Five Best Desktop Computer Cases

If you're building a new system, one of the first choices you have to make is the case you plan to use to house all of your components. There are a lot of things to consider: bang for your buck, overall size, expansion bays, ease of installation, cooling and airflow. This week, we're looking at five of the best desktop computer cases, based on your nominations.

Photo by hades2k.

While some cases match specific needs (making water cooling easy or fitting into tight spaces), this list concentrates on all-around suggestions. There are plenty of good choices out there, and these five stood out above the rest. (Shop around for all of these cases to get the best prices; staticICE is your friend here.)

Cooler Master HAF X

The HAF X — and indeed, the entire HAF series — earned high praise from readers for being roomy cases with lots of expansion bays and plenty of space. without getting so cramped that it's difficult to get to a component you need to repair or replace. The monster door fan will lift warm air right away from your board and CPU, and there's plenty of room for fans elsewhere in the case too. The front-side I/O ports are a nice bonus, as is the power supply cable partition that keeps unused cables out of sight. Bonus: you won't need a screwdriver often with this case — most components pop and slide open easily for installation or removal.

Fractal Design Define Mini

Fractal Design's cases are built for enthusiasts who want their computers to be sleek, modern and minimal. Those of you who nominated the Define Mini all said the same thing: It's a computer case "for adults". You're not missing out on features by going grown-up, either. The Define Mini may be built for Mini ITX and Micro ATX boards, but it will definitely keep your system cool and offer you plenty of drive bays and expansion slots for drives and graphics cards. The case also sports a built-in fan controller and two 120mm fans, and the side panels feature noise-absorbing material to keep your rig nice and quiet. Front access to the drive bays is a nice touch, and the top-side I/O is unobtrusive but functional.

Corsair Obsidian 800D

The Corsair Obsidian series is a great range of richly featured full-sized tower cases that give you room to manoeuvre and a solid build designed to last for multiple system builds. The aluminium and steel body of the 800D makes for a lightweight case despite its size. Corsair has separate "cooling zones" inside the case to keep your power supply, CPU, graphics cards, and hard drives independently chilly with smart airflow design and separate fans. Cables won't get in the way, thanks to rubber cable management slots all over that make routing them The case comes with three 140mm fans, and sports tool-free installation for hard drives and components, including hot-swappable drive bays so you don't have to take the windowed (or meshed) case door off. Front-side I/O offers access to USB, FireWire, audio, and power without being too intrusive, keeping the design and lines nice and clean.

Antec Nine Hundred

Antec makes great cases across the board, but many of you really preferred the Nine Hundred, and we can see why. it's a solid case, and even though it's targeted to gamers, you don't have to be one to appreciate it. There's plenty of room inside for your components (standard ATX or smaller), seven expansion slots, two front-side 120mm fans and a massive 200mm fan at the top of the case, a fan controller to manage them, top-mounted I/O for USB, power, audio, and FireWire, along with a handy top drawer for a music player, smartphone or external hard drive. Don't let the angled design fool you — there's plenty of room inside and outside this chassis.

Corsair Graphite 600T

Another Corsair? Well, your nominations warranted it: the Corsair Graphite 600T is a more streamlined and less frilly model than some of Corsair's other chassis families. It's a mid-tower, but it's remarkably roomy considering its eight expansion slots and 10 total drive bays (four 5.25" and six 3.5"). Plus, the case sports those rubber cable management slots that make wrangling cables or watercooling so easy, and tool-free installation and swappable trays. The steel case is sturdy, and for your money you'll get a chassis that should last you through a couple of builds. The case is sharp matte black with a few plastic accents, and comes packed with two 120mm fans and a 200mm fan positioned to keep your components cool, along with room for plenty more. The top-side I/O port offers quick access to USB ports, audio ports, power, FireWire, and the fan controller so you can control performance versus noise with a single knob.

Honourable mentions this week go out to Lian Li's cases, which were extremely popular, but no specific model or SKU was popular enough to make the top five. All of them combined would have made a good run for the top, though. Those of you who nominated Lian Li models all noted their lightweight aluminium designs, sleek and modern looks, and cool, roomy interiors.

Also worth mentioning is the Corsair Carbide Series, especially the Carbide 500R, which many of you praised highly for its superior design and airflow.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to argue for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Make your case (ahem) in the comments.


Comments

    +1 on the Fractal Design case. Brilliant cable management and it looks great.

    -1 on the Antec Nine Hundred, for the non-existant cable management space, and noisy fans. Plus every nine hundred case that I've ever seen (a lot) has so many neon lights inside it that it looks a bit like a robotic brothel when coupled with the poor cable management.

      +1 to your +1 for Fractal Design, I have the R3 for my main PC and the mini for my bedroom htpc, both are extremely neat and quite. Build quality is above average and I love that they have less 5" and more 3" bays. I mean who has 5 optical drives in there PCs now days.

    I'd like to throw the NZXT Phantom into the mix. If you haven't looked at one, it's certainly worth it.

      +1 here. I'm running th Phantom white at the moment. Quiet, cool, slick, roomy (both for cable management and big processor coolers). What else could you want??

      Made this same comment on the Gizmodo site. Running the red Phantom case and it's got everything you want and need for a great price.

    I owned a HAF 932 and it was the best case I have ever owned. I genuinely dislike the antec 900, however I am a fan of the 200 for my more budget/lower end builds. I'd like to get my hands on an obsidian one day. They are so versatile and good to the eye.

      I have a 932 also, and while its a great case in terms of space and features, i found the front grills have all corroded quite badly and did so fairly quickly =/

    How about Termaltake Level 10 GT, that's an awesome case.

      im selling mine, its too big for my desk. ashumz1988 at me dot com

    I have NZXT Phantom aswell, great all round case. Considered the HAF X before getting the phantom.

    Personally if going ANTEC i would get the DF-85. Costs a bit more then the nine hundred but worth it.

    Clear sided cases with LED's always attract buyers.

    We just bought an Antec 1200 V3, and I can't have enough praise for it! The fans are super quiet (with all six of them running, plus the three fans of our GTX 680 and the CPU fan, it's still quieter than both our laptops!)

    The lights are quite bright, but hey, they all have off switches.

    Not a huge amount of space for cable management, but hey, we had to go and get the biggest of all components and shove them all in there rather quickly and excitedly without paying too much attention to prior planning.

    All in all, loving this case. Would highly recommend it, and with the Nine Hundred being the little brother, I'd have to throw a huge recommendation behind it too.

    I'd certainly recommend a Coolermaster Silencio 550. Excellent cable management area, built in SD card reader and totally silent, with 3 x 120mm fans and stacked with hard drives. And only just over $100 delivered.

    I've built quite a few Antec900's for friends in my time and would agree with Sylver that they are on of the worst cases to build a machine in, Very very cramped design.
    I've always been a fan of Antec cases since the Super Lanboy but the 900 is definitely an own goal.

    I have a Fractal Design R3 and can't see myself using anything else! awesome cable management, minimal and quiet :D

    I made the mistake of going Thermaltake. Plastic fan on the top would clip the top of the case every now and then and eventually it snapped in half. Fan size is of a Thermaltake only variety and would cost me around 40 bucks to have delivered... Needless to say I'm in the market for one of these and the Fractal looks amazing!

      Which thermaltake did you get? they make heaps!

        Ugh I also made the mistake of not doing any research on any cases and just bought one that looked all right.... Just did a quick look on their website and they don't make it any more so I wouldn't be able to tell you which one it was.

        I did however go on over to MSY and buy the Fractal Design R4 and it's pretty great!

      I have a V9 that did the same thing. Worked out where it was hitting and ended up going at it with a dremel drill. It fixed it for a while, though it eventially destroyed itself. Been meaning to get a new case since though havent been bothered as yet.

    Err really the Antec 900? Personally i'd advise the 902 over the 900, for a few reasons. There are cable management holes, black interior, fan controls & dust filters.

    I owned a 900 to begin with, awesome case but there was just somethings Antec missed, which they fixed in the revision of it which I own as well. and the newer 902 replaced the esata with USB 3.0 which is a positive.

    I've got the 800D's baby brother, the 650D and while I absolutely adore the thing (looks great, fantastic cable management, immensely easy to work with when it comes to HDD bays, MB standoffs, etc) the downside has to be cooling. I just can't seem to get the flow right and I know it can be more efficient.

      The 650D in some ways, really works as a mid-sized watercooling case.

      A 2x120mm radiator mounted at the top , and a 1x120mm radiator near the rear vent, would, and does work to keep most of the components cool. (this is how i have my 650D set up)

      It does require putting fans on top of the case to attach to a radiator inside/above the case, but there is a shim you can buy which creates a cover over the fan/radiator, and still lets you use the HDD caddy on the top. The HDD caddy is also the reason you can't really fit a 2x140mm radiator, the second is the tubing. the third is the motherboard clearance, you'd be touching the RAM/voltage areas on most mainboards, as they stick them really close to the edge of the board on most designs.

      For the relatively cheaper cooling option of air cooling, the 650D's problem is mainly the outflow ventilation from the front to rear of the case. the front intake is great, but it is insufficient to cool 150w to 200w video cards and a 100w CPU. if you swap the top ducting fans from pulling in air, to pushing out air, it could affect the thermal profile a lot better, but you may want to get slower 120mm fans to avoid the noise of pushing air through the grilles. there's probably very little advantage to ducting the CPU away from the video card(s), but it's a brilliantly neat case.

      the only upgrade i'd consider are the "sideways" cases, like the fortress or raven, where they rotate the case forwards, so the video cards face the rear of the case, and power/USB/HDMI/DVI cables come out of the top of the case:

      the Silverstone Fortress FT-02W
      http://www.silentpcreview.com/SilverStone_Fortress_FT02
      http://www.silentpcreview.com/files/images/silverstone-ft02usb3/19.jpg

      or the Raven RV02 (not so much the RV03)
      http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1002-page1.html

    People still use desktops?

      Ever tried playing a game on a laptop?
      Terrible experience, unless you pay in excess of $2500.
      Well, maybe not terrible, but definitely not on par with a quality desktop.

      Ever tried video editing/compiling/rendering/etc. on a laptop?
      I'll see you next month, when it's finally finished, and lacks significant quality.

        $2500 are you serious?

        I recently paid around $1000 for the Lenovo Y580. This things handles any game I have thrown at it so far, on max or close to max settings.

        Trust me though, I am a desktop fan all the way, but a laptop simply suits me better at the moment due to my working and living environment.

      it's called modular technology. if it's going to stay in one place why not?

      plus building desktops is fun.

        I suppose. I guess I got all that out of my system 15 years ago.

        Laptop is the only way to go as far as I'm concerned these days. Anything else is just too much effort. :)

    Coolermaster Silencio 650 seems great
    http://hexus.net/tech/reviews/chassis/44141-cooler-master-silencio-650/

    - Lets you switch boot HDDs with a physical switch (no more fiddling in BIOS)
    - SD card reader, USB3, USB2, fan speed, power/reset all nested under an easy to reach panel on the top
    - Removable Dust Filters for easy cleaning
    - Tidy cable management
    - Sound absorbing
    - Tool-less installation

    Though I really like the aesthetic of the Corsair Vengeance series, especially the reset button
    http://hexus.net/tech/reviews/chassis/41201-corsair-vengeance-c70/

    I have an 800D, and I can't speak highly enough of it.
    To me, it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing cases, and ticks all the boxes.
    Great cable management, plenty of space to work in, plenty of hard drive bays, plenty of fans, hot-swappable bays, tool-lessness everywhere you look!, and comes with a window!

    The only negative thing I could say about the thing is that is bloody heavy, and is a damned sight hard to move the thing around.. definitely wasn't the best choice at the time, when I was lugging the thing to LANs all the time!

    Other than that, can't say a bad thing about it!

      To add to that, I'm running a Corsair H100, so I can't comment with experience on airflow with air cooling in this thing. Runs at load a max of 28 degrees on the H100, though!

    sif, no mention of a NZXT Phantom that is a awesome case!

    I have been very happy with my Antec P280.

    http://store.antec.com/Product/enclosure-performance_one_series/P280/0-761345-82000-4.aspx

    Although the case is quite big and the cable management features can be rendered partly useless if the cables on the hardware istalled isn't long enough.

    Mmmm i have a HAF X it's an awesome case, the XM isn't bad either when push comes to shove or for something more budget a corsair vengeance C70, oh and for the HAF X adding these dust filters keeps things pretty clean :)

    http://www.demcifilter.com/gallery.php?alb=15&open_album=Cooler%20Master%20HAF-X

    + 1 HAF-X

    I had to buy it because Giga-Byte for some reason came up with it's own form factor for a motherboard which didn't fit in my Antec Titan case (which I also like as well). But it has turned out to be a very good case.

    I am probably not utilizing the case to it's full potential, but it is relatively quiet for the amount of airflow it has, and my system run very cool even under full load using a H50 kit using air from the case and blowing out.

    Ive had a Thermaltake Shark for about ten years now.
    http://specialtech.co.uk/spshop/files/detail/Thermaltake_shark_silver.jpg

      I had one of those as a hand-me-down!!! I had to unplug the damn blue LED in the front of the case because of where it sat in my office, it kept blinding me!

    Seems like a lot of over priced cases to me. Bitfenix got my money recently and probably will for my next one if I go to socket 2011. Corsair cost too much just like all their products (firewire in 2012?) ... Cooler Master and Antec look like they were designed in a lego / animae universe. Bitfenix make a better case with every new release.

    Last edited 17/10/12 9:42 pm

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