What is a computer case?

The computer case is the enclosure that contains the various components of the computer. Formerly the functionalities of the case were often privileged to the detriment of its aesthetic; this is no longer the case in 2021 and manufacturers offer models for all tastes. Some people choose the case of their computer mainly for its aesthetic appearance, but the possibilities it offers inside should not be neglected because they determine the components that can be used. We should therefore choose the case according to the use we will make of the computer.

Antec DF600 FLUX Gaming PC Case

What are the main characteristics of the case?

  • The dimensions of the case. Computer cases are sometimes classified into full towers, mid towers, mini towers or according to the format of the motherboards they can accommodate: EATX, ATX, micro ATX, mini-ITX … but there is no strict definition of the computer case dimensions and nowadays you can find them in many different shapes. Computer case manufacturers provide a list of motherboard formats that can be installed inside their cases, and it is definitively one of the criteria that should be taken into account. You should also check that the case has enough room to accommodate a large graphics card if you plan to use one, this is another information that is usually provided by the manufacturer. The size of the case also determines the dimensions of the power supply unit (PSU): either ATX or SFX, two formats which are not compatible in dimensions.
  • Another important feature is the number of bays available to install hard drives or CD/DVD/Blurays drives. They exist in various sizes: 5.25″ (for CD/DVD drives), 3.5″ or 2.5″ (for hard disk drives). Some of these bays are available on the front of the case after removing a protection, they are then called external, others will require to open the case to access them and they are therefore called internal. Sometimes it is possible to use a bay of a certain size to accommodate drives of a smaller size by using an adapter (for example two 2.5″ HDDs in a 3.5″ bay).
  • The list of connectors that are available on the front or on the sides of the case. These are mainly USB connectors (they exists in different formats and speeds), connectors for speakers, headphones or a microphone, and more rarely other connectors like thunderbolt, firewire, etc.
  • The number of fans (and their sizes) that can accommodate the case. A well-ventilated case will lower the temperature of the computer components and improve their performance and their lifespan.
  • The presence of RGB LEDs or a bay window for those who wish to personalize the aesthetic appearance of their case.
  • The presence of a power supply by default. They are often supplied with low-end cases, but more rarely with high-end cases because the power of the PSU depends on the consumption of the different components of the computer.
  • The materials used for manufacturing, plastic items are often less expensive than those made from aluminum or steel. They are also lighter but absorb less noise and dissipate less heat than the latter.
  • The possibility of installing an all in one (AIO) watercooling kit. These kits are generally more efficient than a simple radiator and fan for cooling the CPU. They are recommended for high-end CPUs that consume a lot of energy. Users who want to lower the temperature of their CPU sometimes opt for these kits to improve the performance of their computer by increasing the frequency of the CPU (overclocking).
  • Weight: It will depend on the dimensions and materials used. The lightest cases weigh less than 5 kg (10 lbs) while the heaviest can exceed 15 kg (30 lbs).

Price and choice of a case

The choice of a case depends on the one hand on the use that will be made of the computer. A full tower case should be used if you want to have the possibility of installing lots of expansion cards, hard drives or to have enough space for a large graphics card for example. A small case that does not occupy much space is certainly a better idea if you use your computer mainly for web browsing and office applications. On the other hand, the choice of a case also depends on its aesthetic, its silence, the connections it offers or its weight if you want to be able to move it easily. In 2021, you can find computer cases in all sizes, shapes and colors. You will therefore be spoiled for choice.

The cheapest cases cost only a few tens of euros or dollars and they will do the job when the computer does not need a very advanced cooling solution, many possibilities of expansion or when its aesthetics is not too important. More advanced cases will offer more expansion and cooling possibilities, better materials but can cost several hundred euros or dollars.

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