Best PC gaming case 2011: 8 reviewed

Keep your machine cool with one of these top PC cases

Antec Dark Fleet 85
£100 - Full Tower

Antec dark fleet 85

The DF-85 is the top banana of Antec's premier Dark Fleet range of gaming cases. It's gone for the full killer-cyborg-from-the-future look for this hefty tower chassis, opting for an aggressive rather than stylish aesthetic.

Like almost all cases for gaming rigs, the DF-85 is black inside and out, although this doesn't stretch to the screws, which are regular and shiny. The interior follows the classic template too, featuring a motherboard with power supply below it, and a vertical stack of drives down the front.

The front of the case has three potential openings, called Fleet-Release doors for no good reason. It took us a minute or two to see how to open these, expecting some neat switch or button. What we eventually discovered was nothing so accomplished: they're opened simply by flexing the plastic on one side, which isn't the most sturdy of arrangements.

Read the full Antec Dark Fleet 85 review

Antec LANboy Air
£110 - Full Tower

ANtec lanboy air

Of all the cases in this group, the LanBoy Air stands out as having a go at doing something different. It's full of holes. Or, to clarify, virtually every panel is a grill.

It's built around a solid metal framework, which in this case is a fetching blue, although yellow is available too. On to this frame are screwed the panels, plastic surrounds and sheet metal grids.

The LanBoy Air is billed as being fully modular. Not quite. When you look more closely, what we have is a case that follows the standard layout, more or less, only with a lot more holes in it. Much of it unscrews well enough, but you can't screw it back together in a completely different shape or anything.

Read the full Antec LANboy Air review

Bitfenix Colossus Venom
£130 - Full Tower

Bitfenix colossus venom

The Colossus from BitFenix has drawn much praise in its time, and now we have this new Venom edition to consider. The blurb speaks of a "vicious lighting style" and "sinister and menacing looks", but is it a fierce performer?

Well, it's certainly no shrinking violet, being an imposing tower that stands a little under two feet. It's also reassuringly heavy and black. Set into the case's side and front are translucent strips, behind which lurk green and red LEDs.

The 'Venom' tag turns out to mean the option to switch between the two colours. The case also has a rubberised finish (which marks easily) and presents wonderfully clean lines with the full-height front door shut.

It's pretty much the opposite approach to the LanBoy Air, where everything is put on show. Constructed of heavy-gauge metal, the Colossus has an air of real solidity, which is fitting since it certainly weighs enough.

Read the full Bitfenix Colossus Venom review

Cooler Master HAF X
£115 - Full Tower

Cooler master haf x

Cooler Master is a big name in both fans and gaming cases and the popular HAF (High Air Flow) range has been something of a hit with gamers since 2008. Now we have a new leader, the HAF X.

Like the rest of the range, the tower chassis sports an real no-nonsense look. And its very black, including the screws. It's pretty solid stuff too, although not quite in the same league as the Colossus Venom or Corsair 700D.

Inside, you'll find room enough for quad graphics card set-ups and up to nine expansion cards, which shows who the company think will need a case like this.

Read the full Cooler Master HAF X review

Corsair Obsidian 700D
£165 - Full Tower

Corsair 700d

Corsair turns out some proper top-notch kit, and the Obsidian series of cases a case in point; we are nearing the top of the market here. The 700D is one step down from the range-topping 800D, it only lacks the easy-swap drive bays and windowed side panel.

The 700D started to impress as soon we pulled it's not inconsiderable weight (15.8Kg!) from the box by the heavy gauge extruded aluminium feet. The front panel is similarly made from heavy aluminium.

This is a big tower, at over 60cm high, and is roomy enough to take E-ATX boards. It's also very black, every screw is black. It forms an almost perfect rectangle, and looks for all the world like those mysterious monoliths from 2001. Its a different stylistic approach to the brash, bling of most gaming chassis. It even feels nice, although watch those finger marks.

Read the full Corsair Obsidian 700D review

Sharkoon Scorpio 2000
£68 - Midi Tower

Sharkoon scorpio 2000

The delightfully named Sharkoon makes a fair range of chassis, and has described the Scorpio 2000 as a "functional ATX tower with a black interior and bottom lying down power supply". We apologise now for pointing out that humorous translation, but sometimes we simply can't help ourselves.

The Scorpio 2000 is a middle-ranking gaming case. It has all the right features for that particular market, but it is a little smaller than the cases that we've seen so far in the test, rolling in as a midi offering.

When you pick it up the lightness shows that it's not made of the quality stuff you'll find elsewhere in this gathering as well.

Read the full Sharkoon Scorpio 2000 review

Thermaltake V6 BlacX ED
£54 - Midi Tower

Thermaltake v6 blacx ed

Thermaltake make lots of cooling kit, this V6 sits towards the bottom of offerings. It's a midi tower and comes in regulation black with a pleasing glossy finish down the sides. It's a tad plain in this company, where most gaming cases are all 'shouty', although it does boast a small side window so you can gaze upon your processor in awe.

The interior space is pretty tight, leaving no room for routing cables and air under the motherboard, or fitting PC water-cooling kit. It'll take a graphics card up to 11-inches long (280mm if you've gone French).

The bottom mounted PSU has an outside grill to draw in air. There's a mesh to catch dust too, but unlike most similar designs this cannot be removed from outside the case, and looks next to impossible to get at once you've got all your hardware installed.

Read the full Thermaltake V6 BlacX ED review

Tsunami Gaming Manager
£21 - Midi Tower

Tsunami gaming manager

This new contender from Tsunami is a modest midi ATX case and in this company its a lightweight, literally, as you soon learn when you try picking the thing up - it's made from very thin sheet metal. The front panel is the only part that shouts 'design', and only then in a muffled way as if a metaphorical hand has been slapped over the designer's mouth.

There are a some curves, a moderately funky power button, and a natty matt black finish. There are three lurid colour options for the glossy part of the plastic front panel, aside from the black version shown here.

The insides follow the traditional layout, that is to say traditional for normal PC chassis, but not for the requirements ofa gaming chassis. The power supply unit sits on the top, rather than following the accepted pattern of sloping off to the bottom of the case to keep the heat away from the processor.

To support this there is a very small fold of metal. Yes, you've four screws, but these are in the rather thin rear panel.

Read the full Tsunami Gaming Manager review

And the best PC gaming case is… CoolerMaster HAF X

Cooler master haf x

The first thing we learned from our case selection is that if you do want a proper gaming case, then you will have to spend proper money.

The Tsunami Gaming Manager is charming in its cheapness, but fails to impress in any other way. At all. In fact it's kidding nobody by proclaiming itself as a gaming case because it isn't. The insides are hopelessly cramped and it makes no sense at all here.

So that's out, which leaves us with two contenders for best budget case, the Thermaltake V6 BlacX and the Sharkoon Scorpio 2000. On paper both look good, they both appear suitably 'bad' and both cost about the same.

However, the V6 BlacX manages to fall down when it comes to the details. It's a little too fragile for comfort and unless you fit an extra front fan it relies on the pull of the top and rear fans alone. But its biggest problem is that it's just too small, a fairly fundamental failing in a gaming case. You need room to let air get about and to fit everything comfortably.

The Scorpio is just that bit bigger, enabling a raised motherboard and room for water-cooling. It's not the toughest of cases, but it's been designed with that much more thought. Easily the best budget case.

Now to the big boys. And the first to go is the LanBoy Air. Yes it does look striking, and it you like to look at your hardware it's ideal. We are unconvinced about the slightly ham-fisted approach to cooling, basically stick on lots of fans and cover it with holes and hope for the best.

It bills itself as modular, but it's not particularly flexible. It's a case you either 'get' or don't. We didn't.

Next to go is the Antec Dark Fleet 85. It's a proper gaming case with all the features and there are no real bugbears - if sheer fan numbers count, it's a surefire winner, with what we strongly suspect are more fans than it really needs.

It's not bad value either, but the look of most gaming cases is a bit adolescent: all aggressive slashes and lines, industrial grills and LEDs and one too many fans. They might look fine in the average gaming den, surrounded by foam figurines of obscure Manga characters, but if your box is sitting in a carefully decorated room in a postmodern minimalist style, its going to look out of place.

The Corsair is stylish enough to carry it off in the best of surroundings. The Corsair is also the best-built of the cases. The fans of many fans might want more oomph, but what we have is fully thought through, with clear airflow paths and divided internal sections.

But we must be ruthless, we are looking for kick-ass gaming cases and the Corsair sacrifices some of that in order to look good while doing it.

The BitFenix Colossus is also a bit of a looker, but in a different way: closed for action with the LEDs on it's proper space-alien stuff. The cooling is by two huge fans with a simple front to back path, and should be plenty. However it lacks easy-swap drives and we suspect the front panel wiring arrangement will get tedious. It's capable, but the looks have compromised the design and efficiency a little.

It's a close run thing, but it is just piped to the post. The Cooler Master HAF X is our gaming case of choice. It's got all the bells and whistles you could want, plus some extra ones. It's the only one to go overboard around the graphics cards, with a shroud and a hefty support, both with optional fans.

It comes fitted with four big fans and looks like it was designed by people with one-track minds: to make a case capable of taking the most powerful gaming system known to man. The build quality is superb and, although it can hardly be called cheap.

Our only gripe is that in being so purposeful, it lacks any grace. So there we are, we would take the HAF X home to meet our precious hardware, but we would occasionally think of the Corsair with fondness as the one that got away.

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First published in PC Format Issue 252

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