PC Cabinets can appear to be the simplest of PC components to buy while building a new rig. Everyone ends up collecting what’s left in the wallet and buying what looks the prettiest on the outside. There are cabinets priced from anywhere between Rs. 800 to Rs. 25,000, in India.

Some over-the-top designs

Some over-the-top designs

There’s more than just external design and elegance to look out for. Spend roughly 10 per cent of your PC budget on your cabinet but remember to choose wisely. In this feature, we look at what features to look for while making that choice.

Type of chassis

There are different types of cabinets of different sizes and formats. Most users will opt for a mid-tower cabinet. There are also full towers which are larger versions and like the mid-towers, can house a micro-ATX or ATX form factor boards. If you want to build a low-power ultra compact HTPC, then you’re bound to purchase a mini-ITX board.

Compact chassis designed specifically for HTPCs

Compact chassis designed specifically for HTPCs

There are cabinets that are designed specifically for those. Full ATX cabinets are larger and are great for workstations or serious enthusiasts who are bound to plug in multiple drives, large cooling solutions and add-on cards to the system. Be sure about the type of system you’re building before buying the cabinet. 

Build quality

The first characteristic of a good cabinet is its sturdiness. The last thing you want is a cabinet that isn’t stable. Look for cabinets that have use high gauge metal. The sheets of metal used on the cabinet should be thick.

Full tower heavy-duty cabinets

Full tower heavy-duty cabinets

Poor quality cabinets tend to vibrate when fans, drives and other moving components start running. The end result is a very noisy cabinet. When you’re spending a large sum of money on a new computer, it’s only right to spend a little more than the leftovers on a cabinet. 

Drive bays

Each one of us will add additional drives when we run out of space. The number of drive bays is important. Cabinets typically come with provision for at least four 3.5-inch drives and couple of 5.25-inch drives. Typically, we as users don’t need more than two or three internal drives, so pretty much any cabinet should do just fine. 

USB 3.0 support

USB 3.0 is a major new feature found on almost all boards being launched this year. The features are close to three times faster on portable hard drives. Cabinets, too need to support USB 3.0 ports on the front panel. Without them, you’ll have to connect the drives to the back of your chassis. 

Easy installation features

Good cabinets these days come with thumbscrews in every place. This means you don’t need to have a screwdriver around to open up and install a new hard drive for example.

Tool-free locking features for drives

Tool-free locking features for drives

5.25-inch and 3.5-inch drive bays should have an easy mechanism that lets you plug in the drive and lock it in place. A good chassis will also have easy detachable plates in place of the expansion slots.

Fans and vents

Almost all cabinets these days come with at least one fan. Look for cabinets that have a decent sized fan in one spot and provision for more fans in other locations. Typically, enthusiast chassis have one slot at the front, one at the back and a couple of slots at the top. Some of them even have a large fan on the side panel. Look for chassis that might have a speed control that let you speed up and slow down the fan depending on your needs.

Dust protection

Chassis are dust magnets. They ought to be cleaned every week or two, but most of us won’t touch them for months together. The large number of fans and volume of air flowing through the cabinet also carries a ton of dust. Many cabinets these days have large vents or perforated panels that allow air to flow through the cabinet, but this also lets dust settle inside the cabinet. One of the neat things that manufacturers are adding to all their panels are fine nets that block some of the dust but at the same time don’t block all of the airflow.

Support for large cards

Almost cabinets are large enough to hold almost all cards. There are cards in recent times that require even longer cabinets. Cards like the Radeon 6950 and Radeon 6970 require longer cabinets.

Some chassis have detachable modules

Some chassis have detachable modules

If you’re building a really high-end gaming rig, be doubly sure that the cabinet you buy can accommodate the card you buy.

Water cooling support

Overclockers need better cooling opt for water cooling kits over air cooling heatsink-fan designs. Some of the simpler water cooling kits are compact and don’t require a large reservoir.

The more advanced cooling units using have an external tank where the coolant or water lies. This is pumped to the processor and any other components using pipes. Some cabinets come with gaps cut into them at the back which allow water pipes to run into the cabinet. 

Avoid cabinets with power supplies

Most expensive cabinets won’t come with built-in power supplies. Cabinets under Rs. 2,000 may come with low capacity power supplies that won’t be powerful enough to power your PC. Ideally, spend separately on a power supply. Quite often, with cheaper cabinets especially, power supplies bundled with cabinets are poor performers and don’t provide the claimed power output.

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