If I want to keep the girlfriend sweet with my new project, the case is going to have to be tidy, too. Besides, if I'm gonna be spending a bit of time with my hands inside this thing, I don't want it to have too many sharp edges!
After reading all the reviews I could find, one manufacturer stands out from the rest: Zalman. They are expensive, compared to other manufacturers, but they consistently get rated top for build quality and noise levels. They have 4 gaming cases in their lineup that could potentially fit the bill:
- GT1000 Z-Machine. This is Zalman's flagship case. It is an extra-wide mid-tower. It is supposed to fit "full-sized" PCI cards, but without having seen one, I have my doubts about how much room might be left for getting fingers around a 12.5" long Radeon HD 5970. I can't seem to find exact internal dimensions anywhere.
- LQ1000 Z-Machine. This is the liquid-cooled version of the GT1000. A thing of beauty, but with an internal water cooling rig, it can only have less space inside than the GT1000.
- MS1000-HS2. This one is a mid tower with dust filters and sound dampening. It also says it has room for "full-size" PCI cards and further qualifies this to mean 300mm cards. Unfortunately, the HD 5970 cards on the market today are all pushing 320mm, so I'm afraid this one is out.
- GS1000 Plus. This is a recent update to the GS1000, full tower case. The Plus adds fans around the drive enclosures, seemingly in response to a review that cited uncomfortably high HDD temps. The GS1000 is 80mm deeper than the MS1000 and 150mm deeper than the GT1000. It also supports larger E-ATX motherboards. Without knowing the internal dimensions or seeing one, I have to say that if this baby can't hold an HD5970, nothing will!
Another thing worth noting is that a couple of reviews have complained about the noisy fans, but they were specifically talking about the noise when run at 12V. When run in "silent" mode at 5V, these fans perform very quietly indeed. The GS1000, which was the variant in all the reviews, comes with 5 120mm fan vents, but only 2 fans. The other 3 are optional. With the extra 2 92mm fans sported by the Plus on the front drive enclosure, plus the 3 optional fans, plus the watercooling planned for this rig, I have high hopes that the airflow will be sufficient to cool any un-watercooled components, even in silent mode.