The best current PC case is subjective but popular options include the Corsair Obsidian Series 500D RGB SE.
Understanding PC Case Fundamentals
When diving into the world of PC building, one of the primary components that often gets overlooked is the PC case. However, it’s much more than just a box that houses your components. It’s a blend of design, functionality, and protection for your PC. Let’s explore the basics of PC case fundamentals.
Size and Form Factors: ATX, MicroATX, and ITX
The form factor of a motherboard dictates the size of the PC case you’ll need. The three most common motherboard sizes include:
- ATX: This is the most common size, offering a balance between expandability and size. Standard ATX motherboards measure 12 x 9.6 inches. Most full-sized PC cases are designed to accommodate ATX motherboards. More on ATX on Wikipedia.
- MicroATX (mATX): A bit smaller than the ATX, the mATX typically measures 9.6 x 9.6 inches. This form factor is popular for users who wish to build a compact system without compromising too much on expandability.
- ITX (Specifically Mini-ITX): The smallest of the three, Mini-ITX motherboards are 6.7 x 6.7 inches. Ideal for users looking for ultra-compact builds, but often at the cost of fewer expansion slots and features.
Features: Airflow, Cable Management, and Expandability
Features in a PC case are integral for ease of use, performance, and longevity of components.
- Airflow: Crucial for keeping components cool. An optimal airflow setup can lower component temperatures by up to 20%, increasing the lifespan of parts and maintaining peak performance. Cases with front, top, and rear fans often offer the best airflow.
- Cable Management: A tidy case isn’t just for aesthetics. Proper cable management can improve airflow and make maintenance or component upgrades simpler. Some cases offer rubber grommets, dedicated cable channels, and tie-down points to assist builders.
- Expandability: Refers to the number of internal and external drive bays, expansion slots, and additional features. For instance, a case might offer three 3.5″ drive bays, two 2.5″ SSD mounts, and seven PCIe expansion slots.
Design Aesthetics: RGB, Tempered Glass, and Themes
While performance is paramount, design aesthetics play a role in the personalization of a PC.
- RGB: Short for Red-Green-Blue, RGB lighting allows users to customize their PC’s look. Modern cases might come with RGB fans, light strips, or even RGB control hubs, enabling a myriad of color combinations and effects. More on RGB lighting on Wikipedia.
- Tempered Glass: Provides a clear view of the PC’s internals while offering protection. A 4mm thick tempered glass panel can resist impacts significantly better than regular glass or acrylic panels.
- Themes: Beyond just RGB and tempered glass, many cases are designed with specific themes in mind, whether it’s a stealthy black build, a pristine white setup, or even designs inspired by popular games or movies.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best PC Case
Selecting the ideal PC case is more than just about aesthetics. It’s a decision that impacts the overall performance, longevity, and user experience of your computer. While some might be tempted to pick the flashiest chassis or the one with the most RGB lights, several fundamental factors are worth considering.
Thermal Performance and Cooling
One of the primary roles of a PC case is to facilitate efficient cooling of the internal components. Here’s what you should know:
- Airflow Design: A case with good airflow design typically has multiple intake and exhaust fan mounting points. For instance, having two 120mm fans at the front and a 140mm fan at the back can help maintain a constant flow of air, ensuring that components are adequately cooled.
- Radiator Support: For those using liquid cooling, it’s vital to check if the case can accommodate the size of your radiator. Common radiator sizes include 120mm, 240mm, and 360mm.
- Ventilation: Look for cases with mesh front panels or adequate ventilation slots. A case with poor ventilation can cause temperatures to rise by up to 15%, affecting component efficiency and lifespan.
Noise Level and Soundproofing
A silent PC is a dream for many, especially for those who require a noise-free environment for work or entertainment.
- Sound Dampening Materials: Some premium cases come equipped with foam or other sound-absorbing materials lining the side panels, reducing noise by up to 40%.
- Quality of Fans: The type and quality of case fans can make a significant difference. For instance, a fan operating at 1000 RPM can be nearly silent, while another at 2000 RPM can be distinctly audible.
- Sealed or Mesh Design: While a fully sealed design can reduce noise, it might compromise on airflow. On the other hand, a mesh design can offer better airflow but might allow more noise to escape.
Usability and Ease of Assembly
Nobody wants to spend hours wrestling with their PC case. Hence, usability is a critical factor.
- Tool-less Design: Many modern cases offer tool-less mechanisms for mounting drives, meaning you won’t need a screwdriver for every step of the process.
- Cable Management: Features such as rubber grommets, velcro straps, and cable routing cutouts can make a world of difference, making it easier to keep things tidy and ensuring optimal airflow.
- Accessibility: Being able to easily access the internals of your PC, thanks to a removable side panel or a hinged door, can save time during upgrades or maintenance.
Review of Popular PC Case Brands
Choosing the right PC case brand can be overwhelming given the myriad of options available. Different brands bring unique designs, features, and price points to the table. This review will shed light on five top brands in the market, detailing their offerings and what makes them stand out.
Corsair – Leading in Aesthetics and Functionality
Corsair is a brand synonymous with quality and innovation. Their PC cases often strike the perfect balance between aesthetics and functionality.
- Designs: Known for their sleek and modern designs, Corsair cases frequently feature tempered glass panels, allowing users to showcase their components. RGB lighting is also a staple in many of their models.
- Functionality: Corsair offers superior cable management options and modular drive bays in many of their cases. For example, their 4000D Airflow model supports up to six 120mm fans and has a dedicated routing channel for cables, ensuring optimal airflow.
- Price Range: While Corsair offers some budget-friendly options starting at around $60, their premium cases can go up to $300, giving consumers a wide range to choose from. More on Corsair on Wikipedia.
Bonito – Simplistic Designs with Premium Feel
Though not as renowned as some other brands, Bonito is carving a niche for itself with its minimalist yet premium designs.
- Designs: Favoring a more understated look, Bonito cases are less flashy but exude a sense of elegance. Their cases often use a blend of metal and glass for a refined finish.
- Functionality: Despite their simple exterior, Bonito cases do not skimp on features. They prioritize ease of assembly and often incorporate tool-less design elements.
- Price Range: Bonito’s offerings usually fall in the mid-range, with prices hovering between $80 to $200.
Fractal Design – Minimalistic yet Functional
Fractal Design is loved by many for its Scandinavian-inspired, no-nonsense designs.
- Designs: Steering clear of the RGB trend, Fractal Design focuses on clean, unobtrusive looks. Their cases are characterized by sharp lines and muted colors.
- Functionality: Known for their sound-dampening properties, many Fractal Design cases are a top pick for users seeking a silent build. Their Define R6, for instance, comes with industrial sound-dampened front and side panels.
- Price Range: Their cases start at around $70, with high-end models reaching up to $250. More on Fractal Design on Wikipedia.
Cooler Master – Versatile Cases for Every Build
Cooler Master is a veteran in the PC component industry, offering a diverse range of cases to suit various needs.
- Designs: From the compact Q-series to the expansive HAF series, Cooler Master’s lineup caters to all. RGB, mesh fronts, and modular designs are common features.
- Functionality: Cooler Master cases are known for their versatility. The MasterCase H500, for example, comes with two 200mm RGB fans at the front and offers ample space for high-end components.
- Price Range: With budget options starting as low as $50 and premium offerings reaching $300, there’s something for every wallet size. More on Cooler Master on Wikipedia.
Phanteks – Innovation Meets Aesthetics
Phanteks merges innovation with aesthetics, often pushing the boundaries of PC case design.
- Designs: Their cases, such as the Evolv X, are a testament to craftsmanship with dual-system support, integrated RGB lighting, and a high-quality aluminum exterior.
- Functionality: Prioritizing both form and function, Phanteks cases are user-friendly with features like quick-release side panels and retractable radiator brackets.
- Price Range: Phanteks cases typically start at around $80, with their flagship models priced at around $200 to $300.
Comparison of Top Models from Each Brand
Choosing the right PC case model can drastically influence the performance, aesthetics, and overall satisfaction of your PC build. In this section, we’ll delve into the standout models from each brand, categorizing them based on high-end features, value for money, and sound dampening capabilities.
Best High-end Models: Features and Pricing
Corsair Obsidian Series 500D RGB SE:
- Features: This case offers a premium aluminum and tempered glass construction, three LL120 RGB fans, and an integrated Commander PRO controller for lighting and fan speed adjustments.
- Price: Roughly around $250. More on Corsair Obsidian Series on Wikipedia.
Bonito Elite X1:
- Features: Boasting an all-aluminum chassis, tool-less modular design, and integrated ARGB hub, this model is the epitome of elegance and functionality.
- Price: Approximately $230.
Fractal Design Define R7:
- Features: Known for its modularity, the Define R7 offers sound-dampened side panels, versatile water cooling options, and a brushed aluminum front.
- Price: Typically around $210. More on Fractal Design Define Series on Wikipedia.
Cooler Master Cosmos C700P:
- Features: A standout with its unique curved tempered glass panel, RGB lighting, and flexible interior layout options.
- Price: About $300. More on Cooler Master Cosmos on Wikipedia.
Phanteks Enthoo Elite:
- Features: This high-end case supports dual systems, extensive water-cooling options, and comes with a sand-blasted aluminum exterior.
- Price: It’s on the pricier side, retailing at around $700.
Best Value Models: Performance at Affordable Prices
Corsair Carbide Series 275R:
- Features: A minimalist design complemented by a full-length tempered glass side panel and versatile cooling options.
- Price: Often found at around $80.
Bonito Streamline V2:
- Features: A compact case offering a clean design, decent airflow, and a side tempered glass panel.
- Price: Approximately $60.
Fractal Design Meshify C:
- Features: Characterized by its distinct angular mesh front, this case promises excellent airflow and a compact footprint.
- Price: Usually priced at $90. More on Fractal Design Meshify Series on Wikipedia.
Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L:
- Features: A budget-friendly model with a magnetic dust filter, transparent acrylic side panel, and modularity.
- Price: Often available for $50.
- Features: Combines mesh front for optimal airflow, a tempered glass side panel, and compact dimensions.
- Price: Roughly around $60.
Best for Silent Operations: Cases with Sound Dampening
Corsair Carbide Series 678C:
- Features: High-density sound dampening material on the side, front, and roof panels ensures a whisper-quiet operation.
- Price: Typically around $180.
Bonito SilentWave R4:
- Features: Emphasizing noise reduction, this case incorporates thick sound-dampening foam and a vent-free front panel.
- Price: About $110.
Fractal Design Define S2:
- Features: A successor to the popular Define Series, the S2 offers industrial-grade sound dampening and a spacious interior.
- Price: Priced at around $140.
Cooler Master Silencio S600:
- Features: Sound-dampened steel panels, a reversible front door, and a silenced ventilation design make this a top pick for quiet PC builds.
- Price: Generally available for $100.
Phanteks Eclipse P600S:
- Features: This hybrid model offers sound dampening panels which can be removed for increased airflow, striking a balance between silence and performance.
- Price: Around $150.