Budget Cases Reach New Heights

Nathan Edwards

Selecting the perfect computer case is like scouting the grocery store for a bottle of wine. And as oenophiles of all knowledge levels and palates know, you can’t judge a bottle by its price. In that sense, we’re scooping from the bargain bin in this month’s mega-roundup of computer cases: Only chassis priced at $100 or less are eligible.

But don’t get the wrong idea. Just because a case is cheap doesn’t mean it’s poor. Although these budget boxes may lack many of the bells and whistles of their costlier counterparts—such as built-in water cooling, hydraulic panels,
or crazy paint jobs—they can still provide an awesome fit for your computer parts.

In fact, you’ll find you have a far wider selection of models to choose from, with more vendors making economy enclosures than $500 monstrosities.

Of course, you’ll also likely find that a case’s relative pros and cons become more extreme at this price level. For example, a manufacturer may opt to release an aesthetically beautiful case… that doesn’t fit a high-end graphics card. Another may offer an ingenious way to mount hard drives, only to forgo any room for fans.

For this very reason, we mount a full system in each case we review. The components are identical to those we use in our standard benchmarking systems and represent what an enthusiast user would be working with in a typical system install. Given the smaller size of sub-$100 cases, it’s critical you verify there’s sufficient space for your components. There’s just no compromising on that point.

But we’re taking it one step further: You shouldn’t compromise on anything short of a maximum case. And as you’re going to see, it’s not always the big-name vendors that deliver.

Cases Reviewed in This Roundup

(click each name to go to the relevant review)

For comparison’s sake, we also tested one of the most expensive consumer cases on the market— Lian Li’s PC-P80R . Click the link to see what the extra jingle gets you.

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