NVIDIA RTX 4090: getting the right case for a MONSTER cardIf you thought the RTX 3080 from NVIDIA was big, then think again: the RTX 4090 is a monster. Even cases that housed the previous generation will not be enough for the RTX 4090.

With the previous generation of NVIDIA cards, buying a card, be it the RTX 3080 or RTX 3090, was a challenging task, as there was a shortage of both versions and some people had to wait months to get their hands on the card they wanted. I remember, then, that we first had a MSI Suprim 3080 card that would not fit inside my case, a model which I believed was fit for most of the modern graphics cards. At the time I had to set for another MSI RTX 3080, the Gaming Trio X, that was available and… would fit my case.

NVIDIA RTX 4090: getting the right case for a MONSTER card
The Corsair Carbide 300R accepts 450mm graphics cards, but they can not be the size of the RTX 4090…

My case for the RTX 3080 PC build, in case you’re wondering, is the Corsair Carbide 300R, which Corsair sells with this: “Great systems start with a great case, and Carbide Series 300R provides a remarkable number of features in a compact chassis. Easy access, lots of room for expansion, and superior cooling make the 300R an excellent choice for building powerful PCs that don’t take up a lot of room.”

I hate big computer cases, so the Carbide 300R was – and still is – a great solution. In fact, it has lasted long, as it was bought for a PC built before the RTX 3080, housing a RTX 2070 that fitted perfectly in the space available for graphics cards. I used to laugh at my son’s Nox Hummer PC case, which I used to say was so big we could not invite his girlfriend to stay over… but when the MSI RTX 3080 Suprim arrived he was the one to laugh, as his case was big enough for the card and mine wasn’t. I had to wait for the smaller MSI RTX 3080 Gaming Trio X to be available, as it was the only one I would be able to fit in my case.

NVIDIA RTX 4090: getting the right case for a MONSTER card
No way would I be able to fit the new RTX 4090 inside the black Corsair Carbide 300R

Not a problem of length

As a footnote, let me say that may son has changed recently to a more “friendly” – in terms of footprint – solution, a white case from LIAN LI, provider of some interesting cases. He has the LANCOOL-II-Mesh-rgb, a medium case in white (also available in black) that I’ve looked at with some envy, not because of the RGB lights but because of its design, inside space and cooling options. Still, when I think of it, I never cared much about cases, I always looked for a solution that would fit my needs, one of them being enough space to fit all I needed. Until now…

This time there was no need to wait for graphics cards to be available: I ordered a RTX 4090 MSI Gaming Trio X – as I am happy with the RTX 3080 I bought from MSI – and was told delivery would take a matter of days. Having decided I would keep my previous build, using an Intel i7-9700K that continues to be a good all-rounder, I imagined that I would simply remove my RTX 3080 and fit the RTX 4090. The more I thought about it, the more I believed it would not work.

NVIDIA RTX 4090: getting the right case for a MONSTER card
The LANCOOL III with the RTX 4090 (left) and with the RTX 3080 (right)

Corsair does say that the Carbide 300R is designed to accept a maximum GPU length (mm) of 450mm, so the MSI RTX 4090 Gaming Trio X, which has 337mm, should fit well inside the case. But I had my doubts, as I already had trouble to fit the RTX 3080, not in terms of length, but height, inside the Corsair case. After a couple of days measuring everything, comparing specifications online, I decided I was not going to risk it and ordered a new PC case, that I would pick myself at my supplier.

NVIDIA RTX 4090: getting the right case for a MONSTER card
The LIAN LI LANCOOL III is a mid-tower that will allow you to have a system with multiple disks, both HDD and SSD while still leaving the center space free for everything else. It’s a dream case and not so much bigger than the Carbide 300R

The last case in town

That was the best decision I made. After looking around for a solution I opted for the LANCOOL-III-Mesh from LIAN LI, which is the version after the one my son has. The LANCOOL III, is, according to the company, “the premium mid-tower chassis, offers better thermal performance than LANCOOL II by including 4 pre-installed 140mm PWM fans, and featuring fine mesh panels designed to ensure ample airflow is delivered to the high-end components while the system runs at peak performance.”

My version does not have any RGB fans… but my new RTX 4090 does have a rainbow of colors, which are more subtle that the disco-looking lights in my son’s PC case… and are turned away from me. I carried the LANCOOL III – which was the last one available in the shop – home and started to transfer my PC build from the Corsair Carbide 300R into its new home.

I’ve decided to keep my previous build running until I choose which new Intel CPU from the 13th generation I will buy, so it made sense to move the previous build to the new case, also because I wanted to do some tests to see what I’ve gained by simply moving from the RTX 3080 to the RTX 4090, as my results may interest others who want to keep their older CPUs running for a while more. That’s for another article; right now, I want to share the experience of having to buy a new case.

NVIDIA RTX 4090: getting the right case for a MONSTER cardTwo problems with most PC cases: height and width

Right when I was at the end of moving components between cases, the RTX 4090 arrived and it was tempting to install it… but I decided to wait, to go ahead with the Cinebench and other tests on the RTX 3080. When I unpacked the RTX 4090 just to look at it, I immediately found out that it would not fit in my Carbide 300R, and as I suspected, it’s not a problem of length… but height. The RTX 4090 has 77mm, and the 56mm of the RTX 3080 left no free vertical space available inside the case.

That’s a problem many people will face and there is another problem too: as the connection to the RTX 40 series needs an adapter, you need to have a case with a larger width that many of the slim cases people buy. The Corsair Carbide 300R has dimensions of 485mm x 210mm x 449mm and the LIAN LI LANCOOL III has 523mm x 238mm x 526 mm. The difference between 210mm and 238mm suggests that I would not be able to plug the cable in place, even if I could fit the RTX 4090 inside the Carbide 300R. The cable is almost touching the glass windowpane on the LANCOOL III…

NVIDIA RTX 4090: getting the right case for a MONSTER cardThe images published here – captured with my Samsung S22 Ultra while working –  give you an idea of how the same build and components fits inside the Carbide 300R and the LANCOOL III. I also show how the LANCOOL III looks with the RTX 4090 inside. Don’t get me wrong, the Carbide 300R is an excellent Corsair PC case – and I will continue to use it for a second PCVR I want to build in 2023, but no way would I be able to use it for the MONSTER that the RTX 4090 is. It’s not just size, it’s also power, but that’s something for another article.

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