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Cabinets

Zero1 Awards 2018 – Desktop – Mid-Tower PC Cases

December 6, 2018 — by Digit0

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We have seen discernible steps toward innovation in PC cases. While the previous year was more about RGB-fying the case, this year we saw improvements which were actually functional. It’s great that manufacturers are now creating dedicated routes or channels for the cables which translate to minimal effort while connecting components. Some manufacturers of PC cases are adding cable routes and some are using covers to hide the cables.

The other interesting improvements are fan and lighting connectors or hubs being pre-installed in many cases. Sometimes builders run out of fan headers on their motherboard and they are unable to add more fans or lighting strips. This takes care of expandability in the future. Some PC cases come with vertical graphics card mounts, however, they don’t offer better cooling, only aesthetics.

2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Corsair Obsidian 500D SE RGB

One of the best-looking cases this year was the Corsair Obsidian 500D. It sports tempered glass on three sides with RGB intake fans at the front. Two tempered glass side panels have been installed using a hinged mechanism which is convenient. Build quality is also impressive and feels premium. There’s enough space to accommodate amazing open-looped liquid cooled builds.

The 500D won by a small margin with the Fractal Design Define R6 coming close. In its default configuration, the cooling was brilliant. However, to check the full cooling capacity, we also add additional fans while maintaining a balanced pressure. This is where the Obsidian 500D shone and overtook its competitors in PC cases.

Runner-up: Fractal Design Define R6

Fractal Design’s flagship, the Define R6 is built like a tank majorly made of thick steel with no compromise in build quality. It performs way above average PC cases owing to the pre-installed fans. Thermal performance on the Define R6 was really close to the Obsidian 500D in the default configuration but it lost in the full-fan capacity configuration.

Although the case misses out on the award, it still offers the best kind of features you could ask for in a case that makes assembling simpler. The modularity inside is impressive. Most of the compartments and trays can be removed based on what kind of a build you need. You get all of this at quite a competitive price compared to the other premium PC cases.

Best Buy: Cooler Master MasterBox MB530P

Cooler Master has been aggressively releasing PC cases over the last two years, targetting various price segments and aesthetics to appeal to everyone. This has resulted into a vast lineup of cases out of which they nominated the MasterBox MB530P for the Zero1 Awards. Without comparison, the case delivers better than average thermal performance but it wasn’t enough to take away the award.

It did perform close to the winner and the runner-up in its idle state but the case generated more heat under load. This was the case for both the CPU and graphics card stress testing runs. However, the asking price is surprisingly good. Especially, when you factor in the performance of the case along with the build quality and features.

Cabinets

Zero1 Awards 2017 – Cabinets – Mid-tower

December 13, 2017 — by Digit0

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A good cabinet or chassis is important when building your PC since it’s going to house all your components, ensuring they connect to each other easily. Just like the other components, the price ranges from extremely low to exorbitant levels. Many factors come into play when picking the right cabinet for yourself such as build quality, front I/O parts, cable management, transparent side panel, liquid cooling support, etc. It’s difficult to include all the necessary features in low-end cabinets but we are seeing more mid-range mid-tower cabinets supporting premium features and even good build quality. With RGB lighting and tempered glass side panels becoming the fad lately, companies are trying to push these features onto cabinets in the `6k price bracket. More cabinets are dropping support for optical drives, which further makes room for better cooling support. Apart from what we’ve seen in the country, the international market is witnessing the introduction of wooden parts on the exterior. We weren’t able to test too many PC cabinets launched this year, but among the ones that have arrived in our test labs, here are the ones that will give you the best cooling performance out of the box.

2017 Zero1 Award Winner: Cooler Master MasterCase H500P

Cooler Master MasterCase H500P

The two 200mm RGB fans on the H500P along with the additional 140mm exhaust fan on the rear were able to keep the system running steady at a nice and cool temperature. If you plan on relying only on an air cooling system, there is a lot of room for airflow inside the H500P. The front panel has an acrylic cover with vents for the sides to allow air inside. It would be interesting to test whether using a mesh front panel would drastically cool down the interiors. In our stress testing, the CPU managed to touch 59 degrees Celsius while the GPU reached a maximum temperature of 64 degrees. Performance aside, the build quality is questionable on such an expensive cabinet, especially on the plastic top and front panel. They are really flimsy and it’s easy for them to accidentally come off with next to no effort at all. The metal used by the fan mounting brackets on the top and front panel are thin enough to bend with your hands. Keeping these problems aside, the cabinet does a good enough job to win itself a Zero1 award.

Runner-up and Best Buy: Zebronics Premier ZEB-916B

It’s wonderful to see affordable cabinets displaying airflow similar to expensive ones. Since our primary cabinet testing is done on cabinets in their factory-shipped setting, higher number of stock fans are always an advantage. This becomes pocket-friendly for consumers, since otherwise they would have to buy after-market fans. The ZEB-916B is a basic cabinet and doesn’t really include premium features nor is it generous with support for liquid cooling. When we started off the stress testing, we found the CPU running at about 70 degrees Celsius while the GPU touched a maximum temperature of 65 degrees. Although the temperatures on load were high, the idle temperatures were the lowest in this cabinet, resulting in a lower temperature delta. Already proving its cooling performance, the low price of the ZEB-916B allows the cabinet to take away the Best Buy award.

Cabinets

Zero1 Awards 2016 – Cabinets – Mid-Tower

December 16, 2016 — by Digit0

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The cabinet is an essential component while building a PC, and often, the most ignored by many. This year we saw the RGB frenzy transcend to cabinets as well, with interesting implementations. We’ve always been excited to see how modularity spreads into almost every section of the cabinet, making it easier to build your system and upgrade later. Another trend we see picking up is the inclusion of a fan hub to connect the extra fans on your cabinet, because you tend to run out of ports on the motherboard. Also, tempered glass panels are increasingly becoming commonplace. When combined with RGB lights it makes DIYers nuts.
When it comes down to core performance of a cabinet, it’s all about how it maintains a cool temperature. And that’s exactly what matters in a Zero1 showdown. Here’s the best performing cabinet from the many we tested this year.

Zero1 winner: Thermaltake Core V51

cabinets

Looking at the specifications and support for cooling options on the Core V51, one would wonder as to how good the cooling could be. Including support for massive 200mm fans to huge 420mm radiators on the top and front panels, is already too much to ask. Although, cable management could have been better with more cable ties. The Core V51 won the Zero1 in the factory default setting, which also means that on occupying all the cooling options, you’ll be able to achieve a cooler system. Build quality of some of the parts, especially the panels could have been better but we’re nitpicking here.

Second Runner up: Corsair Carbide SPEC ALPHA

If showing off is your thing, look no further since the SPEC ALPHA is sure to get some attention among your friends. Already coming second in performance, the SPEC ALPHA has an abstract design, something which is refreshing to see rather than the regular rectangular-box design on other cabinets. This automatically makes it the best-looking cabinet we tested this year. In terms of performance, it was quite close to the Core V51. The three-speed fan-controller on the front panel was a welcome feature, whereas one thing we didn’t like was the compromise introduced if you want to install a radiator. Installing a 240/280mm radiator on the front panel makes you remove the drive cage leaving no room for 3.5-inch hard drives.

Third Runner up: Cooler Master MasterCase Maker 5

The Maker 5 is the most high-end cabinet in the MasterCase spectrum and offers the best features in cabinets, hands down. In terms of build quality, every part inside right from the motherboard plate to the screw grooves in every corner reeks of high quality. Cable management is well thought out and thanks to the high level of modularity, you can build a neat system easily. If you’re an enthusiast and a serious system builder, then this cabinet is built for you. The MasterCase lineup has an array of accessories available that you can buy to increase functionality and looks as well.

Best Buy: Corsair Carbide SPEC ALPHA

Offering the barebones features found in most cabinets, coupled with a fan-speed controller and a decent level of modularity, the SPEC ALPHA hits the right balance between features and pricing. Thus, it bags the Best Buy for the mid-tower category.