How to Choose the Best Computer Cases in 2017

Best computer cases in 2017
So, here it is – the moment when you need to buy a new PC case. At first sight it seems to be nothing special or difficult at all. But if you do have such thought it means that you are either a real pro or a complete tyro.

Anyway, looking for a new computer case as well as anything else we want it to be first-grade, good-looking and at the same time affordable. But if the question of design and price is quite clear and simple, the quality issue is much more complicated.

Buying a new PC case we should be aware of all its technical details and know necessary terminology not to look like a fool while listening to the sales assistant’s speech or reading the goods description on the net. Therefore, in order to help you make a right decision and select the cream of the crop, we prepared the ultimate guide, which will tell you everything you have to know about PC cases on today’s market.

All you need to know about PC cases before buying

OK, your first step is to learn the terms you will use during your PC case purchase. Thus, here we’ll study the basic shoptalk you need to be aware of before choosing the best computer case.

1. ATX & ITX – what’s the difference?

Don’t panic if these abbreviations mean nothing for you. ATX, aka Advanced Technology eXtended, denotes a motherboard configuration specification or, simply put, a motherboard design. The most commonly used are Standard and Micro ATX boards. Standard ATX boards are 12×9.6 inches. As to Micro ATX, such motherboards can have the maximum size of 9.6×9.6 inches.

Another type of motherboard is Mini ITX of 6.7×6.7-inch size. Such boards are usually used in small-configured computer systems. There is also Mini ATX, which is slightly smaller than Mini ITX – 5.9×5.9 inches. One of the smallest form factors would be Nano ITX (4.7×4.7 inches) and Pico ITX (3.9×2.8 inches).

On the whole, the size of any PC case is determined by the board size it can support – usually big cases have larger motherboards and vice versa. But keep in mind that any computer case which hosts a motherboard with a bigger size can also support boards of smaller sizes.

Consequently, before selecting a computer chassis make sure what motherboard you would like to have in and then check whether a chosen PC case corresponds to your needs. If you are working on a powerful gaming machine you can find more details about suitable motherboards here.

2. Common form factors of PC cases

Obviously, all PC cases have different size and shape. Thus, there are special terms which denote these characteristics. The first one is desktop case. Such computer case has a horizontal design and is widely used in business environments in order to save the space as it can be easily placed under the monitor.

The next one is SFF, i.e. Small-Form-Factor. Well, the term speaks for itself – cases which belong to this category are more compact than desktop cases but at the same time have almost the same options. SFF cases support motherboards which are smaller than Micro ATX (usually these are mini ITX boards). They can look like shoeboxes, cubes, and book-sized cases. Thanks to such compact construction SFF cases are very popular with gaming and home theatre computers.

Some other terms which you can face while looking for a PC case include mini-tower, mid-tower and full-tower cases. Mini-tower cases are under about 14-16 in high, what coincides with the size of desktop cases. They usually have only one or two external bays and support micro ATX boards.

Mid-towers are about 17-21 in high and have from two to four external bays. And if mini-towers can host only one GPU, this type of cases can support up to two. Recently there has also appeared a new term – midi-tower, which presupposes a case smaller than mid-tower but larger than mini-tower. Midi-towers are with two to three external bays. Still, this term is quite interchangeable with mid-tower.

As to the full-tower cases, they have height from 22 to 27 in. Full-towers usually have from five to ten externally accessible drive bays and are supposed to stand on the floor. They support ATX, EATX or even XL-ATX motherboards. All towers which have more than 27 inches of height are called super or ultra towers.

We also can’t but mention MOD-tower. This is a case system which can be modified by putting new cases on its top in order, for example, to add more cooling capacity.

Nevertheless, we have to underline the fact that different manufacturers provide different definitions for their case forms. It’s all up to provider how to call its PC case models. Thus, always clarify the accurate size of computer case you want to purchase.

3. Drive bays

Drive bays are those elements of PC case which are responsible for its “tool-free” design. The point is that these parts of computer case do not require any screws to get installed. You can just use levers, for example, to add the drivers. The other elements which can go without screws during their installation process are expansion cards.

As to the driving bays, they can be of different size – 5.25-inch, 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch.The biggest one, i.e. of 5.25-inch format, is used with an optical drive. This can be either a DVD burner or a Blu-ray drive. Such bays are widely used for hosting of front-panel devices, e.g. temperature readouts or fan controllers. They can be also applied during the installation of additional panels for extra ports on PC front side. Such 5.25-inch bays are used in SFF or mini-tower cases.

The second type of drive bays are used for the installation of platter-style hard drives. Some of the tower cases have 3.5-inch bays. As to the 2.5-inch bays, they can be easily implemented even in the tiniest parts of the case thanks to their compact size.

4. Cutaway for CPU cooler

Obviously your new PC case will host a cooler. Therefore, one of your tasks is to check how well a chosen computer case is adjusted to this element. Note that most of the top-notch CPU coolers need a backing plate or other mounting hardware which is installed from the board underneath.

In case you have to change your CPU cooler and your PC is already built, you will probably need to remove a motherboard off and only then you’ll get access to the cooler. But if in a motherboard tray there is a special CPU-cooler cutaway you won’t have to remove anything at all. Many of the up-to-date PC case models have such cutaway and that’s their great plus.

5. I/O shield

This part of PC is placed on the back of computer case. It has special cutouts for different ports of the board and serves as a protection of the motherboard while inserting cables to the pre-cited ports.

But bear in mind, that I/O shield comes together with a motherboard but not a case itself. Consequently, I/O shields aren’t interchangeable between different boards but they can be used for different PC cases because they have almost the same standard dimensions – 1.75×6.5 inches.

6. Motherboard tray and standoffs

First of all, let’s clarify what motherboard tray is. In fact, it’s just a place where a board is located. A motherboard tray is placed at the bottom of computer case and has special holes for the motherboard standoffs. By the by, if earlier most of the trays were removable nowadays it’s quite uncommon thing.

As to motherboard standoffs, these are small brass-looking spacers that you can find between a board and a case. Standoffs are screwed into the PC case and have a motherboard fixed to them. Note that they help to prevent an electrical short as they raise the board above the case and as a result, the soldered parts don’t contact it.

You can usually find these brass bits in a small bag which comes together with a PC case. Their installation is not complicated because there are special marks near the holes in the tray, which will help you to find a necessary hole for this or that standoff.

7. What is PSU?

PSU is a power supply unit which serves to traffic electricity to such computer components as motherboard, drives and fans. PSU looks like a big box and it’s typically placed either at the top or at the bottom of PC case. It is mounted by means of screws through the backside of the computer case with a special big-sized cutaway, which also plays a part in ventilation process.

Today most of the tower cases support ATX (i.e. full-sized) power supplies. Those PC chassis which belong to the category of compact SFF cases have PSU of SFX form factor, in other words those of a smaller size.

PSU is one of the most important things for creation of powerful computers. But if you belong to the category of devoted gamers then this element should be number one on your list as your PC will need more power than an average one. Here are some best power supply units for gaming.

8. Fan mounts

Fan mounts are surfaces inside a computer case, which are used for the installation of additional ventilation in your PC. They can be of different size – 80 mm, 92 mm, 120 mm, 140 mm and 200 mm. Still 120-mm and 140-mm fan mounts are the most popular.

Some of PC cases have also got removable air filters, which cover the front face of the fan mounts. Such filter would be a great additional supplement to your PC case as it reduces the amount of dust inside a computer chassis.

9. GPU clearance

This term denotes a space your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) needs to fit in your PC case. As many modern PC cases have removable parts GPU clearance can vary. For example, if hard drive trays in your computer case can be removed it means that the space required for a video card can be also extended.

Usually if a GPU clearance has more than 12 in then it will be able to support almost any video card. Still, be especially attentive with very long cards. The point is that their power connectors, which extend from the trailing edge, can require some extra space in your PC case.

10. Drive sleds and drive stealthing

Drive sleds are usually made of metal or plastic and look like frames which slide in/out of a drive bay. They are used mostly with 3.5-inch bays but can also cooperate with bays of 2.5-inch size. Some PC cases have drive sleds which allow the drive to contact a backplane system with SATA data and built-in power connectors. In this case, the drives are hot-swappable.

Some of today’s computer cases have also got drive stealthing which presupposes an optical drive hidden behind a door or panel in order to bring a smooth look to the PC-case front side.

Drive stealthing can be achieved in different ways. It can be done by means of drive-bay cover with a flip-down door, which allows the drive tray to pop out. The other option is more popular with PC cases of premium class. In such cases there is a special slot for the optical drive where you just put a disc. This is achieved via a slot-loading and trayless optical drive mechanism.

11. Types of optical drive

Some high-grade PC cases can also require special types of optical drive – slim optical drive or slot-load optical drive. Slim optical drive is much smaller and more fragile than a typical 5.25-inch bay device. This optical drive is mostly used in laptops with SFF form factor. Slot-load optical drive is used in PC cases with drive stealthing, so it goes with a tray for a slot-feed mechanism.

12. PC case ports

Ports which are a part of computer case are usually called Front I/O. They can be placed on the front face, on the top front of PC case or down one of its sides. These ports can include headphone and mic jacks, USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports. Some of the older PC case models can also have such ports as e SATA and FireWire.

Your task is to make sure that your PC motherboard has all matching headers for ports of a new computer case. If it doesn’t then you’ll need to but adapters or expansion cards in order to involve ports into the working process.

By the by, speaking of the headphone and microphone jack it should be mentioned that older and newer PC case models can have different connectors. Most of computer chassis have a cable with a 10-pin header connector, which can be plugged into a pin-grid on the motherboard. It is also called “HD Audio” header. The older versions of PC cases usually have a forked cable provided with connectors for HD Audio and AC ’97 headers.

Some of the computer cases can also have two or four ports on the back of the case, which enable you to install water-cooling hardware inside the chassis. These ports stand usually in a line with silicone rim or a rubber. Such ports are called hose passthroughs.

13. Expansion slots

One more characteristics you should be aware of is the number of expansion slots supported by the PC case. Expansion slots are special spaces which can be found in the back of the case and are often covered by the metal strips, which can be removed. The number of such slots in the PC case can vary. But usually when the form factor of a case matches the size of the motherboard then you won’t have any troubles.

14. Thumbscrews and cables

Thumbscrews are used in order to keep together side panels of PC case and its inner hardware. The point is that thumbscrews may not require any screwdriver to add or remove different parts of computer case. Still, very often it may not work and you’ll need to take a screwdriver for such changes.

Cable management denotes the number of special features a PC case possesses, which help to improve the airflow and make the interior look cleaner. It includes the number of cutaways, some extra space behind the board tray, quality of cable cutouts (whether they are lined with soft material in order to minimize the wire chafing or not) etc.

And the last thing you have to know before your purchase is the list of best PC cases on today’s market. So here we go.

Best Full-Tower Cases

be quiet! Dark Base 900

Best silent PC case

be quiet dark base 900 - Best silent PC case
Its silent excellence will be a perfect match for real enthusiasts who know what they are looking for. Dark Base 900 was designed according to the highest German standards. This computer case has a modular construction what makes it a versatile chassis with a removable motherboard tray and repositionable HDD slots.

There are three pre-installed SilentWings® 3 140mm PWM fans and four areas for water-cooling radiators, each with up to 420mm size on the top, front, back and base of the case. Its full circuit airflow system provides hefty noise-reducing vents all round the chassis. These features allow Dark Base 900 to host even E-ATX and XL-ATX boards. Thus, this PC case is also suitable for gaming purpose, as it has high-resolution gaming and multimedia systems.

Pros:

  • fully modular design
  • build quality which includes tempered-glass side window
  • reversible motherboard with 3 height settings
  • many drive bays
  • Qi wireless charger
Cons:

  • heavy
  • high price
  • cable management needs improvement
  • no air intake on the bottom

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Corsair Obsidian 750D

Best looking PC case

corsair obsidian 750D - Best looking PC case
This full-tower computer case is aimed at building a powerful PC system. Corsair Obsidian 750D provides both air and water-cooling options. There are Dual 140mm front intake fans and a low-resistance mesh panel for quiet air-cooling performance, required by GPUs and DRAM. Its tool-free drive bays are removable, so you can easily control the chassis space.

It’s minimalist but at the same time, elegant exterior makes Corsair Obsidian 750D one of the best looking PC cases. What is more, it’s highly compatible as it supports E-ATX, ATX, Micro ATX, XL-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards.

Pros:

  • stylish
  • cable management
  • high compatibility
  • modular drive cages
  • innovative SDD brackets
Cons:

  • bottom radiator needs better clearance
  • high price
  • no air intake on the bottom

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Cooler Master HAF X

Great gaming PC case

cooler master haf x - Great gaming PC case
This PC case model is one of the best full-tower chassis. It has a solid construction of steel and plastic what makes it look quite industrial. There is a removable cover of the front fan with dust covers. Cooler Master HAF X has also got two removable hot-swap bays and four external drive bays. Besides, it supports all popular connections such as USB 3.0 and 2.0, Fire Wire, audio and others. At the top of the case there is space for additional exhaust fans while the side and back panels provide intake fans. What is more there are none expansion slots.

Cooler Master HAF X has spacious rugged interior of black color. Its VGA air duct and VGA bracket do their best to improve graphics card cooling. In fact, this can be a one of the best options for creating a powerful gaming PC. But if this task seems to be too time-consuming and tiresome then you can always have a look at the list of best prebuilt gaming computers and choose the one you like most of all.

Pros:

  • spacious interior
  • improved high airflow design
  • hot-swappable drives
  • good cable management
  • quiet cooling
  • fingerprint-resistant case cover
Cons:

  • plastic top
  • heavy
  • no fan control

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Phanteks Enthoo Pro

Good cheap PC case

phanteks enthoo pro - Good cheap PC case
Behind a brushed plastic and aluminum cover there is hidden a hefty engine for a first-grade computer system. Phanteks Enthoo Pro has good cooling features – 200mm fan in front and 140mm fan in the rear, and some extra space for additional fans.

There is also a multiple radiator support as well as improved cable management. This computer chassis provides closed HDD panel and removable SSD bracket. Besides, there are four USB ports. Phanteks Enthoo Pro can host ATX, EATX, mATX and SSI EEB motherboards.

Pros:

  • spacious interior
  • improved cooling system
  • good cable management
  • not expensive
  • 5-year warranty
Cons:

  • plastic cover
  • inconvenient access to top fan filter

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Cooler Master Cosmos II

Very durable PC case

cooler master cosmos ii - Very durable PC case
Unlike the previous PC case, Cooler Master Cosmos II is much more expensive. This computer chassis looks very modern and stylish. Its exterior is made of brushed aluminum and steel what adds elegance to its general design. Besides, combination of such materials makes Cooler Master Cosmos construction strong as well.

This PC case has an optimized airflow design and can host up to 10 fans and 13 HDDs. What is more, there is an advanced control panel which includes 4-channel fan speed control. By the way, you can also choose a special edition of Cooler Master II devoted to the 25th company anniversary.

Pros:

  • huge interior
  • fan controller
  • improved cable management
  • 10 expansion slots
  • lots of cooling options
  • good build quality
  • supports USB 3.0
Cons:

  • heavy
  • expensive
  • no HPTX compatibility

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Best Mid-Tower Cases

Enermax Ostrog GT

Best PC case under $100

enermax ostrog gt - Best PC case under 100
This is definitely something worth your attention. Enermax Ostrog GT will surprise you with its powerful cooling performance – it can support up to 12 fans including a big-sized 23/20cm fan. Its removable HDD cage will let you install a VGA card. By the by, this PC case has got rails with anti-vibration rubber pads for 3.5 HDD installation.

Eneremax Ostrog GT is spacious and provides 8 expansion slots for triple graphic cards. Besides, it includes a bottom mounted PSU slot with rubber pads and a removable dust filter. There is also internal USB 3.0 support for faster data transfer and top I/O for easy connection with external devices. And that’s all for less than $100! Thus, it’s one of the best budget mid-tower computer cases on the market.

Pros:

  • spacious interior
  • advanced cooling system
  • good cable management
  • cheap
Cons:

  • bottom filter is hard to remov
  • front filters need some improvement

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Cooler MasterBox 5

Another great cheap PC case

cooler masterbox 5 - great cheap PC case
Here you get one of the best good-looking mid-tower cases under $100. It has a steel construction with plastic mash bezel. For easy installation process Cooler MasterBox 5 has well placed cutouts, which also provide simple expanding of various interior configurations. Thus, you won’t face any difficulties while rearranging the internal layout in order to add air or water cooling.

As to the cooling system, there are three 120mm fans and four fans with the use of optional front bracket. This PC case supports such motherboards as ATX, Micro ATX and Mini ITX. The case itself is quite spacious and allows mounting of SSDs and HDDs as well.

Pros:

  • spacious interior
  • mart cable management
  • cheap
Cons:

  • bottom filter is hard to remov
  • noisy

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Fractal Design Define R5

Good looking silent PC case

fractal design define r5 - Good looking case
If you are looking for a PC case which won’t bother you with its noise then have a look at Fractal Design Define R5. It’s really one of the best silent computer cases. It is made of high density noise-reducing material what minimizes noise usually caused by air and water cooling. With Fractal Design Define R5 you won’t have to choose between performance and silence.

There is advanced water cooling support and new two Fractal Design Dynamic GP14 140mm fans developed for superlative airflow. Besides, this case is provided with new tool-less ModuVent™ fan slot covers, which let you install more fans. Still, you can also keep them covered if you want to improve sound absorption.

Pros:

  • silent performance
  • elegant design
  • advanced water cooling and airflow
  • adaptable HDD cage system
  • spacious
Cons:

  • cable management needs improvement
  • only two fans included

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Corsair ATX Carbide 400C

Anohter great looking PC case

corsair atx carbide 400c
Its gorgeous look will hypnotize you. But Corsair ATX Carbide 400C is good not only at design but its performance too. This compact PC case hides a range of great features to surprise you with. It provides tool-free drive installation and is easy to clean thanks to its three-point dust filter access. Besides, its window panel will let you get to all inner components just with a single touch.

Corsair ATX Carbide 400C has a durable construction as it’s made of steel only. This PC case is also silent but at the same time has good airflow. Though it looks compact in fact it can host full ATX motherboard and multiple GPUs. This also makes it a good gaming computer case.

Pros:

  • snazzy style
  • compact
  • spacious
  • durable construction
  • reasonable price
  • multiple dust filters
Cons:

  • no fan-controller bays
  • no optical drive bays
  • PSU cover and SSD mount are made of plastic

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Zalman Z9 Neo

Very compatible PC case

zalman z9 neo - Very compatible PC case
This best cheap computer case can host such motherboards as ATX, Micro ATX and ITX. It has also got a nice compatibility – there are expansion clots for I/O, headphones, 3.0 and 2.0 USB. It’s equipped with water cooler as well.

Zalman Z9 Neo is quite expandable and can install up to 420mm high performance VGA Card. It’s also a nice budget option fro gamers as there is side smokey acryl tuning which allows the view of the gaming system interior.

Pros:

  • cheap
  • side window
  • space for up to a 420mm graphics card
  • support of different motherboards
Cons:

  • the front panel is hard to remove
  • poor cable management

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SilverStone Redline Series RL05

Great PC case on a budget

SilverStone Redline Series RL05 - Great PC case on a budget
Here is one more budget PC case. SilverStome Redline Series RL05 has loads of room for video cards and other additional components. There is also an optimized airflow and flexibility within the case. The point is that this computer chassis has a good ventilation system which includes three intake fans and one exhaust fan on the back.

Its cable management isn’t perfect but more than just fine for such a low price. This PC case is compatible with four USB ports and has mic/headset jacks.

Pros:

  • cheap
  • spacious
  • improved airflow
Cons:

  • no bays for ODDs
  • only three drive bays

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BitFenix Aurora

One more great PC case for gaming

bitfenix aurora
This is one of the best gaming computer cases. It comes with high quality temper glass side panels on both sides of the case. Note that this PC case was co-developed with Asus republic of gamers in order to customize and illuminate the SSDs.

BitFenix Aurora supports E-ATX, ATX, M-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards. It is also compatible to USB ports (2×3.0/2×2.0) and has jacks for HD Audio mic/headphone. You can enjoy the full view of this stylish gaming chassis here.

Pros:

  • spacious
  • good for gaming purpose
  • improved airflow
  • supports different motherboards
Cons:

  • ssd drive bays are too small to fit a standard ssd

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Best Mini-Tower Cases

NZXT Manta ITX

Best looking ITX case

nzxt manta itx - Best looking ITX case
Soft lines make this PC case look compact and somewhat unusual. NZXT Manta ITX has a simple build, so the installation process won’t be difficult. Inside its steel panels, there is hidden dual 280mm liquid cooling support.

What is more, there is integrated PSU shroud to make the design even more elegant. There are also five fans and two expansion slots for extra omponents.

Pros:

  • stylish
  • durable construction
  • advanced cable management
  • big side panel window for an ITX case
Cons:

  • no tool-free mounting mechanism for HDD/SSD
  • no optical drive support

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Fractal Design Define Nano S

Good PC case under $100

fractal design define nano s
First of all, this PC case is under $100 what makes it affordable for a great number of customers. What is more, this computer chassis has sound dampening and ModuVent™ technology, which makes its performance really quiet. One more its advantage is improved cable management.

Nano S has good airflow and its filters are easy to clean. There are also 2 expansion slots and ITX motherboard compatibility

Pros:

  • can support powerful graphics cards
  • large side panel window
  • advanced cable management
  • good dust filter
Cons:

  • GPU and PSU in close proximity
  • big size for a mini-tower PC case
  • no dust filter on the top

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Cougar Case QBX

Another budget option

cougar case qbx
It’s probably the cheapest PC case on this list of best computer cases on today’s market. Cougar Case QBX supports high-end graphic cards, up to 4 SSD. It has got 7 fans with water cooling and one expansion slot.

Of course, it’s not the best PC case you can find but it’s great in concord with its low price. QBX has also got two USB ports and jacks for Audio HD. Besides, it can host a 120 mm AIO liquid cooler.

Pros:

  • low price
  • reliable construction
  • water-cooling options
  • can support full-sized graphics cards
Cons:

  • Lacks dust filters on side panels
  • PSUs are hard to find

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SilverStone Milo ML08

Best compact PC case

silverstone milo ml08 - Best compact PC case
This slim PC case can support graphics card up to 13 inches. It also has a tool-free drive cage design and great expansion slot for easy building. SilverStone Milo ML08 can host Mini-ITX motherboard and SFX PSU.

Here you’ll find smart airflow design and enough space for easy work with its inner components. Besides, in spite of its compact sixe ML08 can support a full-size graphics card and has a separate chamber for video card.

Pros:

  • cheap
  • compact and light
  • separate chamber for video card
Cons:

  • needs smaller more expensive sfx power supply
  • can’t add fans

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As you can see the modern market is rich in various PC cases of different sizes and with different options. Just decide which one will be the most suitable for you and have a nice purchase.

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