Strictly on paper, most mid-tier builds would be more cost-effective with a good air cooling setup. But this fails to appreciate the beauty of a water-cooled rig. The aesthetics and lack of noise are satisfying to the PC master race. And for hardcore or competitive builds, a custom liquid cooling case may be the only option to squeeze the performance necessary.
Whatever your reason for landing at water cooling, this article will guide you through one of the first parts of your liquid-cooled build: your PC case.
We’ll take a look at the best cases in different segments of the market, their advantages, and disadvantages. But before that, let us guide you through the info necessary to dive in.
Best Water Cooled PC Case – The Roundup
Best Water Cooled PC Case – Lian Li PC-O11 Dynamic
Lian Li built this case with the help of overclocker Roman ‘Der8auer’ Hartung. And this is a case you would love to overclock in. This is hardware for hardcore enthusiasts, which is reflected in its price of $140 while shipping without fans. Check out our full review.
The two-chamber design means that there is a lot of space inside at the cost of increasing width. And this space is undoubtedly appreciated while installing radiators, pumps, and reservoirs. Having a config of three triple-fan radiators is no problem. And since most people going for a water-cooled build care about aesthetics, this recommendation sits at the top of our list. The dual front and side glass panels will show a fabulous view of your rig.
- Part TG front panel and TG side panel
- Dual chamber design, dual PSU support
- Up to E-ATX motherboards and 420 mm GPU
- Radiator support: 360 mm/280 mm @ front, 360 mm @ side, 360 mm @ bottom
- Gen 1 Type-C
This is not an easy case to build inside, however. Cable management is your problem here, not Lian Li’s. So if you have never actually built another PC before, we would hesitate to recommend this one. It might be a lot of headaches, trying to figure out both custom loops and the nuances of an enthusiast-level case.
- Great radiator support
- Compact and strong build
- Dual glass panels to show off your rig
- Needs expertise to build in
- A bit on the heavier side
Best Full Size PC Cases for Water Cooling – PHANTEKS Enthoo 719
The Enthoo 719 was previously also called the PHANTEKS Luxe 2. This is a big case, supporting a dual system configuration. It is a full-sized tower that may look massive if you have a small desk. In general, you should only go for a full-tower if you have a specific need or inclination. Ease in configuring a water-cooled rig is a valid excuse, however.
Once you take a look at the features, the cost of $190 seems well justified. The variety in layouts is merely astounding. You can go for a dual system build or a dual PSU build. All necessary brackets are included in the original package. A great many numbers of drives are supported, and this flexibility is where we’d recommend this over the XL version of the Lian Li PC-O11.
- TG side panel and SSD window
- Dual motherboard (up to SSI-EEB and E-ATX + mITX) and PSU support; 503 mm GPUs and dual vertical option
- ARGB lighting
- Up to dual 480 mm + dual 360 mm radiator support
- Gen 2 Type-C
Similar to the top entry, no fans come preinstalled. You do need to be careful about radiator installation, however. Your pipes may not find the clearances in this chassis enough. Some components are also clearly subpar in build quality compared to the rest of the case.
- Incredible radiator support
- Immense flexibility, with dual system possibility
- Spacious design
- Some plastic parts do not fit well
- Layout options may get confusing
Best Mini ITX Water Cooling Case – Antec Striker
The ITX market is a tough one to pin down, and we might get a lot of heat for choosing this one. For instance, the NZXT H1 is technically water-cooled and an excellent product. But the Antec Striker fits the bill of being solely designed for water cooling. And it is designed to look good. Both of these design choices play out well. You know this case is good when even Singularity Computers did a review of it.
The Striker is not a traditional case. It is open-air and looks highly irregular. The GPU is mounted at the front, via an included riser cable. The front TG panel gives a direct view, great if you have a graphics card you want to show off. The rest of the case is also built to show off your rig. Being an open-air case, you will get adequate airflow for your radiators. Cable management is decent, and this product encourages case modding.
- TG side and front panels, open-air layout
- Up to ITX motherboards and 330 mm GPUs
- Radiator support: 240 mm @ rear, 240 mm @ side
- Built-in liquid cooling: Reservoir, pump top, pump cover, half loop
- Gen 1 Type-C and riser cable
Some downsides. This case has a large volume for an ITX case so that it is presented as a mini-tower and not Small Form Factor (SFF). This space is not well-utilized in terms of storage, however. Only two 2.5″ drives can be mounted, which is a downer. Antec is also not the best at marketing. Initial impressions from their website don’t do justice to what is otherwise a stunning-looking case. In the right hands, of course.
- Excellent layout and front GPU placement
- Unique design
- Good water cooling support
- Not quite SFF
- Only two 2.5″ drive mounts
Best ATX Mid Tower Water Cooled Case – InWin 303C
Maybe you are looking for something much affordable. If you are going the water cooling route, then it is evident you’ll spend quite a bit of money, especially for custom loops. But not all of that has to be spent on high-end cases. For instance, the InWin 303C is an excellent budget option with few compromises at around $90.
The case looks neither flashy nor exceedingly minimal. This is a PC case almost entirely built from metal. So if you need to perform DIY modifications, the chassis will make it easy. The tempered glass side panel comes off easily, although this is where toolless design ends. A pair of 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives each can be installed out of the box, and you can add one more 2.5″ drive bay. A product refresh bringing in Gen 2 Type-C is appreciated as well.
- TG side panel
- Up to ATX motherboards and 350 mm GPUs
- RGB lighting in front I/O
- Radiator support: 360 mm @ top, 120 mm @ rear
- Gen 2 Type-C
The one flaw of this case is the subpar airflow. Which, if you are going for water cooling, is sidestepped. However, this is not a case to go for an all-out build, as not many radiators are supported. Some might also complain about the looks of this case, which is somewhat dated. InWin should have gotten rid of the horrid logo in front, and perhaps even the RGB.
- Excellent build quality for the price
- DIY friendly
- Radiator support a bit lacking
- Unattractive design
Best Open Frame Liquid Cooled PC Case – Thermaltake Core P90
Gone are the days when PC cases looked rigid and boring – the Thermaltake Core P90 is a pitch-perfect example of what a modern-day PC case should look like. Nearly everything about this case speaks of quality and good performance.
Firstly, we really like that this case is wall-mountable because that strongly helps get a lot of air into your case and minimizes space in your room. Secondly, this is a fully Mid-Tower case any PC enthusiast will appreciate.
To enumerate, the case is all-black with two of the side panels made of tempered glass which adds to the scary aesthetics we saw. But all that beauty comes at a small price of having a heavy front panel.
There is a vent at the rear covered with a large dust filter. Also inside are three accessible 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch mount drive mounts. Underneath them are a couple of tool-free mounts for HDDs or SSDs.
Besides, you’ll find I/O options like two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports on sides. Plus an Audio/Mic jack and a power button.
Let’s talk about the water cooling solution in this case. The Core P90 can house a 420mm and 480mm radiator; isn’t that outstanding? It has fan mounts that support four 120mm fans or you can go with three 140mm fans and add the 480mm radiator.
At the same time, this case can support long graphics cards and can house any ATX, Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX motherboard.
- Excellent aesthetics
- Impressive water-cooling support and thermal performance
- Good cable routing and management
- No RGB lighting
Bottom Line: The Thermaltake Core P90 is a quality PC case in terms of cooling performance and aesthetics. The water-cooling support of this case is just mind-blowing that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a mid-tower case that matches this one in terms of liquid cooling. However, the case is somewhat pricey given that it breaches the $200 mark.
Best RGB Water Cooling Case – Corsair Crystal Series 680X
We started off with a case that impressed our editors with the fine design and build quality. It’s only fair we continue in that form. The Corsair Crystal Series 680X is another ultra-modern PC case with excellent build quality and thermal performance. The fact it’s a case from a reputable brand makes it all the more trustworthy.
The Crystal Series 680X measures 16.65 x 13.54 x 19.88 inches. What that tells you is that this is a Mid-Tower case. The whitish color of the case makes quite attractive, although you can buy the one that comes in black exterior if you don’t like your stuff looking too flashy.
The case looks quite rectangular and boxy with six side panels, three of which are covered in well-hinged tempered glass. Some parts of the case look made of plastic, and evident steel. Not only that also the way the panels are set up will allow plenty of air into this PC case. And, You get a hinged door on the case.
Talking about air flow, the Crystal Series 680X has mounts for three 120mm or 140mm fans. Altogether, there’s room for up to eight fans in this PC case. Three of those fans are pre-installed with RGB LED lighting – which can be controlled with Corsair’s iCUE software. It also has a magnetic filter that’ll help keep your case cleaner for longer. And of course, you’ll find a large filtered hole to let hot air out and cold air in. And there’s space at the bottom for your PSU.
For water cooling you can mount a hefty 360mm radiator on the Crystal Series 680X. Interestingly, this case can accommodate up to four radiators. If you’re a fan of AIO liquid-cooling you should be hooked by now.
The I/O ports you’ll find in the Crystal Series 680X are two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C ports with an Audio/Mic jack. There are as much as 10 expansion slots on this case.
- Excellent cooling performance and water cooling solution
- Lovely tempered glass side paned, and hinged door
- Nice ventilation
- Noisy due to lots of fans
Bottom Line: There’s very little fault you can find with the Corsair Crystal Series 680X RGB case. Overall, the case offers impressive cooling performance and comes in nice build quality. It even has USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C ports and the addressable RGB lighting can be controlled with Corsair iCUE software. This case is highly recommended for your gaming rig.
Best Full Tower Liquid Cooled PC Case – Thermaltake Level 20
For PC enthusiasts who like lots of space and water cooling, you can’t go wrong with the Thermaltake Level 20. Released when Thermaltake celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018, the Level 20 flaunts premium chassis and an excellent build. For such a big case, it was surprising Thermaltake was able to add as much tempered glass as they did in the View 71.
The Level 20 measures a staggering 27.1 x 28.8 x 11 inches and weighs in at 70.6 pounds. Friends, this is one heavy case by all standards. The Level 20 is made of steel, aluminum, and glass – and comes in a gray exterior and black interior.
There are three hinged swing doors on the Level 20, all made with 4mm-thick tempered glass. So this monstrous case will flaunt your components and give your gaming rig a whole different outlook.
On the I/O panel are ports for the latest USB 3.1 Type-C and four USB 3.0. Plus an HD Audio port. Inside the case, there are three pre-installed 140mm fans, all with Riing Plus RGB fans and two Lumi Plus LED strips. The RGB controller for the fans is the Riing Plus RGB software. Or you can control it with Alexa. Overall, you can have eight fans working together to cool this PC case.
The water cooling solution of this case is second to none. With support for a 480mm and a 420mm radiator on the storage chamber. You can fit another 360m radiator by the motherboard chamber and a 120mm or 140mm radiator on the rear.
You can install up to six 3.5” or 2.5-inch drives on the HDD rack and two more behind the motherboard tray.
This case has what it takes to accommodate all motherboard and graphics card sizes, and you don’t need to sacrifice a fan or radiator to do that.
- Premium design and aesthetics with steel, aluminum and glass
- Has USB-C with speeds of up to 10Gps
- Superb cable management capacity
- Outstanding cooling performance and water-cooling support
Bottom Line: Thermaltake takes its customers to a whole new level with Level 20. The materials all speak of premium quality. And then you’ll be like wow by the cooling performance. But this case is very expensive. Really.
Most Expensive Case with Liquid Cooling Distro Block – Singularity Spectre 2.0
If you follow tech YouTubers, then you may have already seen this case. Singularity Computers used to be a fringe company appealing to wealthy modders. Now, like many other manufacturers, they are moving more into the broader consumer space. Still, the Spectre 2.0 has a ridiculous price, starting at $1400. Hey, Post Malone has built with this, so this should be pretty good, right?
Not disgusted by the price and still reading? Then you should know that this is a stellar product. It is wholly built using CNC machines. This means that it has a level of refinement unmatched by factory-produced hardware. The big thing about this case is obviously that liquid cooling is integrated into the chassis itself. Theoretically, the other cases in our list should not come even close to the level of performance the Spectre should offer. In practice, however, you’ll get diminishing returns after you install a good-enough custom loop.
- Mostly transparent design
- Up to E-ATX motherboards and 500 mm GPUs
- Radiator support: 360 mm @ top, 360 mm @ front
- Built-in liquid cooling: Reservoir, pump top, pump cover, half loop
The cable management is a surprising win for this case. There are hidden channels and cable combs, melding seamlessly into the backplate. For a sizeable case, though, it only supports up to three 2.5″ drives. The dual-radiator support should be enough to vent heat.
- Extreme liquid cooling integration
- Surprisingly good cable management
- Mouth-watering aesthetics
- Astronomical price
- Limited number of drives
What you need to know about Water Cooled Cases
A basic primer on the stuff you’ll need to know about water-cooled cases. First, we’ll take a look at when you should consider water cooling your build. Then we’ll talk about the different case sizes and how they play out with regards to water cooling. Finally, we’ll consider the radiators and other components that you need to be aware of when looking at the specifications for a case.
Despite what some fanatics may tell you, water cooling is not the end-all in all situations and builds. While we’d not be even talking about it, if there were no upsides, you need to be aware of some downsides as well.
Some essential advantages of water cooling revolve around water being a better medium of heat transfer.
- A liquid radiator is more efficient at shedding heat to the air compared to a traditional heatsink. This means that you can expect significantly lower temperatures from a water-cooled build. Compared to an air-cooled build, that is (if both setups are full-fledged).
- Water, or any other liquid you use, has more heat capacity than air. This means if your PC keeps on heating up for an extended period, say a couple of hours when gaming, the cooler will not be overwhelmed.
- Water cooling is almost always quieter than air coolers. Even when pushing extreme loads, the few radiator fans you have won’t produce much noise.
- Water cooling systems can be small and flexible. Note the can, however, as we’ll talk later about why we recommend a more massive case for most people. CPU air coolers with similar performance can be large and bulky, while a CPU block can be slim.
- This is up to personal preference, but most find water cooling – especially custom loops – to be very eye-catching. Combine with tasteful RGB and a gorgeous case for full aesthetic effect.
You might have guessed that water cooling doesn’t come in cheap and might be a hassle sometimes.
- All-In-One (AIOs) are pre-built water cooling solutions, mass-produced. Still, they are a good deal expensive than top-tier air coolers. Custom loops have many components, so they are even more costly. Expect to pay $350+ for an excellent custom loop or look for cheap AIOs.
- Water cooling is risky. If you follow the directions right and configure everything correctly, you should almost never have a leak. But yet, the worry of ‘what if’ is always present. Component damage is even rarer, however, so this should not be that big of a concern.
- It is complicated and hands-on. Yes, yes, you can install an AIO without much fuss or sometimes get pre-built custom loops. But most people assemble their rig themselves. If you’re looking to quickly get your rig up without much ado, this way ain’t it, chief.
- Other small negatives about water cooling are lack of portability and need for maintenance. To do both correctly, you’ll need a least a set of basic tools. You’ll need to drain your loop to be safe when moving your PC, and once every 6-12 months routinely as well.
Form Factor and Size
Okay, you’ve decided that water cooling is the way to go. But as soon as you start looking at cases, you encounter jargon. Now we’ll look at which of those words actually matter. Regarding the form factor, the PC case market is spread into three broad categories. These are mid-tower, larger than mid-tower (full and super), and compact. Other niches such as cases with handles and open-air cases are subsets of these.
- Mid-towers generally support up to ATX and sometimes smaller E-ATX motherboards. Some mid-towers are designed with water cooling in mind, but some are not. For the latter, prefer a chassis that you can drill a few holes in without falling apart. You should prefer a mid-tower case if you love the case itself, not for space or compactness.
- Full-towers support up to SSI-EEB/E-ATX motherboards. Other variants, including super-towers and wider towers, are also in this category. These almost always have extensive water cooling support. Having ample space means it is easier to build in these chassis. If you can spare a few extra bucks and don’t mind the size, opt for these when water cooling.
- Mini-towers and SFF PC cases are variable in their water cooling support. Unless a case has water cooling preinstalled, like the NZXT H1, building in these will be complicated. Only go for these cases when you are a bit experienced or have someone to guide you through it.
A radiator is a part of your water cooling system that exchanges heat with the air. This allows your liquid to try and fall back to ambient/room temperature. Then it again absorbs heat from your components. And this cycle continues. Radiators are something to consider extensively in your build because you can get their layout wrong and lose out on performance.
- You’ll need to attach fans to your radiators. Unlike airflow fans, radiator fans are better if they have high static pressure. This is because the radiator fins obstruct the flow of air, so the fans have to push against them.
- Radiator sizes are measured in terms of their fan sizes. The most common fan size is 120 mm, so single, double, and triple-fan radiators are generally 120/240/360 mm. The other radiators you’ll hear about are 140/280/420 mm ones, and the rest are very niche.
- Radiator thickness also matters. Thicker radiators are better, but the law of diminishing returns applies here as well. You’ll also need more space to install thick radiators, and in some SFF cases, you can only fit thin ones.
- In general, you’ll want at least two or three positions for radiator placement.
Despite our warnings, we do not think that water cooling is something only mechanical engineers can do. With a bit of research and some essential tools, you can work with most builds quickly. And water cooling does not affect your daily activities in any discernible way, so there is no hassle – except during assembly and maintenance.
- Check for compatibility first and foremost. When building a custom loop, if you cannot find water blocks to fit your socket, you cannot move ahead. There are CPU blocks, GPU blocks, universal blocks, and so much more. So, do your research before ordering.
- Push-pull and crossflow radiators can give better performance than regular configurations. If you have space, then check to see if these will work better for your system.
- Don’t forget to include algae killers like Biocide or a Silver Kill Coil.
- Before assembly, thoroughly clean all of your water cooling components.
- Measuring things and planning are crucial before you move on to actually fitting and installing pieces.
- Test after you have completed your build for at least a few days. You may discover air bubbles or minor leaks that aren’t visible at first glance.
- Mixing some additives is unlikely to improve performance. But, it may help in the aesthetics department.
Visit the water cooling subreddit to learn more and gather inspiration for your builds.
There we are – a list of the best cases you can buy for your water cooling needs. We’ve tried to cover a variety of segments and price ranges in this guide. Let us know in the comments your thoughts on these PC cases, or if you have any other recommendations. Feel free to send us completed pictures of your sweet rig as well.
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