If you’re looking to build an open air PC, in this guide we’ve given a rundown on seven of the top open frame computer cases currently available.
While Thermaltake’s Core P-series has made open frame cases (or, open air cases) more popular, they are not the first to offer an open-design PC chassis. Still, with Thermaltake releasing a whole lineup of open frame computer cases (five different options), they make up the majority of the market.
However, there are a couple of other non-Thermaltake open air PC cases out there, too. In this guide, we take a look at all of Thermaltake’s Core P-series lineup, as well as open frame case options from Cougar and Inwin.
*NOTE: We have chosen not to include computer test bench-style cases as we will be doing a separate guide on those in the near future.
A Quick Look at the Best Open Frame Computer Cases
If you just want some quick recommendations on what the best open frame case options are, the table below has outlined a few top choices. We’ve broken it down into the top open air case overall, the best large open air case, our top pick for mini-ITX open frame cases, and our choice for the most uniquely designed open air chassis.
*To jump to the full overview of the case, just click the “Read Review »” button. You can also keep scrolling down to see our Honorable Mentions.
Best Open Air PC Case:
Thermaltake Core P5
The Thermaltake Core P5 headlines Thermaltake’s Core P series of open frame cases. Yes, the Core P7 is the most expensive case in the Core P lineup, but I think with the P7’s extended chassis feature, it might not be an item that has as broad of an appeal as the more standard P5.
In any case, the Core P5 is one of the most popular open air cases currently available. It’s a standard ATX form factor case that can support graphics cards up to 22.4″ long and CPU coolers up to 7.0″ tall. Both of those clearance numbers are large enough to accommodate any graphics card or air cooler on the market.
The case can also support 480mm radiators and it has a bunch of features tailored to custom liquid cooling setups. So, if you are looking to go with a custom loop, this case has got you covered.
All of the case’s four tempered glass panels can be removed. And, technically, you can keep the case completely closed off (minus the small gaps between the panels and the bottom of the case).
If you’re looking for the Core P5 in a different color scheme you’re out of luck. Unlike the Core P3, which comes in white, red, and black, the Core P5 is only available in black.
Overall, the Core P5 is one of the top open frame computer cases currently available. If you’re looking to build an open air PC and you have the budget to afford it, the Core P5 is an excellent option.
Thermaltake Core P7
We mentioned Thermaltake’s Core P7 above and we’ll discuss it further here. The Core P7 has by far the largest layout of any of the cases listed in this post.
The main portion of the case is virtually the same design as the Core P5, however, the extended chassis feature (that kind of look like wings) give the case a lot of extra room to work with.
The P7 has a very modular design and will give you plenty of options to work with if you’re planning on using it to house a custom liquid cooling loop.
Like the P5, the P7 can accommodate graphics cards up to 22.4″ long and CPU coolers up to 7.0″ tall, both of which are enough clearance for any graphics card and CPU cooler currently on the market. The P7, however, doesn’t come with three removable tempered glass panels, but rather just one on the front.
This is mainly because if you were to use all three glass panels, there would be no point in having the extended chassis “wings.” But, an extra tempered glass panel for the top of the case would have been a nice option.
Ultimately, if you like what open frame cases bring to the table, but you want something large enough to give you plenty of options for your build, then the P7 might be a better option for you.
Thermaltake Core P1
If you’re looking for a smaller form-factor open air case, the Thermaltake Core P1 is worth considering. It’s a mini-ITX form-factor case that brings the same open frame concept that the rest of the Core P series comes with.
Despite being a mini-ITX case, the Core P1 can actually fit graphics cards as long as 15.0″ and CPU coolers as tall as 6.7″. Those clearances will give you a wide option to choose between if you decide to go with the Core P1.
The Core P1, like the P7, only comes with a front tempered glass panel. And, it also can house radiators as large as 240mm, too. So, you can fit a decent sized AIO cooler in this case as well.
Perhaps one of the downsides of the P1 is the fact that it weighs a little over 20 lbs. So, while it is a small form-factor case, the high build quality of the case actually works against it in terms of mobility. After accounting for the weight of a full system of components, you’re probably looking at around 25 lbs. to move a P1-based computer around. That’s not bad in the grand scheme of things, but there are definitely lighter mini-ITX cases out there.
Still, though, the Thermaltake P1 sports a nice-looking design, excellent build quality, and plenty of clearance to help you build a high-end gaming PC inside of a small form-factor open frame case.
Inwin D-FRAME Mini
The Inwin D-FRAME is the other small form-factor open frame case worth mentioning. The D-FRAME is our choice for the most uniquely designed open air case (although the Cougar CONQUER gives it a run for its money). This is mostly due to its cage-style frame.
The frame looks similar to a roll bar that you’d find on a 4×4 vehicle and helps give the case a rugged look.
For specs, the D-FRAME can hold graphics cards as long as 13.4″ and CPU coolers as tall as 6.5″, which should be enough clearance to house most graphics cards and virtually all CPU coolers.
The D-FRAME is a mini-ITX form-factor case, but like the Thermaltake Core P1 listed above, it is a bit on the heavier side (~17 lbs.). It is a bit lighter than the P1 and its frame offers more points to carry it from, so if you are looking for an open frame case that you can use for LAN parties, the D-FRAME might be the better option.
However, the one major downside of Inwin’s D-FRAME is its price tag. At just under $200 it is a bit of a tougher sell, especially when you consider that the Core P1 comes in at well under $100.
In the end, the unique design of the Inwin D-FRAME will likely win over some buyers. And, although the case does come in quite a bit higher, we can’t fault you for giving it the edge because of its cool design.
Honorable Mention #1:
Thermaltake Core P90
While we chose Inwin’s D-FRAME case as the most uniquely designed open frame case, the Thermaltake Core P90 makes a strong case of its own—and there are probably people out there would say it has a more unique design than the D-FRAME.
The P90 gets its name from the 90-degree angle that the case features. There are two separate sections on the P90 for your components and they run perpendicular to each other forming a right angle.
The P90 doesn’t have as much clearance for graphics cards (fits graphics cards up to 12.6″ long) as the other options on this list, but it can hold CPU coolers up to 7.0″ tall.
Both sections of the case have a tempered glass front panel and the case can hold a standard ATX motherboard, too. It also has support for custom liquid cooling configurations and can accommodate radiators as large as 480mm.
The P90 does come in at a fairly decent price (just under ~$160) considering that both the P5 and P7 cost over $200. And, with its unique 90-degree design, it is sure to be a popular choice for experienced system builders who are looking for an open frame case.
Honorable Mention #2:
I suppose that any of the open frame cases in this article would be considered to have “unique” designs. However, along with Inwin’s D-FRAME and Thermaltake’s Core P90, the Cougar CONQUER has a design that definitely stands out.
It’s not a minimalistic design by any means and you’d be hardpressed to find another case, open frame or not, that gives the same feel as the CONQUER.
For specs, the CONQUER can hold graphics cards as long as 13.8″ and CPU coolers as tall as 7.5″. It does fit standard ATX motherboards and it comes with three 120mm fans pre-installed.
It’s not quite as “open” as some of the other options on this list, but it does have a lot of gaps incorporated in the design and there is space between the side panels and the frame.
The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a more aggressively designed open air case, then the Cougar CONQUER is right up your alley.
Honorable Mention #3:
Thermaltake Core P3
In a lot of ways, the Thermaltake Core P3 is the best option among Thermaltake’s Core P series of cases. Aside from the smaller P1, it’s the most affordable option in the series.
It’s also the only Core P-series case that comes in different base colors. Whereas the other options only come in black, the P3 is also available in red and white, too.
It doesn’t quite offer as much room as the P5 and P7, but it can accommodate CPU coolers up to 7.0″ in height. And, while it only has clearance for graphics cards up to 12.6″ long, there are GTX 1080 Tis that are shorter than 12.6″. So, from a performance standpoint, it will still be able to hold the best graphics card on the market.
Like the other Core P-series cases, the P3 also has plenty of options to install an extreme liquid cooling configuration as well.
Ultimately, if you like the open frame design that Thermaltake’s Core P-series offers, but you don’t want to spend quite as much to get the P90, P5, or P7, the Core P3 is a nice alternative.
Will an Open Frame PC Case Work for You?
Open air PC cases probably aren’t for everyone. While they will offer better airflow than closed off cases, their open air design will also result in more dust buildup and it will leave your components with little protection from outside forces (animals, kids, angry girlfriends, etc.)
However, they do offer a unique case design and are great options for anyone who wants to build a nice-looking system. So, if you’re looking for an open air PC case, one of the options above should get the job done for you.