The Best PC Cases of 2017: Awards for Airflow, Noise, Design, & More

By Published November 12, 2017 at 7:01 pm
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We’ve reviewed a lot of cases this year and have tested more than 100 configurations across our benchmark suite. We’ve seen some brilliant cases that have been marred by needless grasps at buzzwords, excellently designed enclosures that few talk about, and poorly designed cases that everyone talks about. Cases as a whole have gone through a lot of transformations this year, which should seem somewhat surprising, given that you’d think there are only so many ways to make a box. Today, we’re giving out awards for the best cases in categories of thermals, silence, design, overall quality, and more.

This awards show will primarily focus on the best cases that we’ve actually reviewed in the past year. If some case you like isn’t featured, it’s either because (A) we didn’t review it, or (B) we thought something else was better. It is impossible to review every single enclosure that is released annually; at least, it is impossible to do so without focusing all of our efforts on cases.

Here’s the shortlist:

 

Best Gaming PC Cases of 2017

Award Case Manufacturer
Best Out of the Box Thermals SilverStone RL06 Pro SilverStone
Best Noise Level Be Quiet! Pure Base 600 Be Quiet!
Best Overall Design NZXT H700i NZXT
Best Full Tower Be Quiet! Dark Base Pro 900 Be Quiet!
Best Presentation Thermaltake Core P3 Thermaltake
Dumbest Trend See content See content
Best All-Around Fractal Meshify C Fractal Design
Honorable Mention (Thermals) Thermaltake View 71 Thermaltake
Honorable Mention (Thermals) Corsair 570X Corsair
Honorable Mention (Noise) Bitfenix Shogun Bitfenix

Best Out of the Box Thermals – SilverStone RL06 Pro

Honorable Mention: Thermaltake View 71, Corsair 570X 

silverstone rl06 2

We start our awards show with the Best Out of the Box Thermals. Contrary to the name of this title, we don’t actually just point an IR gun at the case when it has literally just come out of the box. No, this award is for best thermal performance in a stock configuration, meaning no added fans or removed panels.

We reviewed SilverStone’s Redline 06 Pro back in May and, for the past six months, the RL06 has remained fully uncontested in its position atop our charts. The case is being kept around as a standard for our benchmarks, as its thermal performance is second-to-none in its stock state.

This performance is a combination of SilverStone’s tri-fan intake, thin metal mesh front panel, and mid-tower layout. The mid-tower layout keeps everything closer to the fans and exhaust, but the front mesh is where the case pulls ahead: Other mesh panel cases have tried and failed to outmatch the RL06 this year, and that’s largely because the Redline uses a mesh that’s not overly dense in its creation. The Redline 06 maintained a 47.8-degree CPU temperature in our CPU torture test, planting it firmly ahead of everything else. The next closest stock case was the Corsair 570X, so honorable mention there, with its three 1500RPM fans. The SilverStone RL06 Pro only gets beaten when we start adding $20 fans to the Meshify which, of course, would also be outdone if we replaced the RL06’s fans with $20 units. GPU temperatures have remained fully chart-topping in our torture tests, too, with a 47.1-degree read-out in the torture. The next closest was the Thermaltake View 71 at 48.7 degrees.

nzxt h700i cpu all

nzxt h700i gpu all

The case offers no frills, focuses on properly high airflow with its four total fans, and costs $70-$80 for the Pro version of the RL06, which we strongly recommend. Noise levels are decidedly unimpressive, but not insultingly loud. Airflow begets higher noise, in nearly all instances.

Honorable mentions go to the Thermaltake View 71 for GPU thermals, a case that surprised us in its overall thermal performance, and another honorable mention to the 570X for stock CPU thermals.

Find our RL06 review here.

Best Noise Levels - Be Quiet! Pure Base 600

Honorable Mention: Shogun at 1000RPM

be quiet pure base 600 2

In contrast to the Best Thermals, we now look for the Best Silence. The Be Quiet! Pure Base 600, coming from an aptly-named company, has maintained a set of high-ranking and top-ranking results for silence. At low RPMs, which would be primarily used for idle or low-load operation, the Pure Base 600 measured at 29dBA for full system noise. Our noise floor is about 26dBA, so this is only barely audible over room ambient. At these RPMs, of course, thermal performance isn’t great, so you might flip the switch to go up to max RPMs for gaming performance. During these higher load scenarios, the Pure Base 600 maintains a 33.7dBA noise level. It is this mix of absolute chart-topping performance and top-five performance, granting better thermal headroom, that gives the Pure Base 600 the award for Best Silence. The case manages to remain relatively quiet even during heavier workloads, which is largely unachievable by most other cases.

We’ll give an honorable mention to the BitFenix Shogun at 1000RPM. This case is highly polarizing in its design, but is overall sturdy construction with moderate performance. It’s not for everyone, but is worth considering.

Find the Pure Base 600 review here.

Best Overall Design – NZXT H700i

nzxt h700i hero

The next award is for Best Overall Design. This award looks strictly at the construction quality, layout, and design of the case and its panels.

This award goes to the NZXT H700i. The H700i took a bit of a beating for its coupled Smart Device, which raised price unnecessarily and wasn’t fully intuitive, and that can easily overshadow the case itself. We asked for an H700 “D” in the review – D for Dumb – because the case is brilliant in its other aspects. Panel construction quality is top-class, avoiding plastics nearly everywhere, and the panels are both easily removed and securely fastened. NZXT’s designer made artistic use of ventilation holes to pattern the entire case top-to-bottom, inside-to-out, with a metal ventilation mesh in the top panel, front panel, and atop the PSU shroud. Cable management makes use of mounted routing channels, making for rivers of cables along the back-side of the case. The eject button on the rear panel makes for the most easily secured side panel that we’ve worked with this year. NZXT’s build quality and ease-of-installation features are top-class with the H700i. The case is marred by the Smart device, which worsens the value proposition, but is otherwise well-designed. If NZXT makes a dumb version of the H700i in the $120-$150 price range, it’d be a go-to choice. For now, we give the chassis itself the Best Overall Design award.

Find the H700i review here.

Best Full Tower – Dark Base Pro 900 (White)

be quiet dark base pro 900 white 1

Our next award is for Best Full Tower, and focuses on looking at our reviewed list of cases for the best overall feature-set and performance in a large case. This one goes to the Be Quiet! Dark Base Pro 900 enclosure, for which we first reviewed the white edition this year.

The Dark Base Pro 900 has a fully invertible motherboard layout, but does it in a way that doesn’t ruin the rest of the case’s quality. The enclosure uses thick paneling and glass to trap lower frequency hums, which can only reasonably be contained with thick paneling and a large chassis, and secondarily uses foam damping for higher frequency noises. The Dark Base Pro 900 has a few unnecessary frills to it, like the Qi charger that we don’t really find necessary, but its construction quality takes the win for the full tower category. A mix of reasonable airflow and noise performance, although not chart-topping, also aids the Dark Base Pro 900.

Find the Dark Base Pro 900 review here.

Best Presentation of the PC – Thermaltake Core P3

thermaltake core p3 1

Our next award is for Best Presentation of the PC, where the case is more of a showcase than anything else.

This one goes to the Thermaltake Core P3. It’s less of an enclosure and more of a set of guidelines to mount components to. The Thermaltake Core P3 can be wall-mounted, configured as a flat test bench, or stood-up normally. The case is basically a large steel box, inside of which the cables are hidden, accompanied with liquid cooling mounts, vertical GPU support, and component arrangement that focuses on showing off a high-end PC. This is an example where trends – our next topic – can be put to actual use. Because the case is best suited for liquid cooling configurations and showroom-style setups, the open-air presentation works, and even works fine for air cooling. Of course, it’s not great if you have pets, but a wall mount fixes that.

Find the P3 review here.

Dumbest Trend

The dumbest trend goes to form over function, which includes things like excessive and needless use of tempered glass, RGB LEDs in every corner, a lack of USB Type-C support, closed-off front panels with zero ventilation and lowered GPU clocks as a result, and the industry’s desire to throw every single fad at a box without thinking about the implications. Vertical GPUs are a good example: They can be cool, but they often incinerate against the side panel of the case. Each of these trends has its place in an enclosure, but a line must be drawn when it’s clear that a manufacturer is just gluing panels and LED strips to a case while and hacksawing-out a vertical GPU mount in a case that’s clearly not built for it, followed-up with sticking a 1980s Cartoon Robot front panel onto the enclosure. Oh, and not to mention tempered glass panels that are painted black and stuck on the cable-side of the case

Best All Around – Fractal Meshify C

fractal meshify c 0

Best All-Around goes to the Fractal Meshify C, a case that we ended up buying for review following its popularity. The Meshify C is a remake of the Define C, which we already liked, but had called “warm” in our review. Although the Meshify doesn’t do much to resolve this in its stock configuration, the case ascends the charts rapidly, landing toward or at the top once adding fans to the front. The open front mesh has a unique look, but also accommodates additional fans exceptionally well, pushing all that air straight into the nearby components.

We already praised the Define C for its cable management, ease-of-installation process, and overall build quality in an intentionally subdued design. The Meshify is an extension of all of these things, but with better airflow for additional fans. What puts the case into the “Best All-Around” category, though, is its affordability: The Meshify is $80 presently, making it one of the most affordable cases to implement reasonable airflow potential with more strategic use of tempered glass.

Find the Meshify C review here.

That’s all for our case round-up for 2017. We have more case reviews on the way, too, but the bulk of the launches are done for the year. Check back soon for more year-end round-up content.

Editorial, Testing: Steve Burke
Testing: Patrick Lathan
Video: Andrew Coleman

Last modified on November 12, 2017 at 7:01 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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