The flashy! The beautiful! The minimalist! The overkill! Some of us just want to have what feels and looks like a piece of art for a computer.
And with reasons – the machine can represent so much more than just a simple computer! Some consider it to be an important part of their day-to-day life. Many others want it to be something they’re proud of using or even building.
Today, we will explore cases designed to showcase your computer to the rest of the world.
The crystal castles
We will start with the “crystal castles”. The shiny boxes feature a generous amount of glass panels, thus offering the best view from any angle. Through the glass, parts and silicon inside the computer can whirl away in brilliance. The best cases will often be a good mix of glass panels and ventilation. This style of case is not commonly oriented towards the budget-minded, with the top reason being the cost of materials. It also doesn’t make much sense to pair these cases with low-end parts.
Lian Li O11 Dynamic
One of the most popular cases in this category has to be the renowned Lian Li O11 Dynamic. It needs no introduction. The acclaimed Der8auer-approved case has proven itself to be a very strong performing case. Huge glass surfaces cover its front and sides, revealing its inside with stunning clarity.
The case is oriented towards liquid cooling, with loads of options for both closed loops AIOs, and full custom loops as well. It is very versatile with a lot of different layouts possible but does not come with any fans. For fans, you’ll be spending extras, but the upside is you’ll be getting your own set of choices
It has room for large power supplies and data storage well hidden behind the motherboard. It can also house 2 power supplies if needed.
Lian Li also recently released a smaller version of this case. The O11 Dynamic Mini is priced a little cheaper.
Metalligear Neo Qube
Metalligear Neo Qube takes on the same cape as the O11 Dynamic, but with a few twists of its own. The most notable being its ability to fit an ITX board in the back for a dual system case, and it comes at a cheaper price.
Similar to its competitor, it has a lot of different layouts possible with great hardware compatibility. It is still aimed at watercooling primarily, with loads of clearances for radiators and pump(s).
Just like the O11 Dynamic, it comes with no fan, leaving the possibility (and expenses) fully to the user’s choice.
Antec P120 crystal
The Antec p120 is another similar case, this time keeping the PSU “in line” with the rest of the build. The case is thinner than its competitors.
For those interested, it still has 2 bays for 3.5″ drives, and the IO moves to the top of the case.
The case is again watercooling focused, however, one might find it impossible to mount radiators to the top of the case – given that it’s blocked by the power supply shroud. This makes the case thinner than the previous models we mentioned, but slightly less versatile. It still offers side and bottom mounting for fans or radiators.
It still does not come with fans, but it includes VGA holders and direct cutouts on the back for a vertical mounting of your GPU. Mounting an air-cooled GPU vertically isn’t recommended as the fans will likely end up choking against the glass panel.
Thermaltake Tower 900
Tower 900 is probably the closest to the definition of “Glass Castle”. It is a vertical enclosure with glass at the front and the sides for large viewing angles. It has support for some of the largest hardware you can find, including SSI-EEB motherboards as well as two 560mm radiators on the sides. This case is massive: with dimensions of 752 x 423 x 483 mm (29.6 x 16.7 x 19 inches), it will be a beacon of hardware guaranteed to draw attention.
This case is fantastic for those looking to go bonkers with their custom loops. The radiator clearance is some of the biggest possible in a case, and fitting 2 separate loops is a thing in this case.
The closed towers
For those that prefer the classic tower case, there are many options available! The closed cases usually have a glass side panel for you to show off your blings, but with either a solid or mesh front panel this time. This design gives access to front air intakes, providing better airflows.. With less tempered glass being used, this design are generally cheaper and easier to manufacture.
At the time of writing, most cases available use this layout. The optimal front-to-back airflow is ideal for most users and easier to deal with as most cases come with pre-installed fans. And less glass means less risk of breaking it on the floor.
Corsair 5000D, 5000D AIRFLOW and 5000X
Corsair’s recent 5000 lineup of cases pushed the brand back under the projectors. With the 5000D, the 5000D airflow and the 5000X, Corsair offers a full tower in 3 variants. The basic model comes with a solid front panel, the Airflow model has a mesh front panel, and the 5000X has a glass front panel with 3 integrated RGB fans while the two other models only come with 2 blank fans.
The front panel and the fans are the only differences between these models and they come in black or white. The large size of the case makes it an easy pick for bigger hardware as you can fit quite a lot into it. From 360mm radiators either at the top, side, or front (although you cannot put a radiator on both the front and side at the same time), large GPUs and cutouts for vertical mounting (which we only recommend when water-cooled), motherboards up to 277mm in width, and coolers up to 170mm tall, which can fit huge tower coolers such as Noctua NHD-15 or the Be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 without issues. Corsair also includes a lighting node CORE module with the 5000X model.
Fractal Design Define 7 and Meshify 2
The latest iterations of Fractal’s Define and Meshify cases cannot be missed. The brand has had a lot of success with the Define series for high compatibility and great build quality, as well as a focus on silence. The Meshify series were introduced to complete Fractal’s offering with a focus on airflow and performance while keeping the build quality and compatibility of the Define.
Both models have a range of colour options, including black, grey, and white, and sometimes even mixed colours. You can also find some models with darker tinted glass panels if that is your thing. 3 fans are included in all models, no RGB included as the cases keep a focus on sobriety and plain looks. They can also fit 360mm radiators at the front and up to 420mm radiators at the top, as well as CPU coolers up to 185mm in height. They can also be configured to fit an enormous amount of hard drives for the user who needs a lot of storage or large reservoirs for heavy custom loops. Each case has a door at the front that is easy to open if you need more cooling performance, and a removable dust filter.. Fractal has also built a strong modding community, with a special page on their website to showcase the most impressive mods by the community.
Phanteks Enthoo Evolv X
The Enthoo Evolv X is a heavy case by Phanteks. Made of high quality materials with great compatibility for radiators at the front and top, as well as cutouts for a vertical GPU mount. It also has some rgb accents through cutouts on the front panel.
The Evolv X offers some very unique features as well. Aside from large radiator compatibility, it offers cable hideouts for easier management, an integrated fill and drain port for water loops, and dual system compatibility.. You can put a mini ITX board at the top with a mini ITX kit, and use a special riser from Phanteks to use a GPU with that second system. The case also supports Phanteks’ own dual system power supply. It also includes lots of space for storage options, with many mount points for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives. The case can fit coolers up to an impressive 190mm in height and Phanteks lists support for “EATX” motherboards, although the exact clearance is not detailed. Finally, it comes with 3 140mm Phanteks fans out of the box.
Phanteks P500a and P500a DRGB
For those that are not into water cooling or just want something a bit simpler, P500a is another option, which is an airflow focused case including a front mesh panel.
The P500a shares the same interior as the Evolv X. It also supports 360mm radiators at the top and 420mm at the front, and you still find the dual system compatibility mentioned in the Evolv X above. Phanteks makes a DRGB version of the case that includes 3 140mm RGB fans at the front, whereas the standard version comes with only 2 140mm plain black fans. This time Phanteks lists motherboard compatibility with a maximum width of 280mm for both models and still keeps a decent number of options for storage mounting. We find again a clearance for CPU coolers at 190mm height but it is interesting to note that the P500a standard only comes in black, while the DRGB model comes in both Black and white.
The open Frames
Open Frame cases are an entirely unique class of chassis. With a completely open and unrestricted design, they intend to show the raw hardware without protections. Wear your sunglasses, the shiny parts are unfiltered.
Before picking one, you need to consider a few factors. The primary one is that the parts are now unprotected. They are at the mercy of your pets, children, or coffee. While some consider those to be a “dust magnet” or a “dust nightmare”, is it also nice to remember it is the easiest to clean with some canned air since you do not have anything to disassemble.
Cooler Master MasterFrame 700
Cooler Master recently dived into the market with their first open case : the MasterFrame 700. It is a versatile frame that can be used in both test bench mode or open frame mode. Made out of heavy steel, the chassis is divided into three parts: the central piece and two “wings” on the side. Builders can mount large radiators, a power supply, or just simply fans to the “wings”. Worry not, since tempered glass is still being offered.
The case gets credit for fitting actual SSI-EEB motherboards (also known as “EATX”), as Cooler Master lists support for 14×14′ (355x355mm) motherboards. It still has space for storage options including both 2.5′ and 3,5′ drives behind the main panel, as well as large ATX power supplies. You can fit large 360mm radiators on both wings as well as another 420mm at the top. A reservoir/pump can be mounted on the right of the main panel, aside the motherboard. Finally, the wings can pivot on hinges, allowing for a lot of customization and the cases comes flat packaged in a box, and the user has to assemble it himself.
Thermaltake Core P series
We could not talk about open air cases without mentioning the Thermaltake Core P series. Despite being a few years old now, the series are still ever popular. Currently, there’s an entire lineup focused around open air and showcase: Core P1, P3, P5, P7 and P90.
The Core P1, P3 and P5 are similar and mostly differ in size, while the P7 and P90 rely on wings similar to the Cooler Master MasterFrame700.
The core P1-5 are standard 1 panel frame on which all components are fixed. The P7 uses wings similar to the CoolerMaster MasterFrame for radiators or reservoirs. The P90 uses a right angle design to separate the core parts from anything cooling related and has some space for storage behind it. All those case support vertical GPU mounting with optional brackets. Radiator clearance is rather impressive with up to 480mm for the bigger models and can be wall-mounted if desired.
In Win X Frame 2.0
In Win has a really interesting product with this chassis. It is essentially a frame on a pivot that can be rotated and inclined almost in any direction. The case features a single panel with stylish handles. In Win has 3 different colors schemes : red/black, green/black, and white/blue.
The frame is completely open with no glass to protect it, for the better or worse depending your environment. Credit to In Win for listing full compatibility with SSIEEB 12’x13′ motherboards, but the radiator clearance for a single 360mm radiator doesn’t feel as impressive as other cases we have seen. The 385mm GPU clearance is satisfactory and the quick release 2,5′ ssd brackets are nice to see, as well as a bracket for the pump/reservoir. In Win also has a bundle which includes the X Frame 2.0 and the SI-1065 Power supply designed specifically for this case.
Darkflash Blade X
The Blade X is another unique open frame made by DarkFlash. With tasty ARGB lightning and an orange and black color scheme, it is definitely worth looking at. The frame can either sit vertically or horizontally, but will be inclined for the latter.
Compatibility great except for the cpu cooler which is limited in height. The frame only fits up to ATX boards with CPU coolers up to 170mm. It offers numerous mounting points for drives in both 3.5′ and 2.5′ and can allow Graphic cards up to 450mm in length. Finally you can fit radiators up to 420mm at the top above the motherboard.
The Tiny Beasts
For those that don’t need or don’t want massive machines, or just like small form factor builds (like i do), do not fear! Here are a few cases that still fit the “show us your fighter” category”. Those absolutely adorable little cases are wonderful!
Phanteks Evolv Shift 2 and Shift 2 Air
After the original Shift that came out some times ago, Phanteks finally did a refresh to make the Shift 2. This case is available in 4 version, with or without mesh side panels and in black or grey anthracite. Both case are similar : the hardware compatibility is the same, but the mesh version is 16mm wider due to the panels.
The case uses a vertical layout, meaning all the IO of both the board and the GPU comes at the top of the case. Phanteks has integrated a push-to-release panel to access it. Phanteks also sells single and dual 2.5′ SSD brackets separately, as well as RGB fans and strips for the color enthusiasts. The case obviously fits ITX boards, but is also compatible with SFX-L units. You can also fit a 120mm AIO on the down back of the case if you want or an air cooler up to 85mm in height. The enclosure ends up just under 25L, and is guaranteed to save some space with its small footprint.
The Xproto is a fairly new case entering the open frame market. It is also a vertical layout similar to the Shift 2 but without any side panels. It consists of two frames on the back of each other : the GPU is on one side, the motherboard and power supply on the other. The case has to be assembled by the user before building the PC.
After seeing a rising popularity in the small form factor world, Xtia declined it in multiple sizes to be able to fit different classes of components. Xtia also sells many accessories to allow even more flexibility : liquid cooling modules for radiators and pumps/reservoirs, AIO brackets, IO panels, PSU cable kits, fan adapters, headphones hangers, and more! You can do some serious custom loops on this case with those modules.
Yuel beast Motif Monument
The Motif Monument is another case (or stand depending who you ask) which is completely open. It is made of two high quality panels cut and welded together.
The case does not fit any liquid cooling out of the box, so your options are air coolers for now. On the plus side there is no limit for the dimensions of either the CPU cooler or the GPU (unless you want to fit a GPU bigger than 3 slots). You can fit both SFX and SFX-L units, and a 2.5″ ssd behind the motherboard if you want.
And that’s all folks!
And here we end! These are all case ideas for your next showroom build. This is not a top 10 or anything, just sharing some ideas for those interested.
Have you found the article interesting ? Are you even looking at a new case at all ? Is your wallet still safe after reading this ?
Hopefully some found inspiration for the future so we can all be here for the next piece of art to come.