New Components, New Approach
After 20 or so enclosure reviews over the past year and a half and some pretty inconsistent test hardware along the way, I decided to adopt a standardized test bench for all reviews going forward. Makes sense, right? Turns out choosing the best components for a cases and cooling test system was a lot more difficult than I expected going in, as special consideration had to be made for everything from form-factor to noise and heat levels.
Along with the new components I will also be changing the approach to future reviews by expanding the scope of CPU cooler testing. After some debate as to the type of CPU cooler to employ I decided that a better test of an enclosure would be to use both closed-loop liquid and air cooling for every review, and provide thermal and noise results for each. For CPU cooler reviews themselves I'll be adding a "real-world" load result to the charts to offer a more realistic scenario, running a standard desktop application (in this case a video encoder) in addition to the torture-test result using Prime95.
But what about this new build? It isn't completely done but here's a quick look at the components I ended up with so far along with the rationale for each selection.
CPU – Intel Core i5-6600K ($249, Amazon.com)
The introduction of Intel’s 6th generation Skylake processors provided the
excuse opportunity for an upgrade after using an AMD FX-6300 system for the last couple of enclosure reviews, and after toying with the idea of the new i7-6700K, and immediately realizing this was likely overkill and (more importantly) completely unavailable for purchase at the time, I went with the more "reasonable" option with the i5. There has long been a debate as to the need for hyper-threading for gaming (though this may be changing with the introduction of DX12) but in any case this is still a very powerful processor and when stressed should produce a challenging enough thermal load to adequately test both CPU coolers and enclosures going forward.
GPU – XFX Double Dissipation Radeon R9 290X ($347, Amazon.com)
This was by far the most difficult selection. I don’t think of my own use when choosing a card for a test system like this, as it must meet a set of criteria to be a good fit for enclosure benchmarks. If I choose a card that runs very cool and with minimal noise, GPU benchmarks will be far less significant as the card won’t adequately challenge the design and thermal characteristics of the enclosure. There are certainly options that run at greater temperatures and higher noise (a reference R9 290X for example), but I didn’t want a blower-style cooler with the GPU. Why? More and more GPUs are released with some sort of large multi-fan design rather than a blower, and for enclosure testing I want to know how the case handles the extra warm air.
Noise was an important consideration, as levels from an enclosure of course vary based on the installed components. With noise measurements a GPU cooler that has very low output at idle (or zero, as some recent cooler designs permit) will allow system idle levels to fall more on case fans and airflow than a GPU that might drown them out. (This would also allow a better benchmark of CPU cooler noise - particularly with self-contained liquid coolers and audible pump noise.) And while I wanted very quiet performance at idle, at load there must be sufficient noise to measure the performance of the enclosure in this regard, though of course nothing will truly tax a design quite like a loud blower. I hope I've found a good balance here.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2015 - 07:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Lian Li, full tower, enclosure, cases, aluminum case
Looking for a super deluxe way to hold just about any size rig? Lian Li has a sophisticated looking option with the new X510 full-tower enclosure.
An all-aluminum case (of course - it's Lian Li!) with a no-nonsense design aesthetic and very roomy interior, the X510 still keeps a fairly trim profile thanks to the omission of 5.25-inch drive bays.
Here are some of the key features from Lian Li:
- Isolated air chambers for efficient cooling
- Fits huge components – 330mm VGA Card, 180mm CPU cooler, 245mm PSU length
- Eight expansion slots
- Support for eight total drives
- Tempered glass window for showing off hardware
- Included fan speed controller
The glass side window and included fan controller are nice touches, and while the X510 carries a steep MSRP it doesn't seem out of place for an all-alumimum case like this (depending on performance). So what is pricing/availability? The X510 should be available later in September for $399.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 31, 2015 - 05:25 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: matx case, Indiegogo, enclosures, crowdfunding, Crono Labs, cases, C1 Computer Case
Crono Labs of Galway, Ireland is a startup that hopes to “declutter your desk” with their C1 Computer Case, a unique enclosure that allows you to mount a VESA compliant monitor to the case itself, creating your own all-in-one system.
The C1 is a slim micro-ATX enclosure with support for standard ATX power supplies and graphics cards up to 10.5”, and it sits on a stand that looks like that of a standard monitor.
Here’s a list of compatible components from Crono Labs:
- mATX or ITX motherboard
- ATX PSU
- Two 3.5″ drives
- Two 2.5″ drives
- GPU’s up to 10.5″
- Low profile CPU coolers
- Four 120mm fans
- Water Cooling: 1X 120mm cooler and 1X 240mm cooler can be used, at the same time. Water coolers will not fit if an mATX motherboard is used
The Indiegogo page is now up, and with a modest goal of $2000 they hope to create their initial prototypes before moving to the next phase of funding for production. It’s an interesting concept, and it looks like they have thought this design through with some nice touches:
- A short VGA, HDMI and branching power cable come with the case for reduced cable clutter. Less mess, less stress.
- Rotated motherboard points the IO ports downwards for tidier cables. The motherboard is also raised up into the case to allow cables to go beneath it.
- Carry handle makes transporting the case easy, from desk to desk or room to room.
- The case has a very small footprint, leaving you with a much more pleasing work area, for all that important stuff you do.
The idea of creating a portable all-in-one type system is appealing for the space-constrained or for LAN gaming, and the ability to use full-sized components would allow for a more powerful, and lower cost, build. What do you think of this design?
Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 2, 2015 - 09:07 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: PC-O8, Lian Li, enclosures, dual-compartment enclosure, DK-02, desk chassis, computex 2015, computex, cases
Lian Li is showing two new versions of their massive desk system chassis at Computex, as well as a new dual-compartment enclosure.
The DK-Q2 Desk Chassis
From Lian Li:
"Like the previous desk chassis, the aluminum body and tempered glass surface highlight the minimalism of this practical fusion of desk and chassis. The updates on these new models add simplicity to system building, more refined aesthetics and ergonomics. New thinner body and stronger adjustable legs add to the look and workplace efficiency of this growing line of computer desks."
PC-O8 dual-compartment enclosure
From Lian Li:
"The PC-O8 dual-compartment chassis combines aluminum and tempered glass to show off DIY builders high-end, intricate setups, while hiding cables and less eye catching components in the large compartment behind the motherboard tray."
Pricing and availability for these new enclosures has not been announced.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 1, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: obsidian 750d, corsair, computex 2015, computex, cases, atx case, airflow edition, AF140L
Corsair has unveiled a new version of its 750D full-tower enclosure, and this iteration features a perforated front grill to improve airflow. The new enclosure also includes three of Corsair’s AF140L high-airflow, low-noise 140mm fans (2 front intake fans and 1 rear exhaust fan).
Here are some of the spec highlights from Corsair:
- Perforated front grille for improved cooling
- Nine expansion slots for larger motherboards and running multiple graphics cards or expansion boards simultaneously
- Six tool-free 3.5”/2.5” combo bays in two modular hard drive cages, with room for two more cages for up to 12 combo drive bays
- Four tool-free 2.5” side-mounted drive cages for SSDs, out of the airflow path
- Three tool-free 5.25” bays for expansion
- Four front mounted USB ports for easy peripheral or external storage device connection
- Three AF140L high-airflow 140mm fans (2 front, 1 rear) for excellent airflow and low noise levels
- Room for up to 8 fans
- Radiator compatibility:
- Top – 360mm or 280mm
- Front – 280mm or 240mm
- Bottom – 240mm
- Rear – 140mm or 120mm
Storage Layout Options
- Modular hard drive cages can be configured in four separate mounting locations.
- Side-mounted 2.5” cages allow quick, easy removal of the 3.5” drive cages for better airflow or room for radiators, while maintaining capacity for up to four 2.5” drives.
The 750D Airflow Edition will carry a $159.99 MSRP and will be available immediately through Corsair's usual retail channels.
Introduction and First Impressions
SilverStone has another contender for a budget ATX build with the Kublai KL05 enclosure, and today we’ll take a look at the windowed variant of this mid-tower design.
What would life be like without computer cases? Various components strewn about on desks, tables, and floors, creating headaches and tripping hazards everywhere. Fortunately, they exist, and I'm thankful for this every day. However there are now so many that scrolling down the list on any site in any price range is like shopping for RAM or power supplies these days: endless selection of similar things. But it's not enough to make sure the specs match your build as enclosures can vary a great deal even with the same component support. So, when looking for a good case for a build or upgrade you just end up reading a review like this. I hope I don't disappoint you, and we have a pretty interesting offering from SilverStone here to consider.
I've been enamored of late with lower-priced components. Sure, I've reviewed $300 cases but as cool as the high end can be it's not realistic for a lot of people (myself included). Finding great value has always been kind of fun, and to me a great value for a PC enclosure is something well under the $100 mark. I had the pleasure of reviewing NZXT's excellent S340 enclosure recently, and the SilverStone Kublai we're about to take a look at carries the same $69.99 MSRP. A larger case than the NZXT, the Kublai retains support for 5.25" optical drives and makes use of this added space up front for plenty of hard drives. The case looks and it sounds like a good value, but there's only one way to find out (and it involved actually reviewing it).
Introduction and First Impressions
The RV05 is the current iteration of SilverStone's Raven enclosure series, and a reinvention of their ATX enthusiast design with a revised layout that eliminates 5.25" drive bays for a smaller footprint.
Return to Form
The fifth edition of SilverStone's Raven is a return to form of sorts, as it owes more to the design of the original RV01 than the next three to follow. The exterior again has an aggressive, angular look with the entire enclosure sitting up slightly at the rear and tilted forward. Though the overall effect is likely less visually exciting than the original, depending on taste, in its simplicity the design feels more refined and modern than the RV01. Some of the sharpest angles have been eliminated or softened, though the squat stance coupled with its smaller size gives the RV05 an energetic appearance - as if it's ready to strike. (OK, I know it's just a computer case, but still...)
The Raven series is important to the case market as a pioneer of the 90º motherboard layout for ATX systems, expanding on the design originally developed by Intel for the short-lived BTX form-factor. In the layout implemented in the Raven series the motherboard is installed with the back IO panel facing up, which requires the graphics card to be installed vertically. This vertical orientation assists with heat removal by exploiting the tendency of warm air to rise, and when implemented in an enclosure like the RV05 it can create an excellent thermal environment for your components. The RV05 features large fans at the bottom of the case that push air upward and across the components on the motherboard, forcing warm air to exit through a well-ventilated top panel.
And the RV05 isn't just a working example of an interesting thermal profile, it's actually a really cool-looking enclosure with some premium features and suprisingly low price for a product like this at $129 on Amazon as this was written. In our review of the RV05 we'll be taking a close look at the case and build process, and of course we'll test the thermal performance with some CPU and GPU workloads to find out just how well this design performs.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 12, 2015 - 11:22 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: phanteks, mini-itx, micro-atx, Enthoo Mini XL, enclosure, dual-motherboard, cases
Phanteks has introduced a computer enclosure with a new form-factor they are calling “super micro ATX”, a large alternative to standard mATX designs that has the advantage of supporting two complete systems within a single case.
The second motherboard is supported via their ITX upgrade kit, and as the name indicates the second system must be built on the mini-ITX platform. While this might appeal to a very small market there is a need for running discrete systems for some users, and this design is certainly an interesting alternative to running two boxes. How it handles heat dissipation is a good question, but considering the “extreme cooling” capacity of the case - with up to 14x 120mm or 8x 140mm fan mounts - there would be plenty of room for a pair of AIO solutions to keep the CPU heat outside of the enclosure.
The mini-ITX board is installed at the top (Image credit: cowcotland.com)
The enclosure’s dimensions are (WxHxD) 260mm x 550mm x 480mm (10.24” x 21.65” x 18.90”), and the feature list includes:
- Dual removable hard drive cages
- 2x removable Drop-N-Lock SSD brackets
- Fully equipped with dustfilters (1x top, 1x front, 2x bottom)
- Removable top panel for easy fan installation and dust filter cleaning
- Compartment for fan installation in top panel
- Clean cable management using Phanteks' preinstalled Hoop-N-Loop cable ties
- Mod friendly structure uses screws NOT rivets
- 10 color abient lighting controller
- 2x USB 3.0, microphone, 3.5mm audio jack
Two backplates! (Image credit: cowcotland.com)
For full specs see the product page at the Phanteks site. Pricing is not listed and searching for the product at the usual places doesn’t turn up any listings as of this morning.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 9, 2015 - 04:02 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: mini-itx, enclosure, Deepcool, ces 2015, CES, cases
Deepcool has announced a couple of new mini-ITX enclosures, and they are anything but average.
The Deepcool Tristellar (Credit: Legit Reviews)
First we have one of the wildest looking enclosures at I’ve ever seen (other than the In Win D-Frame mini), and it looks very much like an Imperial shuttle (ROTJ, anyone?). With three sections connected to a central hub, the Tristellar has the look of some sort of spacecraft, and would appear at first glance to be rather complicated to build in (though I'd love to find out first-hand).
Exploded view of the Tristellar (Credit: Legit Reviews)
The enclosure was featured as the basis of an upcoming gaming system from CyberPower, and it would indeed house a capable gaming machine with support for mini-ITX motherboards, full-size graphics cards, and standard ATX power supplies.
The second case is a little more conventional on the surface, but again we have a design that is quite a departure.
The Pentower enclosure (Credit: Legit Reviews)
The upright Pentower enclosure seems to borrow from the design of the latest-gen Mac Pro (albeit in a less cylindrical fashion), but is not built upon the Mac’s cooling design (in which the CPU and GPU are directly connected to the large central heatsink). Such a design seems ideal for this enclosure shape, but Deepcool has implemented their own air cooling system here.
The Mac Pro’s thermal design (Credit: Apple, Inc)
With the Pentower standard components can be used and installation should be relatively easy since “after the shell is removed, all of the panels and trestles are exposed (and) users can install units directly without uninstall(ing) any other part of the case“, according to the press release.
There is no listing for the Tristellar or Pentower cases on the Deepcool website as of today, and naturally pricing and availability have not been announced.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 22, 2014 - 08:16 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: wall mount, Steam Machine, PC-05S, mini-itx, Lian Li, enclosure, cases, aluminum case
Techspot posted a review of the unreleased Lian Li PC-05S case over the weekend, and as you can see it’s a lot more interesting than the generic name might suggest.
The case features aluminum construction (of course - it’s a Lian Li!) and a tempered glass side to showcase the build. And what better way to show off a build than hanging it on the wall like a picture? Well, the reviewer didn’t show this but the case is described as a “wall mountable open-air chassis” by Lian Li on their site. Overall, Techspot liked the PC-05S and called it “a beautiful case that is well-designed inside and out”.
Looks great on a desk!
At just over 14 lbs (without components) this will require some planning to mount on a wall. The dimensions (WHD) are 15.1” x 18.3” x 5.8”, and it has a similar layout to Steam Machine cases like the SilverStone RV01 which we reviewed back in January. Like the RV01, the PC-05S requires a mini-ITX motherboard and orients the GPU at a 90° angle (via an included ribbon adapter) to fit in such a slim enclosure. The PC-05S also requires an SFX power supply (such as the SilverStone SX600-G we reviewed recently) and supports 240mm radiators.
Many more photos and full specs are available on the main product page, and the Lian Li PC-05S is slated for a February 2015 release. The cost? $319.