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Computer Cases

Computer Case Buying Guide
There's no point in painting a great picture if you're nev...
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Computer Case Buying Guide

There's no point in painting a great picture if you're never going to frame it so there's no point in building your own custom computer and neglecting the case that everything will go in. No matter how little or how much you want to spend on a computer case, you will be presented with a ton of options. These different choices will offer a huge variety in the styling of the case itself as well as the features of the case. You can house your new computer in a case worth under £25 or in a case worth several hundred. What are the differences? Let me explain.

The most notable thing people can tell with cheaper cases compared to more expensive ones is the build quality of the case itself. Is it made out of aluminum, thin steel or thicker steel panels? Not only does the material dictate how sturdy the case will feel when you pick it up or stress it, but it will also play a large roll in how much noise (both audible and electronic) will escape the case. Thicker materials like steel are better at reducing the noise of the fans and hard drives on the outside of the case. Additionally, steel side panels will also greatly reduce the amount of electrostatic interference that your computer system can cause to sensitive devices which are nearby. Although aluminum is a cheaper material to make a case from, since it is so thin and light it lets a lot more noise through.

Case design is a big factor for a lot of buyers because looks can sometimes be very important. For those who don't care what it looks like, such as office users and casual home users, you can usually pick up a cheap and generic looking beige or black case fairly cheap at your local computer store. The downside to these cases is that a lot of them have a simple internal design which can sometimes mean a poor cooling setup and/or lack of clearance for larger hardware like some video cards. For those willing to put a little more time into case shopping you can often pick up slightly better cases for not a whole lot more than a cheap one would cost you. These often come with slightly improved looks and a much nicer internal setup. However, those putting a lot of money into a nice new system will usually want to do the same with a case, and this is where things can get really fancy with the designs. Visually, more expensive cases will often have things like doors to cover your bays, better paint (such as gloss finishes) and window options. The ways these visual improvements are implemented are totally up to the designer so you might see several different variations on something as simple as a bay door or a side window, depending on how the manufacturers choose to design and incorporate it. Internally, better cases will leave you with a lot of options for both cooling and hardware placement. Although tool-less installation is quite common on most enthusiast cases these days, it's the things like hard drive bay placement, clearance for long video cards and overall hardware layout that will change between cases. There is no right or wrong design type to buy, it's just up to you and how you personally would like things laid out for the type of system you are building.

Cooling is typically provided by 80mm fans in cheaper cases where as more expensive cases will use 120mm fans. Keep in mind that most cases will only include one fan unless you're paying more, so be prepared to purchase another one or two too allow for adequate airflow for your system. The advantage to using larger fans, like the 120mm size, is that they can spin slower than a smaller fan and generally will move a lot more air. These slower fan speeds will of course lead to much less noise in your system than smaller fans. The recommended setup for most computers is at least an intake and an exhaust fan in your case. This allows the air to be pulled into the case, pass over all your components, then exit out the back. Many mid-range to high end cases will also incorporate things such as a door fan, top exhaust fan, and sometimes even a fan on the right side of the case to aid in cooling the hard drive bays. Of course the sky is the limit for designers and you will easily be able to find cases with fans just about everywhere you can fit them.

When the time comes to actually visit the stores and go to online retailers for that “perfect case” you will likely find many other small features that I didn't get a chance to touch on here. I'm seeing some manufacturers incorporating LCD display panels and hot-swap drive racks into their cases as well as much more! Hopefully through the background I've given you here, you will be able to shop for that new PC case with a better background of what to look for and a few more of your questions already answered. Happy shopping!

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