Let's face it: there's nothing nicer than a high-end PC enclosure. Today's offerings don't just give PCs personality. They also greatly simplify the building process, thanks to tool-less widgets, provisions for cable routing, easy-to-access storage bays, and roomy innards that leave plenty of space for comfortable component installation. One wouldn't dream of building a state-of-the-art gaming rig without a comparably state-of-the-art case.
We certainly love high-end enclosures here at TR. We've reviewed quite a number of them over the years, and a few of our favorites have earned prized spots in TR's System Guide—not to mention under our desks.
Not everyone has the budget for a top-of-the-line case, however. Folks with shallower pockets will understandably want to prioritize internal components like the processor and graphics card, which will usually mean housing those parts inside something cheap and cheerful. Sadly, getting an inexpensive case can involve ugly compromises, like being forced to block airflow with a mass of cables, having to screw in hard drives by hand, and maybe cutting your fingers on a sharp steel panel or two. Aesthetics and stealth are often sacrificed in the name of thrift, as well. In lower price rings, garish front bezels and loud fans abound.
It doesn't have to be that way. Today, we're going to look at a couple of cases from Corsair and Antec that bring high-end amenities to the budget space. Please join me in welcoming Corsair's Carbide Series 200R and Antec's Three Hundred Two.
These babies are both priced around the $70 mark. The Carbide Series 200R will set you back $59.99 before $9.99 shipping at Newegg, while the Three Hundred Two is available for $69.99 with free shipping. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
The 200R is the most recent arrival. It debuted late last month, earning the title of Corsair's most inexpensive enclosure ever. As we noted at the time, the 200R looks surprisingly upscale for the price. Especially on the inside, it doesn't seem all that different from Corsair's higher-priced offerings, like the Obsidian Series 650D. Naturally, Corsair has had to cut a few corners to reach the lower price point. We'll soon see which corners were cut and which weren't.
The Three Hundred Two came out a few months before the 200R. As its name suggests, this is a successor to Antec's hugely popular Three Hundred case, which has literally thousands of reviews on Newegg. Among the additions and refinements in the Three Hundred Two are USB 3.0 connectivity, sideways-facing hard drive bays, a tool-less drive mounting scheme, cable routing holes in the motherboard tray, and dedicated 2.5" bays for solid-state drives. That's an extensive list of improvements, and it makes the Three Hundred Two a fairly formidable competitor to the 200R.
Here's how the two contestants' specifications stack up:
|Corsair Carbide Series 200R||Antec Three Hundred Two|
|Dimensions (H x W x D)||16.9" x 8.3" x 19.6"||20.2" x 9" x 18.5"|
|Weight||13.4 lbs||15.3 lbs|
|Supported motherboards||ATX, microATX||ATX, microATX, Mini-ITX|
|3.5" drive bays||4||6|
|2.5" drive bays||4||2|
|5.25" drive bays||3||3|
|Included Fans||2 (120-mm front and rear)||2 (120-mm rear, 140-mm top)|
|Front panel I/O||2 x USB 3.0, headphone, mic||2 x USB 3.0, headphone, mic|
|Max. graphics card length||16.5"||12.5"|
|Max. CPU cooler height||7"||7"|
|Gap behind motherboard||0.71"||1.14"|
The Antec case is taller and wider, with more space behind the motherboard tray to tuck away cables. The Three Hundred Two also has more hard-drive bays, and Antec touts its support for Mini-ITX motherboards. Why you'd want to stick a tiny motherboard in a full-sized ATX case is another matter—but hey, if you're into that sort of thing, I'm not one to judge.
Meanwhile, the 200R is lighter and a little deeper, and it allows room for more fans, more solid-state drives, and longer graphics cards. The cooling arrangement is different, too. Both of the Three Hundred Two's bundled fans are exhausts by default (with one at the rear and one at the top), but the 200R has an intake fan at the front and an exhaust fan at the back. Antec's strategy may result in lower processor temperatures, but the Corsair design could minimize dust and cool other components, like the graphics card, a little better. We'll look at temperatures and noise levels in excruciating detail very soon.
By the way, sticking a Mini-ITX motherboard in the 200R isn't technically impossible, even if Corsair doesn't advertise the fact. The Mini-ITX mounting hole pattern is a subset of the ATX one. However, the 200R has a stabilizing nub instead of a standoff under one of the main mounting holes. That nub helps steady ATX and microATX motherboards for installation, but if you were to install a Mini-ITX mobo, you'd only be able to fasten it in place with three screws.
To test both of these cases, we've gathered some fresh components. Behold the new TR Case Warmer:
That's a Core i7-2600K plugged into a Z77 motherboard, with a Thermaltake Frio cooler strapped to it. We've also got a Radeon HD 7870, a 128GB solid-state drive, a Blu-ray drive, a modular power supply, and even a sound card. All told, these parts draw about 260W under a simultaneous CPU and graphics load.
One might consider this collection of test hardware overkill for budget enclosures like the 200R and Three Hundred Two, but we think it's helpful to stress these cases properly. If they're any good, they needn't be restricted to budget builds. We'd also expect these cases to have plenty of room for future upgrades—and the ability to cool those parts appropriately. You wouldn't want to grab a new graphics card only to have it overheat in Far Cry 3, now, would you?
Okay, that's enough for introductions. Let's get into the meat of this review by taking a closer look at the 200R and Three Hundred Two. (There will be pictures—plenty of them.) Then, we'll fill up the cases with our Case Warmer guts, document the process, and run some stress tests. Ready? Here we go.