Types of Computer Cases and Motherboard Factors

Computer Cases

In this day and age gone are the days when beige desktop cases were all the rage, the most common type of pc case now is the tower. Depending on the height of the tower and the number of internal drive bays, these cases can be further classified into mini-size, mid-size micro-size and full-size tower cases. One of the biggest considerations when choosing between case sizes is the number of slots and the number of devices you would like to add to your next pc build, but what’s most important is finding a case that’s compatible with your motherboard size.

Full Tower

Full-tower cases are generally big with a height that is about or more than 30 inches (more than 76 cm). The number of internal drive bays inside these cases can be between 6 and 10 and can quite easily accomodate all or majority of the ATX motherbaords that are currently on the market.

Spoton PC Cases - Full Tower

Example – GameMax Vega & Termaltake P7

The bigger the case the more you can install inside. So, if you’re planning on installing a longer GPU i.e something like the asus radeon RX580 (11.73 ” x 5.28 ” x 2.07 ” Inch) or the nVidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB XTREME AIO WATERFORCE. If you’re planning on using a push/pull configuration for the water-cooler, then you’ll need even more space. Many cases are geared towards water-cooling setups, with mounts at the top, bottom, and front of the case for radiators, but double-check on the maximum thickness that can be accommodated. Unfortunately, many manufacturers don’t actually list this figure, so check out some reviews online to get the info you need.

Full Tower Case
Example – Full Tower Case

Mid Tower

Another case that might be a step down, would be classified as a mid tower case. Mid-tower cases are the most widely used computer cases. Mid Tower cases are about 18 to 24 (45 to 60 cm) inches high and they usually contain 2 to 4 internal drive bays and a similar number of external bays (for CD/DVD readers and similar). This case type can also accomodate an all-in-one water-cooling setup for your PC like Corsair’s H110, then you need to make sure there’s adequate room for not only the two 120mm fans, but also the radiator that’s part of the setup

Mid Tower Case
Example – Mid Tower Case

Micro PC  Tower

Micro tower pc cases usually have up to 2 to 3 internal drive bays. Micro-cases normally stand at a height of 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm). Expandability for future upgrades is a problem with these cases.

SpotOn PC Cases - Micro ATX

Example – Micro PC Cases

Mini PC Case

Mini pc cases are now becoming more and more common with the release of ITX motherboards which is covered further down this post, but it sufficient to say that ITX cases, slim Line cases, Small Form Factor (SFF) Case all fall in this case category.
They are designed to minimize the spatial volume of a desktop computer. SFFs are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, including shoe boxes, cubes, and book-sized PCs.

SpotOn pc caes - ITX PC Case

Example – Mini PC Cases

Motherboard Form Factor

There’s one important consideration we need to be aware of when choosing the case size and that is the size of the motherboard. They need to match. The size of the motherboard is often called the Form Factor and there are several standards. The form factor identifies the size of the circuit board, the location of the slots as well as the location of the faceplate that comes out the back of the computer. The form factor also identifies the location of the holes that are used to mount the motherboard into the system case. For example, the full tower has more than enough room to fit an ATX motherboard. Mid-tower case can also accommodate an ATX motherboard in most cases.

ATX Form Factor (Full ATX)

Probably the most common form factor for a motherboard is the ATX form factor. The board is approximately 12″ x 9.6″ (30cm x 24cm).

Spoton PC Cases - ATX Motherboard

Micro ATX

The micro-ATX form factor is an even smaller version of the ATX standard, with a maximum size of 9.6″ x 9.6″ (24cm x 24cm). The faceplate line up to the exact same position as in all other versions of ATX. System case that can hold an ATX motherboard can also hold micro ATX motherboard. The smaller mid or mini tower cases would likely be too small for a full ATX motherboard but should accommodate micro ATX motherboard. The terms mini-ATX and micro-ATX are often used interchangeably.

SpotON PC Cases - Micro ATX Form Factor motherboard

Example – uATX Form Factor

Mini ATX

A mini-ATX motherboard is a slightly smaller variation of the full ATX size that measures 11.2″ x 8.2″ (28cm x 21cm). The main difference between ATX and mini-ATX is the number of buses and possibly memory slots on the motherboard. Mounting holes for both are located in the same place, making them interchangeable in most cases. A case that supports an ATX motherboard can also support mini-ATX motherboard.

Mini ITX Form Factor Motherboard

Example – Mini-ATX (ITX) Form Factor

Conclusion

When choosing a pc case, other than considering the size of the computer that we want or how it looks, the most important thing is to match the motherboard form factor with the form factor supported by the computer case. The most common pc case type is the tower. Tower cases are: Full tower, Mid tower and Micro tower. Mini pc cases are Slim line cases small form factor or SFF cases are custom cases that are designed to minimize the spatial volume of a desktop computer where space is at a premium. The size of the motherboard is often called the Form Factor. The most common form factor for a motherboard is the ATX form factor. When considering the size of ATX we differentiate Full ATX, Mini ATX, Micro ATX, there are other forms of motherboards but for the purpose of this blog we need only consider the three types mentioned above.

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