PC Gaming 101: Part 6: Cases

PC gaming is quite big in India. As games become more intense and compelling, gamers find themselves wanting the latest and greatest hardware to run these games smoothly. That being said, the majority of gamers wanting to build or upgrade their machines don’t have much of a clue, and are often at the mercy of vendors and salesmen, due to which, more often than not, they end up making the wrong decisions. This is an attempt to address this lack of information, and help all PC gamers make the best of their resources. This is PC GAMING 101.

Getting the right case or cabinet for your gaming PC is an unnecessarily complicated thing to do. The way computer cases are classified has changed over time. Once upon a time, it depended upon how many 5.25 inch bays the case had. Then, the classification was based on the overall height of the case. These days, those classifications are like guidelines as opposed to actual standards. The traditional size categories are shown below: 

Source: Tom's Hardware

Source: Tom’s Hardware

Full Towers are like the SUVs of the computer case world. They can have 5 or more 5.25 inch external drive bays, they range in height from 22 to 27 inches and they always support full size ATX, almost always support EATX, and at times even the not-so-standard XL-ATX as well. The funny thing about full towers is that apart from accepting more drive expansion, providing better cooling for hot running, inefficient setups like running 4-way graphics configurations, and having extra space for superfluous stuff like custom liquid cooling loops, they don't bring much to the table in terms of performance over Mid Tower cases. But they do tend to be easier to work with if you've got big hands, and the top bays are easier to reach when the case is sitting on your floor. All in all, Full Tower cases are more like luxury items than must-haves.

Mid Towers are the most common cases for custom builders, have 3 to 4 external expansion bays, stand 17 to 21 inches tall, and almost always hold a full size ATX motherboard. But, they don't have a lot of extra space for drives and what not. Expect to find 6 to 8 Hard Drive mounts in a typical Mid Tower, and enough cooling and space to comfortably handle 2 graphics cards in crossfire/SLI.  

Computer Case form factors- Full Tower (Extreme right) Small Form Factor (Center), Horizontal Desktop (Bottom Center), Mid Tower (Extreme Left)

Computer Case form factors- Full Tower (Extreme right) Small Form Factor (Center), Horizontal Desktop (Bottom Center), Mid Tower (Extreme Left)

Mini Towers are a great compromise between size and expansion. They have 1 or 2 external bays, stand 14 to 16 inches tall, and can host an mATX motherboard usually. They are nearly as versatile as mid-towers in applications ranging from office workhorses to high-end liquid-cooled SLI-powered gaming monsters because of their less-imposing profile and easier transportability. Most Mini Towers are suitable for use with only a single graphics card with adequate cooling while some may be okay for two. 

Anything taller than 27 inches is called a Super/Ultra Tower , and a case whose size can be modified by stacking components on top of each other, for, say, cooling options or drive mounting, is called a Mod Tower. Desktop or Horizontal desktop cases are not exactly towers, they are slightly different, and they used to be the dominant case size once upon a time but now they are more of a niche, and they come in various sizes, from tiny ones that are so small they need an external power brick, to huge ones that can hold server class motherboards and large RAID arrays of hard drives. 

Small Form Factor or SFF can come in almost any shape, from cubes to equal sided desktops to normal towers, but the one thing that they generally have in common is the support for a mini ITX motherboard max, with minimal drive mounting options and only sometimes support a graphics card, only one of them max. Cube Cases are called so, because of their roughly cubical size, and are available in a wide variety of configurations. 

There's other stuff out there, but these are the main form factors available today. 

Prev>> Part 5: Gaming Monitors

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