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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  • ggathagan - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    If you look at the pictures, you'll note that it's not really a SATA backplane.
    It's hot-swap connectors mounted on 4 of the 5 drive bays.
    Reply
  • Belard - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    In-Win has been a rather small company for a very long time. I've built systems with their cases 10 years ago. In general, they do come (and in the past) some very cool designs. But for the most part - in the past 4-6 years, their design have gone towards plain or ugly (IMHO).

    But I've seen the BUC at a store, and it is a very very nice looking case.
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    My first PC used an In-Win case. It had a Celeron 333A to give you a time frame. :)

    They've always been a quality, value-oriented case manufacturer.
    Reply
  • Belard - Saturday, May 14, 2011 - link

    Around that era, I sold some In-Wins. They even had decent PSUs. Reply
  • shamans33 - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    Nice to see CPU HSF clearance values on the features table.

    It might be nice to see a list of unusual features onto a table as well (as a summary of key new features)
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    The only thing I don't like about routing the power supply wiring behind the motherboard is that its a pain if you want to swap it out. I spent a long time routing all my power supply wiring in my case, and then my son's computer had trouble. I suspected the power supply, but needed to put mine into his computer to properly troublshoot. So I had to undo my hard work... Reply
  • jrocks84 - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    The noise and thermal testing graphs are very helpful for making decisions on cases. Not that many case reviews give this data, so it's nice to see more sites adopting this testing. Reply
  • Ammaross - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    Anand, perhaps while you're on full ATX cases with backplanes for the hard drives, could you look over the AzzA Hurrican 2000? (yes, no 'e' in 'Hurrican'). I used it recently for my home rig and I think others might like to see your take on it. :) Reply
  • nightalon - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    I don't mean to sound like a snob, but Mr Sklavos needs to clean up his article a bit.

    Anand's style is much more coherent, uses fewer cliches, and adheres to more conventional and conservative journalistic style.

    I'm not implying that reviewers shouldn't be creative with their language, but using the word "popped" about 15 times seems excessive to me.

    Also, if there are any questions for readers in an article, they should come at the start or in the conclusion.

    I highly recommend some of the Engadget editors and reviewers for examples of good writing. Pogue and Mossberg, of NYT and WSJ respectively, also do a good job, although I think their target demographic is slightly different.

    Nonetheless, adherence to standard grammar and to Strunk and White would be wonderful! Otherwise, this seemed to me to be a pretty good review.
    Reply
  • earle36 - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    "I highly recommend some of the Engadget editors and reviewers for examples of good writing. "

    You're kidding right??? Those guys write article full of cliches and more importantly they lack the technical depth found here at Anandtech. After being consistently appalled with the reviews at Engadget, I'm glad that Anandtech ramped up their coverage of Mobile devices too.

    Personally, I think Mr. Sklavos did a fine job.
    Reply

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