how to choose a case for a PC

Instead of the introduction

Building of a gaming PC – is a rather non-lineal business: if earlier it was enough to go to the store and having briefly asked the consultant: "To run Crysis at max setting" get a ready-made configuration, having spent on it some of your savings without any hesitation. Quite often, unconscionable vendors played a dirty trick upon customers who didn't understand much in hardware, and a computer hardly could be called a gaming one. But it's 2016th - and the way of buying a ready-made configurations had become out of date as a method. Amazon will send any part of configuration even to the most remote corner of the earth, where a post office is located, therefore, the only limits are financial capabilities and user's own imagination. But the threshold remained the same – it will be difficult for unprepared user to grasp all the aspects of configuration.

'Theater begins at a cloakroom', and the gaming configuration — with a spacious case that will fit all necessary elements and will not burn off in the summer from the overload, like a resort visitor on the first day of vacations. How to avoid mistakes, we will tell you below.

Gaming PC case characteristics: type, size, cooling system, the possibility of customization, standard filling

Type and size of a case

Size really matters, especially when we are talking about a case for the gaming PC. A big size fraught with unnecessary costs, and too small - the lack of space and the incompatibility with the chosen hardware.

Although there are hundreds of models on the market, there is a particular size standards system that is reflected in form-factors. All in all, there are 5 basic standards:

  • Mini-ITX

  • Micro-ITX

  • ATX

  • EATX

  • XL-ATX

A lot can be said about them, and you may not grasp everything at first, that's why it's best to remember the main parameters, on which form-factor influences:

  1. Motherboard size

  2. Size of power supply

  3. Position of holdings in power supply

Categorization of size of a case directly depends on the size of a motherboard, designed for it. The table has some tips concerning the size of a case.

Form-factor

Motherboard size, mm

Mini ATX

170 x 170

Micro ATX

244 x 244

ATX

305 x 244

EATX

305 x 330

XL-ATX

345 x 262

The prevailing standard is ATX, and the derivatives derived from it differ only in the size of a motherboard and the number of expansion slots on the board.

What you should know about a form-factor:

  • Forget about Mini ATX when building a gaming configuration prospectively – such size of a motherboard will not provide enough space to increase capacity.

  • Micro-ATX will often have a built-in power supply. But you'd better not yield to temptation - the same "low threshold" for a good gaming hardware

  • ATX - a universal solution for the most cases, such a size will hold rather powerful hardware.
  • EATX / XL-ATX will be useful if you decide to create a real gaming or server monster. It will easily house several graphics cards and the same number of hard drives, having managed not to melt down the floor.

But not by form-factor alone is measured the size of cases. There is one more classification – tower. It is “tower” prefix that you see in the majority of descriptions. Well, in order not to get lost in this measure system, it's enough just to match the existing standards. And, at the same time, we see for what purpose each of the cases will suit.

 “Tower” classification

ATX

 Recommendations

Mini-Tower

Micro-ATX

Each year miniaturization is gaining momentum -it has also inflicted cases. And if formerly Mini Tower did only for office work, now you can squeeze in such models a configuration of average level. However, for a true gaming machine it's better to choose something more spacious, at least because such size will provide more freedom for upgrade in the future.

Middle-Tower

ATX

Standard dimensions for any PC: as for home usage so for gaming purposes. But you won't be able to fit here too much hardware. The same concerns a sophisticated cooling system. Therefore, if you want to build a machine, which will be still up-to-date in 3 years - see one point below.

Big Tower (Full)

EATX\XL-ATX

It will hold everything you need and even more - with such a case you may not worry about its obsolescence, large space inside will allow to modify the configuration in future. The main thing, is to choose a construction of a good quality with multiple variants of fixing the components inside of it.

 You can learn about particular models from the reviews:

Several words about cooling system

A powerful gaming PC can't do without a good set of coolers inside. Timely cooling of a case ensures endurance of components, so don't even try to save on additional fans. Remember the basic rules of cooling of a case:

  • Too many coolers - is not always good.

  • The airflow inside the case should be one-directional; it should not be "split" by other flows.

  • Larger blades will always provide the best performance with less energy consumption.

Well, if you don't want to fan the dust in the room - you can try to find a case in which a liquid cooling system can be installed. Such a solution is rather costly, however.

Design and flexibility of case customization

Bright and eye-catching appearance is an essential feature of many gaming cases. But not always "wrap" justifies "under-the-hood." Very often a very tricky appearance of the case hinder the access to the internal components and to get there, you should to unscrew hundreds of screws. Therefore, when choosing a case, take into consideration the following factors:

  • The less screws, the better. This applies to both internal and external panels. The ideal variant is screwless and skid mounting.

  • Case thickness should be between 0.5 and 1mm. If less — rattle of the case on the second day will put even Dalai Lama out of temper.

  • Holders for cables inside the case are really important. Sometimes, a cable fell from the fixing lead and might adversely affect the cooling system, blocking the flow of air. And, after all, it will be simply a waste of time to fix the expensive hardware "anyhow".

  • A build-in power supply is not the most suitable option for gaming PCs. The top models are sold without it, because a user chooses the required power that will fit his needs, but the 'crafts from Uncle Liao' often have a built-in power supply. I advise you to avoid such products and not try to save on the "heart" of your machine.

Standard “under-the-hood” of a case

Buying a modern case, especially from a well-known manufacturer, you receive at your disposal not an empty box at all. All standard ports, a basic cooling system - are present on board.

Cooler Master CM 690 III Mid Tower Computer Case

To examine a standard filling let's take Cooler Master CM 690 III Mid Tower Computer Case (from ~$129) as an example.

Case Dimensions (width- height- depth)

230 - 507 - 502

External 5.25" bays

3

 

Internal 3.5" bays

7

 

Internal 2.5" bays

10

 

Expansion slots

7

External ports

 

USB 3.0 — 2

USB 2.0 — 2

Compatible motherboards

ATX, Micro ATX

Standard Cooling system

Front cooler: 1x200 mm  (750 vol\min)

Rear cooler: 1x120mm (1100 vol\min)

Max video card length

423 mm

Max CPU cooler height

171 mm

Price

from ~$129

 

Here is a typical representative of a Midd-category in which all the necessary gaming hardware can be installed without problems. What capabilities are put in such models?

1. For the 5.25-inch device there is provided a basket with screwless fastening — it will fit up to three items, which is enough.

2. There are no problems with drives - a basket that consists of two parts with cross-over placement fits three 3.5 " and four 2.5" hard drives. They are fixed by moving-out slides, pushing until click, thus safely fixing inside. A perfect example of how easy the building process can be.

3. There are enough external ports so after connecting a gaming keyboard (3.0 connection is becoming more preferable), and a mouse - another 2 free ports are left.

4. The motherboard of the mentioned form-factors has its place on the pallet, and is safely fixed with hex screws. When installing, it is important to remember that fastening should be as rigid and stable as possible.

5. Well, the most interesting part in the provided model is the cooling system. There are plenty variants of modernization in such models. It has 2 standard coolers. Instead of 200 mm could be installed a 180 mm fan or even preferred to install 2 fans 140 or 120 mm each. Another two 140 mm or 120 mm on the top panel. The left side panel will fit one 200/180 mm cooler or two 120 mm versions. And those who have enough funds can install two-section liquid cooling system.

There are plenty of options, as you can see, so if you are about to build your own Frankenstein - pre-check the flexibility of customization of a case.

6. Possible graphics card lenght - 423mm, the option, as the saying goes, with a forward thinking aproach. So if in the recent years after the purchase there will be released a graphics card with non-standard dimensions (within reason) — such length would be enough. For comparison: 310-millimeter ATI HD 5970 in 2010 it was considered the longest of the existing ones.

7. 171 mm in height for the cooler is quite enough. Big tower fan will fit without problems.

The examined option as has been said, is rather standard, among the “bells and whistles” it has only coolers lighting. In the more refined models the interior space can differ dramatically. Therefore, the most reliable way to "look under the hood" will be the technical characteristics with the help of which you can check almost to millimeter the compatibility with the chosen hardware.

Afterword

So we have reviewed the main aspects when choosing a case for a gaming PC, I think you will use this knowledge to good purpose and benefit when choosing. Well, if there are still any doubts about the required dimensions - a look at the relevant guidelines: