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A case is the solid outer body that’ll contain all the parts to run your PC. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all shell. Different cases have widely varying factors of design and efficiency that all come down to what you’re looking for and how you’re planning to use it.
What to Know About Buying a PC Case
Whether you’re piecing together a PC one part at a time, or looking for a case that’ll already contain some gear to get started, we’ve broken it down to a few important points to consider.
Airflow: The best PC case designs these days seem to be trending towards improving airflow, and that’s a good thing. Heat dissipation is vitally important to running your PC smoothly, and fans are the key to cool things down – no surprise there. But don’t assume one is enough. As you upgrade and put more demand on your parts, keeping temps low inside is crucial, so you may want to get a case with room to install more fans in the future. Some of the budget-friendly cases only include one fan, so factor in the cost of adding a few more before buying, and see if it’s still worth it.
A mesh or perforated front panel will allow for plenty of air to flow through it, but ultra-fine mesh is even better. Most mounting brackets are set up for 120 mil fans, and 140 mil is also an option — just be sure the case has room to install it.
Noise: With multiple fans going and the air inside flowing, a main factor to consider with fans is noise level. Most manufacturers take this into consideration and test for it, and while it’s important, airflow should still be the priority when shopping for additional fans. Insulation on the inside of the case can also dampen down fan noise significantly too.
Dust: A buildup of dust flowing into the unit over time can cause issues and be a real pain to clean once it’s all over your PC’s inner parts, and that’s why all openings need to be covered. Most cases include some form of a filter on the front panel, as well as often on the top and bottom. Unfortunately, whether by design or error, many cases still leave a large gaping hole in their build somewhere, and you’ll want to make sure to cover this up with something where air can flow through, but dust is still kept out (and regularly clean it too).
Water Cooling: A build with a water cooling system can keep the internal temps down steadily. It’s not necessary for everyone, and fans can still get the job done, but it’s an alternative and reliable method of removing excess heat, keeping inner temperatures cool and running silently. Water cooling uses a coolant-filled loop, which poses somewhat of a risk since you’ll have liquid flowing through hardware, but if you’re looking to avoid fans altogether, or save space inside, it’s worth considering.
Cable Management: When your PC is up and running, it’s easy to close it up and ignore a jumbled mess of cables in your case. But that’ll come back to bite you when it’s time to do any repairs or cleaning, as it’s a frustrating pain to work around and keep everything straight. Cable pathways and tie points within the case make it easier to to keep things tidy in there, as does a cable management bar, and saves you some major headaches the next time you need to open it up. These can be simple loops or more intricate patterns, but all have the same goal of keeping your cables organized.
Hardware: Consider how many drives you may need in the future, as well as upgrades you’ll make too. Some cases only have space to house one 3.5-inch drive, when you may want to use up to four. Same goes for optical drives, and even fans, as not all cases have a whole lot of extra space. So if you know you’ll be adding something down the line, make sure there’s a spot for it.
Panels: A tempered glass panel not only looks cool, but can allow you to always keep an eye on what’s going on inside. While most maintenance on your PC is done by opening the side panel, some units offer the option of removing the top as well. This can make repairs a whole lot easier, without contorting your wrists into awkward positions, or cutting your fingers on sharp, unseen parts. Same goes for a quarter-panel at the bottom
Extras: In terms of aesthetics, it’s hard to go wrong here, as most cases have a sleek, modern and futuristic look to them. But functionality is most important, so don’t be swayed just by flashing LED lights or a cool panel pattern. Your PC parts are a major investment that deserve to be protected, and that all starts with a solid case.
1. Phanteks Eclipse P600S Hybrid ATX Chassis
Cloth mesh covers the front of this steadfast case, and acts as a front line defense against dust and debris, with another finer filter behind it to catch whatever else comes through.
Three 140mm fans are built in, and though they can normally start to get noisy, this case quiets them down significantly. The high-quality padding dampens the sound all around the insides and keeps things near-silent, even with the fans running up to 1500rpm.
The cable management inside is well thought out, with a sliding panel and plenty of places to route wiring. There are also four SSD mounts behind the motherboard, with rack space for up to four regular hard drives.
The case itself is large, hefty, and heavy, but feels solid, and is simple to put back together if you take it apart for cleaning, relying on things like strong magnets to hold it closed on the top and front panels – a refreshing alternative to never worry about losing little screws ever again.
2. Cooler Master MasterCase H500 ARGB Airflow ATX Mid-Tower
Three filters (at the top, front, and bottom) on this colorfully-lit case protect against dust, and the fans can move some serious air throughout. Custom-loop cooling keeps temps in check, and the ventilation on the top panel allows for optimized airflow while providing more mounting options for future add-ons.
Cable management is efficient: there’s a removable bar with rubberized routing holes to help keep things neat, and zip ties are included too.
The 4mm tinted glass shield side panel stretches from edge to edge, letting the ARGB lights slice through the darkness, with just enough transparency to show off your build. Plus there’s a removable PSU shield, and space for two, 3.5 inch drives.
While the case alone is on the heavier side, at just over 20 pounds, a well-placed handle up top makes it a whole lot more convenient to carry.
3. be quiet! Pure Base 500DX Mid-Tower ATX case
Sometimes, a name tells you all you need to know. In this case, the “be quiet!” lives up to its lowercased-titled brand, with three high quality 140mm fans inside that run at an extremely low volume.
Filters are in place to prevent dust from getting in, and the design here is tasteful and practical, without an overabundance of tacky RGB lighting or wasted internal space that you’re unlikely to ever use.
There’s room for more fans (as well as SSDs and water-cooling radiators), but the pre-installed ones do a decent job of keeping things running smooth, cool and silently.
4. SilverStone Technology FARA R1 Mid-Tower ATX Case
Behind the hexagonal mesh pattern on this case’s front panel are internal mounts for multiple fans, as well as a 120mm rear exhaust fan on the back, bringing the total up to six altogether to keep things circulating with excellent airflow.
Removable dust filters on both the top and bottom make cleaning your case easy, and a full tempered glass panel allows you to see everything inside at all times.
Space can be limited internally, and there’s only room for one 3.5 inch drive; however, there are spots for up to three additional 2.5″ drives – just be sure there’s a place for any extras you’re looking to add on.