Whilst moving from an FX-6350 to Ryzen 2600, I couldn’t help but notice how poorly designed my case was. Sure, there’s a great need for aesthetically pleasing units and there’s a wide selection available, but let’s have a reality check.
As do many, budgeting on the case and PSU (as did I in 2016) for better hardware could be problematic. With cheaper cases, the choice is limited and picking the best unit for your needs might take a bit more time than simply adding one to your basket that meets the budget.
Changes in modern case design are a lot more noticeable for those used to having a “drive rail” at the front of the case and is worth understanding what has changed from the “classic layout”. Let’s explore this further.
ODDs (optical disk drives) are less likely to make an appearance then maybe 10 years ago. This might be because flash media is smaller, less noisy, more efficient and can be supplied whilst buying Windows. Also, games aren’t bought on CD or DVD anymore and are usually downloaded straight from the source.
This conclusion has allowed the limitation or in some cases (no pun intended), the complete removal of ODDs completely in Mid-Towers.
Full towers still have plenty of bays.
Before SSDs became mainstream, the standard storage unit fell to hefty 3 ½” HDDs. SSDs are now considered to be mainstream and usually found in smaller sizes: 2 ½” and M.2 and of course the less-seen size in the form of a PCI-e card.
Like ODDs, the 3 ½” drives are just about hanging on with at most a couple of spaces dedicated for the larger HDD. There’s more room now dedicated for SATA 2 ½” SSDs because of their form factor in Mid-Towers.
Full Towers usually have plenty of space for HDDs and are worth considering if you need space for your RAID 5 array.
This may be a little odd but there are some points worth mentioning. Modern Mid-Towers tend to position the PSU on the bottom of the case. There are a few reasons for this which are helpful to understand.
- The weight is closer to the ground, and this is important in the reduction of unit being “top-heavy”
- A dedicated ventilation grill for the PSU that isolates the airflow through the PSU to the rest of the system.
- Modular PSUs can be helpful in cable management by reducing unnecessary plugs or cables.
Cable Management is an aesthetic “nice to have” but can play an important role during maintenance and any more adding/removing hardware. I also realise that it can help to reduce dust settling on meters of cable. As I like to think of it, keeping your workspace clean and tidy allows you to work more efficiently. The same can be said whilst maintaining your system.
A well-managed case is heavily dependant on the design. This is achieved with:
- Space behind the rear access panel for cables
- Space around the PSU for tucking away lengthy cables
- Access points around the motherboard for cables to connect from behind the motherboard tray, such as front I/O headers and SATA connectors.
GPUs have grown in size and is worth making sure that the card you are buying/have will fit. Usually, case manufacturers are good at letting you know the maximum length of the card that could house.
Also, think about future upgrades and expansions; it could be worth finding the size of the largest GPU and seeing if it will meet the specifications to be better suited for years to come.
Many budget coolers are quite tall and you’ll want to be sure it will fit. Again, most good case manufacturers will note the maximum height of the cooler for the case and could impact your buying decision.
USB-C is still quite a way off from being mainstream, but it could be worth looking into, even if your motherboard doesn’t currently have an I/O header for it. If you use USB frequently, having a nice choice of USB2 and USB3 interfaces on the front can be a deal maker. If you are into photography or use SD often, card readers integrated to the case isn’t too uncommon.
Everyone is different and has different needs and tastes. Doing the research properly will allow for a better-equipped case for your needs, and may help you decide about the cooler you buy!
A case can (and should) last longer than the original hardware that it originally intended to house and being clear on current hardware trends can future-proof your purchase, even if it is bought to a budget.
Buying correctly will not only cut down on e-waste but will save your future-self some money too.