Computer Case Buyers Guide

computer-case-buyers-guide

Computer Case Buyers Guide

Overview:

This is the ModCrash computer case buyers guide. When it comes to looking at computer cases you have many choices of manufacturer, size, shape, and expansion to name a few. We are going to try and simplify this with a general guide on how to choose a case for your computer. Computer cases range from $50 all the way to over $800 and we want to help you get the right case!

Important Factors when learning how to choose the right case for your computer:

  1. Choosing the right size case
    • Mini Towers
    • Mid Towers
    • Full Towers
  2. Cooling
    • Liquid
    • Air
  3. Cable Management
  4. Expansion Slots
  5. Front Panel Ports
  6. Drive Bays
  7. Tool Free Designs

Choosing the right size computer case:

There are typically three main different sizes to choose from when selecting a computer case. They are Mini tower, mid towers, and full towers.  Also when selecting a case it is good to know the size of your motherboard as they range in sizes from micro-ATX (which measures about 9.6” x 9.6”) to E-ATX (measuring about 12” x 13”) but the standard is ATX (which measures about 12” x 9.6”). This is an important for knowing how to choose a computer case.

Cooler Master HAF computer case

Cooler Master HAF 932 vs 922

Mini towers:

  • The mini towers offer the least amount of real estate needed for placement of your PC and parts but you give up expand ability and usually cooling to get that form factor.  They typically can only hold a micro or mini ATX boards. With these you have fewer options for the main components to build with.
How to choose a case

Cooler Master Elite 343

Top rated Mini Towers:

  1. Cooler Master Elite 343 Mini Tower Computer Case with Removable HDD Cage (RC-343-KKN1)
  2. Rosewill Dual Fans MicroATX Mini Tower Computer Case FBM-01
  3. Rosewill LINE-M Micro-ATX Mini Tower Computer Case with Dual USB 3.0 and Dual Fans LINE-M
  4. Fractal Design Arc Mini Cases, Black (FD-CA-ARC-MINI-BL)

Mid towers:

  • Mid towers are an excellent all around choice. A lot of companies have put R&D into these so any kind of system can be used in these from mild to wild. While you still don’t have as much room as a full tower it is typically adequate for cable management, drive bays, air or water cooling.
How to choose a case

Cooler Master HAF 922

Top Mid Towers:

  1. Corsair Graphite Series Black 600T Mid-Tower Computer Case (CC600TM)
  2. Corsair Vengeance Series Black C70 Mid Tower Computer Case (CC-9011016-WW)
  3. Cooler Master HAF 922 – Mid Tower Computer Case with USB 3.0 Ports (RC-922M-KKN3-GP)
  4. LIAN LI Lancool PC-K62 Black Plastic Mesh ATX Mid Tower / Computer Case
  5. Fractal Design Define R4 Cases, Black Pearl (FD-CA-DEF-R4-BL)

Full towers:

  • Full towers are the biggest of the three we are going over on finding out how to choose the right computer case.  The towers range in all different size from regular full towers to colossal towers such as the Cooler Master Cosmos II and Corsair 900D. Full towers can be designed to hold many hard drives or setup to have extreme custom cooling loops. While these cases take up the most space, they have the most interior space for cable management, components, water, or air cooling.
How to choose a case

Cooler Master Cosmos II

Top Full Towers:

  1. Cooler Master HAF X – Full Tower Computer Case with USB 3.0 Ports and Windowed Side Panel (RC-942-KKN1)
  2. Thermaltake Level 10 GT VN10001W2N No PS Full Tower Case(Black)
  3. CM Storm Trooper – Gaming Full Tower Computer Case with Carrying Handle (SGC-5000-KKN1)
  4. Corsair Obsidian Series Black 800D Full Tower Computer Case (CC800DW)
  5. Rosewill Gaming ATX Full Tower Computer Case THOR V2

Top Ultra Towers:

  1. Corsair Obsidian Series 900D Super Tower Computer Case CC-9011022-WW – Black
  2. Cooler Master Cosmos II – Ultra Tower Computer Case with Aluminum and Steel Body (RC-1200-KKN1)
  3. Rosewill Gaming Super Tower Case for Computer BLACKHAWK-ULTRA
  4. Azza Genesis 9000B Full Tower Case, Black (CSAZ-9000B)

Depending on many factors such as, “How much room do I have where I want my case to be?”,”What type of cooling am I doing?”.”How many drives will I have in my computer?”.” What size motherboard do I pan on using?”. There are a few questions to ask when trying to deciding on how to choose a computer case. A side note about the sizes of the case can be dependent on what size power supply you plan to use. While the mini and mid towers might not fit a huge power supply like Thermaltake’s 1275w or Rosewill’s 1500w they generally will fit most. Typically this is not a problem but I have seen people with a case and their power supply does not fit. While I have only seen this once, he had his power supply resting on the top outside of his case. I can only hope he reads this on how to choose a case for your computer guide so it does not happen again.

Cooling:

When it comes to cooling not all cases are built the same. This is probably one of the most important factors when choosing a computer case. Heat is most defiantly the enemy when it comes to PC hardware, and no matter what a case can never be cold enough! When looking at cooling you are going to first see how many fans it has, what size fans, does it have positive or negative airflow, and can it be setup for liquid cooling. All cases cool differently and the best way to get the inside scoop is user reviews if a case has been out for a while. I cannot stress that enough about looking around and seeing what people to have to say with their different systems.

Liquid Cooling:

  • When going with a custom liquid cooling system a full tower is second to none because you will need space to run the tubes, put in the reservoir, pump etc. Another option for liquid cooling is “All in One or AiO” solutions from Corsair, Thermaltake, Swift tech, Intel and others. With these the main thing to look for is mounting points for the radiator. Smaller radiators such as the H50-H80 can usually fit on the out take fan of the but if you have a larger radiator like on Corsair H100i, H110, or Thermaltake 2.0 liquid coolers then they mount on the top. Depending on the tower you may either not have the mounting holes for that size. Mounting a large radiator in the top of the case can also interfere with how the motherboard fits in smaller cases.
How to choose a case

Corsair Obsidian 900D Cooling

 

Air Cooling:

  • For air cooling the big thing to look at is what CPU cooler will you use. My last CPU cooler was a Cooler Master V6GT and my current is a Noctua NH-U12P SE CPU Coolers. These are great coolers but the fans and heat sinks are big and tall. In my full tower case I only have about an inch from the fan on my side panel. The Cooler Master V6GT I did fit in a Thermaltake Level 10 GTS mid tower case. Due to the size of the CPU cooler I could not use a fan on the side panel. It had about 0.25” between the top and the side panel. This can be an important factor when deciding how you want to cool your case.

Something else to consider is the amount of fans it can hold vs what mounts are in the case. Some cases can hold up to 12 fans but that is for 120mm fans but in the same spaces you can choose from using 80mm, 120mm, 140mm, or 200mm fans. An example is if you look at the Cooler Master HAF 932 side panel. Cooler Master mounted a 200mm fan in that space, but left you with the mounting holes to put 2 fans, or 4 fans if you so desired. Many companies are doing this but you just have to look to see if they do or not.

Cable Management:

Every case needs this and thankfully a lot of manufacturers are putting this to the front of the line when designing cases. Being able to have good cable management can increase the cooling in a case. This is something else I will look to see what other people said about the cable management. Try to see if it was easy with lots of space or more difficult. Some good questions to ask is, “Does the case give you a lot of tie downs or very few?”, “How much space is behind the motherboard plate?”,“Are the holes for the wires wide enough to fit all my cables though?”. For high performance computer this is an absolute necessity in my opinion. If you have a bird’s nest of wires then you can choke your case of getting air for heat dissipation.  Something else is if the case has good cable management then it can enhance the inside by it looking organized.

How to choose a case

Corsair Obsidian 900D Cable Management 1

Expansion slots:

When trying to learn how to choose a case for your computer, the expansion slots can play a huge role. Most full towers have between 6-8 slots in the back for video cards, sound card, or various other expansion cards. Mini towers will typically have 4. Higher end graphics cards use 2 expansion slots minimum. Depending on the case you could have more or less, this is just one thing to pay attention to. This is just good knowledge to have in case you decide to add two graphics cards, sound card, and a Killer network card. That could be all the space you have right there. Also help to know if you have a single card now but plan to crossfire or SLI later on.

How to choose a case

Corsair Obsidian 900D Expansion Slots

Front Panel ports:

Most if not all cases have some form of ports in the front that connect to the motherboard to make it easier for the user to do things. Typically this is in the forum of USB ports and more recently USB 3.0 ports. Usually headphone and microphone jacks are present along with possibly others. The Cooler Master HAF 932 for example has 4 USB 2.0 ports, eSATA port, 1394 (FireWire) Port, headphone, and microphone jacks. Not all cases will have this many and some will have even more.

How to choose a case

Corsair Obsidian 900D Front Panel

Drive Bays:

When talking about drive bays there is 3 different sizes. You have 5.25” bays for your DVD or Blu-Ray drives. Also for specialized equipment such as audio and fan controllers. 3.5” bays are used for your regular spindle hard drives. Typically these are internal but more advanced cases have 3.5” bays for hot swappable hard drives. The last drive bay is 2.5”, these are typically reserved for small hard disk and SSD drives. While you will see mostly 3.5” drive bays in PCs today the 2.5” is become more popular as SSDs do. So you have the best of both worlds most manufactures are including either 3.5” to 2.5” adapter or trays to accommodate this.

How to choose a case

Corsair Obsidian 900D Drive Bays

Tool Free designs:

A lot of manufactures are going to tool free designs for drive bays. Cooler Master for instance in their HAF series all the 5.25” bays and 3.5” hard drive trays do not require anything to use them. They either are a push button for the 5.25” bays or the trays for the 3.5” drives. Different cases and manufactures have their own methods on how their tool free designs work so while may not be an important feature it is one that makes it easier when building or expanding your build.

Conclusion:

How to choose a case for yourself can be harder than it looks. Hours of my life I will never have back either from looking for a case or drooling over the case that I know if perfect for me. It takes time, knowledge, the right information to get a case that has all your needs and hopefully your wants. While the two sometimes are often never close to each other it can be accomplished. Every manufacturer that builds cases are thinking of new and creative ideas on all of these subjects to accommodate the budget builds to the wild and crazy ones.

Pictures courtesy of Cooler Master and Corsair.


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