The case is something that’s easy to overlook in the process of building a gaming PC, and there is more to it than just the aesthetics. The format of the case will determine the type and size of the components that go into it, and it will also affect the cooling efficiency of the build.
That said, picking a case doesn’t come down to just whichever one looks best at first glance, and in this article, we’ll be taking a close look at all the things that you need to keep in mind when picking a computer case.
Size & Form Factor
As you’ve probably guessed, size is one of the most important aspects of a PC case. Naturally, the exact dimensions will inevitably vary, but cases are usually grouped into the following four categories: small form factor, Mini Tower, Mid Tower, and Full Tower.
Obviously, the size of the case will determine the format and the number of components that can go into it, but the main one is the motherboard.
|Size||Small Form Factor||Mini Tower||Mid Tower||Full Tower|
|Motherboard Form Factor||Mini-ITX|
|Motherboard Dimensions||6.7’ in x 6.7 in|
6.7 in x 6.7 in
9.6 in x 9.6 in
6.7 in x 6.7 in
9.6 in x 9.6 in
12 in x 9.6 in
6.7 in x 6.7 in
9.6 in x 9.6 in
12 in x 9.6 in
12 in x 13 in
As you can see from the table above, smaller cases fit smaller motherboards, though this isn’t necessarily always true. For example, there are Mid Tower cases out there which are designed to fit EATX motherboards, so there are always cases out there which can support bigger motherboards.
And it’s not just the motherboards – the GPU and the CPU cooler are also affected by the size of the case, though there is no established standard like with motherboard formats.
When it comes to the GPU, the length is the most important factor, but the height shouldn’t be overlooked either since many modern GPUs use bulky coolers. With CPU coolers, height is the most important, as large tower coolers may not fit inside a compact case. And as for liquid CPU coolers, the case would have to have adequate radiator support, but more on that below.
When it comes to other components such as the RAM, the SSD, the HDD, or the optical drive, size isn’t an issue, but there is only so many of each component that you can fit inside a case. 5.25″ drive bays are reserved for optical drives, 3.5″ ones are for HDDs, and 2.5″ ones are for SATA SSDs. Meanwhile, the maximum supported number of RAM modules is limited only by the motherboard.
Finally, most cases use standard ATX PSUs but the more compact SFX aren’t uncommon when it comes to small form factor cases. Other PSU formats exist, too, but you are unlikely to encounter them as long as you stay in the realm of desktop PCs.
With all that said, standard ATX Mid Tower cases are usually the best choice as they offer ample space to work with, meaning that not only will you not have to worry so much about everything fitting inside, but you will also have an easier time setting up and cleaning everything.
Full Tower cases tend to be on the pricey side, so they are only really worth it if you want to make full use of the extra internal space. In contrast, Mini Tower and Small Form Factor cases make for portable and neat-looking builds, but they are more difficult to manage, not all components will fit, and the cooling won’t be quite as quiet and efficient as with other, more spacious cases.
Modularity and Options
Modularity is becoming more and more popular these days, and cases are no different. Being able to add and remove parts such as trays, covers, mounts, and so on, gives a case a certain degree of flexibility that can offer the user some extra customizability.
Excessive modularity may be overkill for most, but if options are what you are looking for, then it would be a good idea to see what’s available on the market before committing to the constricting design of standard non-modular cases.
Most cases ship with a basic set of onboard controls and ports such as a couple of USB 3.0 ports on the front, alongside headphone and microphone jacks. You can, however, go way beyond this with an arsenal of ports as well as convenience options like heat monitoring LCD panels that show the temperature of specific components, fan controllers, volume controls, clocks, lighting controllers and so on.
Soundproofed cases are also very popular, especially for high-end setups that have lots of fans running at once. You may not mind it at first, but the cacophony of whirring fans and hard drives can get distracting very quickly.
There are cases out there which ship together with a power supply unit, but while it may be tempting to get one such case and save a few bucks on a power supply, it may not be a good idea. The PSU is one of the most important components of any PC, and if you’re investing any serious amount of money in a gaming setup, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got an adequate power supply.
Essentially, you’ll want a PSU that comes from a reliable manufacturer and offers sufficient wattage for your current build while leaving room for potential future expansion. Of course, there are other things to keep in mind, too, and you can read up more about it in this article.
The bottom line when it comes to bundled PSU is: they are usually not worth it. But of course, if you’re looking at a case that you like and it comes with a PSU which is reliable and is a good fit for your needs, then you might as well get it.
As we have mentioned before, cooling is a big factor to keep in mind when it comes to cases, and it is not something that should be overlooked.
The questions that you need to ask here are:
- Does the case have good airflow?
- How many fan mounts does it have?
- How many radiator mounts does it have?
Airflow is the first and, arguably, the most important thing. If a case has good airflow, it means that the PC will run more quietly, the heat dissipation will be more efficient, and the PC will also be a tad more power-efficient, too.
However, even the cases with the best airflow need the boost that case-mounted fans provide. Even one or two case fans can go a long way towards making the PC cooler and quieter, and the number (as well as the size) of supported fans varies based on the size of the case. Smaller cases will have fewer fans and will generally stick to 120mm and 240mm solutions, while larger cases will have extra mounts and will support even larger fans.
Finally, we have radiators, which are an integral part of every liquid cooling setup. As with fans, larger cases will support larger radiators and will have more radiator mounts, allowing for a more expansive liquid cooling setup.
Build Quality & Price
Of course, we can’t talk about any part of a PC without touching on the price. The case is something that people will usually want to skimp on, especially if they are pinching pennies or trying to get the very best components that they can for their money.
This makes sense for many but is it really worth it? If you are a performance-oriented gamer, chances are you won’t care that much about aesthetics, but do you really want your gaming rig to be stuck inside a cheap, unsightly plastic case? Besides, there’s also cooling to consider, and higher-quality cases also offer better airflow, along with some convenient extra features such as easier cable management.
More importantly, getting from a “barebones” case to a decent one doesn’t take much money, and a few extra bucks that you’d invest in a slightly pricier case would pay off. You’d be getting a better-looking, higher-quality case that probably has better airflow and some extra features on top of that.
PC building has already become not only a practical but also an aesthetic matter, so design is more important than ever in the world of computer cases.
Cases utilize more and more glass these days, but naturally, personal preference plays a big part here, as not everyone will gravitate towards a particular style, no matter how popular it may be. Some like glass because of how well it goes with RGB lighting, some prefer clean and unassuming matte black exteriors, all the while others very much appreciate the aggressive and angular design that has become somewhat synonymous with “gaming”.
At the end of the day, only you can decide what type of case you find aesthetically pleasing or if you even care about the aesthetics of a computer case at all.
The Final Word
And there you have it, the most important things to keep in mind when picking out a new case. We hope you have found this article helpful and if you feel that we have skipped anything important or made any mistakes, feel free to let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to improve the article, as well as fix any potential errors. t
Samuel is GamingScan’s editor-in-chief. He describes himself as a hardcore gamer & programmer and he enjoys getting more people into gaming and answering people’s questions. He closely follows the latest trends in the gaming industry in order to keep you all up-to-date with the latest news.