Best PC Cases: 5 best-selling cases for under £100

BitFenix Nova

3 of 6

Score

Key Features:

  • Incredibly cheap
  • A good basic case with a side window
  • Simple, smart design
  • Cramped interior

In complete contrast to the NZXT S340, the BitFenix Nova is the cheapest case on test – and it feels it too.

There are a few nice touches, such as a windowed side panel, fully painted interior, USB 3.0 ports on the top and a reasonably nice overall look. However, build quality very obviously is a step down.

The steel used in the Nova’s construction is markedly thinner and weaker, giving the whole unit a more shaky, rattly feel. Crucially, though, all edges are rounded and aren’t sharp, unlike the very cheapest cases, while the tough black paint job resists scratches well.

Open it up and you’ll find the motherboard mounts are formed from the same pressed steel as the bottom of the case. This means it’s easy to strip the threads when installing or removing a motherboard. Other cases on test use separate, solid-metal mounts.

Similarly, the expansion card slots don’t have proper screwed-in-place replaceable covers, but rather have “tear-off” covers that you have to lever off then discard. There’s just one replaceable cover provided, and one screw to go with it; there aren’t enough to install a full system.

One thing this case can claim over some of the more expensive models on test is that it can actually accommodate a DVD drive: there are three 5.25in mounts, with one accessible from the front of the case.

On the top, front corner sit power and reset buttons, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, and headphone and microphone jacks.

Open the case up and the layout is entirely conventional, with a fixed, front-facing section for mounting the 5.25in drives, and up to four 3.5in drives – there are no dedicated 2.5in mounts.

Installation is largely straightforward, aside from aforementioned expansion slots and motherboard mounts, plus if you were installing several hard drives and a DVD drive, the very basic mounting system would definitely make installation more awkward.

What’s more, space is limited. Our admittedly rather long 12.25in graphics card had to be manoeuvred under the drive mount section to fit in, while our Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo CPU cooler was so tall it actually touched the side panel. In fact, it ended up scratching the window as it was slid back into place. Something to watch out for.

Cable management is also tricky, since there are no holes in the motherboard tray above or below the motherboard through which to thread cables. In fact, there’s very little space between the back panel and the motherboard tray to squeeze any cables. As such, it was a case of pushing the excess cabling into the hard drive bay to keep things reasonably tidy.

Only one 120mm fan is included, which is mounted in the rear position for exhausting hot air from the CPU. Meanwhile, there are a couple of front fan mounts but they’re difficult to access; airflow to them is restricted by the front panel.

This paucity of default cooling options is reflected in this case’s cooling performance. That one rear fan simply couldn’t push air out fast enough to keep things cool inside. As such, the CPU hit a whopping 90C, which is at the point where the CPU starts to throttle itself to stop from overheating.

Likewise, the GPU hit 88C – and it’s possible that it was also having to rein things in a little to keep from self-destructing.

As a result, the CPU and GPU fans were running at full whack and making quite a racket, making this the loudest case on test by some distance. Its load noise levels of 45.3dB (front) and 46.5dB (side) are far and away the loudest. Positioned under a desk it wouldn’t be too obtrusive, but it certainly isn’t ideal for late-night gaming.

Add an extra fan and use a graphics card that exhausts more of its heat straight out the back of the case and these numbers could be lowered fairly easily, but it still isn’t a great result.

Verdict
The BitFenix Nova is a cheap case. However, it gets the job done and looks reasonably smart in the process. If you just need any old case to get your PC built it’s a reasonable option, so long as your components aren’t too demanding.

Buy Now at Overclockers UK for £26.99

At time of review the BitFenix Nova was available for £26.99.