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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.

  • doomtomb
    That Lian Li PC-X1000 is my favorite
    Reply
  • CoryInJapan
    Haha I was thinking the same thing about the Lian Li PC-X1000
    Reply
  • CoryInJapan
    I dont think I would ever need to change my case for an extremely long tile with that Lian Li PC-X1000 case
    Reply
  • Proximon
    Thanks, good article. I have a comment and a request:
    You said, "The other complaint came in having to remove the bezel of our optical drive so that the case's own bezel could take over." this was on the Lian Li case.
    I would consider this a feature. Brushed aluminum cases look crappy with flat black optical drives and the only way normally to avoid that is a stealth mod, such as I have done with my TJ09.
    I would like to see a picture of each case with the motherboard in place. This helps provide perspective and gives the less experienced builders a clearer idea of what they are actually getting.
    Reply
  • mcbowler
    Awesome PanzerBox. Where do the hard drives go?
    Reply
  • redgarl
    400$ cases... WTH? I will never buy that! Where is the Raven one?
    Reply
  • CHRISTLUBAS
    Panzerbox.........I prefer a M1A1 ABRAMS BOX!!!!!!!
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    How flimsy/sturdy is the plastic cover for the connectors, and the power button ? looks like they're using the same parts as on my PC-A70 ; and on mine the power button feels as if it isn't big enough for its socket, and the top lid broke off quite easily.
    Reply
  • Pailin
    "The best-performing case, both under load and idle, was the NZXT Panzerbox."

    err... not according to your own graphs its not.

    The P193 beats the Panzerbox at everything on idle! and the Panzer only beat the P193 on CPU temp by 1 deg.

    The 5870 "might" push me from my P182 to a P193 due to the extra length and me not wanting to loose HDD slots - but will prob just get a 5 and a qtr bay converter and hopefully only have to move one drive.
    Reply
  • WheelsOfConfusion
    Pailin"The best-performing case, both under load and idle, was the NZXT Panzerbox."err... not according to your own graphs its not.The P193 beats the Panzerbox at everything on idle! and the Panzer only beat the P193 on CPU temp by 1 deg.Yeah, what gives? I could understand if we're taking points off for the effort that goes into assembling it and wire routing versus the Panzer, but "performance" would, I think, be measured by how well it cools and how quiet it was. It cools better when idle, almost identically under load, and apparently was the quietest case in the roundup.
    Reply