Nothing screams PC enthusiast like a computer built into your desk. A desk PC case is unique, versatile, and can be a fun hands-on project if you want it to be. In this article, we cover the best prebuilt desk PC cases currently on the market, and for you handymen and women out there, we break down a few impressive custom builds from around the internet for your inspiration.
Prebuilt Desk PC Cases
If you don’t enjoy spending a lot of time at Home Depot, you might prefer buying a prebuilt desk PC case. But don’t expect to shirk the building process altogether — there is almost always some assembly required followed by the actual PC building process.
Most desk PC cases will give you plenty of room to build in, but the challenge is often finding enough components to sufficiently and aesthetically fill that space.
Harder still is finding a prebuilt PC desk case for sale from a company that still exists. It’s an expensive niche market that hasn’t been kind to smaller sellers. Thankfully, companies like Lian Li and a few others are still able to produce good offerings.
Lian Li launched three new desk PC cases in 2020. Their flagship model, the DK-05F, is a 55″-wide motorized desk that supports a dual system setup. This high-end standing desk case is made with iron legs, an aluminum chassis, and a full-glass tabletop. The case offers tons of room to run an intricate water cooling setup and its special electrochromic glass gives you the option to either conceal it or show it all off.
Sandwiched between two layers of tempered glass is a liquid crystal film that is transparent when switched on and instantly opaque when switched off. This feature is perfect for hiding your components should you ever get self-conscious about messy cables or how hardcore you are. We imagine it’s also a neat party trick.
While the DK-05F’s modular internal design makes it easy to build in, it isn’t particularly easy to access afterward. AK Mod, whose DK-05F build we featured, tells us the upper cover glass is “very heavy and requires multiple people to carry”.
The DK-05F’s little brother, the DK-04F, sits at just over 39″-wide and is considerably more affordable. Since it only has the capability to support a single system, you lose the second set of USB and audio I/O ports and the additional motherboard tray. As a consolation, you get more room for hard drives.
The smaller version supports six 3.5″ hard drives and three SSDs, compared to the DK-05F’s support for only four drives per system. All other features are virtually identical including the switchable smart glass.
For our money, the most compelling option is the third variant, the “base edition” DK-04GX. It has the exact same size and specs as the DK-04F but makes one regretful yet cost-saving substitution — replacing the electrochromic glass with a standard piece of tempered glass.
Dropping the switchable smart glass knocks another couple hundred dollars off the price tag bringing this electric desk PC on par price-wise with many of the top tier electric standing desks on the market.
If you think about it…
Lian Li’s product line combines two expensive and niche product categories: the PC desk case and the motorized standing desk. Considering the latter is a rapidly growing market that is already in a premium category, it’s a rather brilliant move by the Taiwanese computer case manufacturer.
A standard desk PC seeks to replace both a desk and PC case. But separately, these items commonly only cost $50-$300 each. Meanwhile, motorized standing desk prices themselves are already in the $300-$1000 range. It is much easier to justify the cost of a motorized desk PC case vs. a regular ol’ desk, and that makes Lian Li’s line extra compelling.
The Hydra Desk is an older, larger, 59″-wide desk PC case with dual system support. It also has clever installation points for four radiators in its right leg (pictured above). The Hydra Desk case is a solid alternative to Lian Li’s DK-05F if you don’t care for standing desk functionality or foggy glass.
If the aforementioned desk PC cases are out of your budget, there exists an older and much more affordable option. The Vector Desk Mini (VDM01) from Vector Custom Designs retails between $500-$700, depending on where you are in the world and if you can even find it in stock. At 29.5”-by-23.5”, the smallest option on our list still makes for a roomy computer case.
If you like the design of the VDM01 but not its size, its bigger brother, the VD01, measures in at 43.3”-by-31.5”. We appreciate Vector’s minimalist designs but have a tough time recommending their product line over the Lian Li’s, given their limited availability.
Red Harbinger Cross Desk (Discontinued)
As we touched on earlier, the land of retail desk PC cases is filled with discontinued designs. Notable vendors like Red Harbinger came to market with a slick desk PC case in 2012 but went out of business three years later.
Their design was ahead of their time and looks modern even today. If you are lucky, you can still find the Red Harbinger Cross Desk used on eBay, Craigslist, or relevant forums online.
DIY PC Desks: Ideas & Inspiration
For those of you in pursuit of something completely unique and are willing to get your hands splintered, let’s talk DIY PC desks. The DIY route is an attractive proposition to two main camps of people: those who want a stealth PC completely hidden inside a desk drawer and those who want a unique showpiece.
Both cases (no pun intended) will require the investment of time, parts, and tools to achieve the desired look. In this section, we look at some great PC desk builds from both schools of thought and a few that land somewhere in between.
Tools for the Job
Having a well-equipped toolbox helps, but you don’t need to be a carpenter to make a slick looking desk PC. Here are our recommended tools starting from bare necessities to more advanced, nice-to-haves.
Essential Tools and Supplies:
- Motherboard standoffs
- Double-sided tape/velcro
- Power drill
- Safety goggles
- Wood glue
Recommended Tools and Supplies:
- PCI-E riser cable (shielded)
- 1.5” drill bit
- Circular saw bit
- Rubber grommets
- Cable routing channels
- Anti-sag stiffener
Advanced Tools and Supplies:
- 3D printer
- Handheld CNC
- Rivet Gun
- Gas struts
- Tempered Glass
- Fan control & temperature monitor LCD
Stealth Desk PCs
If you want a stealth build, you have plenty of options that require minimal DIY work. Simply select a desk that suits your preferences and budget and then mount your components inside the drawer. However, component selection will be a crucial part of the process if you’re working with limited drawer space.
A PCI-E riser cable, AIO cooler, and a small form factor (SFF) PSU, can allow you to build a PC in a tight space.
A PCI-E riser cable decouples your GPU from the motherboard allowing you to lay your GPU down flat in a drawer. An AIO water cooler, in contrast to air coolers, lets you move the bulky metal radiator from on top of the motherboard to the back or bottom of a drawer, or wherever it is you plan to have your fan holes drilled. And a small form factor PSU is exactly what it sounds like. However, it will still likely be your biggest point of contention on clearance.
Alternatively, you won’t have to worry about clearance at all if your desk has a larger side drawer you could build in. You have a lot of flexibility for computer placement since it will be tucked away out of sight anyways.
To learn more about the desk PC build featured in this section and stealth builds in general, check out YetAnotherTechChannel. He covers in detail a few different DIY builds he’s done ranging from budget to high-end.
Showpiece Desk PCs
Most people putting together a desk PC intend to be clear in their intentions, showing off all their hardware via glass tabletop — and we have no shortage of great example builds doing just that. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite showpiece DIY desk PC builds.
Quick Notes About Glass:
If you are building your own PC Desk with visible components, you can get tempered glass in almost any shape and size. And you can even save money by buying some precut or leftover glass sheets from your local home improvement store. A small component window cut into your desk will be relatively inexpensive and easy to fill out with parts.
A full-length tempered glass tabletop will be more expensive not only for the glass but for the subsequent amount of PC components, water cooling elements, and other hardware required to properly fill that available space.
Optical mice also don’t play well with glass, so you’ll need to consider mousepad placement in your planning process.
Peter Brands’ Thermaltake Case Desk Mod
This build comes from liquid cooling enthusiast Peter Brands, the same man behind the design of Red Harbinger’s Cross Desk. He cleverly combined two Thermaltake Core P5 cases to build a stunning, floating dual PC desk case. He cut down the cases’ metal spacers, mounted them side-by-side on the wall with standard shelf holders, and then laid a nice long piece of glass across them.
Best of all, this is not too complicated or expensive to replicate if you already have a circular saw handy. Check out his full build log here.
MA Modified’s Halfway Showpiece
The compromise between a full glass tabletop and a hidden drawer PC is something like our featured build by MA Modified shown above.
A “halfway showpiece” allows you to save money on glass, use a wide range of desks and tabletops, and is perfect for a modest PC build with few components. Giant desk component windows are nice but as some unsuspecting builders discover, it can be challenging to actually fill them with components — especially with a single system.
MA Modified fills out his display drawer nicely with plenty of RGB fans and custom water cooling loops. He utilizes a hidden compartment below the drawer for clean cable management and two USB 3.0 ports that look right at home on the front side of the drawer.
The most impressive part about this DIY PC desk build may be that it was his first carpentry project! He proves that with little carpentry experience and enough persistence, it’s possible to put together a lovely DIY build.
u/HenrikJ_95’s Expert Mode DIY Desk PC:
If you have solid woodworking experience, maybe you can take a crack at something as slick as this 71″ behemoth from Reddit user u/HenrikJ_95. All told, this desk project took him ten months’ worth of man-hours and around $1000 in materials.
We’re big fans of the overall design and the nuanced details like the front-mounted temperature monitor and illuminated buttons. The 7″ strip of solid wood in the back accents the glass nicely and makes monitor placement and mounting much easier. It has the added benefit of a concealed space for cable management and power supply placement.
The glass panel was also installed on hinges for easy access to his PC components, which is a useful and often overlooked feature desk PCs. The legs on this desk are an affordable and elegant solution — a flat scrap piece of aluminum that was cut, bent to size, and painted.
If you seek to build something similar, you can save a lot on materials by forgoing the expensive automotive grade paint he used and finding a pre-cut piece of tempered glass first, and then building your desk around that. Getting custom cut glass will always be more expensive.
Build or Buy, You Decide
If you have an enterprising attitude, hopefully our DIY section has inspired you to make something totally unique. Measure twice, cut once and do your best to balance aesthetics, noise, and airflow. If you prefer a simpler path forward, go with one of our prebuilt desk PC case picks like the budget-friendly VDM01 or one of the premium standing desk PC cases from Lian Li.
Whatever you end up building, please share it with us on social media or submit it to our gallery. We’d love to see what you come up with!