How to Pick a Computer Case – What Matters and What Doesn’t?
It’s easy to overlook the PC case when building your computer. But it matters a lot unless you are planning to mount the different PC parts on a wall.
Being the largest component of a computer, the case provides room for all your hardware. You want to choose a case that fits in with your needs. The size is the most basic feature, but perhaps the most important to consider.
All other features like cooling and sound won’t matter if you have the wrong size case. That said, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what matters when picking a PC Case.
The Different computer case sizes
Cases are available in a variety of sizes. They come in three major sizes. Mini-tower, mid-tower, and full tower. Motherboards need to be compatible with the format of the case you choose.
Full tower cases and mid-tower cases fit ATX motherboards. ATX motherboards usually measure 12 x 9.6 inches for full tower cases.
Depending on the dimensions of a case, not all ATX motherboards will fit mid-tower cases. That’s where micro-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards come in. These motherboard formats fit in Mid-tower and mini-tower cases.
SSD Mounting Points and Drive Bays
If you are not planning to upgrade your PC, you should have at least one 3.5-inch external bay to use with a floppy drive. You should also have a 5.25-inch external bay to use with a DVD-ROM, CD-ROM, or CD-RW drive. And, a 3.5-inch external bay useful for a hard disk.
However, some manufacturers like Corsair are ditching 5.25-inch external bays. These bays are being replaced with front-side fans.
If you plan on upgrading, you will need at least three 3.5-inch bays and two 5.25-inch external bays.
Low-profile cases have a total of four bays while desktop cases can have up to seven bays. On the other hand, full tower cases can have up to fourteen and mid-tower cases have up to eight.
Drive Mounting Method
Every PC builder needs a simple way to install components. Most cases mount drives using screws that connect directly to the chassis and the side of the drives. This method is ideal as it helps with drive cooling. But some cases make it hard to access the screws on the right side of drives.
Some manufacturers punch holes into the right side of the case. Or simply use removable drive bays. Others have introduced mounting rails that snap onto the drive. The rails then fit into the drive bays. This way, you will not be screwing anything into the chassis.
Depending on your skill in PC building, you will want to check out the drive mounting method.
The motherboard form factor is the most common compatibility issue when choosing a PC case. But it’s not the only one. You will want to be sure that all other components that go into the case are compatible.
For example, if you are going for a small case, the length of the graphics card matters. You need to look at the specific dimensions of the graphics card bay and the actual size of the graphics card.
Other issues arise with the height of heatsinks in air CPU coolers. Some are quite tall that they cannot fit in low profile cases.
Another common compatibility issue comes with liquid cooling systems. The radiators in these systems vary widely in size. This means that you have to check that your case choice can accommodate a particular radiator.
Cases differ in the location of firewalls and USB ports. And in the same way, they are also different in the arrangement of drives. Some have ports at the front while others have ports at the rear. The rule of thumb is to have ease of access on whichever case you have.
When it comes to repairs, you will find some cases that have removable panels for drives. Others require screwing off of the drives from the chassis. It can be as simple as popping off the drive which takes a short time. Or unscrewing multiple drives which takes much longer.
Ultimately, you want it to be as straightforward as possible. More so, if you will be performing repairs by yourself.
Cooling is a major factor when picking a PC case. You will need to know whether the case has enough airflow. The number of fans it has and the number of radiator mounts.
Keeping your components cool is super important. If the case hinders proper airflow, the components are likely to run into problems. It’s what leads to computer crashes and drives that don’t run as long as they should.
Every case should accommodate multiple fans. Budget cases come with at least two pre-installed fans. But they still offer mounting points for more fans. Consider a case that has fan locations at the front for air intake and at the back for exhausting hot air.
There are computer cases that come with grilled panels at the top, side, and front. Such cases offer better airflow than those with closed panels.
Customizing your computer comes with yays and nays. Some of us want the glamour while others want a laid-back desktop look. This is where you ask. How important are a tempered glass panels and RGB lighting? And, is front-panel connectivity worth it?
PC cases with tempered glass panels look awesome. But that’s after you do a little bit of work. You have to figure out how to manage cables. And work on how the hardware looks after it’s installed in a see-through case.
RGB lighting is the in-thing in gaming PCs. It does not influence performance, but gamers love to sync their peripheral's lighting. From the mouse to the keyboard, to the PC. It creates a gaming ambiance that improves your gaming mood.
That said, not all gamers fancy RGB lighting in everything. It can be too overwhelming. And in most cases, it needs more energy than stations without RGB lighting.
When it comes to the connectivity, you may want to have the option of connecting USB sticks and audio jacks at the front of the case’s panel. If this is what you want, it’s important to add front connectivity to your checklist.
Cases are mostly built of steel and aluminum. These materials are considered the best in terms of strength and cooling. You’ll also find cases made of plastic and acrylic but purely for aesthetic reasons. PC cases need to withstand abuse and protect the components they house.
You are looking at solid frames that can withstand dings, scratches, and impact. High-end cases are more stable and reliable than cheap, thin-panel PC cases.
How much you spend on a computer case influences the build quality and the extra features you get. Over the years, improvements have made it possible to pick a budget-friendly case.
For basic features like two fans, a case under $50 is ideal. But if you want lots of drive bays and water cooling your system, a case in the $100-$200 range will suffice.
The features you need in a PC case are purely personal. While the size and cooling matters, it’s equally important to look at compatibility and drive arrangement. These features will give you an easy time when building or repairing your PC.
And don’t forget, a high-quality case is worth the investment.