Case Basics & Recommendations

Cases|Damping | Reference|Recommended
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CASES RETIRED AFTER 2011
Make / Model
size / form
Comments
Coolermaster TC-100 Fanless mini-ITX case
5.2 liters
mini-ITX
"Heatsink case" for typical mini-ITX motherboards that employ an embedded CPU such as Atom or VIA. Overall system thermal limit of 35W is low, but conservatively rated with maximum ambient temperature given as 50°C, so there's some headroom for those who want to push the power envelope with a hotter CPU. Various heaptpipes kits offered. Main issue is availability / distribution. RETIRED FEB 2011 - SEEMS UNAVAILABLE
Fractal Design Define R2
48 liters
ATX
A paean to the Antec P180 series, a bit smaller and more cheaply/lightly built, with some clever variations, and not w/o some weaknesses. Overall, a versatile value case for silencers at a good price for the features and performance. Comes w/o PSU. April 2010. RETIRED FEB 2011 - REPLACED BY R3
RETIRED RECOMMENDED CASES
Make / Model
Airflow
Noise
Overall / Comments
Lian Li PC-101
6
6
6 / Unusual, handsome, all-aluminum mid-tower case with too many features to detail here. For aluminum enthusiasts, we were still able to build a quiet system in the PC-101 without much effort. It is the first aluminum case we've ever been able to say that about. As with most aluminum cases, pricey. Reviewed. Aug 2006.
Silverstone Temjin TJ06
7
6
7 / Well constructed large steel mid-tower with inverted motherboard position that locates CPU at bottom in a duct with 120mm fans front and back in push-pull mode. HDD cage position and airflow in upper area a bit suspect, and the intake vent on the handsome swing-open aluminum bezel might be a touch restrictive, but overall, it's a very nice case with a lot of potential. Choose your own PSU separately. Reviewed. Jan 2005.
Evercase ECE4252
7
6
7 / Modest mid-tower features solid construction, excellent open vents front and back, the best airflow bezel design we've seen yet with good noise reduction path, and drive mounts ready for serious grommets. Can accommodate 4 CD and 4 HDD. Side vent over CPU should be blocked for improved noise. Needs little or no modding for use in a silent system. Often supplied without PSU. Examined as part of ARM Stealth System review. March 11/03
Coolcases / Chenbro PC-610 Custom Case
7
6
7 / A modded, upgraded version of the Chenbro PC- 610 case customized by Coolcases.com. Very solid mid-tower features nicely open airflow front & back vents for 120mm fans, a bezel that balances noise / airflow, some great mods by Coolcases, inlcuding front cutout fan grill and filer, fan controller, etc. Right side not removable. Lots of options. Reviewed. May 2004.
Yeong Yang "Mars" YY-5603 mid-tower case
7
6
7 / Solid mid-tower, with double-vented side panels and extra depth, very open 120mm grills front and back for great airflow. Side-mount HDD cage reduces front intake ventilation a bit; cage must be removed to suspend drives in bottom front. Nice top front position of controls and in/out panel. Styling open to debate. Reviewed. Aug 2004.
Coolermaster Centurion 5
6
5
5 / Black steel mid-tower case with striking blue anodized aluminum front accents and wide open bezel provides good airflow. Supplied with very noisy 80mm case fan and somewhat noisy PSU. 3.5" drive bay extends all the way to floor, which can make HDD suspension difficult. Like most case, probably needs a bit of modding for best results. Reviewed. Jan 2005.
SilverStone SST-LC01 HTPC Case
5
5
5 / A fairly large aluminum horizonal case with decent airflow, ATX PSU capability, and room for HDD suspension. Only adequate by mid-tower standards but quite good for a FTPC case if total system heat is kept modest. Reviewed. Aug 2004
SilverStone SST-LC11 HTPC Case
5
5
5 / Slim, sleek, pretty and small, with an odd twist borne out of cooling need: The motherboard goes in upside down. Pretty quiet, too, especially if you take care, but it takes only Micro-ATX boards. Fans can be better, as can airflow, but there's good potential for modders. Reviewed. May 7/05
SilverStone SST-LC04 HTPC Case
5
5
5 / Handsome low profile aluminum horizonal case with decent airflow and very quiet 240W proprietary PSU takes full ATX board but is limited to 2 horizontal AGP/PCI devices. Tight for soft a mounting HDD. No evidence of aluminum hum. Very nice with the right combination of components. Reviewed. Aug 2004
Scythe's e-Otonashi fanless EPIA-M cooling case
N.A.
9
7 / A compact case for VIA EPIA-M Mini-ITX boards that offers a fanless PSU and fanless CPU cooling system as an integral part of its design; it works well. The only noise source is the notebook hard drive, which can be as low as ~16 dBA@1m. Reviewed. May 2004.
Arctic Cooling Silentium T2
8
4
5 / Innovative case offers the first heatsinked and suspended HDD mount integrated into a case, totally non-standard airflow, a custom-made dual fan Seasonic PSU at front bottom, and a ducted plastic base that directs airflow. All this behind a mild, unpretentious exterior. Excellent airflow marred by resonances from plastics and high minimum speed in PSU fans. Difficult to mod or swap PSU or PSU fans. Reviewed. May 8/05
Zalman TNN300
n/a
8 / 6
8.5 / Smaller micro-ATX version of the TNN500. Very well engineered heatpipe systems transfer heat from components to the chassis, and an advanced fanless power supply is integrated within. Cooling with well-selected components is very good. The only serious drawback is the lack of good mechanical damping against HDD vibration and noise; the 8 rating applies only if the HDD can be mechanically decoupled from the case. Price is still high but better than the 500. Reviewed. Aug 2006.
Antec P182
8
7
8.5 / New version of P180 with many cable management improvements that address assembly difficulties. A very nice case has been substantially improved. Reviewed. Oct 2007.
Zalman TNN500AF
n/a
8 / 6
8.5 / Ambitious, completely fanless, massive mid-tower with an exterior of aluminum extrusion heatsink panels. Very well engineered heatpipe systems transfer heat from components to the heatsinks, and an advanced fanless power supply is integrated within. Cooling with well-selected components is very good. The only serious drawback is the lack of good mechanical damping against HDD vibration and noise; the 8 rating applies only if the HDD can be mechanically decoupled from the case. High price is a deterrent. Reviewed as part of an EndPCNoise system Aug 2006.
Antec P180
8
7
8.5 / An ambitious, large mid-tower with composite multi-layer external panels and steel chassis, unique PSU and HDD placement on bottom in isolated ducted chamber. Very good intake 120mm vent design for upper and lower chambers, with double hinge door. Much use of resilent damping materials for noise & vibration reduction. Top corner of upper chamber has two exhaust 120mm fans for very high cooling potential. Almost any decent fanned PSU runs quieter because the direct intake in the lower chamber keeps it running much cooler than in other cases. Suitable for overclockers and silencers. Covered extensively by SPCR in several reviews. Nov 2005. NOTE: A new version was released in mid-2006, with a double aluminum panel door and improved cooling for video cards. Aug 2006. REPLACED BY P182. Nov 2005
Antec SLK3000B
6
6
6 / Latest variant of 3000 series from Antec with the wide open front & back 120mm vent grills of the 3700BQE and the more conventional, removable HDD cage of the 3700AMB, with double side vents (Intel approved for "Thermally Advantaged Chassis" designation) and a TriCool 3-speed 120mm fan that's very quiet on low. You get to choose your own PSU. Reviewed. Jan 2005. DISCONTINUED
Antec NSK3300
6
5
6 / Small micro-ATX tower case with two thermal zones and a good, small 300W PSU. It's tight to work in, but right out of the box, it's pretty darn quiet and has some nice features. Reviewed. Aug 2006. REPLACED BY NSK3480
Antec Sonata
5
5
6 / Stylish glossy black mid-tower, nice no-fuss quiet (not silent) design. Excellent 120mm back vent, bezel airflow restricted but good noise reduction path, side drive mounts come with rubber grommets. Front door over external bays helps reduce noise. Supplied with quiet single fan 380W TruePower PSU, noisier than our reference standards. Comes with 120mm fan. Bezel will benefit from some cutting to improve airflow. Reviewed. REPLACED BY SONATA II. Nov 2005
Chenbro Gaming Bomb Xpider
6
5
6 / Similar chassis to Chenbro PC- 610 case with dramatic styling and side window. Nicely open airflow 92mm front vent & 120mm back vent, a bezel w/ very good airflow, some other nice features. Right side not removable. Reviewed. May 2004. DISCONTINUED
Antec SLK3700BQE
6
5
6 / New variant of 3700AMB with improved front & back grills and side mounted HDDS like Sonata case. Better than stock AMB in most ways but HDDs run warmer. Supplied 350W PSU is noise-reduced. Reviewed. May 2004. DISCONTINUED
Antec SLK3700AMB
6
5
6 / Nice looking mid-tower features adequate airflow front & back vents for 120mm fans, a bezel that balances noise / airflow, typical Antec door over top half of bezel, good drive mounting features. No specific quiet features, but a solid base on which a quiet PC could be built. Case mods such as removal of fan grills will all help. Decently quiet supplied PSU. Reviewed. March 11/03. DISCONTINUED
Fong Kai FK330 Mid-tower
7
6
8 / Rock-solid construction mid-tower, with double layer steel construction for side panels w/best-ever latch, the FK330 is truly "workstation class". Quality of construction is tops. Open 120mm grills front and back for great airflow. The # of drives seems small for the size of case; side mounting for 3 HDDs; close front bottom area means cutting to suspend drives there - one of the very few flaws. Choose your own PSU separately. Reviewed. APPEARS TO BE DISCONTINUED. Nov 2005
Antec SX1000 series (1000, 1040, 1060, 1080...)
7
4
6 / Large 20" tall ubiquitous design features good airflow front & back vents, a bezel that probably lets out noise too easily, good drive mounting features. No specific quiet features, but a solid base on which a quiet PC could be built. Case mods such as removal of plastic fan cages, removal of back fan grills. No sure what could be done to eliminate direct noise exit path through front bezel. Case appears similar or identical to models offered by Chieftec, Enermax, etc. Info gleaned from hands on-examination of SPCR's own SX1040 case. TOO MANY OTHER GOOD OPTIONS NOW. Nov 2005

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