There used to be a time when all PCs came in boring beige boxes that were better at cutting you open like a sword than being good at housing a PC. Advancements in design and shifts in consumer demand brought us into the modern PC case market, where most cases are black and won’t cut you open like a sword. In the time between these two eras, we had a lot of weird stuff and many boxes that looked like reject Transformers.
If we’re being honest, there are still loads of modern cases that look like reject Transformers, but they all feel a bit more classy and will do a pretty good job of holding your gear. While there are countless companies offering an ocean of similar-looking PC cases, a few standout manufacturers continue to innovate and push case design forward. This guide will focus on cases from these companies and help explain what makes these cases a good choice for your build.
Selecting The Best Case For Your Gaming PC
Choosing A Form Factor
Most PC cases fall into one of three form factors: ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ITX. These form factors are meant to pair up with motherboards of the same form factor (though you can fit Micro ATX and Mini ITX motherboards into ATX enclosures). The outer physical dimensions for cases can vary greatly, even within a specific form factor. When shopping for an ATX case, you may see Mid-Tower ATX or Full-Tower ATX options. Both are designed to accommodate ATX motherboards, but offer differing amounts of support for things like storage drives or cooling.
For a PC gaming build, the most practical options are for Mid-Tower ATX, Micro ATX, or Mini ITX cases. For the most part, the will be no performance differences between the cases, though the smaller options may require special considerations for airflow or cooling, due to their physical constraints.
What Makes A Case Good For Building?
Admittedly, any case will be up to the task of holding the basic bundle of PC components. The difference between a bad case and a great case comes down to ease of building, cooling performance, cable management, and looks. You can attach your motherboard to a greasy pizza box and get the thing to boot up, but that doesn’t make it ideal for use as a gaming PC case.The best cases will catch your eye with an interesting visual design (or understated visual design, if that’s your bag), easily accommodate your components, provide options for cable management, and allow for unrestricted airflow.
Unless you have plans to stuff your gaming PC in a closet or out of view, selecting a case that is visually appealing to you is important. You should decide if you want something understated or flashy. Do you want the case to have a window so that you can see your components? Do you need a case of a certain color to match up with a theme you’d like to go with? Be sure to get the look you want, but also take time to think about how you will use the PC once it’s built. A case may look better with no USB ports or headphone jacks up front, but will you be happy having to fiddle around behind the case when you need to plug in flash drives or peripherals?
How Do You Plan To Cool This PC?
One of the biggest choices that must be made before selecting a PC case is how you plan to cool your CPU and/or GPU. If you plan on using a large heatsink air cooler on your CPU, you will need to make sure your case is wide enough to offer clearance so that the heatsink tower doesn’t keep you from getting the side panel attached. If you plan on using an all-in-one (AIO) liquid cooler, you must ensure that your case has the proper clearance and mounting points for the oversized radiators needed for such cooling. If using an AIO liquid cooler, you must decide if the radiator will be mounted in the top of the case or front of the case and what that will mean for air intake for your other components (especially your GPU).
The availability of fan mounting locations and options in a PC case is very important. Every build requires at least one fan either intaking or exhausting air to stay within safe operating temperatures. Ideally, you will use multiple fans to encourage adequate airflow throughout the case. Some people may value silence over pure performance. In this case, using a quieter 140mm case fan would be preferred over the more common 120mm fans. If you want to use 140mm fans, you must pick a case that will allow you to properly mount the larger fan size.
One of the biggest differences between cheap, mass-produced cases and premium offerings is air filtration. Maybe you are cat lady, play your PC games in the windy desert, or are like one of my friends who can’t make it through an entire PUBG match without smoking an entire pack of Parliaments. Dust, hair, dirt, and other contaminants will always be floating around in the air while you play. Your intake fans will suck this stuff up into your PC, restricting airflow and possibly reducing the lifespan of your components. Cases with proper filtration are incredibly useful for keeping your PC running its best. The best cases have easily accessible air filters on their intake points, including on the front panel, top panel, and power supply intake. It is much easier to get cat hair and dust off a filter than it is to dig it your of your GPU assembly.
You Don’t Want A Rat’s Nest
With the popularity of windowed cases, ensuring good cable management is very important. No one wants to spend money on a great gaming PC and have the interior look like a family of rats live inside it. Even if aesthetic value is of no concern to you, having a PC build with proper cable management can help with airflow and make the process of building in the case much easier and more enjoyable.
When selecting a case, make sure that there is ample clearance between the back of the motherboard tray and the side panel. A majority of the excess cabling you have will be stuffed into this space. If there isn’t enough clearance, you may not be able to attach the side panel or it may be incredibly difficult to get secured. A good case will offer multiple tie-down points on the rear of the motherboard tray so you can use zip-ties or velcro straps to secure cabling. Some cases included built-in straps or cable management accessories to make this process easier. The nicer cases will also have grommets on the motherboard tray openings. These grommets help to hide some of the cable mess and keep your cables from rubbing against hard metal edges.
One of the newest trends in PC gaming cases is the inclusion of a power supply shroud. The shrouds usually cover the power supply and the areas around it to help hide clutter. Many of these shrouds extended the entire depth of the case and allow hard drive cages or SSD mounting points (and their associated cabling) to remain concealed from view. Some of these shrouds have openings near the front of the case for large radiator or fan support. Others have openings at the bottom of the motherboard tray so you can keep your front panel header, USB header, and fan header cables out of sight.
The Best PC Cases For Your Gaming PC
Netherlands-based Phanteks got its start by producing a well-received CPU cooler and then expanding into fans and PC cases. Primarily aimed at enthusiast builders, Phanteks cases have a reputation for cutting-edge design. In the last few years, the company started offering a wider range of options, including cases for those with limited budgets.
The Enthoo Evolv ATX is the crown jewel of the Phanteks PC case family. It has received a tsunami of critical acclaim since it hit shelves and has been a perennial favorite for enthusiast builders. The original Evolv ATX ships with a small acrylic side window, but the newer tempered glass edition is the star of the show. The full smoked-glass window gives your build a killer look and keeps any LEDs from being too overpowering. The case has a built-in RGB accent light up front and surroundings its power switch. It can be expanded with additional strips and can be synchronized to your motherboards RGB setup with the use of an adapter cable.
Beyond its striking looks, the Evolv ATX offers a premium building experience inside and out. It was one of the first cases to feature a power supply shroud, making cable management around the unit easy. The Evolv ATX comes with an innovative fan/radiator mounting bracket that completely slides out of the case, allowing you to mount your fans or radiator with ease. Once you have everything attached, you simply slide the bracket back into the case and screw it in. The motherboard tray is full of grommeted openings for you cables and the power supply shroud has an opening for your GPU power cables, making them easy to attach to the GPU without making an unsightly mess.
The Evolv ATX has a modular drive shelf system to let you attach as many 3.5-inch drives as you need. If you don’t need trays for those drives, the space can be left wide open for the thickest radiators or custom liquid cooling equipment. The power supply shroud even has mounting options for your pump, if needed. The back of the motherboard tray includes mounts for your SSDs, leaving the excess cable clutter out of sight. The accessory package included with these cases is second to none. High-quality, color manuals are unheard of in this market, but are the norm when you buy a Phanteks Evolv.
The Micro ATX and Mini ITX variants of the Evolv case off almost all of the functionality in a smaller package. Full custom liquid cooling support, great cable management, tempered glass windows, and power supply shrouds are included in the smaller versions of the case. Like their big brothers, these cases come in wide variety of finishes and colors to suit your needs.
The Phanteks Enthoo Pro M is a great option if you want the amenities afforded by the Evolv ATX, but would like to spend considerably less. While the Pro M lacks the steel exterior and eye-catching design of the Evolv, the interior is virtually identical. You get all the same mounting options and accommodations at almost half the price. Unlike the Evolv, the Pro M has a 5-¼-inch slot for those who still need to use an optical drive. The bracket for this slot is also removable if you need to fit a larger radiator or more fans. The Enthoo Pro M SE model offers a white painted interior, tempered glass side panel, and includes a pair of Phanteks new RGB fan brackets that let you add color to any case fan.
If your budget makes choosing one of Phanteks’ premium cases impossible, the new Eclipse P300 could be the perfect choice. You get many of the high-end amenities and options from the premium cases for under $60. The power supply shroud, tempered glass side panel, liquid cooling support, and RGB options are included. You still get the goodies common on $100 cases, like captive thumbscrews and filters for top and bottom intakes. While the rear exhaust only supports up to 120mm fans and it won’t be able to easily hold more than 2 3.5-inch hard drives, it is more than enough virtually all gaming PC needs.
The Eclipse P300 won’t break the bank, but will make your build look like you spared no expense.
Swedish PC case giant Fractal Design has been in the game for just over a decade now. They rose to success on the back of their legendary Define R case line and smooth, understated styling. Thankfully, those good looks also come with thoughtful interior design that makes building in a Fractal Design case a real treat.
For 2018, Fractal Design has introduced a refresh of its Define R series. The new Define R6 line continues on the successes of the R4 and R5 that came before it. If you need a larger ATX case to hold all your components and drives, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option that the Define R6. Unlike its predecessors, the R6 line enters the world with a full array of colors, side panel options, and premium sound deadening.
The Define R6 also bring the line up to modern case standards with the inclusion of a power supply shroud. Another new shroud covers the hard drive cage and help to reduce the visual clutter from all the power and SATA cables required for those drives. The case intakes all feature removable magnetic dust filters and the top-mounted I/O panel can be upgraded to USB Type-C with Fractal’s upcoming Type-C upgrade kit (requires a motherboard with front panel USB 3.1 Gen 2 header).
The Fractal Define S has been around for a few years and offers the same quality you get from the Define R5 series, but in a more compact chassis. The area up front where the drive cage would normally sit is left wide open to accommodate large radiators and other liquid cooling equipment. The Define S does not have a power supply shroud.
The Fractal Define C lineup arrived in mid-2016, bringing the same level of quality to an even smaller chassis. The Define C comes with a power supply shroud, full radiator support, excellent cable management, and options for acrylic or tempered glass side panels. The ATX Define C is one of the smallest cases you can buy that holds all you full-sized components. The Define Mini C offers the same configurations, but is designed to work with your Micro ATX motherboard. It is slightly shorter than the full ATX Define C.
Towards the end of 2017, Fractal Design introduced the Meshify C. It is a ATX mid-tower design with a tempered glass panel and all the modern appointments you come to expect from a new case design. Unlike the Define R, Define S, and Define C cases, the Meshify C has a wide-open front panel covered by an aggressively styled mesh design. If airflow is of the utmost importance for your build, the fully filtered Meshify C allows your radiator and other components to get the maximum amount of cool air from the front intake.
For budget builders, Fractal’s new Focus G line gives you everything you need for your build, without sacrificing helpful amenities like removable air filters and cable management. You won’t get tempered glass, a power supply shroud, or premium cable grommets, but the Focus G will hold all your stuff and provide ample airflow. Available in several colors, the Focus G cases also include a pair of Fractal fans with white LEDs.
Obsidian Series 350D
Obsidian Series 250D
Corsair has been offering a wide assortment of cases, memory kits, power supplies, and peripherals to PC gamers for more than twenty years. Their case lineup is famous for offering utility and cooling performance without destroying your wallet. While they offer an exhaustive lineup of cases ranging from monster towers all the way down to Mini ITX powerhouses, this guide will focus on their most popular gaming-centric offerings.
If grabbing attention is on your list of priorities, the Corsair Crystal Series should find a spot on your shortlist of case options. Tempered glass is very popular with builders right now and the Crystal cases have glass panels bolted on virtually everywhere. The 570X cases have glass panels on both of the side panels, the top panel, and the front panel. Included with the 570X is a trio of Corsair’s SP120 RGB fans. The front glass panel puts the focus on the fans and the results can be quite striking. The interior is ready for all the newest components and all of the case’s intakes are filtered. A mirror glass variant of the 570X RGB was released into the wild recently.
The 460X Crystal cases offer an outer appearance that is similar to the flagship 570X, but includes only one side-mounted glass panel and the front glass panel. The 460X RGB model includes the 3 SP120 RGB fans, but Corsair also offers a plain 460X model without the fans that is significantly cheaper. It is a great choice if you want to add fans later or go with RGB options from a different vendor.
Corsair’s 400 series cases offer lots of bang for your buck. The 400C is one of the best all-around PC cases on the market right now. It has mounting options for any part your may have and has a builder-friendly design that makes working in the case and handling cable management a breeze. It features an hinged side panel with a large acrylic window that makes accessing your case a breeze. The opening latch and hinged design is a major improvement over the rear panel thumbscrews you find on typical cases. There is another variant of the case known as the 400Q. This case takes the interior design of the 400C and is lined on all interior surfaces with sound-dampening material. If an clean, understated look and silence are your primary needs, the 400Q should fit the bill.
Corsair made its name in the case market by offering top-flight options for budget-minded shoppers and their current budget king is second to none. The 270R has an interior design that is arguably superior to its more expensive cousins in the 400 series and Crystal series. It comes with the best power supply shroud that Corsair currently offers, excellent cable management options, and exhaustive AIO radiator support. Even in the $50-60 range it occupies, it doesn’t sacrifice amenities like removable dust filters or capacitive thumbscrews.
For Micro ATX and Mini ITX builders, the Corsair Obsidian lineup has you covered. The Obsidian 350D is a great choice for Micro ATX gaming PCs. It isn’t the smallest Micro ATX tower you can buy, but it makes installing your components a breeze. It also has optical drive bays for those who still need them and great liquid cooling support. The included 140mm intake fan helps the machine run cool and quiet. The Obsidian 250D cube can hold a full-sized GPU and AIO kits easily within its compact frame. Like the 350D, it’s not the smallest enclosure of its type, but has a great design and is easy to build in.
In Win offers some of the most unique case designs on the market. Their current lineup if full of tempered glass cases based on their popular 305 design. In Win was the first PC case manufacturer to offer USB Type-C front panel ports and, unlike all the other options listed in this guide, their current cases have top-mounted power supply designs.The 101 is available in black or white and looks really sharp with its tempered glass side panel and RGB-illuminated logo on the front panel.
The interior of the case is loaded with fan mounts in locations that are uncommon in the popular PC gaming case market. The case is designed to allow bottom mounted fans to intake fresh air from the filtered intake on the underside of the chassis. The power supply shroud is located at the top of the case, along with SSD and hard drive mounts.
The 301 cases bring the innovative design from the 101 line and shrink the dimensions down to accommodate Micro ATX and Mini ITX builds. You get all the amenities from the larger cases, including the tempered glass and RGB lighting. The “C” models, such as the 301C and 101C, have front panel USB 3.1 Type-C ports for fast charging and fast data transfers. The 301 models use a handy magnetic attachment system for the side panel. This lets you easily pull off the panel from the top grip and get quick access to the inside of your case.
NZXT got its start offering PC cases that were unlike anything else on the market. In the years since, the company has expanded their offerings to include fans and AIO coolers. Several years back, NZXT released the S340 ATX mid-tower case and it was met with critical and commercial acclaim. It helped push forward case design in a number of ways, including popularizing the power supply shroud. The S340 Elite builds on that foundation, offering many improvements to the original design and including a tempered glass side panel.
The first thing that stands out about the S340 Elite is the big cable management bar to the right of the motherboard tray. Unlike most cases that use random cutouts in the tray, the S340 Elite has an opening that runs the entire height of the motherboard tray, allowing you to route your cables in an infinite number of ways. The cable management bar conceals your cable work and gives the interior of the case a clean look. The power supply shroud includes two 2.5-inch mounts for your SSDs or NZXT’s Hue+ RGB controller. Many builders elect to go with NZXT’s Kraken RGB AIO liquid coolers, the AER RGB fans, and Hue+ controller with LED strips. The S340 Elite is the perfect fit for all these components and works to showcase the work you put into your build.
FInally, the S340 Elite can be considered one of the most VR-friendly case choices on the market. Included in the package is NZXT’s Puck accessory. This rubber-coated magnet can attach to any surface of the case (except the tempered glass) and will hold your VR headset and cables cleanly. The Puck is also great for hanging your audio headset and cables. On the top-mounted I/O panel, the S340 Elite has the usual headphone, mic, and USB ports, but also has a HDMI port for your VR headset. An included passthrough cable is built into the case that lets you hook your graphics card up to the front panel port. No more fiddling around behind the case when you want to pull out your VR setup!