There is currently a very wide selection of midrange system cases for building rather advanced computers. Quite a number of such products that claim to have an optimal price/functionality ratio have already been tested in our labs but there are still others we haven't covered yet. For our today's review we've selected three system cases that sell without power supplies and are all available for less than $150.
The Thermaltake Element G features compact dimensions but good expandability options, a large number of preinstalled fans, and manual regulation of the speed and highlighting of those fans.
The AeroCool XPredator is huge, supports XL-ATX mainboards and USB 3.0, and offers two regulators to control up to six fans.
The Cooler Master HAF 922 features excellent cooling and a roomy interior. It has become more affordable since its release and can make a worthy opponent to the newer products.
Thermaltake Element G
This system case has the typical exterior design of midrange products: black surfaces, a fine mesh front panel, a bottom PSU compartment, and large fans.
It has a couple of distinguishing features, though. For example, the Element G has only three external 5.25-inch bays whereas typical mid-tower system cases have four.
Thanks to that, the Element G has as many as seven internal 3.5-inch bays, which should make up for the lack of one external 5.25-inch one. It means you can pack a lot of hard disks into this system case or, if you’ve got up to four HDDs, provide better cooling for them by installing them alternately with empty bays. It would be harder to make four 5.25-inch bays useful. One is usually reserved for an optical drive and another, for a card-reader (via an adapter). And then, it's hard to find a purpose even for a third 5.25-inch bay, let alone a fourth one.
A 3.5”-5.25” adapter is included into the kit. It supports not only 3.5-inch but also 2.5-inch devices.
Except for the rear panel, the external metallic surfaces have a rough powder coating. The coating is scratch and stain resistant.
The Element G is evidently meant to stand on the floor or in a desk niche. Its connectors and buttons are located on the slanting top of the front panel, suggesting that you reach for them from above. The connectors are grouped rather conveniently but eSATA and FireWire are missing to make them a complete set. We’ve got only four USB 2.0 ports and microphone and headphone connectors here.
To the left of the USB ports and audio connectors there is a fan controller knob. You can turn it to change the speed of the fans or press it to switch between the six highlighting modes:
- Constant blue light
- Constant green light
- Constant red light
- Rotating lights with changing colors
- Mixed highlighting
- No highlighting
For all this freedom of choice, we found the red highlighting the most pleasing. It matches the red plastic elements of the side panels and the amber HDD indicator but doesn't go quite well with the bright blue indicator of the Power button. The blue highlighting is the opposite of the red one and only matches the Power button whereas the green highlighting doesn't match any elements of the system case at all.
The rotating highlight is rather tiresome whereas the mixed mode is exciting but also distracting.
We can spot a few manifestly cheap details in the design of the system case that don’t match its market positioning such as the single-use brackets (except for the top expansion-slot bracket) and the plain feet made of robust plastic. Even the openings for the pipes of a liquid cooling system, which are an almost obligatory feature of any midrange system case today, have to be torn open and lack the rubber rims that we find in most other products.