When building a new computer, it is easy to overlook the importance of choosing a good case. Computer cases can serve the aesthetic purpose of showing off your equipment. However, the PC case you use will also determine airflow (thus performance), ease of maintenance, and access to external ports.
This article will dive into various considerations when choosing the perfect case for your PC build.
Check out my Recommended PC Cases below.Lian Li O11D XL Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Computer case form factors for tower cases are typically defined by their supported motherboard form factor and the exterior tower size. There are often mounting points for smaller form factor motherboards in cases designed for larger motherboards.
Common motherboard form factors include:
- Standard-ATX (ATX) is the most common form factor for a desktop motherboard.
- E-ATX is a larger motherboard design than ATX that can support more memory modules and more double-spaced PCIe slots for graphics cards.
- Micro-ATX / Small Form Factor motherboards are small motherboards that can fit into compact cases.
Common tower categories include:
- Super-Towers are typically extra-wide compared to a Full-Tower. Only a few models of this type are available.
- Full-Towers are huge cases that provide ample room for a vertically mounted graphics card, multiple liquid cooling radiators/
reservoirs, or extra storage. Full-tower computer cases can sometimes even have room for two motherboards/ PSUs; this is called dual system/PSU support.
- Mid-Towers are standard-size cases that may provide space for an AIO radiator. This case size is appropriate for a standard air-cooled system and the size I would recommend for a basic PC build.
- Midi-Towers include case sizes somewhere between Mid-Towers and Mini-Towers.
- Mini-Towers are small form factor cases that typically only have enough room for a Micro-ATX or smaller motherboard.
In addition to running games, content creation tools, or business applications, you may also want your computer to be visually appealing. Do you want your computer to be purely a workhorse or also to be a piece of art that is aesthetically pleasing?
A case's cable routing features impact aesthetics, airflow, and maintenance.
Cases may include the following cable routing features:
- Channels/Cutouts: Holes to pass cables through various sections of the case for routing and concealing the cables
- Hooks: Anchor points for tying down cables
- Rubber Grommets: Rubber pieces to fill in unused portions of cable cutouts
- Power Supply Shroud: A metal or plastic sheet for hiding extra (non-modular) power supply cables.
Cables sprawled through a case may reduce airflow, make it difficult to access various components, and make a computer unappealing.
Cutouts can allow you to hide cables behind a motherboard or keep them under control by tying them down.
Cases can include various RGB or monotone LED lighting attached to the case itself or embedded in case fans.
Case fans are almost always replaceable, so you can swap out the included fans for ones that match your lighting preferences.
See-Through Side Panel
If you splurged for liquid cooling or components with LEDs, then you likely want to be able to see how cool it looks!
Cases with acrylic (plastic) or tempered glass windows allow you to see inside.
Tempered glass is more expensive and heavier than acrylic but is more resistant to scratches. Tempered glass can shatter into many pieces if not handled carefully.
Acrylic can scratch easily but is more resistant to breaking.
Vertical GPU Mount
Some cases include the option to mount your GPU vertically, to be visible from the side panel.
Support for vertical mounting may require additional brackets and a PCIe riser cable.
Depending on your case layout, vertical mounting an air-cooled GPU can negatively impact its cooling ability. Vertically mounting a GPU may also block some PCIe slots.
If you plan to mount a graphics card vertically, you'll need a case specifically designed to support this.
Your case's temperature depends on:
- Heat output of components
- Fan quantities, positions, sizes
- Whether anything is blocking the desired airflow
- Surface permeability (i.e., solid vs. grille surfaces)
- Liquid cooler's ability to dissipate heat via radiators and fans
Assuming you don't want to drill holes yourself, you'll need a case that includes your desired fan mounting locations.
Most cases will come with a few fans, but you may want to purchase additional fans or replace the existing ones.
Ensure that fan mounting locations match the size of the fan that you want to use.
Keep in mind that even if you don't have a fan mounted in some positions, a fan mounting location with a grille can allow for an additional airflow path.
Dust filters are washable inserts that prevent your fans from sucking dust and other particles into your computer case. Consider getting a case with dust filters to prevent dust from building up.
Power supplies have an intake fan on one side and an exhaust fan on the back. If you plan to place your PC on a carpet, consider using a case with a top-mounted PSU position to ensure that you will have adequate airflow.
Build quality can sometimes correlate with price. If you get a budget case, expect that the companies will cut some corners when designing the case.
Things that can be impacted by build quality:
- Build materials and process (will pieces break or last a long time?)
- Structural integrity (do the case components easily bend when you apply some force?)
- Inclusion of accessories such as:
- Numerous fans
- Rubber or other safeguards on sharp edges
- Tool-less thumb screws
- Extra screws
Some cases are built to target quiet builds.
For example, some cases have noise-dampening fiber material covering the removable panels. However, this typically means you won't be able to use a side-mounted fan or see-through window on that panel.
You can also reduce fan noise by using bigger fans, as they can move more air without spinning as fast.
In addition to ensuring that your case supports your desired motherboard form factor, it's crucial to ensure that your case can fit the component dimensions.
Some component dimensions to consider:
- Graphics card length: Some of the newest graphics cards are getting longer to include more fans.
- CPU cooler, liquid cooling radiator, and liquid cooling reservoir size: Smaller cases might only hold a single radiator. Large computer cases may be able to support multiple radiators.
- PSU wire lengths: While large cases allow for more flexibility in component layout, ensure that your power supply's wire lengths reach the desired locations.
Determine how many storage devices you want to be able to support now and in the future. When choosing a case, consider how easy adding or removing a storage device will be.
While you won't need storage mounts if you're only using motherboard-mounted M.2 SDDs, you need drive bays for 3.5" HDDs and mount points for 2.5" SSDs.
Many newer cases allow you to mount SSD behind the motherboard. Ensure that airflow is appropriate for the drive to avoid overheating if you mount SSDs in this location.
CPU Cooler Cut-Outs
Some cases provide access to the back of your motherboard, so you can replace your CPU cooler without needing to remove your entire motherboard.
It's often desirable to easily access some USB ports and audio jacks from the front or top panel.
Ensure that USB ports are your desired version/
Many modern PC cases have removed the 5.25-inch drive bays previously used for accessories such as DVD drives. Because most software is installable via the Internet, there's less need for DVD drives.
Without the front space of the case being allocated to drive bays, you can use the location for more fans and liquid cooling radiators.
Determine whether you want to read or write DVDs daily or if an external USB-based DVD drive would meet your needs. If you get a case with drive bays, you can also use these bays for accessories such as USB hubs, temperature monitors, and card readers.
Mid Tower - Lian Li O11 Dynamic
- As someone who values aesthetics in my computer builds, I appreciated the sleek look of the Lian Li O11 Dynamic, which features tempered glass on the front and side of the case.
- In terms of motherboard compatibility, the O11 Dynamic supports a range of form factors, including E-ATX, ATX, and Micro-ATX, making it a versatile choice for many different builds.
- I was impressed when I saw the ample storage options on the O11 Dynamic. This case can support up to six 2.5" SSDs or three 2.5" SSDs and three 3.5" HDDs, providing plenty of room for your storage needs.
- With support for up to three 360 mm radiators, the O11 Dynamic offers excellent cooling potential, making it a great choice for high-performance builds that require efficient heat dissipation. Lian Li 011 Dynamic Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Mid Tower - Corsair iCUE 4000X RGB
- I was immediately drawn to the sleek look of the Corsair iCUE 4000X RGB, which features tempered glass on the front and side. It really adds to the aesthetic of any build.
- A standout feature of the 4000X RGB is its ability to support vertically mounting a graphics card, which is a great way to show off a high-end GPU. However, it's worth noting that you will need a PCIe extension/
riser cable if you want to do this.
- When it comes to motherboard compatibility, the 4000X RGB is versatile and supports a range of form factors, including E-ATX, ATX, Mini-ATX, and Micro-ATX. This means it can work for many different builds, depending on your needs.
- In terms of storage options, the 4000X RGB can support up to two 3.5" HDDs and two 2.5" SSDs. While this may not be as much storage as some other cases, the 4000X RGB still offers a good balance between storage capacity and overall size. Corsair iCUE 4000X RGB Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Mid Tower - Fractal Design Define 7
- As someone who understands that others may prioritize function over style in their computer builds, I appreciated the practical design of the Fractal Design Define 7, which features no windows to distract from the case's utility.
- I was impressed by the sound dampening material in the Define 7, which helps to reduce fan noise and create a quieter computing environment.
- The Define 7 offers plenty of options for motherboard compatibility, supporting a range of form factors, including E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX.
- With up to fourteen 3.5" HDD bays and four SDD mounts, the Define 7 provides ample storage options for all my data needs.
- I found the front panel of the Define 7 to be particularly convenient, with its five USB ports, including one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C port, making it easy to connect all my peripherals.
- The Define 7 is also very versatile when it comes to radiator configurations, making it a great choice for custom liquid cooling setups. Fractal Design Define 7 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Full Tower - Lian Li O11D XL
- I was blown away by the stunning design of the Lian Li O11D XL, which features tempered glass on both the front and side of the case, creating an impressive visual display for my components.
- In terms of motherboard compatibility, the O11D XL supports a range of form factors, including E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, and ITX, making it a versatile choice for many different builds.
- With support for up to three 360 mm radiators or two wider 280 mm radiators plus one 360 mm radiator, the O11D XL offers excellent cooling potential, making it a great choice for high-performance builds that require efficient heat dissipation.
- The front panel of the O11D XL is particularly convenient, with one USB 3.1 Type C port and four USB 3.0 ports, making it easy to connect all my peripherals.
- I was impressed when I saw the ample storage options on the O11D XL. This case can support up to ten 2.5" SSDs or six 2.5" SSDs and four 3.5" HDDs (hot-swappable), providing plenty of room for your storage needs.
- I appreciated the flexibility of the O11D XL in supporting vertically mounting graphics cards with a vertical mount (sold separately), giving me the freedom to customize my build to my liking. Lian Li O11D XL Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Full Tower - Corsair 700D Airflow
- Being someone who appreciates a clean and modern look in my builds, I appreciated the sleek design of the Corsair 700D Airflow, which features tempered glass on one side and a steel front panel grille.
- The 700D Airflow supports the widely-used ATX form factor.
- I was impressed by the cooling potential of the 700D Airflow, which can accommodate up to three 360 mm radiators. This means that even under heavy loads, my system stays cool and running smoothly.
- Another standout feature of the 700D Airflow is its ability to support vertically mounting a graphics card. This is a great option for those who want to showcase their high-end GPU and add a unique touch to their build.
- With support for up to ten 2.5" SSDs or four 2.5" SSDs and six 3.5" HDDs, the 700D Airflow provides plenty of storage options for my needs. This means that I don't have to worry about running out of space any time soon. Corsair 7000D Airflow Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Want to brush up on other new technologies to consider when building a computer? Check out these articles:
- The Best CPUs for Gaming
- Which Intel and AMD CPUs Support PCIe 5.0?
- Which Intel and AMD CPUs Support PCIe 4.0?
- LGA 1700 CPU List
- LGA 1200 CPU List
- Look up an Intel or AMD CPU on TechReviewer for related recommendations:
- CPU Coolers:
- Graphics Cards:
- Power Supplies:
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