Choosing A (Thermally) Cool Case: My Top Three

top-3-cases-for-cooling

When it comes to selecting a computer case, there are a number of considerations each buyer has to weigh. The placement of USB ports, LED control options, the number of drive bays, and whether the case comes with a glass side panel are just a few elements that can factor into a buyer’s decision.

But there is one part of the case that should be of universal concern: cooling.

My Top 3 ATX Cases for Cooling

Cases promote cooling by way of air vents, fan mounts, cable management, and general component placement. Because warm air rises, some cases are designed to place air vents right above the heaviest heat-generating components (such as a CPU). Some cases are designed for compatibility with liquid-cooling, though not all support custom loop designs.

To help in your selection, we bring you three (thermally—as well as aesthetically and functionally) very cool case options:

Phanteks Enthoo Pro M

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The Phanteks Enthoo Pro M is a large mid-tower case that comes in either black or white. It comes with a full-length tempered glass side-panel held in place by thumbscrews. It is part of the Phanteks Enthoo series, which comes with subtle variants to the same basic design, but the Pro M is distinguished by the full-length glass side-panel and large filtered air-vent in the front of the case.

The case is well-designed to be compatible with a wide range of builds, with ample expansion slots and drive bays, an optical drive, USB ports, and the ability to mount any-sized motherboard or GPU on the market.

Pros:                                                               

  • Contains four air vents: top, bottom, front, and rear.
  • Good and easy cable management: space behind the motherboard tray for concealing cables, with velcro straps to tie everything together.
  • Contains mounts for liquid-cooling reservoirs, for custom liquid-cooling solutions.
  • Allows up to seven 120mm fans.
  • The motherboard and GPU are placed directly beneath the top vent, allowing hot air to be pulled directly into the vent.
  • Drive bays are placed away from the path of airflow, allowing heat to dissipate unobstructed.
  • The PSU shroud has vents to allow air to escape while still keeping the PSU hidden.
  • Frame feet raise it off the ground, allowing air to be pulled through the bottom vent.

Cons:

  • Though it is listed by the manufacturer as a mid-tower case, its overall dimensions should more properly classify it as a full-tower case. For a mid-tower case, it has an unusually large footprint.

Cooler Master Trooper SE

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The Cooler Master Trooper SE is an impressive full-tower case. It comes with a glass side panel, a sturdy handle for easy transport, and a nifty X-Dock for easy data exchange between 2.5” HDDs/SSDs. It’s designed to easily allow the installation of two GPUs, including placement in the vertical position.

Most notably, it sports a fan speed control panel on the top of the case that offers six adjustment speeds, with LED indicators. This means that, when working the computer hard, you can push the fans to work harder—and when doing low-intensity work, you can manually lower their speed to reduce noise.

Pros:

  • Four air vents: Front, top, bottom, rear.
  • Good cable management: cables are routed through the back and hidden from view, keeping the space around the components clear.
  • Supports up to eight 120mm or 140mm fans.
  • Metal feet raise it off the ground, which promotes pulling cool air in from below.
  • No PSU shroud (better for cooling, though not necessarily for aesthetics).
  • Manual fan speed control mechanism. Six levels of fan speed, with LED indicators, and easily accessed from the top of the case.
  • Motherboard and GPU are located directly beneath the top vent.
  • Radiator support for AIO liquid-cooling.

Cons:

  • No custom liquid-cooling support or reservoir mounts.
  • Cable-management of the SSD section can be difficult.

Corsair Crystal 570X

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The Corsair Crystal 570X is a mid-size tower case with four glass panels: two on the sides, one in front, and a fourth on top. In most instances, the all-glass aesthetic transforms the case into an oven and renders any front-placed fans into little more than ornamental spinners. Corsair has side-stepped this issue by leaving a gap between its glass panels, allowing air to be drawn in from the side to be vented through the case. This is not as effective as having a vent directly in front of the fan, but it’s enough to prevent the PC from becoming a glass-trapped heatbox.

As a result, you get a beautiful, sleek glass case that comes in four color options, without sacrificing cooling.

Pros:

  • Supports up to six 120mm fans.
  • Clean and easy cable management.
  • Radiator support for liquid-cooling.
  • Frame feet raise it off the ground to allow airflow through the bottom vent.
  • Drive cages are strategically placed away from heat-producing components and removed from the general direction of airflow, allowing heat to vent cleanly through the rear.
  • No PSU shroud (better for cooling, though not necessarily for aesthetics).

Cons:

  • Contains only two proper vents: bottom and rear.
  • No support for custom liquid-cooling or reservoir mounts.
  • No top vent for heat-producing components, which means most of the heat vents through the rear. However, the gaps between the top and side panels allow some heat to escape through the top.

Special Mention: a Mini-ITX Case

Small form-factor cases are some of the trickiest beasts on the market when it comes to cooling. Their small size means their components are more tightly packed than ever, and case fan mounting locations are in shorter supply. Many of these ITX computers are designed to be tiny-yet-powerful, which means their components still work hard and generate a lot of heat.

Phanteks Evolv Shift

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The Phanteks Evolv Shift is not the smallest ITX case on the market, as evidenced by the fact that it’s one of the rare ITX cases that does support AIO liquid-cooling, but it is still a small case. The motherboard is situated directly beneath the filtered top-placed vent, which can be clicked open to allow for greater venting. The PSU is kept separate from the motherboard, and though most of its heat is directed up and past the motherboard, some of it is dissipated out through the sides of the case.

Pros:

  • Support for dual-120mm radiator for liquid-cooling.
  • Clean and easy cable-management.
  • Supports up to three 120mm/140mm fans.
  • Small and compact, with a small footprint and easy portability.
  • Filtered vents on top and bottom, with small gaps in the side panels. The topmost vent can be fully opened to maximize cooling.
  • Support for full-sized PSUs and GPUs (although, by using small form-factor components rather than full-sized ones, you leave more space for unobstructed airflow).
  • Frame feet to keep it elevated, allowing air to be circulated through the bottom vent.

Cons:

  • One of the larger ITX cases on the market. Its vertical orientation gives it a footprint of 170mm x 274mm, which is roughly the size of a shoebox, but it takes up more space horizontally.
  • Only contains two full vents.
  • Radiator clearance for liquid-cooling is dependent on the size of your GPU. You can’t use a full-sized GPU with an AIO radiator.
  • Peripheral cables come through a hole in the top of the case, which obstructs airflow.  

Conclusion:

These four cases cover the full range of case sizes and the general style trends that have saturated the market, but they sit a cut above their competitors in terms of cooling. They maintain overall functionality, offering ample room for drives and peripherals, while still remaining affordable and retaining an aesthetically pleasing appearance.