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Five Gaming Enclosures, Rounded Up

Introduction

Some time ago, Chris Angelini made it clear in the intro to a case roundup that he's a fan of small form factor business machines. I couldn't disagree more. Sure, I can see the merit of a tiny computer in some circumstances (say, as an HTPC or in a cubicle), but business computing, to me, is the most boring thing anyone can do with a PC. Gaming is where it's at, and as far as enclosures go, I like large, aluminum beasts with lots of fans and the ability to fit 11" graphics cards with room to spare.

All of the cases in this roundup fit the bill, but that doesn't mean they're all created equal. Some are short and fat, some are as tall as skyscrapers. Some offer a ridiculous amount of convenience, while others might leave builders with aching fingers. Some have lots of room for big power supplies, while others don't. Some are tool-free, while you'd better not forget your Philips-head screwdriver with others. Some look pretty darn cool, others are kind of frumpy.

The lineup includes a monolith of a case from Lian-Li, an interesting enclosure with sideways external drives from ABS, a typically compartmentalized case from Antec, and open, airy cases from Thermaltake and NZXT. Most of the enclosures here are aluminum, though there's some serious steel in the Antec case.

The cases in this roundup range in price from $120 to $400; these are not your $49, low-end, plastic chassis. All of them feature several fans, but I still tested their cooling abilities on a fairly standard Core i7 setup. Of course, to really throw in a challenge, I added a ridiculously hot graphics card (an ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2-based card from Asus), as if any number of fans can keep that monster cool.

To test these enclosures, we first tool a dozen pics of each one from just about every angle. Then we built up a system within each case--the same system in every instance, to keep the playing field level. In the interest of real-world testing, we describe the build experience; for the benefit of numerical comparison, we report the temperatures of the CPU, GPU, and ambient internal air within each case, both with the system at idle and also whilst running a Prime95 torture test.