Micro-ATX Cases - Shoebox Showdown

by Joshua Buss on 1/2/2007 12:40 PM EST


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  • warthogism - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    I know that you guys were able to fit an CNPS7000 in there and that a 9000 would not fit. What I was wondering is if a CNPS7700 would fit. The difference is that the height of the 7000 is 62mm and the 7700 is 67mm. Also, the 7000 has a 92mm but the 7700 uses a 120mm fan. Does anyone have first-hand knowledge? or at least, does it look like the 7700 will fit? Thanks for the help. Reply
  • gool - Saturday, January 13, 2007 - link

    I'm the happy owner of a heavily modded Antec Aria - blow holes, sidefans, PSU-fan replacement and so on. It's based on a MSI Micro-ATX 939 motherboard, AMD 64-3200 (Clawhammer), 1 GB DDR-SDRAM, Liteon DVD-CD combo, a 160GB 7200 Maxtor disc, an external (USB2) Maxtor 250 GB disc and a Nvidia 6600GT card. The latter is the one I wish to replace, but I'm uncertain if I'm able to draw enough juice from the standard Antec 300W psu for this purpose? Seen people with a similar setup who uses a 7800GT card without problem. What are you guys advice - could I go down this road?

  • Patrese - Sunday, January 07, 2007 - link

    Great review, but I'd like to see something about the new (and not no new) uATX motherboards on the market, specially the Asus M2NPV-VM and Abit NF-M2 NView... Reply
  • artifex - Thursday, January 04, 2007 - link

    I suggest everyone interested in these smaller form factors to look at sfftech.com and mini-itx.com. Plenty of reviews and some nifty case mods, etc. Reply
  • mino - Thursday, January 04, 2007 - link

    I like that you made semi-pro noise tests for the cases.

    However as changing noisy PSU/fan is the easiest thing to do(I have yet to us a case with included PSU/fan)..
    It would be nice to complement out-of-the-box testing with controlled-enviroment testing.

    It would be more informative, especially to enthusiasts, to make a reference rig (fans, PSU, all coolers, HDD) and assemble it into different cases.

    To know that a case comes with a noisy PSU is nice. However to know its ability to dampen the brum of an HDD, or mute the pinch of a GPU cooler is far better.

    Nice work otherwise, keep on.
  • JoshuaBuss - Thursday, January 04, 2007 - link

    This is a very good idea, but to a certain extent we believe it's the manufacturer's responsibility to supply a case with fans that work best for its need, not the user's. At the least a manufacturer should offer recommended buys (like PDCL did) so that a user knows what should work well. If a fans that come with a regular case are so bad that it's truly hurting the overall appeal, we normally do try it with a different configuration to see if we can do better. With these micro ATX cases it's often the case that the included power supply is a custom fit and we have to test it 'as is'.

    Thanks for the suggestion.
  • mino - Thursday, January 04, 2007 - link

    I suggest you take a look at the ASUS TM-21/23/25 series especially the TM-250.

    I have yet to see a case of this size with better internal organization, such a good cooling performance. As a bonus the case is very sturdy (especially for such a low weight product).

    The ability to put 3 HDD's in a 15.6*6.7*14inch box _and_ cool them without additional fans speaks for itself.

    Newegg lists them for $50 with 300W high-quality PSU's.
    However we bought 100 a month ago in EU and they came with 350W and _without_ that annoying floppy hole...
  • mino - Thursday, January 04, 2007 - link

    One little problem I missed, those on Newegg(provided they sell the exact model as on image) have ATX 1.3 PSU's.
    While these Bestec PSU units are pretty good - PFC, very quiet(have 20+ of them deployed) - 180W on 12V rail may not be sufficient for a gaming rig.

    I hope the new refresh models(350W,no floppy), we bought recently, will hit the US market soon.
  • artifex - Thursday, January 04, 2007 - link

    I'd like to see a review of the power supplies used in some of these, as well as third-party replacements. Heck, I'd even like to see a new version of the old ATX PS roundup/review Anandtech did years ago -- I bought my Antec TruePower 430 after that, and it's lasted through a second system, but I've no doubt it's getting creaky now. Reply
  • IronChefMoto - Wednesday, January 03, 2007 - link

    First off, decent article. I would like to have seen Anandtech test different video cards in the cases, though. One of the issues with nice mATX cases like the Lian Li V300 (???) is that longer, high-level chipset cards like the 7900 series hit pieces of the framework in the case. You have to mod your case or your card for the Lian Li model.

    While folks won't always be dropping a 7950GT into one of these, having that option is nice if you want to build a small, high-end gaming rig. Please try and make that part of your mATX review setup in the future. I've even asked Newegg.com to start adding card length data to their specs (they're opening the cards anyway for product shots) so you don't end up having to send back a card that doesn't physically fit a case by 1/4".

    That said, my friend and I built v1 Aria (when it had more front ports) about 2 years ago. It was the toughest build I've ever had to do. It was cramped, the PSU had to come out for assembly, and the CPU cooler was up next to the PSU. The temps idled 60C with a very hot P4 Prescott (???) CPU. My buddy upgraded the unit with a Zalman Reserator and continues to use it today running at about 35C under load.

    I would recommend that anyone looking at an mATX case check to see that the PSU is STANDARD ATX or a replaceable mATX format. The v1 Aria will not accept an ATX replacement without some modification and/or loss of space. This holds true for mATX barebones like Shuttle XPCs (I own/am stuck with two (2)).

  • jmke - Wednesday, January 03, 2007 - link

    Do you have a picture of your test room? 15dB (I guess A weighed) seems awfully low :) Reply
  • JoshuaBuss - Wednesday, January 03, 2007 - link

    It is very low.. in our old location we couldn't get any lower than 23 dB and now we're further away from the highway. All I know is that's what my new meter says if everything is silent and the dogs next door aren't barking. Reply
  • JoshuaBuss - Wednesday, January 03, 2007 - link

    Whoa, I'm sorry.. it was supposed to be 18 dB. Updated. Reply
  • KayKay - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    I built a machine for my brother using the Ultra microfly and it is a great case. The deciding factors for this was the ability to accept a Full-Size Power supply and the removable motherboard tray. They make this in several colours, as well as clear-sided versions. A small box with the ability to put some powerful components in it! 3800x2 with a 7600GT, this thing runs super quiet Reply
  • CuriousMike - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    I *just* built a machine three days ago using the Aria (NSK1300) as the basis; I just wanted something smaller than a tower case. I didn't see the review mention the case as being the NSK1300--- the Aria (IIRC) was all black. The case you reviewed is identical to the NSK1300.

    My build included a Frys X2 4200 "EE" combo deal with ECS C51GM motherboard.
    The retail box AMD fan must have been running full tilt all the time (3000rpm sound right?)... it was the noisiest in the case. The CPU would reach 70' under Prime95 load within about 20 minutes, idleing at around 50'.

    I replaced the stock HSF with a Zalman CNPS8000, which was reviewed poorer than the 7000 used in this review. The 8000, at anything other than it's lowest fan setting, is as loud as the AMD retail unit; at it's lowest fan setting, it *just* beats the cooling capacity of the stock HSF; running around 50' idle, and 69' with Prime load.
    With the 8000 at full RPM, it only knocks a few degrees... 67'. The machine runs hot.

    I used a evga 7600GTS and put a zalman 7000 GPU cooler on it (using the slowest fan setting); that made it go from idleing around 54' to 48', and running ATITool for 15 minutes, stock fan was 71', zalman brought it down to 65'.

    With the current fan setup, the machine is tolerable noise wise. It's nowhere near silent.

    The NSK1300 is cramped... almost impossible to route cables neatly.
    It's pretty slick removing all the panels and the drive cage.
  • Myrandex - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    I have the Lian Li PC-V300 and given its popularity with this crowd, I would have loved to see it included in there. I look forward to finishing the article as it is great so far. Reply
  • JoshuaBuss - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    There are still a few more mATX cases on deck to be looked at soon.. hopefully the V300 will be one of them too. Reply
  • tayhimself - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    I can't for the life of me find a good uATX motherboard with decent overclocking features for a core2 chip. I would like to build a uATX system but I havent gone with one because of the motherboards. Reply
  • Staples - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Unfortunately, good motherboards are not made in this size or even micro ATX for that matter. There are some decent P965 boards made in micro ATX sizes but the best ones are all in full sized ATX. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    µATX, uATX, mATX, and micro ATX are all the same thing. (u is the abbreviation used for mu a lot of the time - m already being taken by "milli" and most people not want to bother with the special symbol µ.) Reply
  • shenoyh - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Just curious..there seems to be enough space and screw-holes for a regular ATX motherboard ...though it would be a tight fit. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    If it can fit a regular ATX board, it would no longer be a micro-ATX case - at least, that's how I see it. Reply
  • OrSin - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    How can you do a M-ATX review and not have the Sugo in it. Its price is nice and workmanship on par with the Qmicra. With the huge difference in pricing I would think even full systems can be reveiwed. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Generally, we review what we get. If Sugo wants to send Josh a case for review, I'm sure he would be happy to include it. Obviously, a look at three cases is not going to be a comprehensive roundup, but it's virtually impossible to include every potential candidate in an article. Reply
  • KingDaPuma - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Great review. Thanks. I note that the cases were tested with the GeForce 6600GT. Will any of the new DX10 cards (GeForce 8800, ATI R600, etc.) fit within any of these SFF cases? Reply
  • blinkin2000 - Wednesday, January 03, 2007 - link

    The 8800GTX Fits but you must cut a hole for power connectors and you loose the lower 5.25" bay, but it fits. Reply
  • blinkin2000 - Wednesday, January 03, 2007 - link

    in the microfly Reply
  • wilburpan - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    If I read your review correctly, it looks like the main source of noise was from the power supply fan. Would it be possible to replace the fan to try to cut down on the noise? Failing that, are these power supplies proprietary enough so that they can't be swapped out? Reply
  • mpc7488 - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    From the Microfly Final Words: "If you want to use a different full-size ATX PSU, you can get the case only for as little as $50."

    IMO, accepting a full-size ATX replacement is a huge plus for this case. Everyone I know with a Shuttle cube has had a power supply fail in 1-2 years, they're not that cheap to replace, and output capacities are very limited.
  • Schmide - Friday, January 05, 2007 - link

    Agreed, However I got this case and the funny thing is the X-connect doesn't fit in this case. Aren't these the same brand. Lollerskates... Reply
  • chucky2 - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    :) Just asking... Reply
  • AlexWade - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Dear Anandtech staff:

    Please do more case reviews.


  • microAmp - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    I'd like to see them do a review using video instead of text & pictures. I saw one other website do that and it's make a world of difference. Wish I could remember what site it was. :( Reply
  • JoshuaBuss - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Besides placing an excruciating load on the web servers, I think highly-detailed pictures are better than videos at least in terms of seeing exactly how things look. It's hard to get colors just right in videos, and resolution is normally low enough that some fine details are lost.. I can see where you're coming from though and we'll definitely consider it.. actually seeing things in motion can help get a better feel for some things. Reply
  • mino - Thursday, January 04, 2007 - link

    Maybe host them on YouTube ? and consider them just a bonus to regular review... Reply
  • JoshuaBuss - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Copy that.. ;)

    In all seriousness, you can expect this section to get a lot hotter soon.. I just finished my last semester of coursework.. w00t.
  • SonixSquad - Wednesday, September 07, 2011 - link

    Just wanted to post my experience having built my girlfriend a system about 5 years ago using the Antec Aria case.
    I remember it being a pain as it was so cramped and my first (and only) sff build but I got there and it was adequate. I managed to install the board without removing the PSU.

    Once I started to monitor temps (was only using stock cpu cooler at the time) I realised it would need some sort of additional cooling intake and the supplied blower was a bit too loud for our liking.
    Eventually I found the best air intake solution (without actually modding the case) was to just put a 120mm fan sitting next to the graphics card pulling air in from the rear.

    Anyway, back to today 2011 and she still likes the case but the system needs an upgrade so I was looking at parts and having come across this article and seen the Zalman in there snugly fitting with a few mm clear of the PSU I decided to get the newer Zalman CNPS8000A which is low profile and supposedly quiet. I'll post back if it doesn't fit but I think I am going to have to remove the PSU this time around as this cooler needs to be fitted via backplate so it will have to go on before the board is in the case.

    This time round she is getting an i3 2100 cpu which should run a lot cooler than the last AMD x2 one and so I'm hoping it will run a lot quieter aswell.

    My criticisms about the case would be the same as noted by others. Very cramped and with a lack of decent routing the air circulation is bad. I would have appreciated some thought given to front air intake even if they didn't supply a fan but just somewhere to put one.
    Also the PSU only comes with one SATA connector so I will have to get a molex to sata converter so I can power 2 sata devices.I also had some issues with the front audio inputs, at some point they stopped working properly and I still don't know why.

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