Cases for PC hardware are a dime a dozen, starting at around 20 euros. But you can also easily find a number of models that are in the three-digit euro range. But what should you consider when buying a case, especially for gaming hardware? How useful are expensive housings? We clarify these questions, we also take care of the issues of housing size and format, the importance of the internal dimensions, the space for radiators and more. In addition, at the end we also summarized 80 cases in a market overview, 60 of them in the popular ATX format and 20 mini cases for µATX or Mini-ITX mainboards. But we start with the construction formats of housings.
So that you know which mainboards fit in which case, there are standardized sizes and drill hole placements as well as maximum dimensions. Among the so-called form factors for mainboards, there are currently four relevant types (from small to large): Mini-ITX, µATX, ATX and E-ATX. Housings are also assigned such a format so that you know which mainboards fit in at most. Mind you: maximum.
Because smaller mainboards always fit in. In an ATX case, for example, you can also install Mini-ITX and µATX mainboards in addition to ATX mainboards – but an E-ATX mainboard would be too big. When it comes to power supplies, there are two important build formats: SFX and ATX.
The vast majority of cases, regardless of their format, offer a slot for an ATX power supply. SFX is only relatively widespread in Mini-ITX cases, sometimes also in a few µATX cases. There are also, albeit very rarely, the power supply formats TFX, Flex-ATX and SFX-L.
But be careful: Some cases that are compatible with ATX power supplies do not offer much space in front of the power supply, so the manufacturer advises not to exceed a certain power supply length. Especially with modular power supplies, i.e. models with detachable cables, the limit can be 1-2 centimeters smaller. So find out about it before you buy it.
Graphics cards and coolers need space
If the case is too narrow, the graphics card may conflict with a strut or, for example, the hard drive cage, making installation impossible. If you are sure that you want to use shorter graphics cards in the long term and at the same time want a rather compact case, you can of course also deliberately choose a corresponding case.
The foldable frame construction of the unusually designed InWin D Frame is reminiscent of the engine area of a motorcycle chassis. Source: InWin As a guide: About a third of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 models are a maximum of 27 centimeters long, the rest are longer. So 26 to 28 centimeters of space is still okay, at least up to the (upper) middle class. Only in the absolute high-end range can graphics cards sometimes exceed 32 centimeters in length – but many cases offer 36 or more centimeters of space for graphics cards anyway.
In some cases, part of the hard drive cage can be removed to create more space. As a rule, there are still at least two slots left for hard drives, which should be completely sufficient for most users.
But don’t measure things too tightly: If the permissible length according to the housing manufacturer is only 0.5 centimeters more than the graphics card length, there can be problems during installation, since you may have to hold the graphics card at a little angle and it needs a little more space as a result .
For CPU coolers you also have to pay attention to the space. The case manufacturers specify a maximum height for CPU coolers, the CPU cooler producers in turn specify the dimensions of their coolers. 16 centimeters of space is enough for a decent cooler: there are a good 300 models on the market that are between 13 and 16 centimeters high. Another 80 or so are between 16 and 16.5 centimeters high. But only 30 specimens exceed 16.5 centimeters. In this context, we also want to deal with radiators – we will do so on the following pages.