Tips & Tricks

Understanding Computer Case Sizes: Which Is Best for Your Needs?

One of the biggest decisions during a PC build is choosing a case. Here’s the rundown on the different computer case sizes available in 2019.

The PC DIY market got smart in 2010 when the market diversified and the needs for a home or business PC shifted. In came the smartphone and tablets, taking care of the day to day email and messaging services. Out went the need for a standard home PC.

The DIY market and hobbyist consumers became the target of PC parts manufacturers. With fewer big-box names putting out all-in-one systems, it was necessary to give the target consumer control.

One of the first parts to get homogenized was computer case sizes. Choosing a build starts with a purpose and then flows into case size.

That’s because case size is all about purpose. Let’s dive in on what each size supports and what they’re best suited for.

Computer Case Sizes Explored

Nobody considers a PC build without considering the purpose. Is the PC meant to be seen or hidden? Does it need to be one and done or customized over time?

Hobbyists systems tend to be larger and more accessible. Business and dedicated use systems need faster access but less room.

The following list explains the parameters of each case and its ideal purpose.

Keep in mind, the overall size of a case, and its workable dimensions change radically from one manufacturer model to the next. The standardization is about a minimum of motherboard space.

Size and Motherboard

The size of a computer case reflects the maximum size of the motherboard that can be installed.

Outside of specialized built-to-order systems, which use non-standard everything, the motherboard comes in only four sizes.

  • Mini-ATX
  • Micro-ATX
  • ATX
  • EATX

Small-Form-Factor

Produced for home theater and media systems, the small-form-factor (SFF) case has space for a mini-ATX, a single HDD bay and upwards of three SDD bays. Typically they will also have up to two PCI-E slots and room for a graphics card.

SFF work better with less, so integrated GPU on the CPU saves space.

Portability and low weight for ease of shelf storage are bonuses of SFF systems.

Mini-Tower

The most common case found in a business setting or a workhorse at-home system.

Mini-towers fit micro-ATX, one or two HDDs, and three to six SDDs. Expansion is still limited with upwards of four PCI-E slots and, at most, two GPU slots.

These systems offer versatility at a small size.

Desktop

Essentially these are mini-tower sizes but constructed to be used flat and horizontal. You often see these as business workstations, though they are getting phased out by mini-towers.

Any managed IT service will cringe at these hand-harmers and hope to get some breathable mini-towers in place.

Mid-Tower

The starting point for most gaming and hobbyist systems, the mid-tower has the most options on the market. These hold ATX boards and more than double the offerings on HDD, SDD, and expansion slots.

The most important feature of mid-towers is the versatility in cooling arrangements. This matters when running more than mid-tier components to keep the system functional.

Full-Tower

The full-tower earns the name from their imposing presence on a desktop.

These support EATX boards and further increase the drive slots, expansion slots, and GPU space of a mid-tower.

Cooling options also increase for the highest-end components needed for graphic design and distributed computing programs.

Full-towers are used as dedicated servers for distributed programs and for web servers.

Knowledge Is Power

The world of computer case sizes is colorful and filled with innovation in concept and presentation. Every year, manufacturers come out with new models to take advantage of or promote building trends.

Keep informed on all things computer by checking back with us frequently.

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