Specialty Cases

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If you buy or build a new computer, chances are you'll get one of the case types described previously. It's important to realize that there are variants on these common types, as well as more specialized designs.

Custom Variants of Standard Types

As described in the later section "Matching the Case to the Motherboard," most computer cases are designed to be mated with one of the standard motherboard types described in Chapter 2, "Motherboards." A few companies develop and sell their own unique designs. The cases used for these designs generally look much like ordinary desktop, tower, or slimline designs, but they use non-standard mounting holes for the motherboard and often use non-standard power supply types and case front plates. Such computers can be difficult to upgrade or repair. If you plan to buy a pre-built computer, I recommend asking about this aspect of the design. If the computer follows a standard form factor such as ATX, you'll have better options for future expansions and replacements than you will if the computer uses a proprietary form factor.

Many computers that don't use x86 CPUs follow their own unique form factors. Apple computers, for instance, don't use standard x86 PC layouts. If you want to use such a computer, you might have little choice but to use the designs supported by the company that controls that architecture.

Unusual Case Types

In rare circumstances, the usual assortment of case types doesn't suit your needs. In such a situation, you might want to investigate alternatives, such as

• Notebooks Laptop and notebook computers need cases, of course, but they're even more miniaturized than are slimline cases. You don't generally buy a laptop case sepa-

rately from the rest of the computer, as you can if you assemble a desktop computer AS

yourself. Chapter 23, "Notebooks," covers notebook computers in greater detail. s A

Rack mount In some situations, a rack mount computer is desirable. In this design, the l °

Y "o motherboard and other components are mounted in an open metal case, much like a o workshop shelf system. These designs allow many computers to be housed together in ER

one convenient location. Rack mount designs permit quick and easy access to the components of all the computers. They're of most interest for installations that require a large number of computers in a small space, such as a multi-computer cluster (see http://www.beowulf.org for information on one popular Linux cluster project).

Server A server case is typically much larger than the average case, in order to hold many hard disks. Such cases are also rather expensive.

Core Systems Part i

• One-piece From time to time, one-piece computers have appeared and become moderately popular. Most recently, this design was popularized by Apple's iMac in 1998 (see Figure 4.4). The eMachines eOne uses a very similar design with x86 hardware. One-piece computers generally leave little room for expansion and might require non-standard motherboards, but they're more portable than most computers and they're generally more compact, as well. Modern one-piece computers place most of the components in the same case as the monitor, but some one-piece units from years past put the critical components in the same case as the keyboard.

Figure 4.4

A one-piece computer places the motherboard, disk drive, and similar components in the same case with the monitor.

Figure 4.4

A one-piece computer places the motherboard, disk drive, and similar components in the same case with the monitor.


Unusual case designs can be quite convenient at times, but they can prove to be troublesome when it comes time to upgrade. This is especially true of one-piece units, but less true of rack mount and server systems. You should carefully consider the costs and benefits of any specific unusual design you consider.

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