Testing Methodology

For those that didn't catch our brief word on our updated testing methodology from our SilverStone FT03 review, I'll give you a quick primer. After our first two case reviews since 2009 went over with mixed reception, we went back to the drawing board and worked up a better, hopefully more streamlined approach to case testing. First, we've standardized the parts we're using for case testing. For Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX enclosures, we're using the testbed I described in the FT03 review. For full ATX enclosures (e.g. mid-towers like the BUC and larger full-tower cases), we've kicked things up a notch. Below is the kit we're testing with; you'll see some overlap in a few places from our Mini-ITX board where the same components could handle the same jobs:

Full ATX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-875K (95W TDP, tested at stock speed and overclocked to 3.8GHz @ 1.38V)
Motherboard ASUS P7P55D-E Pro
Graphics Card Zotac NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 (244W TDP)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive
Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6Gbps
CPU Cooler Zalman CNPS9900 MAX with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Gold 750W 80 Plus Gold

For full ATX cases, we need to know not only how well they muffle sound but also how well they handle overclocked hardware. The Intel Core i7-875K we're using can run at an overclock nearly 900MHz faster than stock (and with a healthy dollop of voltage under it to boot). While going for maximum thermals would probably involve using an X58-based platform, LGA1155/1156 tend to be more popular and using that standard gives us the flexibility to potentially test air- and water-coolers down the line. It also bears mentioning that when we test under stock settings, the DDR3 runs at 1333MHz; it only goes up to 1600MHz when we're testing with the overclock in place.

My primary concern involves the BIOS-based fan controls. ASUS offers a decent amount of granularity in controlling the CPU fan, but I'd like to know what you think the ideal settings are. I currently have it set conservatively, to try and keep the processor below 60C, which is how I'd likely set it for my own system. But how would you set it? Would you just use ASUS's default "Silent" setting? Would you set a higher temperature threshold? Let us know.

Our actual testing procedures are unchanged from the Mini-ITX/Micro-ATX testbed, so here they are again:

Acoustic testing is standardized on a foot from the front of the case, using the Extech SL10 with an ambient noise floor of ~32dB. For reference, that's a silent apartment with nothing running, testing acoustics in the dead of night (usually between 1am and 3am). A lot of us sit about a foot away from our computers, so this should be a fairly accurate representation of the kind of noise the case generates, and it's close enough to get noise levels that should register above ambient.

Thermal testing is run with the computer having idled at the desktop for fifteen minutes, and again with the computer running both Furmark (where applicable) and Prime95 (less one thread when a GPU is being used) for fifteen minutes. I've found that leaving one thread open in Prime95 allows the processor to heat up enough while making sure Furmark isn't CPU-limited. We're using the thermal diodes included with the hardware to keep everything standardized, and ambient testing temperature is always between 71F and 74F. Processor temperatures reported are the average of the CPU cores.

And last but not least, it's important we thank the vendors who made our testbeds possible.

Thank You!

We have some thanks in order before we press on:

  • Thank you to Crucial for providing us with the Ballistix Smart Tracer memory we used to add memory thermals to our testing.
  • Thank you to Zalman for providing us with the CNPS9900 MAX heatsink and fan unit we used.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to CyberPower for providing us with the Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive, Intel Core i7-875K processor, ASUS P7P55D-E Pro motherboard, and Samsung BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW drive.
  • And thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the optical drive and power supply.
Assembling the IN-WIN BUC Noise and Thermal Testing, Stock
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  • stratosrally - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    "Just curious ... how much content do you have to steal to fill six harddrives?"

    That's a naive and needlessly antagonistic comment.

    I have over 217GB in my Steam folder alone and am currently using almost 500GB of a 750GB SATA HD. I have no movies on my pc and the only music I have is purchased online or burnt to MP3 from my own music CD collection.

    My new build has a 120GB Corsair SSD and 2 1TB WD Caviar Black drives in RAID 0, with an external 2TB WD backup. I won't need more space than that in the forseeable future, but I will be converting my entire CD collection to MP3 - so the additional space will be useful. Also, I'm sure Steam will have sales on new PC games that I want in the future and they just keep getting bigger!

    I'm 46yrs old and don't steal content, thank you very much.
    Reply
  • robd420 - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    I'm 25yrs old and i do, thank you very much. Reply
  • bji - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    So it sounds like your total need is ~500 GB, plus you anticipate some future need for backing up your CD collection and buying more games. Sounds like a 1 TB drive is all you'll need for some time.

    You are clearly a person who would be fine with a case that only takes 6 hard drives. My comment was directed at the O.P. who was lamenting not being able to put more than 6 hard drives in a case. Even with cheap 500 GB hard drives, 6 slots gives you ~3 TB. Who exactly is filling up 3 TB of data with legitimate content except people shooting a hell of alot of high definition home video? And how many people actually do that versus people needing the space for warez?
    Reply
  • Chalabala - Tuesday, July 05, 2011 - link

    Go read up on raid 60 =D Reply
  • StormyParis - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    That was kinda his point, though: you barely fill 500 MB of HD right now, and have big plans to raise that to 2 GBs. That's, as you say, two drives, which most any case will fit. I personnally just bought a Thermaltake Element Q, which is slightly smaller than a shoe box, and will take up to 3 3.5" HDDs. Right now, my single 3TB drive sits barely a third full, though. Reply
  • doubletake - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    0/10 troll. Your comment is beyond moronic. This is a tech enthusiast site. Keyword: enthusiast. As in, not your average Joe with a few pictures, movies and music files. You have no idea how fast you could fill up 300GBs with HD camcorder video files, or uncompressed recorded footage from games used to edit later. Try widening your perspective and thinking a bit more critically before opening that brain-mouth link. Reply
  • $tinkmitt - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Well put. I was sure when he/SHE got his/HER @$$ handed to him/HER after the 1st comment he/SHE would just drift off into obscurity, tail soundly tucked.

    But nooooo. This "Genius" (and I fully mean the implication), has got an opinion we just missed the 1st go round.

    I don't even think he/SHE knows what clearly means.
    Reply
  • bji - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    Heh heh you're funny. I fully admitted that my comments were somewhat inflammatory; but if you think that anyone is going to run away from a discussion on an internet forum just because of some flaming (well deserved, probably), then I think you haven't been using the internet long enough. Reply
  • StormyParis - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    quick question: are you, parent and grand parent, saying that it's actually your case, or that you can imagine this being someone else's case ? Because I indeed, do not know of anyone one who uses more than 1 GB for legitimate stuff on a personnal PC. And usually, far less. Reply
  • StormyParis - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    that's TB, not GB. SOrry. Reply

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