7 Best Airflow PC Cases for Every Form Factor
Cooling is ironically one of the hottest topics in the PC enthusiast circles. While the average person will often overlook this side of PC building, a seasoned veteran or a well-informed builder knows that a cool case gives you a noticeable bump in performance and adds longevity to your components. The best airflow PC cases are products that compliment your expensive hardware by giving you the tools to unleash its maximum potential.
Best Airflow PC Cases – Our Picks
|Best ATX Airflow Case||Fractal Design Meshify C|
|Best Cube ATX Airflow Case||Corsair Carbide Air 540|
|Best Budget ATX Airflow Case||Corsair Carbide 100R|
|Best Micro-ATX Airflow Case||Corsair Crystal 280X|
|Best Budget Micro-ATX Airflow Case||Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L TUF|
|Best Mini-ITX Airflow Case||InWin A1 Plus|
|Best Budget Mini-ITX Airflow Case||Cooler Master H100|
Why Cooling is Critical
Cooling, in general, is tricky. You need to invest time in researching the best products that match your future system. Your selection of cases will revolve around the performance you’re trying to reach, your available budget, the form factor of your rig, and premium features (sound-dampened paneling, RGB, USB support).
When you’re planning out a build, cooling is one of the things that you just can’t ignore. Playing AAA titles will make your CPU and GPU run hot, and if you don’t plan ahead, you can really hinder their long-term performance and functionality.
What you’ll need to get good temperatures are good fans, a case that’s fitted with vents for air intake (bonus points if it has mesh panels), and good fan placement. For starters, let’s discuss the topic of pressure.
Air Pressure Basics
Understanding air pressure is really simple. We have neutral pressure, negative pressure, and positive pressure. Negative pressure is when your case is blowing air out (like the standard exhaust fan), and positive pressure is when you have air coming into your case. You achieve these types of pressure by placing your fans facing inwards or outwards in relation to your case’s interior.
Neutral pressure is when you have a balance between the air that’s being pushed in and the one that’s being pushed out. The general consensus between PC enthusiasts is that optimal air cooling is reached when you have slight positive pressure.
Luke from Linus Tech Tips illustrated the three types of air pressure you can achieve in a series of videos. He had three systems set up with fans. One for positive pressure, one negative, and one neutral. He revisited them one year later to benchmark the results. In terms of performance, it’s not very conclusive, but interesting to follow. The main take-away is that a balanced internal pressure will keep your main components out of harm’s way.
How Many Fans Do You Need?
Most cases come with at least an intake and an exhaust fan. If you’re planning on building a PC, you’re obviously going to ask yourself “Is this really enough?” Benchmarking shows that any air cooling system that encompasses more than two intake fans and an exhaust fan will bring diminishing results.
The same Luke that we’ve cited above conducted an experiment using multiple air cooling configurations and has reached the conclusion that two frontal fans + one exhaust fan is the best set up in terms of value. Adding an additional fan on the top panel will result in marginal improvements, and that adding a second one will yield no palpable results.
If you’re looking for value, then I’d argue that two intake fans and one exhaust fan is enough to reach good temps in any application. Now that we’ve established that, let’s take a look at some of the best airflow cases money can buy.
Best ATX Airflow Case
Fractal Design is one of the more high-end case manufacturers. They often design minimalistic cases that have a premium feel to them. The Meshify C is an homage to simplicity and performance. The mesh panel allows air to flow in without any reserves, the fan placement ensures that both your CPU and GPU will be getting cool, fresh air, and the layout caters to everyone’s needs.
The Fractal Design Meshify C comes with two pre-installed 120mm fans (one intake and one exhaust), a full-sized PSU cage that’ll help with cable management, strategically-placed rubber grommets and cutouts that’ll help a lot with cable routing, and a solid chassis.
The tempered glass side panel and the matte black coating make it a great choice if you want to avoid the whole RGB gamer aesthetic. You can fit a 360mm radiator on the front panel (support for 3 x 120mm fans or 2 x 140mm fans), and a 280mm radiator on the top panel. You also have room to fit a 120mm fan on the bottom panel, so you have a possible total of 7 fans. This plus the mesh front panel make it an amazing choice for those who want to have air as their only means of cooling.
If you’re looking to add more fans in your future build, the Noctua NF-A14 PWM seems like a solid choice for this case. They’re very reliable, as Noctua is widely-regarded as being the go-to manufacturer for air cooling solutions, they have 1500 RPM, and are acoustically optimized.
Overall, the features are tailored for air cooling, the design is solid, and the constitution is sturdy. One of the best airflow cases out there.
Best Cube ATX Airflow Case
Corsair are known in the PC enthusiast segment as being one of the best manufacturers in terms of components and gadgets. Their Carbide Air 540 is a flagship ATX case, fitted with features that optimize air cooling, giving you good temps while keeping your rig silent.
The side panels are a bit wobbly, which is something weird to see in a premium, flagship case, but they’re sturdy enough. The lack of drive cages is great to see since the Carbide Air 540 is essentially designed to provide users with optimal airflow.
The case is split into two cages. The front cage, where you’ll install the motherboard, and the back cage, where you have room for storage, the PSU, and drive bays. You have room for a beefy radiator in the front, the case coming with two 140 mm intake fans and a 140 mm exhaust fan. The front panel supports dual 140 or triple 120 mm fans, the top panel dual 140 mm or dual 120 mm fans, and the back panel supports either a 120 or 140 mm fan.
The fan mount positioning combined with the open-face design make the Carbide Air 540 one of the best cases for air cooling out there. The cubic shape gives you excellent cable management without sacrificing disk mounts, keeping the frontal cage unconstricted by drive cages and loose cables.
You have a lot of rubber grommets, plenty of space to build in, USB 3.0, and a rubber-cased exterior, so you know you’re getting that sound-dampening effect. Overall, it’s a great case for anyone to build in. Arguably the best air cooling case in this form factor.
If you’re looking to add some extra fans, then we recommend you opt for either the Noctua NF A-14 PWM mentioned above, or the Corsair LL140 RGB fans. The Corsair LL140 is a 140 mm fan that runs as fast as 1300 RPM and has programmable RGB.
Best Budget ATX Airflow Case
The Corsair Carbide 100R has been around for a good chunk of time. But that doesn’t mean that its design is outdated. It’s just a testament to the brick and mortar case design. No nonsense, no fanciness, just a barebones, reliable composition.
The Carbide 100R has everything you need to build a great system. While it lacks premium features, the features it does have are solid. The four drive bays are placed strategically at the bottom of the front to keep the air flowing, the panels come in regular or sound-dampened variants, and the design allows good cable management.
The two 140 mm fan mounts placed on the front panel is what makes this a great case for air cooling your components. You can also add two 120 mm fans on the top panel that’ll blow directly on the CPU heatsink, increasing your ability to overclock with higher clockspeeds and voltages.
The steel chassis comes with opaque, acrylic, and tempered-glass side panels, depending on the aesthetic of your choice. For the price, it’s a solid choice for those who are looking to invest in a budget, but dependable PC case. The front panel includes USB 3.0 and audio I/O.
Given the budget nature of this case, if you want to add fans, then you should really avoid RGB. The extra money you’d invest in cool-looking fans can go towards a better case. Instead, try going with something like the Arctic F12 PWM. They run as fast as 1350 RPM and are silent-enough that you won’t notice them.
Best Micro-ATX Airflow Case
The fourth product we’re gonna feature is another Corsair case. Huh. It’s not a Corsair bias, it’s just that they’re really good at making these cases. The Crystal 280X is a Micro-ATX case with plenty of expansion options, an amazing design, and great enthusiast-level features.
We all know that cooling and space are the main issues when building a rig in a compact case. That’s why most people opt to go for mid-tower formats, to avoid all of the hassles. This particular product has all of the trappings of a full-sized ATX while having an mATX form factor. Well, minus the expansion slots.
With support for up to two 280mm radiators and four 140mm fans, tempered glass panels all around, rubber grommets for cable management, and one of the best aesthetics, the Crystal 280X blends utility and beauty in a seamless manner. While it lacks a rear fan mount, having four 140 mm fans will give you enough cooling power to run a powerful configuration.
The back cage features plenty of space for cable management in addition to three 3.5/2.5-inch drive mounts. You can get it in plain or RGB versions, the RGB variant having Corsair RGB fans included (three 140mm fans).
With a case that’s this good-looking, you don’t wanna skimp on fans. The Corsair RGB LL140 RGB is the best choice. It matches the case’s look, it’s great in terms of performance, and it’s the same brand, so bonus points for that.
Best Budget Micro-ATX Airflow Case
Cooler Master is another well-reputed manufacturer. With plenty of experience in cooling, it makes sense that they’ll be part of our best airflow cases list. The MasterBox Q300L TUF is a great choice for anyone who’s interested in optimal airflow at a very affordable price.
The case has mesh-like front and top panels that are fully covered by dust filters. The dust filters are magnetic, so you can either keep them on to slow down the dust build-up or take them off to improve air circulation. You’ll see solid temps either way.
The six fan mounts provide amazing air cooling capabilities when paired with the open-case design (meshed front panel). With support for a 280 mm front radiator and a 240 mm top radiator, you have some of the best cooling capabilities that money can buy, all in a relatively compact package.
The front panel supports dual 140mm fans while staying compact. Cooler Master decided to put the audio I/O and USB ports on the side panel to keep the overall height as small as possible. Four expansion slots, ability to install 3 exhaust fans, it’s a really solid case for the money.
Cooler Master makes some pretty dope RGB fans that are also very affordable. The MasterFan lineup features both 120 and 140 mm fans that’ll go well with the whole TUF theme. With up to 2000 RPM, you’re bound to achieve very low temperatures.
Best Mini-ITX Airflow Case
InWin is a big name in the PC case industry, and their line of products includes a lot of high-end cases. The InWin A1 Plus is a premium Mini-ITX case. It comes with a 650-watt 80+ gold certified PSU, RGB fans and strips, a premium design, and even a 10-watt wireless phone charger.
The case can fit a Mini-ITX motherboard and a dual-slot GPU, so you can build a pretty powerful rig in this tiny monstrosity. The PSU isn’t modular, which is a bit of a bummer, but it doesn’t have a lot of cables since it’s designed to be used with a Mini-ITX mobo.
While it’s tiny, the InWin A1 Plus can house up to four 120 mm fans. Two at the bottom for intake, one side fan dedicated for the GPU, and an exhaust fan on the back panel. With a 320 mm maximum GPU length, InWin have provided enthusiasts with a case that can fit desktop-grade components in a mobile package without hindering airflow too much.
The RGB elements can be used in sync with your other components via software or hardware solutions. The routing space is large enough to facilitate good cable management and contains two SSD mounts. Overall, it’s a great-looking case and it does pack a fair bit of features.
If you’re looking to add more fans to your lit InWin A1 Plus case, then you should stick to the theme and add additional Sirius Loop ASL120 fans. They spin as fast as 1800 RPM, they’re silent, and they look nothing short of amazing.
Best Budget Mini-ITX Airflow Case
The Cooler Master H100 is another great Mini-ITX case. While it’s not screaming RGB and doesn’t feature a wireless charger, it’s a solid choice for those who are interested in a less conspicuous aesthetic.
It supports up to two 2.5-inch SSDs/drives, and a 3.5/2.5-inch combo, if you want to add a full-sized HDD for bulk storage. It comes with a 200 mm RGB fan on the front panel, which is also meshed, for great air circulation. On the downside, it doesn’t support an exhaust fan, but that’s not that big of an issue given the size of the included fan.
While the Cooler Master H100 is a very compact case, the open face facilitates good airflow from front to back. The 200 mm fan that comes with the case hits the CPU and GPU in all of the right spots, allowing you to do modest overclocks without jeopardizing your components. For the money, it’s an amazing product that we highly recommend.
Overall, it’s a great choice for a Mini-ITX build. You have clearance for a good CPU fan, a dual-slot GPU, and room for plenty of storage for games, software, and media.