One of the best parts of building your own computer is choosing a case. As the outermost part of the device, it’s the most visible, and therefore the most distinctive element of your build. It’s a good thing, then, that there’s an incredible variety of cases to choose from.
For our picks of the best enclosures below, we’re going to focus on the mid-tower form factor, which uses a standard ATX motherboard. It’s the most common choice for gamer or workstation builds. If you’d like something more compact, like a Micro-ITX or a media center build, most of the manufacturers offer a wide variety of enclosures – you can probably find something similar in appearance, if not in actual features.
Fractal Design R5 ($79)
With a sleek appearance and an impressive variety of built-in features, not to mention a low price, the R5 from Fractal Design is a great choice for just about any system builder. It’s not as flashy as some of its contemporaries (the only full-metal piece is the aluminum front access door), but its wide configuration options make it a popular choice.
The case supports up to seven 140mm fans (two included) and an impressive amount of radiator options for water cooling, plus dampening covers for the fan slots you don’t use. Slide-out trays for both internal hard drives and SSD drives and the primary 5.25″ bays, side-mounted SSD slots, dust filters for the front and bottom fans, and a quick-release system for the side panel round out a large selection of features. The R5 ranges in price from $85 to $150 based on the color (black, white, or titanium) and the optional case window.
Corsair Carbide SPEC-01 ($50)
Corsair has been a favorite among PC builders for years, and its product range is now stretching into the entry level. The Carbide SPEC-01 isn’t quite as fancy as some of the pricer models in its range, but it’s more than capable of supporting most builds. The case has slots for up to five small 120mm fans (one red fan with LED accents is included for the front of the case), or you can mount two 140mm fans on the front.
Two 5.25″ bays and four 3.5/2.5″ storage bays are included, though radiators are not specifically supported. This model also includes a front panel with one USB 3.0 connection, which isn’t a given at the sub-$50 price point. The SPEC-01 has a case window, and some models can be bundled with a Corsair power supply for a small savings.
If you’re ready to upgrade to a bigger, more capable enclosure, CoolerMaster’s MasterCase series is an excellent choice. Its modular system allows most of the body panels to be removed for easy access to all components, and dust filters are included for the front, top, and bottom fans – even the 5.25″ bays include filters.
The storage bays are separated into multiple removable racks, allowing for more interior space for cable routing if you don’t need extra drives, and SSDs can be mounted either opposite or below the motherboard. True to the company name, the case includes radiator mounting options on the front and rear, a fully-separated bottom-mounted chamber for the power supply. The case even supports three 140mm front fans and a 280mm radiator at the same time for extreme cooling.
Lian Li PC-X510 ($330)
Lian Li’s cases are big, stylish, and quite expensive relative to most other manufacturers – they’re something of a status symbol in the PC builder community. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not great, and the company’s top-of-the-line PC-X510 model is the best of the bunch.
It’s an enormous slab of aluminum with a triple-chambered design that separates the motherboard, storage and expansion drives, and power supply into dedicated sections for better cooling and organization.
With so much internal space, there’s no configuration of a standard ATX motherboard and parts that the case won’t support. Extras like a front panel with no less than four USB 3.0 ports, a dedicated fan controller, and aluminum inserts for unused fan slots make for an elegant housing for any project. Be prepared to pay for the luxury, though — the PC-X510 is hard to find and starts at $350.
Xforma MBX MKII ($1250+)
If your budget is unlimited and you want a true luxury computer, then you can probably afford to buy a custom build anyway. But if you’d still rather take the DIY approach, a company called Xforma will a computer case to your specifications.
The MBX MKII case includes a dizzying array of features, from built-in cable management to mounting brackets for fancy cylindrical coolant reservoirs. The case starts at a staggering $1250, with add-ons like custom fan mounts. grilles, LED lighting, and slot-loading disc drives adding even more expense. But if you’d like a quality case that’s truly one of a kind (without having to mod it yourself), Xforma will build one for you. The MBX MKII is currently in pre-order status at the time of writing.