programed. this even done for water cooling built with air cooler then converted to water. The gpu, mobo, psu, cpu and hard drives are tested then installed in the case. The system is then run on orthos and 3dmark loops and other tests for up to 7 days. So the mobo box, anti static works great - stick hdd on there bags, use the mobo box from the system.
  • jellico
    The Antec rack is the coolest, by far! The rest look like plain, old racks.

  • duolc
    I use a Skeleton for my Case. Dust is an issue but a quick shot of air here and there and I can keep it under control.

    I Use an Asus Silent Knight CPU Cooler And It did not fit originally. I had to shave off one of the supports to make it fit.