From UNSW PCSoc Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Often overlooked, the case is one of the most important computer parts as it houses and displays all your expensive PC components. Cases come in a range of form factors, from small footprint Mini-ITX cases ideal for HPC setups, to large full towers designed to fit those two water cooling reservoirs that you totally needed. They also come in a range of price points to fit any budget. Like most parts, typically the more money you spend, the better the build quality will be, and the more features you will get.

Full Tower

A full tower is what people typically associate with desktop computers: a large rectangular box capable of holding everything you might need for a full workstation or gaming setup. Full towers typically contain 3 5.25" bays, and support 4-6 3.5" and 4-6 2.5" drives for all your data hoarding needs. They also support all sizes of motherboard ATX and smaller, meaning that they are the go to case size to support tri and quad SLI/Crossfire GPU setups.

The primary benefit for picking a full tower over one of the smaller alternatives is the sheer amount of internal space that you get, which is particularly useful for those planning to do a water cooled build. This is because water cooling requires additional components such as radiators, pumps and reservoirs; positioning of which is greatly aided by the additional room. Manufacturers who design full tower cases are also aware of this as their target market, and as a result these cases often have inbuilt mounting holes to aid in positioning these components.

A full towers primary strength is also its primary weakness: it's size and weight. These cases, particularly when fully loaded with with parts, are very heavy and bulky and are typically a pain to try and move on your own. If you plan to bring your computer to LANs or are the type of person who moves houses a lot a smaller case size is most likely more suitable.

Mid Tower

The smaller sibling of the full tower, the mid tower offers almost all of the same parts compatibility but with a smaller footprint and size. Mid towers come in two size brackets named after the largest motherboard that they support: ATX or Micro-ATX.

An ATX mid tower typically comes with 2 5.25" bays, and support for 4 3.5" and 2 2.5" drives. On the other hand, Micro-ATX mid towers typically come with either one or no 5.25" bays, and support 1-2 3.5" and 2 2.5" drives.



A form factor that has won over minimalist computer enthusiasts, the mini-ITX specification mandates a 170mm x 170mm motherboard footprint, which leaves exactly no space for any more than one PCI-Express slot. As such, most mini-ITX cases capitalise on this minimalism to a large extent, providing little more than enough space to fit your motherboard, CPU, cooler, graphics card, power supply, and varying configurations of 2.5" and 3.5" slots, although generally no more than 4 drives in total.

Some mini-ITX cases have a maximum displacement of barely more than a shoebox with very novel and innovative designs, while some resemble bigger towers in terms of design, just scaled down.

Not all mini-ITX cases accept the same components, however - due to the shape of some mini-ITX cases they may require a significantly smaller space being taken up by a power supply unit. As such, SFX or TFX power supplies are used.

With the reduced footprint comes reduced space to fit in sufficient cooling and cable management. As such, mini-ITX cases are colloquially known as "heat-boxes" due to the toasty temperatures these cases can achieve due to insufficient airflow.

Special Cases

  • Super Tower
  • Test Bench

Things to consider when choosing a case

  • Side panel windows
  • Included fans/fan spots
  • Fan filters
  • HDD/SSD bays
  • CD/DVD bays
  • Cable management options
  • Watercooling
  • Raw space