(Reading this via e-mail? Make sure to click on “Show Pictures” or to allow pictures to show, as there many pictures of cases featured in this article)

Antec DF-85

The Antec DF-85, one of the 114 cases featured in this article.

Computer Case: Showcasing your custom PC

Unlike most parts in a computer, I can’t recommend computer cases based on their performance for their price, since PC cases don’t directly influence performance.

However, the case is what protects your fragile components, cool them down and helps you showcase your awesome computer.

The Computer Case is what your friends, family and colleagues will see when they see your PC. If you want to make your own PC look awesome, professional or outstanding, this where your case will make a major difference.

Here’s What to Look for When Buying a Computer Case:

  • Its look: What is the best look is based on your tastes obviously, so I can’t pick for you here. Pick a look that suits you, the environment where the computer will be located and the rest of the people living with you if applicable.
  • Its size: Mini-Tower, Mid Tower, Full-size Tower, Mini-ITX, Media Center, HTPC, Desktop, etc. If all you want to build is a small discrete server, a smaller case will do for you. However, if you want a monster gaming rig with a powerful processor and two high-end video cards, a full size tower, with all the space and cooling that it offers, will suit you best.
  • What motherboard size(s) it supports: Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, Baby AT, EATX (Extended ATX), etc. Make sure that the case you buy supports the size type of your motherboard.
  • The material used and the thickness of the metal: Plastic is light and inexpensive, but also not very solid. Aluminum is light, looks good, but is expensive and less solid than steel. Steel is the most solid material, but also the heaviest. Keep in mind that there’s a lot of difference between a thickness of say 0.5mm and 1.2mm. Too thin and your case will be flimsy.
  • Cooling: A bigger case gives more room for your components to breath. It also allows you to install more and bigger fans. When it comes to case cooling, the more fans you have and the bigger they are, the better your temperatures will be.
  • Noise: Now, while more fans will cool better, more fans will also create more noise. For less noise, look for bigger fans (at least 120mm preferably) that rotates slower and moves as much or more air for a lower noise level compared to smaller fans that have to spin faster and make more noise to move as much air compared to bigger fans. Some cases are also equipped with noise dampening material and rubber mountings to absorb vibrations, reducing the overall level of sound. Note that you can also get a fan controller to control the speed and noise of your case fans.
  • Tool-less assembling: A pro for some, a con for others. A tool-less design for assembling tend to make things more simple if it’s well designed, however, it it’s not properly executed, it can also be not as effective to secure parts, unlike good old screws. Pros system builders tend to prefer not having a tool-less design for a more secure installation and cut down on the case price. Beginners appreciate the friendly tool-less design because it’s usually more simple to assemble.
  • Number of drives: 5.25″ drive bays for Optical Drives, external 3.5 for floppy drives, or swappable hard drive and internal 3.5″ drive bay. Most people only have a single hard drive and a single optical drive, so the vast majority of cases will be fine, but if you have a lot of hard drives, make sure that you have enough bays to install them all. Getting a SSD? Make sure that the case features either a 3.5″->2.5″ adapter or the specific space for a SSD.
  • Front Panel Ports: USB, E-SATA, FireWire and Audio are commonly found on the front panel ports for easy access.

Keep in mind:

Prices for B&H as of August 5th 2011. Click on Amazon links to see prices. Note that I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Keep in mind that this list is based on the best U.S. prices from NewEgg. Prices and availability change everyday. I can’t keep up with accurate pricing everyday, but I can suggest to you great cases that you won’t regret buying at the price ranges that I list.

Let’s get started!

Best Computer Case for up to $50:

Rosewill DESTROYER

Rosewill DESTROYER

Size: Mid Tower
Dimensions (L x W x H): 18.78″ x 7.41″ x 17.49″
Supported Motherboard Size(s): ATX, MICRO-ATX
Material used: SECC Steel
Cooling: 3 x 120mm fans included, supports up to seven 120mm fans.
Tool-less Assembling: Nope
External 5.25″ drive bays: 5
External 3.5″ drive bays: 0 or 1 (You lose a 5.25″ drive bay)
Internal 3.5″ drive bays: 3
Front Panel Ports: Audio, 2 USB and E-SATA

About the Rosewill Destroyer: For $45, you can get a great looking case with good cooling cooling to begin with, ready to upgrade with four more 120mm fans if you want to have top-notch cooling. Available for $45 on NewEgg, it’s a deal that’s hard to beat.

Obviously, I realize that we all have different tastes and preferences when it comes to the look of our own personal PC case.

This is why I recommend this variety of alternatives cases, in no particular order, with pictures so you can see what they look like:
Click on the pictures for additional pictures and details on a particular case.

Xigmatek ASGARD IIThermaltake V4GIGABYTE GZ-X4BPD-500Thermaltake VL60001N2ZIN WIN GriffinCOOLER MASTER Centurion 534XION Solaris XON-403NZXT M59COOLER MASTER ELITE 335APEX TX-381-CRosewill BlackboneRosewill CHALLENGERNZXT GAMMAThermaltake V3LIAN LI Lancool PC-K58Antec TWO HUNDREDCOOLER MASTER Elite 310 RedBroadway FX-REDBroadway Com Corp FX-Series FX-YELLOWCOOLER MASTER Elite 310 BlueCOOLER MASTER Elite 310 Orange

Best Case from $50 to $75:

Antec Three Hundred Illusion

Antec Three Hundred Illusion

Size: Mid Tower
Dimensions (L x W x H): 18.30″ x 8.10″ x 18.00″
Supported Motherboard Size(s): ATX
Material used: Steel
Cooling: (Rear) 1 x 120mm, (Front) 2 x 120mm Blue LEDs with 3-speed switches, (Top) 1 x 140mm Blue LEDs with 2-speed switch. Supports an additional 120mm case fan on the side panel.
Tool-less Assembling: Nope
External 5.25″ drive bays: 3
External 3.5″ drive bays: 0
Internal 3.5″ drive bays: 6
Front Panel Ports: Audio and two USB ports.

About the Antec Three Hundred Illusion: If you like the Antec Three Hundred but are looking for more ventilation or if you like the classic Antec Nine Hundred but find it too expensive, the Antec Three Hundred Illusion is a great choice for you. For $70, this case comes with four cooling fans, three of them with speed switches so you can manually adjust the speed of your fans, for either performance, silence or a nice balance. Good to know: Despite all that cooling power, you don’t have to worry too much about dust accumulating in your case, as it includes washable air filters. Available for $70

Alternatives cases in the $50-$75 price range, in no particular order, with pictures so you can see what they look like:
Click on the pictures for additional pictures and details on a particular case.

COOLER MASTER RC-690-KKN1-GPCOOLER MASTER Centurion 5 IIXION XON-CBX01-RD CyborGXThermaltake V5NZXT VulcanAntec Two Hundred Version 2COOLER MASTER Elite NV-334-KWN1-GPLIAN LI Lancool PC-K58WLIAN LI Lancool PC-K58RAIDMAX AZTEC ATX-619WY YellowRAIDMAX AZTEC ATX-619WO OrangeRAIDMAX QuantumSunbeam Freezing-StormRosewill CRUISERAZZA Helios 910GIGABYTE Triton 180NZXT LEXA S LEXSThermaltake SopranoRSNZXT AlphaRAIDMAX SMILODONNZXT Apollo

Best Case from $75 to $100:

LIAN LI Lancool PC-K62

LIAN LI Lancool PC-K62

Size: Mid Tower
Dimensions (L x W x H): 19.61″ x 8.43″ x 19.53″
Supported Motherboard Size(s): Micro-ATX, ATX
Material used: 0.8 mm SECC Steel, Plastic + Mesh
Cooling: 1 x 140mm Blue LEDs (Front), 2 x 140mm Blue LEDs (Top) and 1 x 120mm (Back)
Tool-less Assembling: Yes, Tool-less & anti-vibration design on 5.25″ & 3.5″ device cage, PCI card holder, power supply holder, fan mounting and motherboard fixing.
External 5.25″ drive bays: 5
External 3.5″ drive bays: 0
Internal 3.5″ drive bays: 4
Front Panel Ports: Audio and 2 USB

About the LIAN LI Lancool PC-K62: This case was designed with performance and silence in mind. The large case fans keep your component cool, yet are silent. The tool-less parts are solid and easy to work with. The anti-vibration design keeps the case even more silent. I personally use this case with a fan controller, keeping the fans near minimum levels for my workstation. I cannot hear a thing coming out of the case (it’s next to me and it’s dead quiet where I live) and my overclocked CPU stays under 40C under load, even on hot summer days.

It features a window on the side, with not too bright blue LEDs fans, which makes it perfect to showcase your build, without flashing too much, why is one of the reason I picked it, because I wanted something that looked good, yet professional.

Best of all? The inside of the case is painted in black and features various holes, including one perfectly located to attach a CPU Cooler. I have worked with many (and I mean MANY) computer cases over the years and I can tell you that the LIAN LI Lancool PC-K62, at its current price of $100 (Instead of $130) is definitely one the best deals that you can get for such a wonderful case.

Obviously, I realize that not everyone share my tastes, so here are so other great alternatives in the same $75-$100 price range:

Alternatives cases, in no particular order, with pictures so you can see what they look like:
Click on the pictures for additional pictures and details on a particular case.

XCLIO A380COLORCOOLER MASTER HAF 922Antec Nine HundredXCLIO WindtunnelXCLIO A380BKCOOLER MASTER Storm ScoutNZXT Guardian 921Antec SoloLIAN LI PC-7BAZZA Solano 1000NZXT Guardian 921LIAN LI Lancool PC-K7BSunbeam TransformerCOOLER MASTER CM690 IICOOLER MASTER NV 690NZXT HUSHLIAN LI PC-A05NBSunbeam AC-9B-HUVBSunbeam AC9B-TNZXT Apollo SILVERNZXT Apollo BLUENZXT TEMPEST EVOIN WIN IW-F430.RLSILVERSTONE TJ08-BLIAN LI PC-7BYCFLIAN LI K60BLIAN LI PC-A05NAAntec Six HundredAntec Six HundredThermaltake Armor A90IN WIN fanquaLIAN LI PC-8NLIAN LI Lancool PC-K56WXigmatek UtgardAntec Dark Fleet DF-30Xigmatek Utgard

Best Case from $100 to $150:

COOLER MASTER HAF 932

COOLER MASTER HAF 932

Size: Full-size Tower
Dimensions (L x W x H): 22.70″ x 9.00″ x 21.50″
Supported Motherboard Size(s): ATX , Micro-ATX, E-ATX
Material used: Plastic and Steel
Cooling: 3 x 230mm and 1 x 140mm
Tool-less Assembling: Yes, for 5.25″ & 3.5″ drive bays and expansion slots
External 5.25″ drive bays: 6
External 3.5″ drive bays: 1
Internal 3.5″ drive bays: 5
Front Panel Ports: Audio, 4 USB, FireWire and E-SATA

About the Cooler Master HAF 932: In a few words, this case is simply wonderful. Equipped with 3 massive 230mm and a 140mm case fans for optimal cooling, 4 USB, Firewire AND E-Sata on the front panel and since it’s a full-size tower, you have plenty of space for an high-end powerful PC. Available for $130 on NewEgg.com

Alternatives cases, in no particular order, with pictures so you can see what they look like:
Click on the pictures for additional pictures and details on a particular case.

COOLER MASTER Storm SniperNZXT NemesisCOOLER MASTER HAF 932 AMD EditionNZXT WHISPERThermaltake Xaser VINZXT Digital Artic-Camo TEMPEST EVOAntec DF-35SILVERSTONE TJ04B-WSILVERSTONE SG04B-FH

Best Case from $150 to $200:

Antec Twelve Hundred

Antec Twelve Hundred

Size: Full Tower
Dimensions (L x W x H): 20.20″ x 8.40″ x 22.90″
Supported Motherboard Size(s): ATX
Material used: Steel
Cooling: 3 x 120mm Blue LEDs (Front), 2 x 120mm Blue LEDs (Back) and 1 x 200mm Blue LEDs (Top)
Tool-less Assembling: Nope.
External 5.25″ drive bays: 3 by default, up to 12
External 3.5″ drive bays: 0
Internal 3.5″ drive bays: Up to 9
Front Panel Ports: Audio, 2 USB

About the Antec Twelve Hundred: Can you say incredible cooling? With five 120mm and one 200mm case fans, this case will help you cool down the most extreme PC without a problem. Available for $175

Alternatives cases, in no particular order, with pictures so you can see what they look like:
Click on the pictures for additional pictures and details on a particular case.

COOLER MASTER HAF X 942LIAN LI PC-A70FAntec DF-85COOLER MASTER COSMOS 1000COOLER MASTER ATCS 840COOLER MASTER HAF 932 BlueAntec P183Thermaltake ArmorPlus Armor+LIAN LI ARMORSUIT PC-P50R

Best Computer Case over $200:

Thermaltake Level 10

Thermaltake Level 10

Size: Super Full Tower
Dimensions (L x W x H): 24.17″ x 12.52″ x 26.22″
Supported Motherboard Size(s):ATX, MicroATX
Material used: Aluminium
Cooling: 1 x 140mm, 1 x 120mm and 1 x 60mm
Tool-less Assembling: Yes
External 5.25″ drive bays: 3
External 3.5″ drive bays: 0
Internal 3.5″ drive bays: 6
Front Panel Ports: Audio, 4 USB and 1 E-SATA

About the Thermaltake Level 10: The design is the collaboration by Thermaltake and BMW Group DesignworksUSA. This results in a truly striking look that is unique. All parts are separated in different enclosures. Available for $800 on NewEgg.com

Alternatives cases, in no particular order, with pictures so you can see what they look like:
Click on the pictures for additional pictures and details on a particular case.

Corsair Obsidian Series 800DXCLIO 777COLOR Black/TitaniumLIAN LI PC-P80ZALMAN Z-MACHINE GT1000-BZALMAN Z-MACHINE GT1000-TLIAN LI PC-8FIRLIAN LI PC-X900RLIAN LI PC-X900AThermaltake NVIDIA EditionABS TIGASSILVERSTONE TJ10B-WNVLIAN LI PC-A77F

Conclusion:

Which one is your favorite case? Any case that you’ve seen for the first time that impressed you? Let us know by commenting right below.

What do you think of the new format of this article, with all the pictures? If you have any suggestions, let me know too!

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