The Cooler Master Storm Sniper, with its matte-black, mesh-covered shell and blue-glowing fans, looks like a prop from a sci-fi movie, the kind where cyber-soldiers rush into a building and start furiously hacking its defenses. And that’s awesome. It’s large for a midtower case, and looks even larger than it is, thanks to bowed-out side panels and feet that raise the bottom of the case an inch above the ground.
The Storm line is all about sturdiness, style, and portability—Cooler Master is apparently targeting LAN gamers—which it delivers. At 22.7 inches tall, 22.3 inches deep, 10 inches wide, and weighing in at more than 23 pounds, the Sniper is big-boned, but with sturdy handles on top, surprisingly luggable.
The Mesh bezels run from the bottom of the front panel all the way to the top, and the top panel has black mesh between its sturdy steel handles. The side panels are steel and bulge outward. The left side-panel has a large window covered by black mesh, to allow for air flow, and contains mounts for one 20cm or two 12cm fans.
Alienware updated its Area-51 case for the new ALX line of desktop systems. The new ALX line itself features beefy specs for a micro-ATX system, but the craziness doesn’t end at a blazing fast GPU or speedy i7 processor. This machine features…fins. Not just any fins, motorized fins.
The new cooling technology in use in the ALX works in tandem with the Command Center to open and close the vents according to “thermal values.” Unfortunately, those are the only details listed on the site regarding Active Venting. As a part of the Command Center software, you can change the lighting styles on various parts of the case as well as tweak thermal controls.
Say you’re a content creator—video, graphic design, whatever. You want a computer that’s quiet, functional, and hopefully doesn’t look like it was designed by a candy raver, or worse, Apple. That’s what Thermaltake is betting on with its Element S, an understated black midtower case with restrained red accents and plenty of drive space that’s marketed toward content creators.
The Element S is built from steel, painted black inside and out, and decked with black plastic trim on the top and a red-rimmed, black-plastic front-panel door. It weighs close to 18 pounds, and measures 21.3x9.1x20 inches. The model we tested included three fans: a 12cm, 1,300rpm front intake fan, a 14cm 1,000rpm rear output fan, and a 23cm 800rpm red LED fan on top. The case also includes rear mounts for two 6cm VGA exhaust fans, which is rare, but makes sense if you’re encoding video using a high-end graphics card. The Element S also has two holes for water-cooling tubes, but doesn’t include rubber grommets in them—they’re just bare metal punchouts in the case that could puncture the tubing over time.
Hiper may not be well-known in the States, but in Europe it’s big in the power supply and chassis markets. Now, Hiper is branching into the American market and has brought at least one solid contender to the great case race.
The Hiper Osiris is a midtower ATX case constructed of 6063-T5 aluminum alloy, which makes it very sturdy. The top, clip-on front panel, and side panels are all finished in black brushed aluminum, which looks quite fine. Frankly, we’d expect a little less heft from an all-aluminum chassis, but the beast clocks in at more than 18 pounds. On the other hand, it’s certainly not going to break on you.
Inside, the Osiris is finished in black, except for the unpainted motherboard backplate, which takes up only the space required for an ATX motherboard, leaving plenty of room for cable routing and tie-downs (with the included Velcro straps). The Osiris includes three 12cm fans—front, top, and rear. PCI slot covers are of the flimsy snap-off variety, but Hiper includes several ventilated replacement covers—a nice touch.
Silverstone is well-known for releasing a few solid chassis every year, usually rehashes of its Temjin full-tower line. But this year has already brought two excellent cases that mark departures from the tried-and-true: the full-tower Raven RV01 (reviewed in our March full-tower roundup) and the mid-tower Fortress FT01.
The Fortress FT01 is a solidly constructed aluminum unibody case that just screams attention-to-detail. Mid-tower cases often lack the amenities of their full-size cousins (compare Silverstone’s own Kublai line with its mighty full-tower Temjin series), but the Fortress handily escapes that trap.
After the chunky, plastic, stealth-bomber-like trappings of the RV01—which we dug, don’t get us wrong—it’s nice to see Silverstone back to the classy brushed-metal look it’s known for. The Fortress’s side panels and front bezels are black brushed aluminum, while the rest of the machine has a dusty matte-black finish, with a bit of wicked-looking mesh covering the intake fans.
To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again!” The Antec Nine Hundred Two is a refresh of Antec’s well-loved and much-imitated Nine Hundred midtower gaming chassis. And although the Nine Hundred Two does boast several refinements over its predecessor, it’s not exactly revolutionary.
First we’ll talk about what the Nine Hundred Two has in common with its predecessor. Both cases are matte black steel with plastic side windows, mesh-style front bezels, and are nearly the same size: At 19.4 x 8.6 x 18.6 inches, the Nine Hundred Two is barely a half-inch wider than the Nine Hundred and a fifth of an inch deeper.
Like the Nine Hundred, the Nine Hundred Two comes with four fans: a 20cm low-rpm Big Boy on top, and three 12cm blue LED fans—one in the rear and one on the front of each three-slot hard drive bay. Here we see some improvements on the Nine Hundred: All the fans now include blue LEDs (and the front ones have intake filters). Fan speed controllers are now mounted directly into the case, with the two front fans controlled by variable speed knobs in the front bezels and the top and rear fans controlled by switches on the case’s back plate. On the Nine Hundred, the fan controllers were ugly white and dangled loose inside the case.
The Thermaltake Spedo is big and bold, with gray plastic trim and black honeycomb mesh running up the front of the case and the top plate. It sounds awkward, but it mostly works, just like the mishmash of features inside.
The 21.1x24x9.1-inch Spedo starts strong with seven external 5.25-inch slots and two removable hard drive bays with three slots each, all completely screwless. Add in two low-rpm 23cm fans (one on top and one on the side), and six smaller, faster fans, including a red LED fan in front of one of the hard drive bays, and airflow is great.
The Spedo ships with an array of flimsy plastic panels billed as the “Advanced Thermal Chamber 3,” which separate the PSU area from the PCI cards from the CPU cooler. In our experience, removing and installing the panels is more trouble than it’s worth; after our initial install we just left them outside the case.
Installing a system in the NZXT Zero II is like taking a trip back to the first half of this decade. Although the front panel cover is nice—all smooth, curved lines and blue lighting, with a handy magnetic clasp—the interior of this 21x21.1x8.2-inch case seems downright primitive and unfinished compared to the other cases in this roundup. The five 5.25-inch drive bays as well as the two external and six internal 3.5-inch HDD bays are toolless, albeit utilizing old-fashioned clip-in rails rather than an in-case mechanism or fancier bracket.
The case comes with three fans and slots for six more—four on the door, one on the bottom, and one on the top—but the net effect is that it looks incomplete. The Zero II is built of flimsier metal than the rest of the cases covered here, although the Zero is roughly a third of the price of Cooler Master’s offering, and less than a sixth the price of the ABS Canyon.
While most Silverstone cases tend toward polished metal and (if you’re lucky) a side window, the Raven’s hard plastic exterior takes its stylistic cues from a stealth bomber. Appropriately, everything on this 24.3x26x11-inch beaut is hidden behind panels: the front connectors (two USB, audio, FireWire) behind a flip-up, and the five 5.25-inch drives behind a garage door–like sliding panel.
The most striking thing about the Raven, besides its appearance, is that its motherboard mount is rotated 90 degrees clockwise—the I/O ports and PCI expansion slots, normally situated on the back of a case, are on the top and covered by a shroud that allows cables to be routed neatly to the back. This improves airflow (allowing air drawn in by two 18cm fans to rise from the bottom of the case to the top) and takes the stress of weighty PCI-E cards (like, say, dual-GPU offerings from Nvidia and ATI) off of the motherboard.
At 26x17x9 inches, the ABS Canyon 695 is a tall and svelte aluminum “supertower,” and its design is certainly striking. Remove the smooth front-panel cover and you’ll find the entire front of the case taken up by three 14cm intake fans, with a sliding lint-trap-like dust filter in front of them. This means the optical drive bays are rotated 90 degrees to accommodate the fans; they actually open into holes in the case’s side panels, giving the exterior an unusual look.
Inside, the case is separated into three “thermal zones”—the PSU, two 5.25-inch bays, and one external 3.5-inch bay reside at the top; the middle section holds the motherboard, PCI cards, etc.; the bottom can accommodate six SATA drives and even includes a hot-swappable backplate. Airflow is great, thanks to a generous array of fans—six in all.