Building a computer is not an easy process. For one, you have to take it step by step, and the first step is knowing your needs. Are you a casual internet browser? A researcher? A content creation professional who needs a lot of high-performance software? A Gamer? And after answering this question, comes the daunting next one: What do I buy now?
Here are a few factors to consider before investing in a Micro ATX Case, as well as a list of the top choices we’ve found.
This CPU is small, but God, is that space well used. With everything we’ve said before about space and room for your PC’s components, you may have been thinking, “So… the bigger the better?” but this one proves that taking a good half of your desk space is not necessary to deliver greatness; as it still manages to pack 11.8” GPU clearance and up to five drive bays, two of which are 3.5” and three are 2.5”. It also packs two LED 120 mm fans with customizable LED lights and a controller included in the pack for a nice show of colors, space for up to six more fans, it has pretty nice cable management, and walls made of tempered glass for a cool display of your system’s inside. What’s the con? Well, this is quite pricey; it is one of the most expensive on this list.
This one is bigger than the Corsair, but still packs a cool design, also with tempered glass display and steel, and while the Corsair used customizable LED lights to give its design some color, this one comes in multiple color accent options. It supports both Micro ATX and Mini ITX motherboards, an innovative cable management system, three 120 mm fans with the possibility of adding two more and three radiators, four 2.5” drive bays and one 3.5”, three air filters, and 16” GPU clearance. It also happens to be a lot cheaper than the Corsair, so there is that as well.
The main thing we like about this one is the ease of pulling things out and putting them back in, as it has an easily removable tray for the motherboard. It also has 2 fans with the ability to add up to 6 more and a water-cooling radiator, a dust filter, 3 x 3.5” drive bays and 2 x 2.5” drive bays, 12.6” GPU clearance, and plenty of room for cable management and airflow and, get ready for this one, it is one of the most affordable options on this list. One thing to be mindful of though is that it is also one of the chubbiest, measuring 16.45” x 11.02” x 16.22”.
This is another big one, measuring 20.51” x 9.13” x 17.76”. What it lacks in convenient sizing, though, it makes up for the minimalistic design: While the previous options featured LED lights and colored accents and other The Matrix-worthy flashy aesthetics, this one is a simple rectangular grey box. The material is dense to reduce noise as much as possible without compromising airflow. This option allows for up to two 420mm and 360mm radiators or fans, with up to eight 2.5” or 3.5” drive bays and two SSD drive slots placed behind the motherboard on the outside of the case for easy access, an easily removable left panel of the case for easy access of the system, and 12” GPU clearance.
This one boasts a pretty elegant aluminum and magnetic tempered glass body with easily removable panels for easy access and LED lighting, and is available in three colors: Black, gray and silver. It has 2 x 2.5” drive bays and 2 x 3.5” drive bays, 12.5” graphics card clearance, 2 x 140mm fans and the options to add four more or three more 140mm fans and up to six 120mm radiators. It is another bulky option (15.7” x 9.1” x 17.8”) but it is in the middle range of prices, and pretty good with that considered.
Here comes the expensive one we talked about earlier. Its appearance really reminds us of those refrigerators you see in rich people’s kitchens in movies… you know the ones. Its front and back are metallic and the sides are tempered glass, it’s spacious, pretty and fancy (and it better be for that price.) With removable drives, 15” GPU clearance, three dedicated radiator mounts, there is a fan included and you can install seven more (though one fan is disappointing for the price), 2 HDD drive bays and 3 SSD, you be the judge of whether or not it’s worthy of that price, just check it out first, don’t pay blindly… we personally think it’s pretty cool, with the price being its biggest con.
This is a great affordable one which not only is compatible with Micro ATX boards but Mini ITX as well. Its design is pretty cool, available in white with blue accents or black with orange accents, with detachable tempered glass panels for easy access, can hold a 240mm radiator in the front and a 120mm one in the back, and a very well-ventilated body with a lot of air passage. It is quite small and convenient measuring only 14.6” x 7.4” x 14.3”, 2 x 2.5” drive bays (which is a con seeing as all the other options had more) and 12.9” GPU clearance. Another con is that it has no air filters.
This one is quite the chunk (16.7” x 12.6” x 13.2”) which is used for extra space on the inside for cable management and whatnot. It supports both Micro ATX and Mini ITX, 3 x 3.5” and 3 x 2.5” drive bays, 13.7 GPU clearance, a body with excellent air passage, one 200mm fan already installed with room for more cooling, and one of the most affordable prices on this list. One con is that we would have liked at least one more fan, but you won’t hear us complain as much as we did about the Project S Drawer as the former is a fraction of the latter’s price. Also, this one has no air filters.
One thing you will need for sure is a motherboard, and not all motherboards can fit in all cases. If you’re planning on buying a Micro ATX board, which is more affordable in price than Mini ITX boards you will need a case that can contain one. But, before you go and randomly buy one, we’ll help you know what to look for because those things aren’t cheap, and your hard earned money, once gone, is gone forever.
Let’s start with the most important thing: The price. Why? Because yes, while more money can buy a better case, that money is also most probably needed for higher priorities, putting food on the table included, so we’re always here to help you find good enough features for not-too-much money.
This list is going to include options under $50, options between $50 and $100, options between $100 and $200 and hell, there’s even one rogue option that sells for higher than that, for all you lovers of splurging out there. What does the price depend on, you say? The materials, the features, the name of the brand… a lot of things. It’s kind of like those “Why are designer clothes more expensive?” questions. If Gucci or Corsair decided to place their products above most in the market in price, and some (many, in fact) still decided to buy them, who can blame them? It’s the buyer’s decision, in the end.
As we briefly mentioned, not all motherboards are meant to fit in every case, as every form factor (type and shape of motherboard) has a specific place to be mounted on in your case (a tray, which usually exists on the bottom of the case) that has holes in it in specific places to fix your motherboard on.
If the tray doesn’t fit the size of your motherboard or the holes aren’t in the right places, then sadly, they’re not meant to be together.
In the case of a micro ATX motherboard, luckily, it happens to fit in most form factors (full tower, mid tower, and mini-tower cases.) Still, you need to verify that the option you’ve picked fits a standard micro ATX motherboard.
Cooling is a crucial function of any case, because you can’t afford to have the contents of your case overheat and break on you. Ventilation opening are essentials and available in most cases, and fans are just as important in our opinion. There are cases with extra fan mounts that go up to 200 mm. in size, and cases to which you can also install an additional CPU cooler with a special mount build underneath the board.
We recommend that you choose a case with as many ventilation options as possible and use them all, especially for high-capacity use.
There are also cases equipped with air filters to keep dust out of your case and minimize the need to open it up and clean it (which is quite the annoying process.)
There aren’t many cases equipped with this option, so you need to decide whether or not you want to make it a priority while looking for a case to purchase.
Remember, your case isn’t meant to only house a motherboard, there’s a whole lot of stuff that belongs in there as well that must find a place. Those things can include extra hard drives, card readers, fan controllers, extra fans, and a multitude of other things. All these amenities can be installed on what is called drive bays. Cases can have different sizes of drive bays that vary from 2.5” to 5.25”.
Another thing which is vital and also housed in your case, is the graphics card (GPU), which needs a special spot called the GPU clearance. Most GPUs tend to be sized between 10” and 12”, so if your GPU clearance is sized 12” you’re most probably good with any GPU.
The third thing to account for is extra space for cable management. Without that space, things can get quite messy and/or dangerous if you try to get in and remove some cables or adjust them in any way.
Now, let’s break down the top 8 options for Micro ATX cases you can find on the market right now (In no particular order, but we will give you a winner and a runner-up in the end.)
Your long term needs come at n.1 when buying a computer case, especially an expensive one. Don’t think of what you want now, think of the things you’ll need it to perform a year later when you’re playing VR games or being overworked as a freelance graphic or interior designer. You’ll need quite the software, quite the GPU card, and quite the hard drives.
Our personal favorite is… drumrolls the NZXT H400. It looked elegant, sturdy, had all the ventilation it could possibly need, three air filters, a pretty cool cable management system, a decent amount of drive bays and huge room for a GPU that is a lot more than most modern GPUs need. In addition, it is greatly priced in the middle range. Maybe it could stand another 3.5” drive bay but look, for that price and all the other great things, we ain’t complaining.
The runner up is the Phanteks PH-ES314ETG_AG EVOLV. It is almost just as great an option with all the previous features considered (GPU clearance, ventilation, air filtration, drive bays, etc.) but we’ve placed it second because it is slightly bigger and more expensive. In the end, we’re not trying to sell you either. The information is now yours, and the decision too.