If you love building computers, you probably appreciate a good case or chassis. While there are plenty of excellent products available for a song, there’s also an upper echelon of models that cost quite a bit and offer all the premiere features you could hope for. While it seems as though there’s a lot of similarity between low-end and midrange cases, once you get to a certain price point, various companies take things in very different directions. The three premium chassis we’re looking at in this roundup certainly bear that out.
In Win, Lian Li, and SilverStone all make some beautiful cases. And when we asked them to send us one of their top of the line products, they all responded in kind: In Win with the unique H-Frame, Lian Li with the tall, all-black PC-X2000FN
, and Silverstone with the Fortress FT02
. (Regular readers will remember the H-Frame as a CES 2013
darling that overshadowed its less sexy but still interesting younger brother, the D-Frame.)
We dug in with these cases to evaluate their design, construction quality, and features, as well as the experience of installing and managing a build within each. And of course, we put them through some thermal tests to compare their cooling capabilities.
Each chassis had something unique to offer, but all three shared at least two things in common: They’re all tasty eye candy that sport steep sticker prices, and they’ll all make you wish you owned one. Let’s get cracking.
In Win H-Frame
In Win’s H-Frame case is a traffic-stopper. Not only is the silver, blue, and gold color scheme sharp and eye-catching, the thing looks like slices of a spaceship with its parallel, metal plate design. In Win’s concept here was essentially to build a case that is itself a giant passive heatsink
There’s more than ample space for air to pass between the eleven metal plates (we’re counting the side panels) to begin with, but the all-metal construction is also designed to wick away heat. In Win is so confident of the H-Frame’s ability to cool its components that the chassis doesn’t ship with any fans at all. If you decide that you do want some wind power, however, there are two 120mm fan mounts in the H-Frame, one on the front of the chassis and one in the rear.
Despite all of the metal--and we do mean all, for there is not a trace of anything but metal on this thing--the H-Frame is surprisingly light. However, it also seems rather small for such a high-end product; for example, our (large) CPU cooler didn’t clear the side panels, and made slight contact, which would bend the panels out over time. We also had a rough time getting our PSU mounted. There was nowhere to route the 8-pin PSU connector that our MSI motherboard requires either, other than through the interior of the case and across all the components, which is a minor but somewhat odd oversight. More room behind the motherboard
try would be appreciated.
For that matter, as you can see in the photos, there are a lot of cables inside; the H-Frame comes loaded with its own, including for SATA power and data cables, so unless you have a modular PSU, you’re going to be stuck with a mess of cabling that you can’t do much with other than zip tie them together in something resembling order. That said, the reason that the SATA cables are included is because all three HDD trays have SATA
mounts, so you can just slip a drive into the tray and pop it back, and it will be connected. (In Win calls them “EZ Swap Modules”, but we just call them convenient.)
Despite the H-Frame having three 3.5-inch HDD trays (including one with a 2.5-inch converter bracket) and a dedicated 2.5-inch tray, there’s only one 5.25-inch drive tray. There are also 7 expansion slot locations, which is adequate.