Computer Case – Selecting the Right Chassis For Your Computer System

Whether you are buying a new computer or building one yourself, the first decision you need to make is selecting a case. Cases have evolved drastically over the past 10 years, not only in style, but in functionality and features.A computer case is also frequently referred to as the chassis, other case designations are tower, cabinet, box, enclosure or housing. Cases are most commonly constructed out of a combination of steel, aluminum and plastic. I recommend cases that contain more steel than aluminum. Steel is a much stronger and heavier metal which produces a much quieter system. Cases made out of aluminum tend to vibrate more and dent easier.There are a myriad of case choices available today. The 2 main case types are ATX Mid Tower & ATX Full Tower. Mid Tower cases are of course smaller than ATX Full Tower cases, the exact physical dimensions will vary, there is no standard size of ATX Mid Tower or ATX Full Tower. I have found that most ATX Full Tower cases will not fit inside standard desk enclosures, this may be an important consideration when choosing your case. Most ATX Mid Tower cases will fit inside a standard desk enclosure, though it is recommended that you measure the desk enclosure and compare that with the exact dimensions of the case you are looking at to ensure that it will fit.The main compartment contains the motherboard tray, this will support ATX, microATX and/or EATX motherboards. Most Full Tower cases will support all 3, and most Mid Tower cases will support ATX and microATX only.A very important feature of modern cases is a CPU retention hole. This hole provides easy access to the rear side of the motherboard for installation or removal of aftermarket CPU heatsinks and fans. This may not seem important at first glance, but not having to remove the entire motherboard to replace a CPU heatsink is very convenient.Another important feature is the power supply placement. Cases feature either a top or bottom mounted installation. Traditionally, most cases had top mounted power supplies, but increasingly manufacturers have moved to a bottom mount, this helps to place more of the weight at the bottom of the case for more stability. Full tower cases with top mounted power supplies tend to be very top heavy and can more easily tip over. In some full tower cases the power supply can be mounted on the top and bottom for a dual PSU system. Dual power supplies are sometimes used in gaming computers with multiple high powered video cards.The case fans are a major consideration. 120mm, 140mm, 200mm are some common fan sizes. I recommend staying away from cases that have 80mm fans, smaller fans tend to be much louder and move less air. Some newer cases include an on/off switch to control the LED lighting. Filtered fan inlets are also a nice feature that reduces the amount of dust that accumulates inside the system. Some cases even have removable fan filters for easier cleaning.Once you have narrowed down your list of case choices based on features and functionality, the final consideration will be the aesthetics of the case. Is the overall look of the case appealing to you? Do you want a case with a clear side panel window? Many cases come with fans that contain LED lighting, typically blue, red or green. Increasingly, cases are also coming with a pure black internal coating that looks much nicer than bare metal.

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