So we have our innards. The GPU, the CPU , RAM, motherboard, hard drive and power supply. But we’re going to need something to put it all in. That’s where our case comes in. Now they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, organized by motherboard size. Since we looked at six motherboards, three ATX and three micro ATX, I’ll be tailoring the cases to that format. The first two cases I’ll look at are from the bottom of the barrel, which is my go to phrase for cheapest. One ATX and one Micro ATX. These cases are functional, to put it nicely. Not the best to look at but they’ll get the job done at a very low price. The other four cases are a little more expensive, but I selected them based on a blend of their aesthetic design and function.
Cheapest PC Cases
First up a look at our cheapest cases. The Raidmax ATX-249B ATX and the DIYPC MA01-G MicroATX. The Raidmax is mid-tower case, so it’ll fit both micro ATX and full ATX motherboards. Its dimensions are 19.3 x 7.9 x 17.7 inches, on the front you have only two USB ports, one 2.0 and one 3.0. It is also pretty limited on HDD space, with only three internal bays. If you need a Blu-Ray or DVD drive it has three external bays that’ll fit it, which is a rare enough feature these days. Overall the build quality is okay, not the highest quality plastics used but for $19.99 that’s to be expected. You won’t find the clever cable sorting features that are on the more expensive cases, so unless you’re very meticulous the inside of the case will look like a perfectly boiled pot of spaghetti, but it will get the job done.
The DIYPC MA01-G MicroATX is, oddly enough, a micro ATX case, as such it will fit only those kinds of board. I really love these small form factor cases, easier to move around and they don’t take up too much space. It too has a base price of $19.99, but some places will charge a premium for shipping. Its dimensions are 14 x 13.2 x 6.8 inches. The downside to the smaller size is the danger of buying a GPU that is too large for the case. It most cases you can remove the larger drive bays, the ones for disk drives, to make up the extra room. This case has space for only one hard drive, so it’ll have to be a biggin, but supports up to two solid state drives to compensate. It has three USB ports, one 3.0 and two 2.0. Overall I think it looks nicer than the Raidmax and the small size will be a boon when transporting the thing. Cable management will be even more of a bother in this case though.
Budget Mid Range PC Cases
Moving on to the medium quality cases, the Cooler Master Elite 342 Micro ATX and the NZXT Source 210 Elite ATX. Both of these companies make fine products, but the edge goes to NZXT. Their cases are a merging of form and function in a way as yet unmatched by any other case manufacturer, though I may be a little biased here due to owning one of them. The Cooler Master is a wonderful little case, compact, but roomy and has excellent build quality. All for only $49.99. It even comes with a little 400w power supply, you’ll likely have to change it depending on your GPU but it’s a nice touch and great value for money. The little case is packed full of drive bays, five for hard drives and two for disk drives, and has a pair of USB 2.0 ports at the front. Its dimensions are 13.85 x 7.08 x 17.32 inches. As with all of the smaller boards you’ll need to be careful about the size of the GPU you’re putting in it.
The NZXT Source 210 is the budget option for NZXT but that didn’t stop them from packing in the features, which means something different in British English. It is the first case that I’m looking at that has those lovely cable management spaces in the back allowing you to easily make a clean and aesthetically pleasing case. It is well designed case, with a simple look and excellent air-flow. You can get it for as little as $43.99 and it also comes in white, which I prefer. Its dimensions are 19.51 x 7.68 x 17.32 inches and has two USB ports, one 3.0 and one 2.0, in the front. It can fit up to eight hard drives and three disk trays. Overall a bargain for first time buyers.
Cheap High End Cases
Now we come to the two cases I am most familiar with. The NZXT H440 and the Corsair 380T. The H440 is my case and the 380T is the case I used for my second build and let me tell you, they are both fantastic. Corsair is one of the most popular manufacturers, the only reason they haven’t shown up on this list until now is their price. They tend to be a little more expensive than their competitors, and for good reason. Few companies can match their build quality. The 380T is unique on this list due to it being a mini ITX case. Now I know I never looked at any mini ITX boards, but I can confirm that it will fit a micro ATX motherboard as well. The big benefit to this case when building a gaming PC is that it will fit even the larger cards. Couple that with the handy handle and you have one hell of a machine with the benefit of portability. It’s a weird one to talk about dimensions with but it is roughly 14 x 11.5 x 15.6 inches. It has a pair of USB 3.0 ports in the front and can fit two hard drives and two solid state drives. It cannot fit a disk drive, but you shouldn’t need one. The front fan is huge, and has variable speed settings. Overall this is one of my favorite cases, pretty, functional and unique. It is however at least $119.99, which may put it just above your price bracket.
The NZXT H440. Where do I start with this case. Look at it. It’s gorgeous. Sleek, elegant and functional. Four front USB ports, two 2.0 and two 3.0. Unsurpassed cable management at the back, excellent air-flow and a nice big window in the side to see your components. It’s a little big, at 18.11 x 8.66 x 18.11 inches but it can pack in the drives, with eleven Hard drive bays and eight solid state drive bays. It too does not support disk trays, to put one in would mar the overall design I say. It’s a little cheaper than the 380T at $108.99 but it is anything but portable. Fully set up the thing weighs a ton. Overall I would call this the best case on the market, not just the best for a budget.
So there we are, a breakdown of PC cases by price. If you’re only the lower end the cheapest case will do you just fine, but I can’t overstate how important a good quality case is. It’s like the power supply in that regard. It’s a part that you’ll keep through all of your builds for years to come, so spending well now is a sound long-term investment. These six aren’t the only options by any means. Whatever one you go for, just make sure you like looking at it.
Remember to take a look at all the articles in this series on building a budget gaming computer.