While the PC casing you have may not directly impact the performance of your components, the case plays a crucial role in several aspects of your custom PC build. If you’re new to building custom PCs, the type of PC casing you should get might not seem as important to you, but it might be a costly mistake when you find out that its not compatible with the rest of your hardware.
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In this guide we’ll be going through some factors you should consider when you’re choosing a case for your custom PC build.
Form Factors and Common Case sizes
There are four common case sizes:
- Full Tower (Large)
- Mid Tower (Medium)
- Micro ATX (Small)
- Micro ITX (Smaller)
All cases support one or more of the various computer motherboard form-factors.
The motherboard size and form factor will dictate the type of case you can choose. You should make sure your chosen case supports your motherboard’s form factor.
Common form factors include:
- Extended ATX
- Standard ATX
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Full-tower and mid-tower cases both fit standard ATX motherboards, which is the most common motherboard. Bigger cases are more likely to be able to hold a variety of motherboard form factors. Smaller form factor cases are limited by their size and therefore, cannot accommodate the larger motherboard form factors.
However, not all cases of the same form factors will have the same dimensions and feature sets.
Hence, the most important thing to consider when you’re choosing a PC case is to make sure that your motherboard would be able to fit inside it.
Graphics Card Length
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Typically, higher-end graphics cards are bigger and longer than budget graphics cards. However, that’s not necessarily true nowadays as graphics cards, on average, are being built shorter, and PC cases are starting to be built to accommodate bigger graphics cards.
Its helpful to look up the exact combination of the PC case and the graphics card to check based on other builders experiences. So, before you finalize your parts list, you should also check for the specifications of both your case and graphics card to check how long your graphics card is and how much clearance for a graphics card your case has.
CPU Cooler Height
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Likewise, to ensure that the CPU cooler you have chosen will fit inside your case, check the specifications of both the case and air CPU cooler you are considering. If you’re limited on space and you don’t have the budget for a liquid cooler), one solution may be to use a low profile air CPU cooler.
Cooling and airflow
While the biggest draw of PC cases is typically their aesthetics, cases do play a significant role in the cooling process of your custom PC. Overheating can have negative effects on the performance and lifespan of your computer components. By prioritizing proper cooling, you can enhance the performance, longevity, and stability of your PC while reducing the risk of component damage.
Things to take note of if you want to choose a case with a high airflow and good cooling capability:
1. The case should be able to fit in multiple fans at various locations (front, back, top, sides, bottom)
Most cases only come with a few fans pre-installed. But, you should try and choose a case that has the option to add multiple fans. When fans pull in more air than they push out of a PC case, it creates positive pressure. For optimal cooling performance in a standard system, a case that can accommodate fans on the front and back of the case so that you can intake air from the front, and then exhaust it out the back.
2. The panels (front, side, and top) of a case also play a large role in air flow.
Cases that have grilled panels or mesh panels are ideal because the design allows for more air to flow in and out of the case. Cases that have a solid front, top, side, and back panel restrict the air coming in and exiting the case because there is less of an opening for air to get in and out of the case. Tempered glass and stoic metal panels are nice to look at, but those pretty designs can hinder airflow if they’re not designed properly.
So try to choose a case that has grill or mesh panels, as that will increase the air flow in your case, which will keep your components cooler.
3. Certain cases will not be able to accommodate certain CPU coolers and liquid cooling radiators.
Some cases have some limits on the types of coolers you can install in them. For example, you’ll need a computer case with plenty of room to accommodate a custom hardline liquid cooling system.
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Price Considerations for PC Cases
Cheaper cases are built with lower-quality materials and tend to show more scratches, are less sturdy, have thinner panels, and will wear down more quickly. On the other hand, higher-end cases have a much more solid frame and are more sturdy.
If you’re spending $50 or less, you’re probably going to end up with a standard bland case with few extra features. Try to pick one that has two fans, one in the front of the case and another in the rear, for maximized air-flow, which helps cooling. You won’t always find the option in this price range though.
In the $50 to $150 price range, you’ll find a lot of variance in both design and construction. As always, be sure to check measurements to ensure your desired PC case can fit all your hardware, and you’ll also want to keep an eye on extra features. They’re a lot more common in this price range.
Features to look out for
Features purely come down to personal preference or specifics needed for your Custom PC build. Here’s a quick rundown of many of the features you’ll find in modern PC cases
Drive Bays and SSD mounting points
If your build includes using a traditional SATA-based SSD or hard drive, make sure the PC case has enough 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drive bays to house your storage drives. Some cases include mounting points for SSD on the rear of the motherboard tray. And you need a 5.25-inch bay in the front of your PC for an optical drive, fan controller, etc.
Choosing a case that is designed with cable management is the way to go if owning a clean looking system is one of your end goal. You sync the RGB of all of your component and get a case with a tempered glass side panel. But if you don’t clean up your cables, your build isn’t going to look good. Of course, some people just don’t care about the aesthetics of their PC, then in that case the cable management wouldn’t matter.
The extra cable management features that some cases come with will make the process easier for first-time builders so they don’t have to worry about it as much.
Front Panel Connectivity
If you’ve got a lot of external devices, check out the front-panel connectivity of the PC case. Even cheap cases have a couple of USB-A Type 2.0 ports in the front. Many modern cases include USB-A Type 3 and USB-C. You’ll often find front-panel audio jacks as well.
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Keeping your PC clean is important. A computer clogged with dust and dirt would runs hot temperatures and throttle more often. Dust filters keep most of the dust and dirt from reaching your fans. They are also easily removed and cleaned.
Soundproof cases keep your custom PC quiet by using sound-dampening materials inside the panels. Those materials keep noise in but also impede airflow, so soundproof cases often hit somewhat higher temperatures than standard cases.
Vertical GPU mount
Many cases now allow you to mount your GPU vertically so that you can display your graphics card. You may need a special bracket that can vary by case, and a high-quality PCIe riser cable. Some PCIe 4.0 graphics cards will require appropriate cables to work with the newest GPUs as well.
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Our favourite PC cases
The Volta PC Model T Case boasts superior air flow and allows up to ATX form factors. This case also has an incredibly stylish, sleek aluminium chassis specially designed for cold air intake and high airflow to cool the highest heat generating component in the custom PC.
The Lancool 216 boasts versatile cooling options and can accommodate up to six 120mm fans or four 140mm fans, providing ample cooling for even the most demanding components. This case also has a excellent cable management system that can help you route cables neatly. It also has up to seven expansion slots, allowing multiple graphics cards or expansion cards to be installed.
The Lian Li O11 features a sleek and stylish design with a white color scheme and tempered glass side panel that allows you to showcase your build in style. This case can accommodate up to nine 120mm fans or four 140mm fans, and liquid cooling radiators up to 360mm which provides ample cooling for even the most demanding components.
Want to browse more? Visit our diverse catalogue of PC Cases that you can choose from.