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Is there such a thing as the perfect PC case?

Posted on 19th Jun 2009 at 10:53 by Antony Leather with 30 comments

Antony Leather
What would your perfect case look like? It's a question I've been pondering ever since I got into water-cooling. I’ve tended to scrutinise every new case I see in terms of how much room there is for pumps, reservoirs and more importantly, radiators. If there wasn’t a viable location for a radiator - for example where two 120mm fans are placed together or a panel big enough for a section to be cut out for a radiator - then I'd lose interest straight away.

My viewpoint has changed somewhat now that I’m reviewing all kinds of cases and with good reason - not every one of our readers is into liquid cooling. Besides, good air cooling is a must in any case, even if you're water-cooling, as you still need to maintain a good degree of airflow to cool hardware such as hard disk drives and hot spots on the motherboard.

Add to this the fact that such a small amount of people think about water-cooling their PC's and it's a surprise that we end up with cases like the Silvertsone TJ-07 or Lian Li V2000 series at all. In fact tests that we at Custom PC carried out last year in our case labs test showed that out of the box, the TJ-07 is less adept at keeping your PC cool than, say, the Antec Twelve Hundred.

Is there such a thing as the perfect PC case? Is there such a thing as the perfect case?
The Silverstone TJ-07 is one of the best cases for water-cooling

Surely there must be a way to design a case with the same awesome air cooling of the Antec Twelve Hundred but that could also rival the TJ-07s and V2000s of this world in terms of space for water-cooling? I thought I'd found it in the Mountain Mods Pinnacle 24. It can accomodate a quad 120mm rad in the roof and a triple 120mm rad in the front without modding but with so many fan slots (another two 120mm fans are at the rear) it could also keep a high end air cooled PC nice and chilly.

Is there such a thing as the perfect PC case? Is there such a thing as the perfect case?
The Mountain Mods Pinnacle 24

Unfortunately, the lack of features compared to a 'normal' case meant it can be quite ungainly to work with. Lack of 5.25in bays was a major issue too and I've since found the distance between them and the motherboard tray was so great that many cables simply didn't reach.

In addition, it lacked a feature the TJ-07 and V2000 have, which is to have a single compartment for the radiators - if this is present, then cool air can be drawn in and expelled straight out of the case which is ideal for maximum cooling.

Is there such a thing as the perfect PC case? Is there such a thing as the perfect case?
The Lian Li V2000 is large but unlike the Pinnacle 24, it has plenty of features you'd expect from a PC case.

I've recently acquired a second-hand Lian Li V2000 which I hope should allow me to make use of both of my 360mm radiators in a similar design to disruptfam's case over at the Xtremesystems forums (shown above).

However something else caught my eye while I was there. A user called Mick64 uploaded some case renders of a design he's been working on. The first thing I noticed is that it has not one but two of the compartments I spoke about earlier each with a dedicated mount for a radiator. There appear to be a healthy five external 5.25in bays and four internal 3.5in bays too.

Is there such a thing as the perfect PC case? Is there such a thing as the perfect case?

Is there such a thing as the perfect PC case? Is there such a thing as the perfect case?

Is there such a thing as the perfect PC case? Is there such a thing as the perfect case?

The design is intriguing to say the least and very reminiscent of the TJ-07, although despite what appears to be a fairly potent 200mm fan in the front, the only exhaust is a single 120mm fan which I don't consider to be enough. Of course from a water-cooling point of view, the case is uber, but bearing in mind my original quest for a case that combined the best of both worlds, it's a case with real potential rather than being the finished article.

It may never see the light of day of course but just when we though the limits of case design had all but been reached something like this pops up! There's clearly some significant improvements that can be made to modern case design. The question is, which company will be the one to get it right?

30 Comments

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Skiddywinks 19th June 2009, 11:59 Quote
Haha, I was thinking something exactly along these lines the last few days. Hell, this could have even been my blog post.

I was also looking around for cases that beat my Cosmos S in terms of water cooling capability. Even though you can get more into a V2000 or TJ-07, I personally think they look ugly (or at least not as pretty as the Cosmos S), and the having to mod the case puts me off (since i have never done it, and would hate to start on a case like that!).

Every case I have seen has always been a minimal upgrade at best from my Cosmos S, in terms of the overall picture and not just water cooling. Push come to shove, I can get another two 120mm rads in this, for (say) the NB, MOSFETs and SB, and have them on a seperate loop to my current CPU (Q9550) and VGA (4870X2) loop. I can't see how anyone would really want much more cooling capability, unless they had two 4870X2s or GTX 295's I suppose.

After seeing those renders though, I think we may be on to a winner.

Speaking of your desires for good airflow as well as water cooling capability, one of the benefits of a radiator that is no compartmentalised, is that it also acts as an exhaust . The triple rad on my Cosmos S exhausts air out of the top, and with a 120mm exhaust fan at the back, a 120mm intake on the front (HDD cage) and a 200mm intake on the side, it gets plenty of cool air that no longer has to transfer heat from anything worth mentioning. The water blocks take the heat, making the air inside the case cooler, which also benefits the radiator since the air it is using is only very slightly warmer than ambient.
Combatus 19th June 2009, 12:14 Quote
Yeah pretty impressive aren't they? I thought they were real at first and I was like OMG! Where can I buy this case!!!

Cosmos S is a great case for looks and water-cooling potential. Thermochill's rads will fit it now too with their new 15mm fan spacing!
phuzz 19th June 2009, 12:25 Quote
At the moment i'm looking for a case with the PSU at the bottom, and enough space for a double 120mm rad in the top, but either there's not enough vertical space for a rad and fans, or the few where there is space are over £200.
ah well, the search goes on....

(my current case is a CM Centurion that I won on a competition on here, so thanks for that Bit-Tech!)
Skiddywinks 19th June 2009, 12:42 Quote
Well the Cosmos S has room for a triple 120mm rad in the top, with the fans on either (or both) sides. Obviously, I opted for both. Push-pull ftw!

PSU is also in the bottom.

It is not much cheaper than £200, costing £150 at dabs.com, but it is not a bad price at all for what you get.
thEcat 19th June 2009, 13:32 Quote
Mick64's renders are an excellent exercise in the design of a case custom made for water cooling. With a fully configured loop something like 90% of the full system heat load is exhausted by psu + rads, leaving only a few 10s of watts in the central section, easily dealt with by the 200mm and 120mm fans especially when the mb tray is rotated 180 degrees..

On a personal note, I don't like rads mounted in the base, on a more general level, the case is big. Still, it's one of the best wc cases I've seen.
TGImages 19th June 2009, 14:03 Quote
My list also includes tool-less design as much as possible, space to work in it but not so large that it could literally be part of your desk and going that extra step (i.e. no sharp edges or other sloppy manufacturing).
Combatus 19th June 2009, 14:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TGImages
My list also includes tool-less design as much as possible, space to work in it but not so large that it could literally be part of your desk and going that extra step (i.e. no sharp edges or other sloppy manufacturing).

Yeah good point, it's little things like tool-less design that make a huge difference, especially if you're regularly swapping things around which I'm sure most of us here are! That's something I've found to be a real pain with Mountain Mods cases. Everything needs hundreds of screws to be undone to remove it!
I-E-D 19th June 2009, 14:26 Quote
Well, every person has their perfect case, some like size, some like cooling, some like accessories. The list goes on.

I think everyone should either make their own cases, or design a case (like the one pictured), and they send it to a company, who makes it for you, using your specs, the materials you want.
alecamused 19th June 2009, 17:59 Quote
I bought the Cosmos S about a year ago and hoped it would be the perfect case for me, but I'm not 100% happy with it. Now i have smiliar high hopes for the soon to be released Corsair Obsidian.
Ironpipe 19th June 2009, 18:04 Quote
I have no problem fitting a radiator with 2x240mm fans, pump and quick disconnect cooling to CPU, Video Card and Memory with the option of adding liquid cooling to hard drives completely enclosed in a Coolermaster Stacker 830. The only thing I did was to remove the 4x 120mm fan rack. The coolant never exceeds 30oC. while overclocking a E8600 3.33GHz to 4.25GHz as normal operation (can easily get more) and very stable. My only wish is that the case was 2.54cm wider. This is as close to a perfect case as you will ever get if you intend to use an efficient self build liquid cool system instead of the typical Mickey Mouse system or the not so efficient hugh clumsy over kill cooling ones. I don’t why, but I think Coolermaster has discounted the case.
Elton 19th June 2009, 19:57 Quote
So far the best Air Cases, are the P183(weird huh?), HAF 932, and maybe the Stacker 830 with the fan filled side panel.

Perfect in features, the ATCS 840(for the price it's okay), the best is still the Lian Li PC-P80.
Horizon 19th June 2009, 20:59 Quote
Short answer, yes. But my perfect is not your perfect.
naokaji 19th June 2009, 23:06 Quote
There are exactly two cases (one of them has not entered production yet) that I would consider perfect, the Lian Li Tyr 500 for Aircooling and the Mick64 Case for Watercooling.
Combatus 20th June 2009, 01:30 Quote
Agree with the Mick64 case, the TYR X500 isn't as good as you may think. In fact we found it to be pretty shocking in CPC Issue 63!
Rkiver 20th June 2009, 03:06 Quote
I would love a case like the one Mick64 was working on. That'd be damn near perfect in all honesty. I have a Comos S, I love it, but that case design....ooooooooh. Want.
yodasarmpit 20th June 2009, 03:15 Quote
Is there such a thing as the perfect PC case?

No.

Unfortunately there's no such a thing as a case that suits all situations, the cases posted on the article are all well and fine for a computer room, with the intention of overclocking, however would be wholly unsuitable in the living room as an HTPC.
The_Beast 20th June 2009, 05:23 Quote
there are cases that come close but I doubt there will ever be a perfect case
tron 20th June 2009, 08:23 Quote
Is there such thing as a perfect case?

First, TBH, I disagree with Yodasarmpit that the cases posted are unsuitable for a living room. They are probably quieter than an XBOX 360. They also look nicer than the typical living room DVD players and AV units as well as the XBOX 360. Size doesn't matter, because we are no longer living in times where people expected to have AV equipment under their old CRT telly by default. Also, if you don't like the looks of your HTPC, you could put a HTPC almost anywhere in a living room with the use of extra long video cable. You could even have your PC conveniently right next to your sofa. Personally, I don't like to see anthing near the TV at all. When I go to the movies, I don't see AV equiment such as the amplifier with LED display sitting under the screen. It would be a distraction.

A 'perfect' case for me would have:

1) Large size for installation flexibilty and cooling.

2) Minimal looks. I don't really like asymmetrical designs or out-of-place curves and angles. It should be a simple minimal design comprising 12 straight symmetrical lines. Front mesh 'air intake' design on the whole entire front of case.

3) Ideal Colour: black.

4) Material: Aluminium for 'heat release through metal' cooling and light weight benefits.

5) Default option for massive array of hard drives. I don't understand case designs with multiple FIXED optical drive bays. The whole front should be modular and allow any desired arrangement of drives or multiple intake fans.

6) No air grills on top of case. I know the benefits of expelling air through the top. However, I know someone who had a friend with a drink in his hand accidentally spill water down into his PC via the top fans. In this type of situation, gravity alone will cause maximum water intake. The spinning fans are also sure to spray the drink all over the internal components.

Ideal case should be tall enough to have a 2 or 3 fan radiator at the rear of the case.

7) Tool-less design.
Cheapskate 20th June 2009, 17:42 Quote
8) Modular. pop the faceplate and tack an extra compartment to the front, then put the face on it, etc...
Rocket_Knight64 20th June 2009, 20:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Horizon
Short answer, yes. But my perfect is not your perfect.

This TBH. There are alot of cases out there that have some very nifty design ideas or features but then have an epic failing elsewhere depending on your needs. And this is before you even take exterior look into account *cough*Antec*cough*.

I dont think there can be a case for both ultimate air and water cooling (that is size optimised). Take the up coming Silverstone Fortress FT02 thats based on a much better design of the Raven. It looks to be quiet air cooling powerhouse (hopefully) but has no provision for water.

As nice as that render is, I dont think it offers a lot more then a TJ07 all told.
D-Cyph3r 21st June 2009, 19:51 Quote
There'll never be a "perfect" case, too many people have different preferences and needs. Personally a Lian Li, a dremel or laser cutter and some imagination is my idea of perfection, you dont need a huge case to cram in a large radiator:

http://i374.photobucket.com/albums/oo187/D-Cyph3r/Viridis/viridis2.jpg


I've tried cases specifically designed for watercooling (Cosmos S and Mountain Mods) and yes, while they were very easy to work with it's just doesn't feel like proper watercooling to me unless you have to spend hours with a tape measure, stripping a case down to it's bare chassis and spilling blood in the name of modding.
Ironpipe 22nd June 2009, 02:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by D-Cyph3r
There'll never be a "perfect" case, too many people have different preferences and needs. Personally a Lian Li, a dremel or laser cutter and some imagination is my idea of perfection, you dont need a huge case to cram in a large radiator:

http://i374.photobucket.com/albums/oo187/D-Cyph3r/Viridis/viridis2.jpg


I've tried cases specifically designed for watercooling (Cosmos S and Mountain Mods) and yes, while they were very easy to work with it's just doesn't feel like proper watercooling to me unless you have to spend hours with a tape measure, stripping a case down to it's bare chassis and spilling blood in the name of modding.

I have no problem fitting a radiator with 2x240mm fans, pump and quick disconnect cooling to CPU, Video Card and Memory with the option of adding liquid cooling to hard drives completely enclosed in a Coolermaster Stacker 830. The only thing I did was to remove the 4x 120mm fan rack. The coolant never exceeds 30oC. while overclocking a E8600 3.33GHz to 4.25GHz as normal operation (can easily get more) and very stable. My only wish is that the case was 2.54cm wider. This is as close to a perfect case as you will ever get if you intend to use an efficient self build liquid cool system instead of the typical Mickey Mouse system or the not so efficient hugh clumsy over kill cooling ones. I don’t why, but I think Coolermaster has discounted the case.
Ironpipe 22nd June 2009, 02:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by D-Cyph3r
There'll never be a "perfect" case, too many people have different preferences and needs. Personally a Lian Li, a dremel or laser cutter and some imagination is my idea of perfection, you dont need a huge case to cram in a large radiator:

http://i374.photobucket.com/albums/oo187/D-Cyph3r/Viridis/viridis2.jpg


I've tried cases specifically designed for watercooling (Cosmos S and Mountain Mods) and yes, while they were very easy to work with it's just doesn't feel like proper watercooling to me unless you have to spend hours with a tape measure, stripping a case down to it's bare chassis and spilling blood in the name of modding.

Ck out ironpipe post on 6/19
liratheal 22nd June 2009, 09:35 Quote
Yes.

Lian Li make them.

In reality? Depends on the person.

For your average person/family - Dell (change that with whichever prebuild you like) make perfect cases. Same for your average business.

For us, most of the time, the answer is going to be no (I'd say Lian Li make perfect cases, but..). Fortunately for us, though, some genius invented dremels, drills, lathes, spray guns, aerosols etc.
yakyb 22nd June 2009, 12:17 Quote
i still think the yeong yang server cube is up there sadly you dont see it much
http://www.virtual-hideout.net/reviews/yeong_yang_cube_server_case/index2.shtml
looking at the old review from 2003 i still want this case but there are a few internal improovements that could be made. such as tighter packing of HDDS for one

wow just found these guys ship to the uk
http://www.beiz.de/beizshop/catalog/product_info.php/products_id/118

p.s.
also for data storage the norco 4020 is near perfect
craigbru 22nd June 2009, 21:10 Quote
The perfect case doesn't exist, and will never arrive... at least I hope it doesn't. I look at things from a modders perspective, and I know such a thing would take all the fun out of my hobby. It'd be like riding a bike with training wheels, playing a FPS in 'God' mode, or buying a Mac... ;-)
pizan 23rd June 2009, 17:28 Quote
If you liked the MM Pinacle 24 but thought it was too long, there is the Pinacle 18 which is 6 in shorter
NethLyn 23rd June 2009, 18:27 Quote
If you discovered the perfect case and it never changed, you'd never bother reviewing them again, why do modders go out and mod another one that's different from before? Variety and challenge.

Longevity is my demand from a case now that I've outgrown three of them and the old ones sit around like spare parts - I suppose they could get me into modding if I was ever interested but I'd need to cut 120mm fan fittings into them for modern cooling demands, for a start!
Jipa 28th June 2009, 14:39 Quote
After going through 20-some cases, I'm yet to find a perfect one. Sure it comes down to ones needs, so I'm just talking for myself. So far I've used P180B the most. Anyway there are still lots of details I'd do different, so it's by no means perfect :(

I guess the best way will always be to build the case yourself. It's very unlikely to still be perfect, but you can get pretty darn close with enough money and skills.

Oh and about the TJ07. While I like the look of that thing, it's just too big for my liking. And NO, I don't run a CD/DVD-factory, so why the hell should I want 7 5,25" drive bays? (BTW the same goes with MANY cases out there). Also Size and ease of access aren't the same thing, and I get chills when people buy huge full tower cases for a basic matx-board with a single optical drive and HDD.
D-Cyph3r 28th June 2009, 21:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jipa
Oh and about the TJ07. While I like the look of that thing, it's just too big for my liking. And NO, I don't run a CD/DVD-factory, so why the hell should I want 7 5,25" drive bays?


Because 90% of people who buy a TJ07 stick a whacking great big radiator in the bottom. When you have a DVD drive, fan controller, RAID array and a reservoir or 2 suddenly 7 bays seems a little limiting. :P
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