NZXT S340

Here's everything you need to know about buying a case for your PC build.

Choosing a case for your PC depends on what you wish to build and how much budget you can allocate to the chassis. It's possible to avoid giving much thought about a case and pick up a simple listing you like the look of, while others will take into account cooling performance, mounting support for water pumps and reservoirs, and more. There's no real wrong choice when it comes to cases, but there's the opportunity to get the most for your buck.

Most cases you will find at retailers today will all offer basic functionality. Drive bays (or other mounting options in place of), front USB and audio connectivity, lighting effects, removable covers, and more. You can never really go wrong when it comes to choosing a PC case unless it's a small form factor and you're attempting to throw in a full ATX motherboard with a beast of a GPU that takes up 3 PCI slots.

Size matters

Fractal Design R3

Contrary to what you might here elsewhere, size does actually matter. Motherboards come in a variety of sizes, and not all are compatible with every case on the market. Full ATX motherboards, which measure in at 305mm x 244mm, are ideal companions for a full tower case. However, depending on dimensions, you may have trouble fitting one inside a mid-tower or mini-PC chassis. This is where microATX or mini-ITX motherboards come in, measuring in at 244mm x 244mm and 170mm x 170mm, respectively.

Depending on which motherboard you own, or are looking to purchase, you'll need to adjust your case filters accordingly. Generally speaking, the size of motherboard and case usually match up. For example, if you're going for a small mini tower case, it may be worth looking at miniATX boards. For a more powerful gaming rig, opt for an ATX motherboard and full tower case. Be sure to check specifications and dimensions to see if the board (and accompanying components) will fit.

  • SFF/Mini tower: Generally deployed as network attached storage units or media PCs for the home.
  • Mid-tower: The middle-ground when it comes to expansion, performance, and size.
  • Full Tower: Can accommodate even enthusiast setups. Huge scope for modification.

One must also consider future upgrades and builds. Components may not last a lifetime, but a case can. If you plan to upgrade at a future date with a more powerful component list, you'll need to ensure the case you invest in has room for more cooling and larger internals. Ideally, you don't want to choose a massive case for a small build, nor do you wish to be tight on space when it comes to putting everything together.

Features

Windows Central Office

The more advanced features, materials, and build processes utilized in a case, the more expensive it'll be. While it's possible to locate some killer cases on a tighter budget, if you wish to go tool-free, enjoy a plethora of connectivity, expansion and open up the insides with a premium-looking design, it's worth paying out a bit more. But again, it depends entirely on your needs.

Here are some handy features cases can have to make your PC building experience that much better:

  • Integrated lighting
  • 3.5-inch bays and mounting points
  • Front panel audio and USB 3
  • Removable motherboard tray
  • Dust filters
  • Radiator mount points
  • Support for water cooling
  • Cable management
  • Drive sleds
  • Optimal airflow
  • Adequate CPU and GPU clearance
  • Spacing behind motherboard panel
  • PSU mounting and orientation
  • Sound proofing

Imagination deployed

ZOTAC GTX 1070

Don't be afraid to think outside the box, too. There are some really cool-looking cases out there just waiting to have components installed within. At the end of the day, purchasing a PC case isn't difficult. It's all about getting it right with the components you plan to install inside it. As well as making sure all the internals are compatible, it's important to be sure everything will actually fit inside.

Further Reading

Updated on 20 July, 2017: We added some more information to bolster our guide.