Which Cheap Computer Case Is Best?
Building a computer is a fun and rewarding experience that gives you complete control over your system’s components and capabilities, but it can also be expensive. Luckily, there are plenty of budget parts, including the all-important case that they all go into.
Our favorite affordable PC case is the Lian Li LanCool 205which comes from a premium manufacturer and offers a premium build with two pre-installed fans and an overall layout that promotes good airflow.
What to know before buying a cheap computer case
Motherboard Form Factors
From largest to smallest, the three most popular motherboard sizes are ATX, microATX, and Mini-ITX. A large majority of motherboards are ATX form factor and offer multiple PCIe slots (for expansion cards like GPUs and wireless adapters) as well as at least four RAM slots and one or two M.2 slots for SSDs ultra-compact. The plethora of ports and connectors makes the ATX form factor the best for most people.
The two smaller sizes offer significantly less versatility, with the Mini-ITX boards only offering a single PCIe slot and 2 RAM slots. The main appeal of mATX and Mini-ITX motherboards is to use them in small form factor cases, like the Thermaltake Core V1 Snow Edition, which take up minimal space on a desk or entertainment center. If you’re building a home theater PC, a Mini-ITX build should be more than capable, but for those looking to make resource-intensive games, such compact builds can be a hassle.
Generally speaking, building a small form factor PC is a bit more difficult to do physically, and putting the parts together also requires a lot more attention to detail. Also, smaller, more compact pieces are sometimes more expensive than larger models. For these reasons, the best motherboards for those on a tight budget tend to be ATX, so that’s the case size you should get as well.
Airflow is important when building a PC
Moving air efficiently in and out of the enclosure is paramount to keeping your components safe and running at peak performance. It’s not just about the number of fans, but also about the layout of the case. Generally speaking, intake fans will be on the front or bottom of the case and exhaust fans on the back or top, but this is not necessarily universal.
A good tip is to stick with proven case manufacturers. Reputable brands tend to research their case layouts much more thoroughly, making each fan even more efficient.
Case Ventilation Positive Pressure
Some of the best cases come with fans already installed, but you’ll often benefit from installing additional ventilation. Case fans designed for static pressure are generally considered the best.
The positive pressure concept is important for keeping internal components free of dust and other debris. This means that you want the fans to provide more intake pressure than exhaust, which prevents foreign particles from entering the case through the seams. Positive pressure and ultra-fine dust filters help keep everything clean for a long time.
What to Look for in a Cheap, Quality Computer Case
Enough room for a modern GPU
It might seem obvious at first glance, but it’s easy to underestimate the size of today’s graphics cards if you haven’t handled a lot of them. Most gaming-centric cases can fit at least the smaller versions of modern GPUs, but be sure to check the measurements first.
You can find the specific dimensions of any GPU before you buy, and most case manufacturers will tell you exactly what size graphics card their cases can accommodate.
If you opt for a slim case like the Thermaltake Core G3, however, you are out of luck. There are a handful of well done GPU enhancers which orient a large card vertically, allowing it to fit in a wider range of cases.
Front mounted port access
At the very least, you’ll find a pair of USB-A ports and an S/PDIF audio port on the front of the case, and there are often separate jacks for headphones and microphones. These are the bare minimum for easy connectivity. In rare cases you can find a USB-C connector on the front, but USB-C isn’t very common on desktop computers and these cases tend to be more expensive.
You’ll even find cases with SD card readers on the front. Either way, the only added difficulty is that you’ll need to make sure you route the respective cables correctly from the motherboard to the case, which isn’t too difficult as long as you read the manual carefully.
Transparent side panels
Some people don’t look twice at their case when using their PC, but more and more gamers appreciate having a case that’s well-lit and attractive, both inside and out. For these users, there are many reliable cases on the market with transparent side panels. This is another reason to consider sticking with a reputable manufacturer, as they are much more likely to use premium tempered glass.
If you can’t find the right tempered glass model for you, many affordable enclosures use acrylic windows. Acrylic doesn’t look as good as glass, but it’s definitely safer and doesn’t weigh as much.
How much you can expect to spend on a cheap computer case
You can buy something simple for $30, but you’ll find plenty of great options around $50. For up to around $80 or so, you can get something with a more premium fit and finish, plus some nice-to-have extra features.
Cheap computer case FAQ
Should I buy an RGB box?
A. Cases rarely include RGB LEDs. If you want your gear to look flashy, the process starts with your motherboard, its built-in RGB controller, and the RGB-capable components you choose. Don’t spend too much time looking for a cheap case with built-in RGB lighting, as there are few options.
Do I need support for my PC?
A. If you opt for a case with bottom-mounted fans, make sure your case is raised at least an inch or two. Most enclosures designed for bottom venting have feet for this purpose. In general, it is not recommended to leave a PC running on carpeted floors, due to static electricity and overheating issues.
What is the best cheap computer case to buy?
Top Cheap Computer Case
Our opinion : A budget model from one of the most respected manufacturers on the planet.
What we like: Despite its moderate price, it looks like a premium case. It comes with magnetic dust filters and a pair of fans already installed, and it’s designed for easy liquid cooling installation. It comes in white or black and there’s even a microATX model if you want to try your hand at building a small form factor PC.
What we don’t like: The questionable placement of the hard drive cage makes it difficult to use 3.5-inch drives with a non-modular power supply.
Or buy: Sold by Amazon
Top cheap computer case for the money
Our opinion : Simple and versatile with a plethora of front-mounted I/O connectors.
What we like: It’s one of the few budget cases with built-in RGB lighting, in the form of a solid diagonal strip on the front with multiple colors and transition modes. Perhaps the most notable feature of this one are the three USB ports and the SD and microSD card readers on the front, where they are easy to access.
What we don’t like: Some full ATX motherboards fit snugly in this one, so you might be well served looking for discrete fans to go with it.
Or buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Our opinion : A relatively compact option from a beloved enthusiast brand.
What we like: SilverStone continues to get high marks for all of its designs, even from the pickiest PC builders. This one is smaller than many ATX cases, so it fits in more places. Its fully meshed front panel allows for the installation of three full-size case fans. It is available in black or white version.
What we don’t like: Because it’s more compact than most, it takes careful attention to detail to maximize airflow.
Or buy: Sold by Amazon
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Chris Thomas written for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their buying decisions, saving them time and money.
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