Selecting a case is usually the first decision I make when starting a new build. In fact, it’s usually a case that inspires me to want to do a build in the first place. For this build, I didn't start with an idea about what case I wanted to use….but rather I had some specific criteria that needed to be met by the case, that I’ll describe below. Not incredibly exciting stuff, but it may help someone think through the right issues when selecting their own next case, and it will give you a good idea about why I ended up selecting the case I did.Size:
As I’ve previously mentioned, this build is for the wife-y, and it will be sitting on top of a built-in desk in her office area. Here is a picture of where it will ultimately reside.
That red arrow points to the space to the left of the TV, where the computer will sit on top of the desk area.
Because of some cabinetry that hangs on the wall above the desk top, the maximum height for the case would be just about 21.5 inches. But that height would put it right up next to the cabinetry, so I’m shooting for a case that is 19 inches or shorter for height, so that I’ll have some room between the top of the case and the cabinet. I have plenty of room width wise, and have no requirements there. I’m shooting at keeping it less than 20 inches wide so that it doesn't take up too much desk-top space. Depth wise, I have about 22 inches to play with, although I don’t want the case running right up next to the edge of the desk. So...I’m shooting for a depth of less than 20 inches.
So to summarize, less than 19 inches tall, less than 20 inches wide, and less than 20 inches deep, are the dimensions I’m looking for in this case….based on the location where it will be kept.
With size as the only criteria to consider, I had a lot of cases that fit the bill.Radiator Capacity Available:
I’m a water cooler. Not only do I love how much quieter and effective water cooling is when compared to just air cooling, ...I also love how it looks, and even the maintenance involved. For me...it just makes it a fun project when you're messing with pumps and tubing and fittings and waterblocks. In my last build, I ended up with more than 120.24 worth of rad space. That’s a lot. Clearly not necessary. But it was fun. It also allowed me to keep my fans spinning at about 600 rpm….while maintaining very low deltas. For this build, I won’t be cooling as many components, and plan to have much more normal radiator capacity. Right now, it looks like the loop will be cooling the CPU, 2x GPU’s, and the motherboard. I think that 120.6 worth of radiator capacity will be more than adequate for what I’m trying to do with this build.
So to summarize, the case for this build needs to be able to hold 2x 360 rads, or 3x 240 rads. I think either combination would serve my needs. Or even 2x 240’s and 2x 120’s….if that fit the space in the case easier.
The number of cases that fit both the size criteria and the radiator capacity criteria….was a much smaller number.Motherboard Form Factor Supported:
In my household, we typically have anywhere from 3 to 6 computers up and running at one time...and maybe more in various stages of tear down or completion. For me, it helps if I can swap components around between builds and cases, as I’m tweaking one or working on another. That includes motherboards. So I have a general rule that all my cases need to support at least a standard ATX size motherboard, if not something larger. Never smaller.
With size, radiator capacity, and form factor criteria all being considered at once...it’s a surprisingly small number of cases that would actually fit all of these criteria.Case Aesthetics:
I’ve mentioned already that this build is for the wife-y. One of her requirements is that it be pretty. For me, one of the ways to make a case pretty, is to have lots of case windows so that you can see inside the case, and then make sure that you have all the inside touches that make a build look sexy. Custom length wires, sleeving, lighting, etc. So ideally, this case will have as many large windows as possible, because I plan to put a lot of killer touches inside that need to be shown off.Case Material:
This is not as important to me as the other criteria, but I still have my favorite material. I’ve built in steel cases, aluminum cases, and plastic cases. Each has their own pros/cons I guess. But my favorite material so far has been my last case that was all aluminum. Aluminum ends up being so easy to work with if you need to mod the case a little, and cut out something here, or drill a new hole there. And it’s so much lighter than steel, while not feeling as cheap as some plastic paneling cases. So I would prefer aluminum, even though this is not a hard requirement. .
Now….many of you have probably already zeroed in on what case I might have picked...because there are simply not many cases that fit all these criteria. So...without any further pontification by me, let me present to you the case that was my first choice for this build. The CaseLabs Mercury S8!
For me...and this particular build….this really was the best choice in cases I think I could make. Right size, right radiator capacity, right motherboard form factor support…..lots of window optons...all aluminum. This case fits this project. I’ve never built in a horizontal motherboard layout before, so that should make this build extra fun for me. I’m also thrilled and humbled to report that when I approached CaseLabs with my proposed project, they agreed to partner with me for this build and are officially my first sponsor for the project! That's probably worthy of a banner, right?
I didn’t post too many pictures of the case yet because these are readily available on the CaseLabs website
. My personal Mercury S8 is already in process of being built right now, so I’ll flood with you with some high quality pictures after it’s received, which should be soon. Maybe even a video or two of the assembly. Mine will be a special color though (multiple hints already given), and I’ll talk about the process of selecting that color in my next update.
More updates soon!