If you’re building an HTPC, a small workstation, or you just don’t want your rig to take up tons of space under or on top of your desk, you need a smaller PC case. Something that fits the important stuff, but doesn’t waste a lot of space on expansion bays or components you may not need. This week we’re going to take a look at five of the best for the job.
Earlier in the week, we asked you which small form-factor PC cases you thought were the best for space-saving PCs, hackintoshes, and HTPCs. We rounded up your nominations, and now we’re back to highlight the top five.
Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
The Elite 120 Advanced by Cooler Master is a Mini ITX case that’s the perfect form factor for an HTPC or any other space-saving PC. If you want to, there’s room in there for higher-end components like full size ATX power supplies, aftermarket cooling, and (somewhat) larger video cards, but it doesn’t sacrifice a small footprint to give it all to you. You get surprising airflow in a small form factor (9.4″ W x 8.2″ H x 15.8″ D), with vents on the top and side, large fans on the front, side, and on the hard drive cage. Four drive bays are ready for your hard drives and optical drive, two expansion ports in the back for peripheral cards, and you get USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports on the front to connect your devices, along with frontside audio. The Elite 120 Advanced will set you back $50 at Newegg or at Amazon.
The Silverstone FT03 is already a small case (9.2″ W x 19.2″ H x 11.2″ D), but for super-small builds, its also-nominated smaller sibling the FT03 Mini, is even smaller (7.4″ W x 15.6″ H x 9.3″ D). The former is a Micro-ATX/Mini-ITX chassis, and the latter supports Mini-ITX and DTX builds. The FT03 sports four internal bays for drives, four expansion slots, top and bottom exhaust fans for airflow, no cables at all on four sides, but a tucked away front side panel with USB 3.0 and audio ports. It supports standard ATX power supplies, has plenty of room to work inside, and even supports (some) large video cards. The FT03 Mini on the other hand cuts back a bit: three internal bays, one bottom fan, and two expansion slots, but can still support a long graphics card and has those front-side ports. You’ll need an SFX power supply for it though (The FT03 standard model will accept a regular PSU). The FT03 will set you back $160 at Newegg and at Amazon, while the FT03 MIni is $130 at Amazon.
The BitFenix Prodigy is a case that even us at Lifehacker love. The flexible, soft-grip handles make for portability and good looks, and has plenty of room inside to work. It’s a little bigger than some smaller Mini-ITX cases (9.8″ W x 15.9″H x 14.1″D) and it still gets great airflow thanks to front and rear cooling fans (with space for more). The added room means you get space for six expansion bays inside, 2 expansion card slots (that support long cards, like graphics cards), and support for a standard ATX power supply. Ports on the side near the front of the chassis give you access to USB 3.0 ports, power, and audio. Plus, if you want your rig to stand out, it’s available in a ton of colors (including orange and red), although the standards are black and white. Best of all, it’s not expensive—it’ll set you back $90 at Newegg, $100 at Amazon.
Mini-Box M350 Universal Mini-ITX
A lot of the cases in this roundup are still a little on the large side, or shaped like smaller versions of towers. The Mini-Box M350 Universal Mini-ITX Enclosure is different. it takes a few cues from the long, flat boxes of computers gone by, but still looks small and sleek enough to fit nicely in an entertainment center or next to a TV as an HTPC, or under a monitor as a space-saving workstation. The thing is small enough (7.5″W x 2.4″H x 8.3″ D) you could even mount it on the back of a widescreen display for an all-in-one look and feel. You’ll need a PicoPSU to power the thing (and it’s available with a PSU kit so you don’t have to worry about that), but you also get a super-silent fanless design, space for any processor (as long as it has stock cooling), space for 2 hard drives in mountable bays, and while you’re not going to fit a huge video card in there, there are tons of bracket options inside to fit additional components. It’s available in black or silver, for $40 direct from the manufacturer. If you want the model with the power supply adapter included, that’ll bring it up to $70.
Fractal Design Node 304
Fractal Design’s cases are all simple, good-looking cases that get the job done but aren’t super-flashy in the process. They’re all good looking, but the Node 304 specifically would look great in an entertainment center or on top of a desk; whatever you choose to do with it. It’s a Mini-ITX case that’s surprisingly roomy for its size (9.8″ W x 8.3″ H x 14.7″ D), supports a standard PSU, has six drive bays for your hard drives (no optical drives, as the front of the case doesn’t have a slot for one), two expansion slots for cards on the back, and it’s long enough to support longer graphics cards if you need them (but you’ll want to make sure they fit with the PSU first). It sports two front-side fans and one rear for airflow, supports aftermarket cooling for CPUs, and gives you a pair of USB 3.0 ports, audio ports, and power right on the front of the chassis. It’s a sharp, grown-up design that doesn’t sacrifice quality for build, and it’ll set you back $90 at Newegg and closer to $122 at Amazon.