When building a gaming rig your components are paramount, and any PC builder will know that looking after them means investing in a decent case.
Making the wrong choice can lead to bad performance, serious headaches and forking out extra cash, so make sure you consider the potential pitfalls.
The first pitfall is space. Buying a case without thinking about the types of kit you're going to be housing is tantamount to a peanut allergy sufferer buying a bag of Revels.
Buying a dedicated gaming case should give you enough room for gargantuan graphics cards such as the AMD Radeon 5970 or the GTX 480, but if you're planning to overclock, then extra room will be needed for larger fans, or even water-cooling systems.
In case design, thermal dynamics are just as important as aerodynamics are to F1 car design. Heat has to be dissipated as quickly and easily as possible. Check how many fans there are on the case, and whether there are ventilation holes to allow heat to dissipate from the case naturally.
The endless march of technology, and the spiralling amount of data we store, can also be a pitfall for PC enthusiasts, and making the wrong case choice can cause problems in the future. At the very least you should make sure your case has enough room for extra drives.
If all that isn't enough to think about, there are a few more features that can turn a bog-standard box into a champion chassis. Look for front USB ports, eSATA, and speed control – so you can turn down the deafening fans while you're watching a film.
If noise is an issue generally, look out for rubber-sealed parts that reduce vibration. Also, look out for cases that give you the ability to hot-swap HDDs, which can be handy.
If all that's got your head spinning, fear not, because we've rated six of the best cases to make life easier for you. Let's sort the wheat from the chassis…
Antec DF-85 - £130
Subtle isn't a word in the DF-85's vocabulary, and at chassis school it presumably only learned the words 'exterminate' and 'bestia.'
This is a serious-looking gaming case, and won't be to everyone's taste. It's cavernous, with tonnes of room for long graphics cards. Expansion won't be a problem. The DF-85 has room for terabytes of data too – there are nine hard-drive bays, with extra room for two 2.5-inch SSDs.
Unfortunately, 3.5-inch installation is a bit of a pain, and you need to screw in your drives to the mountings, accessed by secret doors on the front of the case. This will nullify vibrations, but if you're regularly fiddling with your set up, this will get tiresome. What's more, you'll need to keep the large bag of screws around just in case.
However, the SSDs can be inserted into a port on the top of the case, which is handy. There's a panel for hiding your cables, but there isn't much room, and the wires started getting in the way as soon as we mounted the motherboard.
The cooling is fantastic; two 140mm and two 120mm fans occupy the top and rear of the case, with three 120mm fans on the front, which come with a variable control.
Lian Li PC-V354 - £133
Lian-Li has released the PC-V354 for space-conscious gamers. This mini-tower fits Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX and Mini-DTX motherboards, but not the full-form ATX size.
However, for a Micro-ATX case, it's still pretty large, and there's plenty of room to make a decent gaming PC, thanks to the ability to hold cards up to 350mm long, and store terabytes of data.
Access to the PC-V354's innards comes via eight tiny screws, so tinkerers should stay clear of this one. Once your PC is assembled, you'll want the case to stay closed for a long time. Once the screws are out, you'll find room for seven 3.5-inch hard discs, and one optical drive. Cooling comes from three 120mm fans, which are vital in a case of this size, where heat can build up very quickly.
A nice touch is the fan control on the back. Since Micro-ATX cases are often used for watching films and other living-room entertainment, this is a welcome feature, as is the vibration-dampening hard-disk cage inside the case.
The presence of an SD card slot on the front gives away its family-friendly credentials, but gamers shouldn't dismiss the V354, as there's no reason this case can't be a formidable games rig.
Corsair Graphite 600T - £130
If the Doctor travelled the universe in a PC case, he'd chose the 600T. This Tardis-like chassis has space for the biggest graphics cards and the largest fans.
Cooling is taken seriously, too. There are two 200mm fans – one on the top and one at the front – plus a 120mm exhaust fan on the back. Each comes with a removable dust grill.
The plastic feels similar to a corporate Dell PC, which is a bit disappointing. However, it's lightweight, and we didn't have to reach for the plasters to stem the flow from our bleeding fingers while handling the case.
The optical drive bays are tool-free, so there's no need to fiddle around when you start swapping components. Not only this, but the HDD bays are split into two cages, which are completely removable, so if you buy a long graphics card you can whip out one of these to make the space available.
The speed dial controls up to four fans, and is located on the front panel, along with four USB ports and one USB 3.0 port.
The 600T has also nailed cable management. Feed the cables from your components through the holes on the back panel, then reintroduce them near their intended destination, leaving you with a mess-free case.
Akasa Infiniti Zor - £86
The finger slices from the sharp, unpainted innards of the Akasa Infiniti Zor sum up the rough-and-ready nature of this case. The outside is black, flat and unassuming, and inside it looks like someone's stripped it out for decorating and sanded down the walls.
The back is dotted with unmarked screw holes, for which Akasa supplies a map to explain the myriad motherboard fixtures. The Infiniti Zor makes you work to get your PC set up.
Attaching drives means screwing together a bracket before attaching it to the case. There's room for six 3.5-inch hard drives, and up to 11 optical drives, but SSD owners are less well-catered for.
Cooling is also limited, with two front-mounted 120mm fans and a single 120mm exhaust fan to the rear. This pales in comparison to some of our bigger chassis, and is more suited to moderately powerful PCs built on a budget.
The biggest bugbear however, is the total lack of extra features. Forget fan speeds and external disc mounts. Akasa hasn't even added front USB ports, so you'd be forever reaching around the back to just to access your USB ports. We have no idea why this case costs so much. Avoid.
Thermaltake V6 BlacX Edition - £56
The Thermaltake V6 BlacX is fiendishly small for a gaming case. Within seconds of fitting the motherboard, the cables were causing problems, as was the back plate, which we had to completely remove to accommodate the motherboard's ports.
Build quality is also questionable. This is particularly evident on the drive bays, which have an overcomplicated system for installing the drives. It's tool-free, so you won't be needing your screwdriver, but we can't promise you won't need a hammer shortly afterwards.
One trick up the V6 BlacX's sleeve is the top-mounted port for hot-swapping 3.5-inch hard drives. This is a neat feature, and is very easy to use, although its placement and implementation leave a lot to be desired. Having a 3.5-inch hard drive sticking out the top of your PC is far from attractive.
There are two fans fitted to the case – one 200mm fan mounted on the top, and another 120mm next to it, on the back plate. This sort of cooling set-up isn't going to dissipate enough heat to cool the biggest rigs, but if your PC tastes are a little more frugal, the £56 price tag makes this one worth a look.
CoolerMaster HAF 912 PLUS - £69
The CoolerMaster maintains a slightly less futuristic look than the Antec, but there's no denying the similarities of their styling.
As you might expect, CoolerMaster has come up with a great case with plenty of storage, and while there aren't as many fans as in the Antec, the two monstrous 200mm ones on the front and top are certainly effective at shifting heat.
While this is by no means the biggest case in our test, there's plenty of room for hard drives, with seven bays in all. You can remove one of the hard-drive cages to make way for a long graphics card, should the need arise.
Hard drives require a little bit of assembly using noise-dampening plastic strips, but it's nothing too taxing.
Inside, the CoolerMaster has some effective cable management, although room behind the motherboard is limited, and you can't easily remove the second panel for better access like you can on most of our other cases.
You'll find two USB ports and an eSATA on the front panel. We were impressed with the CoolerMaster chassis. It's one of the cheapest cases in our test, and if you're looking for quality, but your needs are modest, you could do far worse than this one.
First published in PC Format Issue 246
Liked this? Then check out 15 best PC upgrades for gamers
Sign up for TechRadar's free Weird Week in Tech newsletter
Get the oddest tech stories of the week, plus the most popular news and reviews delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up at http://www.techradar.com/register