Nowadays, personal computers can come in very small sizes. Computing capabilities aren’t so compromised either; you can do just about any computer-based task like professional video editing, 3D rendering, and other intensive tasks on workstation laptops. Price is still a bit of a deterrent to buying these pocket rockets, but that too is changing. As usual, gamers lead the charge in terms of portable performance rigs:
For those who don’t have $2500 but still want a reasonably powerful personal computer, desktops are the most practical choice, especially if you’re not the on-the-go kind of user who would prefer to be at home when doing PC-intensive work or equally intensive gaming.
The good news is desktop PC chassis have become lighter, cheaper, and if you’re not determined to stuff in fifteen hard drives and three optical drives into it, smaller. Smaller cases are also more practical since the components placed in them (motherboard, drives, etc.) have also become a tad smaller. The only components that have remained massive are the air-based CPU coolers (they need the surface area so as to dissipate heat more efficiently) and video cards (because gamers need all the graphical juice they can afford).
Here are a few tips on what size cases you should be aiming for, depending on what your desktop PC’s primary use and configuration is. This is a bit of an outside-in approach to configuring your system, as it is concerned primarily on the dimensions of the PC first, then its specifications letter. It’s not exactly how some other people would do it (enthusiasts especially), but my angle is to get it to look and fit right inside a room of a house or apartment.
The following are consumer solutions from one company, but it is an entire segment of the PC hobby for people to modify their existing casings to their taste, creating very unique designs and configurations. It may just be fun and games for some, but there are companies that are actually in the business of fabricatingcomputerchassis for various applications.
This will probably be in the study room or den, a general purpose terminal that members of the household and guests can log onto. This doesn’t need anything fancy, and the components inside won’t be particularly geared for performance, so a small chassis can be used to not take up too much room.
If your rig is hooked mainly for use with your home theatre setup, then you won’t need the average full or mid tower casing people usually associate desktop units with. A good number of HTPC chassis are horizontal, so you can slide it into the home theater cabinet, replacing the defunct DVD player and possibly the AV receiver as well.
None of the components of an HTPC are particularly massive, and the only thing you have to have plenty of room for are the drives. You’ll be adding more as your multimedia collection grows. It will still need one or two bays for optical drives, as there’s still a need for it with Blu-ray discs.
This would be the general workhorse rig for various work-related tasks, but for our purpose, we’ll limit it to non-graphical, non-video applications. The specs of this kind of rig won’t be too far off from the general use PC, albeit with more memory and possibly one or two hard drives more.
For the serious work mentioned earlier (video editing, 3D rendering, and other forms of heavy computing), it would be most appropriate to get back to the mid or full-sized towers to allow better airflow and more room for additional components. Full-sized power supplies are also needed given the needs of the system, so that’s another point towards larger tower casings.
This is mostly for comparison, as gaming rigs are probably the most diverse in dimensions and specifications among PCs. I’ll just throw in the average “hulking tower” or a casing that will be able to accommodate all the drives, fans, video cards (yes, some of these gamer folk can’t be happy with just one), and whatever components and other doodads they might want to cram into their towers.