As technology has continued to move computing power forward, so has the demand for proper cooling. Airflow is arguably one of the most important aspects of getting the best performance from your gaming PC or a workstation. With the market continually flooded with several quality and affordable options to choose from, it begets the question: What's the best airflow PC case for your cooling needs?
We've mustered a shortlist of the 5 best PC cases for airflow to help you find the one that suits you best.
1. Best Overall: Phanteks Eclipse P400A RGB
- Optimal cooling performance with the ultra-fine performance mesh front panel and features a tempered Glass Side panel in a compact Mid-tower
- Spacious open interior: supports up to *E-ATX motherboard, 280/360mm radiator in front, vertical GPU mounting support (with PH-VGPUKT_02)
- Integrated Digital-RGB controller with 3x pre-installed D-RGB fans that can sync with compatible motherboards to create a stunning lighting effect
- Extensive storage options 6x HDDs (2x HDD trays included) and 8x SDD (2x dedicated bracket included) mounting locations
- Easy accessibility to I/O featuring 2x USB 3 0 mic headphone power button reset and the D-RGB controller
One of the latest arrivals in the P series, the Phanteks Eclipse p400A RGB, is an absolute beast. For starters, it features the characteristic brilliant aesthestics we've come to expect from this highly-reputable brand.
The P400A RGB features a full metal chassis and a spacious interior, enough to give you the confidence to fit in top-of-the-line components. Its deliberate design provides excellent airflow and cooling to ensure that everything runs at efficient temperatures. It also comes with a dual-fan configuration, providing support for up to 6 fans. The metal mesh front panel is equally designed to allow maximum airflow.
This is a great option if you're looking to get up to the last ounce of performance from your PC. As far as motherboard support goes, the P400A RGB is compatible with Mini-ITX, MicroATX, ATX and EATX.
2. Runner's Up: Cooler Master MasterBox NR600
- Minimalistic mesh design - Elegant design elements are applied to mesh for optimal thermal performance.
- Optimal thermal performance – the full mesh front panel and ventilated top panel provide a high potential for thermal performance.
- Flush Tempered glass Side panel design – The tempered glass Side panel, fastened by thumbscrews on the rear panel, keeps the surface flush and unobstructed.
- Graphics Card support up to 410 millimeter – Generous clearance space is provided to support the latest graphics cards.
- With/without ODD support – depending on preference, an odd version of the chassis is available. If an odd is not preferred, a cleaner appearance and more cooling options on the top and front panels are supported.
If you're looking for a case that prioritizes airflow performance over terrific aesthetics and gimmicky features, then the Cooler Master MasterBox NR600 is a superb choice. That being said, this case still sports an excellent build made of high-quality materials. Its motherboard support includes ATX, mATX and Mini-ITX.
The whole front panel is made of a single-layer fine mesh that allows for seamless airflow. This case offers up to 6 x 120mm fans, allowing you to experiment and find the perfect configuration for your system. It also has an impressively open interior without obstructions by cable and hard drive trays, meaning it delivers optimal airflow throughout.
Cable management is equally exceptional, thanks to several carefully designed, grommeted cable routers. The base of this case also has a PSU shroud that creates a positive flow within the case for even better cooling. Moreover, the MasterBox NR600 also comes with a pre-installed, powerful exhaust fan for excellent airflow right out of the box.
3. Best Value: Fractal Design Meshify C
Fractal Design is vastly popular for its high-end PC cases, and it's easy to see why. The Meshify C is arguably one of the best price-to-performance cases available, bringing brilliant features, excellent build quality and great cooling performance to the table. Motherboard support includes ATX, mATX and Mini-ITX.
The Meshify C features jagged edges and tempered glass, which gives it great visual appeal. Even at a smaller size, this case still delivers some of the best cooling performance on the market. The fans come with Fractal's proprietary Dynamic X2 GP-12 120mm fans, which deliver unmatched airflow, thanks to their immense power and careful positioning.
Cable management for this case is equally great, sporting grommeted cable holes to make your work sizeably easier. The open-plan interior layout provides unobstructed airflow paths that allow the fans to push cool air over heavy-duty components.
4. Best Full-Tower: NZXT H710
- NEW FEATURES: Front I/O USB Type-C Port and Tempered glass side panel with single screw installation
- ENHANCED CABLE MANAGEMENT: Our patented cable routing kit with pre-installed channels and straps makes wiring easy and intuitive
- STREAMLINED COOLING: Two Aer F120mm fans* included for optimal internal airflow and the front panel and PSU intakes include removable filters, removeable bracket designed for radiators up to 240mm - simplifies the installation of either closed-loop or custom-loop water cooling
- MOTHERBOARD SUPPORT: Mini-ITX, MicroATX, ATX, and EATX
- SPECS: Max GPU Clearance: 413mm, Radiaor Support - Front: 360mm, Top: 360mm, Rear: 140mm
If you're a minimalism disciple but still want nothing short of fantastic airflow in your case, the NZXT H710 is worth your consideration. This fan-favorite supports Mini-ITX, MicroATX, ATX and EATX.
The NZXT is custom-engineered to deliver only the maximum levels of thermal performance, despite what the aesthetics might lead you into thinking. The H710 doesn't have a mesh front, instead featuring reasonably large airflow cutouts at the side of the front panel. This allows the front fans, which come preinstalled, to draw the necessary amount of air.
Unlike previous models of the H series, the H710 lets users manage their cables and use large components without compromising airflow. With support for up to 7 x 120mm fans, you can try out different configurations for your ideal level of airflow.
5. Best E-ATX: Be Quiet! Pure Base 500DX
- High airflow intake front panel and top cover for maximum performance
- ARGB LED at the front and inside the case
- USB 3.1 Type C Gen. 2 for latest hardware
- Water cooling ready for radiators of up to 360mm
This is a custom-designed case that's built for high cooling performance. To the extent that Pure Base 500DX doesn't even focus on aesthetics, simply providing contrasting RGB on the outside.
This case features a mesh air grill at the front, allowing the preinstalled intake fans to suck in maximum levels of air. Speaking of fans, the Pure Base 500DX comes with three Pure Wings 2 x 140mm fans for that extra CFM. Motherboard support for this case includes Mini-ITX, MicroATX and EATX.
More so, this case comes with excellent cable management, plus plenty of interiors space. This allows you to use large components and achieve tidy cable routing at the same time.
Factors to Consider in the Best Airflow PC Case
1. Fan Configuration
The number one driving force for internal PC case airflow is the fans. There's no such thing as having too many fans. Fans drive air through the case and over its component, maintaining the internal temperature at efficient levels.
However, not all cases are built the same; some have great fan configurations while others simply come with fan slots. If you want a PC case specifically tailored towards airflow, it should preferably have several fan mounting slots. Normally, you'll have 3 x 120mm at the front, 3 x 120mm on the roof and 1 x 120mm at the back. This should allow you to experiment with different fan configurations until you find one that best suits your build's airflow needs.
2. Size & Form Factor
The size of the case determines the number of components it can accommodate, which then dictates the form factor. For instance, a large PC case might feature both full and mid-tower motherboard support, while smaller cases don't. You need to keep in mind that if your case only fits your components, then it won't leave a sufficient deal of room for airflow.
If your build has a large GPU, extra hard driver trays and plenty of cables, you might find the airflow getting a bit stunted. The idea is to go for a PC case that allows you to fit all your components while also leaving enough room to produce adequate airflow.
The three most common size variants include:
- Full tower: Largest option, works with Micro ATX, Mini-ITX, ATX and EATX motherboards.
- Mid-tower: Most popular option, works with Mini-ITX. MicroATX and ATX.
- Mini-ITX: Smallest option, thus the most compact with great portability. It works with Mini-ITX and MicroATX.
While considering your PC case's size and form factor, it would be advisable to keep future upgrades in mind. Look into the relevant dimensions such as radiator size, graphics card length or CPU cooler height thoroughly. Think of how you would like your rig to look in the long-term, then choose accordingly.
You don't really require a huge case if you're going for a small PC build. Similarly, you shouldn't go for a small case if you have several internal components in mind. This is partly why mid-towers are quite popular since they're big enough to accommodate future additions but not too big to take up too much room.
3. Cooling & Airflow
Airflow is pretty much the main reason you're looking at PC cases. Proper airflow means your PC operates with more cooling efficacy, translating to quieter operations and more power efficiency. Good airflow ultimately gives you better performance and an extended lifespan.
The total storage capacity of a PC case typically depends on the number of drive bays. You'll come across 3 main drive bay types:
- 2.5": Generally used for high-speed Solid State Drives, hence less capacity and quite pricey too.
- 3.5": Mainly used for traditional Hard Disk Drives. These are slower than SSDs but have significantly more capacity and are pretty affordable.
- 5.25": Mostly used for CD players and/or floppy disk drives. Technically speaking, these don't really add to the system's actual storage.
5. I/O Ports
Inputs and Outputs, commonly referred to as I/O, are several jacks and USB ports found on a typical PC case. How you use your computer determines the ultimate setup you'll go for. For example, as much as USB 3.O delivers notably faster data transfer speed, thus perfect for people who move files from flash drives frequently, it might not be the best choice if your mouse and keyboard come with the earlier USB 2.0 protocol.
6. Cable Management
Cable management is essential if you want the best airflow cooling performance. This means maintaining your cables neat and tidy in the case. Managing cables intently makes your job significantly easier, especially when adding new components or maintaining smooth running on your machine.
Upgrading becomes even easier since you don't need to rummage your way to the ports through bundles of messy cables and wires. Furthermore, attentive cable management is equally useful for optimal airflow. Tangled cables tend to hamper airflow, leading to temperatures building up in the case.
7. Dust Management
Dust might not be a major factor for airflow, but it definitely has a knock-on effect on the case's thermal performance. When it accumulates to certain levels, dust tends to stunt the airflow produced from the fans, ultimately increasing the CPU and GPU temperatures.
To prevent this from happening, it's best to look for PC cases that come with good dust filtration. This entails having dust vents or meshes covering all the airflow holes. Furthermore, you should also ensure that the case you get is fairly easy to clean if dust builds.
Nowadays, PC cases come in all sorts of colors and designs. Since you'll probably keep yours for a couple of years, you might as well get one that you like how it looks. You can certainly hop onto the trendy RGB cases; they tend to look pretty cool in a setup.
Frequently Asked Questions on Airflow PC Cases
1. Can I use my PC without a case?
Yes, your computer can definitely work without a case. Nevertheless, this exposes it to the elements such as moisture and humidity, which damage electrical components. Dust, which has a way of getting everywhere, can clog various parts of the computer to the point of malfunction. This could even be an accidental spill or your pet running through your PC out of the blue.
More so, a computer case is quite effective for noise reduction and maintaining proper airflow. After all, fans would blow randomly all over without a case, reducing the cooling effectiveness.
2. Does NOT having a side panel on a PC case help in cooling?
No, it doesn't particularly solve your cooling issues. In fact, removing the side panel hampers the whole airflow process. Ideally, proper airflow occurs when cool air is brought into the case, heats up and is then let out. This would be virtually impossible without the side panel. In any case, you would be exposing the internal components to dust and the elements.
For the best cooling, you would rather invest in more efficient measures, like adding more fans or CPU coolers.
3. What other features can I consider in a PC case?
For the ultimate user experience, you can always consider more specific features on top of the ones outlined in the buying guide. Here are a couple of nifty features that might not have much to them but can still make a difference for some people.
- Tempered glass side panel
- Removable motherboard tray
- Tool-free design
- Front-panel Connectivity
- Fan Mounts
- RGB Lighting
- LED light control button