What is a Computer Case? – A Beginner’s Guide

You’ve probably thought of a computer case as nothing more than a box for housing your hardware. A big, bulky, and very boring box. One that’s treated as an afterthought, and a quite a cheap one at that. Or, at least, it’s something you don’t spend much time thinking over when building or buying a PC. Why should you, surely a computer case is buried away beneath a desk, out of sight? Who cares what it looks like, it’s what’s inside it that counts, right? Well, if that’s your thinking, then you’ve missed out on a whole truck-load of potential. A computer case can be much more than an ugly, featureless, black box. Even though it houses all the important stuff – CPU, GPU, and more – there are computer cases that make the outside as interesting as the inside. In recent years, computer cases have come a long way. No longer are they something so easy to ignore. Now, PC cases are bright, vibrant, and colourful, with pre-installed RGB fans, addressable light strips, and tempered glass panels. They’re made to be displayed and not hidden away, so now it’s something you might want to put a bit of thought into. Yes, first and foremost a computer case must be functional. As ultimately what matters most is what a computer does, not how it looks. But for many, a case’s appearance is now part of the whole computer experience. These days, you can get computer cases in incredibly compact form-factors that are yet able to accommodate all-in-one coolers and thick graphics cards. Why has this bit of kit that’s basically a box become so important, and what are your options when choosing one? Our computer case beginner’s guide tells all.

In recent years, computer cases have come a long way. No longer are they something so easy to ignore. Now, PC cases are bright, vibrant, and colourful, with pre-installed RGB fans, addressable light strips, and tempered glass panels. They’re made to be displayed and not hidden away, so now it’s something you might want to put a bit of thought into. Yes, first and foremost a computer case must be functional. As ultimately what matters most is what a computer does, not how it looks. But for many, a case’s appearance is now part of the whole computer experience. These days, you can get computer cases in incredibly compact form-factors that are yet able to accommodate all-in-one coolers and thick graphics cards. Why has this bit of kit that’s basically a box become so important, and what are your options when choosing one? Our computer case beginner’s guide tells all. Put very simply, a computer case holds all the components that make up a PC – motherboard, power supply, and so on – in one safe, secure place. Think of it this way: a computer case is like a shared house, in which all the components live together under one roof. There are many advantages to this arrangement. It’s a convenient enclosure that contains everything needed for a computer to function, as well as the ports need to hook up external peripherals like keyboards and mice to interface with it. A PC case also helps keep out dust that could impact performance, and protects components from shorting out and wreaking havoc. Most often, computer cases are manufactured using a combination of steel, aluminium, and plastic. Some cases feature acrylic or tempered glass panels, so users can peer into the inner workings of their device, showcasing any special RGB lighting. But in almost all instances, you’ll find that computer cases are black in colour, with white offered as an alternative. For a cohesive look, you’ll want to consider this and aim for an all-white or all-black rig with matching components. Modern computer cases feature a wider variation in shape than used to be standard. Other names for a computer case you might come across include chassis, tower, and cabinet.


You’ll find four categories of computer case. Going from largest in size to smallest, these are: full-tower, mid-tower, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. These sizes of computer case corresponds to the form-factor of a motherboard, as it’s the component with the largest footprint in a PC. Micro-ATX cases support Micro-ATX motherboards at most, while mid-tower cases support ATX boards and full-tower cases support E-ATX boards. It’s worth nothing that some larger cases can support smaller motherboards. It might look ridiculous, but it’s possible to install a Micro-ATX board into a full-tower case, for instance. Cases built to house an ATX motherboard and power supply unit (PSU) come in two designs. These are a vertical tower (the case’s height is more than its width), or a horizontal case (width is more than its height). A vertical tower is a familiar design, it’s what you’ll find at most desk set-ups. But a horizontal case makes a popular choice for a home theatre PC in a living room cabinet.


Full-tower computer cases are the largest of the bunch by a considerable margin. Heed our warning: they’re even larger than you’re probably expecting. As such, we wouldn’t recommend full-tower computer cases to most users, unless you’re entirely sure you’ve got the room for it. They’re complete overkill, and the unwieldly size can make it hard to deploy them. The main reason you might go for a full-size computer case is the sheer internal space that’s built with upgrades in mind. If you’re a data hoarder, they’ll have more than enough drive bays and expansion slots for stacks and stacks of storage drives and even the chunkiest of graphics cards. If you’re a fan of physical media, they’re really the only cases that still cling onto front-panel bays for Blu-Ray and DVD drives. Full-tower computer cases are approximately 2ft in height and are intended to stand on the floor. Due to their imposing dimensions, they’re mainly used by hardware enthusiasts and case madder’s. Full-tower computer cases have room to spare for custom loop water cooling, with the largest radiators, pumps, and reservoirs.


As the name implies, mid-tower computer cases are middle-of-the-road option that’s just the right size for most users. They’re a fair bit roomier than Micro-ATX cases – making them less tricky to build in – but they’re nowhere near as enormous and unwieldy as full-tower cases. Mid-tower is by far the most popular category of computer case. Just take a look at how many models Ebuyer carries compared to other sizes. Realistically, most components are designed to fit inside these cases. Sure, they might not have 10-rack-tall drive bays, but they’ll have enough for the average users’ needs. While any sized graphics card is practically guaranteed to fit into a full-tower case, you might have to double-check the dimensions in a mid-tower. They are approximately 18” in height and are designed to stand beneath or on a desk – with a transparent side panel, this gives you a prime view of your system’s internals. Unless you’ve got a particular build in mind, we’d recommend mid-tower cases as the go-to form-factor for several reasons. As it’s so compact, you’ll have a vast range of cases to choose from at competitive prices. Mid-tower computer cases strike a great balance between price, ease of installation, and airflow.


The smallest sizes of computer cases are Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX, taking up a fraction of the space compared to mid or full-tower cases. These cases, and their Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards, strip things back to the essentials. Everything’s packed shoulder to shoulder in these cases. Not an inch is wasted. While it’s efficient, it can hurt temperatures if you don’t take the right precautions. Why go to such space-saving lengths? Well, some users just think these compact cases just look great. You can’t deny cramming a fully-fledged PC into a case no bigger than a shoebox isn’t impressive. Others take advantage of a smaller case to get it into places a full-tower couldn’t: stealthily tucked away in a living room cabinet, or thrown into a backpack for LAN parties. Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX cases are great for getting a console-like gaming experience in the living room, but with all the benefits a gaming PC brings. However, we wouldn’t recommend them for first-time builders as they can be fiddly. Building in one is like a real-life game of Tetris, shuffling components around until they all slot in together. A mid or full-tower case affords you the luxury of not having to be quite as considerate, with a spare room to bung your cables in and call it a day. And remember, most components are designed to fit inside a mid-tower case. So, you’ve got to be careful when choosing hardware for a Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX PC build. A must-have for the smallest builds is a modular small form-factor power supply unit, or SFX PSU for short. You’ll also be relying on your motherboard’s M.2 slots for storage, as you won’t have much room for 2.5” or 3.5” drives.


There’s no great mystery here. A computer shell is just another name for a computer case. Purely semantics so rest assured everything written in this guide regarding PC cases is equally applicable to computer shells.


When it comes to computer cases, everyone’s got their preferences and there are some pretty unique PC cases out there. Some favour appearance, while others favour raw cooling potential. This is what we recommend you keep an eye out for.


Airflow is by far the most important consideration when buying a computer case. Don’t choose a case with poor airflow, no matter how good it looks. Otherwise, you’re effectively suffocating your components. To avoid permanent damage, components will thermal throttle and tank their performance when they get too hot. The problem is that it’s hard to tell if a case has good airflow or not. You can infer a rough idea through product images, but only to a certain extent. A computer case’s airflow is easily one of the most crucial considerations. You’ll want plenty of perforations acting as intakes and exhausts for the case fans. Otherwise, you’re trapping your components inside a hot enclosure. They will thermal throttle to prevent damage, affecting performance. For gaming-grade rigs, the latest trend is fine mesh panels reducing restrictions for maximum airflow. Cases completely decked out in tempered glass are eye-catching, but you’ve got to ensure airflow’s coming from somewhere.


There’s one problem with increasing airflow – dust. As you draw more air into your computer, you also draw all the dust along for the ride. Dust is going to find a way into your computer one way or another, but you can minimise the amount with a dust filter. Most cases have at least one filter on the main air intake, usually the front panel. This should catch most of the dust pulled in by case fans and stop your PC’s components from clogging up. As dust is caught by the filter it builds up over time, it can get so thick that it impedes airflow. So, many cases use a magnetic dust filter that can be easily removed for routine maintenance. If you place your PC on the carpet – which acts like a dust magnet – or you’ve got pets, then a dust filter is essential for keeping out dust, hair, and fur.


Your PC’s motherboard and graphics card will have plenty of ports for hooking up peripherals: keyboards, mice, monitors, and more. Mounted at the rear of the case, they’re not exactly accessible, however. This is a pain when you’ve got external devices that you plug in and unplug from the USB ports like a portable hard drive, smartphone, or game controller. That’s where front-panel I/O comes in clutch. Computer cases will have a small but essential collection of ports that are within an arm’s reach. This will be quite basic on low-end cases, with a couple of slow USB 2.0s and a combo headphone-microphone jack at most. Whereas higher-end cases will have the latest-gen USBs, USB Type C, MicroSD card readers, and more. When buying a computer case, ensure it’s got enough ports for your needs.


The best computer cases are a breeze to build in, designed with efficient and tidy cable management in mind. This is often the most impactful factor that separates low-end and high-end computer cases. Even the cheapest cases might look alright from the outside, but once you remove their side panel and peer inside, it might skimp out on design comforts that make PC building easier. Look out for cases that have cable management routes, tie-down points, and PSU shrouds. Proper cable management isn’t only an aesthetic choice. Loose, messy cables can impede airflow and can make future upgrades unnecessarily confusing.


It’s easy enough to pick out a computer case based on appearance but ensuring that it’ll fit all your components can be difficult. For a PC builder, there’s nothing more annoying than labouring over as build, only to realise the graphics card is a couple of centimetres too big for the computer case. So, before you buy a case, you’ll have to be stringent and double check its and your component’s dimensions. This is extra applicable to Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX cases, with their extremely tight margins. The most important case dimensions to check are the CPU cooler height, graphics card length, and power supply length. Luckily, these are usually included right in a case’s product description, making it easier to cross-reference against another component. Be aware, however, you’ll have to account for the thickness of cooling equipment you might’ve installed.


Deciding what computer case is ‘the best’ is a matter of opinion. Browse Ebuyer’s range of computer cases and you’ll see there are so many models to choose from – all-glass centrepieces, RGB-drenched gaming cases, budget boxes, and more. While they have a boxy, homogenous design, one computer case is not the same as another. Small touches here and there, like tool-less thumb screws, add up. For our tastes, the best computer cases have an understated design that doesn’t attract too much attention, with a subtle inclusion of RGB lighting.


However, if none of these cases are bling enough for you, then look into computer case accessories. At Ebuyer, this includes custom-sleeved cables, PCIe risers to vertically mount a GPU, LED light strips, and more. When used right, accessories can transform an off-the-shelf can into something unique to you. If you fancy a modified case, without wiring it all up yourself, some cases come decked-out in RGB lighting. For those confident in their DIY abilities, case modding has become a booming pastime. Many users have done some weird, wonderful, and intensive things to their computer cases to stand out from the pack. Some base their modding efforts on a chosen colour scheme, synchronising it with other peripherals in their battle-station, while others might use the iconography of their favourite game. You’d go for that, wouldn’t you?


So much computer hardware is targeted towards gamers: gaming keyboards, mice, monitors, headsets… there’s even gaming desks. One segment that’s been ripe for gamer reinvention is the computer case, and manufacturers have capitalised on it. For many, it’s not necessary to venture as far into the modding route as so many gaming cases come pre-installed with RGB fans, light strips, and RGB controllers. If you’re into RGB, then Corsair is the go-to with their iCUE software. Try not to get too caught up on a case’s look, however. You must consider if it’s a good choice for your hardware. A NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card – which consumes 350W alone – will suffocate and throttle in a computer case without sufficient airflow. Should you decide to upgrade an existing rig or build a new one, there’s a chassis to suite every serious person.



Computer cases vary in price considerably. Ebuyer stocks budget computer cases starting as low as £25. At such a cheap price, don’t expect much more than a basic, no-frill box, with no pre-installed fans. These cases won’t have the greatest airflow, nor are they the easiest to build in, but they’re suitable for a low-powered PC using CPU integrated graphics. For example, a PC you’d find in a work environment that’s used for checking email and word processing. If you’re building a gaming PC, with power-hungry components kicking out tons of heat, then you’ll want to invest into an airflow-focused case. The most popular airflow cases, like the CORSAIR 4000D AIRFLOW, Fractal Design Meshify C, and Phanteks Eclipse P400A Digital, are available in the £75-100 price range. It’s quite a step up in price compared to budget cases, but it’s worth it. Not only are they much better designed, they often include 2 or three pre-installed RGB case fans. As you’d have to buy these separately on a budget case, a high-end case works out a better value. We’d strongly recommend spending a bit more on the computer case as it’ll help keep your components cool, and it can be re-used in future builds.


You can get computer cases from all the biggest brands – Corsair, Fractal Design, Phanteks, and more – in all the form factors, they’re available at fantastic prices too. Online, you can pick up a top-of-the-range computer case, or if you’re on a budget. Despite their low price tag, the best-budget computer cases retain a host of features to make your rig stand out, like pre-installed RGB fans and tempered glass panels. There are a range of computer cases for whatever PC build you’re planning next, or to transplant your current PC into. Whether you’re a serious gamer, a business user, or someone who’s just tinkering around on the internet, we can provide a computer case that’s suitable for you. Ebuyer has full-tower, mid-tower, micro-ATX, and mini-ITX computer cases in stock and ready to go, with next-day delivery available.

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