Computer cases have come a long way from the ubiquitous gray or beige case. Ever since Apple came up with the revolutionary concept a few years back that your computer could be good looking, case manufacturers have been splashing out with colored plastic and clear perspex to turn ugly duckling cases into something you are not going to be embarrassed about in the corner of your room.
Take this pretty Chieftec case. Cases like this are at the current cutting edge of computer case design and as such they cost a premium over their more bland competitors. However the difference in cost between a top of the range case like this one and a drab gray traditional box could be only $30-$40 so it may just be worth it.
Beginners guide to computer cases
First thing you need to know about computer cases is that the come in a range of sizes. At each end of the scale they are both a bit of a compromise.
Too small and even a shoehorn won’t let you get all you drives etc into the case and if you do get it all in, it could overheat as everything is so close together.
Too large and it won’t fit under your desk!
At the small end of the scale you have the mini tower, slightly larger is the mid-tower and the big brother is the full tower. When you are buying check the dimensions and you won’t have any surprises.
One important factor when deciding on a case is the number of external drive bays. I would like to have at least three 5.25″ bays one for a CD-RW, one for a DVD drive and one spare. I also like to have at least two 3.5″ bays, one for a floppy drive and one spare. You never know what next years must have device is, so it always good to have that extra space.
Mini towers are useful when you are short on space around your desk. This tiny Powmax has a width of just 5 1/8″ a height of just 12 3/8″ and a depth of just 14″. If you feel you can get away with just one 5 1/4″ bay then this could be the case for you. Like many cases it comes equipped with a power supply.
Mid towers are larger in size and can usually accommodate more inside. This sexy case Artec case is 17.13″ high, 7.28″ wide and has a depth of 17.33″. It can accommodate four external 5.25″ bays and two external 3.5″ bays and three internal 3.5″. It also has a rather ‘cool’ 3 color fan on the side panel and two fan slots in rear. It will support ATX, microATX and Baby AT motherboard form factors too.
Full towers can be huge, but some may be not much bigger than a mid tower. There is no predefined high definition for what constitutes a mini, mid or full tower, so there may even be some overlap in the sizes. I’ll say it again, when you are buying check the dimensions and you won’t have any surprises.
Here is a top of the range and quite expensive ThermalTake case. It’s dimensions are H 20.9″, W 8.1″, D 20.5″, but comes with a 420Watt power supply, 7 case fans and top mounted USB2.0, IEEE1394 Firewire, MIC and speaker ports .
An ATX case is a case that will allow you to install an ATX motherboard. ATX motherboards are currently the most common.
An AT case is a case that will allow you to install an AT motherboard. AT motherboards are an older design and are becoming harder to find.
A Micro ATX case is a case that will allow you to install a micro ATX motherboard. As the name would suggest the Micro ATX motherboards are smaller than the standard ATX motherboard. The Powmax case above is a micro ATX case.