The art of testing cases at Maximum PC is a lot like the sword ceremony scene in Kill Bill. There’s a lot of razzmatazz and showmanship at first, but in the end, a worthy case is treated with honor and delicacy as it’s gently placed back in the Lab; wretched cases are also moved to the Lab… to be used as pedestals upon which we rest the worthy enclosures.
I’m being only a bit facetious when I say that because reviewing a case really does require delicacy. I start by giving a case’s exterior a full inspection. Aesthetics play the smallest role in our overall verdict, but as our September 2007 review of Dynapower USA’s Hachiman case illustrates, I do point out the look of a case when a vendor tries something new—or when an exterior is worthy of contempt (although I do recognize that one person’s pile of garbage is another person’s Pieta).
The real fun begins once I’ve popped off the side panel—and if that’s not a pleasant experience, the chassis earns its first ding. Inside, I’m looking for elements such as screwless mounts that are easy to use but secure, convenient and accessible drive bays, and cooling potential. Mounting a motherboard in the case typically exposes any flaws in the overall design: We experienced this with an early version of Antec’s Nine Hundred case, which didn’t allow certain cables to be connected. (The problem was fixed prelaunch.)
I like to come at case reviews as if I’m a basic user, and in doing so, I ask myself a series of questions during the review process: Is the case difficult to work in? Is this case easy to manipulate and fill with components? Is there a better way to do what I’m doing? Do I need extra parts, tools, or products to complete my rig? And once the rig is built, are the provided cooling solutions too loud? Does the case adequately muffle my noisy components? Is its cooling sufficient? Does the case lack anything that would be necessary for me to build the perfect rig?
There are two primary case design styles: classic and over the top and gamer themed. Depending on your needs, even a 10 Kick Ass case might not be exactly what you’re looking for.
A case can have a lot of features and still have a horrible design. Conversely, a case can be a little skimpy with its add-ons—holes for water-cooling tubes and included tri-speed fans and LCD display panels—but still deliver an amazing experience for rig builders. Reviewing cases is part exact science, part surprise and delight.