There’s a lot more to one of the best PC cases than just being a convenient box that stops your motherboard and components from spilling out. You need to consider its size, the airflow within it, the number of front-panel connections it supports, and whether you can attach additional fans or large water-cooling radiators to vent through its sides. These vents often come covered with magnetic dust filters, so reject a cheap case that doesn’t if you want to spare your build the embarrassment of needing to be taken apart and vacuumed.
There’s also cable management to consider. Nice tidy builds have the best airflow; good airflow leads to better cooling; and better cooling can lead to better overclocking results or even higher framerates. Perhaps only by a few FPS, but every little helps, so get those cables routed around the back of the motherboard. Some ‘quiet’ cases fill this space with soundproofing foam, making it harder to run the thicker cables, such as those that spring from the power supply, through and still get the back of the case screwed on.
Then there’s lighting. Now that motherboards, RAM, CPU coolers and graphics cards come festooned with poor-taste flashing LEDs, so the best PC cases have ridges and mounting points where you can attach even more. See-through panels - look out for toughened glass - allow you to peer in and watch the light show. Some cases allow these to be placed on any side, others don’t. There are even vertical mounts for graphics cards, lifting them up into full view so nobody can be in any doubt you’re running one of the best, and that its fans and lights all work.
When building a PC, it’s important to be sure that your case and motherboard match up. There are different sizes of mobo, and a case will need mounting points for the one you’ve chosen. ATX is probably the most common, but look out for Micro ATX, Extended ATX, Ultra ATX and the tiny Micro ITX. They all have screw holes in slightly different places.
Of course, you could also skip the line and just grab a prebuilt from our best gaming PC roundup or via the Prime Day laptop deals. Either way, you'll want awesome peripherals to pair it with, so have a look at the best gaming keyboard and best gaming mouse. Or to simplify some of the more complex terminology around this stuff, have a look at our hardware glossary.
Glance at a checklist of must-have features for a gaming PC case and you’re unlikely to find “stackable” listed on there. But that’s exactly what the Thermaltake Core V21 brings to the table. This impressively customisable little cube can be combined with its brethren for split designs - one half housing your motherboard while the other is dedicated to liquid cooling, for instance. Symmetrical panels and modular fan rails and drive mounts allow for a variety of configurations, with the relatively tool-less design helping you to achieve them with ease. The V21 still has a lot to offer for those without Franken-PC aspirations, too. Large ventilated panels with magnetic dust filters help keep its innards cool, as does the large front 200mm fan. The only downside of this airy design is a lack of noise absorption.
Alternative: Thermaltake Versa H15
If you’re really wanting to scrimp, this even cheaper offering from Thermaltake provides ample space for most m-ATX and mini-ITX builds.
The Corsair Carbide 280X is a successor to the popular Air 240. While sporting a similar form factor, it boasts a slick new design with three tempered glass panels. The regular 280X is reasonably priced for such a solid, attractive chassis, though you’ll likely be tempted to stump up the extra for the RGB SE variant (pictured). This includes two RGB 120mm fans for fantastic rainbow lighting, albeit via Corsair's proprietary iCUE software. What's smart about the 280X is its incognito secondary chamber in which you can hide the PSU, storage drives and - most importantly - the cabling. While you won't receive the best cooling performance from the stock fans, there's room for water-cooling radiators at the front and top of the case.
Alternative: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv mATX
The Phanteks Enthoo Evolv offers great cooling capabilities and looks smashing to boot.
- Looking for more hardware? Here is the best DDR4 RAM for PC gaming in 2019
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- Finally, check out the best gaming monitors available right now
The NZXT S340 mid-tower case was popular for its clean, minimal design and enticing price tag. The H500 revamps this old favourite with a new tempered glass side, increased air intake and other design tweaks. While airflow still isn’t the best due to the solid front, it’s adequate for many builds. The H500’s steel cable management bar and PSU shroud are a godsend for keeping things tidy. This case’s thoughtful design and solid build quality are a pleasant surprise given its reasonable price. This budget hero is smart and understated, and comes in a range of new colours. Splash out a little more for the H500i and you’ll receive smart cooling features and two RGB LED strips, plus the option to mount your GPU vertically.
Alternative: Riotoro CR500
Looking for something even cheaper? The CR500 from Riotoro offers a solid feature-set at a remarkably low price.
Take a look at the Corsair 570X and it's hard to not to fall instantly in love. This stunner is covered in panels of tempered glass and features three RGB fans for a show-stopping display of your rig’s interior. Check out the Mirror Black variant for a reflective surface that reveals all when powered on and lit up. The 570X isn't just a pretty face, either. Glass can be risky for heat but this case is well ventilated with room for six fans and all manner of cooling systems. Full top-panel and face-panel filtration helps keep out dust, the bane of a cool machine. The only disappointment is that cable management is sub-par for such a revealing case.
Alternative: Corsair Obsidian 500D RGB SE
Another marvel of luxurious tempered glass and customisable RGB fans, the Corsair 500D RGB SE is a sight to behold.
A big case doesn't have to mean big money. The Phanteks Enthoo Pro Glass has enough space to swing a cat inside - or at least a very large GPU - without costing the earth. It doesn’t feel like a compromise, either. This case is solidly built and looks the business thanks to a sleek black exterior with tempered glass side panel. One of the Enthoo Pro’s deceptively premium features is tool-less, modular drive bays. Whether you’re prioritising storage or making space for your components or cooling it can be tailored to your needs. Handy cable routing options and Velcro straps ensure that however it’s built, it’s tidy. Thanks to its size, this chassis has both great airflow and space for multiple radiators and fans. Only a front intake and rear exhaust fan are included, but there’s space for up to four more.
Alternative: Cooler Master Stryker SE
Admittedly, the Stryker SE leans more towards the mid-range in pricing but this Stormtrooper-esque goliath offers a lot of interior space for your cash.
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The Cooler Master Cosmos C700P is an ode to excess, pushing boundaries in size, style and customisation - as well as in price and weight. This brushed aluminium brute sports curved tempered glass in a design that wouldn't look out of place on a spaceship. The C700P’s standout feature is its modularity. With cutouts and frame rails on all sides you can mount your motherboard and components in any orientation imaginable - even on the opposite side of the case, switching side panels to match. Needless to say, there's enough room for extensive cooling configurations too. Carry handles let you take the C700P with you, provided that you're strong enough to lift it. Its cool gunmetal grey exterior is something you’ll want to flaunt, after all. The only letdown is the stingy default storage bays allowing just one SSD and two HDDs.
Alternative: be quiet! Dark Base Pro 900 v2
Another highly modular option. This revamped model sports a range of upgrades to an already attractive full tower chassis.