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For SFF lovers, the DAN Cases A4-SFX needs no introduction, as it is one of the most iconic small form factor cases of all times. However, if you’re new to the world of SFF builds, or have been living on top of a mountain up until recently, you might be wondering what all the hype about the A4-SFX is about. To put it simply, the DAN Cases A4-SFX is just what perfection looks and feels like SFF cases-wise, which might sound like a cliché, except that it’s a fact-backed cliché. Let us look into it a bit, and see what makes this case so special.
It all started with a dream – a dream to create a SFF case that’s small and good looking, but also capable of housing top-of-the-line hardware. This was Daniel Hansen’s dream, which he tried to bring to life by crowdfunding his design on Kickstarter. Not only did his project hit its funding goal of €125,000, but it did so in ONE HOUR, which is quite an impressive performance, and a solid indicator that Daniel Hansen, the one-man team behind the DAN Case A4-SFX, was on the right path. By the time the crowdfunding campaign had ended, at the end of June 2016, it raised a total of €396,659 from 1,530 backers.
The reason for A4-SFX’s success lies within its design: the case measures only 200mm x 112mm x 317mm and has a volume of 7.25 Liters, yet it can comfortably house a mini-ITX motherboard, a SFX or SFX-L power supply, three 2.5” drives and, most notably, a dual-slot graphics card of up to 295mm in length. These features make it ideal for those that want to build a very small yet very powerful system.
While the demand for the DAN Cases A4-SFX was high, only 1,700 units were built, as the founder wanted to make sure it can stick to its Kickstarter timeline for production and delivery, so if you want a DAN Case A4-SFX and you missed the crowdfunding campaign, you’re pretty much out of luck. Sure, you can wait for another production run to get yours (the DAN Cases A4-SFX v2 Kickstarter campaign is running right now), or you can scout marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon or specialized forums, and hope you find one for sale, but neither of those options are solid options if you need a case here and now.
Fortunately, you’re in the right place – no, we don’t have the A4-SFX for sale, nor do we know where to get one now, but what we do have is a list of the best runner-ups for your SFF build. So, without further ado, here are the top alternatives to the DAN Cases A4-SFX you can buy right now.
The NCASE M1 and the A4-SFX have several of things in common – they are both small, elegant cases, and they both had successful crowdfunding runs. Unlike the A4-SFX, though, the NCASE M1 is now readily available, albeit it is still in limited supply, so better move fast if you want to score one.
What makes the NCASE M1 a suitable alternative for the A4-SFX is its feature set. Despite the fact that it is not as small as the A4 (the NCASE M1 measures 240mm x 160mm x 328mm and has an internal volume of 12.6 liters), the M1 makes very good use of its internal space. Along with the mini-ITX motherboard it can house, the M1 supports graphics cards of up to 317mm, which is enough space for almost any card out there (except maybe some very bulky models). Where the NCASE M1 really shines, though, is cooling: the case has a clearance of 130mm in terms of CPU cooler height, if you opt for air cooling, or support for up to 290mm radiators for water cooling, which is impressive for a case of this size.
Due to its modular interior design, the NCASE M1 can support up to four 120mm fans, up to three 3.5” or 2.5” drives, and SFX or ATX power supplies, in various combinations, offering you great flexibility when it comes to choosing your hardware.
Coming with a price tag of $185 at the time of writing, the NCASE M1 is not exactly the cheapest SFF case out there, but it’s definitely one of the most elegant and feature-rich options you can find. Just make sure to act fast, as the NCASE M1 tends to become available in limited batches. It’s not as elusive as the DAN Cases A4-SFX, but it’s not the easiest to get a hold of either.
You can’t talk about SFF cases without mentioning Silverstone, one of the most visible brands in the field. With products ranging from super cheap SFF cases aimed at those that are taking their first steps in the small form factor universe, to advanced models for the experienced, Silverstone has something for everyone. Our model of choice for this top is the Silverstone RVZ01, a case with a rich history and a richer feature set. To get an idea of just how awesome the RVZ01 is, consider the fact it is a redesign of the RV01, a case that came out in 2008 and is still considered one of the best SFF cases out there by today’s standards and requirements. Keep in mind that it is computers we’re talking about – a field where significant changes take place every few months. The RVZ01 saw the light of day in 2014, and it’s been turning heads ever since.
What makes the Silverstone RVZ01 one of the best alternatives to the DAN Cases A4-SFX, aside from its imposing looks, is its top-notch interior design. By making use of a PCI-Express riser, the RVZ01 can fit GPUs or up to 330mm along with 240mm AIO cooling systems. CPU cooling aside, the RVZ01 comes with two 120mm silent fans out of the box to provide proper cooling for the rest of the components. Silverstone also managed to make room for 3 x 2.5” drive bays and, to top it off, it also includes an optical drive bay – something you don’t find in many cases of this size (the case has a total volume of 14 liters).
Coming with a price tag lower than $100 and numerous accessories (such as optical drive, cooling options or power supply) recommended by Silverstone directly, the Silverstone RVZ01 is definitely worth a look.
Antec is another heavy name in the computer case industry, so it was only logical for one of their products to make our list. However, it’s not the brand on the case that caught our attention, but its specs: the case is small (195mm x 260mm x 369mm) and elegant, coming with a brushed aluminum finish with a nice and subtle LED stripe on the front, which gives it a modern look.
The exterior design of the Antec ISK600 is simple and elegant, but it’s the interior design where Antec’s experience in the field really comes to light: along with a 317mm GPU clearance and two 2.5” drives, the ISK600 can house not one, not two, but three 3.5” drives, which is not something you see every day in the SFF universe. Oh, and there’s room for an optical drive as well.
Another impressive aspect of the ISK600 is its cooling capabilities: while its support for AIO coolers is fairly limited ad 120mm radiators, the case does offer a great height clearance for tower coolers: 170mm. For case cooling, the ISK600 supports a 120mm fan in the back (included), but you will need to give that up if you opt for AIO cooling. If you do decide to stick with it, though, you’ll be pleased to notice that it even includes a fan controller out of the box; however, for some reason, the switch is inside the case, so you will need to remove one of the covers to access it – not exactly the most convenient way of adjusting fan speed.
Antec’s PSU format of choice is the popular ATX, and while this broadens your options a bit, you may want to take PSU length into account when choosing it, as a lengthy PSU can interfere with a lengthy GPU.
A very colorful addition to our list comes in the shape of the Raidmax Element. Available in 4 colors (black, blue, green and pink), the Raidmax Element has a very playful feel to it, which is a great refresh considering the fact that most SFF cases out there opt for a sober look. Even though only the front panel is colored, with the rest of the case being black, it is still enough to make it stand out from the crowd.
Alongside its looks, the Raidmax Element also has its specs working to its advantage: the case is full of surprises. For starters, it has a 5.25” optical drive bay, which is extremely rare for SFF cases, most of them opting to leave out the optical drive altogether, or go with a slim one. The Element also features two 3.5” drive bays (which can also be used for 2.5” drives), and an additional 2.5” drive, allowing for various combinations of hard drives and solid state drives.
As you can imagine, if you opt out of using a 5.25” drive, you’ll be left with plenty of free space, which Raidmax put to very good use – you can comfortably fit in a 240mm radiator or two 120mm fans for case cooling. Speaking of case cooling, the Element comes with an included 80mm fan in the back. The case’s flexibility continues to show in the graphics department, with a GPU clearance of 318mm, and in the power department, the case supporting the ATX format.
We intentionally left a crucial aspect of the Raidmax Element at the end – its price. As you noticed so far, the case offers very good hardware support and flexibility, and if you add its looks into account, you’d expect it to come with a hefty price tag. Well, prepare to be amazed: you can buy this little beauty for only $30. Enough said.
The DAN Cases A4-SFX and the Fractal Design Node 202 may be different in terms of shape, but they are highly similar in terms of refinement, build quality and features, as if they were both guided by one simple motto – built to impress.
With the Node 202, Fractal Design opted for a console-like design that gives the case a majestic look when placed vertically. However, it can also be placed horizontally and it will look just as good, having a more media-center-like feel.
The Fractal Design Node 202 is fairly small, at 377mm x 82mm x 330mm and 10.2L volume, but don’t let that fool you: due to its well-designed interior, the Node 202 can accommodate graphics cards of up to 310mm, meaning that it can be a great pick for a gaming build. There is also room for two 2.5” drives and CPU coolers of up to 56mm in height. The one thing that the Fractal Design Node 202 is missing is support for water cooling, which would have been a nice addition, and might have encouraged hardcore gamers to opt for it. However, even without water cooling support, the case still has plenty to offer, so this missing feature shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
So there you have it – five of the top alternatives to the DAN Cases A4-SFX. Which one do you choose and why? Let us know in the comments section below! If you want to look at a list of all the top Mini-ITX cases, check out our Mini-ITX buyers guide for SFF builds.