If you’re a PC enthusiast, either an avid gamer who likes to fight in online arenas at high FPS, crushing his or her enemies or your rig is running demanding software, like high-resolution video editing, 3D design, and such, you understand the importance of having an adequately-cooled system. The first step to ensuring good cooling in your system is picking your PC case.
In terms of air cooling, open-air cases seldom provide better temperatures. Enclosed cases will sometimes have problems drawing in enough air to cool your components, especially if you’re using very dense fabric dust filters, but you can work around that with proper planning. That being said, open-air cases are great for building liquid-cooled systems and have a great-looking, industrial design that fits in with custom loops or pre-build AIO coolers.
Speaking of easy access, you’re going to need it, since running a system in an open-air case will definitely draw a lot of dust in your components. You’ll need to clean them more often, the open design allowing you to blow dust away with relative ease. Now that we’ve covered the basic advantages and disadvantages of running an open-air PC, let’s get to our top three choices.
Our 3 Best Open Air PC Cases in 2021
Clean, industrial look, great for building eye-catching systems
Full support for liquid cooling
Can double as a test bench
PSU cage not that great
No support for directional airflow
Thermaltake is one of the industry’s bigger manufacturers of PC cases. With a lot of industry know-how and a team of talented designers, they always manage to refine and improve the PC case concept, challenging the competition with bold designs and feature-packed products.
The Thermaltake Core P3 is a great choice for anyone who’s looking for an industrial look, and open-air bench, and a feature-packed middle-tower with good cable management options and semi-modular design. The overall aesthetic is great for people who are looking for a PC case that’s meant for eye-catching builds and with the ability to upgrade to a tempered glass panel, you’ve got everything you’re looking for in an open-air case.
As an open chassis, the Thermaltake Core P3 is built for liquid cooling enthusiasts. With the ability to house up to a 420mm radiator or a water pump for a custom loop, you have everything you need to hit record clockspeeds in your benchmarks.
Speaking about benchmarks, the Core P3 can double as a budget-friendly test bench, giving you the ability to quickly swap out components, an ideal choice for someone who’s starting a review channel or publication, or for retail workers who constantly try to come up with balanced, value-oriented builds. In terms of features, the Core P3 delivers beautifully. It comes equipped with a PCIe riser cable, giving you the ability to showcase your GPU. The side panel is acrylic, but you can upgrade to tempered glass for an extra fee.
Since it’s built for liquid cooling, the chassis doesn’t support directional airflow, something that might be problematic if you’re planning on using it as a test bench. The three 120/140mm fan slots are meant to be used to mount a radiator, so you want to invest in an overclockable CPU and motherboard.
The case is well built, the chassis’s weight (around 10 kilograms or 22 pounds) ensures stability, the only part that’s a bit wobbly being the PSU. For maximum compatibility, try opting for a Thermaltake PSU for this build.
Cable management is easy enough. The case features strategically-placed grommets for you to route your cables, keeping everything neat and sleek. That being said, there are no tie-points in the back of the chassis, but the 5-centimeter enclosure should provide you with plenty of space to work with to keep a pleasing aesthetic.
DIY design for hardcore enthusiasts
Supports water cooling, either partial or full custom loop
Beautiful, unique design
Can’t double as a test bench since the components aren’t easily-accessible once the build is finished
Are you still living in 2019? I ask because this next case is ripped straight out of a Mad Max movie. The In Win D-Frame steel motorcycle open-air case is the ideal pick for the PC enthusiast who likes an extra shot of adrenaline. This here’s is the big boy’s league. We’re pretty sure you can find a review for it in Petrol Head Weekly.
Jokes aside, the In Win D-Frame has a lot of personality and character as far as PC cases go. The first thing that you’ll be faced with is assembling the case yourself. Oh yes, In Win ships all of the components, some tools, and you have to put them all together. Branded as a hybrid between technology and art, it’s one of the most unique PC cases money can buy.
If the DIY part of the PC discourages you, fear not. In Win has thoughtfully labeled each bag of components, the labels corresponding to the very comprehensive instruction manual. The aluminum frame allows the chassis to be sturdy while keeping it relatively lightweight. To add to the sturdiness, In Win has included shock absorbant rubber feet that you place in strategical points, giving the chassis more stability.
Why would you want to own such an eccentric PC chassis? Well, obviously, bragging rights and style points. The In Win D Frame functions like any other open-air case. It can be displayed in both vertical and horizontal positions, allowing you to install the motherboard and GPU to fit your particular aesthetic. Water cooling is supported, if not encouraged, the interior providing you with ample opportunities to go for a custom loop. If water cooling isn’t your thing, you’ll be glad to know that this case, unlike the Thermaltake Core P3, supports directional airflow.
The dual tempered glass side panels are customized to fit the chassis, giving the case a very pleasing, automotive-like aesthetic. Overall, we unanimously agree that In Win has managed to create a beautiful blend of technology and art in the form of the D Frame.
DIY design for hardcore gamers
Supports both air and water cooling
Plenty directional air cooling options
Very specific aesthetic
Cable management not great
While In Win spoke to the minds and souls of automotive enthusiasts, the Cougar Conquer is obviously targeted towards hardcore gamers. As eccentric as the In Win D Frame, the Cougar Conquer is another unique take on the open-air chassis. With an aesthetic that invokes futuristic, cyberpunk imagery, you’ll either love it or hate it.
The Conquer is another DIY type case since you’re going to have to install all of the parts yourself. The motherboard mount is designed to be at an angle, giving you a unique look to go with the case’s overall gamer-oriented design.
This case is flashy, which might be impractical for business use, so we will only recommend it if you’re planning on building a gaming-oriented build. The shield-like outer skeleton provides you a lot of fan-mounting spots, opening up a lot of options for good air intake. While the pre-installed fans would point out that Cougar aims this to be an air-cooled case, their branding features a custom loop, something that you might want to invest in with such a case.
In terms of modularity, there isn’t really a lot going on, which might be disappointing to some of you. The entire body is made using aluminum, making for a sturdy and relatively lightweight chassis, without factoring in the two 5mm-thick tempered glass panels. Cable management is kind of awkward, but we’re confident that it won’t affect the overall look of your build too much.
Things To Consider
The artist in me would have you buy the In Win D Frame, but the utilitarian in me will definitely recommend the Thermaltake Core P3. All three of these chassis function in the same way, but the simplicity and cleanliness of the P3 are really what makes it (ironically) stand out. With partial modularity, full support for water cooling, and a nice industrial look, this case is perfect for building an eye-catching rig without any compromise. The only downside this case has is the lack of directional airflow, but we recommend you at least invest in an AIO, if not a custom water cooling loop.