This week, we have news spanning both hardware and technology. First off, a GN exclusive: CaseLabs is coming back from the dead. The remnants of the company have been purchased by a new owner and will be put back into action.
News this week will talk about rumored AMD RX 6600 & 6600 XT video cards (and a 6500 series card), alongside rumors of the NVIDIA RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti GPUs. We'll also be covering PlasticARM, an interesting project investigating the utility of plastic rather than silicon for semiconductors, and we'll recap Cooler Master's latest round-up of announcements, like the HAF 500 case.
There's other news, of course, as you’ll find the article and video embed below. If you haven’t already, check out our new GN Explosion & Repair poster, of which part of the proceeds are benefiting the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Fight to Repair organizations -- both of which are focused on the right to repair.
We started testing the Meshify 2 XL even before our Meshify 2 review went up, which should give some idea of how busy the last few months have been. The Meshify 2 XL is to the Define 7 XL what the Meshify 2 was to the Define 7: essentially the same case, but with redesigned outer panels. We’ve never reviewed a Fractal XL case before, though, so this model is all new to us.
We’re keeping the build section relatively brief this time to avoid repeating information from our Meshify 2 non-XL review. Check that content for basic information on elements that the two cases share, like cable management and the front panel design--this review fills in the blanks and adds additional information, so the original content is must-see for anyone considering buying one of these cases.
We’re back for our annual “Best Of” series. We’ve already published a buyer’s guide for the Best CPUs of 2020 (for gaming, workstation tasks, video editing, and more), and now we’re back with the Best & Worst PC Cases of 2020. This coverage provides a flyby overview of the best cases we’ve reviewed or worked on in the past year, but keep in mind that cases don’t age like CPUs or GPUs -- many good cases from 2019 are still available, and in some instances, the pricing has improved. We’ll talk about some of those, too, like the Phanteks P400A.
Each case will be accompanied with a link to our review and to the product listings. We often earn a commission from the retailer (not from the manufacturer and not from your purchase) if you click on the links. This does not influence our decision to choose one case over another -- we’re choosing based on our empirical testing data from the last year or so.
We’ll embed a few charts occasionally, but to get the full charts, you’ll want to check the individual case reviews for each enclosure. The target audience for this piece is either people returning to PC building for the first time in a while -- those who might be out of the loop -- or people who haven’t had time to watch or read every single one of our case reviews over the past year. We don’t blame you, if so.
We’ve been sent three cases for review by Corsair: the 4000D, the 4000D Airflow, and the 4000X. Today we’ll be covering the two 4000D variants, since they’re entirely identical other than the “front bezel” plate that ships with the enclosure. Companies like Phanteks and Cooler Master have sometimes handled situations like this by sending us multiple front panels, but Corsair is fighting hard to eliminate our last few square feet of storage space--we have all three. As of this writing, all 4000D SKUs are available for sale for $80.
It’s been busy here, but we finally have a brief window to talk about something other than GPUs. Today, we’re reviewing Lian Li’s Lancool 215, internally nicknamed the “P400A killer” despite a design that visually takes more inspiration from Cooler Master’s H500-whatever cases, as we’ve seen some other cases do recently. We’ve been very interested in this design since we first saw it during a visit to Lian Li’s headquarters back in March, when they showed us around several of the factories they work with. The design was made public back in July, but some (understandable) production delays have prevented it from hitting the market until now, with preorders currently open for an October 12th release date. The nickname comes from the 215’s airflow-focused design at a target price of $70, which directly competes with the two-fan P400A, currently $71 on Amazon and Newegg. The four-fan P400A Digital, the one which we reviewed highly last year, is currently more in the $80-$90 range in the stores where it’s actually in stock. The Lancool 215 has addressable RGB LEDs and three stock fans, two of which are 200MM intake fans that cover the entire surface of the front panel, making it potentially a very strong competitor to Phanteks’ offerings. As we’ve already reported, Lian Li has been able to keep the price low by contracting out case production rather than making the 215 in-house (as they would for their more expensive aluminum cases).
The Abkoncore Ramesses 780 is a case that our friend Brian from BPS Customs discovered back in mid-2019. He dubbed it “the most interesting case I’ll never build in,” and with encouragement from our benevolent community he then decided to dump it on us. At first glance, the 780 is a full-tower that seems visually inspired by the In Win 303, with the most unique feature being the twelve preinstalled 120mm ARGB fans. We say visually inspired because the 780 lacks most, if not all, of the functional features that merited our Editor’s Choice and Quality Build awards in our 2016 review of In Win’s case, which admittedly has flaws of its own to begin with. Let’s not mince words: the Ramesses 780 is a bad case, and it was specifically sent to us because everyone knew we would say so. That makes it hard to decide where to begin, so we’ll treat this like a normal review and start with the build process.
The Phanteks Enthoo Pro 2 is a case that we last saw at CES 2020, back in January. It’s a giant liquid cooling-focused enclosure built on the existing P600S chassis and, as such, it differs from our usual case reviews in much the same way that the O11 Dynamic XL review did. Incidentally, the Phanteks reviewer’s guide suggests that this case is intended to directly compete with the XL, as well as Fractal’s Define 7 XL, be quiet!’s Dark Base Pro 900, and Corsair’s Obsidian Series 1000D. Today, we’ll be discussing the airflow and some unusual features of the Enthoo Pro 2, including our first hands-on testing of Phanteks’ self-dubbed “High Performance Fabric.”
Today is a round-up of the best airflow-focused cases currently out, which can also be tuned to be good acoustic performers by nature of unrestricted intakes. Over all the years that we’ve been doing case reviews, we’ve advocated for high airflow designs. That generally implies lots of mesh and lots of fans, like the classic Cooler Master HAF cases that adopted “high airflow” as a brand name. As those cases aged and optical drives fell out of favor, front panel designs became increasingly clean and minimalistic, and therefore increasingly closed-off. Now the tide has turned again, and in 2020, we have more airflow cases than we know what to do with. Today, we’ll be covering some of our top choices--this isn’t our yearly best-and-worst cases roundup, it’s just a selection of airflow-focused cases with good value. We have almost 300 rows of test data multiplied across about 7 sheets, so although we’ll be limiting ourselves to cases we’ve reviewed, that’s still a big list. As always, let us know if there’s another case we should check out in the comments below.
The Lian Li Lancool II Mesh is a revision of the original Lancool II, which we reviewed in December of last year. For the most part, the Mesh is a simple panel swap, so the build notes from that earlier coverage still apply. We first saw the prototype Mesh edition during our tour of Lian Li’s Taiwanese factories earlier this year, and the updates we discussed back then have made their way to the final product. We’ll mostly limit this build section to differences from the original case.
As a reminder, the Lancool II is a chassis that already exists and was already reviewed, but this mesh version makes significant changes to the exterior paneling. For these reasons, we won’t fully recap our build quality thoughts from the original review, but we will go back over what has been addressed by Lian Li. This means that, for the complete picture, you should also check our original Lancool II review.
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