Introducing the Corsair Obsidian 550D

We've been keeping track of the evolution of Corsair's line of enclosures since the Graphite 600T was released. Even as the newer enclosures generally found themselves lower and lower in price, there was a clear evolution as Corsair's engineers gained more experience and confidence with their designs. Yet each new design up to this point has been a little bit of refinement and a little bit of experimentation without any specific specialization. That changes with the 550D.

There's definitely some experimentation going on here, and there has to be: the Corsair Obsidian 550D is the first case Corsair has engineered specifically for silent running. That's not all they've experimented with, though, as you'll soon see.

Corsair's case isn't the only thing new about this review, though; we've also gone back and substantially revised our testbed and testing methodology to correct for some abnormalities and issues that may have affected the results of our previous tests. We're including some new data that should hopefully prove useful in both the short and long term. But first, let's get the skinny on the 550D:

Corsair Obsidian Series 550D Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor ATX, Micro ATX
Drive Bays External 4x 5.25”
Internal 6x 2.5"/3.5”
Cooling Front 2x 120mm intake
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust (supports 140mm)
Top 2x 120mm/140mm fan mounts
Side 2x 120mm/140mm fan mounts (or 1x 200mm fan mount)
Bottom 1x 120mm/140mm fan mount
Expansion Slots 8
Front I/O Port 2x USB 3.0 (via motherboard header), 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 180mm
PSU 180mm
GPU 12.5" / 318mm
Weight 16.5 lbs.
7.48 kg
Dimensions 20.9" x 8.8" x 19.5"
531mm x 224mm x 495mm
Special Features Acoustic dampening foam
USB 3.0 via motherboard header
Dual removable drive cages with three drive trays each
Price $139

Corsair's design essentially falls into the same market as Antec's P280, but theoretically it's a step up from other silent-engineered cases like NZXT's H2. It has all the same accoutrements you've come to expect from a Corsair enclosure (including remarkable ease of assembly) while cribbing some ideas from Fractal Design's very successful Define R3. How successful this experiment was remains to be seen.

In and Around the Corsair Obsidian 550D
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  • ExarKun333 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    This is very true. Also, buying a quality fan can make a HUGE difference on not just airflow but noise as well. All 80mm fans are not created equal, same with 120mm, and so forth. Reply
  • Folterknecht - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    An other point is available space. Ok - if you just build that machine, use it and never touch it again fine, there small cases are ok maybe . But every time I tinker with my builds (midi/big towers) I m happy with my choices because my hands can reach the desired parts without problems. As a bonus you have better thermals with bigger cases, resulting in less noise if you choose the correct case and invest some thoughts into the right components and fans (their placement and direction of airflow). Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I'm not completely bought by the argument of bigger volume = bigger cooling.

    Indeed, the bigger volume creates more "dead space", while a smaller case can have more airflow along the surfaces that actually need to be cooled, by more selective "ducting". While this allows for a longer, more gradual ramp-up of temperatures with open-air GPUs, and top-blower CPU-coolers, in the end the final in-case temperature is a direct function of the air passing out of the case (surface are radiation is so small, that I am going to ignore it). Component temperature is a function of cfd along the cooler, cooler surface, and delta-theta of the cooler surface and the air flowing past. I argue that a small case optimizes the first parameter, while the other parameters should be equal, after a burn-in period.

    An exception would be a power profile that emits frequent short bursts of thermal energy - in this case a big enclosure has a larger buffer, before the in-case air temperature rises.

    The advantage of a bigger volume case is, that you have more area for suction/exhaust with the environment, but you also have less airflow "effectiveness", unless you actually use the space.

    Also, few people regularly tinker with their builds. And a well laid out small case may still be superior to a not so well designed large case.
    Reply
  • ExarKun333 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Bigger cases allow for bigger fans which = better cooling at lower noise levels. Reply
  • DMisner - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I hate when people, especially reviewers, use a Micro-ATX motherboard in an ATX case. Just a pet peeve Reply
  • ShieTar - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I assume this decision was made in order to test both ATX and µATX cases with the same board, and as such it does make sense.

    On the other hand I do understand your point too. I did once buils a system into a (admitedly very cheap) case where the cable of the front-USB port was just a tad too short too reach the connectors at the very bottom of the full ATX board. That is a problem that you may not detect when testing with a µATX only.

    Not that I expect this kind of problem from a modern Corsair case.
    Reply
  • JCheng - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Dustin, thanks for this review. New testing methodology notwithstanding, your case reviews are the best I have ever seen, not only in terms of the depth of your coverage and very good writing, but also case selection that mostly matches the cases that I personally find interesting/appealing.

    I am thinking about buying the 550D today or tomorrow (NewEgg's $20 rebate expires tomorrow) for a new build that will have an OC'd 2600K or 3930X, along with a single low-to-midrange passively cooled GPU (I am going to use it as a Linux development workstation). The CPU will frequently be flogged with doing parallel compiles using as many threads as the CPU can handle concurrently. I would like the system to remain extremely quiet under these loads.

    My question is whether you think the 550D's "underwhelming" thermal performance would be fixed by the addition of 2 slow 120mm fans, either behind the drive cages (practically empty--I only need 1 SSD for storage) or as intakes on the top panel. Or whether, since I'm not expecting to have the GPU generating much heat, it is even worth worrying about. I would prefer the CPU not reach 80 degrees under any circumstances.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated... thanks!
    Reply
  • Nje - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I'm also interested in this - although my plan was to add one or two intake fans on the side because of the conclusions drawn in 'The Big Air Cooling Investigation' at BitTech where they tested fan placements. They did use the R3, but I'm guessing the results would be pretty similar on the 550D. It seems that the most beneficial extra fans are the ones placed to blow air directly onto the motherboard. Reply
  • JCheng - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I didn't know about that BitTech article, thanks--really helpful information. I'd only worry whether there's enough clearance to put in a side fan if I go with a big tower cooler like Noctua NH-D14. Reply
  • Nje - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    That's a good question, especially since I'm planning to get the Noctua NH-D14.. I'm still waiting for Ivy Bridge and some custom GTX680 cards to get into the stores though. Presumably at least one of the side fans would still have enough clearance? Reply

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