The BEST Compact Micro-ATX Case? (Aerocool CS-106 Review)

I was recently looking to buy a really small mATX case for an upcoming HomeLab storage server build (aka a custom NAS) and I ended up buying the Aerocool CS-106, a micro ATX case that promises full cooling support (including liquid cooling support with a 120mm radiator) – even though it’s much smaller than many other mATX cases.

And the best bit? It cost me less than £20 here in the UK, which is approximately $25. That’s great value, but does the case’s performance stack up? I answer this (and more) in this video, where I show all aspects of the case off – and also show how a PSU and two motherboards would fit inside of it.

If you prefer text over video, please read on for the guide/transcript version of this video.

Video Transcript And Guide

Hey everyone! I’m here today with my really good buddy, the Aerocool CS-106 computer case. Yes, it’s an inanimate object, but that’s not weird, all right?! Wilson, say “hi”…

YouTube thumbnail of me holding the Aerocool CS 106 case smiling with the text I Love This mATX case
Me holding the Aerocool CS-106 case

Wilsy’s a bit camera shy. I’ll put him away. That’s okay, but basically, the reason I bought this is it’s one of the smallest micro ATX cases I could find. I’m looking to build a home lab storage server type system, also known as a NAS, I suppose. And basically, this will fit in my networking corner in my study, so it’s a really good fit.

Um, of course, because it’s such a small case, and I’ll show the dimensions shortly, but because it’s such a small case, there are some downsides to it. Uh, for example, the PSU is at the top, which I’m not a massive fan of. Um, there’s going to be limited airflow and cable management potential, but overall, I think it’s actually a pretty good case for what I need. It’s not flashy, of course, but let’s just take a look at it.

So, the first thing you notice is there’s no side panel. There are literally two solid panels. Hi, Wilson! Sorry. Um, two solid panels, but of course, you’ve got space there for a side fan, which is kind of nice. You’ve also got space there for another case fan at the back. Your PSU will go there, your motherboard I/O shield will go there, then any expansion slots you’ve got will go there. For this particular build, I’m actually going to use a 10 GbE ethernet networking card, which will just obviously go there. There’s not going to be any graphics card in this build. I’m just going to use integrated graphics on my CPU because I don’t need that. This will just be for storage, but obviously, this does support graphics cards as well. I think on the back, it says it supports them up to 286 mm, which actually is a decent length. You’re not going to get a big triple fan in there. You’re not going to get an RTX 4090, but you will be able to fit a lot of other graphics cards in there.

Opening Up The Case

The inside of the Aerocool CS 106 mATX case
The inside of the Aerocool CS 106 mATX case

So, if we just open up this case… Let’s remove all of these… Ahhh!! I’m not Linus Tech Tips, I didn’t drop it! I almost did… Right, let me just put these down there. Okay, so this is what the computer case looks like inside – quite basic, I should say. The actual case is made of aluminum, just simple aluminum, then in the front, you’ve got this kind of brushed aluminum effect. It feels and looks actually pretty good. I should say that this case literally costs £20 in the UK market. This feels like a slightly more premium case, to be honest.

Um, and it does everything I want as well. In terms of the connectors, I’ll show the cable management in a minute. In terms of the connectors, you’ve got USB 3 (standard 3.0, I should say), standard USB 2.0, your headphone and microphone jacks, reset button, obviously your standard LEDs, and then your power button as well.

Um, the button’s got this little brushed effect, which is kind of cool, but obviously, this is it for the front panel I/O. You don’t have USB 3.2 or anything like that. It is a bit more basic, but obviously, you know, you can just compensate for that with your motherboard. You just need to be aware of the fact that it doesn’t have, you know, loads of I/O connectors.

The Front Panel

Photo of the front of the Aerocool CS 106 case
Photo of the front of the Aerocool CS 106 case

If we take the front panel off… right, all the cables are obviously pre-connected, as you can see there. It’s a bit weird at the front because you kind of have got this here, which almost makes it look like you could have an optical drive or something like that, but obviously, you can’t because it’s a solid front panel. I think probably this is just, you know, maybe they use this chassis with another build, and they’ve just got that in. I don’t really know.

But in terms of here, you’ve got space for two fans, or you could actually use it for liquid cooling – a 120 mm radiator would actually fit there as well, which is pretty nice. And then, yeah, you just got your cables going in there, so that’s pretty much the front, apart from the fact that on the side, you’ve obviously got this grill effect, so that, you know, that’s going to let airflow through. There’s no filter in there, it’s literally just a grill, so that will actually suck in air. So, you might want to actually buy a third-party mesh filter or just see whether you get dust and then compensate accordingly, I suppose.

Uh, let’s put that back on if I can… excellent! Okay, let’s go back to the internals now. We’ve got that, so basically, by default, it comes with one fan, an Aerocool fan. It’s decent, it would sort of work, but it’s certainly not perfect.

In terms of the case as a whole, as I mentioned at the start, the PSU fits at the top, which always makes me paranoid. I always fear that the PSU is going to fall onto my components, but I know it doesn’t really work out like that. But basically, yeah, it would slide in (need to make sure I get it the right way), it would slide in here. Yeah, you slide it in there, and then you’d screw it in.

I’m back! I realized that instead of randomly holding the PSU for the entire video, it would actually be better if I screwed it in, so at least you can see it a bit better. [ratchet screwdriver sound] Got to love it! It’s available from TechOverwriteStore.com. Okay, there is no store. That PSU is now in. You can see it there. So, it’s a top-mounted one. Obviously, as long as it’s screwed in, it’s not going to fall on all of your components, and I’m always a bit paranoid about that.

Motherboard Size Support

But that brings us onto the next thing, which is how the actual motherboard fits inside here and the cable management and all that. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually decide on the motherboard that I wanted to buy yet for this particular build. I’m debating whether to go for a DDR5, you know, future-proofed system or to go with a budget B450 AM4 type system.

As a result, I have actually created these very lifelike cardboard cutouts. So, this is a micro ATX one: you’ve got your CPU, your RAM, CMOS battery, and whatever this is – maybe a PCI Express slot? I don’t know, it’s very highly technical. And this is a mini-ITX with your CPU and your RAM and everything else.

So, in this particular case, if we get all of the cables out of the way for a minute, I’ll stick them at the back there… [moving cables]. There. There is actually, in this case, you can see, there’s a lot of cable management holes, which is pretty nice.

So, I’m just going to get them out of the way for a minute… [moves cables and fan]. These out of the way, I don’t really need that fan at all for now. So, just move that. Okay, so with all that done, if you were going to fit a mini-ITX motherboard, it would fit somewhere… Got to make sure it’s the right way up or my computer won’t boot? It’s going to fit there. You can see where the standoffs are. This is actually the right size. This is a — was it 170 by 170[mm[? So that’s where your mini-ITX motherboard would go.

How a mini ITX motherboard fits inside this case
How a mini ITX motherboard fits inside this case

I’ll get my hand out of the way now, but basically… Can I hold it from the back? Yes, I can sort of. That looks okay. In this particular case, you can see you have all the cable management stuff, absolutely fine. When it comes to your big, you know, your big motherboard connector, that’s going to come in probably… This fits perfectly. It’s going to come in there, it’s going to clip there, and then you can hide it away in the back, you know, with no issue. So actually, that’s quite nice. It feels like quite a good, spacious case for mini-ITX.

Then we come to micro ATX, which is probably what I’m going to go for because that’s going to be the more budget option. Then it’s just going to be easier all around. Got to make sure it’s the right way up and the CMOS battery doesn’t fall out. This is going to be a bit harder, so… [fumbling with mock motherboard].

Basically, it almost comes all the way, and this is 240 mm x 240 mm, so it is actually, you know, accurate to size. It’s what my current Asus motherboard uses. Um, and yeah, it just about fits. Just you can see it would be around there when you account for the motherboard standoffs and things like that, so it’s pretty big. It takes up quite a bit of space inside the case, as you can see. I’ll bring that forward a bit, but it does fit.

Um, of course, that’s where cable management comes in because if there were no cable management holes in this case, you would really struggle to actually fit everything in. But thankfully, there are some, and when you come to the actual… When it comes to the motherboard connector, you know, that would come through one of these three holes on the side here. motions to side holes

A micro ATX motherboard barely fits inside this compact case
A micro ATX motherboard barely fits inside this compact case

Look around and plug in, and that would work. You can just see there that would work.

CPU Power Cable Issue

Your CPU power connector is going to be a bit more of a pain because it’s in this top corner. I mean, it is a flaw – the CPU power connector, you know, is always in the top corner. It’s going to be a complete pain to actually get that in because, effectively, you can plug it in here easily enough. You can hide a lot of the cables in the back, but then you don’t really have the clearance to turn all the way around. You don’t really have the clearance to get a cable in somewhere to actually plug it in.

I mean, part of me, I don’t know… I don’t know what we’re going to do there. That’s going to look a bit silly, I think. So that is the one downside of the case that I can think of – is your CPU power connector. Um, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, and yeah, when I actually come to do the full build, I’ll take a picture of what I ended up doing with the CPU cable, and I’ll put it down in the comments as well, along with any other realizations I had about this case when I actually do the build.

There is not much space to run the CPU cable neatly with a micro ATX board fitted
There is not much space to run the CPU cable neatly with a micro ATX board fitted

But you can see that although this case does support normal-size micro ATX motherboards, there are going to be some trade-offs. Um, yeah, there’s not going to be much room there, but at the very least… I’ll get rid of that. [motions to mock motherboard] I’ll get rid of that. At the very least, you do have a lot of cable management holes, and you do have this slot here, so it might be that I can actually – because these are quite flat cables – it could be that I can actually route my cable into here and bring it around. Yeah, I might be able to do that, so I might actually have to do that. We will see. I’m not going to talk about this too much. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. It is quite a flat cable, so I might be able to have that clearance behind the motherboard tray to actually run the CPU cable, but that’s my only real concern.

Cooling Support

Um, so yeah, in terms of cooling, as I mentioned before, you’ve got your side fan on one of the windows, then you’ve got a rear exhaust. Well, it doesn’t have to be exhaust, but it’ll probably be exhaust. And then you’ve got your two intakes if you want them as intakes at the front here. It also does support liquid cooling, but you can imagine it’s going to all be a bit tight if you were to try and fit liquid cooling in here. It’s going to be a bit of a struggle.

Um, but overall, it’s not a bad case. As I said, I paid £19 for it, with – I think it was Scan in the UK. Some other retailers are selling it for like £25 in the UK, but overall, I’m actually pretty happy with this case for a server build. If you just want to stick it in the corner in your house, it works quite well, especially if you haven’t got a rack or you don’t actually want to learn how to build a rack server and things like that. So yeah, I’m pretty happy with it.

Aerocool CS-106 Dimensions

The last thing I wanted to do was just talk about the dimensions a little bit more. I do also have a Corsair Carbide 88R case from my main workstation computer, and that’s actually quite a small micro ATX case by modern standards, but it’s still a lot bigger than this, so I’ll put a comparison on the screen.

Corsair Carbide 88r vs Aerocool CS 106 case size comparison
Corsair Carbide 88r vs Aerocool CS 106 case size comparison

Final Thoughts

In terms of the other data, it does fit a 3.5-inch drive if you wanted one. I think it’s meant to be down here. I think, yeah, there’s the screw holes down there at the bottom, so you could literally just screw it onto the bottom there.

In terms of SSDs, it supports two, you know, normal size 2.5-inch SSDs as well. To be honest, if it was me though, I tend to just leave SSDs lying around my case. Yeah, you’re not going to have room in the back, I don’t think, for an SSD, but to be honest, with NVMe drives, it’s not going to be a massive issue anyway. I plan on just having a single 4 terabyte NVMe drive in here, and that’ll at least save on not having to have SATA cables and everything else running around my case.

Um, there’s not much else to know here other than the fact that it does say with liquid cooling, if you were to have a 120 mm radiator in the front, the case says they may interfere with a motherboard 24-pin connector. So in other words, this one, they’re basically saying if you were to have your liquid cooling in there, then you actually might struggle, especially with your micro ATX motherboards. You might actually struggle to get your cable all the way into here and then loop it back around because you’ve got something there.

Me starting to feed the motherboard PSU cable through one of the cases cable routing holes
Me starting to feed the motherboard PSU cable through one of the cases cable routing holes

So overall, I’m pretty impressed with this build for under £20 or under $25, I guess. It’s a pretty good case. You’ve got a nice brushed feel on the front, the rest is aluminum. You’ve got a lot of good cable management holes and things like that, so it is pretty good.

There is one thing you need to know though: if you were to actually use this side fan here, that’s going to actually interfere with the CPU cooler, so this case supports up to 167 mm heat sinks. But if you were to actually have a full-size fan on here, that’s going to interfere because that’s going to be jetting out a little bit, and then we’re inside the case, that’s going to reduce the clearance a little bit.

Um, what I’ve done as a result is buy a P12 slimline fan, which I’m going to use here, and I’ve actually bought two of them. I’m going to replace the standard fan as well with the slimline one. It’s just going to give me a bit of extra room. These two front fans are going to be the normal size ones, but then the side one and the back one, which are going to be my exhausts, I’m just going to use the slimline ones.

cropped A picture of me Tristan
About Tristan Perry

Tristan has been interested in computer hardware and software since he was 10 years old. He has built loads of computers over the years, along with installing, modifying and writing software (he's a backend software developer 'by trade').

Tristan also has an academic background in technology (in Math and Computer Science), so he enjoys drilling into the deeper aspects of technology.

Tristan is also an avid PC gamer, with FFX and Rocket League being his favorite games.

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