Case In Point: Searching For the Perfect Mid-Tower

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NZXT Panzerbox and Antec Two Hundred

NZXT Panzerbox
NZXT Panzerbox is a sort of hybrid between small form factor, micro-ATX only cases and a full mid-tower design. NZXT managed to shrink the height a bit by making it wider and mounting the power supply above the expansion slots on the motherboard. This makes working inside the case a bit tricky, and the removable motherboard tray only mitigates this problem somewhat, since you can’t slide the tray out if a full height graphics card is installed.

The case is mostly aluminum, and the fit and finish is solid. The hard drive slots are bifurcated into two different locations, which face different directions, so you’ll need to route power and SATA cables carefully.

Once you get used to the idea of the PSU living above the motherboard, it’s actually fairly easy to work inside, as long as you accept the premise that you’ll need to remove the PSU to change out any expansion cards. There’s a ton of cooling which is, alas, unfiltered, so you’ll need to blow dust out of the case more often than cases with filtered intakes. It’s also a touch on the noisy side. It’s not so much the fans, as the air being pulled through the perforated front bezel.

Still, the Panzerbox has a sort of squat, brutal charm, much like it’s namesake. I like the case better than I probably should, if this were a purely objective review. I’ve recommended this case to several people, all of whom have liked it, and it makes for a great secondary system case, but I probably wouldn’t build my primary system with it. Also, this is not an inexpensive case by any means – expect to pay around $110, which is a lot for a relatively small case, even if it does have a cool name.

Antec Two Hundred
In my mind, the Antec gaming cases have always been a mixed bag. The Nine Nundred, Twelve Hundred and Three Hundred all seemed to require endless numbers of screws. It’s as if the Antec designers have never heard of tool-free designs.

The Two Hundred is their latest effort, and I have to confess to liking this case quite a bit. Part of the reason is its price: fifty bucks. In fact, I found this case at a local white box shop for $39.95. It’s a relatively Spartan design, as you might expect from the price, but has a solidity you don’t often associate with budget cases. The front bezel only offers power, reset, audio and two USB ports.

And it does have one interesting amenity: the exposed 3.5-inch bay isn’t for floppy drives. Instead, it’s a removable SATA bay, and you can just slide in a bare drive to nest with the power and data connectors inside the bay. It’s great for making backups onto a bare drive, then storing it somewhere else.

There’s also plenty of interior space, and this case will definitely accept a Radeon HD 5870 card, but you do have to install any hard drives so that they won’t block long graphics cards. And yes, you’ll need to use a lot of screws (though not so many as the original Antec Nine Hundred, thank the gods.) The case even has washable air filters. Another interesting feature is the cutout on the motherboard tray – which means you can install a CPU cooler requiring a backplate without removing the entire motherboard.

The case won’t win any awards for appearance; the spiderweb motif is a little cheesy looking, but at least it’s black-on-black. It’s also not particularly quiet. What really sets this case apart, though, is the combination of solid feel, good interior space and low cost. What’s not to like?

Final Thoughts
None of these cases are perfect, and they all have their charms and warts. If I were to pick any case to build my own production system with, it would be a toss-up between the Sileo 500 and the Antec Two Hundred. However, none of these cases are complete duds and, depending on your needs and tastes, any of them would be fine for building a decent gaming rig. Just watch out for those long graphics cards.

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