Mid-tower housings are the default choice when looking for a new case since they’re by far the most popular form factor on the market. Most users prefer mid-tower cases because they’re relatively compact, offer lots of room for building, have excellent airflow (if the design’s right), have plenty of room for your CPU tower cooler and GPU, as well as more than decent liquid cooling support.
But what about full tower cases? They are pretty chunky but offer the most room for your components, have the best support for custom liquid cooling loops, can house a metric ton of storage drives, and have that monolithic presence some users find very cool. If you don’t know which size to go for, read on. We’ve prepared a guide that includes the most important (and some not that important) differences between mid-tower and full tower cases. Let’s see who’s the winner in the full tower vs. mid-tower battle.
The most apparent difference between the two form factors is the sheer size of cases. Full tower cases are the largest cases you can find on the market. They are tall and long but not that much wider than mid-tower cases. Let’s take the Fractal Design Meshify 2 and Meshify 2 XL as the two examples. These are two different-sized cases from the same series, making them perfect for this kind of comparison.
The regular Meshify 2 (542 x 240 x 474 mm) is about 60mm shorter and 90mm lower than the XL (600 x 240 x 566 mm). On the other hand, both cases have the same width. While not looking as much, this is quite noticeable when you have the two cases side by side. Even better, the Meshify 2 isn’t the most compact mid-tower case on the market. When we take the Meshify 2 Compact (a proper compact mid-tower chassis), the difference between it and the XL is even bigger. The Compact (424 x 210 x 475 mm) is about 180mm shorter, 30mm narrower, and 90mm lower than the XL.
This is a massive difference in size, one that can make you switch to a smaller case if you don’t have the space on the desk (or under it) or if you don’t want a giant PC case that will look barren inside when filled with standard components. That said, the Meshify 2 XL and the Define 7 (basically Meshify without the mesh front panel) aren’t the most compact full tower cases. The Phanteks Enthoo Pro, a popular budget full tower case, has about the same depth as the regular Meshify 2, while being as tall as the Meshify 2 XL. But, in most cases, a full tower chassis is noticeably longer and taller than a regular mid-tower case.
Full tower cases, naturally, have a much higher internal volume than mid-tower cases. But in reality, most mid-tower cases will be just fine for most users. These days, mid-tower cases can have excellent cable management and a build-friendly internal design thanks to the decades of improvements in design and numerous iterations that made the modern mid-tower cases both roomy and great for building inside them.
Full tower cases do have much more internal space, but this doesn’t mean you will have better cable management or better airflow, for that matter. When it comes to airflow, there isn’t a difference between mid and full-tower housings. If the design is correct, a relatively compact mid-tower chassis, like the Lian Li Lancool 215, can be among the best airflow cases on the market. That said, if you’re rocking a large E-ATX motherboard combined with a ton of storage drives, a monster of a graphics card, and a custom loop, a full tower case might be the way to go.
Now, this is the point of differentiation you should focus on. A full tower case is a better choice if you want to build a workstation based on an E-ATX or SSI-CEB motherboard. While most mid-tower cases have full support for ATX and smaller motherboards, their E-ATX support is limited. Some mid-tower chassis will have enough room for an E-ATX build, others will have enough space but will make the building process a nightmare, and some will not even accept motherboards larger than ATX.
Next, we have the cooling support. Almost every mid-tower case supports tall CPU towers, but not all cases can house towers such as the Noctua NH-D15 or the Deepcool Assassin III. On the other hand, every full tower case should have no issues fitting even the most enormous CPU heatsinks on the market. When it comes to GPU clearance, you should be OK with most mid-tower cases. Due to the constant increase in the length of an average graphics card, even compact mid-tower housings should have no issues with 3-slot and 320mm+ GPUs.
As we already said, when it comes to the airflow and thermals, mid-tower cases are as good if not better than full-tower models. If you want the best airflow, you can freely pick up a mid-tower case. They can fit a ton of case fans, and with the rise of the mesh front panel design, you can get the best thermal performance in a mid-tower form factor.
As for the AIO support, most mid towers have support for at least 240mm AIOs, which is more than enough for almost any CPU on the market. Further, nearly every mid-tower case can be fitted with a 280mm radiator, which is indeed enough for any CPU you can get at the moment. Mid-towers can fit a 360mm radiator inside a wide range of mid-tower cases if you want both performance and silence. The most compact models won’t house it, but a good deal of mid-tower housings can be equipped with a single 360mm radiator.
The issues start if you want to fit a 420mm radiator or larger or multiple 360mm rads. Most mid-tower cases are limited to a single 360mm radiator. Support for numerous 360mm or 420mm radiators is fairly limited on the mid-tower case market. There are models with support for 420mm radiators, but they’re few and far between. On the other side, full tower housings have no issues with 420mm radiators, and a great majority of full tower cases can fit these. You can even go wilder and fit 460mm radiators inside select full tower cases.
When it comes to custom water cooling loops, full tower cases are much better fitted for these. Some chunkier mid-tower housings, like the Phanteks Evolv X, Lian Li o11 Dynamic, or the FractalDesign Meshify 2, as mentioned earlier, are built for custom loops and have an interior design suited explicitly for multiple radiators, lots of tubing, and the pump.
But, most mid-tower cases will turn making a custom loop into a frustrating exercise. If you want to go with a single radiator (up to 360mm) custom loop, you can build it inside most mid-tower cases. If you want a custom loop with multiple 360mm or smaller radiators, either get a full tower or a mid-tower housing made for liquid cooling. Finally, if you plan on either fitting a single 420mm or larger radiator or building a loop that includes a 420mm radiator combined with smaller ones, get a full tower case.
Last but not least, we have storage support. Full tower cases, on average, can take much more storage drives (both SSDs and HDDs) than mid-tower cases. But, if you need a mid-tower case with a ton of storage brackets, you can find one. Fractal Design’s Meshify (except the Meshify 2 Compact) and Define series of cases both support a ton of storage drives. They aren’t the most compact mid-tower chassis around, but they’re perfect for users who need a ton of storage or are building a NAS.
But, on average, a mid-tower case isn’t made to be filled with a dozen hard drives. The Meshify mentioned above and Define cases are the exception to the rule. At the end of the day, if your needs include lots of storage devices, we would recommend getting a full tower case instead of a mid-tower chassis. The thing is, if a mid-tower housing’s specs include support for lots of storage drives, this usually means that you have to install extra drive brackets, which usually means less space for the GPU and other components. So, get a full tower chassis if you want lots of storage and don’t want to reduce the amount of available internal space.
Full Tower vs Mid Tower – Conclusion
As you can see, both mid-tower and full tower cases come with unique pros and cons. While full-tower housings are noticeably larger than any mid-tower case, they compensate for the bigger footprint with better component compatibility. They’re also build-friendly, but not by that much compared to mid-tower cases. If you plan on building a regular PC that includes an AIO for the CPU, high-end GPU, and a couple of storage drives, a mid-tower case will be as easy to build inside as a full tower. Finally, when it comes to cable management, yes, it’s better on full tower cases, but many mid-tower chassis have as good cable management as full tower behemoths.
On the flip side, full tower cases aren’t as popular as they were back in the day. The market is relatively limited and cannot be compared to the abundance of models available on the mid-tower PC case market. If you’re looking for a uniquely designed case or one with a mesh front panel that offers superb thermal performance, your choices are minimal. The same goes for RGB. There are many RGB mid-tower cases, but almost zero full tower chassis with tons of RGB. Further, full tower cases are more expensive and aren’t made for users who want to keep their PC on their desk or have issues with available space.
Mid-tower cases are the most popular PC case form factor, and here, you have hundreds of different models with unique designs and features. You can get an airflow case or a silent one—a case made for showing off your build or one that comes with metal side panels. Further, mid-tower cases vary in size, so you can get housing that has almost the same footprint as a full tower case and get nearly the same features, clearance, and internal volume as a full tower chassis.
Mid-tower cases can also be as easy to build inside as full tower cases. They can have good cable management and better airflow than any full tower case. You can go with a compact mid-tower case and get a smaller footprint with support for the largest graphics cards on the market and room for a single or multiple 360mm radiators. Many mid-tower cases can also fit ten or more storage drives without issues by sacrificing GPU clearance and free space inside the case.
It all comes down to performance needs and preferences. If you want to get a massive, monolithic case that can fit a toddler, feel free to buy a full tower case. If you like huge cases, that’s great! Further, full tower cases are a better choice if you want to build a complex custom loop that includes one or multiple 420mm or larger radiators. They’re also recommended for people who want to get an E-ATX, or an SSI-CEB build with multiple GPUs for rendering and a ton of expansion cards. Finally, full tower cases are great for NAS builds that include more than a dozen storage drives.
Mid-tower cases are better for everything else. Regular ATX builds, whether for gaming or work. Builds that include an AIO or a custom loop that doesn’t include radiators larger than 360mm. NAS builds that have about a dozen or storage drives and no GPU. So, to summarize. Mid-tower cases are better for the vast majority of users. But if you want a massive case or have needs that include huge radiators, giant motherboards, or a metric ton of storage devices, full tower cases are a better choice.