Learn about Form and Function When Choosing a Computer Case
written by: John Garger•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 5/18/2011
Some computer cases have a pretty form and some were built only for function. Learn about form versus function when choosing a computer case for your desktop home computer.
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When most people start planning the building of a new computer, the majority of the focus is on processors, memory, hard drives, video cards, and other internal components. Computer cases tend to be one of the last components considered when piecing together a new desktop PC.
There are, however, some computer builders who want their computer to look as good as it functions. Some of these builders go so far as to modify their cases with etchings, decals, and some even completely transform their desktop computers into works of art.
But most of us only care to buy and use the computer cases available to us from desktop computer case manufacturers such as AeroCool, Ultra, and ThermalTake. These cases run from the totally utilitarian to the wildly ornate. Some computers such as Dell’s Alienware line of desktop PCs are unique enough to command steep prices for both the form and function of the computer.
This article explores some things to consider when you are choosing a desktop computer case. Choosing the right case is a matter of deciding whether form or function is more important to you.
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Choosing a Utilitarian Case for you Home Desktop Computer
No matter how a computer case looks, its main function is to house your computer components, make it easy to remove and upgrade those components, and provide enough airflow to keep those components cool and in good working order. Some cases are designed to do just that and no more.
Take, for example, the Ultra X-Blaster ATX Desktop Computer case. Although not a beauty to look at, this case does offer some nice features that will protect your investment and keep your computer components cool. For starters, the interior of the case makes it easy to install your components because there are few sharp edges as found on some other budget computer cases. It also features a separate CPU air duct that brings fresh ambient air directly to the CPU to ensure maximum cooling. In addition, it features many options for additional fans should your computer reside in an environment where such extra cooling is needed. With a street price of just US$39.99, this is utilitarian computing at its best.
If its cooling you want, few computer cases beat the AeroCool ExtremeEngine Desktop Computer case. This case features a jet engine-like 14cm lighted fan in the front and a whopping 25cm variable-speed fan right on the side of the case.
This case moves a tremendous amount of air into the case providing more than enough cool ambient air to the CPU, video card, hard drive, and other internal components. Not the prettiest desktop computer case on the market, the AeroCool ExtremeEngine’s US$119.99 price is an investment in the protection of your computer from overheating.
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Choosing a Fashionable Case for you Home Desktop Computer
On the other side of the coin are those computer builders who need their computer to look good too. Take for example the NZXT Tempest Desktop case. This computer case features skewed lines, a welcomed break from the typical right angles found on most utilitarian computer cases.
The Tempest also features extensive internal lighting and a mesh front panel that makes for a pretty picture in dark lighting conditions. Inside the case, things get a bit more utilitarian with standard fittings and shelves for your computer components. Interestingly, this one brings together form and function into one package by giving the computer builder the option to install dual front cooling fans to bring in much needed ambient air. In addition, this case features a large clear window on the left side of the case giving the computer builder even more options to show off the internal components of the computer, another excuse to jazz up the inside to match the outside of the case.
With a street price of US$109.99, the NZXT Tempest is a bit pricier than some budget cases that can house your computer components just as well. Still, if fashion is as important to you as function, the tempest brings together the best of both worlds.
Some computer manufacturers have also jumped on the fashion bandwagon offering computers that look as good as they function. Dell’s acquisition of Alienware Computers has not stopped the manufacturer from offering extreme cases to go along with extreme performance.
Take the Dell Alienware Area-51 ALX Desktop computer, the top of the Alienware line. This case looks as good as its internal components function proving that fashionable desktop computers are not always gutless wonders. The broken lines and bright red lights make this computer stand out among a crowd of utilitarian cases usually offered by this and other desktop computer manufacturers. However, this kind of fashion comes with a steep price. The Alienware Area-51 ALC starts at US$3999 representing the pinnacle of gaming PC hardware.
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Function and fashion need not be too extremes of a continuum if you shop around and choose a desktop computer case for its functional qualities as well as its aesthetic appeal. Look carefully at a computer case and choose one that fits in with your concept of beauty but also provides you with the features you need to make your computer building experience a pleasant one. Pay too much attention on function and you may end up with a boring computer no matter what is under the hood. Put too much focus on fashion, and you may end up with a computer case that doesn’t protect your real investment, the components inside.