If you keep your case through multiple generations of computers like I do, then you know just how important it is to choose the right one. You want something that looks good and functions well but doesn’t break the bank. As a PC gamer, I put performance first so, depending on your budget, getting a basic case may still be a good idea.
That being said if you can extend your budget out just a little bit, then getting a case that has good airflow and lasts a long time may be well worth the cost. In this post I’ll take you through the considerations I make when purchasing a case and give you my updated 2016 picks for Full, mid, micro, and even mini cases.
6 Tips Before you Buy a Computer Case
Before I show my picks for this month I thought I’d go over a few terms and things you might want to take into consideration before purchasing a case. More information can also be found in my Desktop Case Guide.
1. The Case Should Come Last
When you’re building a gaming PC your computer’s case should be one of your last considerations. Knowing the size and number of graphics cards you want to use along with your motherboard, CPU cooler, drives, power supply, and all of the rest of your hardware will give you a good indication of what type of case you’ll need. If, for example, you want to build a Home Theater PC with an ITX motherboard, then most likely you’ll need to go with an ITX compatible case.
Choosing a case with plenty of fans and built-in mesh ventilation is always a good idea as keeping your components cool extends their longevity. Airflow typically begins in the front and gets ventilated out the back, but can get blocked if you put your case inside of your desk. As room temperature and placement is a factor, your best bet is to put your case in a naturally open and cool area.
If putting your case on a desk or cabinet is necessary, then consider purchasing components that use less energy, and therefore, emit less heat. Ventilation holes and fans can also be used to force cooler air in and hot air out.
While fans are good for ventilation they’re often heavy on the noise side. Placing your PC below your desk should help to restrict some of this; however, it’s still often a nuisance for those who are easily bothered by noise. Ultimately, choosing a case that’s quiet by design and has integrated silent fans may be the best bet for those who need silence. Another option is to simply purchase quiet fans to replace the noisy ones in your case.
4. Size and Compatibility
While motherboard sizes are standard ATX, case sizes and their compatibility with motherboards vary significantly by model and manufacturer. Case sizes are listed as mini, micro, Mid, and full-sized towers. Mini ITX cases, not to be confused with mini towers, generally hold compatibility for Mini ITX motherboards alone while Micro, Mid, and Full-sized towers may offer additional support that varies from case to case. Look at the manufacturers technical details if you have any questions about a case you’re considering.
You’ll also want to take a look at the length of your graphics card and size of your CPU cooler to make sure they aren’t too long or tall for your computer case. Most dimensions and sizes can be found in the manufacturer’s specifications. If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, then try consumer reviews on sites like NewEgg to see if anyone has had a similar question.
5. Design and Materials
Most cases today are made of steel and ABS plastic. These relatively inexpensive materials are cheap, durable, and easy to work with. Aluminum is also a lightweight option for those willing to pay up; however, it’s not quite as sturdy. What’s more is that despite rumors that aluminum cases keep your internal components cooler this is simply not the case.
As far as design is concerned I typically like to get a case that has a side window panel and a PSU that’s bottom mounted in order to free up the top for exhaust fans.
6. Budget and Rebates
PC cases come up on rebates all of the time and can save you as much as 50% on the cheaper models. Below, I’ll give you my picks based on what rebates are available right now.
Best Full Tower Cases – $100 to $150
This category was somewhat difficult for me because I had to narrow it down to 5 options. I still like the Fractal R5 as a quiet case option. The best value pick, in my opinion, is still the Phanteks Enthoo Pro here which just has a lot more to offer than other cases in a similar price range.
In that same $100 to $150 category I also like the NZXT Phantom which is now a few years old. The case is just solid and looks great.
|Phanteks Enthoo Pro||Brushed Steel / Plastic, Side Panel Window, 21.06" x 9.25" x 21.65", 26.24 pounds, Stealth interior with hidden PSU / HDD, removable Drop-n-lock SSD bracket, pre-installed cable management, Dust Filters||Supports Micro ATX / ATX / Extended ATX / SSI EEB. Front: 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, Mic, Headphone.||120MM: Front: 2x
Rear: 1x (Included)
|Corsair Obsidian 750D||Brushed aluminum front panel, side panel window, cable routing with rubber grommets, Dimensions 560mm x 235mm x 546mm, Tool-free Drive Installation||Supports Mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, E-ATX, XL-ATX, (x2) USB 2.0, (x2) USB 3.0, (x1) Headphone Port, (x1) Microphone Port , 9 Expansion Slots, Max CPU Cooler Height 170mm, 450mm GPU Length, Max PSU length 220mm||Top: 3 x 120mm or 2 x 140mm , Front: 2 x 140mm or 2 x 120mm (2 x 140mm included) , Bottom: 2 x 120mm , Rear: 1 x 140mm or 120mm (140mm included), Front: 240/280mm, Top: 240/280/360mm, Rear: 120/140mm, Bottom: 120/240mm,
|NZXT Phantom||Steel and plastic materials with sleek, pristine contours and bright colors. Dimensions are 21.26" x 8.74" x 24.53". Weighs 24.25 pounds.||Supports Micro ATX / ATX / E-ATX / Baby AT, Front: 2 x USB 2.0 / Audio / 1 x e-SATA||1 x 120mm Rear Fan included, 2 x 120mm Side Fans included, 1 x 140mm front optional, 1 x 200mm otp LED Fan included, 1 x 200mm top LED fan optional, 1 x 200/230mm side fan optional|
Best Mid Tower Gaming Cases for the Money
Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV
My favorite PC case of 2016 so far is the Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV. Released in late 2015, this case offers a good balance between build functionality and internal customization. The 3.5mm aluminum frame along with sandblasted surface look great and are lightweight and the case is easy to access with its swing open front panel. On the inside, as you’d expect, it’s a toolless design with a slide out top bracket for simple radiator installation.
For airflow, it’s totally customizable allowing you to leave in what you want and take out what you don’t. This type of airflow makes a big difference when it comes to heat. I also really like how the Phanteks EVOLV allows multiple areas where you can hide drives away from your other hardware. It makes the case feel clean and unobstructed.
Budget Mid Tower Cases Under $50
If you’re looking for a new case that has a lot of the bells and whistles of the more expensive cases without the $100+ price tag, here’s a few options I really like starting with a recently released case in the Corsair Carbide Series 100R.
Corsair Carbide Series 100R
The 100R comes in a standard or quiet edition with noise dampening material for around $15 more. For looks you get a solid frame with an open access window. For storage, you’re given plenty of options for your SSD or mechanical drives. Cable management also shines for this case thanks to the many thoughtful cutout options that are found within.
If the 100R happens to be expensive in a particular month, also take a look at the Silverstone PS11 which has pretty much the same design and quiet case options. Get whichever one happens to be cheaper.
Not to sound like a broken record but in addition to the 100R Corsair also has a few slightly older options that really shine here. These include two of the best-selling cases on the market right now in the SPEC-01 and SPEC-02. In terms of what you get for the money you spend, there aren’t better options unless a more expensive case happens to be on rebate.
Other solid options I’d recommend for this year include the Versa N21 and Vivo ATX Mid Towers.
|Corsair Carbide Series 100R||Steel, Mesh-free front panel, direct airflow to top GPU, tool-free 3.5" / 5.25" installation, thumbscrew side panels, flush-mounted side panel window, cable routing holes. Dimensions 16.9" x 7.9" x 18.5" - weighs 10.6 pounds. SSD support for all 4 bays.||Micro ATX / ATX / Mini-ITX compatible, Front 2 x USB 3.0, GPU top 313mm, lower CPU 275mm,||Up to five fan mounts with one included 120mm fan|
|Corsair SPEC-01||Removable Filter, side panel window, cable routing and CPU cooler motherboard cutouts, GPU up to 420mm, Dust filters for front and PSU intake||Micro ATX / ATX / Mini-ITX compatible, Front: 1 x USB 3.0 / 1 x USB 2.0 / Audio. Dimensions: 16.85" x 7.87" x 17.60". Weight: 10.58 pounds||Front - 2 x 140/120mm (1 x 120mm LED included)
Top - 2 x 120mm
Rear - 120mm Front - 2 x 140/120mm (1 x 120mm LED included)
|Thermaltake Versa N21||Sleek mirror pane design. Tool-free installation. CPU cooler height limitation: 160mm|
VGA length limitation: 250mm
Hidden I/O Ports. Optimized Ventilation.
|Micro ATX / ATX / Mini-ITX compatible. Front: 1 x USB 3.0 / 2 x USB 2.0 / 1 x Headphone / 1 x Mic Top Ports. Dimensions 18.20" x 8.50" x 20.20". Weighs 10.20 pounds.||Fan Support (Optional)
2 x 120mm
2 x 120mm
1 x 120mm
Radiator Support (Optional)
1 x 120mm (included)
1 x 120mm or 1x 240mm
|Vivo ATX||SPCC .45T steel with a plastic front bezel. Filtered front ventilation, cable management, PSU up to 180mm, CPU cooler height up to 150mm, GPU up to 345MM. Dimensions 17.13" x 7.72" x 16.54" (L x W x H) . Weight 6.61 pounds.||Supports ATX, Micro ATX< and ITX Motherboards. (x2)USB 3.0 and (x2)USB 2.0 front ports. (x7) Expansion Slots.||-x1 front 120mm blue LED fan
-x1 rear 120mm fan
-x1 side 120/140mm fan port
Top Micro ATX Gaming Cases
While I won’t be doing a table comparison for my favorite micro ATX cases, I suggest you take a look at the Air 240 from the Corsair Carbide Series as well as the Thermaltake Core V21 as my picks for 2016.
Mini ITX Cases
Just because a case is new doesn’t automatically mean it’s better designed than other classic cases out there. Still, two new ITX cases I’d recommend for 2016 are the Fractal Design Node 202 and the Evolv ITX from Phanteks.
Affordable ITX Cases Under $50
For a budget model that’s a bit older that’s still really nice, I like the Elite 130. It comes in at under $50 and has space for a full-sized GPU. It’s listed in our budget ITX case list and is the one I used in my energy efficient mini ITX gaming PC. It has plenty of cooling options and can fit any graphics card that you throw at it. Recently, we also did a build in a bag. You can read more about that in this post from Joker on an ultra settings mini-itx gaming PC.
|Phanteks Evolv ITX||3mm thick Aluminum and Steel / 19.50" x 9.25" x 20.10" / 22 Pounds / Hidden PSU and HDD / Power LED with adjustable colors / optimal airflow/ 3 premium phanteks fans/ drop-n-lock SSD brackets, 2 modular HDD brackets, removable HDD cage||8x (5x included) Internal 3.5" Drive Bays, 3x (2x included) Internal 2.5" Drive bays, 7 x Expansion Slots, Max GPU 420mm or 300mm with optinal HDD brackets / front: 2 x USB 3.0 / Mic / Headphone / Reset||Front: 3x 120mm fan Top: 3x 120mm fan Rear: 1x 120mm fan Front: 2x 140mm fan (included) Top: 2x 140mm fan Rear: 1x 140mm fan (included)|
|Silverstone RVZ02B||Reinforced Plastic outer shell with a steel body. 3.43" x 14.96" x 14.57" 7.05 pounds / slim form factor / SFX PSU Compatible (not ATX) / tool-less drive cage/ vertical design||front: 2 x USB 3.0 / 1 x Audio x 1 / 1 x MIC||Rear Passive exhaust vents / Side: Oversized vents over CPU/motherboard and expansion area|
|Cooler Master Elite 130||Dim: 240 x 207.4 x 398.5 mm / 9.4 x 8.2 x 15.7 inch, polymer front mesh panel|
Case body: Steel alloy
|Mini-ITX Tower, 2 x USB 3.0 front, Supports a 120mm radiator in the front, up to 1 ODD, 3 HDDs and 4 SSD, VGA card length: 343mm / 13.5 inch, CPU cooler height: 65mm / 2.5 inch, PSU length:|
180mm/ 7.1 inch with good cable management
plan for 142mm
|Side: 80 x15mm fan x 1 (installed), Front: 120mm fan x 1 (installed)|
Overall there’s a lot of really good cases and many of which I didn’t feature on this page. What do you think of the picks? Did you find something good this month? Be sure to let me know in the open discussion area below.