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The Final Five: Gaming Cases Between $80 And $120, Rounded-Up

One In 15: Picking An Overall Winner

We've seen a leader emerge from each of our five-way comparisons. But a competition between 15 cases must yield one overall winner—or so we hope. Here is how they all finish in terms of average cooling performance:

The above chart is sorted by the average of both CPU and GPU temperature, with the top three cases exhibiting similar cooling performance. The NZXT Phantom 410 did a better job of cooling the GPU area, while the SilverStone Kublai KL04 and Antec Eleven Hundred pushed more air past the CPU.

Antec’s quiet Solo II topped our noise suppression chart, but at such high temperatures that we were forced to expand the scale of our thermal performance chart. Roughly equivalent in noise suppression, the Storm Enforcer, Kublai KL04, and Phantom 410 appear to be better options for building quiet gaming systems.

Combining excellent cooling and good noise suppression, the NZXT Phantom 410 tops our comparison of temperature-to-noise.

We limited our five-way comparisons to prices between $80 and $120 because that was what it took to qualify for our round-up. Since we began, however, a few of these cases dropped below $80. So, we updated our final chart to reflect actual, current prices.

Corsair’s 300R did not impress at the manufacturer-suggested price of $80, but that price recently dropped to $65 at Directron. Cooler Master’s Storm Enforcer similarly dropped to $72 at Walmart’s online store. Normalizing those two prices at the $80 minimum causes them to drop down to 10% and 15% over-average value. Strictly following the review guidelines, NZXT’s Phantom 410 comes out on top.

Using the mid-budget gaming market as our standard, the next three cases to appear on the value chart exhibit sub-standard quality. We don't see another chassis exhibiting the quality we expected in this segment until we reach Antec’s mid-pack Eleven Hundred.

A drop to $81 at Mwave puts NZXT’s Phantom 410 into its current high-value position, though it already received our accolades for high quality. Leading the entire field in both cooling and acoustic efficiency, this lower price sees the Phantom 410 finish ahead of its competition in value as well. Market leadership is the key qualification for our highest award and honor, the Best of Tom’s Hardware recognition.

If you need a different drive configuration, require different dimensions, prefer a different style, or simply despise external bay doors (like me), then fear not. The second-place Cooler Master Storm Enforcer, SilverStone Kublai KL04, and Antec Eleven Hundred perform admirably as well and are excellent values.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • idroid
    Hell yeah!!! NZXT Phantom 410 FTW!!
  • idroid
    Toms should do a review on high-end cases featuring EXTREME watercooling.
  • dudewitbow
    idroidToms should do a review on high-end cases featuring EXTREME watercooling.
    the only tiny problem at the most part i see in that is that it would be slightly harder to test thermal efficiency, since its being cooled by water, rather than air + hsf so in a wc build, the thermal ratings will be extremely close.
  • now try to find the best micro-atx case...
  • amuffin
    The Antec Solo II is not a case meant for gaming.
  • back_by_demand
    It would be nice to see a left-sided window case listing, there are definate advantages to a left sided window / upside down mobo config
  • Crashman
    amuffinThe Antec Solo II is not a case meant for gaming.Well...Antec sent it anyway. Along with the Eleven Hundred. So they evidently had a plan.back_by_demandIt would be nice to see a left-sided window case listing, there are definate advantages to a left sided window / upside down mobo configDid you know that the reason many manufacturers abandoned the upside-down case was because some motherboard heat pipes supposedly didn't work right in that configuration?iknowhowtofixitBut, but, but.... The Phantom 410 is sooooo ugly...Eye of the beholder :)

  • The Solo II would probably have done a little better with your LGA2011 / GTX580 setup, if Antec included at least one front intake fan. Any chance of a re-test with an added intake fan or two? :)
  • antemon
  • antemon
    I'm a fan of smaller cases

    I have a qx-2000 case from aerocool. it's a nightmare for cable management and upgrading partsm but I like it

    can toms also do an in-depth article on smaller cases?

    particularly, I want a similar case as the qx-2000 but the PSU is mounted at the bottom so that adding items inside woundnt be too much of a chore.

    thermaltake armor a30 looks awesome, but still has a top mounted PSU