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Part 1: Four Gaming Enclosures Under $50

When A $50 Chassis…Isn’t

Though low-cost cases are everywhere, a limited few are outfitted with the extra cooling capacity required by gamers boasting performance hardware. This is just as true for budget builders as it is for high-end systems, since the budget parts often are the ones that get overclocked to match the speed of pricier pieces. It came as no surprise, then, when only eight manufacturers responded to our broad search for the best-performing, low-cost cases. After all, this is a scary space to compete in if you're not proud of what you're selling.

We split this comparison into two parts, giving each model the added attention it deserves. Today, we look at the first four solutions.

While black paint is a good way to attract system builders with a penchant for gaming, each of today’s cases has more to offer in the areas of ventilation, ease-of-installation, and noise reduction. Here’s a few of the critical details:

AeroCool VS-9Antec Three HundredCooler Master Elite 430Enermax Staray ECA3171
Dimensions
Height16.9"18.0"16.8"16.5"
Width7.5"8.1"7.5"7.6"
Depth19.3"18.1"19.7"19.3"
Space Above Motherboard0.6"1.4"0.5"0.3"
Card Length17.7"11.1"12.4"12.2"
Weight12.9 Pounds15.4 Pounds10.5 Pounds12.0 Pounds
Cooling
Front Fans (alternatives)None (Up to 2 x 120 mm*)None (2 x 120 mm)1 x 120 mm (120, 140 mm)1 x 120 mm (Stock Only)
Rear Fans (alternatives)1 x 120 mm, (92, 80 mm)1 x 120 mm (Stock Only)None (120, 92, 80 mm)None (120, 92, 80 mm)
Top Fans (alternatives)None (2 x 120/140 mm)1 x 140 mm (Stock Only)None (2 x 120 mm)None (None)
Side Fans (alternatives)None (2 x 120/140 mm)None (1 x 120 mm)None (1 x 120 mm)2 x 120 mm (2 x 140 mm)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalNineThreeThreeFour
3.5" ExternalUp to 1*NoneTwoOne
3.5" InternalUp to Five* (*Shared Trays)SixFiveFive
2.5" InternalNoneOneNoneNone
Price$50$60$55$50

Two of today’s cases now cost more than the $50 limit, yet we’ve included them because they were submitted in good faith while priced below our cut-off-point. We could focus on whether the two more expensive models are worth the extra money, but we instead decided to examine the design merits of each case individually before testing its performance.

  • rzilla91
    Great article!
    I have the Antec 300 and love it - my current build is/was my first build, and the Antec case was very easy to build in.

    My only (rather silly) question is how did you get the case fans to run on low? They appear to be plugged into your PSU, which is what i did, but that forces it to run on high.
    Reply
  • falchard
    I think the Antec 300 and AeroCool models lose for 1 simple reason. They cannot house the longer ATI HD5850~HD5970.
    Reply
  • gkay09
    ^ Did you read the Aerocool specs properly ? Card Length - 17.7"
    AFAIK there are no graphic cards that are longer than 12.5", so it would fit HD 5970...
    But as for the 300, I doubt it wont fit the 5970, but other cards would...
    But if you will be spending ~$600 for a graphic card, then am sure you wont skimp on the case...
    Reply
  • Mark Heath
    Interesting to see the Antec 300 doing well even when the fan speed's put to low.
    Reply
  • smithereen
    No NZXT Beta?
    Reply
  • rzilla91Great article!I have the Antec 300 and love it - my current build is/was my first build, and the Antec case was very easy to build in.My only (rather silly) question is how did you get the case fans to run on low? They appear to be plugged into your PSU, which is what i did, but that forces it to run on high.It should be equiped with speed-adjustmentable tri-cool fans, which should have added speed selectors to go from LOW to MID or HI, and back.
    Reply
  • falchard
    I just reread the card length on the AeroCool.
    I would like a review on the NZXT Beta. Sub $50 market, you really aren't looking at any of those cases. You are looking at the Rosewills, NZXT, and cheap Thermaltakes.
    Reply
  • @falchard - My Vapor-X 5850 fit perfectly in my Antec 300. I don't know what you're BSing about.
    Reply
  • rajangel
    I own the 300. It's a nice sturdy case, but in the end it really was a pain in the rear to put it all together. It's extremely cramped.

    @falchard-
    Also don't ever buy Rosewill. EVER. Their products are terrible. I've bought a few items they've had on clearance (from newegg) and not a single product is worth the 90% discount. One case came bent and the power supply inside was missing some of the power plugs the manual said it had. One item came shipped with a driver all in Chinese. Customer service blamed it on whoever shipped it (right because Newegg is going to switch the power supply inside a case). Newegg switched the case out and the girl on the phone said they have a lot of problem with Rosewill products. The laptop pad was missing fan blades.

    Reply
  • falchard
    Well thats your problem right there, you are looking at Rosewill for electronic products. You shop Rosewill for products that don't rely on electricity like a case.
    Reply