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Buy or build: The cabinet dilemma

Agent001 is looking for a new cabinet. Here’s how he decided which one to buy

It’s been a couple of generations (computer generations, not human) since I put my machine together. A top of the line Ivy Bridge unlocked series CPU coupled with a Z77 board and all the RAM slots populated to provide more than enough memory for all my browser tabs. Yeah, with the million tabs I keep open at any given time, my PC ends up taking up roughly 8-9 GB of RAM. The new Firefox Quantum has brought a wave of relief for them stressed out DIMMs but I doubt they’re going to last long. The motherboard has been acting up lately, there have been times when certain memory slots or PCIe slots would just not recognise the graphics card or memory module. There’s only so much troubleshooting I can do before the fun of the bug-chasing ends and it becomes a tedious affair. So yeah, I’m planning an upgrade and one of the things, that’s slated for the chopping block, is my more-than-a-decade-old cabinet.

The MasterCase Maker 5 from Cooler Master

Abhijit, the resident cabinet guy was quick to throw a few recommendations at me – Cooler Master H700i, Mastercase Maker 5, Corsair 740 Air, Thermaltake Core P5/P3, NZXT H440, InWin H-Frame, InWin Darkbase Pro 900 … the list was endless. So I started checking them out. Cases like the Core P3/P5, Crystal 570X, H-Frame look really swanky but they’re mostly open. And given the filthy city environment here in Mumbai, it won’t be long before a few kilos of dust call the cabinet their home. So those are out of the picture. The other cases that Abhijit recommended are pretty awesome too, however, I noticed something about all of them, that they’re all frickin’ expensive. Cases start from 10K, 15K, 20K and go all the way up to 35K. For Gaben’s sake, what kind of material are they using to build cases these days? Cold rolled steel? Check. Tempered glass? Check. Toolless design? Check. The thing is, these “features” are nothing new and have existed for a long time.

Before some marketing executive figured out that cases were rather shoddily marketed and just mentioning what they were built of was more than enough to sell cases. Tempered glass is not a premium item and neither was cold-rolled steel. However, they’ve turned out to be so. You can get a 1 square meter sheet of tempered glass for around 300 bucks but if you were to buy the same damn thing for a cabinet then you can multiply that by 10. Perhaps you’re paying for the custom size or the drilled holes. The latter is next to impossible on tempered glass as they tend to shatter when you drill into them. Then you have the cold rolled steel which is absolutely not worth the price premium that they command. A new thing is aluminium, which is a lot softer than steel but has a sheen unlike steel making it a coveted feature. The point I’m trying to make is that these “features” are simply overpriced. A decade back, I could get a cabinet for 2K without an SMPS and it would be of solid build. If you look for cabinets around that price now, then most cabinets are so poorly built that they can be bent with your fingers. Considering that historical metal prices haven’t changed much over the last decade, this is very fishy.

“I might just admit defeat and get a Crystal 570X” – Agent001

All of this is making me want to build my own case. Perhaps, I’d have my computer desk rebuilt with a few extra compartments which I can repurpose for integrating my computer into them. If I don’t get enough time for that then I’m all down to grab a couple of aluminium sheets, have it machined and screw them together to build my own case. And if I’m too damn lazy to do that either, then I might just admit defeat and get a Crystal 570X or a Masterbox. I’m open to suggestions, what do you guys think I should do?

Agent 001

Agent 001