A gaming PC case is the central optical element of a gaming computer. However, there are many factors to consider before making a purchase. The comparison reveals what these are.
The graphics card, mainboard, processor, power supply unit and main memory are undoubtedly the most important components of the game computer. For many do-it-yourself builders, the housing in which the hardware is wrapped is of secondary importance, as long as it looks (reasonably) good. A fallacy, because in addition to the design, the gaming PC case decides, among other things, how well the processor and graphics card are cooled
There are also a few stumbling blocks on the way to the perfect gaming PC case: not every processor cooler fits in every case. The same applies to mainboards, power supplies and graphics cards, all of which are available in different sizes. Before you buy a gaming PC case, you should therefore go through the following checklist:
In the following, the article shows examples of mid, big and cube cases. The article then explains in detail which sizes and standards are available and what constitutes a good airflow (draft of air).
Mid-Tower: Fractal Design Meshify 2
The Fractal Design Meshify 2 is undoubtedly one of the most stylish mid-towers a gaming PC can wrap itself in. You can view your hardware from the outside through a plexiglass pane on the side. The manufacturer equips the case with three fans: Two 140 millimeter (mm) fans are in the front, one 120 mm in the back at the top. In total, the Meshify can hold a total of nine fans.
The power supply is installed in the housing below. Nice: There are three USB 3.0 sockets on the top, one of them in USB-C format. The maximum length of your graphics card must not exceed 491 mm and only if you do not need the hard drive bays. In times of m.2 SSDs, they are obsolete for most gamers anyway. The housing offers several feedthroughs for cable management. The power supply and mainboard can come in ATX format.
Mid-Tower: be quiet! Silent Base 601
Manufacturer be quiet! is especially popular among gamers for its power supplies. However, the manufacturer’s PC cases are no less attractive. Gamers who are particularly sensitive to hearing will make you happy, because be quit! fans (alongside the models from Noctua) are known for their particularly quiet work.
The manufacturer equips the Silent Base 601 with two fans – unfortunately. Here it is advisable to buy an additional fan for the case if you already know that your hardware produces a lot of heat.
Otherwise, it is (almost) in no way inferior to the Fractal case: you can admire your hardware through a plexiglass pane on the side. If you want to save some money, go for the version without a viewing window. Unfortunately, the case doesn’t have a USB-C socket, but instead has a USB-A 2.0 connector and two USB-A 3.0 sockets. Incidentally, the Silent Base 601 offers six 2.5-inch hard drive bays and three 3.5-inch bays.
As a reminder: Old hard drives are usually adorned with a 3.5-inch guise, new SSD memory with a 2.5-inch – although of course there are also hard drives in a 2.5-inch format. The manufacturers like to build them into laptops or game consoles about five to ten years ago. If you intend to put a particularly long graphics card in the case, you may have to remove the 3.5-inch hard drive shafts.
Of course, the Silent Base 601 also offers the option of running cables through the slots provided for this purpose, so that they run along the back and do not disturb the airflow in the housing. Incidentally, there is space for water cooling with radiator sizes of 360 mm in the housing cover.
Big-Tower: Corsair iCUE 7000X RGB TG
If you want to build a gaming PC without compromise, go for the big tower. An absolute premium case among those is the Corsair iCUE 7000X. Corsair delivers it with four in-house SP140 RGB Elite fans. Three of them are in the front of the case, one in the back. Fan speed and lighting effects are controlled with the included fan controller called iCUE Commander Core XT. Overall, the case offers space for twelve 120 mm fans or alternatively seven that are 140 mm in size.
You can mount four 120 mm fans on the front side. Strong: If you install water cooling, the iCUE 7000X offers space for three 360 mm radiators. Of course, you can admire your work of art through the obligatory plexiglass pane. And, of course, the case offers enough options for cables from the fan and power supply
Big-Tower: Thermaltake The Tower 900
The Tower 900 by Thermaltake really lives up to its name. If you want to give your gaming PC the look of a mini skyscraper, this is the case for you. Awesome: In theory, CPU coolers with a maximum height of 260 mm fit in the tower. It is questionable whether such a large air cooler even exists.
In total, the case offers space for 13 fans. Two 140 mm fans are pre-installed. It doesn’t matter whether you choose 140 mm or 120 mm fans. The case also offers a lot of leeway for water cooling: radiators with a size of 480 or 560 mm fit into the case on the left and right. Of course, it also offers numerous ways to hide cables so that they don’t spoil the gaming PC.
Attention: With its case, Thermaltake is aimed primarily at experienced PC builders and modders who build their own water cooling systems. If you’re building a computer for the first time, it’s a good idea to venture into a more “normal” case.
Cube Case: Fractal Design Node 804 FD
From big to small: If you want to build the smallest possible gaming computer, go for a cube case. In addition to a chic design, a good cooling concept is what counts here. The smaller the PC case, the more difficult it is to get enough fresh air into the case and to transport it out again.
A cube case that can hold micro-ATX and Mini-ITX mainboards is the Fractal Design Node 804 FD. First drop of bitterness: Graphics cards must not be longer than 320 mm. After all, normal ATX net lines fit in. The CPU cooler must not exceed a height of 160 mm. Water cooling also fits into the case. However, their radiator must not be larger than 240 mm and is mounted on the front of the housing.
It offers a total of ten hard drive bays. Eight of these are 3.5-inch bays and two are 2.5-inch. Unfortunately, the Cube lacks a USB-C socket. There are two USB-A slots on the side that work with the USB 3.2 Gen 1 protocol. By the way: Three case fans are already integrated in the case. In total, the Fractal Design Node 804 FD offers space for ten fans (120 mm). If necessary, you can control the via the integrated fan control.
Cube Case: Kolink Satellite
The Kolink Satellite is even smaller. Don’t worry, a normal ATX power supply fits in here too. However, it is subject to the fractal cube in several respects. The manufacturer pre-installs only one fan. Curious: More than this single fan does not fit into the case. Therefore, you should only install hardware that does not produce too much waste heat.
The case’s two USB sockets work with the somewhat older USB 3.0 protocol. The Kolink Satellite accommodates graphics cards with a maximum length of 280 mm. However, the maximum length of the graphics card shrinks if you install a 220 mm long power supply and that to a small 190 mm. The maximum height of the processor cooler must not exceed 165 mm.
Attention is also required with the mainboard! Only the smallest of the Micro-ATX motherboards with dimensions of 22.6 x 18 cm fit in the mini case. Overall, the Kolink Satellite offers space for up to four 2.5-inch SSDs. If you want to install the larger HHDs, two of the four 2.5-inch bays have to give way for the larger 3.5-inch bays.
Overall, it can be said that the Kolink Satellite is only suitable as a gaming PC case to a limited extent. Most gamers should only be interested in the mini case if they often want to take it with them on trips.
Mini-ITX Case: Lian Li Q58X4
If you want it even smaller, you have to rely on the Mini-ITX form factor. A representative of this genus is the Lian Li Q58X4. However, an ATX power supply does not fit in there. Here you have to rely on SFX power supplies, which are a bit narrower. The same applies to the mainboard: Only Mini-ITX mainboards fit into the Lian Li Q58X4.
If you want to install water cooling, the mini case holds a 280 mm radiator. If you prefer an air cooler, it must not be too big: the maximum height for the housing is 67 mm. A flat top-down cooler like the Scythe Shuriken 2, which is 58 mm high, works best here.
The graphics card must not exceed a length of 325 mm. Otherwise, the case offers a surprising amount of leeway: A total of nine 2.5-inch SSDs can be accommodated if desired. Incidentally, fans are not pre-installed. In total, the Lian Li Q58X4 offers space for five 120 mm fans or three 140 mm fans.
Gaming PC cases: Size matters
In order to make life a little easier for self-builders, the industry has agreed on standardized size standards for PC hardware. The most common three are ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX and of course they also apply to PC cases. For buyers, this means that they have to first check which form factor their mainboard and power supply have and only then whether both components fit into the desired housing.
Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX mainboards usually also fit in cases that hold ATX mainboards. Of course, the opposite is not the case, because ATX mainboards are too big. Mini-ITX still has one special feature: Usually only SFX power supplies and Mini-ITX mainboards fit into such cases. They are usually more expensive than ATX and Micro-ATX hardware. Means: You should only buy Mini-ITX if you want to build a particularly small computer.
As if that weren’t enough, there are different sizes and shapes of PC cases that are independent of the size standards. The most common PC case is the mid-tower. It’s the typical size of an office computer. They usually hold ATX and Micro-ATX hardware.
Caution is advised with particularly narrow mid-towers: what may look nice all too often harbors potential for conflict with the CPU cooler. So-called tower coolers in particular are usually too high for narrow housings.
The same applies to the length of the graphics card. Particularly long image accelerators may only fit in the mid-tower if you first remove a hard drive bay. You should also check this before you buy.
In addition to the mid tower, there is also the big tower. It is particularly large and therefore offers the greatest freedom of design. The big tower is usually used for particularly powerful hardware that works in workstations and high-end gaming computers. There are two reasons for this: On the one hand, a large number of SSDs and hard drives can be retrofitted in big towers if memory is running low.
And on the other hand, they offer the best airflow, i.e. air flow in the housing. This is important in order to transport the waste heat generated by the hardware out of the case. If the case fails this elementary service, the computer overheats and, in the worst case, switches off automatically to protect its components from damage. Therefore, regular dust removal from a computer is always advisable.
The so-called cube housings, on the other hand, are a bit more unusual. These are gaming PC cases in cube format. They are the most common compromise for gamers who want to build the smallest possible computer but shy away from the surcharge for Mini-ITX hardware. Micro-ATX mainboards usually fit in cube cases. When retrofitting SSD storage or hard drives later, they usually offer the smallest scope next to ITX cases.
We hang on to:
Only then does it depend on what is particularly important to you on the case. If you want it to work particularly quietly, use insulated silent housings. If it has to be particularly small, there is no way around Mini-ITX. If the built-in hardware produces a lot of waste heat, a big tower is the right choice. And if you want a compromise between small size and price, cube cases or mid-tower are the best choices.
Gaming PC Cases: Airflow Matters
When it comes to gaming PC cases, it is always important that the case offers good airflow. This is due to the gaming hardware, which usually produces a lot of heat due to its performance. The simple rule of thumb here is: in the front, out the back at the top. The case should suck in fresh air with two fans at the front and blow it out at the back and top. Not so long ago, power supplies were often mounted at the back of the case “under the roof”. But you prefer a case in which the power supply is installed at the bottom. This is because warm air rises. If you install the power pack under the roof, the condensers are ventilated with the already warm air – cooling is excluded.
Install the power pack in the bottom of the case, it draws fresh air and forms its own cooling circuit. If you want to install an all-in-one water cooling system, the housing should ideally offer this option under the roof. This is usually not the case with particularly small housings. Here the radio gate of the water cooling usually fits into the front of the housing. You also want a case that offers cable management. Cables flying around unnecessarily in the housing prevent good air circulation and look ugly if you want to admire your work of art through a Plexiglas pane.
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