Casings Guide

Budget Casing Shootout - Affordable PC Housing

Budget Casing Shootout - Affordable PC Housing


Conclusion

Deciding a Winner

Before declaring a victor, let's summarize our findings thus far.

The subject of looks is subjective - as they say, "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder". However, kudos must be given to NZXT for making the M-59 look the way it is. Its radical exterior design is a breath of fresh air amongst the other casings, most of which are plain, squarish and dull. But the real deal-breaker for us is that the NZXT M-59 looks and feels more expensive than the S$109 asking price that it commands, and that's something that is not easy to achieve in this price bracket.

When it comes to internal layout and ventilation matters, the NZXT M-59 is our pick. Admittedly, it's not the biggest of casings, seeing that it is a little cramped after fitting in a Radeon HD 5870 graphics card - the Gigabyte Luxo M1000 and Antec Two Hundred are much more spacious in that aspect - but doing so only sacrifices a FDD bay as opposed to a HDD bay on other casings. And if you ask us, most users would gladly lose a FDD bay than a HDD bay.

Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, and to be honest, the mid tower casings here are all a tad too small to accommodate a graphics card as large as the Radeon HD 5870. Let's not also forget the older generation cards, most of which have their power connectors positioned at the sides, as this effectively increases the length of the card. What we are saying is that large graphics cards will fit these casings, but you'll have to work your way around or at least sacrifice some drive bays.

That aside, the NZXT M-59 also comes with rear and side exhaust fans and can even accommodate up to another three fans. This should be sufficient for keeping most setups cool.

As for ease of installation, the Cooler Master Centurion 5 II was clearly the easiest to work with. Most installations can be done without the need of any tools, and the implementation of the tool-free design is practical and works as it should. The NZXT M-59 and Ikonik EN2-WB come in a close second.

Budget Casings Rating Breakdown
Ratings / Casings Antec Two Hundred Cooler Master Centurion 5 II Gigabyte Luxo M1000 Ikonik EN2-WB NZXT M-59 Thermaltake WingRS 301
Aesthetics  8.5  8.0  7.5 7.5  9.0  7.5
Functionality
(Front IO, Rear Panel & Internal Layout)
 8.0  8.0  7.5 8.5  9.0  7.0
Usability
(Ease of Installation)
 7.0  9.0  7.0 8.5  8.5  7.5
Value  7.5  9.0  6.5 9.5  9.0 7.0
Price S$99 S$95 S$79 S$79 S$109 ~S$100 (US$60)
Overall 7.5 8.0 7.0 8.5 9.0 7.0

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, our pick of the lot is the NZXT M-59. Not only does it look special, it is also an easy to use casing with sufficient space for today's high-end components (if you squeeze a little). Build quality is commendable; and the option to add on additional cooling fans or even take the liquid cooling route shows that NZXT designed the M-59 with enthusiasts in mind. Sure, the M-59 might be the most expensive casing here, but its features and its outstanding build quality makes it feel as if it costs more than its S$109 asking price.

The Ikonik EN2-WB is the best value buy of the group and comes in at a close second in overall standings. The model we have here is the EN2-WB variant, which comes with a window pane at the side panel and is slightly more expensive at S$79. The standard model, which does away with the window pane can be had for a mere S$69. Despite the affordable price, the Ikonik EN2 displayed good build quality, was adequately large, and easy to install. Our only gripe is that it comes with only a single rear exhaust fan.

The Cooler Master Centurion 5 II was tops for ease of use and ventilation options are also decent. And with a suggested retail price of S$95, it is also reasonably priced and good value for money. Unfortunately, it falls short due to lack of space - the insides were really cramped with a large Radeon HD 5870 in place. If the casing were a little deeper, it could have easily snatched back second place from the Ikonik EN2.

The Antec Two Hundred is one of the larger casings in our roundup and its motherboard tray area was large enough to easily fit a Radeon HD 5870 without any issues. It also gains points for its ventilation system - it comes pre-fitted with two exhaust fans that can be adjusted for speed, and users have the option to add another three more. However, it lets us down for installation aspects as every component had to be screwed in place. It's not going to kill you, but considering the tool-free designs implemented by NZXT, Cooler Master, Ikonik and Thermaltake, it does make the Antec look shabby.

At S$79, the Gigabyte Luxo M1000 might be cheap, but you also don't get much for your money. For one, the panels are very thin, making the casing feel noticeably flimsier than the competition. It also doesn't look very special, and inside, you'll find yourself having to screw on every component just like the Antec Two Hundred. Its saving grace is that it is the largest casing internally, so you'll be able to fit large graphics cards with ease.

We had mixed reactions about the Thermaltake WingRS 301. While its tool-free design made it extremely easy to install optical drives and hard drives, we didn't like that the PSU bay was located at the top. Having the PSU installed at the top of the casing raises a system's center of gravity and amplifies vibrations made from the PSU. That aside, we were also not too pleased about its build quality, seeing how the expansion slots isn't flush with our graphics card.

In closing, we must also say that we're pleasantly surprised at how far budget, entry-level casings have come. In the past, features like cut outs for easy CPU cooler installation and tool-less HDD installation racks could only be found on the high tier casings, but this is no longer the case. All of the casings here had cut outs in their motherboard trays and more than half had some form of a tool-less installation design, which is really quite impressive given their humble price tags.

Final Ratings