This is the Aerocool Hive, a budget case that sits at the very edge of what I'd deem cheap enough for consideration in our budget PC case group test. It just sneaks in there in this configuration at $77/£50, which comes with three fans in total (1 x 120mm and 2 x 140mm) fans. This is the only budget case I checked out with 140mm fans, in fact.
Kolink Inspire K8 (opens in new tab) - Interesting but underwhelming
Aerocool Hive (opens in new tab) - Keep it cool
Aerocool Zauron (opens in new tab) - The budget case champ
Kolink Inspire K11 (opens in new tab) - Look, a proper fan
Bitfenix Nova (opens in new tab) - Storage galore and nothing more
Kolink Nimbus (opens in new tab) - Styling on a budget
Aerocool Tomahawk (opens in new tab) - Good but not good enough
There are also cheaper variants, such as one with four fans total (4 x 120mm) for a little less cash, and a much cheaper option with just one included fan (1 x 120mm).
Let's just say you have options here if you like the vibes this case is bringing.
The Hive is absolutely a front-runner for the top budget PC case in my opinion. It brings a smart and flexible layout, one not dissimilar to the Aerocool Zauron (opens in new tab), yet the inclusion of some fairly sizeable fans at a decent price helps make for a case that's ready to go out of the box. You needn't add anything to this case to make for a great gaming PC, and one that runs plenty cool enough, too.
These three fans are surprisingly not powered by Molex adapters. But no, they're not PWM or DC plugs for your motherboard either. They're powered by individual SATA connections, which is a neater solution as you're likely to already have lots of those going free on your PSU. This does mean you have to bear with the set RPMs on offer, but since the two front fans are 140mm in size they don't have to run as fast or as loud to deliver good cooling potential.
And that they do, with our test PC posting by far the most consistently low temperatures while installed inside the Aerocool Hive.
Cheap case airflow test
The main ingredient for an impressive PC case is airflow, but you'd be surprised by just how many case designs don't get this quite right. Ideally, we want our case to draw in cool air from a handful of high flow intake fans at the front, over our PC's components, then out the exhaust. Cheap cases, however, don't always come with the ideal number of fans for this optimal setup, so it's extra important to find one that is smartly designed to work with limited cooling potential.
To test the thermal properties of these six cheap cases, I built a PC into each of them. Then I ran a handful of benchmarks to put the CPU and GPU under day-to-day stress and collated the average results into this graph.
2.5-inch bays: 3 max
3.5-inch bays: 2 max
Max GPU length: 317mm
Max fan support: 8 x 120mm
Side panel: Yes, glass
Front panel: Power, reset, audio, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
Looking past the gluttony of fans and there's a decently-built case underneath. There are still some signs that this is clearly a very cheap case, such as the single-use PCIe slot covers and cheap metal construction, but actually the tempered glass side panel looks great and there's a quality PSU shroud to hide your cables under.
There is one less SSD slot on the Hive than the Zauron, and you can only fit slightly shorter GPUs in the Hive, by a whole 8mm. However, you can actually fit two more fans on top of the PSU shroud in the Hive, which bumps the cooling potential (and the potential to go overboard) on the Hive way up.
With solid compatibility for a wide range of hardware, the best out-of-the-box cooling of the cases I've tested, and a sleek looking design, the Aerocool Hive is up there for the best of the cheap bunch. It's not as cheap as the Aerocool Zauron, which I feel really is the champion for anyone on a tight budget, but if you were planning to pick up that case and the extra fan to go with it right away, you might want to consider the Hive here instead.
Our group test: A budget PC case is a great way to trim costs on your next PC build, yet many of the brands we're used to seeing in the top case round-ups aren't anywhere near cheap enough for what we're after. That's why I asked our friends at Overclockers UK (opens in new tab) if it would lend us its cheapest cases to see which is worth your small pile of coins, and of the seven cases they sent my way, I made my conclusions.