Sartre said that hell is other people. We don’t know about that, but we know what Hades is—a steel mid-tower chassis that’s full of surprises, nearly all of them pleasant.
At 7.9 inches wide by 16.9 inches high by 19.7 inches deep, the Hades is skinnier than the Zalman Z7 Plus, though otherwise similar in size. It’s all black, inside and out, and the motherboard tray includes a CPU backplate cutout as well as rubber-rimmed cable-routing cutouts. The front and side fans are 20cm monsters, and the top of the chassis has mounting holes for two 14cm or 12cm fans, as well as for a dual-fan radiator, if your tastes swing to water-cooling.
The Hades’ nine 5.25-inch drive bays include five toolless optical-drive retention mechanisms, and in lieu of dedicated hard drive cages, the Hades comes with four sets of mounting brackets, so you can install one 3.5-inch hard drive per optical drive bay. The floppy drive bay at the bottom of the case also includes an adapter that can hold two 2.5-inch SSDs (or notebook hard drives, if you prefer). Because of the Hades’ flexibility with regards to hard drive installation, it can handle foot-long videocards like the ATI Radeon HD 5970.
Zalman, a company better known for its CPU coolers than chassis, hasn’t released a new case in a while, and its previous ATX-compatible entrants were not without flaws. But now Zalman’s back with a miniscule, low-cost mid-tower that sports some surprising features. So, what do 75 smackeroons get you these days? More than you might expect.
The Zalman Z7 Plus is one of the smallest and lightest steel mid-towers in our roundup, at 18.6 inches high by 19.5 inches deep by 8.8 inches wide, and a mere 17 pounds. And though it’s not as rock-solid as, say, the Fortress FT02 or as light as the Lian Li PC-B25F, it’s a perfectly acceptable middle ground, especially given the price. For $75, you get four case fans—one 14cm rear exhaust fan, one 12cm LED intake fan attached to the hard drive cage, and two 12cm intake fans for the left side panel, only one of which comes installed by default, but both of which can be controlled via a dial on the side panel. The case also features a cutout in the motherboard tray for CPU coolers that require backplanes, a genius feature that would not have appeared in a budget case a few years ago, but is thankfully becoming standard. Furthermore, the Z7 Plus comes with four toolless optical drive bays and toolless PCI expansion-slot retention clips, as well as a five-drive hard drive bay that you can raise and lower at will.
Go big or go home. That’s a lesson Corsair apparently took to heart for its first chassis, a 24x24x9-inch full-size enclosure that rivals Cooler Master’s ATCS 840 in size. Corsair’s Obsidian 800D is all black, from its matte steel frame and side panels to its brushed-aluminum front bezel, from motherboard tray to front-panel cables, from screws to standoffs. And the goodness is more than skin deep—the 800D has everything you’d expect from a premium case: quick-swap SATA bays, thermally isolated compartments, plenty of cable-routing cutouts, and more. In fact, it’s one of the best cases we’ve tested in years.
The 800D is divided into several “cooling zones”: the top compartment with the motherboard and optical bays; the bottom compartment, where the power supply sits; and a front compartment with four hot-swap 3.5-inch SATA bays. Each compartment is cooled by a separate 14cm fan, and the top compartment has room for three additional 12cm exhaust fans, as well as support for liquid-cooling radiators. Fresh air is drawn in through dust-filtered intakes at the bottom of the case, which is lifted one inch off the ground by three supporting feet.
Since we reviewed the Thermaltake Element S (August 2009), Thermaltake has unleashed a dizzying deluge of Elements, from mid-towers G and T to the small-formfactor Q. The first full-tower, the Element V, feels like a bizarre mix of budget case and deluxe enclosure.
The Element V chassis comes with support for MicroATX, ATX, EATX, and various server motherboards, and its motherboard tray includes a CPU backplate cutout. At 21x21x8.7 inches, it’s a full three inches shorter and three inches shallower than the Corsair 800D, which is one of the biggest cases we’ve tested. Still, the Element V is roomy enough inside to accommodate a Radeon HD 5970, the longest PCI-E graphics card on the market, with an inch or so to spare.
Because the Element V is made of steel, not aluminum, it’s quite cumbersome, weighing 31 pounds empty. The side panels are similarly beefy, although we like the integrated 14cm fan in the left-side panel and the small plastic window above it. It’s good that the window is so small, because the inside of the case is unpainted, unlike the Element S.
Like its older and larger sibling, the Raven RV01 (reviewed April 2009 as part of our full-tower roundup), Silverstone’s Raven RV02 is an all-black steel and plastic chassis with a defining feature: The motherboard orientation is rotated 90 degrees from the standard layout. But the Raven RV02 is even less orthodox than the RV01, which seems positively pedestrian by comparison. Unlike its full-tower predecessor, the RV02 is deeper than it is tall—25 inches deep by 20 inches tall by 8.3 inches wide, so it sits low to the ground. The front of the case is chunky stealth-inspired plastic, but is much more restrained on the RV02 than on the RV01, with a garage door–style front bezel. The side panels and frame are steel, and the case is black inside and out.
Building a system in the RV02 is a vertiginous experience. At first glance, nothing seems to be in the right place—the right-side panel has an optional plastic window, while the left-side panel is the one behind the motherboard tray. Furthermore, not only do the PCI expansion slots and I/O shield mount to the top of the case, but so does the power supply, which sits to the right of the motherboard at the back of the case, and is held in place by four screws, a Velcro strap, and a plastic bracket. The case’s five 5.25-inch bays and 3-inch-bay hard drive cage sit at the front of the case. The hard drive cage isn’t as user-friendly as we’re used to seeing—to install a drive, you must first remove eight thumbscrews, take out the cage, and use four long screws to attach the drive to the rubber shock-absorbing mounts in the cage. Thankfully, four of the optical-drive slots use Silverstone’s familiar toolless retention mechanism.
Lian Li has long had a reputation for crafting excellent cases at exorbitant prices, and the Tyr PC-X1000 upholds both standards. Like the PC-X2000 (rebadged as the ABS Canyon 695 and reviewed in December 2008), the PC-X1000 swaps depth for height, measuring more than 26 inches tall but less than 18 inches wide and 9 inches deep. The Tyr PC-X1000 offers a lot of compelling features, from five 14cm fans to thermally isolated compartments to 2.5-inch hard drive mounts. It’s visually striking, packed with amenities, and (of course) expensive. Is it worth it?
Thanks to its height, the Lian Li Tyr PC-X1000 looks much thinner than it actually is. The black brushed-aluminum design is minimalist but attractive, eschewing LED fans and internal lighting altogether—fine by us, especially as the side panels lack windows. The X1000 has plenty of front connectors: four USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, eSATA, and audio.
What it lacks in flash, the PC-X1000 makes up for in features: Like its predecessor, the X1000 is divided into three thermal zones. The bottom zone holds the PSU, a three-slot removable hard drive bay, and a 14cm intake fan. The main compartment has two dust-filtered 14cm intake fans and one 14cm exhaust fan, a removable motherboard tray, two toolless 2.5-inch hard drive brackets, a toolless PCI retention bracket, and the same useless retention bar that we removed from the X2000. The top compartment holds two stealthed 5.25-inch optical drive slots, one 5.25-inch/3.5-inch combo slot, and another three-slot removable hard drive cage, as well as an additional 14cm exhaust fan.
Talk about a tight fit. Silverstone was at CES to show off their new line of cases (including the highly-anticipated Fortress 2 mid-tower case), but what caught our eye was their Sugo SG07 mini-ITX case. Last year's SG06 was a respectable gaming chassis, but didn't account for the massive videocards that came out in the second half of the year. The new model is built with those cards in mind, and as you can see from the photo below, snuggly houses a 12.6-inch Radeon 5970 videocard!
The SG07 also comes bundled with a Silverstone custom single-rail 600W power supply to provide ample power to a single-GPU system, and has a beefy 180mm fan on top. There's also a specially-designed ventilation area that's sectioned off on the base of the machine to funnel hot air away from the videocard without heating up the entire chassis.
But does it make sense to put the world's fastest videocard into a mini-ITX system?
When we first saw prototypes of Thermaltake’s Level 10 concept chassis back in May, we were intrigued by its unique design but skeptical as to whether Thermaltake would ever actually produce it—and if it did, whether it would be any good. The answer to the first question is yes—it should be shipping by the time you read this. But is the most inventive chassis we’ve laid hands on since the Antec Skeleton actually a good case?
The Level 10, which Thermaltake designed with BMW, is not your standard ATX full-tower. Instead of a simple box shape, the Level 10 hangs its components from a central wall—basically a reinforced version of a standard case’s right side and frame. From this central wall protrude individual hinged covers: one each for PSU, optical drives, and the main motherboard compartment, as well as six SATA drive bays connected to a vertical aluminum heatsink. All cables between compartments are routed through the central pillar, behind the motherboard and drive trays, just like a standard case, resulting in an incredibly clean look—at least when the covers are closed. Red LEDs light a strip running from the front panel (with its four USB ports, one eSATA port, and audio ports), along the top to the rear. The case is huge, too, weighing 47 pounds and measuring 12.5 inches wide by 2 feet deep by 26 inches high.
Cooler Master wowed us last year with its full-tower HAF 932, which garnered Maximum PC’s coveted Kick Ass Award (November 2008). Now we’ve gotten our hands on the midtower version of the HAF, the 922, and it looks awfully familiar.
Superficially, the HAF 922 is like a cross between the full-tower HAF 932 and last month’s CM Storm Sniper. In fact, HAF 922’s interior is virtually identical to the Sniper’s—it has the same fixed motherboard tray with the CPU backplate cutout, cable tie-downs, and cable-routing holes. The five 5.25-inch drive bays use the same toolless retaining mechanism, and the five 3.5-inch hard drive bays use the same slide-out toolless trays. But where the Sniper had toolless PCI locking mechanisms, the HAF opts for more-traditional thumbscrews. And the interior of the HAF, unlike the Sniper’s, is unpainted metal (although the Sniper’s motherboard tray isn’t painted, either).
Earlier this year, Thermaltake wowed us all with the announcement of the Level 10, a concept case designed in conjunction with BMW DesignWorks. Rather than a standard aluminum box, the Thermaltake Level 10 would incorporate a central pillar, with individual compartments hanging from it for the motherboard, PSU, optical drives, and hard drives. Here's a press shot of the Level 10.
The Level 10. It's high-concept! (click to embiggen)
We haven't heard much about the Level 10 since Computex in June; we were even a bit skeptical that such an outré case would ever come to market. But Friday morning we strolled into our secret lair to find an enormous box on our doorstep. Read on to find the first shots of the production Level 10, as well as features, pricing, and availability.