I've come to some conclusions in the past couple of years about what I want from a case. Here is my ideal case for air cooling:
(parts not drawn to scale)
Note that the rear grill and the backplane slot covers have been removed so that the air can find its own way out, quietly, without the assistance of an exhaust fan. Fewer fans, less noise.
Also, note that either the 5.25 bay slot covers are mesh or you have to put a fan carrier there. With three slots free and some room at the top you can put a 140mm fan in the 5.25 bay.
Because of the free air exit, no pressure can build up. I call it a positive flow case, not a positive pressure case.
Here is a typical case setup. I don't like it:
I avoid negative pressure cases: they are vacuum cleaners without the bag.
Criteria for a good air cooling case:
- Unfettered access for the main front intake fan. No plates or fancy covers that block the air.
- Side panel intake fan.
- Case fans as large as possible to be able to run them slowly and thus quietly
- Mesh covers for 5.25 slots
- No narrower than 200mm. This allows for full tower heatsinks and room behind the mb for cables. Actually, any case with a 120mm exhaust fan will most likely handle a full tower cooler (they are 155 - 160mm tall). But a 7.5-inch case, for example, will hardly have any room behind the motherboard tray for managing cables. My 200mm-wide Beta Evo, for example, has room for a full tower cooler and just enough room for managing cables.
- A forward position on top for a top intake fan forward of the cpu heatsink air intake.
Cases that I believe are pretty good for air cooling:
CM 692. CM HAF series, especially HAF X (HAF X works better with two top intake fans because of its high ceiling).
NZXT Beta Evo and NZXT Tempest Evo
Zalman Z9 Plus and maybe the Z7
Azza Hurrican 2000
Fractal Design Arc Midi Tower
There are Lian Li and other high end aluminum cases that have no grill at the rear. This is best, because you can allow the air to simply flow out. No noise, no pressure build up.
To the extent that the Corsair cases fit those criteria, they'd be pretty good. The Antec P280 is the first one of theirs since the DF-85 that seems to allow a forward top fan for intake. The rest of their line is not worth having IMO.
65 fans on a Megahalems
Core i7 875k, up to 4GHz, unlocked multi to 30x, Vcore Normal+0.0250v
HT & LLC enabled, BCLK 133MHz, Vtt 1.1875v PLL 1.8v PCH auto
Asus P7P55D-E Pro (avoid this)
4x2GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 9-9-9-24 Vdimm auto
Scythe Mugen 2
Gigabyte/Radeon HD 4670 1GB DDR3
Crucial C300 128GB SSD | Barracuda 7200.12 1TB x 2
Seasonic X-650 | NZXT Beta Evo (modded)