If you're building a home theatre PC (HTPC) or you simply don't want your rig to take up lots of space, you need a smaller PC case. Something that fits the important stuff, but doesn't waste a lot of space on expansion bays or components you won't use. This week we're going to take a look at five of the best for the job.
Title photo by docklandsboy.
Whichever case you go for, shop around to get the best price. Postage is a key consideration; a discount price doesn't amount to much if you're paying more for the shipping than the case.
The Elite 120 Advanced by Cooler Master is a Mini ITX case that's the perfect size for an HTPC or any other space-saving PC. If you want to, there's room in there for higher-end components such as full size ATX power supplies, aftermarket cooling or (somewhat) larger video cards, but it doesn't sacrifice a small footprint to give it all to you. You get surprising airflow in a small form factor (9.4" W by 8.2" H by 15.8" D), with vents on the top and side, large fans on the front, side and on the hard drive cage. Four drive bays are ready for your hard drives and optical drive, two there are expansion ports in the back for peripheral cards, and you get USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports on the front to connect your devices, along with frontside audio.
The Silverstone FT03 is already a small case (9.2" W by 19.2" H by 11.2" D), but for super-small builds, its sibling the FT03 Mini, is even smaller (7.4" W by 15.6" H by 9.3" D). The former is a Micro-ATX/Mini-ITX chassis, and the latter supports Mini-ITX and DTX builds. The FT03 sports four internal bays for drives, four expansion slots, top and bottom exhaust fans for airflow, no cables at all on four sides, and a tucked away front side panel with USB 3.0 and audio ports. It supports standard ATX power supplies, has plenty of room to work inside, and even supports (some) large video cards. The FT03 Mini on the other hand cuts back a bit: three internal bays, one bottom fan, and two expansion slots, but can still support a long graphics card and has those front-side ports. You'll need an SFX power supply for it though.
The BitFenix Prodigy is a beautifully-designed case The flexible, soft-grip handles make for portability and good looks, and has plenty of room inside to work. It's a little bigger than some smaller Mini-ITX cases (9.8" W by 15.9"H by 14.1"D) and it still gets great airflow thanks to front and rear cooling fans (with space for more). The added room means you get space for six expansion bays inside, two expansion card slots and support for a standard ATX power supply. Ports on the side near the front of the chassis give you access to USB 3.0 ports, power and audio. Plus, if you want your rig to stand out, it's available in many different colors (including orange and red), although the standards are black and white.
A lot of the cases in this roundup are shaped like smaller versions of towers. The Mini-Box M350 Universal Mini-ITX Enclosure is different. It takes a few cues from the long, flat boxes of computers gone by, but still looks small and sleek enough to fit nicely in an entertainment centre. The case is small enough (7.5"W by 2.4"H by 8.3" D) you could even mount it on the back of a widescreen display for an all-in-one look and feel. You'll need a PicoPSU to power it, but you also get a super-silent fanless design, space for any processor (as long as it has stock cooling), and room for two hard drives in mountable bays. While you're not going to fit a huge video card in there, there are plenty of bracket options inside to fit additional components. It's available in black or silver.
Fractal Design's cases are all simple, good-looking cases that get the job done but aren't super-flashy. The Node 304 in particular would look great in an entertainment centre. It's a Mini-ITX case that's surprisingly roomy for its size (9.8" W by 8.3" H by 14.7" D), supports a standard PSU, has six drive bays for your hard drives and optical drives, and two expansion slots for cards on the back. It's long enough to support longer graphics cards if you need them (but you'll want to make sure they fit with the PSU first). It sports two front-side fans and one rear for airflow, supports aftermarket cooling for CPUs, and gives you a pair of USB 3.0 ports, audio ports, and power right on the front of the chassis. It's a sharp, grown-up design that doesn't sacrifice quality for build.
An honourable mention this week goes to the Fractal Design Define Mini, a case that barely missed the top five . We know it's a well-loved design, as it ranked highly in our general computer case Hive Five.
These are all solid choices, but we're willing to bet you have a favourite that may not have been included here. Tell us about it in the comments.