A compact implementation, a mesh panel, or perhaps a smart cable management? The variety of cases on sale allows you to choose a device for any need. The main thing is to determine the range of requirements for the device. But, despite all this variety, the most common remains the classic version – Tower. We will talk about its various variations in this material.
What are the different PC tower form factors?
Tower enclosures are subdivided into several sizes with approximately the same height. But in fact, the dimensions of the case may differ slightly from the typical standard, because every manufacturer wants to “surprise” the customer with the design and internal filling of the product. Indirectly, this also applies to the form factor of compatible motherboards. The seats for them remain unchanged due to unification, although the size of the boards themselves may vary depending on the manufacturer and model.
Whether it is a large number of drives, expansion cards, or massive custom liquid cooling, the Full-Tower size allows you to make any dream come true . The height of this frame size is more than 50 cm, and the number of expansion slots, as a rule, is more than eight. On average, in such cases there are from four to eight bays for 3.5 drives, but some models can accommodate up to 12 pieces. Supports large XL-ATX and E-ATX motherboards, as well as Standard, Micro and Mini form factors. This size is suitable for creating a high-performance gaming PC or workstation.Case Be Quiet DARK BASE 900 Pro rev.2 [BGW14] black
The Super-Tower and Ultra-Tower sizes are much less common . They are larger than Full-Tower and are quite rare in household assemblies. The height of such buildings is 65 cm or more. They are suitable for dual-processor systems, servers and other highly specialized tasks.
Midi-Tower is the most massive variation of the Tower size. The reason for this is the successful combination of functionality and size. You can choose a Midi-Tower for almost any request. Typically, such cases can accommodate any motherboard – from Mini-ITX to E-ATX, as well as up to three devices in bays 5.25. The height of the case can vary from 40 to 50 cm, and the width from 20 to 25 cm. The number of expansion slots is on average six or seven pieces, and to accommodate 3.5 drives, two or more seats are provided.
Mini-Tower and Micro-Tower differ slightly in size. It is a compact alternative to larger tower cases. As a rule, in such cases there is only one compartment for 5.25 devices, and more than two compartments are rarely allocated for installing 3.5 drives. The height of this standard size is on average 30–37 cm, which affects the number of expansion slots – there are usually three or four of them. There are also limitations in the form factor of compatible boards – only Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX are supported.
Case ZET GAMING Rare Minicase MS3 Mesh WG ARGB whiteThe Mini-Tower is a good alternative to the Midi-Tower when you need a simple, feature-rich PC or a sturdy mid-range gaming rig. These enclosures take up less desktop space.
There are cases that are even more modest in size. This separate category is referred to as SFF – Small Form Factor. Their dimensions are usually measured not in height and width, but in liters – the volume of the internal space.
SFF packages can be implemented in the following forms:
Mini-tower – standard layout, like the larger version mentioned above, but with a reduced height.
Desktop – narrow, but about the same height as the full-size versions. The video card in this implementation is usually located on the same line with the motherboard. Such housings can be positioned both vertically and horizontally.
Cube – a case in the form of a small “cube” where the motherboard is placed horizontally.
A sandwich is a variant close to a Mini-tower, but in this implementation, the board and the video card are separated by a partition, which forms a kind of “sandwich”.
Due to their small size, SFF enclosures support only the smallest Mini-ITX motherboards. The storage system in the form of 3.5 hard drives is very limited. SFFs allow you to save space with a small workspace, they can be easily placed in a backpack and taken with you, for example, on business trips. Such cases are perfect for a PC base in the form of a home theater, office and even gaming solution. It all depends on what components the user chooses.
Complexity of gaming assemblies in compact cases
Despite their size, SFF cases allow high-performance gaming solutions to be assembled in them. But the compactness carries with it a number of problems that the user will encounter during assembly.
First, you need to plan in advance how to install the components. With the wrong approach, you will have to remove some parts to get to the right one. Second, cable management is important. Here it will no longer be possible to just throw the connected bundle of wires at random – the side covers may simply not close.
Third, the selection of components. For SFF, the choice is limited to the size of Mini-ITX boards. Cooling problems can also arise. Of course, the large-width cases – the Mini-tower and the Cube – can accommodate large tower coolers, so choosing is easy. But when it comes to narrow body versions, some difficulties can arise. The tower structure will have to be abandoned and the choice reduced to versions with horizontal implementation . Such cooling systems are predictably inferior in heat dissipation to “towers” in the same price category.
The situation is approximately the same with videocards. Mini-tower and Sandwich cases will also accommodate large cards with three fans. And in smaller and narrower cases, you will have to limit yourself to the single-fan version – you can forget about the top-end video card. But here turbine models can come in handy, which are often bypassed by owners of full-size hulls. In a cramped environment, a cooling system with direct discharge of heated air outside the case will be very useful, albeit a little noisy.
Limitations will also affect the choice of the power supply. The choice of SFX power supplies , which are scaled-down versions of the standard ATX power supply for compact chassis, is very scarce. High-quality models with the most popular rated power of 500-650 W appear in very small numbers and disappear instantly. It is this feature that can put an end to the assembly of a small PC.
Platform Form Factors
Each case size has a specific list of supported motherboard form factors. Below is a table with typical values for each platform.
The perennial motherboard standard is Standard-ATX . These are full-size boards 305×244 mm, the choice of which is very extensive . This form factor allows you to optionally accommodate eight devices in M.2 slots. The number of slots for RAM modules can be either standard – four connectors, or advanced – eight slots, which is important for older chipsets that are used in workstations. As a rule, Standard-ATX boards have a lot of interfaces for connection and PCI-E expansion slots on board, which is of great help to the user.
Larger versions of this form factor are E-ATX and XL-ATX . E-ATX is a laterally extended ATX board with a standard size of 305×330 mm. In turn, XL-ATX is expanded not only sideways, but also in height. Its size is 345×262 mm. These boards are designed for ultimate solutions on older chipsets.
Micro-ATX is a kind of golden mean among motherboards. Due to its more compact size, this form factor may not have a couple of PCI-E slots, which are often not used, but the power system remains unchanged – from the older model. The standard size of a Micro-ATX board is 244×244 mm. Slots for installing RAM modules are usually 2–4. The least number of slots, as a rule, are in budget models.
Based on Micro-ATX motherboards, you can assemble high-performance PCs of different directions, but with some nuances . Due to the smaller number of expansion slots and the denser layout of the circuits, it is not always possible to accommodate everything you need at the same time, and the number of SATA and M.2 connectors, as a rule, is inferior to a full-size Standard-ATX board.
Mini-ITX motherboards measuring only 170×170 mm are an excellent solution for compact assembly, although they are slightly limited in functionality. The number of slots for RAM modules cannot be more than two, connectors on the rear panel and for drives, as a rule, are less than that of larger boards. But the most obvious nuance is only one PCI-E slot.
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Based on the Mini-ITX board, you can build both a productive PC and a simpler version for an office or multimedia system. Another variation of mini-cards is Mini-STX with dimensions 140×140 mm. This option is designed for ultra-compact systems, and its distinctive feature is the use of RAM modules from a laptop and external power supplies.
Enclosures come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The main question is what do you need. If this is a simple solution for household tasks, then you can completely limit yourself to the smallest SFF case, so that it is compact and pretty. But gamers and creators of high-quality professional content need to think carefully: is the compactness worth the tricks that they will have to resort to in order to assemble a productive machine.