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Which PC cover should you buy? This guide will help

Regardless of whether you treat your computer as the center of your home office or simply put it under your desk, buying the right PC case is important .

You want at least a PC cover that is the right size for your needs and that offers space for all your hardware and USB devices. But some PC cases offer much, much more. Large guts, lower temperatures, muffled sound, extensive support for water cooling and chic glass panels or RGB lighting are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here is a guide to buying a PC case that is perfect for u . This is just the first step in your do-it-yourself journey; also read the PCWorld manual for building a PC.

Editor's Note: Last updated with the information in the PC section and some changes to our recommendations.

News about PC cases [19659006] The prices for cases have risen due to the rates of the United States for Chinese products. Expect to pay a little more for a case – around $ 10 to $ 25 – than a year ago.

NZXT launched the H510 Elite at the end of July, and as the name implies, it is a more blinded variant of the ultra-popular NZXT H500. Highlights include a Smart Device v2 controller and USB-C 3.1 port on the front, but it also combines two 140 mm RGB front fans, more tempered glass and a little extra maneuvering space in the minimalist design. Watch us poking and poking the case in the video above, then go to the NZXT website if you want to buy it for $ 170.

  in win 209 In Win

A view of the In Win 309 and its RGB control software.

The In Win 309 mid-tower has 144 addressable RGB lights on the front panel, allowing you to create glowing recreations of your favorite retro gaming images. It also comes with 12 built-in lighting modes for out-of-the-box light shows. Cooling options are plentiful, but finer details are not: prices and availability for this stunning case have not yet been announced.

Small PCs also need love, and MasterCase H100 from Cooler Master ($ 70 on Amazon) offers many affectionate details for MITX enthusiasts. It is broken down quickly, easily and completely, as you can see in the video above, and it bears the signature of the H-series from Cooler Master in the form of a large 200 mm RGB front fan. This itty-bitty tower measures 12.28 x 8.5 x 11.85 inches (312 x 216 x 301 mm), with a stated volume of 17.6 liters.

Size is important for PC enclosures

First, determine the size of the case you need. There are three main enclosures: Full-tower, mid-tower and mini-ITX.

Full-tower and mid-tower cases both fit on standard ATX motherboards – by far the most common motherboard size there is. Both also fit on smaller micro ATX motherboards. The exact size varies from case to case, but most center towers are around 18 centimeters high and about 8 centimeters wide. Mid-tower PCs are probably the most common form factor and have enough room to provide systems with a closed-loop CPU cooler, a few graphics cards and a lot of storage.

  PC case [19659017] Ben Patterson / IDG </small><figcaption>
<p>  Full-tower PCs are <em> large </em>. </p>
<p>  Full tower enclosures are <em> solid </em>. They often measure more than 20 centimeters high and are longer and deeper than the middle tower enclosures, making them ideal if you are one of the rare people who use a huge Extended-ATX motherboard. (Asus & # 39; X399 motherboards for AMD Threadripper chips are EATX.) </p>
<p>  Also consider a full tower case if you plan to load your installation with extensive (or customized) water cooling, plenty of storage, or 3- and 4-way graphic card setups. Full-tower enclosures often support more fans and 5.25-inch drive positions. And the extra elbow space is certainly nice during construction. </p>
<p>  Mini-ITX enclosures are the opposite of full-tower PC enclosures, built for smaller <a href= mini-ITX motherboards. Some of these can be incredibly small and even fit into the closet of a home theater, but the narrow spaces can cause compatibility issues with some hardware. In most mini-ITX cases, do not expect liquid cooling or a large honking CPU cooler. Some mini-ITX cases also do not support full-length graphics cards; confirm the maximum length before you purchase. Finally, there is not much room for extra hardware in this space-limited chassis, so you will be limited to fairly basic system configurations. They are, however, great for transferring to LAN parties!

  bitfenix portal Bitfenix

The Bitfenix Portal gives a unique twist to mini-ITX cases with a design derived from Valve & # 39; s beloved Portal game.

Sometimes you see & # 39; mini tower & # 39; enclosures that fit between mini-ITX and mid-tower in size to accommodate micro-ATX motherboards. They are rarer than the others.

Price Considerations for PC Cases

Once you have decided how big a PC case you need, the next step is to determine your budget.

If you spend $ 50 or less, you'll probably end up with a bare, inconspicuous case with some extra features. Try to choose one that has two fans, one at the front of the case and one at the back, for maximum airflow, which helps with cooling. However, you will not always find the option in this price range.

One of the best PC cases I have built in is Deepcool & Tesseract ($ 50 on Newegg ) . This affordable center tower has decent leeway, the aforementioned case fans duo and many disk positions – although it does not fit with extra long graphics cards such as the beastly Asus ROG Strix. That is decent for the price. We will talk about more recommendations towards the end of the article.

Things are opening in the price range of $ 50 to $ 150 ish, which has made much progress in recent years. You will find a lot of variation in both design and construction in the midtones. As always, check the measurements to make sure that the desired PC cover fits all your hardware and that you also want to monitor additional functions. They are much more common in this price range, especially if you go up in the costs.

  amd ryzen 1800x build 7 Brad Chacos

The lack of 5.25-inch disk positions lets you cram a lot of powerful hardware in the Corsair Carbide 400C.

Functions are purely personal preferences or specifications that are required for your build. Some cases are built with more fans for better performance; others focus on silent design. Some — and in particular many of Corsair & # 39; s case setup — completely eliminate even 5.25-inch drive bays for better airflow. You will find that water cooling compatibility has been included in this price range in some cases, along with better cable management details, tool-free design and aesthetic details such as RGB lighting or tempered glass side panels. We will discuss feature details in the near future, but about $ 100 is the sweet spot for price-performance when it comes to buying a PC case.

Once you have more than $ 150, you can expect a PC case that excels in both performance and acoustics, and one that comes with connectivity options and convenient functions in abundance. Some of them are enormous ; here you will find most full tower cases. Building materials tend to be more chic in high-end cases, with aluminum and tempered glass occurring much more often than in budget and mid-range cases.

You will also find wild-concept suitcases such as the motorized In Win H-Tower, which opens like a flower (video above), or the racing-car-like Cougar Conquer ($ 350 on Newegg). However, be careful when you purchase a PC sleeve that also functions as a funky flagship. They often sacrifice functionality for their exotic forms.

Aesthetics of PC Cases

Make sure you like the look of the PC case you buy! You will be staring at it for years, so this is not a superficial consideration. Each online store displays PC enclosures from multiple angles on their store pages, so there is no excuse for buying ugly.

PC enclosures come in a variety of colors, materials and designs. If you do not want to spend time cleaning up your interior cabling, pass suitcases with a side window.

  ryzen 3 1200 gaming pc 97 Brad Chacos / IDG

This cover has a side window but I have removed its entire side panel for this photo.

Buy a PC cover: features to watch out for

Apart from the basic dimensions and price, function support is the biggest distinguishing element when buying a PC cover. The more you spend on your business, the more goodies you will receive. Here is a brief overview of many of the features that you will find in modern PC enclosures, starting with practical extras before you delve into fun things.

Disk positions and SSD mounting points: As we & # 39; I've mentioned a few times before, make sure a PC case has enough 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch disk positions for your storage disks. Some cases also include SSD mounting points on the back of the motherboard drawer. And if you need a 5.25-inch bay on the front of your PC to accommodate an optical drive, fan controller, or whatever, confirm that your case contains it. A number of cases have dumped 5.25-inch bays to improve the front airflow of the fan – in particular several Corsair cases

  hard disk toolless Marco Chiappetta / IDG

Some cases come with Tool-free brackets that make mounting hard disks very easy.

Tool-free design: In the past, practically everything in a PC case required a Phillips screwdriver. Not anymore. Tool-free design is almost universal in medium-sized and high-end enclosures, with thumbscrews for internal mounting and turn-on, snap-on, or otherwise toolless mechanisms in disk slots.

Cable management : Find a housing with cutouts in the motherboard that you can use to route your cables through the back of your housing. Out of sight out of mind. Budget PC enclosures usually have simple giant holes in the motherboard, while mid-range options often have rubber grommets on them to tidy things up even more. Some cases include attachment points or even wire covers behind the motherboard drawer to keep your cabling clean.

Next page: More functions for PC enclosures, our favorite PC enclosures

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