Not all PC cases are created equal; there are also plenty of polarised opinions on what the best gaming PC case actually offers in terms of specifications and future upgrade options. Naturally, it might take you a heck of a long time (and lots of effort) to gather all this information from influencers, social media and beyond, so we did the grunt work for you in this article.
Also, let’s be honest, finding opinions on the best case for a gaming PC opens up a lot of other rabbit holes, such as price point, airflow considerations, and size (e.g. mid tower PC case vs. E-ATX?) to name a few.
We lined up a few of these important features and specifications, then journeyed out on to the web to discover who recommends what. We checked the recommendations of trusted industry titans Linus Tech Tips, Hardware Canucks, Gamers Nexus and PC Centric.
Note: All information is related to 2020 – 2021 recommended products and prices correct at time of publishing.
What Size PC Case Do I Need For Gaming?
Before we get into who said what and why, let’s take a look at the size options available.
If you’re choosing a PC case based on the amount of room you have on/under your desk, or if you’re limited in space in some way, then case size is important. Conversely, if you’re a gamer looking to install water cooling and CPU cooling, you’ll need to manage this alongside the physical space you have at your desk. A gaming PC requires practicality, functionality and space (for getting your hands in and around the chassis) but is not limited to just one motherboard size. There are five options available when it comes to motherboards, and it’s the first spec you’ll need to check for your build.
Here are the options, and how they are linked to motherboard sizes:
The rare, lesser-spotted XL-ATX case accommodates a monstrous motherboard that is wider and taller than an ATX board. Usually, this size of PC gaming case and motherboard is seen on the menu of overclockers and serious PC enthusiasts, who need a setup capable of handling a 4-way SLI GPU array or a Crossfire arrangement.
Full Tower or Extended ATX (E-ATX) Case
The full tower/E-ATX is designed to fit all of the many customisations & cooling systems available. With some GPUs being larger in size now, and coming equipped with their own cooling fans, the full tower allows you to purchase GPUs as chunky as the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT, for example, which is 26.7cm long.
Pictured: Linus Sebastian of Linus Tech Tips next to an E-ATX case
Also, if you are looking to build a customised case with RGBs and a big viewing pane through tempered glass, then full tower/E-ATX is the way to go. With 40%-60% more internal space than an ATX in cases like the Corsair 7000D/7000X, you will have ample room multiple SSD drives, fans, CPU coolers or water cooling, not to mention RGB support.
MIDI Tower (ATX) Case or Mid Tower
The most common ATX Midi tower case is the perfect balance for those who do not have a lot of footprint space, but who also want to benefit from decent sized cooling fans and popular ATX sized motherboards & components.
Physical size puts it right between the Full tower and Micro ATX case and allows for a lot of the standard components out there such as 360mm radiators, tall or low profile heatsinks and CPU coolers. The ATX case also enables you to purchase most large GPUs (check the clearance to be safe, though).
Micro ATX (mATX) Case
This size PC case is very popular with desktop PC manufacturers such as HP, Dell and Lenovo, who have both business and retail consumers in mind. With a small footprint, the Micro ATX will accept mATX motherboards, and also take a Mini ITX motherboard.
Mini ITX case (Small Form Factor)
The humble Mini ITX case – often called a “Cube” case – is prone to many questions surrounding overheating and optimum cooling. The lightest and smallest footprint of them all, the Mini ITX will sit just about anywhere, and offers a range of components for gamers or business users. Unfortunately, it won’t be compatible with the latest components that demand wide fitting for GPUs and tall CPU cooler space. The motherboards won’t give you much in the way of expansion later on, either. That said, some manufacturers realise that big is not always better, and are expanding their card range to include the Mini ITX form factor.
So, who uses a Mini ITX case? Usually, these cases are seen as small workstations or used for LAN gaming, and they are appealing to budget conscious PC builders thanks to their desirable pricing on components.
Keeping It Cool: Which Gaming PC Cases Have The Best Airflow?
Both Gamers Nexus and PC Centric did some great research and detailed the best PC cases for airflow on their YouTube channels, highlighting a few different price points and “must have” features.
Best Airflow: Fractal Meshify 2 Compact and Lian Li Lancool II Mesh
Gamers Nexus found it hard to separate these two, in that the Lian Li Lancool II Mesh is such a good value case, while remaining right at the top in the benchmarking tests for out-of-the-box thermals (airflow). The Lancool II Mesh is great in terms of looks and is understated to say the least, with mesh front and tempered glass side window. The mesh is not just for show, either, as it has been designed to reduce the dust intake from the front fans. There’s also an RGB version of this case for those who want to play with LEDs. The Lancool 2 Mesh has optimized airflow due to this brand-new mesh design, with additional exhaust vent holes, 3x high performance PWM cooling fans.
The Fractal Meshify 2 Compact is the only possible rival for Gamers Nexus’ money, with 3x case fans (1x 120mm exhaust and 2x 140mm intakes). The benchmarking saw slightly lower airflow performance, but a small tweak in placement of fans improved this aspect. Against the Lian Li Lancool 2 Mesh, the major difference is year of manufacture. The Meshify 2 was released in 2021, where the Lancool 2 Mesh was a 2020 model. If you absolutely have to have this year’s product – then the Fractal unit is the way to go.
PC Centric weighed in on thermals (airflow) and was tied between two cases, also, though the focus was on airflow and RGB capability.
Best Airflow: Phanteks Eclipse P400A and Be Quiet 500DX
Marcus noted that the Phanteks Eclipse P400A Midi case was designed with PC builders in mind, shipping with 2x 120mm RGB fans (controlled via the integrated controller/case buttons), but acoustic level was a little high unless you planned to tune the fans. The P400A also has a mesh front to capture dust particles, and benefits from a 3-speed fan controller so you can tweak the speed according to acoustic and environmental needs.
The Be Quiet 500DX came off as a suitable alternative to the Phanteks case, with excellent (if not better) build quality and whisper quiet fans. USB-C is also included, along with a very unique and sexy lightshow that traverses the case. The 500DX ships with 3x Pure Wings 2 140mm non-RGB fans, which are installed at the rear, top and front. The front is mesh (again), and although the front looks great – the tempered glass window for your RGB components is what also makes the 500DX catch the eye.
Image Courtesy PC Centric
Our Pick: With the perfect balance between looks, functionality and future airflow expansion, the Be Quiet 500DX is outstanding. At under £100, it’s also well priced for a premium brand.
Keeping It Tidy: How Important Is Cable Management?
Love it or hate it, cable management is a vital part of a PC build, especially in a gaming PC rig. With great power comes great responsibility, as Uncle Ben taught us, and whether you are building a water cooled monster or a game specific PC build, your cable management will be the one thing that either makes future expansion easy, or hamper you terribly. As we know from consumer YouTube videos from people like Linus Tech Tips – your bad cable management won’t hamper performance – but it certainly will be a royal pain if ever you need to dig around in the chassis on an upgrade mission.
Most modern cases are built with cable management in mind, so it wasn’t difficult to find a couple of creators who focused on this aspect.
Of the creators we checked out, Hardware Canucks’ cable management guide truly highlighted Corsair’s keen eye for tidy wires. The Corsair Obsidian 500D was used throughout the video, and the excellent attention to practicality was fully displayed in this enclosure. With aesthetics becoming more and more important for gamers who want to showcase their expensive hardware and RGB prowess, Corsair have clearly made sure they factor it in with their designs.
Image Courtesy Hardware Canucks
The only problem is: the video was made in 2018! You guessed it: the Obsidian 500D is now discontinued.
However, if we look at Corsair’s newer models that use the same common sense in cable management, the Corsair iCUE 5000X RGB has just about everything.
Best PC For Cable Management: Corsair iCUE 5000X RGB
Customisation: Who Makes The Best RGB PC Cases?
Linus Tech Tips came to our rescue here with an excellent RGB PC build inside a Phanteks Eclipse P500A case. The simplified installation of RGB and components, and just pure thermal excellence from Phanteks made this case the perfect choice.
The P500A has built in RGB, and their technology makes it easy to hook up to other components in the system, and the side and front lighting actually becomes a feature in itself.
Image Courtesy Linus Tech Tips
Budget: Which Gaming PC Case Offers The Best Value For Money?
For this section, it gets a bit more difficult. All of the creators have their own opinions on the best value gaming PC case, so it seemed only fair to give each one a fair shout.
With all of the factors above taken into consideration, there was one case that came up more than most as either having great features for building best gaming PC case or was spoken about as an honourable mention.
That case was the Phanteks Eclipse P500A.
With so many features for gamers, the P500A stands above its competitors by balancing the needs of the many with the budget of most at under £150 in the UK. That’s no mean feat when you add in RGB support, airflow and cable management (if you’re into that kinda thing).
Our top pick for overall value for money, along with amazing features is the Phanteks P500A.