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Yewen's Guide to Buying a Case & ATCs Information. 2006

Discussion in 'CC Archive' started by Yewen, 1 Aug 2006.

  1. Yewen


    Joined: 9 Nov 2003

    Posts: 17,719

    Location: Leeds

    Yewen's Guide to Buying a Case

    Cases, they are a much harder choice to make than a graphics card or processor, you just buy the best in your budget and use reviews for to find out the best performer. With cases this it is not quite as easy.

    Reviews for cases can be hit or miss; you need to get a reviewer doing a roundup who has the same taste in cases as you for any chance of getting a true reflection of what the case will be like from your perspective.

    All cases you buy are a purely subjective purchase, you have to like the looks and the interior and whatever anyone else says about the case you like the look of it is safe to ignore it most of the time, you’re the one who has to live with the looks.

    When you’re choosing your case it comes down to four areas in the sub £500 case category.
    1. All aluminium cases with subtle styling.
    2. Gaming cases with outrageous looks that make them the centre of attention.
    3. Low noise solutions ideal for the living room, or if you dislike PC noise intensly.
    4. Value Cases, for when you just need a basic case.
    All of these choices for your case are perfectly good ones, and are equally capable of holding a computer at comfortable temperatures with reasonable noise levels, whichever you buy.

    Aluminium Cases:


    Firstly I will deal with my personal favourite area of cases, the subtly styled all aluminium cases. I will make this as fair as I can for each; although I am only human as some of you seem to imagine my house being made of aluminium, I assure you it is not!

    Aluminium cases are designed to make a statement, same as gaming cases are, they sit in a room with the pc in them chugging away complementing almost any styling. They very rarely stand out to much from the surroundings. They will fit into living rooms, kitchens or bedrooms perfectly fine – they just complement their surroundings well due to the subtle styling.

    The cooling on them is usually of a high standard, and the build quality is second to none from the likes of Lian Li and Silverstone.

    The downside with all aluminium cases is that sometimes they resonate, but this can be easily sorted and it has been covered quite a few times in the forums.

    The pricing of these cases is typically higher than that of the others, due to the all aluminium designs. They hardly ever have more than one new innovation per case and like to play things safe, so you are sure to get a good case, although there are some turkeys out there.

    The manufacturers you should be looking at are:
    • Silverstone
    • Lian Li
    • Coolermaster (ATCS, Praetorian & Wavemaster)

    Gaming Cases:


    Gaming cases are also made to make a statement, they sit in a room and are the focal point, the aim in their design is to get the ‘look at me I am different’ factor, and with this most of them succeed.

    The cooling in these cases can be hit and miss, as long as you buy a good one then you're set for the best cooling possible with air in a pc case. You need to make sure you look out for at least two 120mm fans. Aluminium construction is a possible plus point for weight, but don’t buy into the helps the cooling, as it really does not help that much at all.

    The downside with gaming cases is that the construction is sometimes more prone to being suspect, with cheap plastics and sharp edges a common feature in these cases. The plastic however can be a plus point, as it can aid the designers in making colourful and standout designs.

    The manufacturers you should keep an eye on for gaming cases are:
    • NZXT
    • Chenbro
    • Thermaltake
    • A-Top

    Low Noise Cases:


    These are perhaps the hardest type of cases to choose from, as any case can be made silent, but these are the cases which out of the box strive to make the system they hold as quiet as possible.

    They are great for the living room, or for if you just don’t like noise at all and don’t have the time to modify a normal case by choosing specific cooling to make it near silent; these cases generally make the best of a bad situation.

    The cooling in these cases can come second, but usually a happy medium is reached. They may be heavy depending on if they have any noise dampening material fitted (sometimes available as a pre-cut aftermarket kit).

    The downside with these cases is that they usually cost slightly more for the noise privileges and can be heavy; the build quality on these cases is generally very good with very few cases having sharp edges as a hazard during construction.

    The manufacturers you should take a peak at are:
    • Antec (Sonata and P series)
    • Artic Cooling

    Value Cases:


    These are the low end of the case market. Ideally you should avoid putting any seriously high powered rigs in these. They can be good, but a large proportion of these cases are not suitable for most modern systems.

    You have to be careful as almost all of these cases have sharp edges, its how they keep the costs down.

    If there is one thing you take note of out of this FAQ for cases, it is this; when buying a cheap case with a power supply bundled, be very wary of it. The case costs £22 with a 500w power supply for example, seems like a good buy doesn’t it! Its not, the power supplies that come with these cases under any strain will fail and take most of the pc with them, although for a old Pentium 3 or below system they should be fine.

    These cases are what you would class as your typical cases that everyone has, nothing special but get the job done. Very few cool well without making modifications. Very few are quiet without adding in aftermarket solutions.

    You are most likely to find these beasts in the own branded case sections from online retailers, and of course OcUK stocks a range of these, from the cheap and cheerful £20 upwards.

    However I will stress, buying a specialised case over a value case is a worthwhile investment, as is a mouse, keyboard and monitor. It is these that you interface with, and a good case enables you to use your pc and overall promotes that your pc is a expensive piece of equipment. Non-technical people make their assumptions on the power of the pc from the box.

    The link to the best value cases, as they are almost all the same:

    = Overclockers UK =

    If you need to see some other cases, or ideas check out the Cases Gallery

    Hope this can be of help to some people. ~Yewen
    With thanks to Noxi for the help with idea of adding a value section.
  2. Yewen


    Joined: 9 Nov 2003

    Posts: 17,719

    Location: Leeds

    Case Fan Guide


    CFM = Cubic Feet per Minute, higher the better.
    DB = Noise rating, lower the better.

    Case fans are often a very controversial area and most people have there own opinions on them.

    As a general statement take the manufacturer’s ratings with a pinch of salt. They usually over-state the CFM and the DB ratings quite a bit, if it is too good to be true then quite simply it is!

    There are 3 main sizes currently for case fans. 80mm 92mm and 120mm. The same CFM can be achieved roughly with each, but a 120mm fan can do say 50 CFM at 25 DB where a 80mm has to do 50 CFM at 40 DB.

    This basically equates to if you need a quiet computer you really need to look at 120mm models. 92mm are the compromise to CFM v DB.

    The other part to take into consideration with case fans is if they use brushes or not. Basically to put it bluntly in this day and age, you need to be looking at brushless fans as they offer slightly quieter operation and a longer life expectancy; most are nowadays anyhow.

    Fans can either be 3 pin which plug into the motherboard and fan controllers, or they can be 4 pin molex connectors, which are the same as you use for your hard drive or CD drive; these can not be used with a fan controller.

    I will not go into the details of listing all the fans and there stats, I will just list the current fans from OcUK which are what I know as the better fans for the purpose.

    I have listed these fans based on my own personal experience as I will not recommend things I have not used before; there are other good fans out there and it is best to try them yourself. Some people’s ears are more sensitive to the noise some fans make than someone else.

    I will also add in another personal recommendation which is not available from OcUK and that is the 80mm SilenX fans, brilliant for the older ATCS Coolermaster cases, or any pre 2003 case. They are an instant improvement over the fans of the time.
  3. Yewen


    Joined: 9 Nov 2003

    Posts: 17,719

    Location: Leeds

    Where do the bits go?

    Some people have asked me when looking at a case where the components go; well here is the answer:


    The PSU and Hard Drives in say the Lian Li v1000+ are mounted in a seperate compartment, but this gives you a general idea of what you are looking at. The Antec P180 and other V series cases also sport an alternative almost BTX style layout for the PSU etc. Feel free to post on the forums if you are unsure.


    Also it is worth adding here, almost all full PC tower cases come with 7 PCI slots unless otherwise stated.

    Components which will limit your case choice:

    You can use virtually any case there is with any system, although if you intend to use any of the following options when building a PC you need to think about the case choice just a little more:

    • Two Processors (Does the motherboard need a eATX case?)
    • Water Cooling (Where is it all going to fit, enough room for a 120.2 etc?)
    • 4+ Hard Drives (Need a case which will support them)
    • Dual PSU (Case obviously needs to support dual PSU’s)
    • SLI or Crossfire (You may lose the use of some hard drive bays due to the length of some cards)
    • Exotic Drives / cards (SCSI drives for example may need active cooling on them; can the case support this extra requirement?)

    This list is no where near extensive, but it may alert you to any specialist requirements you need to consider. The points listed are by no means very common but they appear enough to warrant this note.

    If in doubt remember to make a thread and someone will help you out I am sure!