Today, we’re going to help you buy the best gaming PC case for 2019.
2018 was a long year, but it showed us plenty of superb chassis’s and PC builds. To start off 2019 properly, especially if you’re making a new PC build, you should start with one of our gaming PC builds.
Each and every one of these has been thoroughly vetted and verified for a high-quality build and enjoyable building experience. Regardless of your budget or needs, you’ll find the right computer case for you here.
Best PC Case For 2019
|Cases||Form Factor||Dimensions||Color Options||Price|
|Corsair Graphite 780T||ATX Full Tower||25.1 x 11.3 x 23.7 inches||Black, White||Check Price|
|NZXT H500i||ATX Mid Tower||18.11 x 8.26 x 16.85 inches||Black, Black/Blue, Black/Red, White/Black|
2 RGB LED strips included
|Corsair Carbide 400C||ATX Mid Tower||16.74 x 8.46 x 18.26 inches||Black, White||Check Price|
|Corsair Crystal Series 280X||Micro ATX Cube||15.7 x 10.9 x 13.8 inches||Black, White|
2 RGB LED fans included
|InWin 301 Black Tempered Glass||Micro ATX Mini Tower||14.6 x 7.4 x 14.3 inches||Black, White||Check Price|
|NZXT H200i||ITX Mid Tower||14.64 x 13.74 x 8.27 inches||White/Black, Black/Red, Black;|
1 RGB LED strip included
|Corsair Graphite Series 380T||Mini ITX Cube||15.6 x 11.5 x 14 inches||White, Black||Check Price|
|Corsair Crystal Series 570X RGB||ATX Mid Tower||18.9 x 20.1 x 9.21 inches||Black, White, Red, Mirror Black|
3 included RGB LED fans
|Phanteks Eclipse P400S||ATX Mid Tower||18.5 x 8.3 x 18.3 inches||Black, White, Black/White, Black/Red, Gray|
1 RGB LED strip included
|Thermaltake P1||ITX Mid Tower||15 x 13.1 x 16.6 inches||Black, Red, Snow||Check Price|
|Fractal Design Meshify C White||ATX Mid Tower||8.35 x 15.55 x 17.32 inches||White, Black||Check Price|
|Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Tempered Glass Edition||ATX Mid Tower||19.5 x 9.25 x 20.1 inches||Black, Silver, Gray||Check Price|
Best Computer Case Reviews
Best Full Tower ATX Case – Corsair Graphite 780T
First up is our pick for the best Full Tower ATX Case, the Corsair Graphite 780T. This is easily the biggest, beefiest case on this list, and with that bulk comes plenty of expansion and cooling options.
If you’re a fan of multi-drive setups, rejoice the Graphite 780T ships with a whopping six 3.5-inch bays and three side-mounted 2.5-inch bays. Whether you’re running a streamlined SSD build or a massive RAID setup, this gaming case should have the room you’re looking for.
The three included fans are all 140mm, which is a bit larger than your typical 120mm standard. This means that the fans will push a bit more air than usual, and thanks to the fact that you get three out of the box, you’ll already have a fairly strong airflow setup from the very beginning.
This large chassis is also suited for newer builders- despite its size, or perhaps because of it, assembling your first PC in this case should be an absolute breeze.
- Massive size for maximum expansion
- Superb airflow- three fans included
- Builder-friendly chassis
- 200mm CPU cooler clearance and 355mm GPU clearance
- Fairly pricey
- Acrylic window scratches easily
The only real downsides to this case are its price- often retailing for a hefty $200- and the acrylic window. While it’s somewhat disappointing to see acrylic at this price point, it’s clear that money went to building the biggest, worst, best PC case for 2019.
Whether or not it succeeds…is up to you. But if Full Tower pc cases are your thing, this is our leading recommendation.
Best Mid Tower ATX Case – NZXT H500i
The NZXT H500i is one of our favorite pc cases, and even a passing glance can tell you why. In any of its color configurations, it has an incredibly sleek aesthetic, which is even further enhanced by the included RGB lighting.
NZXT doesn’t just settle for looking pretty, either: their cases offer a superb building experience and sturdy build quality. Nobody in their right mind would walk up to you and tell you that NZXT cases are low-quality because that simply isn’t the case.
Besides the sheer quality on offer here, there is also a dedicated bottom compartment for your PSU, as well as a back compartment for cable management. If you want a clean and easy PC building experience, the H500i is definitely ready to offer that.
- Superb build quality and refined aesthetic
- RGB lighting
- Two included fans
- 165mm CPU cooler clearance and 381mm GPU clearance
- Tempered glass side panel
- CAM Software can be iffy
However…there is one problem that plagues NZXT cases.
As great as NZXT’s cases are, their software isn’t quite up to par with their hardware. Many users report the software as being buggy or unstable, and our past experiences with CAM indicate that it’s inconsistent at best.
The software is the only real downside in the package here, though. It’ll probably work just fine for you, but if it doesn’t- you still have one of the best desktop cases out there.
Smallest ATX Case – Corsair Carbide 400C
Our pick for Smallest ATX Case was the Corsair Carbide 400C, both because it was the smallest full ATX case we could find and because its quality earned it a place on this list.
The general build quality of the Carbide 400C is pretty good, as is expected from Corsair hardware. You aren’t going to find any glaring quality control issues with Corsair cases, even ones at lower price ranges like this.
Thanks to its full ATX designation, it still has pretty good GPU and CPU cooler clearance, which should make any serious gamer or air cooler happy. The size also allows for plentiful cooling options, so you liquid cooling fanatics should be able to make room for a radiator or two in this case without much issue.
Interestingly, this case’s window actually offers a proper hinge and latch for easy access to your PC’s internals, no thumb screws needed. This is actually the only case that offers this feature on our list, and it should make routine maintenance and upgrades just a little less tedious to deal with.
- Great build quality
- Smaller size (for full ATX)
- 370mm GPU clearance and 170mm CPU cooler clearance
- Intake and exhaust fan included for basic airflow
- Fair pricing
- Acrylic side panel window
- Smaller size requires a modular or semi-modular PSU for cable management purposes
However, this case isn’t without flaw. Nothing is.
The main issue that sticks out to us is the acrylic side panel window. While not as fragile as tempered glass, this will make it more difficult to see into your PC and will scratch very, very easily.
Additionally, the compact nature of this case actually does make a difference when it comes time to install your power supply. If you want to have any semblance of cable management, you’ll pretty much need to buy a semi-modular or modular power supply for this one- there’s simply not enough room otherwise.
Best Micro ATX Case – Corsair Crystal Series 280X
When people are talking about premium gaming PC cases, this is what they’re talking about. The Corsair Crystal Series 280X is completely gorgeous, especially in its RGB and tempered glass configurations.
This premium quality doesn’t stop with aesthetics, either- for your money, you’re getting a cube case that offers a stellar building experience. The back compartment takes up a significant portion of the case, but it houses your PSU, your drives, and pretty much all of your cable management.
The building experience with the 280X is superb, as are its aesthetics and overall build quality. It’s actually a little bit shocking how much cooling options they managed to fit into this Micro ATX case, but they managed it without compromising on GPU length or cable management.
- Superb build quality
- Tempered glass side panels
- Two included RGB fans
- Plentiful cooling options (for a Micro ATX case)
- Dedicated compartment for PSU and drives, making building easier
- 300mm GPU clearance
- Very pricey
- Limited CPU cooler clearance- only 150mm
- Cooling for drives can be lacking- adding a small fan to drive compartment is recommended if you experience high temps
Unfortunately, there are a few catches worth noting.
Namely, larger air coolers just plain aren’t gonna fit inside this case- most notably the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO, which is a genuine tragedy. This case is built for AIO liquid cooling setups or low-profile air cooling setups, and we seriously recommend the former if you’re going with this case.
Also, the price is pretty ridiculous. While buying the RGB fans separately from the non-RGB version of the case would be more expensive, we don’t doubt that Corsair is making a good markup on this one.
Smallest Micro ATX Case – InWin 301 Black Tempered Glass
If what you want is the smallest Micro ATX case, congratulations: the InWin 301 is exactly that, no question.
Despite its tower orientation, this is actually by far the smallest micro ATX case we’ve been able to find. It’s ridiculously compact, but still has plenty of clearance for full-sized GPUs or decent-sized air coolers. It even has tempered glass, which is perfect for showing off the hardware you have chugging inside of it!
InWin may not be as well-known as other big manufacturers on this list, but the release of the 301 proved beyond any doubt that they have the mettle to compete with them. You can even opt for a Type-C version (the 301C) for a little extra money…if you need Type-C.
- The smallest Micro ATX case we could find
- Great build quality and tempered glass takes the aesthetic to the next level
- Good pricing
- Good I/O- Type-C support is also available on the 301C
- 330mm GPU clearance and 160mm CPU cooler clearance
- Limited cooling options- two intake fans or radiator as an intake are the only options for the front, with only one fan slot on the back
- No cable management compartment or routing of any kind, though a PSU compartment is here
However…the cooling is a bit lackluster. If you opt for a radiator, you’re going to have to mount it up front and lose out on intake fans. (You can still use a radiator as an intake, but it will be circulating warm air through your case, depending on your temps.)
Even without a radiator, you’re limited to only 3 120mm fans total, and the case doesn’t ship with any. This is to be expected in a case at this size and price range, but it’s still pretty disappointing.
The big issue plaguing this case, however, is the complete lack of cable management. There is no cable management compartment to speak of, so if you want truly clean presentation you’ll need to make liberal use of electrical tape and zip-ties.
Best Mini ITX Case – NZXT H200i
The NZXT H200i joins the H500i in the running for best PC case for 2019, this time as our best mini ITX case.
If NZXT is anything, they’re consistent. A lot of the same things we said about the H500i apply here. The aesthetic is superb, there are plentiful color options, cable management and PSU installation are top-notch, and the overall build quality is superb!
Despite being a Mini ITX case, there’s also plenty of room for your components. Full-sized GPUs and air coolers should fit just fine in this case, and the available cooling options should lend themselves to liquid cooling setups as well.
Pretty much everything we said about the H500i applies here: it’s the same great quality in a smaller package, pretty much.
- Great build quality
- RGB lighting and fan control support
- Dedicated compartment for PSU and cable management, despite the small size
- Plentiful color options
- 165 mm CPU cooler clearance and 325mm GPU clearance
- Somewhat pricey
- A little large for an ITX case
- CAM software is iffy
However…it also has the same problems. NZXT is consistent, which means that this case also makes use of their infamous CAM software. Even browsing Amazon reviews, that is the only real complaint that most negative reviewers seem to have: issues with the CAM software.
While we assume these issues aren’t universal- and we’ve had some positive experiences with the software in the past- it’s a bit sad that NZXT hasn’t managed to bring CAM up to par with solutions like iCUE yet. With any luck, their users won’t be left waiting much longer on this improvement.
In addition to the recurring CAM issue, there’s also the fact that this case is just a little bit larger than your typical ITX case. For the features you get in return and its clean aesthetic, though, we’d say it’s a fair trade.
Best Computer Case With Handle – Corsair Graphite Series 380T
In the world of PC gaming, one of the biggest problems faced by gamers is a lack of portability. Consoles and laptops are pretty easy to lug around, but full desktops don’t tend to be…that is, until now.
We found the Corsair Graphite Series 380T and decided that it was the best computer case with a handle. For some of you, the portability alone could help make it the best PC case of 2019 overall!
The 380T is a Mini ITX case with great airflow and portability, alongside the ability to fit some full-sized GPUs. Aside from the aforementioned InWin 301, this is pretty much your best option for a truly portable desktop PC gaming setup, thanks to the small form factor and handle.
- Great build quality and small size
- Cube form factor and handle makes the case very portable
- Included 140mm and 120mm fans ensure basic airflow
- A surprising amount of cooling options and great overall airflow
- Somewhat pricey
- Limited 290mm GPU clearance and 150mm CPU cooler clearance
- Acrylic side panel and mesh design made it harder to see your hardware
However, there are a few downsides.
Namely, the small size and unusual form factor can make it pretty difficult to build in. We wouldn’t recommend this for a first-time PC builder, at least not without an experienced assistant to help you through the process.
Aside from building difficulties, you’ll also be dealing with somewhat limited GPU clearance. While it can fit many full-sized GPUs, recent GPUs (especially from AMD or the ROG STRIX line) may not fit as easily into this build. The CPU cooler clearance is somewhat low, too, which means you’ll need to figure out how to fit a liquid cooling setup in here or go for a low-profile air cooler.
Also, the price is…pretty steep. This case may be small, but it isn’t cheap.
Best Tempered Glass Case – Corsair Crystal Series 570X RGB
If your primary concern is tempered glass, look no further. The Corsair Crystal Series 570X RGB is among our top picks for Best Tempered Glass Case, and if tempered glass is what you want…there are four panels of it on this gaming computer case, so you should be pretty happy.
Aside from the sleek presentation that one would expect from tempered glass, the 570X is also packed with the build quality and features to bring it to the next level.
Most obvious on first glance is the 3 RGB fans, which can be customized easily through Corsair’s software to display any color that you like. But it doesn’t stop there- inside the case, you have room for up to six more fans, and two places to mount a radiator for your liquid cooling setup.
Since this is also a mid-tower case, you’re covered with dedicated compartments for your PSU and cable management, as well as plenty of room for drives and expansion. Running a full ATX board out of this case shouldn’t be a problem, and if you want to show off with liquid cooling and multiple GPUs, tempered glass is the right way to do it.
As much as we love singing the praises of this case, however…
- Superb build quality
- Tempered glass on all sides except the bottom
- Three included RGB intake fans
- Support for larger radiators and plentiful additional fan mounting
- Plentiful color options
- Dedicated compartments for PSU and cable management
- 370mm GPU clearance and 170mm CPU cooler clearance
- Fairly high price
- Despite the size, not very friendly to custom loop liquid cooling
The price is a little ridiculous. All of this visual flair and tempered glass comes at quite the price for your wallet- and if you’re buying from sellers on Amazon instead of directly from Amazon themselves, you can expect to pay an even higher price premium.
Additionally, this case actually doesn’t seem to work very well for custom loop setups. We didn’t do this with our setup, but a few users who attempted it elsewhere reported difficulties doing so- so if you’re going to do liquid cooling with this case, we recommend sticking to AIO for the best results.
Best Case For Under $100 – Phanteks Eclipse P400S
We spent a lot of time looking for the best case under $100, and after a lot of careful deliberation, we decided upon the Phanteks Eclipse P400S.
In addition to its solid pricing, it also boasts great build quality and a tempered glass window. It’s actually one of our top picks for tempered glass PC cases, too!
The Eclipse P400S is a mid-tower case with a ton of color options, built-in RGB lighting (subtly emanating from the bottom of the case), and a builder-friendly interior. The cable management inside this case is fantastic, as is the dedicated PSU compartment and plentiful drive mounting options.
The customization available in this case also makes it possible to install your own liquid cooling setup, should you decide to remove an optional HDD cage. For the purists out there who don’t want to even touch an AIO liquid cooler if they can avoid it, this case may actually be what you’re looking for.
- Great build quality, tempered glass window
- Great pricing
- Plentiful color options and tempered glass side panel
- RGB lighting built into the case
- Two fans included
- 395mm GPU clearance and 160mm CPU cooler clearance
- Slightly limited airflow
Truthfully, we weren’t able to find many issues with this case. It’s built well, it’s priced well, and it’s a joy to build in.
However…the front panel isn’t as great at letting in air as it could be. This means for exclusively air-cooling setups, your temps are going to be just a little bit hotter, thanks to slightly poorer airflow. This isn’t a massive issue, but it does make us think you should opt for a liquid cooling setup to help alleviate that issue- this case definitely has the room.
Best Open Air PC Case – Thermaltake P1
This one is for the real heroes out there, who want to go open-air with their PC setup.
Don’t let the mini ITX motherboard compatibility fool you: this isn’t a small case. It’s actually built with huge custom loop liquid cooler setups in mind. This is the case for someone who wants to show off their hardware from every possible angle, as a proud display for their battlestation.
The Thermaltake P1 is the best open air PC case we were able to find, and just a few looks at completed builds with it can show you why. However, it’s still an open air case, and that’s where we need to elaborate…
- Superb airflow (no surprises there)
- Plentiful room for larger cooling setups, including custom loops
- 170mm CPU cooler clearance and 380mm GPU clearance
- Open air, so it doesn’t really protect your hardware from dust or particulate for extended periods of time
- The case is fairly hefty and large for an ITX motherboard
- Cable routing and building isn’t easy
This isn’t a case built for practicality. This is a vanity object, for the true exhibitionists out there. Only those who prioritize showing off above all else will crown this the best PC case of 2019, but even then there are still some downsides you need to take into account.
First of all, the obvious. This is an open air case, so unless you have a miraculously clean room, dust and lint and all kinds of little particulates are going to find their way into your system. There’s nothing stopping them. Expect to spend a lot more time cleaning your PC than you would otherwise, especially if you want to maintain the clean aesthetic on offer here.
This case is also fairly large and hefty for an ITX build. If you want ITX for the case of a small PC build, go with the InWin 301- this isn’t the chassis you’re looking for.
That being said…as long as you understand who this case is made for (a very specific kind of enthusiast, or a tech reviewer who needs a test bench), we aren’t going to push you away from it. This is genuinely the best open-air case on the market, and as long as you’re ready to tackle the issues that present, we highly recommend it.
Best Airflow Case – Fractal Design Meshify C White
The Meshify C White retails just above or just under $100, depending on when you’re buying it. That’s a fairly good price for a case of this caliber, especially if airflow is your primary concern, because…
Simply put, this is the best airflow case that we were able to find on the market, bar none. We pored through review after review, data-sheet after data-sheet, and at the end of it all, we simply had to concede that the best airflow you’re going to get comes at just around $100.
This is a crowning achievement for Fractal Design, and easily one of our favorite mid tower Micro ATX cases on the market. In addition to the superb airflow, you also have pretty decent clearance for your GPU and CPU cooler.
Even though this case’s goal is arguably pure performance, it doesn’t slack in the looks department, either. A tempered glass side panel gives a clean look inside the case, and the white chassis combined with black mesh results in a very pleasing overall aesthetic.
- Superb airflow- the best we’ve been able to find, in fact
- Plentiful cooling options, allowing for multiple radiators or a ton of fans
- 315 mm GPU clearance and 172mm CPU cooler clearance
- Tempered glass side panel
- Fairly good pricing
- Nothing in the way of extra features
Truth be told…there really aren’t many issues we can raise with this case. If your criteria for best PC case for 2019 is which has the least problems…this one might just be it. It’s just that good.
There aren’t really any extras, though, like RGB fans or Type-C. Honestly, though, none of these things are necessary for a superb gaming PC case.
Best Watercooling Case – Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Tempered Glass Edition
Last but not least on our list is the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Tempered Glass Edition, our pick for best watercooling case. (We’ll just shorten it to Evolv for now.)
The Evolv may be the priciest case on this list, but many would argue that it’s also the best one. The reviews are unanimously positive- what few negative reviews we were able to find boiled down to either user error or nitpicking (no internal RGB lighting does not a bad case make). Even for the nitpickiest of consumers on Amazon, the rate of negative reviews is lower than anything we’ve ever seen for a PC hardware component.
Taking a look at the case, it’s quite easy to see why. The build quality is impeccable, the case is seemingly built from the ground up to support custom watercooling setups, and the crazy amount of modularity and options ensure a positive building experience. We’re truly at a loss here- it’s like Phanteks were challenged to build the best case they could and they just…did it.
- Stellar build quality and airflow
- Plenty of room and features for custom loop water cooling setups
- 3 fans included for strong out-of-the-box airflow
- External RGB lighting included
- Fairly high price
The only catch for this one is the price- at the time of writing, this is being priced for well over $200. That makes it the most expensive case on this list by a decent margin.
That being said…if you’re a huge watercooling enthusiast, this is absolutely worth the money. This is the case that you get when you want to make a custom loop setup and show it off to the world. If you aren’t doing custom loops…you should probably go for one of our other cases. If you are, though, this is definitely the best one for you.
Case size is defined in relativity to motherboard size, so we’re going to need to explain motherboard sizes in this section.
Of note is that motherboard size has no bearing on things like USB ports or gaming performance. In the latter case, a motherboard chipset can only influence gaming performance if it enables overclocking capabilities- otherwise, it doesn’t matter.
ATX is considered the “default” size for motherboards and is still the go-to solution for those who need lots of expansion.
The primary benefit of an ATX motherboard is the addition of more PCI slots, which can be used for graphics cards, sound cards, and other expansion cards. ATX motherboards also tend to have 4 RAM slots, which is especially useful for those who want to run 16GB or 32GB RAM configurations.
Micro ATX is, as the name implies, a smaller version of ATX. While ATX has two, sometimes three PCI Express lanes (mainly for multiple graphics cards), Micro ATX cuts this down to two at maximum, and a few regular PCI slots for other expansion cards.
Some Micro ATX motherboards may also cut down RAM slots to 2 (instead of ATX’s standard 4), making quad-channel RAM configurations impossible. For those who want to stuff their builds full of RAM, this is a notable downside…but many Micro ATX motherboards still manage to have 4 RAM slots regardless. This does come at a cost, though, especially if you’re using a larger CPU cooler.
Mini ITX is the smallest mainstream motherboard form factor. (And no, there’s no “regular” ITX that’s larger than Mini ITX. There are smaller, specialized ITX form factors used by laptops and mobile devices, though.)
Mini ITX’s most severe compromise is, once more, in PCI slots. Your typical ITX motherboard will have a single PCI Express slot and a single standard PCI slot, resulting in the least room for expansion. Some motherboard manufacturers will embed Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities into the motherboard to nullify these downsides, however.
ITX motherboards will almost always cut down RAM slots to 2. While Micro ATX has some boards that also do this, most don’t- every Mini ITX board we’ve been able to find does cut down on RAM, though. Thanks to the smaller size, this can still conflict with large air coolers as well.
Provided you can build around the limitations of Mini ITX, you’ll likely enjoy the benefits of its smaller form factor, especially if you select one of the smaller cases we’ve listed in this article.
Aside from the sizes we listed above, there are a few more that you might spot out in the wild:
- Extended ATX – Even larger than standard ATX, usually adds even more PCI Express slots. May even add support for dual CPU configurations.
- BTX – Intended to replace ATX, but failed. Most popular for workstations and prebuilt PCs manufactured in the early 2000s.
Besides Extended ATX, none of the rest of these are actually relevant to PC building in 2019. For that reason, we recommend sticking to ATX, M-ATX, and M-ITX…unless you really want Extended ATX, though you’ll need to get a compatible full tower for that.
How To Pick Your Case
Once you understand how sizes work (read the above section if you don’t), you’re better equipped to find the right case for your needs. However, there are still a few points worth clarifying.
Case Sizes and Suitable Motherboards
- Full Tower – ATX, sometimes E-ATX. Micro ATX will usually also be compatible, as well as Mini ITX.
- Mid Tower – ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ITX.
- Mini Tower – Micro ATX and Mini ITX, though some will only support ITX.
- Desktop – Micro ATX and Mini ITX, though some smaller cases will only support ITX.
- HTPC – Sometimes Micro ATX, but usually Mini ITX.
Your case and motherboard size selection go pretty hand-in-hand, so it’s best to decide what overall size you want before selecting either. If you don’t need to run a multi-GPU config, we recommend Micro ATX and a matching Mid or Mini Tower.
If you don’t plan on using much extra expansion, or just want as small a PC as possible, ITX and its compatible form factors are your best bets.
Consider a Mid or Full Tower with a matching ATX motherboard if you want to use expansion to its fullest, or run a multi-drive RAID setup.
Past these basic size and compatibility considerations, there are other things to take into account.
Cooling Options and Airflow
Another important aspect to take into consideration is cooling.
In the context of PC cases, cooling refers to fans, radiators, and overall airflow. These are all interconnected, but we’ll start with fans first.
When it comes to case fans, you have two main options: 120mm fans, and 140mm fans. Generally speaking, larger fans push more air, but also tend to be slightly louder.
On occasion, you may also see 200mm or 230mm case fans- these are most commonly bundled with the case itself, and not purchased by the end user. These larger fans are typically employed in smaller cube cases in order to maximize airflow without stuffing two whole 120mm or 140mm fans into the chassis.
Other important measurements to keep in mind with fans are CFM, RPM, and dB.
- CFM is Cubic Feet Per Minute and serves as a measure of raw airflow.
- RPM is Rotations Per Minute and refers to fan speed- the faster it spins, the more air it pushes and the more noise it generates.
- Finally, dB is decibels- the amount of noise the fan makes. Many people like buying case fans from the likes of Noctua and be Quiet! since their fans tend to be…well, quiet.
As you may be able to deduce, fans have the greatest effect on overall airflow. To maximize airflow in most cases, you typically want at least two intake fans mounted on the front of the case, and at least one (preferably two) exhaust fans mounted on the rear end/rear-top of the case. The exact nature of this configuration can change on a case-by-case basis, though.
Radiators come into play with a liquid CPU cooler setup. Your typical radiator will be 240mm in length and have 2 120mm fans attached. These are generally mounted on the top of the case, but some smaller cases may offer a front-mounted radiator setup instead. As long as your radiator fans aren’t pushing in the opposite direction of your intake fans, front-mounting a radiator shouldn’t be an issue at all.
When it comes to airflow, most of it boils down to having a sensible fan configuration that pushes air through the case in one direction. The size of your case and the options it offers can have a pretty big impact here, especially when you’re using a Micro ATX or Mini ITX case.
We’ve vetted all of our cases for this article for good airflow, but if you end up buying a different case of your own volition, make sure it can account for these basic needs. Additionally, make sure it can actually bring in air- as pretty as cases like the Cooler Master Q300P are, decisions like an acrylic front panel result in pretty poor airflow.
When buying cases, you may notice that some offer side panel windows. Whether you want these or not is mostly up to personal preference and budget, but there are meaningful differences that we should discuss here.
A case without a side panel window of any kind may have slightly poorer airflow if the side panel doesn’t offer some kind of ventilation. These tend to be a bit cheaper overall than windowed options, but offer no real practical benefits or major downsides.
Acrylic windows are the most popular you’ll see, offering a modest degree of transparency for looking inside at your build. These should be marginally better for cooling than having no window whatsoever (since they aren’t as dense), especially if they are also ventilated.
Acrylic windows, however, have a tendency to scratch much more easily and are much more opaque than your typical tempered glass setup. For this reason, acrylic case windows have fallen out of popularity.
Tempered glass is the most popular side panel option, but also the most expensive by a considerable margin.
Cooling-wise, tempered glass doesn’t really have an impact one way or another…as long as proper ventilation exists elsewhere in the system. Tempered glass front panels are quite popular, for instance, but tend to protrude ever-so-slightly from the case so that air can make its way in to the intake fans.
As far as side panels go, tempered glass is as good as it gets. It doesn’t scratch as easily as acrylic and it’s gorgeous…but it is much more fragile. Not quite as fragile as your typical glass, but still enough that a drop from standing height on a hard surface would probably devastate your chassis.
As long as you aren’t in the business of regularly dropping your hardware, though, tempered glass should be just fine.
Builder friendliness is a bit harder to quantify, but here are some general rules to go by:
- The smaller the case, the harder cable management, cooler installation, and driver installation become.
- Dedicated compartments of the case for the PSU, cable management, or both are a great bonus.
- If there are no cable management routing holes to speak of, you’re going to have a bad time.
- Drive bay tools and hot-swap bays both serve to make the building process easier.
- Bonus points for dedicated 2.5-inch drive slots (for SSDs). Without these, you may have to opt for adapters or just taping your SSD down somewhere.
A good rule of thumb here, especially if you’re a new builder, is to take a look at the reviews and see what people say about the building process. If a case looks intimidating to build in, you probably shouldn’t buy it.
Front Panel I/O
If you’re buying a case, chances are you’ll want extra I/O for your convenience.
We recommend sticking with cases that offer USB 3.0 ports as a minimum acceptable baseline. USB 3.0 has been around since 2008, and in the decade or so since many devices have been utilizing its faster transfer speeds. If you own a modern smartphone, you may also be interested in cases that offer 3.0 Type-C ports, since many phones have been opting for that connector.
Other common case I/O includes a power button, a reset button, and a few jacks for headphone audio and microphone audio. While the latter two are also offered by most motherboards, the former two are a pretty vital feature for any modern chassis to have.
Aside from everything we listed above, some cases may boast miscellaneous extra features.
The most popular of these extra features is RGB lighting- typically through RGB fans or RGB light strips built into the cases themselves. This is a purely aesthetic flair, but one that the aesthetically-minded will desire.
Other features include things like handles. A handle on a Micro ATX or Mini ITX case, for instance, can greatly improve its portability and serve as a vital feature for those who bring their PCs to LAN parties or other events frequently.
In general, extra features are just that- extra- and shouldn’t be the main reason why you buy a certain case. Make sure that build quality, capacity, and airflow are up to par, first.
Will my GPU fit?
In most of the cases we’ve listed above, yes…as long as your GPU is of standard length.
To determine for yourself whether or not your GPU will fit, however, you’ll want to find its length measurement in millimeters. Once you have its length, compare it to the GPU clearance spec that your case has…in this article, we’ve done the work for you and have all the GPU clearance specs listed in the Pros/Cons of each Case Review.
Will my cooler fit?
Air coolers rely on large heatsinks and fans for maximum efficiency…at least, aftermarket ones do. Your stock coolers with AMD and Intel processors will both tend to be small enough to fit in even ITX cases, Intel’s especially. But if you’re serious about cooling performance, you’ll want to buy your own aftermarket air cooler or liquid cooler.
With this in mind, Micro ATX and Mini ITX cases typically tend to slim down. When a case is slim, it won’t have as much room for the large heatsinks characteristic of great air coolers…the Corsair Crystal 280X that we’ve listed, for instance, doesn’t have room for the fan-favorite Cooler Master 212 EVO air cooler.
The smaller the case, the less likely your air cooler will fit. In these scenarios, you’ll want to verify the length of your cooler and the clearance the case offers for CPU coolers, which we’ve listed in the Pros/Cons of the reviews above.
Do I need liquid cooling?
No, but you may want it.
The main benefits of liquid cooling are a quieter system, lower temperatures, and much less space taken up. Radiators will take up a fan slot or two in your case, but that’s about it- the part that attaches directly to your CPU is fairly low-profile. (This is in the case of closed-loop or AIO coolers- if you’re building your own liquid cooling setup, it won’t be quite as efficient on space.)
With the smaller cases on this list, like the Corsair Crystal or InWin 301, you may want to opt for liquid cooling. This offers additional visual flair to your build while helping it stay quieter and cooler, which is great for low-profile PCs.