Micro ATX cases fill a vital niche between the maximum expansion of ATX cases and the super-downsizing of Mini ITX cases, but how do you choose the right one for you?
That’s what we’re here for.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through our six top picks for the best Micro ATX cases, and hopefully help you find the best one for your needs. In addition to our selections, we’ll also include a detailed buying guide for you to peruse at the bottom of the article, just in case you need help deciphering all the specs and jargon before making the right decision.
What is the best micro ATX case?
Even if you don’t buy anything, we want you to walk away from this article well-informed on Micro ATX cases and how to choose them. Let’s get into it!
Dimensions and Size: 13.2 x 12.6 x 16.7 inches, MATX Cube | Front Panel Type: Mesh | Side Panel Window Type: Acrylic Window | Color Options: N/A | GPU Clearance: 350 mm | CPU Cooler Clearance: 185 mm | Drive Bays: 3 3.5/2.5, 3 2.5 | Fan Capacity: 1x 200 mm or 2x 120/140 mm front (1 200mm included), 4 120 mm or 2 140 mm top, 1 120/140mm rear, 2 120 mm bottom, 2 120/140 mm side | Lighting: N/A | Front Panel USB Ports: 2 USB 3.0
The Thermaltake Core V21 is our pick for best budget Micro ATX case and best budget Micro ATX cube case. If you want something that’s cube-shaped, Micro ATX, and respectably low-profile…then this is a great pick. But what makes it so good?
For once, the super spacious internals. There are a ton of available fan mounts, room for extra-long GPUs and fairly tool CPU coolers, and six total drive bays. The included 200 mm intake fan and mesh panel goes a long way to providing great airflow, and truly insane assortment of extra fan slots ensures that you won’t be left hurting for even more cooling options.
Honestly, we really can’t think of anything bad to say about this case. It’s smaller than an ATX tower, as you’d want from a Micro ATX case, but it’s intelligently designed to provide a fairly similar level of expandability and sheer cooling power.
There’s a reason that this is Amazon’s best-selling Micro ATX case: it’s genuinely one of the best ones.
The only real nitpick we can put against it is that the window is Acrylic rather than Tempered Glass, but that would definitely raise the price point out of the “budget” range, so we can’t really complain.
(But hey, Thermaltake: maybe make a TG alternative?)
Verdict: Best Budget Micro ATX Case / Best Budget Micro ATX Cube Case
Dimensions and Size: 15.6 x 10.8 x 13.8 inches, MATX Cube | Front Panel Type: TG and Mesh | Side Panel Window Type: Tempered Glass | Color Options: Black, White | GPU Clearance: 300 mm | CPU Cooler Clearance: 150 mm | Drive Bays: 2 3.5, 3 2.5 | Fan Capacity: 2 120 mm front, 2 120 mm top | Lighting: 2 RGB Intake Fans | Front Panel USB Ports: 2 USB 3.0
The Corsair Crystal 280X is our pick for best MicroATX cube case. Our #1 pick will have better raw airflow, but if you want something smaller with excellent RGB and tempered glass…this is a strong pick.
This one isn’t purely aesthetics over performance, though.
The dual-chamber design separates your core components from your PSU and drives, which don’t generate nearly as much heat on their own and have their own dedicated compartment, complete with appropriate ventilation. The bulk of the airflow goes directly through the CPU and GPU coolers, which is where you want it.
Using an AIO cooler, especially for your CPU, can be really useful here. Just attach a 120/240 mm radiator to the intake fans and add an exhaust fan or two to the top of the case, and you’ll have a pretty strong thermal solution. (Since the case is tight on space, though, we’d recommend not occupying any slots below your GPU- or if you do, going as low as possible to give it as much space as it needs to breathe.)
This is very much a high-end case, but if your cooling solution is similarly high-end, it should still sing for you. If you’re tighter on cash but still want some RGB, just opt for some RGB cooling fans in a more affordable case.
Verdict: Best MicroATX Cube Case
#3. InWin 301
Dimensions and Size: 14.3 x 7.4 x 14.9 inches, MATX Tower | Front Panel Type: Solid (Ventilated) | Side Panel Window Type: Tempered Glass | Color Options: Black, White | GPU Clearance: 330 mm | CPU Cooler Clearance: 160 mm | Drive Bays: 1 3.5/2.5, 2 2.5 | Fan Capacity: 2 120mm front, 1 120 mm rear, 2 120mm bottom (occupies bottom PCIe slot) | Lighting: N.A | Front Panel USB Ports: 2 USB 3.0
The InWin 301 is a fairly unique case.
It’s the smallest Micro ATX case that you can find without consulting obscure no-name manufacturers or modding your own case. It offers a fairly slick-looking tempered glass side panel, and some pretty strong airflow if you’re willing to throw in some fans. GPU length and CPU cooler clearance are both pretty solid, too, more than enough for most builds.
So, what’s the catch?
There are only three total drive bays, and only one of which that can be used for 3.5-inch drives. And the building experience is cramped, with no cable management to speak of. We’d recommend opting for an SFX power supply to make better use of the included PSU chamber, but that adds a significant price penalty to the affair- one that shouldn’t be necessary for a feature as basic as cable management.
We recommend only doing a build like this if you’re willing to spend extra on an SFX power supply, a standard Full-Modular PSU, or you’re an experienced builder that can work with limited cable management options. If you can get around the cable management stuff, this is a truly excellent case- but otherwise, you may want to consider one of the other options.
Verdict: The Smallest Micro ATX Case
Dimensions and Size: 8.07 x 15.07 x 18.2 inches, MATX Tower | Front Panel Type: Mesh | Side Panel Window Type: Acrylic Window | Color Options: Black (other color options are for larger variant) | GPU Clearance: 380 mm | CPU Cooler Clearance: 165 mm | Drive Bays: 2 5.25, 2 3.5/2.5, 1 2.5 | Fan Capacity: 2x 120/140mm front (2 120 mm included), 2 120/140mm top, 1 120mm rear, 1 120mm bottom | Lighting: 2 White LED Intake Fans | Front Panel USB Ports: 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0
The Fractal Design Focus G Mini is one of our favorite budget Micro ATX cases. Its non-Mini big brother is also one of our favorite ATX cases, and that’s no coincidence: they’re pretty much the same case, but this one is smaller!
The biggest benefit of the Focus G Mini, besides its low price, is the raw airflow performance. The mesh front panel and two included 120 mm intake fans ensure a fairly strong out-of-the-box airflow setup. You don’t need to do this, but even just adding a cheap exhaust fan will give you a complete positive pressure airflow setup. This is a marked improvement over every other case on this list, where you’ll almost certainly need to buy multiple fans in order to complete the airflow setup. (Don’t want to buy even one extra fan? Move the bottom LED fan to the rear to serve as an exhaust!)
A look at the internals shows off a fairly spacious interior, with plenty of space for drives, GPUs, and tall air coolers. There are also four more fan slots, just in case you want to hyper-optimize your airflow.
So, what’s the catch?
There…really isn’t one. It’s cheap, it performs great, and it has plenty of space. The window is Acrylic rather than Tempered Glass, but that’s to be expected for a budget case. If you’d like an MATX case with great airflow and a TG window instead…look at our next pick.
Verdict: Best Budget Airflow Micro ATX Case
Dimensions and Size: 15.5 x 8.3 x 15.7 inches, MATX Tower | Front Panel Type: Mesh | Side Panel Window Type: Tempered Glass Window | Color Options: N/A | GPU Clearance: 315 mm | CPU Cooler Clearance: 172 mm | Drive Bays: 2 3.5/2.5, 3 2.5 | Fan Capacity: 3 120 mm or 2 140 mm front fans (1 120mm fan included), 2 120/140 mm top, 1 120 mm rear, 1 120 mm bottom | Lighting: N/A | Front Panel USB Ports: 2 USB 3.0
If you’re paying attention and reading this article in order, you’ve probably caught onto something:
This is pretty much just a higher-end version of the Focus G Mini, isn’t it?
Mesh front panel? Check. Two fans included? Check. An open, spacious interior with plenty of fan mounts? Check. Plenty of room for drives? Check.
It even has a similar form factor, though it’s actually a little bit smaller. So, what’re the actual differences between The Meshify C Mini and Focus G Mini?
The two most obvious changes are in the window, which has been upgraded to tempered glass, and the addition of a dedicated PSU/cable management/drives basement. The bottom of the Focus G was previously open, but now the basement ensures that the less slightly parts of your PC stay out of sight, out of mind. If you’d prefer to show off your PSU, you can also remove the PSU basement if you feel so inclined.
The one catch aside from the higher price is that this case actually has less GPU clearance than its cheaper counterpart, at 315 mm instead of 380 mm. (You can get a little bit more space if you remove the front fan, but we recommend against that.) On paper, this could be considered a major downside…but truthfully, we don’t really mind. Very few GPUs exceed 300 mm in length, much less hit the high 300s. Triple-slot GPUs are an option if you still want beefier cooling- raw length past a certain point doesn’t make as much of a difference as thickness does.
Verdict: Best Airflow Micro ATX Case
Dimensions and Size: 13.7 x 13 x 16.9 inches, MATX Cube | Front Panel Type: Tempered Glass (Ventilated) | Side Panel Window Type: Tempered Glass | Color Options: N/A | GPU Clearance: 350 mm | CPU Cooler Clearance: 185 mm | Drive Bays: 3 3.5/2.5, 3 2.5 | Fan Capacity: 2x 120/140 mm or 1 200 mm front (1 200 mm included), 4 120 or 2 140 mm top, 1 120/140 mm rear, 2 120 mm bottom | Lighting: N/A | Front Panel USB Ports: 2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0
Last but not least is the Thermaltake Core 20 VT, which is basically just a case for people who really like tempered glass. The front panel, left panel, and right panel are all tempered glass panels. (Slightly spaced out to allow for some airflow, of course: otherwise this case would turn into an oven under high loads.) If you just want a Micro ATX case that really flexes tempered glass and your SFF PC building abilities…here it is!
Specs-wise, it’s actually quite similar to the much cheaper Thermaltake Core V21. A ton of fan mounts and drive bays, an included 200 mm intake fan, and plenty of space for large GPUs and air coolers. So, what’re the catches?
For one, this is much larger and heavier than the V21. All that tempered glass adds some significant heft to the entire affair, which you’ll want to keep in mind.
Secondly, it’s over two times as expensive as that case for an upgrade that effectively sums up to a bunch of tempered glass panels. For some people that may be worth it, but we imagine that’s hard to justify for others.
Finally…the airflow isn’t as good, because of the aforementioned tempered glass. In order to compensate for this, you’ll want to either go with a liquid cooling setup that is less dependent on raw airflow or add a ton of fans to make up for the tempered glass panels getting in the way.
Even with those catches in mind, though, we like this case. It offers a lot of the same benefits as the Core V21, and if Thermaltake could properly combine these two cases, you’d have pretty much the perfect Micro ATX case.
In our opinion, anyway. The choice is yours!
Verdict: Best Tempered Glass Micro ATX Case
FAQ and Selection
In this section, we’re going to break down the jargon and the main things you need to know in order to make an informed buying decision.
Let’s get into it.
What makes Micro ATX cases different from ATX and Mini ITX?
Micro ATX and Mini ITX cases come with some fundamental compromises compared to ATX, and that biggest compromise is smaller space. Your components will generate the same amount of heat, and the same amount of heat in a smaller space equals higher temperatures. If you intend on building a high end system in a smaller form factor, expect to spend more on good cooling than you would need to in a larger chassis.
That brief word on SFF PCs and thermals aside, Micro ATX is the in-between standard of ATX and Mini ITX. The biggest cut-down is to PCI Express slots, but most other aspects remain the same. If you’re like most of today’s users, who no longer need multiple expansion cards in their system and only plan on using one or two, then Micro ATX will serve you perfectly fine.
If you want to prioritize more expansion cards, multiple drives, and raw cooling performance, check out our ATX cases article.
If you’re sure you only need a single expansion card and want the smallest PC build possible, check out our Mini ITX cases article.
Front Panel Type and Airflow
First and foremost, let’s talk airflow.
Good airflow is important, since your CPU and GPU coolers can’t do all the work by themselves. A constant flow of cool air into the system allows for your coolers to run at their proper capacities, and the presence of an exhaust fan or two helps prevent the buildup of hot air in the system.
For the best results where your case permits it, always try to make sure you have more fans pulling air into your system than fans pushing outward. This is called positive pressure and should be achievable with every case we have listed in this roundup.
One of the specs that will have the greatest direct impact on your airflow is the type of front panel you have. The best-case scenario for airflow is a mesh front panel because these allow for fans to have near-direct access to air without needing to work too hard for it. If your case supports it, taking off the front panel for better airflow may be an option, but we’d only recommend doing this if the fans have a dust filter and you’re willing to clean that relatively frequently.
Unfortunately, most cases on the market these days prioritize aesthetics over airflow, so you get a solid front panel with ventilation. While this is better than the olden days of solid front panels with no ventilation, which outright choke your system of airflow, it’s still not as good as mesh or perforation. A solid panel with ventilation is a compromise between aesthetics and raw airflow performance, and for today’s low-end/mid-range hardware, it works just fine.
If the case you want doesn’t have great airflow but you still want high-performance components in it, you aren’t totally out of luck. However, you’ll need to opt for hardware to match. Larger air coolers with more fans and occupying more fan slots may be necessary if intake is so-so but space is plentiful, like in our #6 pick. Meanwhile, you may need to make clever use of liquid cooling in more confined cases, like the InWin 301 or the Corsair 280X, to keep your CPU running cool.
Side Panel Window Types and their differences
Side panel windows have pretty much nothing to do with cooling, but everything to do with aesthetics.
First up is Acrylic which is more common, cheaper to produce, and is more resistant to breakage. Acrylic windows are a form of transparent plastic, but because they’re plastic instead of glass, they’re also very prone to scratching and tend to fog up over time. Even brand-new, they aren’t nearly as transparent as tempered glass, which makes them a little bit worse for showing off the inside of your PC. (You can compensate for this with good lighting inside your PC, though.)
Second up is Tempered Glass, which is the more premium option. Tempered glass is resistant to scratching, much more transparent, and is also a marked improvement over regular glass in terms of durability and safety. That “Tempered” bit refers to a process that makes tempered glass stronger, but also ensures that whenever it does break, it breaks into a bunch of tiny little pieces that can’t hurt you. As long as you keep your PC safe from dropping- which would be hazardous either way, to be fair- Tempered Glass is better in every way…
…if you can pay for it.
Keeping GPU Clearance in mind
GPU clearance refers to the space available inside your PC for a graphics card. This is the most important spec for you to keep in mind whenever you’re assembling a gaming PC.
Fortunately, most cases on the market are pretty good in this regard. Even many super-tiny Mini ITX cases have been built around the assumption that you’ll want a normal-sized, dual-slot GPU in there.
However, we still recommend keeping this spec in mind. Whether you’ve already bought your graphics card and want to make sure it’ll fit in your case of choice, or vice versa, you need to know the length of your GPU and the clearance that your chassis has for that GPU. Failing to take this into account will result in a very frustrating day when it comes time to put everything together, so be sure to keep it in mind!
Fortunately, all of our GPU and case articles include this specification to protect you from making exactly this mistake. Use the information we’ve given you, and the manufacturer’s specs if necessary, before making any buying decisions!
CPU Cooler Clearance and why it matters
CPU cooler clearance refers to CPU cooler height in this context. This is usually an issue for slimmer SFF PC cases, and emerges as a compatibility issue more often in a Mini ITX context than it does in a Micro ATX or ATX one. Regardless, we’re keeping track of this spec so you know what you’re dealing with.
If you’re going to be using an AIO liquid cooler, this spec won’t really matter too much- you can safely ignore it, since the actual on-CPU height is minimal. (Your fan slot(s) where the radiator is mounted is another story, though.)
If you don’t want to spend money on a liquid cooling setup, when CPU cooler height is a big deal. The best air coolers maximize performance by having a lot of thermal mass, which means larger and taller heatsinks. Cases with limited room for tall CPU coolers will require liquid coolers for achieving the best performance.
Drive Bays and Drive Types
There are an assortment of different drive capacities in these cases, and drive types on the market to fill them with. We’re going to use this section to fill in the details you may not know about the three different PC drive sizes, and the types of drives you can expect to fill their respective slots.
Note: All of these drive types use SATA cables and SATA bandwidth. M.2-based drives don’t use drive bays, and instead plug directly into corresponding slots on the motherboard.
- 5.25-inch – DVD and Blu-Ray Drives, Floppy Drives, SD Card Readers, etc
- 3.5-inch – Large 7200+ RPM Desktop Hard Drives
- 2.5-inch – Small 5400 RPM (Laptop) Hard Drives, SATA SSDs
And that’s it!
If you have any lingering questions or issues, feel free to leave a comment below and let us know about it. We’d be happy to help.
Otherwise, we hope you enjoy your Micro ATX PC build! May your framerates be high and your temperatures low!