Four Sub-$100 Cases For Your 2013 Gaming Build, Reviewed

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g-unit1111

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Nice choice of cases that aren't from the usual contenders. I'm a fan of Silverstone - I think I might use the PS06 in my next build, but the polished metal look of the Lian Li is awesome, I wish more case manufacturers would use that look.
 

mjmjpfaff

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Nanoxia, in my opinion has produced a winner. It is pretty significant what they have been able to do with such a short time in the American market. My vote goes out for Nanoxia DS2. The size of it is a plus, as well as its looks. And of course it is aesthetically very pleasing, especially for its price.
 

slomo4sho

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I would like to see the temp ratings with a GPU that isn't using a blower style cooler since these seem to be the minority these days.

Also, I would like to see more cases at this price point. The Cooler Master HAF XB is one I would like to see included personally.
 

vmem

Splendid
I think Nanoxia is the winner in this contest imho

HOWEVER, I'd be curious to see how it's GPU temperature problem can be alleviated by adding a few fans, and how that affects it's noise reduction. if the overall picture is still good, then it is the clear winner
 

dudewitbow

Dignified
I think Nanoxia. albeit temperatures are one thing, silence is another. there is a trens for people to pick up better fans, and the trend of people using low end AIO WC units with Dwoods brackets to cool gpus.
 
I say it again any case that has a door for drive bays or a flap for ports, does not work for me. Making the Silverstone and Cougar cases my choice out of the lot but I would prefer both all black.
 

dalmvern

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[citation][nom]g-unit1111[/nom]Nice choice of cases that aren't from the usual contenders. I'm a fan of Silverstone - I think I might use the PS06 in my next build, but the polished metal look of the Lian Li is awesome, I wish more case manufacturers would use that look.[/citation]

I was thinking the same thing g-unit. Im 90% sure im going to use the PS06 for my Haswell build in a few months.
 

major-error

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[citation][nom]vmem[/nom]I think Nanoxia is the winner in this contest imho
HOWEVER, I'd be curious to see how it's GPU temperature problem can be alleviated by adding a few fans, and how that affects it's noise reduction. if the overall picture is still good, then it is the clear winner[/citation]
I have the exact same opinion.
If I had the case, I don't think I'd put a fan on the side panel. I'd be more inclined to install some stand-offs and install a larger baffle, allowing passive airflow but still keeping things quiet.
Of course, if I needed more fans, I'd fill all the other slots with Noctua NF fans...
http://www.quietpc.com/na-ds2

Bottom line: I think this would be an excellent choice to replace my 14-year-old In-Win Q500 case.
 

BVKnight

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Why does the Nanoxia look (inside) like a chopped-in-half version of the Rosewill Thor V2? Design characteristics, materials,and layout are almost exactly the same. Seems like both companies may have sourced from a Chinese general supplier in making these cases.
 

fimbulvinter

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Nanoxia makes a sexy case. I'm glad there are more cases with subtle and cool designs like that. Not everyone wants a case that looks like it could guide planes in for a landing.
 

ericjohn004

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I think the DS2 is the clear winner as far as quality and looks are concerned. The GPU temps can be kept in check with 1 or 2 more fans so that's not a concern.

To me, the most important part of a build is the case. If you have a nice case, then it at least looks like you have an awesome build. That's why I have the Fractal Design Define R4 w/Window. And for only 20$ more than these rather cheap looking cases, you can't beat it. I expected these cases to be 40-60$, except for the Lian Li and the DS2, they all just look really cheap. And the Lian Li, I think, was the one with no cable management. So judging my sheer looks and quality the DS2 is the clear winner.

Personally I can't see anyone chosing to spend 100$ on these cases that wouldn't spend 20 more bucks for the Fractal R4.
 

jesot

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I just don't understand why someone over the age of 9 would want something that looks like that Silverstone in their house. And it's surprising to me because Silverstone typically makes classier looking cases.

I've been considering the DS2 for my next build for some time. Also have been keeping an eye on Fractal R4 prices as I missed out when NewEgg had them for $80.
 

Avus

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For med tower case around these prices... I like my Coolermaster CM690II USB3. It cost my $95CAD + tax. This case look similar to that Cougar case with nicer material.
 

hero1

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[citation][nom]jesot[/nom]I just don't understand why someone over the age of 9 would want something that looks like that Silverstone in their house. And it's surprising to me because Silverstone typically makes classier looking cases.I've been considering the DS2 for my next build for some time. Also have been keeping an eye on Fractal R4 prices as I missed out when NewEgg had them for $80.[/citation]

I totally agree with you on this one. These manufacturers need to stop making ugly cases. I don't like the plastic looks with ugly designs and it's the reason I am waiting for some panels to continue face lifting my Haf XM. If I had a choice between all of these cases, I would choose NDS2. And Lian Li need to stop making cases that don't have enough room above motherboard trays to handle even 27mm rad with push or pull configuration.

I suggest you grab yourself the Fractal Design Define XL R2, slightly bigger version of R4 (minus removable fan filter) but tons of room and great cooling.
 

g-unit1111

Titan
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[citation][nom]dalmvern[/nom]I was thinking the same thing g-unit. Im 90% sure im going to use the PS06 for my Haswell build in a few months.[/citation]

Yeah if I were going to do a whole new build from scratch I'd use the PS06 from this article and get this:

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/UvWF
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/UvWF/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/UvWF/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($189.99 @ Microcenter)
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U9B SE2 37.9 CFM CPU Cooler ($59.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($135.99 @ NCIX US)
Memory: Mushkin Blackline 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($63.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: OCZ Vector Series 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($66.61 @ Outlet PC)
Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card (2-Way SLI) ($379.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 2GB Video Card (2-Way SLI) ($379.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Silverstone PS06B-W ATX Mid Tower Case ($83.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 750W 80 PLUS Gold Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($119.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($17.98 @ Outlet PC)
Total: $1638.49
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-05-02 12:44 EDT-0400)

But then use the i5-4570K and Z87 motherboard.
 

RedJaron

Splendid
I'm thinking the DS2 and PS06 win this round with the 9N in a close second. However, I'm not sure it's a fully applicable test with this particular hardware being thrown in these cases, though I understand why it's being done.

I understand you're trying to put the hottest, loudest parts in the cases to really stretch their thermal and acoustic performance. I understand that these numbers represent a worst-case scenario, and that an average builder could and should expect better results than this. But that leaves me wondering just how much better results I should expect with a system I would actually build if I were to use one of these cases.

I mean do I really worry about the higher GPU temps on the DS2 when current video cards run considerably cooler and quieter than the 580? What kind of CPU temps would I see in these cases with an OCd IB opposed to a SB-E chip, or with a better CPU cooler? And while I know you can't test using additional or aftermarket fans, is there a better way to use the stock fans included other than the arrangement suggested in the manual? ( I'm guessing you already do this. )

I'm not meaning to complain that you're not doing a good job. I love the reviews and I realize you're often crunched for time. I would love it more if you could have a few standard hardware configs that you could put in cases to get a better idea of how they perform in varying situations:

  • ■ High Performance/High Temp - i7-37XX, 7970 x 2 ( they're the loudest, hottest cards right now, correct? )
    ■ Balanced Gaming - i5, 670 GTX / 7950 HD
    ■ Budget - i3 / AMD FX, 7850 HD
    ■ Professional Designer - SB-E, Multiple FirePro/Quadro, large HDD array
If you had these configs set, then you just choose which one or two are most applicable to the case being tested ( obviously a budget build isn't going in a $150+ case and you won't throw a dream machine in a $50 chassis, ) just like you don't bother benchmarking games at low-res on high-end cards. I think it's better testing using components at the top end of mainstream rather than at the extreme. It gives a fairer look at the case for the majority of the readers while the fewer extreme builders will know they don't have quite so much wiggle room.
 

Au_equus

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[citation][nom]jesot[/nom]I just don't understand why someone over the age of 9 would want something that looks like that Silverstone in their house. And it's surprising to me because Silverstone typically makes classier looking cases.I've been considering the DS2 for my next build for some time. Also have been keeping an eye on Fractal R4 prices as I missed out when NewEgg had them for $80.[/citation]
newegg has the fd-r4 for $80, but the sale ends today.
 

zakaron

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Aesthetics and functionality I'd go with Cougar. Looks are not too vulgar and the symmetry of the top panel is nice. Offset color scheme works well, especially if you use more of their fans in the case.
 

RazberyBandit

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[citation][nom]vmem[/nom]I think Nanoxia is the winner in this contest imho HOWEVER, I'd be curious to see how it's GPU temperature problem can be alleviated by adding a few fans, and how that affects it's noise reduction. if the overall picture is still good, then it is the clear winner[/citation]
While I don't have the Deep Silence 2 case, I have a nearly identical one - the Fractal Design Define R4. The major differences between these cases lie in the internal front panel and the hard-drive cages. The Define R4 has eight HDD bays, while the DS2 has 7. Fractal split its bays into two pieces (one holding 5 HDDs, the other holding 3), and Nanoxia installed 2x120mm fan mounts behind the HDD bays. The DS2's front panel has two 120mm fans and three 5-1/4" bays, while the Define R4 has two 140mm fans and only two 5-1/4" bays.

I placed two BitFenix Spectre Pro 140mm fans in the front fan bays of my Define R4, and moved the stock Fractal Silent Series R2 140mm fan to the bottom position (all intake). I also turned the top drive bay (the 5-drive portion) 90-degrees and removed all the unused HDD mounting trays. Doing so allows for direct airflow to the GPU and CPU from the front fans. I now have roughly 160CFM more airflow available at maximum fan speed, and internal load temps have decreased since the change. The difference in temps now versus the stocl config varies with fan speed since the fans are on the 5V/7V/12V controller, but ranges from 4-10C overall at load.

While the BitFenix fans are slightly louder than the Fractal fans, they push 20CFM more air (each) at max speed, and the noise difference is only slight. It's not the fan that's actually audible, though, but the "whoosh" of air. My advice concerning the DS2 would be to add a quiet 140mm bottom intake fan. Doing so would allow for some direct airflow to assist with GPU cooling, and should prove only barely audible.

If I have one complaint about these two cases, it's the lack of strength in the top-panel. There's simply too much flex in it, which I found out while picking it up by the top panel during the build. Luckily, it wasn't loaded full of components yet, but I could feel it flex under its own weight. (This is why I turned the 5-drive HDD bay 90-degrees rather than remove it completely. I hoped this would give the system with a little more physical strength/stability.) I've had cases in the past I could sit or even stand on, and they wouldn't give at all. (I weigh 175 lbs.) If I sat or stood on my Define R4, it would bend to a breaking point.
 

RazberyBandit

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[citation][nom]Crashman[/nom]So it looks like Nanoxia is in the lead with readers?[/citation]
I wouldn't choose or recommend any of them at this stage. I can find faults in each, though some of those faults are due to personal preference.

While the build quality and performance of the Silverstone is solid, the coloring is too gaudy for me. Plus, who wants a side-window that leaves the drive bays showing? The window shouldn't be that wide, or Silverstone should should have turned it 90-degrees.

As I said in my previous comment, the Nanoxia lacks strength in its top panel. For the money, the Define R4 can easily top it in terms of cooling performance due to the alterations Fractal made to the shared base design.

While the Lian-Li is quality through and through and an excellent example of simplicity, I'd prefer the side-panel didn't have the fan mounts, but was completely smooth instead. Other than that, it's the only one of these cases I'd consider for a build. It looks absolutely brilliant in silver. (Unfortunately, Newegg only has it in black - silver is not in stock.)

The Cougar case reminds me far too much of a Cooler Master CM-690 or CM-692/CM-690-II. Essentially, it's based on a case design that's been around for more than 6 years which shouldn't cost $100 any longer, even with the added fan controller. And it's pretty obvious that full-mesh front-panels are a detriment to noise reduction.
 
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