When I recently was faced with choosing a case for my new computing masterpiece, TechRepublic's support guru, Ted Laun, suggested an Enlight EN-7237AZ medium tower case with an included 340-watt power supply. For me, the Enlight was the perfect fit. Check out this review to see if it might be the best housing choice for your custom machine as well.
I was building a computer that would use an AMD Athlon Thunderbird 1.13-GHz, 266-MHz front-side bus (FSB) processor. All of the newer AMD chips have two requirements: They need a case that can be well ventilated; and they need an approved power supply of at least 300 watts, if you want something more than the processor on the motherboard.
I was buying most of my parts from NewEgg.com, which listed 18 case manufacturers on its site. Prices ranged from nearly $300 for top-of-the-line Cooler Master aluminum cases to about $20 for generic boxes. With so many case choices available, I welcomed Laun's expert advice.
I wanted my case to:
- Be inexpensive (the entire project would cost less than $500).
- Have a good design for ease of entry and upgrade ability.
- Have an AMD-approved power supply, hopefully greater than 300 watts.
- Be well ventilated, with fans included.
- Have a removable backing plate for the motherboard.
- Be easy to work on, with everything inside.
This was a lot to ask for, but I got nearly everything in the Enlight case. It cost about $60, plus I sprang for a third case fan for an additional $7.
Fulfilling the role of a good case
There is a lot to like about the Enlight case. It won't win any awards for aesthetics, but working your way into an Enlight case is easy. You remove the front panel of the case by squeezing a grip at the bottom of the panel and lifting up, taking care not to take off the faceplates of the well-fitted floppy and CD-ROM drives that stick through the cover.
Once you remove the front panel, you can take off the side panels with just one screw each. Because clips hold the panels, the screws are optional, and once you remove them, you won’t need any tools at all to access this area.
Removing the motherboard backing plate is a little trickier. This process entails removing about five or six screws, shifting the plate about a half an inch one way, and then removing it. Once out, the plate forms a secure and level base for mounting, or working on, the motherboard (see Figure A).
|Here you see the motherboard and backing plate as they would be in the box.|
You have to be careful putting the motherboard backing plate back in the box. You don’t want to slam your heat sink and fan against the power supply or frame, but the solid design of the backing plate and the box help to reduce this risk.
Even with everything on the board, there is a copious amount of room within the case to move parts around. At 7.7 by 16.7 by 18.9 inches in width, height, and depth, respectively, it is only a few inches deeper than most other cases, but it seemed much larger to me. Note the distance between the CD-ROM and the power supply in Figure B.
|Even with everything in the box, there is plenty of room for air to circulate.|
All of this open space should help circulate cool air in from the fan at the front bottom, through the case, and out of the power supply fan at the top. I added another exhaust fan to the predrilled fan location just below the power supply, which happens to be located just above where the cooling fan on the CPU heat sink is located on the motherboard I used.
The floppy and hard drive box in the Enlight case is a modular element that snaps into place after you install the drives and connect their data and power cables (see Figure C). This is a real luxury for anyone who has struggled with fat fingers to connect the cables on drives locked motionless in a case.
|The modular design of the floppy and hard drive box makes connecting cables easy.|
For the 5.25-inch bays at the top of the box, the use of glide rails brings the modular snap-and-lock simplicity of the floppy and hard drive box to whatever is placed there, such as CD-ROMs and CD/DVD recording devices.
Like the floppy and hard drive box, this arrangement made it easy to attach the guides to the side of the CD-ROM drive, pull the data and power cables out through the 5.25-inch bay hole, connect the cables, and then slide the whole thing into the bay hole until it clicked (see Figure D).
|The CD-ROM drive, with cables connected, slides into the box on glide rails.|
The finishing touches
Cases often come with various features and accessories. However, when I looked at cases that were comparable in price to my $60 Enlight case, they didn’t have extra fans or much in the way of hardware for mounting drives.
None of the cases at this price had more than a 300-watt power supply, if they came with a power supply at all. (A power supply can cost between $40 and $60.)
Another nice touch I noticed while constructing my new computer was that there were no sharp edges on my box, which is key to finishing a new machine Band-Aid-free.
During the building process, I had to handle that case quite a bit. I had it up on my workspace, then on the floor out of the way, then back on the table, then over on its side, then standing back up—and never once did I come across any sharp edges.
The case is solid, and I think, a great deal for the price.
Nothing is perfect
As much as I like the Enlight case, it isn't perfect for everyone. You will not like this case if you have to transport it from place to place frequently; it is not lightweight.
Having a heavy case may be an advantage if vibration noises annoy you. Vibration noise is a common complaint for many boxes that have the glide rail system, but I have not heard any vibration noises from the case. Of course, I also have a GlobalWin CK-38 CPU fan roaring inside of it, which may drown out any excess noise.
One complaint that is specific to the Enlight case is that the air intake on the bottom front is not vented well enough. I've heard of people drilling holes in it to improve the airflow. I haven’t run into any problems in this area, as my heat sink and fan may be offsetting this deficiency. My case temperature stays in the mid 80s (Fahrenheit), and my CPU ranges between 87 degrees at idle to about 100 degrees after a few hours of work. I'd say that is pretty cool.
Another potential problem occurs when a screw protrudes too far out of the bottom of the floppy and hard drive box. If this happens, the screw can stop the fan blades right below it. I used the side mounting holes in the drive box, so I didn't have to worry about this issue.
Also, if you want USB ports in the front of the case, you will need to look elsewhere.
Overall, along with Ted Laun, I would recommend the Enlight case for its high quality and thoughtful features. There are few cases at its price that offer such a complete package.
Do you have a case you recommend?
Have you had a good experience with the case you chose for your custom build? Would you recommend it to others? Tell us what you think in the discussion below or send us a note.