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 | 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.
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).