Buying a top computer case if the best way that you can show off your new desktop computer. The great thing about PC tech is that it is so easy to build your own computer now that everyone is starting to do it and for every use you ever thought of. Computer cases are now not even restricted to desktop and laptops as home servers and even houses completely networked are becoming more common.
So how do you find the right case for what you are doing? We will look at the types of cases available on the market, as well as what you can now find installed on or around your new computer case that might sway your decision that bit further.
When we talk about computers, it was not long ago that motherboards on the consumer market consisted of one or two sizes and you either had a full size computer tower or a full size desktop unit. As monitor screen sizes increase and their footprints are shrinking, the need to balance them on large desktop cases is no longer needed and towers are becoming increasingly common in the consumer desktop computer market. Back in the 1960's, computer cases actually consisted of racks filling whole rooms, but to do the tasks that today can be done on your mobile phone.
Full Size Towers
These are the big beasts and the home of the full size ATX-Motherboards. If you head to your local computer gaming LAN event then you are likely to come across lots of participants with full size towers. These computer cases hold the biggest of the motherboards as well as large numbers of hard drives, disc drives and expansion cards for the big gaming rigs.
The computer case here is the one that I use for my main computer at the moment, one of the Antec 900 Range. Like full size tower computer cases there are extras built-in which will help the owner either in maintenance or more features; for example the pictured case is the case I use because I know that it will need some fairly reliable cooling and it came with 4 fans, two of which keep the hard drive bays cool (the blue hue of light at the front of the computer case), a massive 200mm fan in the top of the case and a fourth at the rear.
Something else that is included on many desktop computer cases is added sound outputs. I mention in an Infobarrel article about building your own computer that sound cards are quite rare to need in today's consumer market; but case manufacturers still offer them because a quick and easy access to a sound port is a good idea and motherboard manufacturers will still include a socket to connect it to.
All but the cheapest of budget computer cases now also come with at least USB 1 sockets somewhere on the front or top of the case; most will support USB 2 and some go further (again as in this instance) of including Firewire or the new USB3 standard.
The big downside to a good full size desktop computer tower case is the cost. You can buy one fairly cheaply, but if you want more features because you use your computer for intensive applications or gaming; then you are starting to approach the larger price tags.
Midi / Mid-Size Towers
As the name suggests, there are smaller towers which are available and just as popular. These obviously will not cater for the larger motherboards, but the same principles apply as they do to full size towers. The two most common sizes of mid-size towers are Mini-ATX and Micro-ATX.
With the increase in television technology there is an increasing trend in televisions becoming hybrid computer monitors. We are beyond the old cathode tubes and now have a lot of considerations before you choose a computer monitor or television, let alone how you are going to show any pictures on it!
Alongside the satellite and cable TV providers, you also now have the new generation of Internet TV and streaming from your home computer network direct to the big plasma screen in your lounge. Something like this Western Digital example on the right shows just how small and discrete they can be alongside your Sky or Virgin Media receiver; but it does not always the flexibility that building your own media centre can offer.
If you are upgrading old components you should find that with the exception of the motherboard, they will fit into smaller itx case. This is possible thanks to mini-itx cases however with most motherboards not being small enough to fit, many retailers will offer a bundled set-up of a case, motherboard and power supply; making it easy just to transfer your processor, RAM and hard drives to your new media centre computer.
Media Centre PC's usually come pre-built in one of two formats; cubes or "traditional" desktop units. It is not always necessary to do this though as the only core issue with building a media centre computer is that it is quiet enough for you to watch your media without everyone in a mile radius knowing what you are watching - especially if it is something you don't want them knowing you watch it. If you want to hide a full size tower behind your TV, then there is nothing stopping you.
Originally the preserve of large corporate servers or data storage companies, the rack mounted computer has slowly become affordable for the consumer and small business applications. The rack mounted PC is designed to live within standard 19 inch racking and from a mount point of view, racks come in free-standing, floor mounted and even desktop formats.
I have used rack mounted computers to cut the footprint of equipment in hospital radio stations; something which has allowed them to mount a number of computers centrally to control different aspects of the organisation such as studio play out computers, e-mail and text messaging services and administration. Having a number of computers in the same room obviously requires adequate ventilation to prevent heat damage, however if you have a number of computers in an enclosed space, this may become a solution to all those varied cases making an unsightly impact on your minimalist environment.
If you really do not want to stay conventional and want to make your own bespoke case then you still can. There are many websites on the Internet such as Lifehacker's "featured desktops", Ikea Hacker and the like who deal with modifying the conventional and building the unusual. The modular aspect of computers and the relative easy of compatibility around the consumer processor families means that the brave can attempt anything within reason.....
If you are that brave, good luck and leave a comment with a link to your accomplishments!