Best PC cases for airflow Windows Central 2021
The best PC cases for airflow generally offer unimpeded intake and exhaust, whether via mesh construction, lots of fans, or both. Even if you don't have a particularly powerful PC system, good airflow can help you achieve peak performance. And since these options are among the overall best PC cases available today, you know you'll also get something that looks great and is easy to build. The Lian Li Lancool 2 Mesh RGB might be our top pick thanks to an absolutely stacked set of features, but there are a bunch of other great PC cases if you'd like to maximize airflow across your hardware.
- Best overall: Lian Li Lancool 2 Mesh RGB
- Also great: be quiet! Silent Base 802
- Best ITX case: NZXT H210i
- Best value: Fractal Design Meshify C
- Understated style: Cooler Master MasterBox NR600
- Best RGB: Phanteks Eclipse P400A RGB
Best overall: Lian Li Lancool 2 Mesh RGB
Lian Li's Lancool 2 Mesh RGB is a case that really does everything it can to promote airflow short of just building a PC on a flat board with fans blowing on it. It has a steel mesh front panel, mesh panel below the tempered glass side panel, full honeycomb venting on the back, and tons of fan and radiator support throughout.
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On the top it can handle up to a 240mm radiator or dual 140mm fans, on the front it supports a 360mm radiator or three 120mm fans, and there's even space for two 120mm fans above the PSU shroud (taking in air from the side mesh panel). It still has a hinged tempered glass panel for viewing inside, and there are still seven PCI slots for easy building. The case comes with three 120mm RGB fans on the front.
Behind the motherboard tray are a bunch of removable panels and bars to make cable management a breeze, and there's even a pulldown panel that holds extra storage drives. If you're truly serious about airflow and don't mind a mid-tower ATX case that offers easy and intuitive building, this is the way to go.
- Excellent airflow and thermals
- Three RGB fans included
- Not as expensive as you might think
- Easy cable management
- Hinged panels and glass
- Mesh panel is a bit boring compared to other options
- Might be a bit loud due to all the mesh
Also great: be quiet! Silent Base 802
In our review of the be quiet! Silent Base 802, it's noted that this latest version of the case has a focus on sound dampening, flexibility, and design. This case with room for up to an E-ATX motherboard has interchangeable front and top panels for either sound insulation or airflow depending on what you need at the moment. Front and top both have dust filters, plus you can get the side panel with or without tempered glass.
The case comes with three pre-installed 140mm fans, plus there's tons of room for radiators up to 420mm. Stock building is easy, but be quiet! even allows you to invert the motherboard for a different setup. There is plenty of room for building thanks to nine PCI slots on the back and plenty of storage drive bays.
Front ports include USB-C 3.2 (Gen 2), dual USB-A 3.0, and 3.5mm audio. A four-step fan controller is also on the front (with support for up to six fans), or you can connect them all to a PWM controller. If you need a huge case that's easy to work with, has excellent noise dampening, and excellent airflow, be sure to check out the be quiet! Silent Base 802.
- Gorgeous design without too much flash
- Easy to build inside
- Solid AIO water-cooling support
- Amazing airflow and performance
- On the large side
- Awkward case feet
- Some cable management
be quiet! Silent Base 802
be quiet! has seen how mesh PC cases have a place with the rise of Intel's 14nm CPUs and NVIDIA's power-hungry graphics cards. While it falls a little short for cable management, the sheer size of the case, and awkward case feet, the Silent Base 802 is a joy to build inside and performs extremely well.
Best ITX case: NZXT H210i
There are a number of high-quality cases to choose from in NZXT's stable, but the H210i is where you should focus if you want a smaller ITX build that nevertheless offers clean airflow and easy building. There are two PCI slots on the back of the case, but that should still be enough for most modern GPUs thanks to 325mm of clearance toward the front and 44mm thickness clearance. Inside there's room for three 2.5-inch drives and a 3.5-inch drive.
While there are two 120mm fans included, the case has room for up to two 140mm fans on the front (protected by a dust panel), and 120mm fans on the top and rear. If you're going with a radiator, the front has space for a 240mm rad with removable bracket for easy installation. There's also room for a 120mm radiator in the back.
The case comes in black, black and white, and black and red color combinations, and all have a large tempered glass side panel for easy viewing. If you're going for a smaller build and want good airflow and a premium case, the NZXT H210i is the way to go.
- Easy cable management
- Premium design and build quality
- Room for larger GPUs
- Excellent airflow
- On the large side for ITX
- Bit pricey
Best value: Fractal Design Meshify C
Fractal Design's Meshify C with dark tempered glass is a gorgeous mid-tower ATX case with a focus on airflow and easy building. The inside is as open as possible, providing unimpeded airflow through the case to the rear exhaust. This also allows for a slightly smaller case than you might be expecting.
The front has a stylized mesh panel with space beneath for three 120mm fans, two 140mm fans, or up to a 360mm radiator. The top is also accommodating, with 240mm radiator and dual 140mm fan support. As for the rear, you can fit a 120mm radiator or a 120mm fan (which is included). Everything has a dust filter to keep your hardware clean.
There's tons of space inside for storage drives, there are seven PCI expansion slots, and the cable management hardware behind the motherboard tray makes cabling easy. I/O on the front includes two USB-A 3.0, as well as 3.5mm audio and mic. Bottom line? If you want a mid-tower ATX case with satisfying mesh design and tinted tempered glass, this is the way to go.
- Beautiful mesh panel up front
- Open interior design for easy airflow
- Lots of space despite a compact design
- Tinted tempered glass side panel
- Good price
- Not as much noise dampening through front mesh
- Not great for water cooling
Understated style: Cooler Master MasterBox NR600
Many people aren't looking to spend more than $100 on a PC case, but that doesn't mean airflow and looks aren't important. Enter the Cooler Master MasterBox NR600, a mid-tower case with support for up to ATX motherboards. It's certainly geared toward those who aren't looking for much flash, with its flat mesh front panel, flush tempered glass side panel, and clean lines throughout. Nothing sticks out, even on the glass, thanks to hidden mounts.
The front panel has a fine mesh that keeps out dust but allows plenty of air through. There's support there for up to a 360mm radiator or dual 140mm fans, with space up top for dual 140mm fans or 240mm radiator. On the back there's a 120mm exhaust fan.
The case might be sort of plain on the outside, but inside you're looking at easy cable management, room for up to nine storage drives, and seven PCI slots for easy expansion. The front has two USB-A 3.0 ports and a 3.5mm headset jack. If you're looking for a simple case that nevertheless has excellent airflow, this is the one you want.
- Value pricing
- Excellent airflow and thermals
- Minimalistic design
- Flush side panel without visible mounts
- Might be too dull for some
- Bit cramped behind motherboard
Best RGB: Phanteks Eclipse P400A RGB
If you like the exterior look of Lian Li's Lancool 2 Mesh but prefer tempered glass covering the entire side panel, the Phanteks Eclipse P400A RGB mid-tower case might just be the right choice. It can fit up to an E-ATX motherboard for larger builds.
It has an ultra-fine steel mesh panel on the front that keeps out dust but allows in plenty of air, and the included three 120mm RGB fans are good from the start to pump air through the system. There's even a simple fan controller on the front where you can swap between colors and modes.
The front supports either the three 120mm fans or two 140mm fans, the top has room for two 120mm or 140mm fans, and the rear has space for one 120mm exhaust fan. As for radiators, the front can fit up to a 360mm piece. There's also room for up to eight storage drives with an optional bracket seated behind the side tray. There are seven PCI expansion slots on the back, as well as plenty of venting on the shroud for extra airflow. Two USB-A 3.0 ports and 3.5mm audio and mic ports round out the front I/O.
- Lots of room inside for building
- Three RGB fans included
- Steel mesh front for good airflow
- Good price
- No top radiator support
If we're making some suggestions
Any of the above PC cases will do a great job of maximizing airflow to your PC's hardware, and they should all keep the interior clean and dust-free while doing so. We considered adding something like the open-concept Thermaltake Core P3 to this list, but it's less airflow and more just air.
In any case, the Lian Li Lancool 2 Mesh RGB takes the top spot in terms of PC cases with excellent airflow. Not only does it have a mesh front and honeycomb rear with lots of room for exhaust, but it also has a side mesh shroud below the hinged glass panel. There's just about all the radiator and fan support you could want, plus there's extensive cable management behind and next to the motherboard. Those who want to build something great without much hassle and still get a lot of air moving through the system should definitely check this one out.
And if you're less interested in airflow and just want to see some of the best overall cases on the market, have a look at our best PC case roundup.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, accessory coverage, and the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.
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