Fractal Design Define R6
be quiet! DARK BASE 900
Fractal Design Define Mini C
One of the most overlooked things in a new gaming setup is not investing in a PC case that’s purposely built for a low noise level. Maybe you’re still building your PC and still need an awesome case to put all your goodies. Maybe you’ve already made the mistake of not getting a quiet PC case and you’re tired of putting on your headphones every time your fans start whirring hard.
Either way this guide will help you out. The guide will explain all the PC case basics you need to know about as well as what to look for in a quiet PC case. Finally we’ll show you the best silent PC cases that are currently out there.
Table of Contents
What to look for in a PC case
Before we go into details about silent PC cases, let’s talk a bit about what you should look for in PC cases in general. If you overlook the fundamentals then you will just be frustrated later on if you overlooked something. Yes, it could be as something as silly as the wrong case size or as something as serious as having to deal with a CPU constantly overheating.
Picking the right size
Size isn’t all that matters but you should decide which form factor you need before picking your next PC case. Full tower PC cases are the biggest and can handle everything you throw at them. They are tall and chunky, and can host lots of storage devices. Further, they support AIO liquid cooling systems and multi-GPU builds. Even motherboards with multiple CPU sockets.
Mid-tower cases can take full-sized motherboards. Many feature plenty of room for all components along with lots of storage devices. They are the best pick for most users and as long as you aren’t a power user looking for the ultimate PC case, mid-tower cases are an excellent choice.
Micro ITX (or mini-tower) cases are smaller in size and weight. They are built specifically for builds based on Micro ITX motherboards. Mini towers usually come with less space inside for storage devices and are more cramped than mid and full tower cases. Some don’t even have support for a full-sized graphics card. Something to pay attention to if you’re looking for a micro ITX case.
Finally, we have mini ITX cases, super small cases built to host mini-ITX motherboards. They are quite popular these days for building compact gaming rigs or media centers. Users can place those below their TV, with rigs taking the same space as gaming consoles. While being excellent for compact builds, they come with lots of limitations. Don’t expect liquid cooling support in most models. Also, most mini-ITX cases don’t support full-sized video cards
It’s best to tuck away cables behind the back tray so look for a PC case with cutouts in the motherboard tray. Almost every model these days has cable management cutouts but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Expansion slots and tool-less design
Make sure your case has enough expansion slots for hard drives and SSDs. These should be listed in case specifications so be sure to check it before making the decision. Nowadays most cases feature a tool-less design for mounting storage devices. Some affordable models might need a screwdriver for mounting hard drives and SSDs.
You should also pay attention to the front panel connectivity. Make sure the case you’re after has enough USB ports on the front. Also, check whether those USB ports are USB 3 certified since cheaper cases might omit fast USB ports on the front. Some modern cases come with USB-C ports at the front so if you need one, look for a model that comes with one.
Other notable features to look for
Not all cases are suited for liquid cooling systems, you have to check out specs to be sure your future case supports one. Next, most current case models don’t support 5.25-inch drive bays. If you really want a DVD drive in your new build search for a case that supports large drive bays.
Quiet PC cases – how they differ from classic PC cases
Quiet PC cases are special models that, in theory, offer a quieter experience compared to regular cases. Some companies, such as be quiet! and Fractal Design specialize specifically in silent PC cases and these two are usually your best bet when searching for a quiet PC case. Here’s how silent PC cases differ from regular cases.
High airflow vs silence
Regular PC cases offer better thermal performance in general. They have more room for fans and are built in a way that ensures efficient airflow throughout the case. Quiet PC cases, on the other hand, like the Silent Base series from be quiet! for example come with multiple design choices that put silence above everything else. They have sealed front and back panels and don’t have as many fans installed at the front, back, or top side compared to regular cases. Further, their air vents are designed to lower noise while providing solid airflow to the inside of the case.
This design leads to higher temperatures inside the case but the choice between high airflow and silent performance doesn’t have to be made in case you have some knowledge and time on your hands. This handy video guide from Gamers Nexus explains how you can construct a silent PC build and at the same time have efficient airflow.
In most cases (unless you’re not a PC enthusiast who’s ready to go the extra mile), silent PC cases usually come with inferior airflow and higher temperatures compared to regular PC cases. Some models feature improved airflow compared to regular silent cases. Fractal Design Define R6 or Fractal Design Focus G Mini are solid examples. Those come with better airflow while also having relatively low noise levels.
Block the noise
Virtually every quiet case includes panels padded with noise damping materials. These materials, usually noise-damping foam, further block component noise. 140mm fans – which are generally quieter than 120mm fans – further damp the noise. There are also muffled vents for lowering noise even more. The brand be quiet! has its own line of fans that operate at lower noise than regular fans.
Finally, most silent PC cases come without glass side panels, since those can’t be padded with noise-reducing foam. While there are models with see-through side panels you should opt for metal side panels for the best results and the lowest amount of noise.
Tips for a quiet PC build
In case you’ve opted in for a quiet PC build getting a silent PC case is only the beginning. Here are some tips aimed at achieving extremely low noise levels with a silent PC build.
Water cooling isn’t always a better choice
Water cooling is great at keeping temperatures at bay. The fact is that the best AIO systems provide noticeably lower temps compared to regular coolers. But water cooling can be noisy. The pump works non-stop. And as soon as you put your PC under heavy load the pump will get loud and those radiator fans will start spinning at high RPM.
Instead of going for a liquid AIO solution you should just get a massive, overpowered air cooler. Models like Scythe Ninja 5 or be quiet! Dark Rock PRO 4 provide excellent cooling performance with low temperatures while keeping it nice and quiet even under heavy load.
Lowering the noise of the graphics card is a bit trickier. You can search for a quiet GPU (scroll down for a list of sites that include noise levels in their hardware reviews) or get an aftermarket GPU fan. Something like ARCTIC Accelero Xtreme IV should do the trick for most GPU models around. Do note that the fan has a 300W upper limit meaning that some high-end video cards such as Vega 64 aren’t supported.
You don’t have to sacrifice the airflow
Like we already mentioned, a quiet PC build doesn’t mean you should sacrifice airflow for the sake of low noise levels. If you want a case with low noise levels that also has solid airflow, get a high airflow silent PC case. Or, get ready for some DIY with the help of Gamers Nexus guide we linked above.
Bear in mind that, while they offer solid airflow levels, silent PC cases aren’t on par with the best classic PC cases. You can’t have it all.
There’s always the option of a high-airflow case. High-airflow combined with large case fans and top of the line CPU and GPU aftermarket coolers can provide almost the same levels of noise as a quiet PC case. But, once it gets hot outside and those fans start spinning faster you won’t have that sweet noise insulation foam around your case to lower the noise.
Pay attention both to noise level and noise quality
Getting the overall noise of your system low as possible is great, just don’t forget to watch about noise quality. Stuff like 120mm or smaller fans and hard drives might not get particularly loud. But, they can get annoying, especially HDDs once they start spinning.
Don’t forget about the PSU and try avoiding HDDs
Aside from fans and CPU and GPU coolers you should also focus on getting a powerful and quality PSU unit. High power output means less strain on the PSU. This leads to lower temperatures under load and thus lower fan noise.
There are also PSUs with semi-passive fan mode. Those are great for quiet PC builds since their fans don’t activate under low load. Some models we recommend are the Be Quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 or Corsair HX750i 80 Plus Platinum. Both offer superb reliability, high power, and low noise levels.
You should also avoid HDDs. Even the quietest models have moving parts and can become noticeably loud once they start spinning. Go with an SSD instead.
A few suggestions when putting it all together
When you’re first setting up your PC don’t get too giddy about closing it up and adoring it in all it’s glory too soon. It happens to even the best of us so make sure everything is setup just right. Boot it up, run it for a bit, install the necessary drivers, test some programs and a game or two. Only then should you screw the panels back in place. Save the yourself frustration and gain some peace of mind.
- Separate the screws. Separate the screws. Separate the screws. It’s so trivial, but so important and easy to forget. Always separate the screws so you know what they belong to. Save yourself a headache testing each variant out.
- Check that you placed your case fans in the correct direction. All the optimization in the world won’t help a PC case if the fans are installed incorrectly. It’s also a good idea to regular vacuum and dust the area where you PC will be sitting. Costs nothing, but a few minutes of your time.
- Be sure the dimensions are appropriate. Don’t guesstimate how big or small it is. Get out a measuring tape so you get a good idea of whether it’s appropriate for you and your space.
Great review sources for constructing a silent PC build
The best quiet PC cases for your next build
And finally, here is a couple of silent PC cases we recommend to go after for your next quiet PC build. From our research and analysis these are the best that you can currently get for your money.
Best Silent PC Case: Fractal Design Define R6
The Fractal Design Define R6 is in our opinion the best of the best when it comes to silent PC cases. Completely enclosed chassis, lots of noise padding, and solid airflow for a quiet case.
Sleek and industrial are the words that hit the nail on the head with the design of this case. It’s got a understated, but sophisticated design that’d you’d never guess had a monster gaming capabilities under it. If you’re looking for minimalist and quiet this is the case for you.
Specs include sound dampening material installed on all panels; 3 140mm preinstalled fans for solid airflow; room for six additional fans; full liquid cooling support for pumps and radiators up to 420mm; PSU shroud and modular storage for a clean, cable-free look; six 3.5”/2.5” and two 2.5” mounts, allowing users to install up to eight storage devices.
Quiet PC Case Without Breaking the Bank: be quiet! Silent Base 801
Excellent noise isolation for a relatively affordable price. Silent Base 801 is another great choice for a quiet build. You also have the option that comes with a glass side panel.
The case comes with full insulation on all panels (the glass version doesn’t have insulation on see-through panel); three preinstalled 140mm fans with support for up to 3 additional case fans; PSU shroud along with decoupled motherboard tray for an inverted look (the tray can also be removed and used as a test bench); full liquid cooling support and 420mm radiator support; nine expansion slots for storage devices (7 x 3.5”/2.5” and 2 2.5” slots).
be quiet! DARK BASE 900 ATX Full Tower
You’ll get all of the specs of the Silent Base 801 along with 8 expansion slots (all supporting both 2.5” and 3.5” devices), support for up to 12 additional fans for superb airflow, top-notch cable management, and full compatibility for E-ATX and XL-ATX motherboards.
be quiet! Silent Base 601 Window
While it doesn’t have the best noise isolation, be quiet! Silent Base 601 Window comes with a glass side panel in case you want to show off your machine in full RGB glory.
The see-through paneling comes with a price. The case supports 8 interior fans and comes preinstalled with 2 140mm fans.
The case comes with noise insulation of all panels except the one that host the glass window; liquid cooling support for radiators up to 360mm; and nine expansion slots (7 x 3.5”/2.5” and 2 2.5” slots).
Best Micro-ATX Silent PC Case: Fractal Design Define Mini C
The Fractal Design Define Mini C is a Micro ATX (mini-tower) case with excellent noise isolation. If you want a small form factor case that comes with low noise levels, the Define Mini C is a great choice.
Features include sound dampening foam installed on all but the rear panel; two 120mm preinstalled fans and support for up to six fans in total (there’s the option to remove the top insulation to host two additional fans); 5 expansion slots in total (2x 3.5” and 3 x 2.5”) along with PSU shroud; and superb cable management for small-from factor case.