6 Best ATX Cases for Building Your Own PC

If you want the best in cooling and expandability for your PC build, then finding the best ATX case is the obvious choice. In this article, we’re going to cover our six top picks for the best ATX case, each targeted at a different niche — Best Airflow, Best RGB, Best Liquid Cooling, Best Budget, Best Small and Best Slim ATX cases.

In addition to a detailed breakdown of each chassis and what it has to offer, we’ll also be providing a detailed buying guide at the bottom of the article, just in case (pun intended) you aren’t sure how to choose from our selection.

What Is the Best ATX Case?

Now that you know why we’re here and what we’re doing, let’s dive into it!

#1. Phanteks Eclipse P400A (RGB Version)

Dimensions and Size: 18.5 x 8.2 x 18.3 inches, Mid Tower | Front Panel Type: Mesh | Side Panel Window Type: Tempered Glass | Color Options: Black, White | GPU Clearance: 280 mm with drive cages, 420 mm without | Drive Bays: 2 2.5, 3 2.5 | Fan Capacity: 3x 120/140 mm front fans (included), 2x top 120/140 mm fans, 1x 120 mm rear fan | Lighting: 3 RGB Intake Fans Included | Front Panel USB Ports: 2 USB 3.0

  • Best raw airflow of any case on the market
  • Three RGB intake fans included
  • A ton of space for GPU, drives, fans, and etc
  • High price

Phanteks Eclipse P400A Digital ATX Mid-Tower

The Phanteks Eclipse P400A RGB is our pick for best airflow case. Even before adding an exhaust fan, the out-of-box airflow provided by the three included fans and mesh front panel ensures that the inside of your system stays nice and cool. (And if you’re worried about there not being an exhaust fan, you can either slap in a cheap one or just move one of the included fans to the back. You don’t need to, though!)

In addition to the great raw airflow, this is just a great case all-around. The fans are RGB and you have a tempered glass side panel, so that extra bit of visual flair is there. The interior is spacious, with plenty of room for drives, your GPU, and cable management. You also have a dedicated PSU basement, which is always a nice-to-have extra.

The only real downside is the price. Especially at the time of writing and due to certain external conditions, you may end up needing to spend more than $100 on this case.

Additionally, the RGB in this case is controlled by an onboard fan controller, not an RGB port you can synchronize with your motherboard and other components. If you’re trying to get a crazy-intricate RGB setup, we recommend taking a look at our #6 pick instead.

Note: While the non-RGB version is also an option and will save a bit of money upfront, you’ll still need to buy two more fans in order to achieve the same level of performance. If you want the best performance with as little hassle as possible, and want RGB on top of it, we still recommend going with the RGB version of this case.

Verdict: Best Airflow ATX Case

#2. Lian Li PC-011 Dynamic

Dimensions and Size: 17.5 x 10.7 x 17.5 inches, Full Tower | Front Panel Type: Solid with Ventilation | Side Panel Window Type: Tempered Glass | Color Options: Black, White, Silver | GPU Clearance: 420 mm | Drive Bays: 2 3.5, 4 2.5 | Fan Capacity: 3 120/140 mm Top, 3 120mm Side/Front, 3 120mm Bottom | Lighting: N/A | Front Panel USB Ports: 1 USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 USB 3.0

  • A super-spacious interior, with plenty of room for fan, reservoir, and radiator mounting
  • A gorgeous tempered glass side/front panel, displaying all your PC has to offer
  • Aluminum construction, stellar overall build quality
  • Expensive
  • No fans included

Lian Li PC-O11DW 011 Dynamic Tempered Glass on The Front Chassis Body SECC ATX Mid Tower Gaming Computer Case

The Lian Li PC-011 Dynamic is our pick for best Liquid Cooling ATX Case. It’s huge, and it’s built for a truly insane level of customization and raw performance.

The tempered glass side panel (which also takes up part of the front panel) shows off pretty much the entirety of the PC’s insides, allowing you to show off your build to a pretty much unprecedented level. While this also results in an unconventional airflow solution, it’s still a fairly strong one.

You can mount up to 3 120 mm fans each on the top, side, and bottom panels. And since they’re all three 120 mm slots back-to-back, that means you can also install a massive 360 mm radiator in any one of those three slots. The ample open space on the bottom of the case is also perfect for mounting a reservoir, provided you want to do a custom loop setup.

The rear compartment offers plenty of space for drives, your PSU, and cable management as well. This is a very beefy case, but it is built for truly high-end builds. The materials show it, and the price tag does, too.

While it’s unfortunate that this case costs as much as it does and doesn’t include any fans, we aren’t really mad about it. This is a very premium product, and it doesn’t try to pretend to be anything else. If you aren’t interested in flexing off a high-end build inside this case, then it definitely isn’t for you- otherwise, we say go for it.

Verdict: Best Liquid Cooling ATX Case

#3. Fractal Design Focus G

Dimensions and Size: 18.2 x 8.07 x 14.4 inches, Mid Tower | Front Panel Type: Mesh | Side Panel Window Type: Acrylic | Color Options: Black, White, Grey, Blue, Red | GPU Clearance: 380 mm | Drive Bays: 2 5.25, 2 3.5, 1 2.5 | Fan Capacity: 2x 129/140 mm front fans (2 120 included), 2x 120/140 mm top fans, 1x 120 mm rear fan, 1x 120 mm bottom fan | Lighting: 2 White LED Fans included | Front Panel USB Ports: 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0

  • Low price, plenty of color options
  • Great airflow and expandability despite being a budget case
  • Two white LED intake fans included
  • May want to move one of the fans to the back or add another fan for a proper airflow configuration

Fractal Design Focus G - Mid Tower Computer Case - ATX - High Airflow

The Fractal Design Focus G is our pick for best budget ATX case.

Despite being one of the cheapest ATX cases out there, this case isn’t really slacking in any category. You get a mesh front panel for good airflow, two included white LED fans, a ton of different color options to choose from, and fairly spacious internals. Fractal Design may be a brand name associated with high-end options, but this is easily one of the best ATX cases you can get for your dollar.

There are some premium features missing, mind- for instance, you aren’t going to see stuff like a PSU basement or a tempered glass side panel here. You’re also getting white LED fans rather than RGB fans, but if that really bothers you, spending extra for RGB fans probably won’t bother you too much.

The only real downside that sticks out to us is the fact that both of the fans are pushed upfront. We’d rather have one of the fans functioning as an exhaust, or see a slight price-hike to add a non-LED exhaust fan. It’s not a big deal, though- you can just move one of the fans to the back or slap in a cheap one to make up for this one. (If you do move one of the front fans to the back, we recommend doing so with the bottom fan.)

Also, fun benefit: this is actually the only case on this list with a 5.25-inch drive bay! It actually has two. If you’re one of those PC users out there still stubbornly holding onto physical media, then this is definitely a nice feature to have. (That being said, you could also just get an external card-reader or DVD/Blu-Ray drive…you don’t need an internal 5.25-inch drive these days.)

Verdict: Best Budget ATX Case

#4. Corsair Carbide 400C

Dimensions and Size: 16.7 x 8.4 x 18.26 inches, Mid Tower | Front Panel Type: Solid (ventilated) | Side Panel Window Type: Acrylic | Color Options: N/A | GPU Clearance: 370 mm | Drive Bays: 3 2.5, 2 3.5 | Fan Capacity: 1x 120 mm rear fan (included), 3x 120mm front fan (1 included), 2x 120 mm top fans | Lighting: N/A | Front Panel USB Ports: 2 USB 3.0

  • Very small for an ATX case, but still with plenty of room for expansion
  • Tempered glass window handle and other small touches make case easier to build in
  • Fairly-priced; one intake and one exhaust fan included
  • Solid front panel limits intake- alleviated by ventilation, but still an aesthetics-over-performance choice

CORSAIR CARBIDE 400C Compact Mid-Tower Case, Window Side Panel - Black

The Corsair Carbide 400C is our pick for best Small ATX case, mainly because it’s…well, one of the smallest ATX cases, but still pretty feature and space-rich.

Out-of-the-box, basic airflow is intact with one intake and one exhaust fan. (We recommend mounting the intake fan in the middle or the top for the best airflow, though.) You also have the nifty extras of a tempered glass side panel- with a handle!– and a PSU/drive basement. The expected cable management compartment is in the back, and so are all the top-and-front fan mounts you would expect.

Honestly, this is pretty much just a standard ATX case in a smaller-than-usual package. And we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. The other small ATX cases in this roundup make some compromises in order to hit that smaller size target, and this one is fairly standard. It costs about the same as most ATX cases, too.

The only downside is the front panel, which is solid-but-ventilated rather than mesh. The intake fans here aren’t going to have as much to work with, so if you plan on putting a super-high-end build in this one, we’d also recommend getting some extra 120 mm fans to slap in up-front or up-top to improve the airflow situation. We don’t know why so many case manufacturers seem to prioritize aesthetics above airflow, but we wish they’d get with the program.

Verdict: Best Small ATX Case

#5. Thermaltake Core G3

Dimensions and Size: 14.6 x 5.5 x 17.8 inches, Slim Tower | Front Panel Type: Perforated | Side Panel Window Type: Acrylic | Color Options: N/A | GPU Clearance: 310 mm | Drive Bays: 2 3.5/2.5 | Fan Capacity: 2 120 mm front fans (included), 1 120 mm top fan | Lighting: N/A | Front Panel USB Ports: 2 USB 3.0 Type-A, 2 USB 2.0 Type-A

  • Decently-priced and super small for an ATX case
  • Vertical GPU mounting
  • Every side is well-ventilated for better airflow
  • SFX PSU required
  • Limited clearance for tall air coolers

Thermaltake Core G3 Black Slim Small Form Factor ATX Perforated Metal Front

The Thermaltake Core G3 is our pick for best slim ATX case. If you want an ATX case in the smallest possible form factor, then the Core G3 is here for you.

First, let’s talk the positives. You have two 120 mm intake fans pre-installed, and just about every side of this case, except the window side, is thoroughly ventilated to allow hot air to escape. As long as you have this case in a space with some breathing room, its thermal performance should be just fine.

However, you will need to build with its thin form factor in mind, which restricts the height of any CPU coolers you could install inside (up to 110 mm, which is in line with most SFF PC builds). Despite being a full ATX case, you’ll also be restricted to just one dual-slot card, which will need to be mounted vertically with the included PCIe riser and vertical GPU mount. You will also need to get an SFX PSU, which raises the price point of any planned build in this chassis.

Following the example set by Thermaltake’s own product images, you’ll want to go for a high-end liquid cooling setup if you plan on doing a high-end build in this chassis, especially a custom loop setup. As surprisingly-functional as that looks, it’s still (we feel) an odd recommendation for a SFF case with a tempered glass side panel.

While this case performs well and accomplishes its goal of being a slim ATX case, we want to advise some caution. Unless you’re an experienced PC builder, this might not be the right choice for you. If you’re still eager for a smaller PC, you may want to take a look at our Mini ITX or Micro ATX case roundups, as most of those are more straightforward to work with than this one.

Even so…it’s the best at what it is, which is being a great slim ATX case. If that’s what you want, here it is!

Verdict: Best Slim ATX Case

#6. NZXT H710i

Dimensions and Size: 12.5 x 20.3 x 19.4 inches, Full Tower | Front Panel Type: Solid (Ventilated) | Side Panel Window Type: Tempered Glass | Color Options: White/Black, Black/Red, Black/White | GPU Clearance: 413 mm | Drive Bays: 5 2.5, 4 3.5 | Fan Capacity: 3x 120/140 mm front fans (included), 1x 120/140 mm fan (1 140 included), 3x 120/140mm top fans | Lighting: 2 RGB LED Strips | Front Panel USB Ports: 1 USB 3.2 Type-C, 1 USB 3.2 Type-A

  • Stellar aesthetics and RGB, including a vertical GPU mount
  • Plenty of internal space for whatever your ideal setup may be
  • Low noise levels despite 4 fans whirring away inside the chassis
  • Somewhat limited airflow, though this is alleviated by the included fans and shouldn’t be an issue for most users (especially those using liquid cooling)
  • High pricing- this can be alleviated by getting the non-RGB (non i-Series) version, but this still a premium case

NZXT H710i - CA-H710 i-W1 - ATX Mid Tower PC Gaming Case

Last but certainly not least is the NZXT H710i, our pick for the best RGB ATX case. If you don’t really care about RGB, you can save some money and opt for the no-RGB version, which is still a fairly premium solution.

The NZXT H710i is a beefy case built for aesthetics before anything else. The multiple color options and included RGB LED strips lean into that, as well as the sleek, modern design language. There’s also an increasingly-trendy vertical GPU mount included, which is ideal for those looking to flex their cutting-edge graphics card. (You’ll need to bring your own riser cable, though.)

So, it’s built to look really slick. It also has a dedicated PSU/drives/cable management basement, space for mounting a reservoir for a custom loop cooling setup, and a ton of fan mounts. A ton of included fans, too- three 120 mm intake fans, as well as one 120 mm exhaust fan, come pre-installed! This was probably necessary, though, because the front panel is using a solid-but-ventilated design that would otherwise limit airflow. A bright side of the nearly-sealed front panel is that fan noise is pretty much gone, though.

(If you don’t care about a solid front panel and just want better airflow performance, you can pop off the front panel. There is still a dust filter there, but your intake fans will see worlds more access to cool air. Just be sure to blast ’em with compressed air every month or so with your PC safely powered off, and it should be fine!)

If you can afford it, this is a truly great case to have. It looks great, it has some nifty extras (like a USB Type-C port), plenty of drive bays, a ton of included fans, and a single-screw tempered glass side panel. And again, if you don’t care about RGB- you can just get the H710 instead, and save some cash.

Verdict: Best RGB ATX Case / Best-Looking ATX Case

How To Pick The Best ATX Case For You

In this section, we’re going to discuss various specifications and how they impact your experience. Even if you aren’t particularly savvy when it comes to case technology or PC hardware, this section should give you all of the information you need to know to make an informed buying decision, today or in the future.

Let’s get into it!

Front Panel Type and how it impacts Airflow

You may notice that we list Front Panel Type fairly frequently, but you may not know why. While some cases are built a little differently to provide airflow in a different way (the Lian Li case being a fine example), most cases use their front panels for air intake, and the way these front panels are built can give you a pretty good idea of how air will flow through them.

The worst-case scenario for thermal performance is a solid front panel, with no ventilation to speak of. These have fortunately fallen out of favor, but a few years ago manufacturers were doing this a lot in order to prioritize aesthetics, and actual performance tended to suffer as a result.

Better but still not great is a solid front panel but with ventilation added, either on the front panel itself or on the sides. This can be seen with the NZXT H710i and some other cases on our list. While this ventilation still provides access to fresh, cool air for the fans, it’s still a limited supply. Compensating for this will require more fans installed.

Better, but with exact performance depending on the size and placements of the perforations, is a perforated front panel. This means large holes punched into the panel in order to allow air to flow through. While this is certainly better than a full-solid front panel, your results may actually vary quite a lot with this.

The best case scenario for airflow (outside of just taking the front panel off entirely) is a mesh front panel. Mesh front panels provide the best access to open air. All of your best airflow cases will use a mesh front panel for this reason, and if performance is your main/only concern, then this is definitely the way to go.

Side Panel Window Types and why they matter

Side panel windows have nothing to do with thermal performance, but everything to do with aesthetics. Unfortunately, product images alone don’t tend to tell the full story with these. You’ll want to know what kind of window you’re getting to get a good idea of its performance, and we’ll cover that here for your benefit.

Older and most common is Acrylic. Acrylic isn’t glass- rather, it’s a kind of plastic. It’s a sensible inclusion, though, since it’s fairly durable while still providing a decent look into your chassis. Where Acrylic falters is with time, as it is prone to fogging up over long periods, becoming more and more opaque over time. Even new, it isn’t as transparent as a proper glass window would be.

However, the visibility downsides can be alleviated with a larger window and more internal case lighting, via LED strips, fans, and other components. Additionally, it is much cheaper than tempered glass.

Newer and less common is Tempered Glass. Emphasis on “tempered”- regular old glass would be far too fragile to use in a PC case, and would be outright dangerous, since it would shatter into large chunks that are more likely to hurt you. Tempered glass is reinforced for greater durability than standard glass, and is built so that if it breaks, it shatters into a bunch of tiny-but-harmless pieces, which is much less hazardous.

The only real downside to tempered glass is that it’s more expensive. The benefits are that it’s easier to clean, doesn’t fog up over time like Acrylic, and provides a perfectly transparent window into your chassis. If you want to really show off whatever build you have, a tempered glass side panel is a great way to do it.

GPU Clearance and why it matters

GPU clearance is a compatibility spec, and refers to GPU length in this context. We provide this specification in each of our GPU articles, and for great reason: length is the most likely reason for a graphics card to not be able to fit inside your PC!

Fortunately, most ATX cases are great in this regard, with few offering a number below 280 mm (11 inches), which is on the high end of GPU length. Some ultra-beefy cards may push past this into the 300 mm range, though, so still be sure to keep this specification in mind if you’re planning on getting a triple-fan GPU.

Drive Bays and Drive Types

Drive bays are another compatibility spec, but they come in three different types.

  • 5.25-inch – Used by DVD/Blu-Ray drives, card readers, and other large, non-storage drives. These are becoming rarer every day, but can still be seen in options like the Fractal Design Focus G.
  • 3.5-inch – Used by standard, spinning disk hard drives (HDDs).
  • 2.5-inch – Used by both smaller HDDs and SATA-based SSDs. It’s recommended to use these slots for SSDs instead since 2.5-inch HDDs are slower than their larger counterparts.

Parting Words

And that’s it!

We hope that this article helped you find the ideal ATX case for your needs. If there’s anything that was unclear or that you felt like we missed, feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below and let us know what you need help with.

Until then, we hope our selection serves you well!

The post 6 Best ATX Cases for Building Your Own PC appeared first on AddictiveTips.

10 Best Google Doc Add-ons To Create Amazing Documents

Google Docs has a lot of great features, but in some cases there are a few things people occasionally need that Google Docs doesn’t have by default.

There are a number of Google Doc add-ons you can enable that’ll extend the base of features available in Google Docs. The following are ten of the best ones.

Highlight Tool

When you’re editing a document or collaborating in any other way, the ability to highlight text is invaluable. 

There is a way to highlight in Google Docs by default. To do so, you need to select the text you want to highlight, select the highlight icon in the ribbon, and choose the highlight color you want to use.

This creates a good highlight effect for the text you’ve selected. However the process takes a few steps and the options are limited.

The Highlight Tool Google Doc add-on makes the process of highlighting much more functional.

After you install the tool, you’ll need to complete a few setup steps. To do this, in Google Docs select Add-ons from the menu, select Highlight Tool, and select Settings.

Enable Automatically scan for highlighter sets on start.

Select the X in the corner to close the window. Finally, start the highlighter tool by selecting  Add-ons from the menu, select Highlight Tool, and select Start.

This will launch the Highlight Tool. 

To get started with highlighting, just select the text you want to highlight in any color, and select the Highlighter Library in the Highlight Tool window.

Select New Set in the first window. Give the set a name, and apply an appropriate color. Give the color a label if you like. When you’re done, select Save

As you create highlight color sets, those will appear in the Highlight Tool window on the right side of the screen.

The idea is that you can quickly select the text you want to highlight, and select from any of the highlight color sets you’ve created. This will highlight the selected text that color.

The idea is that you can create a large set of as many highlight colors you like. Then you can quickly highlight selected text any of those colors by just clicking whatever color set you like in that window.

It speeds up the highlight process and makes it much simpler.

Code Blocks

Another great Google Doc add-on is Code Blocks

If you often need to document code, one of the best ways to do that is by using a word processor that can handle and format specific code languages.

By default, Google Docs doesn’t really handle code formatting very well. You need to format code blocks manually by selecting different font types, adding background color, and more. But why do all that work when you can use an add-on that does it all for you?

Once you install the Code Blocks add-on, you can access it by selecting the Add-ons menu, selecting Code Blocks, and then selecting Start.

This will open a new window on the right that lets you choose the code language and the formatting theme you want to use.

Now all you need to do is paste your code into the document, highlight the entire block of code, and then selecting the Format button in the Code Blocks window.

This creates amazingly formatted code embedded inside your Google doc.

This addon handles an impressive array of language, and includes a nice range of excellent code formatting themes.

Fillable Document

A very common use of Google Docs is to create form templates that other people can fill out. Unfortunately, Google Docs doesn’t have any good features that allow you to easily create a fillable document.

Thankfully, there’s an Google Doc add-on called Fillable Document that lets you do just that.

Like other add-ons, once you install it you need to select it from the Add-ons menu item and select Start

When you first run the addon, you’ll need to select Start setup to get started. For Step 1 you’ll need to select the spreadsheet where you want to store data from your fillable form.

You can create a new spreadsheet or choose from an existing one. Select Next to continue. In the second step, you’ll select to choose or create the destination folder.  

In the last step you’ll need to create an email template for sending your fillable form to recipients. This step is optional. 

Once you’re done with setup, you can use the Fillable Document window on the right to create all of the fields for your fillable document. Just select the + icon next to Field List. You can also select Create New Field. You can then insert those fields into the document by selecting the Insert Field icon. . 

Those fields show up inside the document with placeholders that have the $ symbol in front of them.

You can see the web version of the form by selecting Open Web Form in the Fillable Document window.

When you’re done creating your form, just select Publish Form. Select the Sharing tab to provide a list of email addresses to send your fillable form to.

Select Publish Form to finish and send out the emails.

Mail Merge

The Mail Merge add-on is a powerful Google Doc add-on that lets you use values from a Google Sheets spreadsheet and inserts those into a template document. 

Why is this useful? If you consider a business where the owner needs to send out invoices to hundreds of customers, this add-on would let them create a master invoice “template” document, but fill in specific fields using rows of data from a spreadsheet.

This generates as many invoice documents as needed to process all of the data from the original spreadsheet. To use this add-on, you just select Mail Merge from the Add-ons menu, and select Start.

This opens the Mail Merge window on the right.

Use this window to select the spreadsheet that contains the data you want to merge. You can then select each field that you want to use to merge to the document template.

You can also select Show Email Settings to customize the email header template if you want to automate sending the batch of documents to multiple users. 

If you do want to use the batch email feature, make sure to set up the SMTP settings for the addon to use the correct SMTP settings for your email account.

Pixabay Free Images

Another useful Google Doc add-on is Pixabay Free Images.  This is one of the easiest add-ons to use, since it’s simply a free image search for images you can use in your own document.

To use it, just select Add-ons from the menu, select Pixabay Free Images, and select Search Images

This will open a window on the right that you can use to search for free images to use in your Google document. 

Just select the free image to place it into your document wherever you currently have the cursor.

Doc Variables

An alternative to the Mail Merge add-on or the Fillable Document add-on is the Doc Variables add-on. 

This add-on is perfect if you want to have multiple people fill out a document with their own values. The add-on provides a collaborative form users can use to enter data into the variables you’ve created in the document.

Once you’ve installed the add-on, creating a templated document is easy. Just select Add-ons from the menu, select Doc Variables, select Insert Variable, and choose the type of variable you want to embed into the document. 

Once you select the variable type, just give it a name and select whether it’s a single field or covers multiple lines.

Select OK and you’ll see the variable show up in the document with the “$” symbol in front of it.

You can send the document to someone to fill out, and all they have to do is select Start from the Add-on menu.

This opens a window to the right with fields for all of the variables you’ve created for the document. 

The person you sent the form to then just needs to fill out the variables and press the blue arrow to finish. This will automatically fill out the document with all of the information the person entered.

This is a great way to create an easy-to-fill-out form, or just a templated document people can easily fill out just by filling out the add-on form.

Text Cleaner

If you edit a lot of documents, the Text Cleaner Google Doc add-on can automate your work.

Installing this add-on gives you access to quick edits from the menu. Just select Add-ons from the menu, select Text Cleaner, and select any of the available quick edits.

For example, you can perform any actions on the entire document:

  • Remove line breaks
  • Remove paragraph breaks
  • Fix hard line breaks
  • Remove multiple spaces from sentences
  • Remove tabs
  • Fix smart quotes

If you want access to more editing tools, then select Configure. A new window will open where you can customize Text Cleaner features.

This screen not only lets you customize all of the edits it’ll do for you, but if you select everything you want and select Save and clean now, it’ll perform all edits at once on the document.

This tool, like all of the others listed in this article, enhances what you can do with Google Docs. It makes it much easier to do surprising things with your documents.

Best SSDs for Gaming — SATA, Portable and M.2 NVMe

If you want a great gaming experience in today’s gaming landscape, you need a gaming SSD. Nobody likes long loading times, and as games begin to explode more and more in terms of scale and complexity, SSDs are being used to push the technical envelope. Look no further than the recent PS5 and Xbox Series X technical breakdowns- both of those consoles are using high-speed SSDs in order to enable even greater possibilities in their games, marking a huge improvement over a generation of titles designed to function on substandard 2.5-inch mechanical hard drives.

Today, we’re going to take a more PC-centric focus, and walk you through the best available gaming SSDs on the market.

SATA SSDs, NVMe SSDs, and even portable SSDs will all be covered here, as well as a detailed buying guide to help you decide which product category is best for you. Even without buying anything, we’re hoping that reading this article will help you walk away with more complete knowledge of storage and PC hardware.

Let’s hop into it.

Best SATA SSDs

#1. TEAMGROUP GX1 960 GB

Technology: SATA | Estimated Read: 530 MB/s | Estimated Write: 480 MB/s 

  • Great speed at a low price
  • Solid performance despite being from a lesser-known brand

TEAMGROUP GX1 960GB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal Solid State Drive SSD

The TeamGroup GX1 1TB may be from a much lesser-known brand, but it’s still a high-quality, high-performance SSD at a great price point. While it’s definitely not the fastest SATA SSD, specifically not in terms of read speed), it still offers nearly 1TB of solid state storage at under $100. That’s a pretty good deal, we think, and for most use cases we think that should more than suffice, especially if your system doesn’t have M.2 slots.

Verdict: The best value SATA SSD

#2. Crucial MX500 2TB

Technology: SATA | Estimated Read: 560 MB/s | Estimated Write: 510 MB/s

  • The best raw speed you can get in a SATA-based SSD
  • Price-per-gig scales well compared to other (albeit faster) SSDs in the same price range

Crucial MX500 2TB 3D NAND SATA 2.5 Inch Internal SSD

If you want the best possible performance out of your SATA SSD, then look no further than the Crucial MX500. The MX500 pushes the highest read and write speeds that we’ve seen in a SATA SSD, and offers a full 2TB of storage at exactly the price you expect it to- pretty much just twice the amount of your typical ~$100 1TB SATA SSD. We recommend this for those who want the best possible SSD performance but only have SATA as an option, or those who simply want some of the best price-per-gig you can get in a solid-state drive.

Verdict: The best SATA SSD

Best Portable SSDs

#1. Pioneer XS03 External SSD

Technology: USB 3.1 (SATA-grade) | Estimated Read: 400 MB/s | Estimated Write: 380 MB/s | Interface: USB 3.1 

  • Essentially a slightly-slower SATA SSD in a portable package
  • Pricing scales well between different capacities
  • High price-per-gig

Pioneer 3D NAND External SSD

If you’re in the market for a portable SSD but don’t want to break the bank on it, then the Pioneer XS03 is a great choice. For a portable SSD, it offers great price-per-gig. The performance is on par with a SATA SSD as well, so long as you also keep in mind the need for a compatible USB 3.1 connector for this drive to achieve its maximum speeds.

Unless you really need it to be portable for some reason (ie, for use with multiple systems), though…you would most likely be better off getting an internal drive instead, since the pricing will be better that way.

Verdict: Best Value Portable SSD

#2. Samsung X5 Portable SSD

Technology: Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C (NVMe Gen3-Grade) | Estimated Read: 2800 MB/s | Estimated Write: 2600 MB/s | Interface: USB-C

  • Awesome speed in a portable form factor- the best currently available
  • Shock-resistant construction
  • Very high price-per-gig

Samsung X5 Portable SSD 500GB - Thunderbolt 3 External Solid State Drive with NVMe InterfaceIf you’re in the market for a portable SSD and you want speed that, in practice, will be virtually indistinguishable from a proper NVMe SSD…then the Samsung X5 Portable SSD should be exactly what you’re looking for. As long as your system supports Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, you’ll be able to enjoy truly insane speeds…but at a far higher price-per-gig than matching non-portable NVMe drives.

Like with above, we really only recommend going portable with an SSD if you’re going to be using a lot of different systems. A speedy external drive doesn’t make a lot of sense if your only gaming machine is, say, a desktop tower PC.

Verdict: Fastest Portable SSD

Best M.2 NVMe SSDs

#1. Sabrent Rocket Q

Technology: NVMe Gen 3 | Estimated Read: 3200 MB/s | Estimated Write: 2000 MB/s

  • The best price-to-performance NVMe SSD
  • Truly superb speeds for not much more than a SATA SSD of the same capacity

Sabrent Rocket Q 1TB NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 Internal SSD High Performance Solid State Drive

The Sabrent Rocket Q is our pick for the best value M.2 SSD. Despite being fairly cheap for a 1TB SSD- only about $10-$20 more than most SATA-based 1TB SSDs- it is blazingly faster than any SATA SSD and most other NVMe SSDs in its price range. A 3200 MB/s read speed in this price point used to be unthinkable, but Sabrent has really come through with great value SSDs since their emergence into the arena.

The only real downside of note with this one is that compared to other high-speed NVMe SSDs, the speed disparity between read and write seem to be a bit more severe. But even then, that’s honestly a nitpick- 2000 MB/s is still 2 Gigabytes per second, and for gaming purposes, you’re never really going to need to write to your disk quite that fast. Even with a fiber Internet gigabit connection, the likelihood of you downloading a game that fast and getting throttled by your storage here would be impossible.

Verdict: Best Value M.2 NVMe SSD

#2. Samsung 970 EVO Plus

Technology: NVMe Gen 3 | Estimated Read: 3500 MB/s | Estimated Write: 3300 MB/s

  • The best random read speeds of any NVMe SSD currently available
  • The best raw read/write speeds of any NVMe Gen 3 SSD
  • Expensive compared to competing NVMe SSDs of similar capacity

Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD 1TB - M.2 NVMe Interface Internal Solid State Drive with V-NAND Technology

The Samsung 970 EVO Plus is our pick for the best NVMe Gen 3 SSD. That’s because it offers the best raw speeds currently available in an NVMe Gen 3 SSD, and still manages to offer better random read speeds than any NVMe Gen 4 SSD on the market. (Random read speed will most heavily impact things like initial operating system loading times, for instance. Think of it as a measure of how fast your drive can fetch a specific something that you’re looking for.)

The downside is that that raw performance…comes at a pretty hefty price. This SSD is nearly twice as expensive as our previous pick despite offering the same capacity, and it definitely isn’t twice as fast. If your system doesn’t support NVMe/PCIe Gen 4, though, this is still your best option for truly high-end SSD speeds.

Verdict: Best NVMe Gen3 SSD

#3. Sabrent Rocket NVMe Gen4

Technology: NVMe Gen 4 | Estimated Read: 5000 MB/s | Estimated Write: 4400 MB/s

  • Priced well in comparison to top Gen 3 NVMe SSDs despite being much faster
  • The best performer of any currently-available Gen 4 NVMe SSD on the market
  • Lower random read speed than some top-class Gen 3 NVMe SSDs

Sabrent 1TB Rocket NVMe 4.0 Gen4 PCIe M.2 Internal SSD Extreme Performance Solid State Drive

The Sabrent Rocket is currently the fastest NVMe Gen4 SSD available on the market. It’s cheaper than the best NVMe Gen 3 SSD listed above, and in terms of raw read and write speeds, it’s in a whole other class. So it’s a no-brainer, right?

Well…while this is a truly superb drive, it does have lower random read speeds than the high-end Samsung drive just above. In terms of gaming, we seriously doubt this will be an issue, but OS loading will improve a bit more with our #2 NVMe pick than our #3 NVMe pick. Other tasks that are more reliant on random read speeds may be impacted, too, but if all you care about is gaming and you want to future-proof your system for the next generation of console ports…this drive is your best bet.

Verdict: Best NVMe Gen4 SSD

FAQ and How To Choose

If you aren’t sure how to break down all the specs and jargon being thrown around above, that’s understandable. In this section of the article, we’re going to explain everything you need to know in order to choose from the picks we’ve listed above. We’re also going to make sure that even if you came into this not knowing anything about PC storage technology, you’ll come out of this with a comfortable level of knowledge to allow for informed buying decisions in the future.

What makes an SSD different from an HDD?

First, the basics of the technology and naming. An SSD is a Solid State Drive, which means that it has no moving parts. An HDD is a Hard Disk Drive, which uses spinning (moving) hard disks, from which data is read from and written to.

This “no moving parts” distinguishment is where the benefits of SSDs compared to HDDs come into play. This makes SSDs less vulnerable to failure by physical shock, it allows them to fit into much smaller form factors, and since speed is limited by chip design rather than physical disk size and rotation, it allows them to reach far higher speeds.

Even in the world of SSDs, though…not all drives are made equal.

Understanding the classes of SSD speed

Even as SSDs boomed into popularity and affordability, some limits were reached quite quickly. The SATA standard was made, first and foremost, for hard drive technology. The SATA 3 standard far exceeded any speed achievable by traditional hard drives, but it served as a hard limit for solid state drives, limits which have since been sidestepped and exceeded by PCI Express/NVMe-powered SSDs.

  • SATA – Theoretical max read/write of ~550 MB/s, with write usually being lower. Modern high-end SATA SSDs have hit this limiter.
  • PCIe/NVMe Gen 3 – Theoretical max read/write of ~3900 MB/s, with write usually being much lower. Modern high-end Gen 3 SSDs have come close to hitting this limit, but not quite.
  • PCIe/NVMe Gen 4 – Theoretical max read/write of ~ 7800 MB/s, with write usually being much lower. Since this is a new technology and thermal limits are beginning to creep into the equation, current drives are MUCH slower than this.

The benefits of a high-speed SSD for gaming

Let’s get this part across first:

Any SSD will be better than an HDD for gaming, but especially for modern-day gaming. Drastic decreases in loading times mean that you load into your games faster, and get the first pick on things like your preferred Hero in Overwatch. It also means your system won’t have as much issue loading in high-quality textures, whereas a slow drive can result in low texture quality and pop-in, even on high-end systems.

The biggest benefit, at least for now, can already be experienced with a SATA-grade SSD, and you can use these on any modern PC or console. (Next-gen consoles may not support SATA SSDs, though: we’ll have to wait and see on that one.) Future games may rely on NVMe-grade speeds in order for optimal performance, though, because the new consoles are being designed around this technology.

Additionally, SSDs are also much better than HDDs when it comes to install times. When downloading a game on an HDD, you still have to give your hard drive time to catch up and do the work of installing it, even if you’re on a blazing-fast connection. Using an SSD will ensure that, at least in most cases, there will not be a significant gap in time between you attaining the files and them being properly installed to your system.

SSDs used to be prohibitively expensive, but today their pricing- especially SATA and NVMe Gen 3 drives- are coming closer and closer to competing with HDDs in terms of value. It’s becoming less a question of price-per-gigabyte and more a question of quality over quantity. For non-gaming media that doesn’t require super-high speeds, HDDs and slow storage is fine- but for high-end gaming and productivity purposes, high-speed storage is a must.

Where higher-speed SSDs do and don’t make a difference for gaming

This is where things start getting a little bit contentious. How much of a difference will opting for these higher-end SSDs really make?

It depends on the scenario.

For instance, there isn’t much of a meaningful difference between playing EA’s Anthem on a SATA SSD when compared to an NVMe SSD.

But for other games, like Devil May Cry 5 in our own testing, loading times on an NVMe SSD versus a SATA SSD are much faster.

And once again, the console-elephants in the room draw attention to themselves by being built around NVMe Gen 4-grade SSDs, which are likely to result in SSD speed making a much bigger impact on the playability of your PC games in the near future.

For today, at least, we don’t see an issue with opting for a SATA or NVMe Gen 3 SSD. If you want to future-proof your system, though…it may be necessary to opt for something faster. At least, for maximum settings in future multiplatform games. Settings like draw distance and etc on PC will allow for gamers with slower storage to account for design centered around the new consoles, since not everyone can be expected to be running on cutting-edge NVMe storage.

Even so, it’s important to keep in mind.

Parting Words

And that’s it!

We hope all of our selections (and especially all of our information) helped you find the best SSD for your needs. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions left over, and we’ll do our best to help you.

The post Best SSDs for Gaming — SATA, Portable and M.2 NVMe appeared first on AddictiveTips.

How to enable markdown file previews in File Explorer on Windows 10

File previews are an incredibly useful feature on a desktop OS. Windows 10 provides previews for a few common file formats but not all of them. If you happen to have the Office suite installed, you will get previews for Office documents and spreadsheets but for a lot of other formats, you need to install additional File Explorer extensions. Markdown is a file type that can be opened with a common text editor like Notepad but File Explorer cannot show a preview for it. Here’s how you can enable markdown file previews in File Explorer.

Markdown file previews in File Explorer

In order to enable Markdown file previews in File Explorer, you will need to install an extension for File Explorer. This particular extension is included with PowerToys, a free open-source tool that has been developed by Microsoft. You can download it from Github.

PowerToys feature several tools and they are useful but if you aren’t interested in using them all, you can choose to enable only the ‘File Explorer’ feature. Once it is enabled, you will need to restart File Explorer before the extension will start working. To restart File Explorer, open Task Manager and look for Windows Explorer in the Processes tab. Select it, and click the Restart button.

After you restart File Explorer, you need to open it and navigate to the folder that has the markdown file. Go to the View tab, and click the Preview Pane button. A preview pane will appear on the right and it will show the contents of the file.

Enabling the File Explorer feature in PowerToys will also enable previews for SVG files.

You must keep PowerToys running in order to get previews for markdown files.

If you want previews for unsupported image files, you can install another File Explorer extension that does the job.

File Explorer extensions are generally light-weight so you won’t have to worry about PowerToys slowing it down. It’s almost a shame that this file extension is tied to PowerToys. Users may be averse to installing PowerToys if they do not intend to use all its features but at least the features can be enabled/disabled individually. In fact, the latest version of PowerToys makes it really easy to enable/disable them from a single screen in its settings.

Windows 10’s limitation to not being able to preview files that are text-based is somewhat similar to what macOS has, though macOS supports previews for far more file types.

The post How to enable markdown file previews in File Explorer on Windows 10 appeared first on AddictiveTips.

9 Best TV Remote Apps for Android and iOS

We all know that “there’s an app for that” when it comes to modern smartphones, but have you considered using your smartphone as a remote control for your TV or home entertainment system? 

There are quite a few mobile apps out there that promise to replace your remote control, but these are the ones we think are the best TV remote apps available today.

A Note On Phones With IR Remote Blasters

There is one large divide in the world of TV remote apps and that’s whether it makes use of infrared signals or not. Just about all televisions use infrared sensors to communicate with their remote controls. Which means if you want to use an app to control that television, you need a model that has the ability to send IR signals. 

This is becoming a fairly rare feature on modern phones. One which you won’t even find on flagship handsets from phone makers such as Samsung. If your smart TV can also accept remote commands via WiFi or Bluetooth, then it may work with a phone that doesn’t have an IR blaster. You will however have to check this on a case-by-case basis.

A much more practical solution is to use a device like an Android TV or Apple TV, which can be controlled via an app. Using HDCP, that device can also control your television set. Switching it on and off, changing its volume and more.

If you really want to use your phone as a universal remote and have devices that will only work with infrared, you can buy an IR blaster and attach it to compatible phones. It’s not an elegant solution at all, especially not for your main phone. However, if you have an old smartphone no one uses, this is actually a great solution, since you can just leave the IR blaster permanently attached.

Another alternative is to use a WiFi to IR converter. This is a device that speaks to a smart app, receives its commands over the network and then generates IR signals. This is a good solution if you want multiple people to use their phones to control devices or if you want to use your main phone, sans IR blaster, to control all the IR gear in your home entertainment system.

Official Smart TV Apps

Many brands of smart TV offer in-house solutions to use your phone as a remote control. Whether this is possible (or works well) is entirely dependent on the brand of phone you have. Since there are hundreds of brands, we can’t list them all, but companies like Sony, Samsung and LG all have remote control apps for their various TVs and sometimes even other devices you might use alongside them, such as sound bars and AV receivers. 

It’s always worth checking for an official TV remote app first. At the very least you’ll be able to compare the official solution to any third party apps. As a point of reference for which is better. It’s also much less likely that a future app update will suddenly break compatibility with your devices.

Official Apps For IR Blaster Phones

The Huawei P30 Pro includes an IR Blaster as a feature.

If you have a phone with a built-in IR blaster, there is almost certainly an official app from your phone maker for remote control functionality. You should check if the app is preloaded on your phone or whether it’s available from an app store as a free download. Remember that some phone makers also have their own app stores in addition to the Play Store (or instead of it) so also check there for value-added software. 

Using the app that’s designed to work with your phone has the advantage of usually being the more reliable choice. Obviously, how good the individual apps actually are will depend on their own individual merits.

App-Specific Remote Controls

Another wrinkle in the smart TV remote app story is the existence of smartphone apps that can control smart TV apps. The best example is YouTube

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you have a smart TV with the YouTube app on it as well as your phone. If you’re logged into YouTube on both your phone and smart TV, you can search, play and otherwise control content using the phone app. This is especially useful for doing text searches and using more advanced YouTube features.

If your smart TV has an app that’s also available on your phone, it’s worth checking if the developers offer any sort of remote control interaction between the two.

Official Set-Top Box Apps

As you can tell, we’re not talking about any one specific application here. Most smart TV devices from major brands have their own in-house remote control application. They vary in quality, but all allow you to control the smart TV device and are guaranteed to work perfectly with it, since the app is written by the same people who make the hardware. A prime example is the Apple TV remote app.

There are also third-party applications for many of these devices, in case you don’t like the vanilla official apps. However, all bets are off if you’re using a third-party solution.

Keep in mind that, should the smart device and TV set support it, these apps will also allow you to control your television. Replacing the need for the dedicated remote. At least to some extent.

AnyMote Universal (Android & iOS)

Anymote is one of the best universal remote control apps we’ve used. It supports both IR and WiFi-based device control. This is good since the Galaxy Note 10+ we tried this app on doesn’t have an IR remote blaster. However, the app immediately detected the Samsung Smart TV on the same WiFi network. It can also act as a remote for a long list of smart devices and apps, including acting as an iTunes remote and a VLC media player remote.

You can use the basic functions of the app with advertising, but to unlock its full potential you’ll have to pay. Either that or buy AnyMote hardware, but their devices have been discontinued. Also, be sure to carefully check the list of devices that aren’t compatible with the app in the app description.

Lean Remote (Android & iOS)

Lean Remote is another app with a strong focus on infrared remote control. You can control everything from an air conditioner to smart set-top boxes with it. The developers pitch the app as a collection of discrete remotes. Including remotes for Roku and Android TV devices. Sony and LG TVs are also included, as are Chromecast devices. 

Lean have separated the WiFi and IR remotes from each other into different sections, making it easy to keep it all straight. The interface is also uncluttered and pretty easy to use. It may not be the most polished interface, but when all you want is to find the right buttons quickly, this approach has a lot going for it.

Unified TV

Unified TV is not a free TV remote app, but it’s also pretty inexpensive and the developers reportedly have no issue refunding users who find it doesn’t work with their handsets. In any event, it’s only about a dollar and if it does work for you that’s worth way more than the asking price.

There are more than 80 device-specific remotes on offer here. The apps supports a fair number of phones with built in IR blasters as well as two specific WiFi IR blasters. Before you buy the app, make sure that the brands or devices that you have are listed under supported hardware.

Like many other remotes of its type, the actual remote interface is pretty minimal, but if you’re using officially supported devices with it, Unified seems to offer one of the smoothest experiences. That is, judging by user feedback and reviews.

Twinone Universal TV Remote (Android)

Twinone’s Universal Remote is completely free and, while it does use adverts, it doesn’t implement them in an annoying way, such as full-screen ads that get in the way of using the actual remotes. 

The number of remotes on file seems quite formidable, but this app only supports IR blasters. This limits which phones it will work for. 

Most people seem to have quite a lot of success with the Twinone application and if no other apps have remotes that work it’s definitely worth a try.

Unified Remote (Android)

This last remote control app should, strictly-speaking, not be on this list at all. It’s not an app to control your TV or smart TV set top box. Instead, it’s an app that acts as a remote controller for your PC. 

The reason we’ve tacked this TV remote app on here is because there are plenty of people out there who have a laptop or home theater computer attached to their TVs. Unified Remote lets you take control of those computers without the need for a bulky mouse and keyboard. 

It also has specialized remotes for common applications such as Plex, VLC, Spotify, iTunes and Google Music. If you have devices that need to go the HTPC route, Unified is an essential application to have.