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. We’ve selected a few of the best computer cases, with a few self-imposed limitations.
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 gaming or workstation builds, so if you’re trying to max out your Overwatch settings, it’s the right build. If you’d like something more compact, like a Mini-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.
We received the red, windowed version of this case with a Maingear review unit long ago, and have since used the case for a variety of test rigs and in-office gaming systems. And for good reason. Not only is the system spacious and easy to build in, but it has a fair amount of metal panels, considering the price point. That helps it carry a more premium look and feel that we notice while working in it; there’s a reason we used it in our PC building guide.
It’s available in a variety of colors, and with or without a side window, which should help those who are indecisive, or picky about their aesthetic choices. Despite Corsair listing it as “beginner friendly” on the product page, there’s plenty of room for extra drives, big graphics cards, long power supplies, and fancy lighting and cooling setups. For under $100, it’s hard to ask for much else from a computer case.
NZXT H700i ($200)
NZXT has been around since 2004, but in recent years has begun to find its voice, making a name for itself among PC gaming enthusiasts with attractive cases and interesting accessories like the Puck cable management system. The H700i continues that ethos of challenging the idea of what such a product entails, offering a clean build and a whole heap of modern features to create a smart and capable chassis that would make a great home for any contemporary desktop.
The all-steel construction is a little heavier than some of the other entries on this list, at 27 pounds, but that gives it a sturdy frame to build your PC inside. It features space for three fans in the front and top and a single fan at the rear, with filters for inlets on the front panel and underslung PSU grill. It also supports custom and all-in-one watercooling loops, and a bespoke cable management system to prevent airflow impediment.
RGB lighting and fan speeds can be controlled through the CAM dashboard and NZXT even leverages machine learning to learn to optimize your system’s coloring and cooling to best suit you — augment it with a colorful memory kit if you wish. You can make sure everyone can see your fancy lighting set up too, with the built-in tempered glass side window. If you like the design of the H700i but want something a little smaller, there are micro-ATX and mini-ITX variants available too.
Fractal Design R5 ($120)
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. It has slide-out trays for both internal hard drives, side-mounted SSD slots, dust filters for the front and bottom fans, and a quick-release system for the side panel. The R5 ranges in price from $85 to $150 based on the color (black, white, or titanium) and the optional case window.
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-inch 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, and 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.
ThermalTake Core P5 ($135)
Not satisfied with the boxy, standard selection of desktop cases? Something like the ThermalTake Core P5 might be just the ticket. Its open-air design requires frequent cleaning, but in exchange your system isn’t just a computer, it’s a showpiece. The panoramic case gives everyone full view of every system component, so make sure to keep your wire runs clean and tight. It has full support for open loop liquid cooling as well, and even has VESA mounts on the back to mount the whole system to a wall.
It’s a bit limited when it comes to drive space, with just three hidden slots and one exposed slot for either 2.5 or 3.5-inch drives, but there’s plenty of room for fans and radiators in exchange. Plus, the GPU bracket allows for vertical installation, to show off that powerful new GTX 1080. It’s certainly not the right case for everyone, or people with pets, but it makes a beautiful addition to a flashy gaming PC setup.
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