The Perfect Computer Case

edited June 2021 in Hardware
I have been thinking a lot about what, in my opinion, would make the "perfect" computer case. I prefer stuff that is optimal, efficient, and works well with as little nonsense as possible.

Anyone who has looked at computer cases recently will know that such cases are quite rare now.

Years ago, I bought one of last one of these cases off of Newegg:

Aside from a few nitpicks with the front audio/USB port, it was close to being perfect.

What is a "perfect computer case" then?

Number one: It should be no-nonsense. No bullshit. No silly gimmicks. No over-the-top branding. No facny or proprietary "designer" features. No obnoxious flamboyant garbage like ultra-bright blue or rainbow animated LEDs.

Number two: It should go without saying that it should be BEIGE. I want to actually be able to SEE my case, not have a black hole sitting my the corner of my room. Yes, dirt will stand out more, but that is GOOD because then I know I need to CLEAN it!

Next, it should have a steel frame, not some aluminum crap that crumples if I breath on it. I should be able to sit on it without crushing it like a soda can. When I get angry, I should be able to whack it without putting too much of a dent in it.

For use with anything non-vintage, it should be full ATX, fitting a full sized ATX motherboard with cutouts for all possible expansion card backplates.

Once a backplate cutout is removed, it should accept standard blank backplates that are screwed in individually. (I have one crappy case where the backplates are all held in by a single bar. Very hard to use as a test machine since I have to leave it unscrewed, leaving all cards loose)

I prefer full towers, but mid tower or short tower are OK if I know I am not going to load up the drive bays.

There should be no drive doors over the drive bays. (Doors can keep dust out, but they get obnoxious).

No propitiatory drive or floppy bezels. Each drive has its own front bezel (preferably also beige).

It should not require funky drive mounting hardware. Just plain old standard screw mountings.

For any recent CPU, air circulation is very important. There should be good vents on the back and on the side panel, with places to mount fans. Specifically, there probably should be a vent above the CPU on the side panel.

The side panels should be solid metal (steel), not some see-through plastic shit. They should be easy to remove/replace and should have smoothed edges.

The case should have a reset button.

Standard LED colors: Green: Power, Yellow: Turbo (if applicable), Red: Hard drive access.

Power supply should be at the top. It should fit any standard ATX power supply.

On cases for 386-486-P1 stuff, LED speed indicators are cool.

USB/sound ports should be on the front. (or optional, so I could use a drive bay instead) or customize somehow.

So, even given all of that, there are many different front bezel "styles". Of all of the cases I have seen over the years, the best style I have seen are these sorts of Taiwanese clone case styles:

It is designed to be seen, looks "busy" in a way that says "this thing is doing some real work, you want this on your workbench". This was quite common on late 486 and AT form Pentium 1 "no name" machines.

Personally, I can't get enough of these machines.

The short mid/mini tower cases were nice for small workstations, but if you wanted to load up a RAID array, multiple CD drives, zip drives, extra floppies, tape drives, perhaps with a dozen serial ports on the back, etc, then you wanted an awesome full tower case like this.

Some of these were more brown/tan than whitish beige, which also looked good.

I actually have a case just like this one. It is awesome, and will even fit an oversized early IBM AT 286 style motherboard. You look at it, and you know it is a monolithic tower of power.

It is too bad you can't really fit an ATX motherboard in those AT cases. But there were ATX beige tower cases like this one that have a simpler, sort of smoothed over, look. lot of OEM clones had cases like this. I've got a full tower ATX case with same design as this one.

Before everything was rack mount, PC servers just used desktop cases. I can imagine rows of these things whirring away in a server room. The reset and pwoer buttons are right at the top, so, easy to mash when the Novell server craps itself.

Spotted someone selling this on eBay. Unfortunately it is not a full sized ATX case. It is also not clear if it is aluminum or steel or if it has any blue LEDs.

Of course, the second problem becomes finding drives with beige faceplates. It seemd like around 10 years or so ago, vendors in the US stopped selling beige CD/DVD drives almost overnight. Idiots. It is possible to swap faceplates between some models of CD drives, but there no standard. Interestingly, searching eBay suggests that beige stayed around longer in other countries. I'll see newer beige CD/DVD drives come up in locations outside of the US, but of course those can have issue with nazi-ific region locking.

Beige forever!


  • Yep, I've always liked beige (and 'light mode', because I actually like going outside). Black and silver just don't do it for me.

    Too bad my only CRT monitor at the moment is black.
  • The best computer case for me would be ones that are the size of a dictionary. Some computers in my college years ago had them and it seemed a good alternative for those that don't like dust building up inside the larger ones.

    Or, how about one with fancy lights that change colour every few seconds? :D

    I had this for my second computer, and it was a custom-built case from a local IT company.
  • What in the name of Frankenstein's neckbolts!? Burn it! Burn it with fire!! :smile:

    I remember there used to be a day when highly decorative cases, case modding, making custom cases, or whatever you want to call it, was sort of an "in" thing for gamers. Back when it was just a small group, it was ok.

    But walk in to Microcenter today and look at their case display - they are all lit up with rainbow LEDs and crap. Perhaps one generic black one with just a couple blinding blue LEDs for indicator lights. There is only one day of the year such a bright colorful display is OK, and today sure as heck isn't it.

    I literally can't buy a good no-bullshit case for all of the money in the world these days.

    (BTW, as for CRTs, put out an APB for Samsung SynchMaster 753DF, 755DF and similar models - those were beige, and among the best non-trinatron CRTs ever made)
  • edited June 2021
    I have some generic cases from the early P4/Athlon XP era that I hope to reuse someday. One does have a large drive door that covers half the front, but I still like it. Also like the IBM PC 300 cases, but they are somewhat cramped, for conversion purposes.

    I also like the SGI Visual Workstation cases.
  • there are some good no bullshit cases like the NZXT H510. It had good cable management and none of the RGB bullshit and the front panel is minimalistic
  • For AT class mother boards, I really like the cases like what you posted with the vertical vents and the rocker switch on the front. It seems that pretty much everything I have has the push button instead, and it just feels cheaper to me.

    If I were going to build stuff into a desktop case, then I'd prefer an IBM AT or clone style case, with the big red switch on the side.

    If space is limited, but money is more available, then I'd built in industrial rack mount cases, and have each "era" neatly slotted in a rack, with a desk next to it with couple of monitors, keyboards and mice, as needed depending on the requirements. Assuming that everything was 286 and newer, with VGA, I'd use just one setup with a KVM. If I needed TTL and XT keyboards, then I might have to get more flexible on the setup. If I had plenty of room, then I'd probably just set everything up one right after another like a school computer lab or library, in stock cases, with as close to stock peripherals as I can.
  • @SomeGuy do you happen to know what model the case is that you purchased at the top? It looks nice, and I've been looking for a new, basic, beige computer case. I know they don't make them anymore, but maybe one could be found on eBay.

    @Bry89 my ex had that same computer case. I wanted to burn it but she liked it and had me build a new PC inside of it.
  • It is a "DYNAPOWER USA CS-NH3A-C760 Beige 0.8mm SECC steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 430W Power Supply - OEM"

    Newegg actually still has the archived product page:

    ModelBrand DYNAPOWER USA
    Model CS-NH3A-C760
    DetailsType ATX Mid Tower
    Color Beige
    Case Material 0.8mm SECC steel
    With Power Supply Yes
    Power Supply 430W
    Power Supply Mounted Top
    Motherboard Compatibility Micro ATX / ATX
    Side Panel Window No
    ExpansionExternal 5.25; Drive Bays 4
    External 3.5; Drive Bays 2
    Internal 3.5; Drive Bays 4
    Expansion Slots 7
    Front Panel PortsFront Ports USB x 2/ Audio x 2
    Cooling SystemSide Air duct No, Air Duct optional
    Additional InfoFeatures Cooling System: Prescott Air Vent hole

    430W ATX Power Supply
    Additional InformationDate First Available November 23, 2010
  • I personally really love the power mac g5 case

    It's just an absolute beast and the metal just makes it that much better
  • @Xoplex9000 Too bad they're easily damaged when shipped incorrectly. Those feet can be mangled if dropped hard enough.
  • Well, if there aren't any blue or rainbow LEDs then it at least is not hideous.

    But too much nonsense going on inside it for me. I mean, really, where would I even mount my 5.25" floppy drives? :P
  • Hmm, I wanted to pull this thread back up to look at something, using a usual google "site" search, but Google has not indexed this page at all. I wonder why. I guess the rainbow-animated LED case vendors pay Gurgle enough money to keep alternate ideas totally off the web.
  • Here is another nice one:

    Well, this particular one needs some more de-yellowing, but I like the design. There is a digital speed display behind the tinted part.

    And here is a full Antec ATX tower like the one I have for my "main" machine. I think I still have the wheels somewhere. Yea, take one of these out for a drive.
  • That would honestly be a very good liquid-cooling PC case. The abundance of 5.25" bays let you slap in reservoirs and pumps without needing to mod the case.
    And you still have space for disc drive, removable media bay and any other wierdo stuff.

    Honestly, I don't get why "modern" cases had to abandon 5.25" bays.
    At least my Corsair case has dim white LED's that aren't extremely distracting and 2 5.25 bays.
  • SomeGuy, do you happen to know the specific model number of that Antec full tower case? I had that exact case years ago, and I had to let go of it when moving. I really hate that I did that, especially considering the fact that it was in basically brand new condition. I even had the wheels on it. I'd love to track down another one, but I don't remember the model information.
  • I guess I didn't post links to the eBay auction, so here it is:

    I don't recall the exact brand/model off hand. I don't believe it is written anywhere on the case, so most sellers would not know that anyway unless it had the original box too.

    It might not actually be an "Antec". Looking at that listing, "Antec" only appears on their power supply.
  • Holy crap! That's exactly it! Besides the one I owned, I think this is the only other example of this case that I've ever seen. I really regret getting rid of that case, but moving is stressful, so I didn't give it enough thought. Just assumed that I'd be able to find another one.

    From what I remember about it (it was several years ago when I got rid of mine), it was a pretty decent case. It wasn't anything special, just nice. I put a variety of hardware in it, ranging from a few Pentium II and Pentium III builds (including a server that ran Windows 2000 for some time), all the way up to a Core 2 Duo machine based around a nice EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard.

    I am so tempted to buy that case from eBay. Ahh! It would be great for my living room media machine - I still use optical drives. I've been steadily working on ripping my DVD collection, and my silly modern case doesn't even know what a 5.25" drive bay is.

    Thank you so much for sharing that link. I only have a couple pictures of my case, but I did so much with it over the years. Just seeing those pictures brought back memories.
  • Here is another full tower with wheels - needs some serious de-yellowing though. The metal chassis looks about the same as the one above, just a different plastic bezel.

    Probably a year or two later. I seem to recall these beige towers with a colored panel at the bottom were popular for a while until everything went to black. Probably some early MacOS X "candy" theme influence. Personally I didn't really care for those colored panels as much. But still better than black.
  • Here is another really nice huge full ATX tower on eBeh. This one even seems to have extra 3.5" bays. It's just begging to be loaded up with all kinds of drives.

  • Sing to 'Baby's Got Back':

    I like big case and I cannot lie
    You other brothers can't deny
    With a big case in your face
    You have some fun
    With the nas you run
    Even if it weighs a ton.
    It says, use me, use me
    put all your drives in to me...

    I've loved big tower cases from day one--as you said, they mean business.

    Our first system we built was housed in a case almost identical to the 6x 5.25" one with the green speed lcd and round buttons for turbo and reset. Our power switch was a little different than every other picture of this case--it's round, lighted, and green. We still have this case as it had a nice and solid base to keep it from tipping.

    From that we leapfrogged to the ultimate case by the ultimate company that ultimately is long gone now. :( RIP California PC Products. The case itself was 50lbs and is rolled steel. It has 14 (yes 14!) 5.25 external bays. And we had every single one of them filled with the following--4x 3.5" Floppy drives, 2x Plextor CD-ROMs, Yamaha 4x4x CD-R, Iomega Jazz 1GB, Syquest Syjet 1.5GB, Mylex DAC960SUI SCSI-SCSI RAID controller, 2x 9GB Seagate 10k 2nd Gen Cheetah Drives, 1x Quantum 9GB SCSI drive. I still love that case.

    We actually had a problem running out of drive letters as we would partition the removable drives just like how we did on our 486 which had 2x NEC dual 3.5/5.25 floppy drives, NEC CD-ROM, and a SyQuest 88MB and SyQuest 200MB drives.

    The 2nd monster powered up a little as 10yrs ago, but the varta battery on the Supermicro motherboard needs to be replaced (if it hasn't already done some damage to the board). The 486 system was having issues with intermittent booting because the Seagate 157N wasn't always being recognized. Still need to restore these two!
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