Choosing a case for your PC depends on what you want to build and how much money you can allocate to the chassis. It's possible to avoid having to think too much about a case and pick up a simple one you like the look of, while others will take into account cooling performance, mounting support for water pumps and reservoirs, and much more before making a purchase. There's no real wrong choice when it comes to cases, but there are ways to make sure you 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. These include drive bays (or other mounting options in place of), front USB and audio connectivity, optional lighting effects, and removable covers. You can never really go wrong when it comes to choosing a PC case, unless it's too small 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 when it comes to PC cases
Contrary to what you might hear elsewhere, size really does matter, at least when you're talking about PC cases. 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 305 mm by 244 mm, 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 244 mm by 244 mm and 170 mm by 170 mm, respectively.
How to pick the best motherboard
The motherboard is the heart and soul of a PC. You need to ensure you're getting the most out of your purchase and that the chipset installed on the motherboard has all the necessary features you'll need for your build. We rounded up some of the best motherboards available today to help you get started at the link below.
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 the 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 or 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.
You should 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.
Gorgeous case design meets exceptional functionality
The NZXT H series of cases doesn't just look good, it serves an excellent purpose in keeping your components away from dust, making sure they don't overheat (so long as you have sufficient active cooling), and allowing you to create some unique desktop PCs. The H500i is a great mid-tower with everything you need to get started, and it costs less than $100.
PC case features
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 options, expansion and open up the insides with a premium-looking design, it's worth paying 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 cost $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.
Affordability never looked so good
Have a tighter budget, but still need a full-tower E-ATX case? DeepCool has the MATREXX 55 with tempered glass listed at an affordable price. The best part about this chassis is it looks more premium than it is, allowing you to boast to everyone just how much more you spent on it. Full support for a 360mm radiator in the front, as well as a 280mm radiator on the top make it ideal for custom water cooling setups too.
PC building is about imagination
Don't be afraid to think outside the box. There are some really cool-looking cases out there. 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. So keep that in mind. These massive boxes offer ample amounts of space to hide unnecessary piping and cabling while offering a pleasant viewing experience for any viewer.
For anyone who doesn't want all those bells and whistles, a simple mid-tower case will do just fine.
A more box-like shape with some unique styling
If you want a unique case, but don't fancy having all your components out in the open, Thermaltake's Tower 900 can house two custom water-cooling loops and has tempered glass on the front and sides of the cube chassis for clearer views of everything within.
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