While computer casings aren’t directly related to the level of performance your PC can attain, they are nonetheless vital to your total system.
All of your components are housed and protected in PC cases, and they also influence airflow in your system to keep it cool (at least, the good cases do.)
However, there are other case possibilities available. They’re also available in a range of sizes, styles, and feature sets. Despite the fact that a computer case is one of the most interesting components to select, there is a lot to think about when selecting the correct one for your needs.
In this article, we’ll go over four main aspects to consider when picking a case for your PC build (some of which have a number of sub-topics). By the end of this article, you should have a better concept of what to look for in a case, allowing you to pick the ideal PC case for you and your new system.
Case Compatibility, Clearance, and Form-Factor
In this article, we’ll go over four main things to consider when picking a case for your PC build (some of which have a number of sub-topics). By the end of this article, you should have a better concept of what to look for in a case and be able to pick the finest PC case for you and your new system.
Form-Factors and Common Case Sizes
There are really four common case sizes:
- Micro-ATX (Small)
- Mini-ITX (Smaller)
- Full Tower (Large)
- Mid Tower (Medium)
Technically, there are no case size standards—at least not in terms of case dimensions. However, all cases support at least one of the many computer motherboard form factors.
The most common motherboard form-factors are:
- Extended ATX
- Standard ATX
You can learn more about the differences between micro-ATX, mini-ITX, and regular ATX motherboards in our detailed guide.
The larger the case, the more likely it is to accommodate a wide range of motherboard form factors. Some full tower cases, for example, can accommodate any of the four standard motherboard form factors.
Naturally, installing a mini-ITX motherboard in a full tower case will seem ridiculous. However, it is possible to do so in terms of compatibility.
Smaller form-factor cases, on the other hand, are constrained by their size and so cannot accept larger motherboard form-factors. A conventional ATX motherboard, for example, will not fit inside a mini-ITX case.
But, once again, this is the single standard that connects the many cases in a common case size. This means that, while all mid tower cases can house standard ATX motherboards, not all mid tower cases are the same size or have the same features. The same is true for the other popular case sizes.
So, when it comes to motherboard form-factor, the most important thing to keep in mind while shopping for a case is to make sure that the motherboard you’ve chosen (or plan to choose) will fit inside the case you’re considering.
Of course, this may be easily done by looking at the case’s spec sheet to determine which motherboard form-factors it supports.
Clearance & Other Compatibility Issues
While the motherboard form-factors that a case supports are one type of compatibility issue to consider before buying a case, you’ll also want to be sure that all of your other components will fit inside.
The most common clearance and compatibility issues to watch for when shopping for a PC case are:
- Air CPU cooler height
- Liquid cooling radiator size
- Graphics card length
Graphics Card Length
While this is becoming less common as A) graphics cards get shorter on average and B) mid tower and smaller cases begin to be developed to handle longer graphics cards, it is still possible.
However, the problem continues to exist. So, before you finish your part list, check the spec sheets of both your case and graphics card to see how long your graphics card is and how much clearance your case has for a graphics card. You’re okay to go if your case can support graphics card lengths that are longer than your graphics card.
If that is not the case, you should look for a shorter option. Additionally, if you’re looking for a small form-factor case, you should look into some of the “micro” graphics cards that are available (both Zotac and Gigabyte have mini versions available on even their higher-end cards.)
Air CPU Cooler Tower Height
Certain air CPU coolers have taller heatsinks than others, similar to how some graphics cards are longer than others. Furthermore, not every enclosure is deep enough to fit the highest air coolers.
Simply verify the spec sheet of both the case and the air CPU cooler you’re considering to guarantee that the CPU cooler you’ve picked will fit inside your case. The spec sheet for your case should state how tall of a CPU cooler it can support, and the height of the CPU cooler you’re contemplating will be listed.
Liquid Cooling Radiator Size
Liquid cooling systems use liquid to transmit heat from your processor to a radiator (whether AIOs or custom loops). The radiator is equipped with fans, which help to dissipate part of the heat generated by the radiator.
There is no standard radiator size, though. Radiators, in fact, exist in a variety of sizes.
Similarly to how not every case can fit every CPU cooler or graphics card, not every case can fit every radiator size.
So, before you pick a liquid cooling configuration (AIO or custom loop) to go with your case, double-check the spec sheet to make sure the radiator that comes with your liquid cooler will fit inside your case.
It’s also worth noting the distinction between AIO coolers and custom liquid cooling setups. Custom liquid cooling setups have additional reservoir capacity, therefore a chassis that supports larger radiators won’t always work for custom loops. The two, however, usually go hand in hand.
A Computer Case’s Role in Cooling and Air Flow
While the most appealing aspect of PC cases is usually their appearance, they also play an important part in the cooling of your computer. It goes without saying that keeping your components cool is a vital part of developing and sustaining a computer. The cooler your components run, the longer they’ll usually live and the fewer issues you’ll have.
The airflow provided by computer casings helps (or hurts) the cooling process (or fail to provide). The type of CPU cooler you can get is also determined by your PC case. (For more information about clearance and compatibility, see the section above.)
Consider the following factors if you want a case with a lot of airflow and good cooling:
- The case should be able to support numerous fans in different parts of the case (front, back, top, side, etc.)
This does not imply that the case you select must include a number of fans pre-installed. Only a few fans are pre-installed in most cases (cheaper cases typically come with only one or two pre-installed).
However, if your budget allows, you should look for a casing that allows you to install multiple fans. It’s also a good idea to acquire a case with fans on the front and back (or top) of the case so that you may intake air from the front and exhaust it from the back (or top).
2. The panels (front, side, and top) on a case also play a large role in air flow.
Grilled panels or grilled apertures on panels are ideal because the grill design allows for increased airflow into (and out of) the casing.
Cases with solid front, top, side, and back panels, on the other hand, limit the amount of air that may enter and escape the case because there is less of an aperture for air to enter (or exit).
Since a result, whenever possible, buy a case with grill panels, as this will boost air flow in your case, keeping your components cooler.
While this does not necessarily imply that those cases aren’t suitable options for air flow and cooling, it does imply that the sorts of coolers you can put in them are limited. So, if you want an AIO cooler with a massive 360mm radiator but also want a certain case that can only take a 240mm radiator, you’ll have to choose between the two.
3. Case Build Quality
Another essential characteristic is the build quality. Cheaper cases are made of lower-quality materials, which means they show more dings and scratches, are less robust, have thinner panels, and wear out faster.
Higher-end cases, on the other hand, usually feature a considerably more substantial structure and are thus more durable.
Of fact, for some builders on a budget, there is no way around using a less expensive case. And that’s perfectly acceptable. But keep in mind that while a less expensive case could look stylish and have some excellent features, it’s likely that some corners were cut somewhere, and it’s likely that they were shaved on the case’s materials and build quality.
4. Case Aesthetics (& Cable Mangement)
This is just my opinion, but I feel that if there were less options for cool computer casings, fewer people would construct their own PCs. It may sound like a stupid opinion—especially because cases have no direct impact on the speed of your system—but imagine if the only case available was one of those plain-looking cases that inexpensive pre-built PCs arrive in.
It takes a little of the pleasure out of building a computer, doesn’t it?
Aesthetics are vital in any case because most people want their case to look cool.
As a result, in this section, I’ll go over four major areas of case aesthetics that you should think about when buying a case:
There are three categories of people who will construct computers, in my opinion.
- People who are extremely conscientious about cable management.
- People who do a good job with cable management but aren’t likely to go overboard.
- Those who are unconcerned about cable management.
Choosing a case that is created with wire management in mind is the way to go for the first two sorts of users. If one of your aims is to create a clean-looking system, cable management is a necessary. You may color-coordinate all of your components, purchase a case with a see-through side panel, and install a slew of RGB lights… However, if you don’t clean up your cabling, your structure will be unattractive.
While cable management is a bit of an art, and experts can definitely make the wiring look decent in any case, having a case with a lot of cable management options will go a long way toward helping you hide your cables.
This is especially true for first-time builders, who are more concerned with getting their computer installed correctly than with keeping their wires tidy and inconspicuous. Some cases come with added cable management features, which will make the procedure easier for first-time builders and reduce their stress levels.
Some cable management features to look for on prospective cases are:
- There are numerous holes and hooks/loops throughout the case.
- To hide the gaps, rubber grommets are used around the openings.
- Cases with enough depth behind the motherboard to accommodate big cable clusters
- PSU shrouds are useful because they simplify cable management with non-modular power supplies. (They also appear to be very clean.)
See-Through Side Panels
A case with a see-through side panel can help you show off the inside of your PC if you want to design a nice-looking system. And, if you take your time and organise your cords properly, you’ll be able to impress your non-techie friends with how cool your computer looks.
It’s crucial to remember that not all side panels are created equal. Side panels made of tempered glass are the greatest option. Avoid using an acrylic see-through side panel if at all possible. Acrylic is extremely scratchable. I’ve even scratched acrylic side panels by attempting to wipe away dust with a cloth.
The PSU shroud movement is one of my favourites. PSU shrouds, in my opinion, are a lifesaver for A) those of us who don’t have elite-level wire management abilities, and B) those of us on a budget who must use a non-modular power supply.
You might accomplish every other part of cable management correctly in a case without a PSU shroud and with a non-modular power supply, but if you don’t have someplace to hide the jumble of molex and SATA power cables that are left behind, you’ll have a massive eyesore to look at inside your case. That mess is disguised by default with a PSU shroud.
Even if you have a semi-modular or modular power supply, a PSU shroud is still necessary.
It’s no surprise that RGB lighting is becoming increasingly popular, as evidenced by the growing number of cases that include RGB lighting in some form. RGB fans and RGB led strips can, of course, be purchased separately and installed in a chassis that does not include them. However, if the case already has them, you’ll save money on RGB lighting after the fact.
If you desire a certain colour scheme, make sure the case comes with RGB lights rather than just a single colour led light.
Which Case is Right for You?
There are hundreds of case possibilities from which to chose. The best case for you will be determined by three considerations: first, your budget, second, the other components you have (or have chosen) for your build and whether or not they are compatible with the case you are considering, and third, your personal preferences on some of the factors mentioned above.
Finally, if you’ve read thus far, you’ll have a much better notion of what to look for when selecting a PC case that meets your requirements.