Mid Tower vs Full Tower (ATX Case and How to Choose)
Here we will cover mid-tower vs full tower differences for computer cases, as well as some information to make a better-informed decision about which one you may want. I myself have grappled with this decision over the years and can offer some insight for you.
- Mid tower PC cases vs full tower cases: The differences
- Choosing the right size for your specific needs
- How much space do you need to work inside your computer?
- Consider future upgrades
- How much room do you have for your computer?
- Do you need a new computer desk?
- Do you live in a hot climate?
- Is your system making use of liquid cooling?
- How much storage do you need?
- Add-in cards
- Front panel
- How often do you need to move your computer?
- What type of GPU are you/will you be using?
- Is a full tower case worth it?
- Is a mid tower big enough?
- Are mid towers good for gaming?
- What is better, mid tower or full tower?
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||Full Tower||Mid Tower (Tower)||Mini Tower||Small Form Factor|
|Physical Size||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|
|Motherboard Sizes||All sizes||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.
Knowing more about the differences can help anyone on the path to choosing a computer case for themselves.
Mid tower PC cases vs full tower cases: The differences
As we already 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 on the size you want. That’s where the rest of the article comes into play.
Let’s go through a few things to consider when looking into choosing the ideal size for your next build.
The amount of drive bays
The amount of drive bays is an important factor for anyone that wants a lot of 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 personally keep a lot of films that I have ripped from Blu-Rays or DVDs. So having the extra storage space means that I can enjoy a locally stored collection of movies or TV shows.
I even add my music to it so I can stream any of the 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.
There are many reasons why you would need extra storage, so more drive bays could be mandatory.
Total fan count
We all need the internal temperature of our computer to remain cool. By being able to add more fans, you can drastically increase the amount of air that you can pass through your case.
More airflow means that you are able to 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 in order to keep your PC cool.
Types of motherboards
Motherboards come in different sizes. Here is a basic table so you can see the differences between the various sized motherboards.
|WTX||14 × 16.75 inches (356 × 425 mm)|
|XL-ATX||13.6 × 10.4 inches (345 × 264 mm)|
|Extended ATX||12 × 13 inches (305 × 330 mm)|
|ATX||12 × 9.6 inches (305 × 244 mm)|
|Mini ATX||5.9 × 5.9 inches (284 × 208 mm)|
|Micro ATX||9.6 × 9.6 inches (244 × 244 mm)|
|Flex ATX||9 × 7.5 inches (229 × 191 mm)|
|Mini ITX||6.7 × 6.7 inches (170 × 170 mm)|
|Nano ITX||4.7 x 4.7 inches (120 x 120mm)|
|Pico ITX||3.9 x 2.8 inches (100 x 72mm)|
|Mobile ITX||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 perhaps a small motherboard with a limited amount of connectors and features.
Can an ATX motherboard fit into a mid tower?
In most cases, yes. An ATX motherboard should fit into most mid tower PC cases, however, it is probably at the maximum limit a mid tower case can accommodate.
Always check the specs by downloading a copy of the manual before buying a case. This can avoid having to send your case back for a more suitable replacement.
How PC cases and their size affects cooling
It is far easier to keep a larger-sized case cool compared to a smaller one. Like 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 up between the parts.
There is also less chance that other case components or cabling can obstruct airflow inside the case.
How the size of your case could potentially affect noise
We know by now that a larger case means more fans. This is not only advantageous as to how much air you can move through the inside of the case, but how fast they need to spin most of the time.
If you have more fans, it means that 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 just 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 from cooling fans.
Choosing the right size for your specific needs
Let’s go over some significant factors of mid-tower vs full tower cases when thinking about the required size for your build.
How much space do you need to work inside your computer?
In all honesty, 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, it can start to get a little annoying.
But when it comes to a mid-tower-sized case, things aren’t all that bad. But when you own your first full tower PC case, it’s hard to look back.
Cable management becomes easier, changing drives and cards also becomes easier. There are many manufacturers doing a great job of making these tasks easier even with smaller cases.
That’s why I always say, if you are a tinkerer, try it out for yourself. If you find most tasks a bit challenging because of space restraints, it’s time to switch up to something larger.
Consider future upgrades
If you have bought a new motherboard and perhaps considering going with an SLI configuration, or adding some sophisticated cooling system, think hard about what a larger case can offer you.
While a mid-tower case 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 a larger case but mounting extras for liquid cooling while keeping much-needed air cooling in place becomes more difficult with a medium or smaller-sized case.
How much room do you have for your computer?
This is a very important question to ask when thinking about your next case size. If you are working in a small area with your computer and you just don’t have the extra room, forget about a larger case.
It will be so much of a pain that you will be living in regret most days of your life.
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 computer, think about the case size that it will need to support.
Having a large enough desk with plenty of space around it makes owning a computer more pleasant.
When needing to turn the case into position while you swap or add in a drive, having enough room to do so 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 computer case.
Do you live in a hot climate?
This is a big one when it comes to case sizes. Since I moved to own larger cases, 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 before, you can add more fans, and components are further apart. Just the combination of those two factors has made cooling easier on all computers I’ve built.
Cooling will be easier if you don’t have a lot of ‘dead air’ inside your case. Of course, cheap cases that aren’t designed well or that aren’t equipped with the proper cooling won’t help, no matter how large the case is.
A larger computer case is also great for water cooling. If you plan to add water cooling, especially an open-loop or custom loop system, consider a larger case to make your work much easier.
Is your system making use of liquid cooling?
If your computer consists of, or if you are planning 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. For this, having a larger case will make life easier and give you more room to work in.
In addition to this, a larger 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 at all, maybe a mid-tower case would be sufficient for you.
Knowing that the only things you are going to store on your drive are a few games, some music, and photos, could be the deciding factor to stick to a normal-sized case.
Although hard drives are being replaced by SSDs, they are still being used as a cheaper storage option.
But bear in mind, mechanical hard drives added inside your computer 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 make use of front-panel drive bays.
From optical drives to fan controllers, these front panel bays are still being by PC owners with uncommon requirements.
But for most of us, a mid-tower case provides enough of them if you choose a case model that has them.
These are being phased out in more cases and seem to be becoming 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 in order to make the most out of your precious room inside the case for a more useful purpose.
So, the larger the case, naturally, the larger the space for front panel cooling, case fans, or air intake.
How often do you need to move your computer?
If you move your computer around quite often, forget about a large case. It becomes tiresome very quickly when having to lug a huge lump of metal around on a regular basis.
If you are in a situation like most where you only move it to upgrade parts or to give it its biannual cleanout, then owning a large case isn’t an issue in the slightest 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 not relevant as it won’t affect your decision as far as your case goes.
However, a graphics card is worth considering when choosing a computer case. Some of the latest cards are getting rather large.
And 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 case by removing components or doing some cable management.
If this isn’t an option, you would be wiser to upgrade your case 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 more to purchase, 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 case is for you, consider trying out a used case to evaluate it for yourself.
Is a mid tower big enough?
In computing, case size is very relative to the type of hardware you wish to install.
For most types of users, a mid tower is completely fine. For a medium to high end build with enough thought being put into cooling etc. a mid tower will serve you just fine.
If you are aiming 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 good for gaming?
Many people use mid towers for gaming, and 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 over a full tower.
For the average gamer using standard parts with decent CPU coolers, a mid tower will be a good fit.
However, I would recommend a full tower case 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 the case.
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 have a better idea about which case type is best for you.
Personally, I have tried many cases and still lean toward a larger case. I understand it’s not for everyone, but I suggest giving it a try if it’s at all possible.
The large size of the full tower case is really the biggest drawback.
But just remember, the smaller you go in case size, the more overheating issues you will have, especially in a hotter climate.
Where I live, it gets pretty warm and humid, especially in summer. This is probably why a full tower is my case of choice.
Being able to put the pressure on my computer at any time of the year whether it be through gaming or other 3D rendering work without worrying about heat, makes a computer way more practical.
Apart from the heat, I like to make my computer a bit of 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 sort of thing isn’t for you, it’s worth having extra room to exchange components or conduct repairs.
If you are still stuck deciding on the right case for your needs, consider leaning toward a larger case. Once you experience the overall benefits, you won’t look back.
However, if you need to move your computer often, it’s a no-brainer. The extra weight and size of a larger case will make things less pleasant.