When building your own PC, the case may seem like a simple afterthought to keep your components neatly in one place. However, having a good case for your setup is arguably just as important as having the best components.
PC cases protect all of your important components and keep them well ventilated, so you don’t want to cut too many corners on this front.
There are a number of different factors that go into choosing an ideal computer case, and HotRate has put together this guide to help you explore each of these with confidence.
One of the main considerations when looking for computer cases is their size and form factor. The main thing to keep in mind here is the fact that your case obviously needs to be large enough to house your motherboard.
All commercial motherboards come in one of four standard sizes; Extended ATX, Standard ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. Naturally, the larger your motherboard is, the larger your case needs to be to house it.
On the other hand, if you have a smaller motherboard, you have more freedom to choose between purchasing a smaller case to reduce its overall footprint or opt for a larger case to house more components.
On that note, regardless of the size of your motherboard, you also need to ensure that your case provides enough space to house your remaining components, making sure there is sufficient clearance for your graphics card and cooling system in particular.
While a bulky case may be a nuisance to some with limited space, it may be a sacrifice you need to make depending on the components you intend to use.
Next, you should consider the build quality of your PC case. Since the primary function of a case is to protect all of your precious components, it’s vital to ensure that it can do the job properly.
Cheaper cases tend to be made from lower-quality materials than higher-end models, such as plastic or thin layers of steel, which ultimately makes them less sturdy and durable. Materials like this will build up scratches and dings far more easily, and will typically wear down far more quickly than more premium cases.
Your best bet is a case made with thick layers of aluminum, or if your budget is more limited, then a solid layer of steel will also do the trick. Other materials are of course an option, but you should consider how each type of material might affect the overall build quality of the case.
Cooling and Airflow
It may surprise more novice builders to learn that a case also plays a significant role in your PC’s cooling process. A good computer case will provide greater airflow via grilled panels or grilled openings on each panel, helping to maintain an appropriate temperature for your components. Cases with solid panels may look slick, but that isn’t worth much if there isn’t sufficient room for appropriate airflow.
Aside from this, your case should also be able to accommodate multiple fans in various locations and arrangements. The size of your case will also impact the type of cooling system you can incorporate in your setup, as certain cooling components demand a much larger footprint than others.
What’s more, the materials from which your case is made will also have some impact on its cooling potential. Aluminum is the best for durability and heat dissipation but can be expensive. Steel insulates heat more than aluminum but is still a viable option on a budget.
Acrylic plastic cases tend to be attractive, but they retain heat incredibly well, making them less than ideal unless you have a top-notch cooling system.
While the aesthetics of a case typically aren’t vital to its function, this is nevertheless often a significant consideration for many PC builders. After all, for all the cost and effort of building a PC, and given how prominent it will be in your setup, you want to be sure the final product is also satisfying to look at.
Since the aesthetics tend to be simply a matter of cosmetics, they should not have much bearing on the overall price or quality of a PC case. However, always be sure to maintain a critical mindset, particularly if you see cases with flashy aesthetics but a low price tag, as corners are likely to have been cut somewhere to achieve this more desirable appearance.
At its core, the function of a computer case is to house and protect your PC’s components. While you will of course need to aim for the most suitable form factor, ventilation, build quality, and aesthetics for your setup, that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune to get there.
There are plenty of options out there for all budgets and all types of PC builders, so you’re sure to find an ideal option for you. As with any product, it’s always a good idea to do some research and cross-reference with user reviews to get the best picture possible of what you’re looking for before taking the leap to purchase a particular model.