NZXT S340

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 bang for your buck.

The majority of cases you will find at retailers today all offer the same basic functionality and features. Drive bays (or other mounting options in place of), front USB and audio connectivity, optional 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. That's when things can go wrong.

Size matters

Fractal Design R3

Contrary to what you might hear elsewhere, size really does matter. Motherboards come in a variety of formats, 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 by 244mm and 170mm by 170mm, respectively.

Best PC motherboards

Depending on which motherboard you own or are looking to purchase, you'll need to adjust your case search 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 or Extended ATX (EATX) motherboard and a mid- or 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.

Cheaper cases can range between $10 to $30 while larger, feature-packed beasts can really hog an available budget, costing $100 and above. And that's before you fill it with actual PC stuff. 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/USB Type-C.
  • 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.
  • Soundproofing.

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 as difficult as it may appear. It's all about getting it right with the components you plan to install. As well as making sure all the internals are compatible, it's important to be sure everything will actually fit inside.

If you wish to do a little DIY, especially in the form of water-cooling, you are likely going to need a full-tower case that can house the pumps, reservoirs, radiators, and piping you'll require. These massive boxes will offer ample amounts of space to hide unnecessary piping and cabling while offering a pleasant viewing experience for any visitor to the home.

For anyone else, a simple mid-tower case will do just fine.

Build your own PC

Updated April 05, 2018: We added some more information to bolster our guide.