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Phillip Fahie
Phillip Fahie

How To Buy A Computer Case

Also consider a full-tower case if you plan on loading up your rig with extensive (or custom) water-cooling, storage galore, or 3- and 4-way graphics card setups. Full-tower cases often support more fans and 5.25-inch drive bays as well. And the extra elbow room sure is nice during building.

how to buy a computer case

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Tool-less design: In ye olden days, practically everything in a PC case required a Phillips screwdriver. No more. Tool-less design is nearly universal in mid-range and high-end cases, with thumb screws for internal fastening and twist-on, snap-on, or otherwise tool-free mechanisms in drive bays.

Cable management: Look for a case with cut-outs in the motherboard tray, which allow you to route your cabling through the rear of your case. Out of sight, out of mind. Budget PC cases tend to have simple giant holes punched in the motherboard tray, while mid-range options frequently include rubber grommets in the holes to tidy things up even more. Some cases include tie-off points or even wire covers behind the motherboard tray to keep your cabling clean.

Dust filters: Keeping your PC clean is important. A computer clogged with dust and pet hair and tobacco gunk is a computer that runs hot and throttles more often. Dust filters keep most of that debris from ever reaching your fans, much less your precious internal hardware. But be sure to configure your fans for positive air pressure to keep dust from being sucked in through the unoccupied vents in your chassis.

Sound-dampening: Soundproof cases keep your rig running quiet, often by using sound-dampening materials inside the panels of your PC. Those materials keep noise in but also tend to impede airflow, so soundproof cases often hit somewhat higher temperatures than standard cases. Some nicer soundproof cases manage to stay silent while also optimizing for airflow by including large 140mm fans spinning at low (and hence quiet) speeds.

Vertical GPU mount: Many cases now include the option to have a vertical GPU mount that displays your graphics card. Do note that you may need a special bracket that can vary by case, and a high-quality PCIe riser cable. Some PCIe 4.0 graphics cards will require appropriate cables to work with the newest GPUs as well.

Micro-ATX cases, on the other hand, cater to the Micro-ATX motherboard, which is essentially just a smaller version of the standard ATX, but with less things like RAM and PCIe slots. Most Micro-ATX cases just look like slightly smaller mid-towers, but Mini-ITX cases are notably different, built with altogether different proportions. Again, these PCs are built to save space. Not everyone needs a full tower, after all. Here are a couple of examples of each case.

But, there are so many case options out there. And, they all come in different sizes and with different designs and with a huge variety of feature sets. So, despite the fact that a computer case is one of the more exciting components to choose, there is a lot to consider when trying to pick the right one for your needs.

The bigger the case is, the more likely it is to be able to hold a variety of motherboard form factors. For instance, some full tower cases out there can hold any of the four common motherboard form-factors.

On the other hand, smaller form-factor cases are limited by their size and, therefore, cannot accommodate the larger motherboard form-factors. For instance, you cannot put a standard ATX motherboard inside of a mini-ITX case or a micro-ATX case.

But, again, this is really the only standard that binds the different cases in a common case size together. What I mean by this is that, while all mid towers share the ability to hold standard ATX motherboards, not all mid tower cases have the same dimensions and feature sets. And, the same goes for the rest of the common case sizes.

So, really, the main thing to consider when it comes to motherboard form-factor when you go to buy your case, is that you ensure that the motherboard you have chosen (or are planning on choosing) will fit inside of the case you are considering purchasing.

While the motherboard form-factors that a case supports are one type of compatibility issue that you will need to consider before choosing a case, you will also want to make sure that all of the other components you choose will fit inside of your case.

However, it is still an issue that persists. So, before you finalize your part list, you need to check the spec sheet of both your case and graphics card to check how long your card is and how much clearance for a graphics card your case has. If your case can accommodate graphics card lengths that exceed your graphics card, then you are good to go.

While the biggest draw of PC cases is typically their aesthetics, cases do play a significant role in the cooling process of your computer. Keeping your components cool is obviously an important part of building and maintaining a computer. The cooler your components run, the longer they will typically last, and the fewer problems you will run into.

Computer cases contribute to (or hinder) the cooling process by the air flow they provide (or fail to provide). Your PC case will also determine what kind of CPU cooler you can get. (See the section above on clearance and compatibility.)

Build quality is another important feature. Cheaper cases are built with lower-quality materials and, as a result, tend to show more dings and scratches, are less sturdy, have thinner panels, and will wear down more quickly.

While cable management is a bit of an art and people who excel at cable management can probably make the cabling look good in any case, having a case that has plenty of cable management options is going to go a long way towards helping you hide your cables in an efficient manner.

If you want to build a nice-looking system, a case with a see-through side panel will help you show off the inside of your PC. And, if you take your time and do a good job managing your cables you can earn some serious credit among your non-techie friends for how cool your computer looks.

There are literally hundreds of case options to choose between. The right case for your will come down to, first, how much you have to spend, and, second, the other components you have (or have chosen) for your build and whether or not they are compatible with the case you are considering, and, third, your personal preferences on some of the factors discussed above.

This article is great except for one point these days there are towers that can handle everything above and more. Unless I missed it, those were not listed. Which is the type I am most interested in. With that type of case you can transplant your old system or just build a new one with all the bells and whistles.

Desktop PC builders often overlook the importance of choosing the best PC case for their next system. Or they kick the decision down the road until the very end of the part-picking process. They might first decide on the CPU and graphics card that best fits their needs and budget, then move on to choosing a motherboard and storage.

We aren't sure who asked for a PC case that mixed mid-century modern design (wooden slats and all) and high airflow, but we sure are glad that Fractal Design answered with the excellent North mid-tower. Available with either a mesh side (as we tested) or tempered glass, and in white with chrome accents on the IO and feet, or black with some seriously pretty brass, this is arguably the prettiest PC case ever produced, period. And thanks to its pair of 140mm fans and an included side bracket (for the mesh model) that can hold another pair of 140mm fans (not included), the North has excellent thermals as well. Just note that it can get noisy when delivering those temps. The glass side panel may help a bit on the noise front, but likely at the cost of at least some thermal performance.If you don't like the case's looks, then the company's Meshify 2 Compact (below), is probably a better option for you. But if you're after a case that matches the pretty furniture in your living room, has lots of room for storage, and won't break the bank at $130, nothing else comes close to the North. We hope Fractal's bold move inspires other case makers to try something different.

And while its materials quality could be seen as a little lacking, this is a case where you pay for its excellent design, not only in looks, but also practicality: it has tons of cable management space, is laid out logically and with easy to access filters, a breeze to use and maintain as your daily driver.

Priced at just $110, you get a lot for your money with this case, including three PWM fans, bits of pretty aluminum, a glass panel, handsome looks, plentiful IO, a brilliant internal design and full ATX compatibility.

With just two of the company's F120Q Airflow case fans behind a skeletal frame with a perforated front panel, the NZXT H7 Flow manages to deliver excellent temperature and noise level numbers in our testing, beating or competing well against pricier chassis with more fans and glass panels. It's also a pleasure to build in, with good cable management and a $130 MSRP that's quite reasonable in this era of seemingly ever-increasing prices.

The primary missing feature here, which will feel refreshing for many builders, is the lack of any RGB to light up your system. That, combined with the boxy look and perforated front means this case isn't the prettiest on our list, but it can certainly look good with some tasteful lighting delivered via your components, extra fans or a light strip. And if you don't like the look of the fully vented front and you aren't that concerned about keeping your temps a low as they can go, the non-Flow H7 model has a solid front, but with everything else we loved about the H7 Flow.Read: NZXT H7 Flow review

Fractal offers a thoughtful, versatile design aimed at ease-of-use, and delivers a very pleasant and enjoyable building experience with the Meshify 2. Whether you use this case as a system where you just want to deliver tons of airflow and room for expansion, a workstation with tons of hard drives, a server, or high-end custom liquid cooling, the Meshify 2 will find a way to accommodate your build. For that, along with thermal and acoustic performance that is in-line with what we expect from a mesh front, it earns a rare five-star rating. 041b061a72


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