Top Product: Phanteks Eclipse P400A
In some ways, your computer case is one of the least important parts of your build—after all, you could run it on a cardboard box and still get the same performance as you would in a case. But your case also determines the look, thermal performance, and noise level of the whole system—and, if it’s well-built, it can last you many builds into the future.
There are literally hundreds of cases on the market, so we couldn’t cover every good case in this guide—but if you don’t want to dig through dozens of search results, these are easily the best of the bunch. We’re also focusing on mid-tower cases, since that’s the most popular form factor—though Micro-ATX is also a great option without many sacrifices, and Mini-ITX can build you a pretty sick small form factor build if you don’t need much expansion. These are the best mid-tower cases that should go on your short list.
Best ATX for Airflow: Phanteks Eclipse P400A
The Phanteks Eclipse P400A might be the best case for most people: it’s well-priced, easy to build in, and offers great airflow performance with its mesh front and three RGB fans. (If you already have fans, this version is even cheaper). It comes in black and white, and its tempered glass side panel allows you to marvel at your build all day long while keeping your cables hidden away with the rubber grommets and power supply shroud. You don’t get a ton of front IO—just two USB ports and a mic/headphone jack—but it’ll do the trick for the majority of users. Phanteks also offers the P500A, which is a bit bigger and more expensive but provides even better thermal performance.
Best Compact: Fractal Design Meshify C
Fractal Design’s Meshify C is incredibly popular, and it’s easy to see why: its unique front panel design offers great airflow with a unique look, and it’s extremely affordable. (The window-less version is the cheapest, while the model with the glass side panel costs a few bucks more—with both black and white available.) You will, however, likely need to factor in the cost of a few extra fans, since it doesn’t come with many. For your efforts, though, you’ll get a case that performs great at a remarkably compact size, since it eschews hard drive cases for a shorter profile. If you need more room, check out Fractal’s Meshify S2.
Best Budget Case: SilverStone Technology FARA R1
Budget cases have come a long way, and with price fluctuations, it’s hard to pick one best bang for the buck. Right now, SilverStone’s FARA R1 is one of the best affordable cases on the market, with solid airflow, tempered glass, three USB ports on the front, and great aesthetics for a solid price. It’s also quite small for a mid-tower case, so you should have no trouble fitting it on your desk. There are cheaper cases out there if you just want a plastic box to put your PC in, but this is as low as we’d recommend before you start making big sacrifices.
Best Silent Case: be quiet! Pure Base 500
If you can’t stand the sound of whirring fans and spinning hard drives, you can build a super-quiet machine—as long as you sacrifice some airflow. Manufacturer be quiet! lives up to their name by building some of the quietest cases on the market, like the well-priced Pure Base 500. With silence-focused fans and foam insulation on all the panels, the Pure Base 500 will keep your computer running as quietly as possible. If you like the cut of be quiet’s jib but want a bit more airflow, the Pure Base 500DX is a great airflow-focused alternative.
Best for High-End Water Cooling: Lian Li PC-O11 Dynamic
Compact mid-tower cases are great if you’re building a typical air-cooled PC, but water coolers have more complex requirements. When it comes to custom water cooling loops, it’s hard to beat the Lian Li PC-O11 Dynamic, which comes in black, silver, white, and a Razer edition with the snake logo etched on the front. Its layout is non-standard, putting the power supply in a separate chamber behind the motherboard, but it allows for a huge radiator up the side of the case, and an incredibly snazzy look to boot. You’ll need to buy your own fans, since it doesn’t come with any of its own, but if you’re building a custom water cooling loop, you were probably planning on doing that anyway.
Best Design: NZXT H510
NZXT’s H510 has an incredibly modern look: clean lines on the outside, gamer accents on the inside. You can get it in all-black, white-and-black, or black-and-red, depending on your color preferences. It doesn’t have the airflow of the other cases on this list, so it may not be able to keep your components as cool, but if you don’t like the mesh look, that may be a sacrifice you’re willing to make. You can also upgrade to the H510 Elite for a more blinged-out build, albeit at a higher cost.
Runner-up, Best Design: Corsair 4000D
I’ve always liked the look of Corsair’s cases. With clean lines and sharp edges, they strike a good balance between looking good without going whole-hog gamer, and the well-priced 4000 series is no exception. Corsair’s 4000D Airflow offers a wide triangle mesh pattern on the front for good temperatures while still looking great, and the standard 4000D sacrifices some of that airflow for an even cleaner appearance (if you can handle the hotter temperatures).
Best Cable Management: Lian Li Lancool II
Lian Li is typically known for their pricey cases, but the Lancool series is shockingly affordable. The Lancool II is extremely modular, offering a number of ways to build your system. You can reposition the front fan mount, hide your cables behind a bevy of screw-on panels, and the power supply chamber even has its own little door for easy access. Oh, and its RGB lighting on the front is pretty baller—though the Lancool II Mesh gives that up for better airflow, if you care more about performance.