Saving money on a case after spending good money on other hardware may not be the best thing to do. The electronic components in a computer produce a lot of heat, especially when they are under stress, a heat that must be dissipated and managed by the case’s airflow system. If the integrated fan system is not well thought out, it can lead to unpleasant situations that can slow down or even breakdown your other components.
PC Cases – Models
PC cases are divided into several categories which are characterized above all by the dimensions of each case. A bigger case usually offers more room to work and expand your system but also better customization options. Obviously not everyone can afford to buy or has room for a full tower case.
If you have the money and space for a big case, go for it. Otherwise, a mid-size tower is always the preferred solution. Mini towers, on the other hand, are becoming more and more popular and there are some great options out there but they are usually not recommended for a gaming PC.
Mini-tower cases can go up to 16 inches high and they offer enough space to install all basic components. They seldom have space for a secondary expansion card (like a sound card) so you will have to settle for the one integrated into the motherboard, which is an OK but never the best solution. In addition, a mini-tower case can usually accommodate only certain GPUs, and the airflow isn’t optimal since everything is cramped up. They are nevertheless a viable option for a small office PC or a console-style gaming rig.
A mid-tower case can go up to 18 inches high and is the most popular type of case. There is enough room for everything you might need and support for a good number of fans or a custom liquid cooling solution. Most of them have good airflow and also require fewer fans for the same amount of cooling than full tower cases.
The full tower is the largest case there is and can reach up to 27.5 inches in height. They are recommended only for those that like to bring things to the extreme. They cost a lot and take up a lot of space. The real question is do you really need all that space?
PC Cases – Features
First and foremost the motherboard! Not all motherboards are compatible with all cases. Each type of motherboard has a precise arrangement of the screw holes, and these holes must obviously match the pattern in the case. Precisely for this reason, there are certain standards that you must know and consider.
The Mini-ITX format is one of the smaller motherboard formats and can fit into most cases, from the smallest mini-tower to the largest full tower.
The Micro-ATX is the midway solution between a Mini-ITX and a traditional ATX motherboard.
Finally, the ATX format is by far the most popular standard of motherboards. There are different types of ATX motherboards, which can go from very inexpensive models (most of them are cheaper than corresponding Mini-ITX motherboards since they require less miniaturization work), up to extremely pricey, premium and feature-rich versions of the same model.
Each case always lists its compatibility with one or more types of motherboard format so always check that your new case (or new motherboard) is compatible with each other!
PC Cases – Cooling and airflow
Cooling and airflow are the most important parts in choosing a PC case since this is where a case can make or break your system. A well-ventilated case will allow the integrated components to maintain a lower operating temperature and thus last for a longer period of time, or even perform better in the case of some gaming rigs!
To create an airflow most cases use fans with the simplest (and most cost-effective) setup being one in the front (inlet) and one in the rear (exhaust).
Some pricier models also have fans on the top or side and can help improve the cooling performance of your system. The important thing to remember when installing multiple fans is to create a linear airflow from one side to another. The air must always enter one side and exit on the opposite one.
PC Cases – Liquid cooling
If you intend to upgrade your cooling solution with an all-in-one kit for liquid cooling, or a custom kit that you will have to build piece by piece, you will necessarily have to check if there is enough space in your case, especially for the radiator, which can have a dimension up to 360mm. Again each case always states the support for a liquid cooling kit and its dimensions, so just make sure that both specifications match up.
The same goes in the case of a particularly voluminous CPU cooler: before buying one always check the supported height.
Which one to buy
Now that you know the basics, continue reading the article below to find out our best picks; one should be perfect for you!