Mid-Tower Round-Up: Antec, Corsair, NZXT, Thermaltake

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Installation Comparison

Although you aren’t elbow-deep in your case every day installing and replacing components, the ease of installation (or lack thereof) is a serious consideration when you’re laying down your hard-earned cash for a case. Here's what we found with the cases in our roundup.

Overall, installing components in the Antec Eleven Hundred is a breeze. There’s plenty of space to work inside, there is a plethora of cable tie mounts on the back for cable routing, and the grommets are sizable and numerous.


Antec Eleven Hundred Installation

There were a few details we weren’t thrilled with, though. The fan connector up in the corner of the case is hard to get to, and it’s right in the way of the 8-pin connector and a CPU fan header. Speaking of the 8-pin connector, there isn’t a way to rout it behind the motherboard tray without a cable extender, which was not included. The rubber rings lining the grommets had a tendency to pop out too easily, which is annoying.

We also wish there was a little more space around back, but we found that the 3.5-inch drive bay was a handy space to stash excess cables. One facet of the Eleven Hundred that Antec nailed is that there’s plenty of room for large graphics cards without infringing on the hard drive space.

Our two Corsair cases have identical interiors with the sole exceptions being that the 500R’s 3.5-inch hard drive bay is split into two 3-tray bays (both of which are removable), and that you can access the interior of the 500R through the fan openings at the top of the case. Unless, of course, you install fans there. Thus, a discussion about one case is a discussion about both.

Corsair 400R and 500R Installation

There’s ample room in which to work inside these cases, they have sturdy rubber grommets and they accommodate large graphics cards. The 500R can also handle the largest cards with ease, as one can simply remove one of the two drive cages to make room. You can also pop one out and stash excess cable in its place.

Other cases in our roundup have more mounts for tying cables, and it seems as though the limited space around back could use more. However, due to the bump-out in the side panel, there’s actually plenty of room for cabling. You can be downright sloppy if you want and still easily fit the side panel on.

Another knock on these cases is, as we previously mentioned, the recessed motherboard tray. Sure, it allows for more clearance for CPU coolers and some slightly improved airflow, but it blocked off the bottom row of our motherboard’s SATA ports. On the whole though, the Corsair Carbide 400R and 500R are very easy to work with and provide installations that are neat as a pin.

Interior workspace is at a premium in the NZXT Source 220. The chassis is small compared to the other cases in our roundup, and no amount of clever engineering can make up for that lost space.

NZXT Source 220 Installation
There are other, more specific criticisms we encountered while installing our components. One is the aforementioned issue with our CPU backplate not fitting into the motherboard tray cutout, forcing us to install the CPU cooler before mounting the motherboard in the case; along that same line, the motherboard halfway covered up the grommets (which, incidentally, were not rubber-lined). However, cable routing was sufficiently easy because you can run all sorts of cables around the motherboard tray, using the giant opening behind the drive bays.

There also isn’t much space for cabling behind the motherboard tray, and because of the layout of the fan connectors, you’ll most likely to be forced to use some zip ties whether you want to or not.

Other more minor details are that there are no thumbscrews for the expansion slot covers, there’s no way to route the 8-pin connector around the back without an extender (as is the case with the Eleven Hundred), and although the Source 220 can accommodate large graphics cards, any reasonably large one blocks some of the 3.5-inch drive slots.

The bottom line is that there just isn’t a lot of space to work with inside the Source 220, so you really have to think hard and plan ahead when installing your components and routing cables. You can get the job done, to be sure, but there aren’t many elegant solutions to be had for some of these problems.

Speaking of interior space, the Thermaltake Chaser MK-I has an abundance of it; you almost feel like you can set a beverage down in there while you’re installing components. Of course, with great space comes great responsibility, so Thermaltake mercifully included an 8-pin cable extender with the Chaser MK-I, allowing you to route that cable around the back of the motherboard tray.

Thermaltake Chaser MK-I Installation

For as spacious as the interior is, the back space is somewhat limited; there are ample means of routing your cables and lots of horizontal area in which to do it, but just the chunky cable end on our 24-pin connector filled the available depth.

Other than the above, the Chaser MK-I is a joy to work with. Everything is tool-less, there’s tons of space to work in, and there are no tight little corners to deal with.

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