The Great Case Race

Nathan Edwards

When it comes to case design, innovation is a double-edged sword. If a company gets it right, it can win attention and accolades for introducing a fresh and functional approach to an otherwise stale and unchanging market. Let’s face it, a lot of new cases look just like the plain ol’ boxes of yore, with maybe a couple of new fan holes here and there.

But when a company tries too hard, or gets sloppy with the detail work, innovation can quickly turn an otherwise perfectly usable design into a configuration nightmare. We’ve seen this in droves. The thing is, case quality isn’t always something you can eyeball. Sure, that case with the huge, nondescript fan on the crudely windowed side panel might look ugly as sin, but maybe the chassis brings something to the table that you wouldn’t realize unless you built a system in it. Worse yet, what if that case with the awesome features you just picked up isn’t an ideal fit for your system? What if your components don’t fit at all?

This is exactly why the process of case selection can be one of the most important steps you take as a budding rig builder. And it’s why we don’t mess around when we review cases in the Maximum PC Lab. In this roundup, we’re putting new designs from some of the top chassis creators to the ultimate test: We’ll stuff a full, functioning machine into each enclosure, complete with some of the fastest (and hottest) parts a computer can handle. If a case can’t play nicely with an enthusiast setup, it’s not worth your time or money. Because why would you ever want to downgrade from your current enclosure to a more headache-inducing model? Find out which of these models made the grade.

Click on each case name to read the review!

NZXT Alpha

Ultra m998

Cooler Master 690

Thermaltake Xaser VI (VG4000)

Gigabyte Mercury Pro

Next: Can your case do this?

Can Your Case Do This?

All this talk about innovation and unique features has us contemplating some special tricks that could endear us to an enclosure

USB Megahub

Most cases offer two or three USB ports up front, but considering USB is—without question—the No. 1 tech invention of all time (see the December issue for more info) that’s a level of scarcity we just can’t abide. We want room for all our essentials, plus a USB disco light, mini fridge, AND air freshener, dammit!

Case Frod

Your components could be outdated, your wiring could be a shambles, your case could be sheltering a family of refugee dust bunnies. A faux-interior decal doesn’t just get you off the hook for slovenliness, it has folks thinking you’re the Martha Stewart of PC maintenance.

Internal External Drive Bay

Of course, a newfound surfeit of USB hoo ha leaves us with much less workspace. That’s OK because we know of one device that could stand to be relocated. Our external drive would feel much more at home nestled in its own special nook.

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