Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bry's upgrade wishlist: Case

It's been a while since I built my PC and I think it's about time I got an upgrade. I definitely need to get a new case since mine sucks and I can't believe I paid as much as I did for it. Anyway, I've been searching around a ton, and quite honestly, it's confusing. I mean, in one sense, there are alot of different features that not all cases have. But in another sense, all of them are basically the same.

The thing that I mostly don't understand is how boring most cases are. I understand that airflow and such are important, but why do you have to make them so booooring? I'm not saying that they should be making Giant Optimus Primes or Benders, I'm just saying: how about something other than the standard box? And by standard box, I mean the whole shebang: a boring rectangle with boring 5.25" slots and boring ports. Hesh usually helps make it look a little more exciting, but even then, most case makers tend to just throw hesh on the front and then call it a day. I just don't understand....a case is basically a square aluminum/steel box with fans attached to it. Why does it have to look so boring?

Anyway, here's the things that I've found that I was looking for in a good case (in addition to 5 eggs on Newegg and having a decent amount of drive bays)....in no particular order:
  1. PSU place: Bottom is way better, I've heard. And I frankly can understand why.
  2. Fans: Front, rear, side, and top. I personally wanted all four, or at least the ability to install 4 if I so pleased.
  3. Position of the I/O ports: Top is better if it's going to be on the floor, bottom is better on the desk. My old one had bottom, so I stepped on and broke it.
  4. Color: Mostly LEDs, since you basically have the choice between grey and black for color. (Boooring.) I really like Blue and dislike Red, but that really trims your choices down.
  5. Water Cooling Capable: I understand that if/when I finally switch to water cooling I'll get a very nice case built specifically for it, but I'd also like a case that can handle it, just in case.
  6. Tool-free: This ranges from 5.25" drives, to 3.25" drives, to expansion ports. I'd prefer the more the merrier. But they're are different approaches to this and not all of them work very well.
  7. HDD cage orientation: Kind of a small difference, but I'd really like for mine to be perpendicular. I hate having to get my hard drives in and out in my current case because it's almost impossible to do without removing other components.
  8. Filter: I really don't know how important this is, but filters for the fans is always nice.
  9. Price: Duh!
  10. Size: From what I can tell, the size is mostly dependent on the graphics card now. I don't plan to ever have more than 2, but I don't want to limit myself in the future. But geez, some of the mid towers are just as big as full towers!

So here are my contenders:
  1. Thermaltake Armor A90
    + Well rated; 2 USB ports on the top; favorite in terms of looks; decent compromise of size. (20.30" x 8.30" x 19.80")
    - WC holes are punch out; parallel HDD cage.
  2. Thermaltake Armor A60
    + USB 3.0; weirdo SideClick thing; perpendicular cage
    - Not-so-great reviews; HDD trays are stupid; on the small side. (19.70" x 8.30" x 18.90")
  3. Cooler Master HAF 922
    + Praised everywhere; not too expensive.
    - Red lights; grey interior; maybe too big. (22.20" x 10.00" x 19.70")
  4. Cooler Master Storm Sniper
    + Very good reviews; fan speed control.
    - Price; almost too big (22.30" x 10.00" x 21.70")
  5. Antec Nine Hundred Two
    + Praised everywhere; not too expensive.
    - Not tool-free; parallel HDD cage; don't like the looks; very small. (18.60" x 8.60" x 19.40")
  6. Xigmatek Utgard
    + Fan Control; sweet orange lights; decent compromise of size. (20.30" x 8.10" x 19.30")
    - Parallel HDD cage.
Here are my penultimate thoughts:
  • Favorite appearance: Armor A90
  • Best features: Storm Sniper
  • Safest choice: HAF 922
The whole deal is this: I want a case that (a) I enjoy looking at, and (b) functions well. Now I can either buy a good case that will last me for several upgrades, or I can buy one that is decent that I will ultimately replace. Ideally, I'd want this case to last me for several years, or at least several upgrades. That being said I would like to make sure that it's a good case (silent, functional, etc). At the same time, if I'm going to be stuck with it, I'd like to make sure I like how it looks.

I've been leaning toward the A90 ever since I started searching, since it's actually unique in appearance, a decent size, and has pretty much every feature I want. On the other hand, I don't want to choose the cheaper case again just because I like how it looks.

Therefore, the best choice is the Storm Sniper which has consistently good reviews, the most features, and the most likeliness for expandability. However, it's also the most expensive.

That would lead us to the safest choice: HAF 922. It's got amazing reviews, looks decent, has great features, and is not too expensive. So I know that I'm getting a good product for a cheap price. However, it lacks a few of the nagging features I want.

That's basically where I'm at now. I can choose my favorite in appearance but risk having a poor product. I can choose my favorite in features and spend a buttload of cash. Or I can choose the safe bet and lose out on some of the minor features I wanted.

Tough tough. I'm not going to rush it though since my PC seems to be doing ok in terms of temperature, and hopefully there will be good holiday sales. And I'll be struck with an epiphany of what to get.

[UPDATE 11-11-10]
Alright, I'm actually nearing a decision. My current case is so bad that I have to take off the side and point a fan at the Mobo to keep it from tripping 70C and thus my alarm. So there's my motivation.

I've been doing a little more research and thinking some. Here's what I've thought of for each case:
  1. Armor A90: I still like how it looks and its size, but I read in a review something that I'd not thought of before: knobs. The door prevents installing anything that has knobs, like fan controllers. Mind you, I don't have any fan controllers and I have no idea if I ever will, but I don't want to reach a point a few months down the road and think "Man, I need a fan controller, but my case can' handle it." So that alone threw this case out of the running.
  2. Armor A60: It has worse reviews, higher temps, and is smaller than the A90. As much as I'd like some of the features it has (USB 3.0), I just can't.
  3. Antec 902: I never even liked this, I included it because everyone else did. But it lost in the runnings because it's so freaking small! It's barely bigger than my current case!
  4. Storm Sniper: As far as I can tell, it is the nicest case I'm looking at. And also the most expensive. I like how it looks, all of the features, everything. If it were in the same price range as say the Utgard, it would probably win out easy.
  5. HAF 932: I decided that the 932 is better than the 922, so might as well go with it. Plus, the 932 is really more comparable to the Storm Sniper. The 932 is praised way more though, for some reason.
  6. Utgard: My new favorite, after the A90 fell out of the race. Why? Because I like the looks, features, and price. However, it is smaller than the other choices, and not as popular.
Since I couldn't decide with features and size, I decided to look at performance, so I looked at several in-depth reviews. It's hard because each site's review process is different, but I did my best to find a site that reviewed all of them. The reviews proved that the Armors were not very good at performance, the Storm Sniper was amazing, and (if I was reading it correctly), the Utgard was the best of all.

Basically I have a choice:
  • I can choose the Utgard, which is smaller and less popular, although still very good in reviews.
  • I can choose one of the Cooler Masters, which are both good and huge.
Almost almost there. A little more research cut my final list in half, and one more little piece of knowledge could make the decision. But I'm fine with waiting for now, especially since Black Friday is rolling around and there's bound to be a deal on computer cases somewhere.

Disregard all of that. I mean, it all still is true, but it really doesn't matter any more. I've found my case: the Cooler Master HAF X. It looks awesome, it's got a ton more features, and it's just amazing. I'm going to sleep on it, but I'm 90% sure this is the one. I'll probably wait until it comes down price for the holidays, or if some random person were to buy it for me *coughIHaveAnAmazonWishlistcough*. Anyway, mystery solved. Ish.

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