If you’re looking to build a powerful PC but are compact, then you might want to consider some of the 11 ATX cases designed to be the smallest possible size we have to show you. Most of us wouldn’t turn down a Computer loaded with ferocious hardware, but not everyone has the desk or floor space to accommodate a tower the size of a child.
Fortunately, PC components and case makers are recognizing the growing need for tiny yet powerful machines, so there will be plenty of options in 2020. Although an ultra-compact PC has advantages, there are some factors to consider before purchasing one, not all of them are evident.
In this article, we’ll discuss the advantages and downsides of joining the travel-sized PC club, as well as review five of our best tiny ATX cases currently on the market.
We’ll start this article with a quick overview of things to look for while buying a tiny ATX case. You can jump straight to our selections if you like.
Here’s a quick overview of the compact Cases we like best. To find out why we like these the most – read on.
|Corsair Carbide Air 540||16.3 pounds||16.3 x 13.1 x 18 inches|
|Cooler Master Q500L||8.4 pounds||15.2 x 9.1 x 15 inches|
|Lian Li O11-Dynamic-Mini||18.73 pounds||16.5 x 10.6 x 14.96 inches|
|Cooler Master HAF XB EVO||18.1 pounds||17.4 x 13 x 16.7 inches|
|NZXT H510||17.6 pounds||16.85 x 8.27 x 18.11 inches|
|SilverStone Grandia GD09||9.26 pounds||17.32 x 14.09 x 6.69 inches|
|Corsair Carbide Series 175R||13.45 pounds||16.46 x 8.27 x 17.72 inches|
|Thermaltake Core G3||9.3 pounds||17.9 x 14.6 x 5.5 inches|
|Fractal Design Meshify C||14.33 pounds||8.35 x 17.32 x 15.55 inches|
|Rosewill Challenger S||11.24 pounds||17.52 x 8.26 x 16.06 inches|
|Corsair iCue 220T||14.33 pounds||15.55 x 8.27 x 17.72 inches|
What Does ATX Mean, Anyway?
ATX stands for “Advanced Technology eXtended,” which is a really ambiguous and unhelpful acronym. It’s a motherboard standard (also known as a “form factor”) that dates back to the mid-1990s and is still the most common type of motherboard in consumer Computers today.
The ATX designation indicates the size and general architecture of the motherboard, which gives a rough indication of the number and kind of ports and expansion slots.
For instance, some ATX boards may have four RAM slots, whereas others may have six or eight.
Build Your Dream PC with These Top Picks
1. Corsair Carbide Air 540
Corsair is known for creating high-quality PC products, and the Carbide Air 540 is one of their finest cases designed for compact builds.
The case features a cube design with a dual-chamber layout that separates the motherboard, CPU, GPU, and memory from the drives and PSU.
This configuration ensures direct airflow to the main components, resulting in efficient cooling that is ideal for those who want to push their system to its limits through overclocking.
This case provides enough of space for you to enhance your system with high-performance cooling. A 360mm liquid cooler or a 280mm top radiator can be installed on the front panel.
2. Cooler Master Q500L
The Cooler Master Q500L is the follow-up to last year’s Q300L, a fantastic Micro ATX case. The Q500L is only a little larger, yet it supports ATX motherboards!
This is undoubtedly one of our top recommendations for the smallest ATX case, thanks to the airflow-optimized front and top panels, the large side panel window, and lots of fan mounts.
The case comes with two pre-installed durable XtraFlo fans in the front. It can also support a 240mm radiator for powerful airflow to keep your system running cool.
3. Lian Li O11-Dynamic-Mini – Latest Small ATX Case
The Lian Li O11 Dynamic Mini is a lovely tiny form factor chassis that is a miniature version of the original PC-O11 Dynamic. And Lian Li didn’t skimp on making the O11-Dynamic Mini smaller. In fact, an ATX board may fit within the O11-D Mini.
The O11-D Mini also boasts superb cable management and temperature regulation for such a compact case. You may attach up to nine 120mm fans or six 140mm fans and even slightly modify the casing to accommodate water cooling.
There aren’t many things that may turn builders away from the O11-D Mini. One such thing is the lack of support for a typical ATX PSU. This is understandable given the SFF of the chassis.
4. Cooler Master HAF XB EVO – Best for LAN Party
The Cooler Master HAF XB EVO, as the name implies, is great at managing the thermal levels of any high-end PC.
The HAF XB provides great airflow capability, with support for multiple fans, a 240mm radiator in the front and a 120mm radiator in the back. It even comes with two 120mm XtraFlo fans pre-installed. You can increase airflow by removing the side panels.
There are four dust panels to help prevent dust gathering. This greatly simplifies maintenance.
The removable motherboard tray is one of the HAF XB EVO’s most appealing features. This is great for enthusiasts who want to put their rigs through their paces. The hard drive trays, too, are tool-free and removable. This increases the HAF XB’s versatility. It also comes with rigid side handles that make it a very portable pc case.
With this case, builders will be paying for a top-class case. Thermal regulation is suitable for any high-end PC and there’s plenty of room for customization. But assembling it can be a bit tiresome and it isn’t the most compact PC case.
5. NZXT H510
The NZXT H510 (and its i-series counterpart) is the successor to the last-gen NZXT H500 chassis. Like before, it has utterly stellar build quality, cable management, and minimalist aesthetics.
6. SilverStone Grandia GD09 – Best for ATX HTPC Builds
The SilverStone Grandia GD09 is built for the ultimate Home Theater PC (HTPC) experience, and its form factor shows it.
As long as you can keep your CPU cooler in check, you have plenty of room for expansion with this one.
7. Corsair Carbide Series 175R – Best RGB ATX Mid-Tower Gaming Case
The Corsair Carbide 175R is the most recent addition to the Corsair Carbide Series, offering a good basic design at a low price.
Obviously, we could go on and on about the 175R’s shortcomings and where it could have been improved. Yet the truth is that this is a low-cost chassis. And you won’t find anything better at this pricing.
The case includes a tinted tempered glass side panel and a 120mm back fan with RGB lighting.
Because this case accommodates up to six 120mm or four 140mm fans, airflow is great. There’s also enough for a 350mm cooling radiator, providing the 175R good thermal performance for its budget.
There is also enough room for a full-sized ATX board and extra clearance for optimum wire management.
If you want a basic budget computer case, the 175R is the appropriate choice. If you need something strong to support a heavy construction, you might want to look elsewhere. The Corsair Carbide 275R is an excellent Carbide series replacement that offers somewhat greater features for a slightly higher price.
8. Thermaltake Core G3 – Best for Slim ATX Builds
Thermaltake Core G3 is a high-quality small pc case that embraces a slim design. It is designed to fit on your desk or a tight living room.
The spacious compartment allows you to build a powerful rig for 4K VR gaming.
Core G3 features a nice transparent acrylic side window panel to show off your build. It has been equipped with a custom GPU mount for a floating GPU design.
9. Fractal Design Meshify C – Compact Case With Water-Cooling Support
At first glance, the Fractal Design Meshify C appears to be identical to its more expensive sister, the Define C. It is, however, distinct in terms of both pricing and features.
The Meshify C is an excellent mid-range PC case with a reasonable price that matches its characteristics. Because the front panel does not reflect the noise from the internal components back into the case, it is slightly noisier than in other cases.
This Meshify C offers optimal airflow, with support for up to seven 120mm fans. It even comes with two pre-installed retail-grade Dynamic X2 GP-12 fans. This case however wasn’t designed with liquid cooling in mind.
If you’re in the market for a mid-range chassis with a sturdy build, the Meshify C is the right choice for you. If you’re not a fan of noisy cases or plan on installing a liquid cooler, you might want to consider some other options.
10. Rosewill Challenger S – Best Budget Small ATX Case
The Rosewill Challenger S is our budget pick, but it’s still packed with features.
The included dual blue LED intake fans are a pleasant extra, as is the 120 mm intake fan. If you’re a budget user, this case is especially appealing, since it has a fully-functional airflow setup out-of-the-box, without any extra tweaking needed from you.
11. Corsair iCue 220T – Best Tempered Class Smart ATX Case
The Corsair iCue 220T is part of Corsair’s new iCue case series, focused on providing the best experience with their RGB product lineup.
The included RGB fans, great intake design, and not-too-small design make this a great choice for any user.
The fact that it is a tiny form factor ATX case does not preclude it from housing normal ATX components. When shopping for compact cases, keep the following in mind:
- Build components: Make sure the case is spacious enough to fit your CPU, GPU, and PSU without causing a tight fit that may make building challenging.
- Case build quality: Choose cases made of durable materials such as all steel or aluminum to ensure your case can withstand regular use.
- Expandability: Look for cases with multiple drive bays and PCIe slots to easily add components in the future and improve your system’s performance.
- Airflow: In addition to the spacious design, ensure the case has good airflow options. Many compact ATX cases have poorly placed fans or fewer than two 120mm fan options, so it’s essential to choose a case with proper airflow to prevent overheating.
- Cable management: Opt for cases with cut-out spaces and cable routing channels to make cable management easy and avoid clutter.
How to Choose an Ideal Small ATX Case for a Compact PC
In order to get the best value for your money’s worth, you need to understand the specific set of features that make a great ATX case. In the section below, we have listed some of the most important features to look for when making this purchase.
Before diving into the specifics, it’s crucial to understand the concept of form factors. Form factors refer to the physical dimensions and standards of components like the motherboard and case. ATX (Advanced Technology eXtended) is a common form factor for both motherboards and PC cases. Small ATX cases are designed to accommodate ATX motherboards but in a more compact format than regular ATX cases, optimizing space without sacrificing component compatibility.
Considerations for Space and Component Fit
The first consideration in choosing a small ATX case is ensuring that it has adequate space for all your components. You must account for the dimensions of your motherboard, power supply, graphics card, and cooling solutions (like fans and heatsinks), ensuring they all fit within the constraints of the case.
Pay special attention to the GPU and CPU cooler dimensions, as these components often take up the most space. Keep in mind that good cable management can optimize internal space and improve airflow, leading to better system cooling.
Airflow and Cooling System Compatibility
The next key factor is airflow. High-performance components can generate a lot of heat, and it’s essential that your case has an effective cooling solution. Look for a small ATX case that can support the number and size of fans you plan to use. Some cases also support liquid cooling solutions for more efficient heat dissipation. The case design, including the number and placement of vents and filters, also affects airflow and dust accumulation.
Expandability and Future-Proofing
Another crucial aspect to consider is future upgrades. If you plan to upgrade your components in the future, choose a case that allows for expandability. Check the number of drive bays and expansion slots. If you think you might add more storage drives or expansion cards in the future, make sure your chosen case can accommodate them.
Aesthetics and Personal Preferences
Finally, while practical considerations are certainly important, aesthetics and personal preference also play a role in choosing a case. The case is the most visible part of your computer, so you might want it to match your style. Cases come in various colors and finishes, and some have transparent panels to showcase your components. Some cases also include RGB lighting for a more personalized look.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why should I consider a small ATX case for my compact PC build?
Because these cases provide an excellent balance between size and compatibility. They can house powerful components typically compatible with standard ATX motherboards but in a more compact form factor, making them ideal for space-conscious setups, such as a home office or a living room entertainment center.
2. Does a smaller ATX case mean overheating issues?
Not necessarily. While smaller cases have less space for airflow, many are cleverly designed to optimize cooling. Choosing a case that supports adequate cooling solutions (such as multiple fans or liquid cooling systems), coupled with efficient cable management, can prevent overheating even in compact cases.
3. How can I ensure my components will fit in a small case?
Before buying a small ATX case, measure all your components, especially the graphics card and CPU cooler, as these are often the largest. Check the case’s specifications to ensure these components will fit. Also, confirm that the case has enough space for your power supply unit, RAM, storage drives, and any additional fans or cooling systems.
4. Can I upgrade my PC components later with a small ATX case?
Yes, but with some limitations. These cases typically have fewer expansion slots and drive bays than larger cases. Before purchasing, consider your upgrade plans and choose a case that can accommodate future enhancements.
5. Do small ATX cases come with power supply units?
Some of them come with power supply units (PSUs) included, but many do not. Ensure to check the case’s specifications before purchasing. If the case does include a PSU, make sure it provides enough power for your components.
6. Can I build a high-performance PC with a small ATX case?
Yes, you can. While the compact size can pose some limitations, you can still house powerful components within a small ATX case, including high-end graphics cards, multiple storage drives, and robust cooling solutions. Always check component sizes and case compatibility before building.
Buying your ideal small computer case doesn’t have to be an overwhelming undertaking.
With the above cases, you should be able to find your ideal pick that will make a compact yet powerful PC build.