What Should You Buy for Your New PC Build?

If you are building a PC and want to look at your case options, you may be overwhelmed by the number of cases available to choose from. You’ll find different size options from a full tower to a small form factor PC, as well as different designs and airflows.


But what to choose? Should you go for the big, flashy one? Or do you prefer the small, inconspicuous model?

Here’s what you need to know when choosing the case for your PC.


PC case sizes explained

There are currently four popular computer case sizes: full tower, mid tower, mini tower, and small form factor (SFF). While there are no standardized specifications that manufacturers are required to follow for case sizes, a case’s designation is usually determined by its number of 3.5-inch bays. The number of expansion slots on the back of the case also helps with size classification.

Here is a table showing the number of bays, expansion slots, and maximum motherboard size that each case can hold. Note that the maximum motherboard size takes precedence when determining case size. Even if the case you are looking at only has eight expansion slots but can accommodate an EATX motherboard, it can be considered a full tower case.

case size

3.5 inch bays

expansion slots

Maximum motherboard size

full tower

9 to 13

9 to 10

EATX

middle tower

6 to 8

7 to 8

ATX

mini tower

4 to 5

4

MicroATX

Small form factor

1 to 3

2

Mini ITX

What size PC case should you get?

When you build a computer, a PC case might be the last thing on your mind. Don’t overlook this, however, as its size and layout will determine what parts you can install. It can also affect the performance of your final build due to thermal issues.

So, when choosing a PC case, there are a few things to keep in mind.

your available space

Desk with two monitors

Space is one of the most important considerations when choosing a PC case. If you only have a small desk and want to store your CPU on it (or even hang it under the table), you should go for a small form factor or mini-tower case.

You should also choose the smaller housing when setting it up on a shelf or in tight spaces, such as a sliding cabinet. Many small form factor computers make excellent home theater PCs. They are also perfect for minimalists who like clean and elegant spaces.

your main purpose

If you are planning to build a full-fledged gaming PC capable of running the latest games on the latest hardware with maximum specs, then the smallest case you should choose is Mid Tower. If you have the space and budget and can find one that suits your aesthetic, a full tower case is much more ideal. There are also cases designed specifically for gaming.

The interior of these larger cases allows you to fit the latest hardware without worrying about space. Their large volume also helps with air cooling, allowing you to install numerous fans and heatsinks.

You could even install multiple AIO cooler solutions (one for your CPU and another for your GPU) and have room for two radiators. And if you want custom liquid cooling, it’s best to install it with a mid- or full-tower case.

If you’re building a server, especially one with lots of hard drives, lots of RAM, SSDs, and even two processors, then your only choice is a full-tower case. It’s the only one that can house everything you need and has the interior space to prevent all those components from overheating.

But a small form factor chassis is more than enough if you just want to use the PC as a place to store movies or stream them to your living room TV. A mid-tower case should also suffice for regular users who only use their computer for basic office applications and surfing the Internet but don’t want a laptop.

your chosen specifications

an open desktop PC

Some users want a small, minimalist PC, but still want a powerful system. While this is possible with a small form factor or mini-tower case, you need to choose your components carefully. That’s because you might run into issues when you fit the large footprint of an RTX 3080 Ti graphics card into a compact chassis.

Additionally, you may need a GPU riser cable since small form factor cases typically cannot accommodate a graphics card connected directly to the motherboard.

But if you’re running a basic PC – one that runs a processor with integrated graphics and doesn’t require massive cooling – a small form factor or mid-tower case should be more than adequate for your needs.

Your portability needs

If you plan to work on the go, a laptop is the ideal solution. However, if you have two workstations—say, your desk and your home office—and you need the performance of desktop-class chips, a high-performance small form factor chassis is ideal.

With a small form factor case, you can easily unplug all your peripherals and take your PC between your two desks. Some of these suitcases also have built-in handles so you can carry them with one hand. And because they’re modular, it’s easier to upgrade storage, RAM, GPU, and processor on these PCs than it is on laptops.

You can also opt for the non-standard mini pc. However, this even smaller package has more limitations than the slightly larger Small Form Factor package.

your budget

Money in a brown wallet

The cheapest cases on the market are usually mini-tower sized. So if you just want something that works and have no performance or aesthetics considerations, this is your best option. However, if you have a bit more to spend, consider a mid-tower case as the larger size gives you more power and room for upgrades.

Full tower and small form factor cases are typically on the expensive end of the spectrum. With full-tower cases, you usually don’t have to make any additional expenses, since almost all peripherals and cards fit.

However, if you plan to purchase a small form factor case, you may need additional or special parts. For example, some small form factor cases do not accept standard ATX power supplies. Instead, you’ll need to get yourself an SFX power supply to power it.

How big (or small) are you willing to go?

A mid-tower case will suffice for most users’ computing needs. But if you’re saving money, you should also check out the Mini Tower as it gives you what you need without breaking the bank. But if you have the space and want the best possible performance from all your parts, then a full tower case might be just what you need.

However, if you’re chic and value aesthetics, investing in a small form factor case is an absolute must.

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