The popularity of compact PC builds has been on a constant rise in the past few years. Enthusiasts are turning more and more towards smaller PC cases due to their practicality and functionality, and micro-ATX cases have become popular once again among the PC gaming crowd. Since the core components such as CPUs and GPUs have become exponentially more efficient in the past few years, one can still expect decent thermals and performance in a small form factor enclosure, which was not possible even a few years ago.
However, selecting a micro-ATX case for a compact gaming PC build is not as straightforward as it might seem. The thermal and airflow performance of the case has to be given paramount importance for obvious reasons. Other features such as cable management, drive support, fan and radiator support, front I/O, and aesthetics also have to be considered when making a purchase decision. Finally, the price has to be taken into consideration as well, as it would be unwise to spend hundreds of dollars on a case that provides fewer features than a normal ATX chassis.
Take a look at the best Micro ATX Cases for Gaming PC Builds
Keeping the factors mentioned above in mind, here are the 5 best micro-ATX cases for compact gaming PC builds in 2021.
1. NZXT H400
Minimalistic and Functional
- Minimalistic Design Language
- Easy To Work In
- Impressive Cable Management Options
- Adequate Dust Filtration
- Unremarkable Airflow
Form Factor: Micro-ATX | Dimensions (W x H x D): 210 mm x 417 mm x 421 mm | Radiator Support: 120mm, 140mm, 240mm, 280mm | Front Panel: 1 x Audio/Mic, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 | Motherboard Support: Micro-ATX, mini-ITX
NZXT is renowned in the industry for making some of the best PC cases with a focus on quality and design above all else. Their cases usually possess exquisite build quality and a clean design language that can be seen throughout their lineup. The NZXT H400 is their micro-ATX offering from the current H-series lineup of cases.
The build quality of this case is top-notch as we have come to expect from NZXT. The construction is solid throughout and there doesn’t seem to be any spot in the frame itself that feels cheap or out-of-place. In terms of features, the H400 is stacked as well. It offers excellent cable-management options at the back of the motherboard tray as well as in the front with the stylish NZXT Cable Bar. The I/O of the case is fairly modern and minimalistic as well, which is in tune with the theme of the case in general. NZXT has also provided numerous dust filters which do their job perfectly well. The airflow of the case could have been better, however, as the front panel is rather restrictive by design.
As far as looks are concerned, this is where the NZXT H400 really shines. It carries forward NZXT’s traditional minimalistic design language that is really popular among PC gamers nowadays. The case is available in multiple colors, but the standard white looks the best in our subjective opinion. The NZXT Cable Bar is also present in this micro-ATX chassis, which improves the look of the interior even further. For this iteration, NZXT has gone with the full-size tempered glass side panel rather than the three-quarter size that is found in the NZXT H500 and H510 cases. Still, the design is impeccable and would match most minimalistic setups.
The NZXT H400 might not be the best performer in terms of airflow, but it offers a lot of other features that more than make up for that slight deficiency. The case has excellent build quality, stellar aesthetics, and even a reasonable price tag when compared with some other cases in its class.
2. Phanteks Enthoo Evolv mATX
A Premium Look
- Very Impressive Aesthetics
- Multiple Color Options
- Subtle RGB Implementation
- Ample Cable Management Options
- Quite Expensive
Form Factor: Micro-ATX | Dimensions (W x H x D): 230 mm x 450 mm x 400 mm | Radiator Support: 120mm, 140mm, 240mm, 280mm | Front Panel: 1 x Audio/Mic, 2 x USB 3.0 | Motherboard Support: Micro-ATX, mini-ITX
Phanteks has become a fan-favorite in the PC Gaming space in the past few years mainly due to their excellent cases that offer a unique design language. Most of their products also provide excellent value while also being packed with features, and the Enthoo Evolv mATX case is no exception.
The Phanteks Enthoo Evolv mATX is the micro-ATX version of the standard Enthoo Evolv series and provides a similar design to its ATX counterpart. The build quality of this case is also top-notch just like the NZXT option, and it is packed with a whole host of features as well. The interior is spacious and easy to work in, while the cable management options are also plenty and convenient. The Enthoo Evolv mATX case comes with a 200mm fan at the front and a 140mm fan at the rear which are both nice inclusions. The I/O placement is a bit unorthodox, however, as the whole I/O panel is located on the right side of the case.
Aesthetically, Phanteks has really hit the nail on the head with the Enthoo series and this mATX variant is no exception. It features a clean, industrial design that makes it look like it belongs in one of the Terminator movies due to its excessive use of metal and subtle hint of RGB lighting. The exterior of the case is made of aluminum while the rest of the body is made out of steel, which is a good decision by Phanteks. The side panel sits flush with the case and that improves the looks even more by providing a clean, minimalistic overall aesthetic.
Overall, the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv mATX is a compact variant of a premium case that carries forward most of the high-end features from its lineup. It also looks visually impressive due to its impressive design language. Price is the only major downside of this case as even the mATX variant of this premium line is quite expensive when compared to other options in our lineup.
3. Thermaltake Core V21
Old-School But Practical
- Ample Space Due To Cube Shape
- Horizontal and Vertical Motherboard Mounting Options
- Good Airflow
- Old-School Design Language
- Cable Management Options Are Unimpressive
Form Factor: Micro-ATX | Dimensions (W x H x D): 320 mm x 336 mm x 424 mm | Radiator Support: 120mm, 140mm, 240mm, 280mm | Front Panel: 1 x Audio/Mic, 2 x USB 3.0 | Motherboard Support: Micro-ATX, mini-ITX
The Thermaltake Core series is a value-oriented line of cases that aims mainly to maximize the bang-for-the-buck proposition of the buyer. The Core V21 is one such case that stands out from the pack due to its interesting design and practicality. This is a cube-shaped case that supports micro ATX and mini ITX boards, and can thus be used for compact PC builds.
Despite being a compact case with an unusual design, it still possesses quite a big footprint with the dimensions of 320 mm x 336 mm x 424 mm (W x H x D). This does improve the practicality of the case quite a bit, but it also slightly defeats the purpose of a compact case in the first place. Still, the Core V21 is very easy to work in due to its cube shape and it has some unique features as well. The motherboard can be placed both vertically and horizontally which allows the user to personalize their build in the Core V21. The case also comes with a 200 mm fan at the front which is a nice inclusion by Thermaltake as it provides good airflow.
As far as the looks go, this is where the Thermaltake V21 falls a bit flat. The cube-shaped design feels very old-school and outdated, and it cannot match the clean and minimalistic designs that are found on cases today. There is also a lot of negative space inside the chassis, and the lack of a PSU shroud is a glaring oversight that should not have happened considering the design of the case. The side panel of the case is also acrylic rather than tempered glass which gives it a cheap look. Safe to say that Thermaltake has prioritized functionality over looks for the V21.
The Core V21 from Thermaltake is not a bad case at all, in fact, it is one of the more reasonable and practical choices on our list. It does have good airflow, excellent practicality, and great features which make it a really attractive value, however, the aesthetics of the case leave a lot to be desired.
4. CoolerMaster MasterBox Q300L
A Barebones Alternative
- Budget Oriented
- Good Cable Management Space
- Flexible Orientation
- Poor Airflow
- Unremarkable Build Quality
Form Factor: Micro-ATX | Dimensions (W x H x D): 387 mm x 230 mm x 378 mm | Radiator Support: 120mm, 240mm | Front Panel: 1 x Audio/Mic, 2 x USB 3.0 | Motherboard Support: Micro-ATX, mini-ITX
The MasterBox lineup of cases from CoolerMaster is aimed at maximizing the value proposition by providing good quality cases at affordable prices. The MasterBox Q300L is the micro ATX offering from this line that provides just the basics in order to get the job done.
At first glance, the MasterBox Q300L might seem like a barebones case with no-frills, but it does have some good features to offer. The cable management structure of the case is satisfactory and the overall internal layout is also quite convenient. There is plenty of space inside the case to work in easily, and it offers some modularity as well. The case is quite compact but still, it can support a 240mm radiator for cooling, or you can instead increase the substandard airflow by installing more fans in those spots. One big positive point is that full-size dust filters are provided for both the front and the top, which is a nice inclusion.
The MasterBox Q300L does not offer anything special as far as aesthetics are concerned. Its overall look is quite basic, and the build quality is also unremarkable in many spots. The side panel has an interesting design because the I/O of the case is located on the left side as well, which gives it a unique look. The panel itself is acrylic and does not hold a candle to the more premium cases in our list, but that is to be expected given the price point.
All in all, the CoolerMaster MasterBox Q300L is a budget-oriented offering that gets the job done at an affordable price point. Although it may not have the best airflow or the latest features, it is still good enough for a compact, micro ATX build without breaking the bank.
5. InWin 301
Form Over Function
- Reasonable Pricing
- Minimalistic Design Language
- Restrictive Airflow
- No Included Fans
- Limited Cable Management Options
Form Factor: Micro-ATX | Dimensions (W x H x D): 381 mm x 209 mm x 390 mm | Radiator Support: 120mm, 240mm | Front Panel: 1 x Audio/Mic, 2 x USB 3.0 | Motherboard Support: Micro-ATX, mini-ITX
InWin is a relatively new company that is slowly gaining popularity among the masses especially due to the design of their cases. People seem to like the overall design language of the InWin cases, and that has made InWin a serious player in the PC case industry over the past few years. The InWin 301 is a micro ATX case that aims to appease fans using its design rather than functionality.
The case uses 1.2mm steel construction which does give it a rigid frame and decent build quality. However, one of the biggest downsides of the case is its atrocious airflow situation. By default, InWin does not include any fans with the casing which already puts it at a disadvantage to all other options in our list. It does support a total of five fans, however, which is a healthy number for a micro-ATX case. Inside, the space feels reasonable and the cable management options are also decent, but the poor airflow of the case lets it down as a whole.
As far as the design is concerned, it is pretty decent but nothing spectacular. The casing opts for a plain and minimalistic look, much like the NZXT H400, but does not pull it off quite as effectively as the NZXT offering. The side panel does sit flush with the frame which is a good design cue, and the front of the case has some accent styling which might be attractive to some potential buyers. However, it is clear that the looks of the case are nowhere good enough to balance the issues with the functionality and airflow.
The InWin 301 is an interesting option to consider if you are looking for a micro ATX case for your compact gaming PC build. It does some things right such as the interior layout and cable management but also falls flat in other areas such as airflow. However, it does have an interesting design that might just be attractive enough for you to ignore the other issues on this basis alone.
Micro ATX Cases - FAQs
Micro ATX motherboards can be installed in either a full-size ATX case or a compact micro-ATX case. Smaller motherboards such as mini-ITX are also supported in both the micro-ATX and ATX cases. As a general rule of thumb, smaller size motherboards can be installed in bigger cases but not the other way around.
Generally, micro ATX cases and motherboards are a little bit cheaper than their ATX counterparts. This decrease in price can be attributed to lower manufacturing costs due to fewer raw material requirements. Mini-ITX motherboards, on the other hand, are typically more expensive or on par with ATX motherboards in terms of pricing.
Micro ATX form factor can be as good as ATX when it comes to the airflow but it all depends on the design of the case. Typically, micro ATX cases still have adequate fan mounting options and, therefore, can have great airflow as well. However, some ill-designed micro ATX cases can have terrible airflow due to poor design as well.
Yes, the micro ATX form factor is worth buying in both motherboards and PC cases. This is because it is typically cheaper than the ATX form factor, but offers more or less the same functionality as ATX. Micro ATX cases are also smaller in size which makes them excellent for compact gaming setups with limited desk space.