I’m building computers again.
This one’s going into a Foxconn 3400ATX, which is available for 35 smackers from Newegg.com.

So how is it, you ask? Oh, you didn’t ask? Well, I’ll tell you anyway.

You can find a lot worse cases for the money. Its looks are along the lines of a current Compaq or HP case without the translucent smoke-colored accents. Picture a plain-beige box that looks like a Compaq at your favorite retailer, and you’ll have a nice picture of the 3400. I like its looks a little better than most Antec or Inwin cases, actually. And no funky-colored buttons or obnoxious colored trim, like a lot of cases in this price range.

It has three detachable panels like most good cases and unlike most $35 specials. The panels aren’t as heavy as a premium brand but they’re not flimsy. And the panels come off and go back on easily, which is nice. It’s always disconcerting to have to manhandle a case with expensive components and your precious data inside whenever you need to get it open.

The case feet push into the bottom of the case and are secured with plastic pins, rather than being the stick-on kind that tend to fall off and run away.

Now the bad. You don’t get nice, screw-out slot covers like you would with a premium case. You get cutouts that you bust out with a pair of pliers. The inside of the case is light-gauge steel with that cheap Far East look. Those of you who’ve worked inside a lot of inexpensive cases know what I’m talking about. Working inside it isn’t going to be as nice as working inside an Inwin or an Antec. The motherboard tray is pop-riveted and not detachable.

The power supply is nothing to get excited about. It’s rated at 300 watts, it’s AMD approved, but it looks and feels cheap. It ought to be fine for a Duron or a low-end Athlon XP. Don’t try to build a 3-GHz computer around this. (If you’ve got the money for a 3-GHz machine, you need to be looking at something other than a $35 case.)

Now, the upside. While the interior finish is very pedestrian at best, the fit is fine. Stuff lines up, which doesn’t always happen at this price point. There’s a case fan mounted in the back. There’s a place for a second one up front. You get three external 5.25″ bays, two external 3.5″ bays, and one more 3.5″ bay. Fill all those up and you’ll be taxing the limits of this power supply.

The verdict? Newegg sells Codegen cases that will get to you a little bit cheaper because they’re lighter. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Codegens. I can tell you this Foxconn is worth what you pay for it (most $35 cases aren’t), and it comes in white or solid black. If you’re building a fairly low-end system, this Foxconn will serve you well.

But if you’re building something that you expect to work on a lot (adding drives and memory and changing out the motherboard fairly frequently), pony up the extra $20-$25 to get an Inwin or Antec case.