Last Update: Apr 01, 2019

Best Budget PC Cases of 2019

Pubished 03:55 AM
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If there’s one part of your sweet new gaming rig you can spend less on without worrying too much, it’s your case. It’s certainly the simplest component of a gaming PC—it’s just a box with some screw holes and a few fans. As long as the case you choose is made from reasonably solid materials, it’s hard to go wrong.

PC gaming hardware is a largely unregulated market, which means that progress happens at breakneck speeds. PC case manufacturers are motivated to earn your dollars by selling you the best possible product at the lowest possible price; the end result is that even budget-friendly PC cases get better and better over time.

In 2019, some ultra-affordable PC cases have awesome features that even deluxe cases couldn’t pull off five years ago. You’re paying less over time for increasingly better products—everybody wins!


Top 3 Budget PC Cases

“Budget-friendly” is a context-sensitive term. For this article, we’ve defined it as “under $100.” We’ve scoured the internet for three of the best PC cases that (currently) cost less than that. We’ve also put together a buying guide and an FAQ section to help you decide on the best budget PC case for your exact needs.

If you’re more interested in the dimensions and specifications of your next case than in what it costs, check out our comparison articles on the best full-tower case and the best mid-tower case.

1

Best Choice: Corsair Carbide 270R

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Key Features

  • Lots of room inside
  • Intuitive layout
  • Room for multiple hard drives

The Corsair Carbide 270R is a case designed with simplicity in mind. From convenient cable management channels to multiple configuration options for both liquid and air cooling, it’s got several features to make your build as easy as possible.

If you’ve ever found yourself locked in mortal combat with the legendary Gorgon Medusa, you have some idea of what it’s like trying to organize all 30,000 power cords that come attached to most power supply units. Long story short: it sucks.

The Corsair Carbide 270R has an answer to this problem in the form of built-in channels and cubbyholes specifically for stuffing cables into. The entire power supply can even be hidden from view under a metal plate, giving you a visually clean final result with only a few inches of a few cables visible.

All the empty space not taken up by cords is also good news for your CPU and GPU temps. There’s plenty of front-to-back airflow, and if you decide to go with liquid cooling, most such systems are compatible. (In fact, for mid-tower single-GPU ATX builds, this is one of the best cases we’ve ever seen in terms of maintaining cool temps with nothing but the case fans.)

An intuitive interior design combined with clear labeling makes the Carbide 270R a very user-friendly case. If you’re not sure where a particular component should go, just look for an imprint of the same size and shape. This case allows for vertically mounted SSDs, too (which you should take advantage of for even better airflow).

Our complaints with this case are pretty minor. The I/O ports are arranged vertically on the front panel as opposed to on the top of the case, which is far more common. Still, that’s a small inconvenience at worst—you might even find that you like it better that way. We’d also recommend buying the version with solid side panels. It’s cheaper anyway ($60 vs. $65), and the windowed version has panels made of cheap plastic that scratches easily.

+Pros
  • Built-in cable management
  • Great airflow
  • Solid case for first-time builders
-Cons
  • I/O ports are vertically arranged on the side rather than being on top
  • Windowed version has cheap plastic side panels
2

Best Quality: Rosewill THOR V2

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Key Features

  • 6 internal 3.5” drive bays
  • 10 expansion slots
  • Variable speed fan control

Rosewill seems to be pretty good at mid-tier PC cases. The THOR V2 case aims to be both simple and customizable. It’s a stellar budget case as long as you can decipher the fan assembly instructions.

Why have, like, fifteen tiny case fans when you can have one giant one that looks like it came from a cartoon supervillain’s evil bunker? Let’s face it, the colossal fan on the THOR V2’s side panel does look pretty silly, but it does what fans are supposed to do: it sucks a lot of heat out of your case.

The big advantage of having a huge fan on the side of your case is that you can fit more/larger components inside since front-to-back airflow isn’t as critical. It’s surprisingly quiet, too; you can definitely hear it, but it makes less noise than some 120mm fans do.

We’ve been kind of hard in the past on PC cases that are made primarily of plastic, but the THOR V2 gets a partial pass in this regard. It is mostly plastic, but it’s thick plastic, and the interior frame is mostly aluminum. As long as you don’t drop it, there’s little reason to worry about it breaking.

Standard 5.25” expansion bay items and 3.5” hard drives slide and snap into place without any tools or screws, which is super convenient. You’re (partially) out of luck when it comes to 2.5” SSDs, though. You’ll need to pick up some 3.5” to 2.5” adapter bays, but those are cheap enough.

The biggest drawback to this case is the virtually nonexistent fan installation instructions, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if not for the fact that the process isn’t particularly intuitive either. The case fans are pre-installed; it’s getting them hooked up to the top control panel correctly that sucks. You’ll need to do a bit of Googling and might even have to get Rosewill on the phone. (We spent some time trying to find a video for you, but no dice. Sorry.)

The THOR V2 is currently $99.99 on Amazon, but it does drift north of the $100 mark sometimes, so we can just barely call it a budget case. Grab it now before it gets expensive again.

+Pros
  • Great airflow
  • Sturdily built
  • No screws required for 5.25” and 3.5” bays
-Cons
  • Fan installation is a pain
  • Barely qualifies as a budget-friendly case
3

Best Value: Antec Dark Fleet Series DF500

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Key Features

  • Compatible with ATX, micro-ITX, and mini-ATX motherboards
  • Supports GPUs up to 380mm long
  • Supports CPU fans up to 155mm tall

Do you want a PC case that looks like it belongs in a nightclub on a space station? The Antec Dark Fleet DF500 positively vomits rainbow lights—and the front panel looks a lot like an N7 helmet. It surely competes for the best gaming PC case title.

Not only does the Antec Dark Fleet DF500 case look like it came from space, but it also has lots of space. It’s one of the roomiest sub-$100 PC cases we’ve come across, at least in terms of raw 3D real estate. Its “7 expansion slot” claim is misleading, though—this case actually has fewer expansion slots than average.

Its ad copy is only referring to 2.5” and 3.5” hard drive slots. The term “expansion slots” is typically a catch-all phrase that includes 5.25” bays for CD-ROM drives and internal SD card readers, so using it to refer only to hard drive slots is a little disingenuous. The DF500 actually has no 5.25” slots, so look elsewhere if you need some.

In terms of interior design, the DF500 keeps it simple by just leaving the case mostly empty. Not having any 5.25” bays is a bummer for some, but the upside is a big increase in useable space, which does wonders for cooling. The entire front panel of this case is made of fans, and since there’s nothing immediately behind them, they can push hot air to the back more efficiently. Liquid cooling almost certainly won’t be necessary, but if you do decide to go that route, there’s plenty of room for it.

Not mentioning this case’s confidently fabulous aesthetic would constitute a minor injustice. If you plan to turn all of its RGB lights on at full blast, put on some sunglasses first. There are so many sources of rainbow lighting that you half expect the case to also blast you in the face with glitter.

You’d think that so much RBG lighting would cross the line from stylish to silly, but it somehow doesn’t. The sleek contours of the black-and-glass panels help to offset the crazy-bright lighting that wouldn’t look out of place in a disco club. Somehow, it just works, and it non-ironically looks cool. You don’t have to turn all the lights up to “Ultimate Rainbow” intensity, anyway (if you’re lame).

As rad as the Antec Dark Fleet DF500 is, it still comes with caveats. The plastic components of the case are a bit thinner and flimsier than we’d prefer. You’ll want to be extra-gentle with it, but its connectors are the bigger problem. Multiple owners report power connectors simply not providing power to their respective components.

This is obviously an issue that would be covered under the warranty, but it’s still frustrating to have a brand new case malfunction this way. Even so, the DF500 is still a stylish and mostly excellent budget PC case. You can currently pick one up for about $75 on Amazon.

+Pros
  • Roomy (but only in a certain respect)
  • Good airflow
  • Cool “gay Darth Vader” vibe
-Cons
  • No 5.25” bays
  • Case is mostly made of cheap plastic
  • Connectors may be unreliable

Budget-Friendly PC Cases – Buying Guide

To the unwary, an affordable PC case and a poorly made one can be the same thing. There are always exceptions, but in our experience, a decent-quality PC case for less than $50 is usually too good to be true. Still, there are a ton of great options in the $50 to $100 range.

In this guide, we’ll cover the essential budget PC case characteristics to evaluate during the research phase of your shopping adventure, including case size and interior space, cost, build quality, durability, user-friendliness, and noise levels.

Case Size & Interior Space

It would be nice if terms like “mid-tower” described PC cases of an exact, universal size, but we’re not that lucky. A mid-tower case is just the right size for a majority of PC gamers, but extra-small and extra-large options exist for those who value portability/affordability and insane horsepower, respectively.

Very broadly speaking, the various sizes of PC cases are about this big:

Case sizeExterior DimensionsWhere to Place It?
Small Form Factor (SFF/mini-ITX)10” x 10” x 8”Basically anywhere
Mini-Tower (or MicroATX)14” x 16” x 8”On top of/in/under your desk
Mid-Tower (ATX)18” x 20” x 8”Under or beside your desk
Full (EATX/SSI EEB)24” x 20” x 10” or biggerMight need its own bedroom

There isn’t a significant correlation between size and price for PC cases. You can find any size case at (almost) any price point; its materials, build quality, and features will be the biggest factors in its cost.

Lastly, the size of a PC case is sort of correlated to the motherboard form factors it can accommodate. Bigger cases can often (but not always) accept several different sizes of motherboards, but smaller cases obviously can’t accept motherboards they simply don’t have room for.

We’ve put together articles on the best micro-ATX case and the best mini-ITX case for the “smaller is better” crowd.

Your Budget

Mid-tower PC cases most commonly fall somewhere between $100 and $200, which is why we chose $100 as the upper limit for a case to earn the “budget-friendly” label. Bear in mind that the amount you pay for a PC case today isn’t the only thing you need to think about when you’re trying to save money. How long is it likely to last, given its materials and overall quality? Buying a second $50 case because the first one fell apart costs more than buying a more solidly built $75 case once.

Even if you’re not worried about a particular budget PC case being poorly made, you should still think several years into the future. Imagine you’re building a smaller, less powerful gaming PC this week that will use a micro-ATX board, but at some point in the future you know you’ll want to upgrade to a full ATX setup. If you buy a case that supports both today, you’re already saving Future You some serious cash.

Cases are the most reusable and longest-lasting PC components, so spending a little more today for something that can house your next 3-5 PCs is one of the easiest ways to stay under budget in the long run.

Quality & Durability

Virtually all PC cases have interior frames made from some kind of metal—usually an aluminum alloy. When it comes to the side panels, bay covers, and other components, there’s more variability. Those things could be plastic or metal, but they’re not structurally critical components, so what they’re made of doesn’t matter too much.

The most important thing to look at is the thickness of the interior frame. If it’s only exactly as wide as the screws holding it together, you’re probably looking at a really cheap knockoff case that’s likely to be crappily built in other ways, too. It’s not that a thin metal frame is likely to break or collapse, but it could bend and flex enough to be problematic.

If you’ve ever owned a case with side panels that just randomly fall out every so often, the culprit is probably either a flimsy frame or a crappy latch on the panel itself (which is a problem that’s also more likely to be present in an ultra-cheap case).

Check the base or “feet” of the case, too. A fully loaded mid-tower PC case can weigh upwards of 20 pounds, which is too heavy for a few razor-thin pieces of plastic to reliably support. Thin plastic can hold a lot of weight as long as the load never moves, but it could snap easily if a heavy PC case gets nudged or bumped the wrong way. A plastic base should be one continuous piece that distributes the case’s weight evenly. Individual feet should ideally be made of metal, rubber, or something comparably sturdy.

Ease of Component Installation

The easiest PC case to work in is one that’s big enough for the components, your hands, and your tools all at once. The most common cause of the phrase “dude, building that PC sucked” is not having enough room to work comfortably.

The extent to which your PC case makes your building experience easier or harder depends partly on you and partly on the case you chose. Minor (but welcome) quality of life improvements like built-in cable management and chassis pre-configured for liquid cooling are starting to become more common. Tools-free thumbscrews and clearly labeled diagrams stamped directly into the case itself are helpful aids, too. All of these features are easy to find if they’re important to you.

RGB Lights In Gaming PC CasesStill, if this is your first time building a PC, you’re lacking the single most important thing that makes the process easier: experience. Don’t worry though, building a PC is one of those things that gets a lot easier after doing it even one time. We’ve got a super-detailed Ultimate PC Building Guide to help you get through it the first time. After that, subsequent builds will be a breeze—we promise.

Noise Levels

It’s 2019. PC hardware has come far enough that most components don’t make much noise at all anymore. Most liquid cooling systems are silent or nearly silent. CD/DVD/BluRay drives buzz and whir, as do optical hard drives, but the only other things you’re likely to hear at all are your fans. (Just how many case fans do you need, anyway?)

Your GPU, CPU, and/or case fans are likely to be the loudest things in your PC. GPU and CPU fans only run as loudly as they need to, so if yours are working hard for extended periods, one way to quiet things down would be to buy more powerful models that can maintain comparable levels of performance without having to work as hard. That’s an admittedly expensive solution, though; the first free thing to try would be to see if you can optimize airflow inside your case.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the single best way to keep your PC cool and quiet is to leave a lot of empty space inside it. Your six industrial warehouse fans are doing exactly nothing if every cubic inch of your case is occupied. Move some cords out of the way, arrange your hard drives more efficiently, or—gasp—remove a case fan or two.

You don’t need as many fans if there’s enough empty space in the center of your case for air to move around. For most builds, one or two case fans in the front that can push air along an unobstructed path toward a single fan in the rear will be enough to keep temperatures and noise down.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the top questions about PC cases that lots of people are asking Google these days, as well as our answers to them.

What is a full-tower case?

A full-tower PC case is one that’s approximately 24” x 20” x 10”, but the more precise classification hinges on what motherboard form factors it can accommodate. Many full-tower PC cases can accommodate just about any size motherboard, but others are designed specifically for extra-large boards that aren’t really made for gamers anyway.

The most common reason for a gamer to choose a full-tower case is to guarantee plenty of room, either for adequate airflow or for multiple enormous GPUs. You’ll need to check the product description for any particular full-tower case to be sure it will accommodate the parts you’ve selected.

What is the difference between a mid-tower case and a full-tower case?

In a word: size. Full-size tower cases have 25-50% more usable interior space than mid-tower cases; they’re designed for extra-large motherboards like E-ATX and SSI EEB/MEB/CEB form factors. Boards that big are specialty products that you aren’t likely to find unless you’re specifically looking for them.

These huge motherboards are mostly designed for use with two or more CPUs. Gamers generally need multiple GPUs long before they need multiple CPUs; these form factors are primarily marketed to people hosting large servers or virtual machines. When gamers opt for full-tower cases, it’s usually because they simply need a ton of space.

If you’re not sure how much space you’ll need, click over to our mid-tower vs. full-tower comparison guide.

What is the best PC gaming case for first-time builders?

A growing number of budget PC cases are shipping with nice bonus features like built-in cable management and tools-free thumbscrews. Such features are nice to have, but they’re hardly essential. Even if it’s your first time building your own PC, you’ll do just fine; no PC case should be so difficult to work with that its very design constitutes a significant obstacle.

That being said, if we had to go with one case from this list, we’d recommend the Corsair Carbide 270R for first-time builders. It really is made to be convenient and easy to work with.

Gaming Station with Gaming PC CaseIf you’d like some help getting through your first build, we’ve got an in-depth guide for you.

What is the best gaming PC case under $50?

If money’s tight, your case is one of the first places to look for potential savings. At the end of the day, a PC case is just a box with holes in specific places. PC cases under $50 may not have all the extra fancy features you’re looking for, but sometimes sacrifices must be made.

If you truly need to keep it under $50, you can pick up a slightly older Corsair Carbide case or a Fractal Focus. Both are well built, perfectly functional cases that allow for good airflow (and that should always be one of your top considerations).

What is the best PC case for water cooling?

Our “best value” case, the Antec Dark Fleet DF500, would be a great case for liquid cooling setups. It’s designed with internal systems in mind; since there are no 5.25” expansion bays in the front, it’s got plenty of extra room for a pump and/or reservoir.

Cases that are pre-configured for liquid cooling are very hard to find for less than $100, so if your budget is set firmly in that range, prioritize cases with lots of space. It’ll take some extra work to get everything installed, but at least you’ll have room.

What is the best PC gaming case for air cooling?

Every case we’ve reviewed in this article would be a great choice for air cooling. They’re all roomy and have great front-to-back airflow (or front-to-side airflow, in the THOR V2’s case). Any case with lots of room is a case that should stay nice and cool. A good rule of thumb is to choose a case with at least 50% more space than your components actually occupy.


Conclusion

The internet is awesome. Without moving from the chair you’re currently sitting in, you can look at infinity billion budget PC cases—there are almost too many to choose from.

Our top three from this list all happen to be mid-tower cases, but you can find tiny and huge cases for under $100 too. Remember that if you wisely choose a budget PC case today, you won’t have to buy another one for a pretty long time; it’ll definitely outlive most of the components you put into it.

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