How to Choose a PC Case

 

A computer has a multitude of components inside it, whether it's the GPU or the motherboard itself they all sit inside the PC case. 


The case is basically the skeleton of your PC, keeping it all together. Apart from that, in recent years, cases have also been used to improve the aesthetics of modern personal computers, your PC is no longer a boring black box but a curvy, shiny and futuristic machine that often radiates light (if you have RGBs of course).


Though in today's world cases are bought mainly for their aesthetics but the case also plays small but vital roles in the everyday operations of your PC, which means choosing a case isn't as simple as grabbing the best looking one, you have to weigh in more practical factors too.


Fortunately, we have got you covered. Let’s dive right in and find out more:

 

PC setup

Table of contents

Compatibility with other Parts

Case Sizes

Key case features

To sum it all up

What’s Next?

    Compatibility with other Parts


    If you haven't bought other components like the GPU and CPU cooler yet which is the likely case, make sure you buy a case that can fit both. 


    Similarly, if you already have a GPU make sure you know its length and width as many cases often cannot fit the larger GPUs. Modern cases are being built in a way to mitigate this while newer GPUs are also being reduced in size.


    Another issue often faced when buying a new case is that not all cases can handle every CPU cooler as the height of the heat sinks often varies a lot.

    The spec sheet of the case usually has the information regarding the maximum height of the CPU cooler it can accommodate.


    Lastly, if you're someone who is fond of water cooling their PC, you should look for a case that supports water cooling and its associated parts. The fan radiators used in water cooling systems often do not have a standard size, which can cause issues when fitting the water cooling system into the case.

    Every fitting in a water-cooled PC should be perfect as even a drop of leaking water can ruin the PC.


    All of the said information can be found in the description of the product page for the case that you are choosing to buy.


    There are different types of cases available for different types of cooling: cases for water-cooled PCs are distinct from cases for air-cooled PCs.


    Another thing you should determine before going out to buy a case is whether you require an optical drive or not. Many modern cases have ditched the 5.25” optical drive and replaced it with a vent for fans or RGB light controls.


    That being said you should also determine what you want at the front of your PC before buying a case: how many ports and what type of ports need to be present.


    In terms of storage, it should be clear to you whether you will use SATA HDDs or SSDs and how many drives will be used so you can choose a case that has enough 2.5” or 3.5” slots for them.


    Lastly, more and more people want their GPUs to be vertical in their PC for aesthetics, if you’re such a person make sure you pick a case that supports this.


    Case Sizes

    There are generally four types of cases available on the market, namely being Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX Mid-tower and ATX Full-tower/Super tower.


    case sizes comparison

     

    Source: Computer case Lab


    The first part of the name represents the size of the cases and the later part including the 3 letters e.g. ATX, refer to the type of Motherboard the said cases are compatible with.

    motherboard size comparison

    These options offer anyone building a PC great flexibility regarding the dimensions of their PC. These options allow people to make PCs specific to their needs without compromising on space.


    Mini-ITX


    Mini-ITX cases are the smallest cases available and these cases require the ITX type motherboard just like its name suggests.


    Mini-ITX cases are for incredibly small and compact PCs, in fact, this case is so small that often distinct components are needed which are specifically designed for Mini-ITX cases, fortunately, those components are widely available and easy to find.


    PCs with these cases are usually made for tight spaces like a cabinet or the home theatre. Their size makes them highly portable and a prime choice for someone who moves around a lot.

    Their small size also means that there is very little space inside, which means high-performance GPUs and CPUs can’t be used in them nor can they accommodate a full-length GPU.


    Lack of high-performance components means that these PCs can only perform basic tasks like browsing and watching videos or movies. 


    Therefore, if you want to save some space and your usage is basic then Mini-ITX may be for you.


    Here are some suggestions from us:

    NZXT H200i

     

     

    Phanteks Enthoo Evolv Shift X

     

    Micro-ATX


    This case is quite similar to the mid-tower but is about 25% smaller and uses the Micro-ATX motherboard which is a slightly smaller version of the standard ATX motherboard.


    Micro-ATX falls between the Mini-ITX and Mid-tower and is generally used for smaller budget PCs that have smaller GPUs and basic performance since they cost a bit less than the standard Mid-tower version.


    Here are some suggestions from us:

     

    Cooler Master MasterBox

     

    Fractal Design Meshify C Mini

    ATX Mid-Tower


    ATX Mid-tower is the most common type of PC casing and almost all PCs you see around whether in an office or a school all are using the mid-tower casing. 


    The wide usage of this case is due to its ability to fit almost any type of motherboard even though it usually uses the standard ATX motherboard.


    This case is also popular among gamers as it can easily fit all components out there and are easier to cool down due to the case’s larger size. These cases also offer greater flexibility in terms of adding additional fans, lights and hard drives.


    The mid-tower casing can also accommodate larger high-end GPUs and beefy CPU coolers to enable overclocking. An optical drive and additional storage drives can also be added to this case if the need arises.


    For most users, the mid-tower will fulfil all their needs and rarely something bigger would be needed. But if you want to water-cool your PC or plan on doing so, then it's better to go even bigger than the mid-tower.


    Here are some suggestions from us for Mid-tower cases:

    Lian-Li O11 Dynamic Mini

    Fractal Design Define R6

    ATX Full-tower



    The full tower or the super tower is the largest PC case you can buy off the shelf. They are quite humongous, measuring up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide while being a foot thick. The sheer size of this case means that you will not be running out of space no matter how big of a water-cooling system you install on your PC.


    As most of the PCs using this case are water-cooled this case focuses less on airflow and more on aesthetics; many full-tower cases have thick metal walls and mesh structures.


    If you want to build a water-cooled beast of a rig with dual GPUs and the best stuff money can buy, then you should consider the full tower case as it will offer you the liberty to put in any component that you please without ever worrying about space. In addition, if you intend on using a custom loop system for your water-cooled PC, then there should be enough room in the case for the water reservoir too and at that point, it is better to just buy a full tower case than to risk it not being able to fit in a mid-tower case.


    Here are some suggestions from us:

    Cooler Master MasterCase H500P Mesh ARGB

    Thermaltake Tower 900

    Boitier Moyen Tour ATX Lian-Li






    Key Case features


    Though the majority of the consumers decide on PC cases based on aesthetics, there are many other small features that you should look for when buying a case.


    Many of these features will make your case not only more practical but get more value for money as well, as it will offer you more than just a pretty shell for your PC.


    Here are the best features to have in your PC case:


    Good airflow


    Having a case with good airflow is one of the most important features you should look for when buying a case for your PC.

    pc airflow

    Source: How to Geek


    Usually, cases have one or two fans already installed but have spaces for additional fans, which can be used to install more fans if your PC needs additional cooling. This is a feature that is vital to keeping your PC cool and safe from heat damage.


    Many cases include tempered glass or metal front panels to make the case look better but these materials often hinder airflow so it’s better to avoid cases with glass or metallic front panels if you don’t want to face heating issues.


    If you live somewhere with a hot climate it’s very difficult to maintain a suitable temperature for your PC. Therefore, you are better off using a mesh front panel case that will ensure maximum airflow to your inner components.


    Dust filters


    In air-cooled PCs, dust is quite a common problem due to the air passing through fans which usually carries dust with it. 


    A great way to mitigate dust accumulation inside your PC is by buying a PC case with dust filters. Not only will this feature keep your PC clean but will also prolong its life as lower dust accumulation will prolong the life of the components.


    If you’re a smoker or live in dusty environments it’s always better to have dust filters in your case to keep your PC running well for a long time.

    Tool-less design


    Older PCs were not easy to work with as you would have to unscrew several screws with a specific type of screwdriver to just open the PC case, that's why it was a hassle to carry out maintenance.


    PC building screwing in parts

    However, newer cases have been adopting a tool-free design which makes assembly and disassembly very easy. Cases use thumbscrews for internal fastening and twist-on or snap-on tool-free mechanisms in the drive bays.


    This newer design makes changing things like a fan, HDD or just opening the case easier and hassle-free.


    It is always better to buy a case with a tool-free design, all it will do is just make your life a little easier.

    Cable management


    No one wants their PC to look dirty and mismanaged due to visible cables going around the PC, especially if they're using a case with tempered glass.

    PC case cable management

    Cable management is not only vital to how your PC looks but also well-managed cables mean that cleaning your PC in the future will be much easier.


    Cases that have holes cut out in the motherboard tray enable you to easily manage your cables and route them through the back of your PC, some high-end cases also include rubber grommets that cover these holes to give an overall cleaner look to your PC.


    Another great feature to have in your case in terms of cable management is PSU shrouds. No matter how perfect of a job do you do when managing your cables, the cables connecting to your PSU will almost always be exposed. 

    To overcome that many manufacturers now include PSU shrouds that cover the PSU and with it the cables, leaving the PC with a clean look.


    Sound dampening


    The noise from your PC can become quite nagging, especially when the fans are spinning at full speed. To reduce the noise sound dampening materials are used in the walls of the case.


    Cases with this feature are considerably quieter but at the same time, these sound dampening materials also act as insulators. This can cause heating issues, so make sure the case with this feature has large 140mm fans that spin slower and quieter while also cooling the PC adequately.


    Good build quality


    You can easily get lost in the looks of many cases but a less talked about factor is the build quality of cases.


    Cases with a better build quality have no cost-cutting measures applied to them and their materials are on point.


    Many cheaper cases come with acrylic windows instead of glass. This isn’t good as acrylic gets dirty in just a few months ruining the look of your PC, and it can easily get scratched.

    Apart from that many cases use low-quality metal which keeps on receiving new dings and dents. It is always better to go for better build quality, I would recommend even getting a plastic case rather than a low-quality metallic one.


    Integrated lighting


    If you're an RGB fan, cases with integrated lighting should be your priority as integrated lights are often more reliable than off the shelf RGBs that often have poorly made wires and usually go dark after a few months.



    To sum it all up


    Now that you're aware of the ins and outs of PC cases you can make a better decision. 

    Practicality and build quality should always be your priority rather than just aesthetics as a little thought while buying the case can buy you months or even years of stress experience with your PC. Best of luck!


    If you have any questions feel free to contact me, you can use the comments section below or a contact form.


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    What’s Next?


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    For our next article, the community has settled on a piece talking about PCs vs Consoles


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