Quietest PC Cases for Your Silent Gaming Build
Building a high-end gaming PC that is completely silent under load borders on the impossible, as it would involve performance compromises that most gamers are unwilling to accept. To name one of many challenges: there are no passively-cooled, high-end GPUs.
But by building it yourself, it is definitely possible to build a far quieter PC than just about any pre-built – and without too many compromises in terms of airflow. The starting point for any such build is finding the best quiet case for your parts, and also the right fans.
Most silence-focused cases use sound-dampening foam on the front and side panels. As the name suggests, this will not remove all fan noise, but dampen it, and it’s especially good at filtering out annoying high-pitched frequencies. So while it is not a perfect solution, it is arguably the best one when taking the silent route.
Quietest ATX PC Cases for Different Budgets: High-End Vs. Value
All else being equal, noise- and vibration-dampening materials will add to the cost of a PC case, but not necessarily by a lot compared to airflow-type cases. As always, there are options that spare no expenses and others that are more frugal and value-oriented. More expensive does not necessarily equal better acoustic performance, but a higher price often means better overall quality and quality-of-life features that simplify your building experience.
Some of the top-rated silent cases in 2023 that stand out in different price ranges are these:
|be quiet! Dark Base
Pro 900 rev. 2
|be quiet! Silent
|3 x Silent Wings 3
|3 x 140mm
|2 x 140mm
|2 x 120mm
|2 x Pure Wings 2
|GPU: 472 mm
CPU: 185 mm
|GPU: 435 mm
CPU: 190 mm
|GPU: 440 mm
CPU: 180 mm
|GPU: 398 mm
CPU: 167 mm
|GPU: 449 mm
CPU: 185 mm
|2x USB 3.0
1x Type-C 3.1
1x USB 2.0
1x Qi Charger
|2× USB 3.0
1× Type-C 3.1
|2x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
|2x USB 3.0)
1x Audio in/out
SD card reader
|2x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
L x W x H (mm)
|577 x 243 x 586
|510 x 240 x 520
|462 x 232 x 531
|478 x 209 x 471
|553 x 245 x 502
Now for a more detailed look at what the silent PC case market has to offer in 2023. Even if they are not immune to trends, an advantage with PC cases is that they don’t age in the same way as the components inside.
As a result, many of the cases that are popular today were launched several years ago, or are minor revisions of existing, tried-and-tested designs. This is mostly a good thing, as they have been extensively reviewed and are still popular for a reason.
be quiet! Dark Base Pro 900 rev. 2
Although it comes with a glass side panel, be quiet‘s full-tower Dark Base Pro 900 rev. 2 case has been widely praised for keeping noise levels to a minimum. This is not least thanks to sound dampening in all other areas and the included Silent Wings 3 PWM-controlled fans.
These three 140mm fans are however just a starting point. This case has room for an additional seven fans or up to four radiators for water-cooling AIOs or custom loops. Also included is a fan controller that allows for two different cooling zones which can be controlled via a switch on the front panel.
The current model is of course the second revision, which looks just like the first but offers some improvements: an improved fan controller, support for additional fans and RGB options, a new power supply shroud, and additional mounting opportunities.
- Sound-dampening in all key areas
- Excellent pre-mounted fans
- Qi charger included
- Fully modular
- PSU cover is difficult to remove
- Steep competition in the price range
Phanteks Eclipse P600S
Another silence-focused case that has received mostly excellent reviews from pros and users alike is the Eclipse P600S by Phanteks. What makes this case stand out in the crowded PC case market is that it actually offers a choice of focusing on high airflow or low noise. But even when you opt for silence, you don’t sacrifice all that much in terms of thermals.
The Eclipse P600S is no budget case, but neither is it overly expensive for what you get: a well-designed case with clever cable management solutions and ample cooling opportunities. Three 140mm fans are included and the case will house up to a 420 mm radiator in the front and up to 360 mm (top). An integrated universal fan hub lets you sync multiple fans with the same motherboard connector to optimize noise levels and cooling performance.
Note that the case does not have a 5.25″ optical drive bay and also no traditional hard drive cage (though you can fit up to four 3.5″ hard drives under the PSU shroud). You can get it in several different varieties, ranging from a solid, matte black base model to gray or white variants with glass side panels, the latter being slightly more expensive.
- Well-suited for silent builds
- Very versatile interior
- Reasonably priced
- Matte steel finish
- Great water-cooling capabilities
- No RGB included
- I/O panel is somewhat flimsy
Fractal Design R5
The Define R5 from Fractal Design has been among the most popular PC cases for quite a few years now – and not just because of its included noise-dampening qualities. This sleek black monolith hides a builder-friendly layout with modular drive bays, integrated velcro straps, and lots of room for large radiators and graphics cards.
Compared to some newer cases, the Define R5 comes in a decidedly low-key design and the base model completely lacks transparent panels or RGB details. This is of course a matter of personal preference and there are still many who prefer a more traditional approach.
What this case does have is an integrated, three-speed fan controller as well as two Dynamic GP14 (140mm) fans. By removing the drive bays, you can also make room for radiators on four sides of the case, up to 420 mm in length. Although the Define R5 can be seen as a fairly basic case by today’s standards, it remains well-designed and affordably priced considering the feature set.
- Effective noise supression
- Quite affordable
- Fan controller included
- Discreet design
- Good water cooling options
- Cable routing is sometimes difficult
- I/O panel lacks USB-C
- Could be more modular
Cooler Master Silencio S600
Naming your case Silencio ensures high expectations when it comes to acoustic performance. Cooler Master’s Silencio S600 is nevertheless a successful entry among the silence-focused alternatives on the PC case market, not least because it comes with a very reasonable price tag.
The Silencio S600 is a fairly compact mid-tower ATX, especially since there is a PSU shroud along the bottom. This makes the case prone to high temperatures, which could make the two included 120 mm fans insufficient in high-end builds. On the other hand, there is room for additional cooling in the form of 140 mm fans and/or radiators up to 280 mm in length.
If you are looking to personalize your build with RGB highlights or simply show off the parts, there is also a version of the Silencio S600 with a tempered glass side panel (meaning, of course, that you miss out on the sound-dampening material on that side).
The main downside of the case is that it is difficult to cool, so it is perhaps not the best choice for a high-end build with a power-hungry CPU or GPU.
- Sleek, minimalistic design
- Fan splitter included
- Comprehensive sound dampening
- Fingerprint magnet
- Challenging to cool, so …
- … perhaps too hot for flagship components
be quiet! Silent Base 601
As you would expect, be quiet’s main selling point is low-noise components and this focus is present in all of the company’s cases and fans. There is often more sound-dampening foam in be quiet‘s cases, along with e.g. rubber plugs instead of screws to reduce vibration from modular parts. This tends to result in somewhat higher prices compared to the closest competitors.
But if you are looking for a properly sound-isolated case with a more modest price tag than the aforementioned Dark Base Pro 900, the Silent Base 601 may be an interesting alternative. You can also get this case for less by opting for the variant without the tempered glass side panel (and instead with more foam), which might be an advantage depending on your preferences.
Two Pure Wings 2 140mm fans are included, but you can (and probably should, as this case runs hot) extend the cooling capabilities by adding up to six additional fans and/or radiators up to 360mm.
- Quick-release mechanism
- Fan controller included
- Sound-dampening panels
- High-quality included fans
- No front-panel Type-C
Fan and AIO Selection for Silent Operation
Sound-dampening material is mainly found in mid-tower or full-tower cases. The main reason is that smaller closed cases are very difficult to cool when equipped with high-end CPUs and GPUs. By contrast, a larger case has (or should have) more fan mounting positions, which are usually a good idea to make use of.
It may sound counterintuitive, but adding more fans can reduce noise by allowing lots of air to be moved at low fan speeds. Not even the most meticulously isolated PC case can keep out the noise from a few small fans running at high speeds.
Similarly, larger fans can move the same amount of air at lower RPMs (rotations per minute) than smaller ones. If a fan mounting position can hold either a 120mm or a 140mm fan, the latter is usually preferable (provided it’s the same type of fan). Thus, fan selection will still be a key part of the process when building for silence.
Silence-focused cases usually ship with two or three retail-quality fans with adjustable speed (PWM) or a fixed, low speed such as 1,000 rpm. But depending on your temperature requirements, you may still want to add additional such case fans.
Another aspect that is easy to control is your choice of CPU fan. The same principle holds true here, in that small boxed coolers are usually the noisiest (in addition to being really bad at cooling the processor). Large tower coolers from e.g. Noctua or Be Quiet are far better in both regards.
AIO (all-in-one) water cooling solutions with PWM-controlled radiator fans may also be good at reducing noise, although you also have to consider pump noise, as not all pumps offer adjustable RPMs. Entry-level AIOs may have pumps that are not PWM-controlled, meaning that you can’t set a fan curve and thus they run at a fixed RPM. This could potentially result in more noise rather than less.
Minimizing noise from the graphics card is the most difficult part of the equation. While just about any entry-level, mainstream, and mid-range GPUs now have a ‘fan stop’ feature that makes them totally silent when idle, single-fan cards, in particular, will be far from quiet while gaming. Larger coolers or custom water blocks may help, but it will often be up to the case foam to dampen this noise.
Noise Levels in Closed vs. Airflow-Type Cases
Airflow-focused cases have become really popular in recent years – and there are of course arguments to be made in favor of see-through mesh front panels and tempered glass. For one thing, it’s very much in line with the RGB trend of showing off your build. It’s also far easier to keep your components cool, which in turn helps keep the fan speeds to a minimum.
By using high-quality fans and tweaking the BIOS fan curve, your airflow build can be perfectly silent (subjectively) when the CPU and GPU are idle or run minor everyday workloads.
On the other hand, these principles do not differ from silence-focused cases, although fewer fans may be as effective in a mostly open design. And when it comes to any form of heavier workload such as gaming, a mesh case will not isolate noise from the CPU and GPU particularly well (or at all). That said, there are very good airflow/mesh cases on the market today, and if cooling is a top priority, it may be an option worth considering.
DIY Sound Dampening Foam
It’s sometimes possible to get the job done using your own sound-dampening foam, but depending on the case layout and dimensions it may be hard to get a good fit and acceptable thermal performance. The quality of the foam also matters as you want it to be effective without being too thick.
If you are building from scratch, it is usually better to opt for a quiet case right from the start.
One situation where it might be worth a try is if you already own a closed-type PC case that is reasonably roomy. Just ensure before buying that there is sufficient space for the foam between the side/front panels and interior components such as drive bays and other parts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, it is possible. There are plenty of passively cooled, pre-built mini-PCs in the market, and you can build one yourself using a passive CPU cooler and a fanless PC case suited for this purpose.
However, it is very difficult to build a high-end PC – especially a gaming PC – that produces no noise whatsoever during load (such as when gaming). With the exception of certain entry-level graphics cards that may be equipped with fanless coolers, all gaming graphics cards require fans to actively cool the GPU chip. Even liquid-cooled GPUs have radiator fans.
Minimizing the PCs noise level through a variety of methods is possible, on the other hand. Building a silence-focused PC normally start with a suitably silent case and continues with careful fan selection.
There is no standard definition of what a "quiet PC" is in terms of decibels or otherwise. The term is used for both completely silent (fanless) or inaudible PCs, as well as for low-noise varieties. When used with regards to gaming PC cases, it nearly always means "low noise" as opposed to fanless.
There are some obvious and also less obvious causes of noise that must be taken into account when building a quiet or silent PC:
- Mechanical friction in fans and fan bearings. High-quality fans designed for silent operation will mitigate this type of noise.
- Mechanical noise from conventional hard drives (spinning platters and heads). Hard drive noise can be eliminated by using only SSD storage, which has no moving parts.
- Air turbulence and vortex effects. This can be mitigated by optimizing the flow of air and proper case ventilation.
- Coil whine. This electromagnetic phenomenon can arise in several parts of the PC but tends to be most annoying and high-pitched when coming from the GPU. It can be hard to mitigate but some have had success with GPU undervolting.
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