Cases & PSUs
ThermalTake Wing RS 100 Black Mid-Tower - $40
The Wing RS 100 is a nice mid-sized case from one of the biggest players in the computer case game: ThermalTake.
While we would loved to have suggested the ThermalTake Armor or even Bach, they were just a bit out of the price range for a budget box. Still, the Wing RS 100 is chock full of ThermalTake goodness such as the gorgeous shiny piano black exterior to the dual 120 mm fans. The list of features don't stop there though, there is a vent on the side panel and the front instrument cluster has everything you'd need including a FireWire punch out.
GigaByte 3D Aurora 570 Mid Tower - $130
The roomy Gigabyte 3D Aurora 570 comes in 2 colors, black and silver. We like this case for its sleek, curved aluminum skin and excellent cooling capabilities, which includes built-in accommodations for water cooling kits.
The Aurora sports three 120 mm fans, all of which are lit with blue LEDs, though you can always change those colors if you like, and a myriad of internal and external drive bays. There's also a large window on the side of the case to show off all your high-tech components inside which can be swapped out for a mesh vent. One of the coolest features of the 3D Aurora is a light that projects downward at the front of the case. Out of the box, the words "3D Aurora" are projected on the floor in front of the case, but an included insert can be modified to project whatever message you'd want. Cool indeed.
Cooler Master CM Stacker 830 Evo Silver Tower - $225
If we were building a serious rig, we think we'd have to go with the Cooler Master CM Stacker 380 Evo. It's huge, the kind of huge where pictures just don't do it justice. Although the excellent CM Cosmos would definitely be in the running.
This baby has nine exposed 5.25” drive bays and a single exposed 3.25” drive bay, but also keeps 4 others hidden. If that's not enough drive capacity for you, you can get modules that take a trio of the 5.25” drive bays and turn each block of three into four 3.25” drive bays that come with their own 120 mm cooler. There are very few cases that can compete with the CM Stacker 830 Evo in terms of expandability.
Okay, so this beast has storage down pat, but what about cooling? Well, it comes with a top-mounted 120mm fan, a rear 120mm fan, and the side can house an additional 4 fans ranging from 60mm to 120mm - or you can put a gigantic 300mm fan in the same space. And also note that the front can accommodate up to three 120mm fans via the drive mounting kits, which don't necessarily have to be populated in order to be installed.
The case supports E-ATX, ATX, m-ATX, m-BTX, BTX, and (we don't know why you'd do this) Pico-PTX motherboards. It has a front mounted control panel at the very top of the case with four USB 2.0 connectors, a FireWire connector, and audio in/out jacks.
Now that we've talked about cases, let's talk about Power Supply Units or PSUs. These are the unsung heroes of the computer world, and we'd be remiss if we didn't give you a few suggestions. Before going on, let us remind you that all of those components you bought are worthless without the right power supply behind them. A sub-par PSU could potentially damage your other components and / or lead to erratic system behavior.
ThermalTake TR2 430 Watt PSU - $30
If you are building a budget rig, then we suggest you go with another ThermalTake product, the TR2 W0070RUC 430 Watt PSU.
We've mentioned ThermalTake's reputation for making quality components, and their PSUs are certainly no exception. 430 Watts is probably the lowest power rating you want to go with, and we can only recommend doing this with a non-overclocked rig featuring relatively low-end parts.
We cannot stress enough the value of a good PSU; if you go with a no-name brand or a lower power rating, you could very well be asking for trouble.
If you want more power, you have to pay for it, but luckily it won't cost that much more.
Cooler Master eXtreme Power 650 Watt PSU - $85
For those with a mid-range rig, we suggest the Cooler Master eXtreme Power 650 Watt PSU. It has excellent cooling and power characteristics and should handle all but the most demanding loads.
The eXtreme Power has dual 12V rails which is exactly what you need if you're going to get a decent video card setup. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of a WoW raid and having your system brown out. On top of all of that, this PSU has a fan that will automatically adjust from whisper quiet to nearly 20 dBA to keep the heat down.
What more can we say that hasn't been said? This is PSU even good enough to push some high-end rigs in our opinion. But if we were building a high-end rig, we think we'd go with the following PSU just to be on the safe side.
Ultra X3 1 Kilowatt PSU - $200
If you're building an all-out power rig, then you'll need all the power you can get. There are a few PSUs out there with more than 1 Kilowatt of output, and to be honest, if you really need that kind of power, we're sure you already know which one you need. Besides, anything over 1000 Watts starts getting incredibly pricey in a hurry. We're building a power-rig, not trying to spend your nest-egg.
For the bulk of us, the X3 is more than enough to handle anything we could throw at it. We reviewed one of these barely a month ago, and we were impressed with the lifetime warranty and modular design not to mention how quiet it was, despite its hefty output.
The flexible cables were certainly a plus and will make your life a lot easier when it comes time to tie them up inside your case.
Perhaps the best thing about this PSU is that it virtually guarantees you'll receive a holiday card from your local power company next year.