Here, we will cover a full tower vs. a mid tower and their differences for computer cases, as well as some information to help you make a better-informed decision about which one you may want. I have grappled with this decision over the years and can offer some insight for you.
The first major difference is the physical size.
Here is a comparison chart so you can see the differences in height:
|Ultra or Super Tower
|Mid Tower (Tower)
|Small Form Factor
|27 Inches (68 cm) or more
|22 Inches (55 cm) or more
|18 Inches (48 cm) or more
|14 Inches (35 cm) or more
|A few inches or less
|ATX or smaller
|ATX or smaller
|Micro ATX / Mini ITX or smaller
|Nano or Pico ITX
But it simply doesn’t end just with size. Let’s dive in a little deeper to uncover more of the differences.
The Main Differences Between Mid Tower and Full Tower Cases
As mentioned, the PC case size is one of their largest differences. So you would immediately think it only means more parts you can fit inside.
While that is true, a few more things come into play when deciding the size you want. That’s where the rest of the article comes into play.
The amount of drive bays
The amount of drive bays is important for anyone who wants many drives in their computer. Increased storage is perfect for anyone wanting to make YouTube videos for their channel and keep hours of extra footage.
Of course, this is only one example. I keep many films that I have ripped from Blu-Rays or DVDs. So, having the extra storage space means I can enjoy a locally stored collection of movies or TV shows.
I even add my music to it so I can stream any media I want anywhere in my home.
However, it’s not just hard drive bays that can be useful. Some other types of peripherals can make use of drive bays. For example, audio equipment is specifically designed for computer drive bays.
There are many accessories available for spare drive bays.
You would need extra storage for many reasons so that more drive bays could be mandatory.
Total fan count
We all need our computers’ internal temperature to remain cool. Adding more fans can drastically increase the air you can pass through your case.
More airflow means you can reduce the internal temperature with greater ease so the rest of your components can do a much more effective job of maintaining their desired temperature.
Having more airflow through your case is the most powerful first step you can take to keep your PC cool.
Types of motherboards
Here is a basic table showing the differences between the various motherboard sizes.
|14 × 16.75 inches (356 × 425 mm)
|13.6 × 10.4 inches (345 × 264 mm)
|12 × 13 inches (305 × 330 mm)
|12 × 9.6 inches (305 × 244 mm)
|5.9 × 5.9 inches (284 × 208 mm)
|9.6 × 9.6 inches (244 × 244 mm)
|9 × 7.5 inches (229 × 191 mm)
|6.7 × 6.7 inches (170 × 170 mm)
|4.7 x 4.7 inches (120 x 120mm)
|3.9 x 2.8 inches (100 x 72mm)
|2.9 x 1.7 inches (75 x 45mm)
As you can see, certain-sized motherboards can be installed into specific-sized PC cases.
It is something to factor in if you want a larger motherboard with more features and capabilities or a small one with limited connectors and features.
Can an ATX motherboard fit into a mid tower?
In most situations, yes. An ATX motherboard should fit into most mid tower PC cases. However, it is probably at the maximum limit a mid-tower can accommodate.
Always check the specs by downloading a manual copy before buying one. This can avoid sending it back for a more suitable replacement.
How PC cases and their size affect cooling
Keeping a full-tower case cool is far easier than a smaller one. As we discussed, more fans provide better airflow.
However, in addition to that, components spaced further apart are also easier to keep cooler.
This doesn’t only apply to drives, but a larger motherboard provides a greater distance between chipset heatsinks, CPU coolers, and graphics cards.
There is also space between all the components and the inside of the case. A larger gap means more volume of air at any given moment.
This improves the situation for the cooling fans by allowing plenty of time for the air to be replaced before too much heat is built between the parts.
There is also less chance that other internal components or cabling can obstruct airflow inside it.
How the size of your case could potentially affect noise
We know by now that a full-tower means more space for more fans. This is advantageous regarding how much air you can move through the inside of it and how fast it needs to spin most of the time.
If you have more fans, you don’t need to spin them up as fast to move enough air through your system. A few fans spinning fairly slowly will move as much air as one fan of the same specification running at a higher RPM.
So, slower-moving fans seem like a pretty effective way to reduce overall noise inside a computer. I’m sure you will agree, as most noise is generated by cooling fans.
Choosing the right size for your specific needs
When considering the required size for your build, let’s review some significant factors.
How much space do you need to work inside your computer?
Honestly, you don’t need much room if you are patient. But, frustration can mount over time. The more you have to change components or add something, the more annoying it becomes.
But things aren’t all that bad regarding a mid-tower. But it’s hard to look back when you own your first full tower.
Cable management becomes easier, and changing drives and cards also becomes easier. Many manufacturers are doing a great job of making these tasks easier, even with smaller ones.
That’s why I always say, if you are a tinkerer, try it yourself. If you find most tasks challenging because of space restraints, it’s time to switch to larger tower cases.
Consider future upgrades
If you have bought a new motherboard and are considering going with an SLI configuration or adding some sophisticated cooling system, think hard about what full towers can offer you.
While a mid tower is a popular size for most gamers or PC enthusiasts, the extra space gives you more options.
Not only is adding more drives never an issue with full towers, but mounting extras for liquid cooling while keeping much-needed air cooling in place becomes more difficult with a medium or smaller-sized one.
How much room do you have for your computer?
This is a very important question when considering your next tower case. If you work in a small area and don’t have extra room, forget about a full tower computer.
It will be so painful that you will live in regret most days.
However, if space isn’t an issue, you have one more reason to continue thinking about something larger.
Depending on the compactness of your room should reflect the decision you make regarding the possibility of a small-form-factor computer.
Do you need a new computer desk?
If your desk is on the verge of collapse, or you are seriously considering a new desk for your PC case, consider the size it will need to support.
Having a large enough desk with plenty of space around it makes owning towers more pleasant.
When turning the tower case into position while you swap or add in a drive, having enough room is a big blessing.
A large enough desk means you have space for your monitor, no matter the size or amount, but also better access to panels or the inside of your PC case.
Do you live in a hot climate?
This is a big one when it comes to tower case sizes. Since I moved to a full tower, overheating has become a thing of the past.
Yes, I have plenty of experience choosing the right hardware and knowing how to set up cooling to get the most out of my hardware in any climate, but this has been a huge contributor.
As mentioned, you can add more fans, and components are further apart. Combining those two factors has made cooling easier on all the computers I’ve built.
Cooling will be easier if you don’t have a lot of ‘dead air’ inside your case. Of course, cheap ones that aren’t designed well or equipped with the proper cooling won’t help, no matter how large it is.
A full tower is also great for water cooling. If you plan to add water cooling, especially an open-loop or custom loop system, consider a larger one to make your work much easier.
Is your system making use of liquid cooling?
If your build consists of, or if you plan to add liquid cooling, it may help with your decision.
As you probably know, liquid cooling is for high-end PC builders. These types of cooling systems are more often customized for the system. Liquid cooling systems are available in closed-loop or open-loop configurations.
For open-loop cooling systems, it will always require maintenance. A full tower case will make life easier and give you more room to work in.
In addition, a full tower case provides you with more options for mounting cooling radiators and fans.
Closed-loop coolers like an AIO cooler are easier to install and maintain. They fit into most modern cases with extra modifications needed.
How much storage do you need?
If you don’t plan to use much storage on your computer, maybe a mid tower would be sufficient.
Knowing that the only things you will store on your drive are a few games, music, and photos could be the deciding factor to stick to a mid-tower.
Although SSDs are replacing hard drives, they are still used as cheaper storage options.
But bear in mind, mechanical hard drives added inside your rig with larger gaps between them means that heat can be easier regulated, and your drives will probably last longer.
Personally, this is an important factor. Things you store on a drive can be the most precious thing you own inside your computer. Hardware gets outdated, but you can never replace precious, unique media like wedding photos or other rare music or videos.
One thing is fairly constant when dealing with motherboards. The larger the motherboard, the more expansion slots you get.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, larger motherboards allow you to add more expansion cards by providing more expansion slots.
These types of add-in cards range widely in different uses and applications. They can be anything from extra NVME SSD to adding WiFi to your computer that doesn’t have it built into the motherboard.
With a larger case comes more front panel bays. These allow you to add various components that use front-panel drive bays.
From optical drives to fan controllers, these front panel bays are still being used by PC owners with uncommon requirements.
But for most of us, a mid-tower provides enough of them if you choose a model with them.
These are being phased out and seem more difficult to get your hands on.
The space in front is commonly used for cooling, so you can mount water-cooling radiators or case fans to make the most out of your precious room inside for a more useful purpose.
So, the larger you go, the larger the space for front panel cooling, fans, or air intake.
How often do you need to move your computer?
If you move your PC case around often, forget about a full-tower. A mid-tower is not only lighter but easier to maneuver.
If you are in a situation like most where you only move it to upgrade parts or give it its biannual cleanout, then owning a large one isn’t an issue if you have the room.
What type of GPU are you/will you be using?
By this, I’m referring to your graphics card. An integrated GPU is irrelevant as it won’t affect your decision.
However, a graphics card is worth considering when choosing a PC case. Some of the latest cards are getting rather large.
Larger cooling units are attached to these large graphics cards.
It is worth considering the space you have for all your add-in cards and the space around the card for decent airflow.
If your case is relatively full of devices, it leaves less room for your graphics card cooling. So, one of the solutions is to try and reduce clutter inside your system by removing components or doing cable management.
If this isn’t an option, you would be wiser to upgrade to a full tower. This will give your graphics card enough room for the cooler to be as efficient as possible by allowing better airflow around it.
Is a full tower case worth it?
Given my experience, yes. Even though the initial cost can be higher, having the luxuries of a larger case outweighs the extra cost in the long run.
If you are concerned about price and aren’t convinced that a full tower is for you, consider trying out a used one to evaluate it yourself.
Is a mid tower case big enough?
The case size is relative to the hardware you wish to install in computing.
For most types of users, a mid-tower is completely fine. A mid-tower will serve you just fine for a medium to high-end build with enough thought into cooling, etc.
If you aim to install high-end components, do a lot of gaming, and expect loads of connectivity to your computer, I would say no.
Are mid towers ideal for gaming?
Many people use mid towers for gaming, and they are perfectly suitable. Depending on how extraordinary you want to get with your hardware and gaming is what’s going to separate you from choosing a mid-tower vs a full tower.
They will be a good fit for the average gamer using standard parts with decent CPU coolers.
However, I would recommend a full tower for more extreme gamers wanting to perform lots of overclocking and add water cooling solutions throughout.
For people experimenting a lot with overclocking, water cooling, and RGB lighting, you want easier access to all the components inside it.
Again, I mention that a larger case will help you achieve better cooling for the components inside your machine.
What is better, mid tower or full tower?
After reading these points to consider, you will better understand which case type is best for you.
Personally, I have tried many cases and still lean toward a larger one. I understand it’s not for everyone, but I suggest trying it if possible.
The large size of the full tower is the biggest drawback.
But remember, the smaller you go in size, the more overheating issues you will have, especially in a hotter climate.
It gets pretty warm and humid where I live, especially in summer. This is probably why a full tower is my preferred choice for any build.
Putting heavy workloads on my rig at any time of the year, whether through gaming or other 3D rendering work, without worrying about heat makes it way more practical.
Apart from the heat, I like to make my PC case a showpiece. I enjoy gazing inside it to enjoy the aesthetics of the RGB lighting from time to time.
A larger case opens more possibilities when it comes to this. It’s also easier to get everything mounted and wired up.
If this isn’t for you, it’s worth having extra room to exchange components or conduct repairs.