What makes a good computer case and what makes me qualified to give my opinion on this delicate topic? It’s simple, I like hot dogs.
I like eating hot dogs on a potato bun with crushed Doritos on top. I then sprinkle on some onions, add a few dabs of spicy mustard and a jalapeño or three. Just because I like it this way doesn’t make it the chosen hot dog of the masses. But it does show that I take making hot dogs seriously. It is with my attention to detail that I make the comparison of hot dogs to computers. While they look, smell and taste different, the importance of their overall construction is equally critical. Think of the actual hot dog as the computer, the toppings as components. Now imagine the bun as the case. A wise man once said “Not all buns are created equal,” and when constructing the perfect hot dog, you must select a bun worthy of your twisted carnal appetites. The same goes with computers.
What Makes A Good Computer Case?
That’s a difficult question, as computers have taken on a variety of roles in modern households. Gone are the days of the private office area where a computer was merely used to perform word processing, home finances and other mundane tasks. Computers are now located in centralized areas of our homes, usually within reach of our ADHD fingertips. As a result, computer cases come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit their purpose. If you were using the PC in your media cabinet, a smaller (preferably horizontal) case that matches your hi-fi system would be necessary because these cases are compact and closely resemble a DVD player in physical dimension. But if you were building a gaming machine, a larger case with extra fans would be more appropriate.
When thinking about building a computer, consider the following important qualities of a good computer case:
Form Factor – If this is going in a media cabinet, chances are the motherboard form factor will be a micro-ATX. The motherboard and case need to be physically compatible, so this is the first decision you need to make. In addition, these smaller cases will utilize a smaller power supply so you will need to choose your internal components carefully, selecting hardware that generates low heat and use less power.
The Moneual MonCaso 320B Home Theater PC Case is a great example of of something that would fit in nicely with high-end hifi systems. Again, due to the form factor, the inside components must be chosen carefully to prevent the system from overheating.
Material – Aluminum, or steel? Aluminum is lighter, prettier and more expensive. Most good cases will be steel and plastic with some aluminum or glass added for looks. If you plan on lugging your rig around a lot, an aluminum case might be worth the extra cost. Whether you go with aluminum or steel, make sure the case is solidly constructed. There’s nothing more annoying that a case that vibrates.
Drive Rails or Cages – If you like to swap out your drives, a rail system is preferred as it doesn’t require you to remove both side panels and allows you to easily add or replace hard drives. Cages often require you to open the other side of the case to secure the hard drive in place, but some cages are designed to be removable to make installation easier.
Fans and Components - You will often not get a choice of how you layout your components in a media case, but a good full size case will often have a bottom-mounted power supply, plenty of fans and cable routing slots that allow for easy air flow and a more aesthetically pleasing look.
A good example of a computer case with these features is the Antec 1100 shown above. Clean cable routing, a bottom mounted power supply, a top 200mm exhaust fan and rear 120mm fan allows for plenty of cooling for a gaming PC.
Front-mounted I/O Ports – A good computer case will have a few frontal USB 2.0 (and maybe even USB 3.0) ports along with audio jacks that make interfacing with your PC easier.
Access – While just a preference, I prefer tool-less access case designs. While it’s not a deal-breaker, it just makes opening and removing hardware easier.
Computer Case Summary
Okay, while I did little to actually explain why computer cases are like hot dogs, I don’t think that matters. The true goal of this article was to give you something to think about next time you build a PC. Cases are important–not just for your current build, but for future builds and expansion. Spend a little extra on a solid case with good ventilation and the ability to adapt to upcoming technology. How the case looks, what you plan on doing with your computer, and where the PC will be located are all personal preference in the anatomy of a good computer case.
Let us know what you think makes a good PC case, or more importantly, a great hot dog.