This is the Aerocool Tomahawk, a PC case that is commonly available in many locations around the world for around $55/£35.
The Tomahawk is a decent example of what to expect from a budget PC case. It’s a mid-tower case with a boxy frame, a windowed side panel, a few basic fans, and some rough edges. In general, however, it offers extensive compatibility with modern PC components.
You might think you can’t ask for more from a budget case than a standardized home for your parts, but testing a range of similarly priced budget cases today, I found the Tomahawk’s somewhat dated layout a bane temperatures and probably not an ideal configuration for long-term use.
The Tomahawk has no top vents or brackets, instead providing space for a power supply at the top. This is something you might still see in a cheaper workstation, but rarely in a gaming PC these days. Because there are no vents on the top of the case, the PSU must be oriented so that it draws air from inside the case and expels it through the rear vents on the unit. This means hot air generated by the CPU, GPU, VRM, and other components will rush past the internal components of your PSU, which can cause those parts to heat up more than usual, but more importantly, seems to lead to higher temperatures for other key components.
The Tomahawk ran our Ryzen 5 5600X CPU hotter than most other budget cases in my tests. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done immediately to compensate for the higher CPU temperatures due to the case layout and Molex-powered fans, which aren’t speed-controllable. However, you’ll find that a lower-powered CPU might do better in this case, and of course you can always swap out the fans later.
Cheap case airflow test
The key ingredient to an impressive PC case is airflow, but you’d be surprised how many case designs don’t get it quite right. Ideally, we want our case to draw cool air from a handful of high-flow intake fans on the front, over our PC’s components, and then out the exhaust. Cheap cases don’t always have the ideal number of fans for this optimal setup, however, so finding one that’s intelligently designed to work with limited cooling potential is especially important.
To test the thermal properties of these six cheap cases, I installed a PC in each of them. I then ran a handful of benchmarks to stress the CPU and GPU on a daily basis and summarized the average results in this chart.
Size: central tower
2.5 inch bays: 4 max
3.5 inch bays: 1 max
Maximum GPU length: 324mm
Maximum Fan Support: 4 x 120mm
Lighting: Fan + indicator light bar under the front panel
side panel: Yes, acrylic
front panel: Power, Reset, Audio, 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
The Tomahawk only offers Molex-powered fans, but at least two. These are fitted as standard at the front and rear. This configuration helps in terms of graphics card temperature, with the dual-fan RTX 3060 I used for testing maxing out at 79C. That’s somewhere in the middle of the pack compared to other cases I’ve tested.
These fans also light up, making for a more interesting look to the case with the windowed side panel on the Tomahawk. However, this is only a plexiglass side panel, which isn’t too surprising given the price of this case, but in fact some other cases in this price range come with glass. Surprising I know.
There are other cases that perform better, offer more options, and are still just as affordable as the Tomahawk. I would actually recommend the Aerocool Zauron from my testing as this company’s case offers the same affordability but without the dated and restrictive layout.
Our group test: A budget PC case is a great way to cut the cost of your next PC build, but many of the brands we’re used to seeing in top case roundups aren’t nearly cheap enough for what we’re looking for . So I asked our friends at Overclockers UK (opens in new tab) if it would lend us its cheapest crates to see which ones are worth your little pile of coins and from the seven crates they sent me I’ve drawn my conclusions.