Productivity

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.