The Best mATX Case

Building a Small Form Factor PC has never been easier than before, and there are plenty of micro ATX and mini ITX cases in the market. Manufacturers are constantly pumping out new and innovate case designs, with each model designed to cram as many high powered components possible within the smallest space. Graphics card and cooler manufacturers are also getting in the mATX race, releasing smaller versions of their standard models such as the Gigabyte GTX 1080 mini and Zotac GTX 1080ti mini. These graphics cards are every bit as powerful as the standard full- length versions, except for lower overclocking headroom.

CPU coolers these days are also available in many shapes and sizes, with some water cooling specialists managing to stuff an entire custom cooling loop inside mini ITX and micro ATX cases. You can easily get a low profile CPU cooler like the Noctua NH- L9a for an AMD Ryzen mATX build, or the Cryorig C7 CR-C7A for Intel mATX builds. But just having the best CPU coolers and mini graphics cards won’t help you build a SFF gaming rig, you also need the proper case to fit in all those components. Without the case, your computer is just a scattered group of parts wired up to each other. A good mATX case needs to have efficient space management, cable grommets, CPU cooler cutouts, high quality motherboard standoffs, and sufficient hard drive slots as well as GPU slots. If you plan to run a SLI or Crossfire system in your case, make sure it has at least 4 graphics card slots in the back. Do you want to make a compact workstation that also doubles up as a media center? Get a mATX case that can accommodate lots of hard drives. And don’t forget to check for dust filters in the case. Some of the them will come with a couple of preinstalled fans, while others even feature built-in power supplies.

Without further ado, here are our contenders for the best mATX Case you can buy:

CORSAIR Crystal 280X RGB Micro-ATX Case, 2 RGB Fans, Lighting Node PRO Included, Tempered Glass - Black (CC-9011135-WW)

CORSAIR Crystal 280X RGB – Spoilers! It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Overview:

It is one of the best looking mATX cases we have ever seen, and features a unique dual compartment design which separates the heat generating core components from the auxiliary components. The primary attraction of this case however, is its dual Corsair LL120 RGB fans and Lighting Node Pro controller.

Features:

Do you want a premium mATX case with built-in support for RGB from the factory? Yes, it has tempered glass side panels that attach to the steel frame with thumbscrews, and Corsair even put some rubber padding between the screws and the glass panel to reduce chances of damage. But this case also has tempered glass on the top AND front. That’s right, the roof and front section of the Crystal 280X are glass although you can’t exactly remove the front glass panel while the other two are detachable thanks to the thumbscrews But you can remove the entire front section to access the air filters and install fans for the radiator

And even though this case is derived from the Air 240 platform, it looks completely different and introduces some cool new features. For starters, it is covered with glass panels an almost all sides, and comes with RGB fans plus a controller out of the box. The fans are Corsair LL120 RGB fans, these are 120mm case fans and are widely regarded to be some of the best looking fans in the whole gaming industry. One thing we would have liked to see is pegs underneath the tempered glass side panel, similar to the pegs that are underneath the front panel. The front panel pegs are for looks, but if the front panel was removable they would hold it in place and prevent it from falling down as you removed the screws. The side has no pegs so you need to be careful with handling this glass panel.

The front, side, and top are all equipped with magnetic cover dust filters that are easy to remove and reattach. You can install dual 120 or 140mm fans on the front and top, as well as 240/ 280mm radiators for water-cooling. The floor will also accept a radiator (240mm or dual 120mm fans), although there isn’t exactly much room at the bottom for mounting a radiator once you install the motherboard and graphics card. Building a system in this case should be a pleasant experience, as it separates the PSU, storage, and wiring from the rest of the system with a rear chamber. Rubber grommets allow you to manage cables neatly, and the hard drive/ SSD cages are removable.

Pros:

  • Creative dual compartment design to separate PSU, wires, hard drive, etc. from the core components
  • Tempered glass side panel and roof
  • Quad graphics card slots, supports two-way SLI/ Crossfire
  • Room for 240mm radiators on the front and in the bottom, as well as a 280mm radiator on the roof
  • Dedicated storage cage for two 3.5” drives and up to three 2.5” drives
  • Comes with two LL120 RGB fans preinstalled, as well as a Lighting Node Pro controller

Cons:

  • Expensive compared to most Micro ATX cases on the market
  • The included LL120 fans are some of the best looking and quietest RGB case fans in the market, but suffer in terms of airflow performance compared to other premium fans

NZXT H400i Micro-ATX Computer Case with digital fan control and RGB lighting, White/Black (CA-H400W-WB)

NZXT H400i – Amazing Cable Management

Overview:

NZXT is famous for designing some of the best looking tempered glass PC cases on the market, and they always excel at cable management. The H400i is no exception, for it comes with everything you need in order to create your dream mATX gaming PC- CPU cooler cutouts, cable grommets, air filters, RGB lighting, noise insulation, and a wonderful tempered glass side panel.

Features:

If you are very particular when it comes to cable management and sleek looks, this case is perfect for you. Not only is equipped with a smart RGB controller just like the Corsair Crystal 280X, but the RGB controller in this case is more advanced compared to the 280X. It syncs up all the RGB accessories inside your case, and allows you to control them using the NZXT CAM software on your desktop. You can set lighting patterns, save and edit fan speed profiles, and do much more. Now, all of this stuff is also possible on the 280X, so what is special about this case? Well, the smart controller in the H400i is loaded with a unique noise sensor that automatically senses and adapts the fan speed curves depending on how much noise it senses within the case.

This is what NZXT calls Adaptive Noise Reduction. This device records noise data from your PC and uses machine learning to automatically find the right balance between fan noise and cooling performance, so you don’t have to touch a thing in the software. And while all of this is being done for you, the tempered glass side panel lets you gaze at the marvelous RGB lighting within the case. Building a system inside the H400i is incredibly easy thanks to the special cable routing channels behind the motherboard tray. No other case has such a specialized layout at the back of the motherboard tray for routing cables, and there are even Velcro straps to efficiently tie up bundles of cables, reducing your reliance on zip ties.

Pros:

  • Sleek, minimalistic design with brilliant noise insulation and cable management
  • CAM- Powered smart device to aid with installation and management of RGB lighting
  • Three integrated Aer F fans, and two RGB LEDs
  • Fully filtered intakes and a PSU shroud

Cons:

  • CAM software is buggy and makes the smart device hard to setup
  • Airflow is slightly lacking when compared to cases like the Corsair 280X or Air 240

InWin 301 Black Tempered Glass Premium Micro-ATX Mini-ITX Tower Gaming Computer Case

InWin 301 – The All Rounder of mATX Cases

Overview:

InWin is committed to making products that look and feel great. The 301 mini tower gaming PC chassis follows the same principle, as it is made from high quality 1.2mm SECC steel panels and features a tool-less tempered glass side panel which can be removed with the push of a button. The front I/O ports are illuminated with red LEDs so that you have no trouble plugging or removing peripherals in the dark.

Features:

While its cable management features may not be as neat as that of the Corsair 280X or the NZXT H400i, the InWin 301 keeps things simple and easy to work with. It is built around a steel frame made from 1.2mm thick SECC panels. The front and top are fixed, only the side panel which is made from tempered glass can be removed. And removing the side panel is super easy, in fact the process of removing the InWin 301 side panel is the easiest we have seen on any PC case that features tempered glass. All you have to is push a button on the top of the panel, and hold the bottom with your hands as it detaches from the case. That’s it, no need to mess with thumbscrews anymore. Check out this video if you want to see exactly how the case breaks down and to hear some discussion on different cooling options.

Moving to the back of the case you fill find a honeycomb style perforation on the metal panel that allows for better ventilation. The back of the motherboard tray doesn’t have the same level of cable management as the NZXT, and we feel as though this case will be choked for air since the only path for air to enter is through the bottom, which is also the only place on this case you will find an air filter. It can accommodate a 240mm radiator on the front or back, and a 120mm fan/ radiator on the top back. There are slots for 4 graphics cards, so you can run a SLI/ Crossfire configuration in this case which is really cool. InWin even includes a special GPU support bracket to prevent GPU sag, this bracket hides itself neatly within the case and can barely be seen. The top of the case has room for an ATX power supply (up to 160mm long), and there is a cage for hard drives too. It is nice to see that such a compact case has CPU cooler clearance of 160mm, and can fit 330m long graphics cards.

Pros:

  • Superb construction, uses high quality SECC steel and 3mm tempered glass
  • Its understated styling allows the 301 to fit into almost any environment, whether it is your gaming room, office, or studio
  • Illuminated front I/O ports for better usability in the dark
  • Removable cable management tabs, you can pop them out with your finger depending on how many cables you need to run
  • Separate PSU chamber, and removable storage drive trays
  • Great pricing

Cons:

  • Not enough breathing room for multi-GPU setups
  • Doesn’t come with any case fans preinstalled from the factory

Fractal Design Node 804 No Power Supply MicroATX Cube Case FD-CA-NODE-804-BL, Black

Fractal Design Node 804 – A Fine Example of Scandinavian Engineering

Overview:

It may not be the prettiest or the smallest mATX case on the market, but the Node 804 is certainly one of the best there is. This case uses a cube design, and has a transparent side panel so you can show off your fancy RGB fans and high end CPU cooler. Talking of cooling, the Node 804 can fit up to 10 fans and comes with three Silent Series R2 120mm fans preinstalled, as well as a fan controller.

Features:

At 344mm wide, 390mm deep, and 307mm tall, this isn’t exactly a super compact mATX chassis. In fact, it is one of the bulkier cube cases on the market and doesn’t look futuristic like the NZXT H400i or the InWin 301. But Fractal Design made this case to accommodate a whole bunch of hard drives, fans, and 2-way SLI/ Crossfire. In fact, you can stuff enough high end hardware and liquid cooling inside this compact case that it will rival some of the Mid Tower ATX builds in terms of performance. There is no tempered glass, instead the transparent side panel is made from plastic. But this is also a slightly older case design, released back in 2014 and back then tempered glass side panels were still a rarity unlike today.

Nevertheless, you have plenty of room to showcase your personal RGB gaming build to the rest of the world thanks to the spacious interiors and intelligently design internal storage cages. One of the defining factors of this cube case is its dual chamber design- the primary chamber houses all the heat generating core components such as the CPU and graphics card, while the secondary chamber is designed to hold the power supply, hard drives, SSDs, and wiring. This is one of the first small form factor cases to come up with this idea, and as you can see other manufacturers have picked up on it by now. Corsair uses a similar concept for their Crystal 280X RGB case.

Not only does the dual chamber design make it easier to build your system and manage cables, but it also improves cooling performance. The 804 also has two rear fans, one in each chamber to exhaust all the hot air efficiently from the system. One interesting little quirk that you may not know is the angled flaps in the roof. The top panel has a giant plastic mesh to capture dust particles being sucked in through the fans mounted on the roof. But there are also fins underneath the mesh that are angled away from the user to reduce perceived noise, we really like this design choice. Another design choice we really like is the front filters being removable from the bottom without having to take out the entire front panel. The steel divider between the two chambers has giant cutouts for CPU cooler backplates, cable management, and all sizes of water cooling tubes.

Pros:

  • You can mount up to 4 AIO liquid coolers in this relatively compact cube case
  • Supports massive amounts of airflow with room for up to 10 case fans
  • Price is pretty good when you consider all the storage and cooling options that this mATX case has
  • Dedicated SSD placement (for two SSDs) in the front
  • Can accommodate a 160mm tower cooler for the CPU
  • Comes with 3 fans preinstalled and a fan controller for those 3 fans
  • Dust filters on all air intakes
  • Large transparent window

Cons:

  • Minimal noise dampening
  • Installing a multi-GPU setup or some kind of high end AIO liquid cooling will require removal of the 3.5” cages, and cable management is going to be tough
  • Slightly larger than your average mATX case, because of all the extra cooling and storage options that the Node 804 has

Frequently Asked Questions-

What features should you look for?

First off, you need to center your case around the build, not the other way around. Set a budget for your gaming PC build, and leave yourself a little extra room for the case and peripherals like gaming mouse, keyboard, etc. Then, think about the following- how much storage do I need? How many graphics cards will I run? What kind of cooling shall I use? If you are interested in a liquid cooled mATX build, it is a good idea to check the case for radiator mounting spots. What is the largest size of radiator that the case will support? How many 120mm and 140mm fans can it take? In case you plan to keep things simple and air cool the CPU, it is important to check the CPU cooler clearance in your case. How tall of a CPU cooler can you fit in there, and will there be any issues with mounting the RAM kits? Of course you will purchase low- profile CPU coolers and low- profile DDR4 RAM, but these things still need to be measured beforehand. Check the manufacture site to get exact figures on cooler clearance and radiator support.

Once you have all of that sorted out, look for cases that come with features which make it more convenient and enjoyable to build the system. Aesthetics matter too, if you want your case to blend in with the rest of the room and surrounding peripherals. There are steel mATX cases with regular side panels, and you also have mATX cases with tempered glass side panels which are great if you want to show off your RGB CPU cooler and RGB case fans. But make sure that the case also has good cable management options if you go with a transparent side panel, since there is nothing more embarrassing than a gaming PC build in which motherboard, fan, and GPU cables are spread out all over the place. This makes the build look unorganized and takes away from the attractiveness of the case as well as internal components. Cable management grommets are present in every premium mATX case, and some of them even have chambers behind the motherboard where you can stow away all your cables.

There are cases with shrouds to hide the power supply and give the system a much cleaner look. If you are interested in water cooling, make sure that there is a cutout for the CPU cooler. And if you want to go with a RGB build, you can purchase one of the cases from your preferred brand that comes with RGB fans and a RGB controller preinstalled.

What does mATX mean?

Micro ATX or mATX refers to an internationally recognized motherboard standard. The mATX standard trickled down from ATX, which is the type of motherboard that most people use (over 60 percent of PC builds are ATX). ATX stands for Advanced Technologies Extended, and any device that is ATX compliant is guaranteed to fit on an ATX motherboard. A Mini ATX motherboard is smaller than an ATX motherboard and mini ITX is smaller than even mATX.  A case that is designed to accommodate an ATX motherboard can also fit a mATX or mini ITX motherboard, but a case designed for mATX or mini ITX cannot fit ATX motherboards. And then you also have E-ATX or Extended ATX which is larger than ATX. So exactly what defines the standard of a motherboard? Mainly it is the size- ATX motherboards measure 305mm (height) x 244mm (width). They have support for up to 7 expansion cards and 4 memory slots for RAM. So to run a 3-way or 4-way SLI or crossfire system, the minimum requirement is an ATX motherboard and a case with 8 GPU slots. Micro ATX boards are physically smaller at 244mm x 244mm, and support fewer expansion cards. They also tend to be less expensive compared to ATX motherboards. Micro ATX boards have 2 to 4 memory slots and support a maximum of 4 expansion cards, which means you can either run 4 single slot expansion cards or a two- way SLI/ Crossfire setup. Mini ITX boards are even smaller than mATX, measuring just 170mm x 170mm. They are also cheaper than mATX and feature even fewer slots for graphics cards and RAM (2 memory slots maximum, and a single expansion card for one dual slot graphics card). Here is a quick explanation of the different PC motherboard types and sizes.

The different types of PC cases

Unlike motherboards, PC case types and sizes are not standardized. However, over time PC builders and manufacturers have come to use specific terms for cases based on their height and number of external expansion bays. For instance, you have the most common PC case type- the Mid Tower. A mid tower case is expected to be within 17 and 21 inches tall, and it should have 3 to 4 external expansion bays for stuff like hard drives and optical disk drives. They must also be capable of fitting a standard ATX motherboard. Full towers are the next category, they are taller than mid towers and range between 22 to 27 inches in height. Full towers also have 5 or more external expansion slots, and support both ATX as well as EATX motherboards. If you want to go all- out with a high budget gaming PC, and need 8 hard drives along with a quad SLI/Crossfire graphics card setup, full towers are for you. They are also easier to build in, because of their roomy nature and ample space for just about any kind of liquid cooling system that you can think of. Mini towers are the cases which are shorter than 17” and only support 2 dual slot graphics cards with a maximum of 2 or 3 expansion bays in the front. The mini tower cases can accommodate mATX or mini ITX motherboards. If you want a case specifically designed for mini- ITX motherboards, check out Small Form Factor (SFF) cases. To learn more about cases, check out this video.

 

Which one of these mATX cases is the best?

NZXT’s H400i looks sleek and has brilliant cable management. The InWin 301 min tower has a tempered glass side panel while maintaining a relatively affordable price tag. Fractal Design separates the hotter components from the colder ones by splitting the inside of their Node 804 cube case into two segments, this improves airflow and cooling performance. You know what Corsair did? They took all the aforementioned features, and fused them together to create the Crystal 280X RGB. Not only does it looks great and have brilliant cable management, but the internals are split into two chambers just like the Fractal Design Node 804 so that you can keep the PSU, cables, and hard drives in their own separate space. The airflow is excellent, and it can accommodate 240mm radiators on the front and in the floor, or a 280mm radiator on the top. It even comes with two Corsair LL120 RGB fans preinstalled, along with a Lighting Node Pro RGB controller so that you can sync up all your RGB accessories within the case and control them easily through software.

Yes, the case is more expensive compared to its competitors, but it also includes two RGB fans and a controller both of which combined cost nearly as much as the InWin 301 case. If you don’t want to pay extra for the RGB, you could purchase the Air 240 case which is the platform from which the 280X is derived. The Crystal 280X is a modified Air 240 with RGB components. But if you then go ahead and purchase two LL120 RGB fans and a Lighting Node Pro on top of the Air 240, you will end up spending more than what you would have if you just purchased a 280X in the first place. And the 280X is better suited to RGB builds when compared to the Air 240, because it is equipped with tempered glass panels on both the side and roof, whereas that Air 240 has a simple plastic side panel with wide borders that limit the side view.