Whether you are shopping for a PC case to build your own custom gaming rig or configuring a prebuilt system through a retailer or system builder, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the best gaming PC cases available before making a purchase. This is especially important if you plan to run graphics intensive games under “Maximum Graphics Settings”, “Ultra High Graphics Settings” or “Optimal Graphics Settings” for titles like Battlefield 4, Max Payne 3, Far Cry 3, Witcher 2, Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto GTA IV / GTA V, and Call of Duty: Ghosts. You will want the best PC case specifically designed for your high-performance hardware and gaming needs.
Why you need a gaming PC case for running games at ultra high graphics settings
Running games under their ultra high graphics settings or maximum graphics settings requires that you have the right high-performance hardware to deliver optimal game-changing performance. Superior computer hardware and components tend to take up more space than those found in typical lower-end PCs and require better airflow for cooling in order to enhance performance and maintain stability. These are among the most important reasons why you will need a quality gaming PC case or tower vs. a typical desktop case. A PC gaming system will require a case that is a good match for its unique configuration and ideally should provide enough physical space for hardware upgrades as gaming technology advances. These types of cases generally fall into three categories: Mini-Towers (or Micro-Towers), Mid-Towers, and Full-towers.
Think about the recommended system requirements of the games you play the most
Typical desktop PCs can run certain games just fine but will encounter serious in-game performance issues without a decent video card (GPU) for the more immersive games available. You would need to review your desired system specifications carefully before choosing the perfect gaming PC case. Graphics intensive titles like Battlefield 4 provide in-game options for running graphics under “Low” or “Normal” settings that many typical PCs with lower-end video cards can handle. Game developers will typically provide you with information about minimum system requirements and recommended system requirements for running a game. Read these specifications carefully. Computer systems meeting the minimum requirements will generally only perform well at Low or Normal graphics settings. Recommended systems will allow for running a game at “Maximum Graphics Settings”, “Ultra High Graphics Settings” or “Optimal Graphics Settings” showing you more in-game stunning detail and smooth textures. But, that’s not always the best option for a system build. Game developer specifications are good to go by, but many experienced gaming enthusiasts would probably urge you to build or purchase a prebuilt system from a retailer that exceeds the game developer’s recommended system requirements in order to get the most out of your gaming experience for a particular game. Using this approach also means that your system won’t become outdated too quickly.
Corsair Vengeance Series Military Green C70 Mid Tower Computer Case (CC-9011018-WW)
How to choose the best gaming PC case
What is the best gaming PC case for you? That all depends mostly on your unique configuration – what hard drive, GPU, mainboard, RAM / DIMM modules, etc. that you will be choosing for your optimal gaming experience. You should also decide if optional features are important like portability (whether the system is moved with ease with built-in handles), overall design and looks, fan speed controls, number of hard drive bays, temperature display panel, and so on. If you think you will be doing extreme overclocking of your CPU or GPU, then you also need to consider cooling requirements like water cooling. Water cooling is best accomplished with a full-tower PC case to provide the most room for radiators and hoses. Many mid-towers have enough room for water cooling but may limit the number of options available depending on the model.
Below I will cover a few important points that are good to consider when deciding on the type of gaming PC case to meet your specs.
#1 Slim micro-towers (console-sized cases) vs full to mid-size PC towers
Don’t make the mistake of choosing a slim micro-tower PC case solely for its space saving size. Unless you are an expert at building mini gaming rigs with all their tight spaces, it’s advisable to “go big” and avoid the slim mini-tower / micro-tower idea altogether. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to perform maintenance tasks or upgrades when there is little space to maneuver around components. Additionally, limited space can mean limited upgrades due to micro ATX. You may find it difficult or impossible upgrading mini-towers or console-sized cases to SLI (a dual or triple GPU setup) or limitations to the number of DIMM / RAM memory modules or mainboard capacity. Since the pace of gaming technology advancement never slows, you’ll be wanting to make modest component upgrades frequently to stay current. In most instances, a larger case makes upgrading easier and even cheaper with a variety of options constantly available. If you are looking for a more compact design then mid-towers are the most popular option currently.
I should note that it’s not all bad news in the slim micro-tower / console-sized category and the future looks bright even for “enthusiast-level” requirements. Even now there are some very compact cases with builds that compartmentalize certain components making them a little more accessible than previous models with micro ATX motherboards matching standard ATX in many ways. Prebuilt slim micro-tower PCs like Digital Storm’s Bolt and Falcon Northwest’s Tiki are really starting to gain popularity and they are truly powerful systems. Both of these PCs are very thought-out and organized with some of the most commonly upgraded components placed in accessible areas within the case. As technology advances slim cases may gain permanent enthusiast-level recognition. So “smaller” could likely mean “better” in the years ahead, but still not the best solution for 2014 in regard to absolute flexibility.
What to look for:
— Full-towers (especially flexible for a wide array of air cooling and water cooling options, ample upgrades, and dual/triple SLI)
— Mid-towers (more compact, less air cooling and water cooling options than a full-tower, good for upgrades, SLI, etc.)
Recommended gaming PC case models with plenty of room:
#2 Get a PC case with adequate airflow, cooling, and dust filtering
Graphics cards / Graphics Processing Units GPUs generate a lot of heat. Altogether with your other components such as power supply and CPU, there will tend to be cumulative heat buildups within the PC case that can slow game performance or even destroy hardware over time. While onboard fans are provided for most GPUs and other components, it’s highly recommended that you add additional case fans for airflow. Water/liquid cooling should be installed to enhance performance and to protect your GPU and CPU if you are considering extreme overclocking. When you decide on your hardware keep in mind that your case will need to be roomy enough for the GPU and any additional fans and/or hoses associated with liquid cooling for extreme overclocking. However, if you’re only planning on doing minimal overclocking, then water / liquid cooling is a bit overboard unless you are building a very quiet system. Don’t overlook airflow and vents to make sure air has a clear pathway to through the case and for hot air to escape.
Removable dust filters are included in some cases. Depending on the environment where you use your PC this might be a good feature to help avoid problems like debris buildup on your heatsink, radiator, or other parts.
What to look for:
— Isolated cooling zones/cooling subsystems or an efficient direct airflow path.
— Pre-drilled support for radiators and fans.
— Flexible fan mounting options.
— Removable intake dust filters.
— Fan speed controls (optional).
— Temperature readout (optional).
— Water cooling capable (typically optional unless extreme overclocking).
Recommended models focused on airflow and cooling:
#3 Think about noise reduction. Your fans can make a lot of noise without insulation!
What generates noise in a PC? Mostly fans do. The processor fan, the case fan, video card fans, power supply fans, and the hard drive if it’s not an SSD drive. Note: SSD drives are silent because they utilize memory chips rather than spinning metal disks.
Many gaming PC cases are built to show-off their engines so to speak– that is, with viewing ports (windows) to actually see the hardware and optional lighting contained inside the case. But, with this set up you limit the amount of sound insulation for sound reduction. If noise reduction is your thing go for an enclosed case that has sound damped doors and panels. You can take this to another level with liquid cooling to cut-down on fan noise. You can also get cases with fan controls or use software to control fan speed.
What to look for:
— An enclosed case made with sound-deadening steel/polycarbonate.
— A case made with sound damped doors and panels.
— Fan speed controls (optional).
— Water cooling capable (optional).
Recommended models with the best noise reduction (quiet cases):