PC Case Sizes - The Complete Guide

Kaelum Ross

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May 16, 2020

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The verdict is in, size does matter!

…for PC cases at least – but as with all things technology, there’s a bunch of terms to know.

We’ve got:

E-ATX vs ATX vs mATX vs mITX.

And…

Small form-factor vs mini-tower vs mid-tower vs full tower vs super tower.

I know, I know, they don’t roll off the tongue.

But we’ve put together what’s important.

In this guide, you’ll have what you need to understand the differences between computer case sizes and decide the type that’s right for your next build.

Table of Contents

Computer Case Size Comparison Chart

Computer Case Size Comparison Chart
 
Smaller FF
Mini Tower
Mid Tower
Full Tower
MotherboardsMini ATXMicro ATX
Mini ATX
ATX
Micro ATX
Mini ATX
E-ATX
ATX
Micro ATX
Mini ATX
Graphics Cards11-22-33-4
Case Fans*1-32-53-96-12
Expansion Slots245-87-12
2.5" Drive Bays0-20-40-80-12
3.5" Drive Bays0-32-65-85-14
5.25" Drive Bays0-10-31-42-6

*With larger PC tower sizes, you will usually be getting more room for bigger fans, not just higher quantities.

PC Case Sizes Explained

Full Tower Size: E-ATX (Extended ATX)

The largest form factor of the popular options, a full tower case gives you the most space for high-end, demanding PC builds that require the best overclocking and plenty of cooling/hardware options.

As you can expect with the large internal dimensions, you’ll also have the best ventilation/airflow capabilities.

If you’re looking to achieve the most powerful build possible (whether for gaming, a server build, or editing/production) then this is the most capable option.

Bear in mind these cases are very bulky, heavy, and on the expensive side.

If you’re looking for something compact or on a budget, check the sizes below.

Mid Tower Size: ATX / mATX

The most popular form factor, a mid tower case strikes a great balance between space/price and is the “jack of all trades” choice.

For a majority of enthusiast builds, a mid tower case will still have all that you need for a gaming PC.

Providing great cooling options for overclocking and enough space for a strong SLI/crossfire build with lots more room for the rest of your hardware.

ATX is a great middle-ground; unless you want to build an absolute monster (E-ATX case) or something smaller (continue below…).

Mini Tower Size: mATX / mITX

Mini tower cases have become very popular in recent years due to the increasing quality of micro ATX motherboards/compatible parts.

The great thing about this form factor is that it provides you with decent compactness while still providing enough internal space to fit most popular products.

As we get smaller, bear in mind you’ll, of course, be limited in the hardware/cooling space and airflow available.

But if your gaming build is only 1 (at a push 2) GPUs and you don’t need lots of other bays/expansion slots, an mATX case may be the best option for you.

Smaller Form Factor Size: mITX

The smallest form factor on the list.

These are ideal for a portable / LAN party case or someone looking for something quite presentable and flashy (e.g. a streaming PC build).

You can still install many major parts inside an SFF case.

But be aware that for certain hardware (particularly PSUs/GPUs) you will have to get one of the larger mITX cases.

If however you’re looking for the smallest computer case possible, you’ll have to buy some less common (“specialist”) parts that’ll be a little more expensive.

If your heart is set on a tiny computer case, don’t let the above cautions put you off.

As long as you check your dimensions, you can still create an awesome gaming PC.

PC Case Size Guide

How to choose a PC case size

We’ve recommended the best PC cases for the main build types further below.

But if you want to understand what the criteria is for your case, here’s what to pay attention to:

Hardware support

It should go without saying this is one of the main factors.

As per our graph comparison, larger cases and the big motherboards they support will give you more options for your hardware.

This includes:

  1. Expansion slots – More will allow for multi-GPU crossfire/SLI builds and other components depending on your needs (dedicated sound cards and network cards).
    • Remember to always check the dimensions for GPU compatibility and how many slots your motherboard has.
  2. Drive bays
    • 5.25″ drive bays – Less popular nowadays, but still useful for things like CD/Blu-Ray Drives and additional card readers.
    • 3.5″ drive bays – Suitable for your standard 3.5″HDDs. Having a high allowance here is good for those focussed on storage (e.g. video editing PC build).
    • 2.5″ drive bays – For your SSDs, having a good amount of these will be good for those focussed on speed.
  3. Miscellaneous – Some very large cases will support awesome things like multi CPU/PSU builds and 8 DDR4 RAM slots if you’re interested in power more than a low budget.

Cooling

With big PC cases, comes big cooling capability.

For air-colling: the larger the tower, the more fans you’ll be able to fit in (not just quantity, but size too – often up to 200m).

Larger cases will, of course, include more room for air-flow and ventilation also, which is key for power-hungry builds.

And then there’s water cooling. Whether your focus is on a silent PC build or finding the best overclocking case, you’re going to have a lot more radiator space in a full/mid tower.

Nowadays, smaller form factors do have these capabilities, but they’re usually limited in what you can install and more reliant on air cooling.

If you’re serious about buying a water cooling case or pushing your overclocking to the max, go for a larger tower.

Cable management

With larger cases (particularly full/mid) you will commonly see significantly better options for routing your cables into “hidden” areas.

Typically routing behind a compartment underneath the motherboard installation area.

This is not just handy for aesthetics, but also makes the build process a lot easier.

Sure, mATX/mITX will (usually) have the space you need for smaller parts.

But you’ll have to be extra neat/efficient with your cable positioning, tying, and ensuring that you’re not using cables that are overlong (very common!).

If a clean-looking build is extra important to you, you could even purchase a dual-chamber case. 

These have dedicated areas to hide not only your cables but your other “less attractive” components (HDDs, PSU, etc).

PC Case Size for gaming

Size / Design

Now as nice as it is to have great room for parts, cable management and airflow, the small form factors have a very important thing going for them:

Portability.

You may not really care about this if you plan to have your PC stationary.

But if you’re a LAN party regular. have limited space or plan to use your build in multiple locations (e.g. a VR demo PC) then don’t understimate the usefulness of this perk.

And then there’s aesthetic.

It should go without saying that cases of all shapes and sizes come in really nice designs.

But it all comes down to personal preference, do you want a monolith towering over your desk or a small compact machine that fits tightly with the rest of your setup?

Price

As far as the case itself goes, smaller form factors will offer the best value due to less material requirements in their manufacturing.

You can, of course, get PC cases for all form factors in all price ranges, but if we’re talking about value, $ for $, you’re going to get more bang for your buck from small options.

There is a balance here, however.

If you go too small (mainly mITX/SFF cases), you may run into needing “specialist” PSUs/GPUs if the dimensions are low.

These parts tend to be more expensive than their mainstream alternatives.

Because of this, MicroATX tends to be the sweet spot, which leads us nicely into our budget choice…

Which PC case size should you get?

Budget gaming PC case

For a cheap PC build, the best option is Micro ATX.

This form factor and motherboard type will have less space and feature availability than ATX/E-ATX.

But you’re not going to care about losing these things in a budget PC (e.g. triple-GPU support and cooling options that would be excessive for a cheap build).

An mATX form factor hit the sweet spot between being smaller, but not too small that they lack compatibility with major parts and require “specialist” hardware like many mITX towers.

Our favorite “all-round” recommendation for a cheap gaming PC case is the Cooler Master Q300L.

It’s popular for a reason, offering impressive utility, build quality and design for its price range.

Looking for something else? All our PC case articles provide the best budget choices for their category, whether it’s a silent build, white PC, or even a pink tower.

Mid-range gaming PC Case

If you happen to like the compactness of an mATX, you can still use that form factor for a mid-range PC.

But as we approach a more “typical” gaming build, our recommendation would be to go for a mid / ATX tower.

Even if you don’t necessarily need every hardware allowance a case offers, working with a larger unit provides better airflow/ventilation, cable management and overall ease of build.

There’s a ton of great options out there in this range, but our pick for best mid tower case easily goes to the Fractal Design Define R6. Especially if you are interested in noise reduction.

If you want something a little more flashy, we highly recommend the NZXT H710.

If you’d like more options, check out our other case articles.

Powerful gaming PC Case

What about those less focussed on budget, and ar instead asking: “how do I build the best gaming PC possible?”.

We don’t want to “gatekeep” the top end PC builds, you can get a lot done in a standard ATX case (including SLI/decent cooling for overclocking).

But for the best performance possible, you want to look at full / extended-ATX towers.

This form factor will offer you incredible options for fans, water cooling, multi-GPU, cable management, and much more.

Because they’re focussed on high-end builds they tend to come with superior build quality and awesome designs.

We’ve built a full page for the best E-ATX computer cases.

But for a quick view, one of the best full tower case is the Thermaltake View 71.

This monolith supports up to 9 fans, 4 water cooling radiators (all of impressive sizes), and plenty of expansion slots/vertical graphics card installation options.

Between this space and cooling utility, you’re going to achieve incredible overclocking potential on a multi-GPU build.

We also feel compelled to include a runner-up pick for those more focussed on style than build in the Thermaltake AH T600.

Take on look at the product and you’ll see why!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still more than capable of building a very powerful PC, you’re just paying a little more for the aesthetic.

Whether it’s a PC for video editing, server stand-up, some other high-end production build, or of course gaming, the space of a full tower will give you incredible utility.

Small PC / HTPC Case

Finally, there are those after a lightweight PC case.

If your goal is to build something for portability, a home theatre, or simply because you like a tiny aesthetic, then you should definitely be looking at a Mini ITX case.

We would highly recommend checking out our horizontal PC case article that includes a lot of great options.

But for a top pick: you can’t go wrong with the Thermaltake Core V1.

For its price, the V1 offers great build quality and features considering its limited space.

If money is less of an obstacle in your small PC build, check out the InWin A1 Plus.

Other tips / FAQ

 Motherboard compatibility

The best identifier of a case’s internal size compatibility is what type of motherboard a case can support, which should be one of the main factors of your decision.

We’ve included the common “mini/mid/full” form factor definitions in our chart but know that these terms are not as accurate as motherboard compatibility.

For example, you may run into a full tower case which is really more the size of a “large mid-tower”.

There’s also a huge variance in what is considered a “mini-tower”.

This is why a “case with ATX support” is more reliable than a “mid-tower case”, so always check the motherboard compatibility in the product listing.

Can my MicroATX motherboard fit in my ATX case (and similar questions)?

Yes.

As per the comparison chart, nearly all cases will fit motherboards smaller than its main form factor.

So you could also fit a Mini-ITX mobo inside an ATX tower.

That being said, there isn’t really much point to putting a smaller motherboard in a larger case (unless you wanted a large space for airflow and had low build requirements).

In nearly all cases though, you’d be better off getting an ATX case for an ATX motherboard, mITX case for an mITX motherboard, and so on…

Super Tower vs Full Tower PC Case?

“Super Tower” is a bit of a marketing term without a very clear definition of what size it represents (not unlike “XL-ATX”).

Typically, this form factor is going to be on the larger side of a full tower case.

So if you’re looking for the largest computer case possible, then this term is a good sign.

But we wouldn’t recommend excluding full towers in your search, as there are a lot more options available and plenty of these are just as spacious as the super form factor.

PC Case Size Dimensions

We’ve chosen not to include specific “typical” dimensions for each of the form factors in this article because they’re simply too varying from model-to-model.

We’d highly recommend you look at the dimensions of specific cases you’re interested in, as opposed to relying on “typical” dimensions.

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