Part 1: Four Gaming Enclosures Under $50

Sometimes, overclocking is the key to getting budget hardware humming along at enthusiast-class performance levels. But getting there requires extra cooling. Today we're examining the performance of four low-cost gaming enclosures under $50 bucks.

Though low-cost cases are everywhere, a limited few are outfitted with the extra cooling capacity required by gamers boasting performance hardware. This is just as true for budget builders as it is for high-end systems, since the budget parts often are the ones that get overclocked to match the speed of pricier pieces. It came as no surprise, then, when only eight manufacturers responded to our broad search for the best-performing, low-cost cases. After all, this is a scary space to compete in if you're not proud of what you're selling.

We split this comparison into two parts, giving each model the added attention it deserves. Today, we look at the first four solutions.

While black paint is a good way to attract system builders with a penchant for gaming, each of today’s cases has more to offer in the areas of ventilation, ease-of-installation, and noise reduction. Here’s a few of the critical details:

Three Hundred
Cooler Master
Elite 430
Staray ECA3171
Space Above
Card Length17.7"11.1"12.4"12.2"
Weight12.9 Pounds15.4 Pounds10.5 Pounds12.0 Pounds
Front Fans
None (Up to 2 x 120 mm*)None (2 x 120 mm)1 x 120 mm (120, 140 mm)1 x 120 mm (Stock Only)
Rear Fans
1 x 120 mm, (92, 80 mm)1 x 120 mm (Stock Only)None (120, 92, 80 mm)None (120, 92, 80 mm)
Top Fans
None (2 x 120/140 mm)1 x 140 mm (Stock Only)None (2 x 120 mm)None (None)
Side Fans
None (2 x 120/140 mm)None (1 x 120 mm)None (1 x 120 mm)2 x 120 mm (2 x 140 mm)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalNineThreeThreeFour
3.5" ExternalUp to 1*NoneTwoOne
3.5" InternalUp to Five*
(*Shared Trays)
2.5" InternalNoneOneNoneNone
Price$50 $60 $55 $50

Two of today’s cases now cost more than the $50 limit, yet we’ve included them because they were submitted in good faith while priced below our cut-off-point. We could focus on whether the two more expensive models are worth the extra money, but we instead decided to examine the design merits of each case individually before testing its performance.

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  • AgentK
    I'd agree, the Antec Three Hundred is an understated but excellent case. Also fairly cheap if you can get it at the right price
  • Anonymous
    I don't like one thing in Antec 300: PSU mount. Yes, it's bottom mounted, but with fan facing up so that:

    1)PSU cools itself with case air, not ambient air, and competes with video card for it

    2)A screw may fall into it and create a short circuit.
    The psu is fasing down in this case lol :D