Patrick Lathan

Patrick Lathan

Over the past few years, we’ve built up an impressive stockpile of case reviews, the most common of which are sub-$100 ATX mid-towers. This is a roundup of some of our favorites, wildly different in purpose and appearance but all solid, affordable enclosures for the average gaming PC. Our best cases feature includes temperature and acoustic testing, and build quality discussion for the top PC cases under $100.

Everything here is something we’ve worked with in person, either in the lab or at tradeshows; if you feel something is missing, it is likely that we simply didn’t test it. We’re trying to keep the list to things released in the past year (or so), which means chart-toppers of previous eras are being skipped.

The Thermaltake Core P3 ($100) is one of the more unusual cases we’ve tested: it’s a skeleton case with only two sides, one of which is entirely transparent. This is a case that could theoretically be used as a normal mid-tower, and it’s not priced unreasonably for that, but its design makes the P3 exposed to anything that approaches it at a slight angle -- pets, kids, potentially dust if floor-bound. It’s also cooled just by ambient circulation, as there’s not support for case fans outside of a radiator mount. The P3 is, however, an ideal display case for colorful systems with elaborate liquid cooling, and it’s also a much cheaper alternative to the open-air test benches that we use every day.

For modders, the P-series (P1, P3, P5, P7) offer a basic and compact foundation on which to build. For display systems or testing, the case takes a backseat to the components, offering itself up as a platform for hot-swapping components or for component display. These are the use cases where the P3 shines.

 

Another day, another GPU driver update. This one comes from AMD, with Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition update version 17.5.2. The new version fixes several bugs and also improves Prey’s performance on the RX 580.

Bugfixes include a NieR: Automata crash, long Forza: Horizon 3 load times, an issue with CrossFire systems where the main display adapter could appear disabled in Radeon settings, and a system hang when entering sleep or hibernate with the RX 550.

Corsair’s SPEC-04 ($50) is a new mid-tower aimed squarely at the budget market. The case shares its price and much of its hardware (and tooling) with the aged SPEC-01, but with the alien, angular appearance of the SPEC-ALPHA, channeling the aesthetics of the once-$80 case into an affordable $50 package.

Borrowing tooling from its predecessors, the SPEC-04 is able to ship with a lower price-point, aided further by a stripped-down set of interior accoutrements. The SPEC-04 is a small case, but capable of supporting ATX form factor components. This makes the unit deployable for ultra-budget machines, theoretically perfectly fitting for G4560 users.

Today’s review will heavily analyze the thermals, acoustics / noise levels, and build quality of the Corsair Spec-04 case. We test for thermal throttling and additional fan installation, wherein some time is spent adding +1x 120mm fan to multiple positions in the case.

Silverstone’s RL06 case is divided into four SKUs: SST-RL06BR and SST-RL06WS, with -W and -PRO versions of both. Our review sample is the SST-RL06WS-PRO ($75), which means it’s white with silver trim (WS) and comes with 3x 120mm white LED fans (PRO). BR is black with red trim, and -W is theoretically exactly the same case without the fancy fans, although there don’t appear to be any available anywhere right now.

The RL06 is a stripped-down case with serious airflow at a budget price. Today, we’re putting it on our bench against the nearby Corsair 270R, Be Quiet Pure Base 600, Fractal Define C, and other options we’ve tested recently. The RL06 is more airflow-focused than noise-focused, giving us something different to analyze than the past few case reviews.

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