What To Look For In A New Case

There’s a lot to consider when buying a new computer case.  Some people prefer aesthetics over functionality (Apple users) or cost above capability.  Choosing the right case for your next build all depends on what kind of computer you are planning on building.  Is it going to be used for getting on the Internet or doing other simple tasks?  If so, it doesn’t matter what type of airflow rating your case has or whether it can support multiple HDDs without overheating them.

But if you’re going to be constructing a new gaming rig full of the latest spec hardware, you’ll have to consider where you are going to be putting all that bulk as heat is your worst enemy.

We will look at three main points that separate the good cases from the low end rubbish: Stability, Airflow, and Functionality.

A Super Case of Steel

What your case is physically made of goes a long way in determining exactly what it can hold up to.  If it’s nothing but flimsy, easily bendable metal and a lot of plastic, it’s not going to hold up to the rigors of constant use.  Then again, you don’t need a tank of a case if you are building something with an Atom inside, either.

Structurally, you want something that will house all of your components without shorting anything and withstand something falling on it. Depending on where you live, earthquakes and tornadoes are a real threat to all.  You wouldn’t want a painting or TV falling on your new PC and ruining everything inside a shoddily built case.

All retailers sell the cheap to the extreme.  As reiterated above, first thing you need to do is decide what this case is for.  Let’s analyze the cheap case that I linked and see exactly what makes it a sub-par case.  If you have ever handled a cheap case before, you can spot them a mile away.  You remove the side panel and it flexes in your hand making it a pain to put back on.  Not only that but when you reach inside to fiddle around and brush up against the HDD caddies or the optical drive area, you can catch a sharp corner or piece and be cut.  Granted, any case made of metal will hurt if you punch it, but I can’t tell you how many times I have nicked a finger inside a cheap case.

Next, before we can install a motherboard, you try to install the back plate for it.  This can be a chore since when you try and push it in place, the back part of the case bows with it.  You have to find just the right amount of force in opposite corners of it to make it fit and stay in its place.  If the front of the computer is all plastic, you could have some trouble with the front USB or Audio ports.  A few of the ones Ive tested either had sub-standard ports or the ports would almost move when trying to plug even a flash drive into them.  Then some of the time, they would be completely defective right out of the box.  I would be afraid to have more than one HDD in this case do to the extremely close proximity of the drives.

The Benefits of Case Airflow

What makes the “extreme” case such a better buy for a case that will be used in a power gaming environment?  Airflow is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to high end components and attempting to keep them at a functioning temperature.  Case design has a lot to do with exactly how cool all of the parts can be.  Starting with something as innocent as the placement of the power supply, positioning can lead to a more cooler environment.  What is one fundamental property of heat?  It rises.  So with the power supply located at the bottom and venting out the back, it allows for a fan to be placed on the top of the case to help circulate air throughout the case and act as an exhaust for the hot air.

Speaking of fans, look at the two Newegg listings again and compare how many fans come with the system.  Not just how many spots you can add fans, but how many you get when you purchase this case.  Out of the box, this is ready to handle anything that you can throw at it.  Secondly, look at the front of the “cheap” case.  It is all solid plastic with no vents or area for a fan to pull in air.  Now peek back at the other one.  Multiple fan access on the side, front, bottom, top and back for some up to 200mm.  Additionally, the front fan is going to be right in front of your HDDs.  Keeping them cool and running smoothly should be a top priority and will allow you to stack multiple ones without fear of crowding and overheating each other.

Just to make sure everyone is on the same page with the airflow inside of a case, I would like to make this point.  Back when I was working at a local PC shop, someone wanted us to build them a PC from scratch but said he wanted the fans to all be blowing out because he believed that drawing the newly created hot air off the components was the best cooling method.  Simple heat dissipation rules will dictate that bringing in cooler air via your intake fans and having it run over the components circulating through the case and out the exhaust, is the best method for air cooling a system.

Look at the pic at the title of this section and you will get a basic idea of what I’m speaking of, with blue being the intake air/fans and the reddish orange being the hot exhaustible air.  Think about a cars radiator and how it is air cooled.  The fans bring in the cold air from the outside to run over the metal fins of the radiator to cool it down.

Do Pretty Cases Work

Some of the time, but not always, your flashier cases are the more expensive.  Just because they are dazzling to the eyes, doesn’t mean they will function any better than a $30 case would.  With all of the above information, hopefully you will analyze the individual aspects of the case to determine if it is just a sparkly dud or a extravagant stud.  The “extreme” case we have been looking at is a little larger than life and is mainly used to point out all the things done right, but most could get away with a lot less.  One thing in particular it does masterfully is the hot-swappable drive bays.

I’m spoiled from working around servers all day so this is almost a must have for me.  Not only will it make any maintenance flow easier and quicker, but the need for an external drive caddy isn’t an issue any more because you have on the fly instability.  Also, basically all stated about the” cheap” case in the first section is the opposite of this one.  It has a pivoted sturdy removable side panel, USB 3.0 top case side support out of quality components, and is made of steel and some minor plastic molding for the aesthetics of it all.

A Good Computer Case Conclusion

If you are looking for a new case to put your brand new high dollar components in, make sure you do the necessary research to see if it is going to be more harmful than helpful at extending the life of your new PC.  When building that birthday or Christmas present for Mom or Grandma which will be nothing more than a glorified email machine, maybe dropping $150 on a case isnt the best idea but now you will know what parts to look at to pic the best of the cheaper cases.  Fancy LEDs can cover up a plethora of other issues and to the untrained eye, make a seemingly great purchase turn into a nightmare.  Take this knowledge and build a new beast of a machine and post us some pics in the comment section!