Testing Methodology

For testing Mini-ITX cases, we use the following standardized testbed in stock and overclocked configurations to get a feel for how well the case handles heat and noise. Again, note that while the A30 can technically fit a Micro-ATX motherboard, it's not tall enough to allow for our testbed's tower cooler. Because of the discrepancies that would make for in testing, we have chosen to use our mini-ITX testbed rather than going with a specialized (e.g. not something you can compare directly to our other cases) ATX build.

Mini-ITX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i3-2120
(65W TDP)
Motherboard Zotac Z68ITX-A-E
Graphics Card Intel HD 2000 IGP

Zotac GeForce GTS 450 Eco (dedicated)

ASUS GeForce GTX 560 Ti DCII TOP (dedicated extra)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive
Accessories Corsair Link
CPU Cooler SilverStone NT07-1156 with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Plus 750W 80 Plus Silver

Each case is tested with just the Core i3's integrated graphics as well as with a discrete graphics card. The system is powered on and left idle for fifteen minutes, the thermal and acoustic results recorded, and then stressed by running four threads in Prime95 (in-place large FFTs) on the CPU, and OC Scanner (maximum load) is run when the dedicated GPU is installed. At the end of fiteen minutes, thermal and acoustic results are recorded. If the enclosure has a fan controller, these tests are repeated for each setting. Ambient temperature is also measured after the fifteen idle minutes but before the stress test and used to calculate the final reported results.

We try to maintain an ambient testing temperature of between 22C and 24C. Non-thermal test results aren't going to be directly comparable to the finest decimal point, but should be roughly comparable and give a broader idea of how the enclosure performs.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our testbed.

  • Thank you to Puget Systems for providing us with the Intel Core i3-2120.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z68ITX-A-E motherboard and GeForce GTS 450 Eco.
  • Thank you to Crucial for providing us with the Ballistix Smart Tracer memory.
  • Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the Corsair Link kit.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to CyberPower for providing us with the Samsung BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW drive.
  • And thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the power supply and NT07-1156 heatsink/fan combo.
Assembling the Thermaltake Armor A30 Noise and Thermal Testing, IGP
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  • Dadofamunky - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I tried a couple of microATX build with cases to match and finally gave up. It's always been too complicated and too high-maintenance for long-term use. In my experience with SFF (which ended some three years ago) the motherboards also tend to require too many compromises, including indifferently updated BIOSes, limited overclocking options compared to normal ATX boards and fewer SATA and USB ports. For me, though, the biggest headache always proved to be working with the cases and the hardware. Reply
  • Icehawk - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Maybe a few years ago? I built a mATX machine for the first time last month with an i7 and GTX670 using the (much larger but clearly MUCH nicer) Fractal Design Mini Define and while the mobo doesn't have a ton of options as you said, it has enough to run a simple O/C and XMP which is all I need. Reply
  • Zap - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    You're doing it wrong. :P Well, it is easier these days too.

    First thing is to choose the right motherboard. They are available, and have as many SATA/USB ports as full ATX boards and can overclock as well as an ATX board of similar price point.

    Second thing is to use a micro ATX mini tower, and NOT a "cube" style case. The computer still ends up a lot smaller than an ATX tower, and are just as easy to build.
    Reply
  • Fuzz1111 - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    While I'm interested cases of this style, I can't say I would recommend the sff cases that require the use of half-height cards, or any that don't allow alternative power supplies.

    Until recently my media centre was a build that used an Antec Minuet 350, an intel E2200 and cheap gigabyte board (had an intel chipset though). The board and cpu were fine, and with a zalman 8700 I even got a decent overclock. Unfortunately half-height turned out to be more limiting than I'd have thought - vidcard choices were rubbish (still aren't great), and I had to make my own half-height bracket for my TV tuner.

    The worst problem by far was the power supply - it was a complete piece of crap and it got worse over time (in the end I was running without tuner card, and with DVD drive disconnected).
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Can't say that I agree. Unless one specifically needs more than 2 GPUs, mATX is plenty enough. I've had my Gigabyte mATX P55 mainboard with an overclocked i7 860 since a month after the i7 came about (roughly). At first I had it in a cube case from Lian Li (V351B) with an HD5770. I had an optical drive, a 3.5" drive and a 2.5" SSD for my system in there. Had I wanted, I could have fitted more drives, the mainboard certainly provided all I needed. While it was a bit hard to assemble and maintain, it was pretty small, light, powerful and quiet. It also did not cost any more than a regular ATX with similar quality components. Last Christmas I decided to get the Silverstone TJ08-E because I wanted to get water cooling. That is also a mATX enclosure, much smaller than most ATX ones of that performance. The CPU now runs at 3.8GHz (up from 3.3 in the cube), my mainboard is still fully functional and has all the connections and abilities one can expect from a ~130€ board of the time.
    Unless you are doing LN2 OC'ing, it is stimply not true that ATX offers greater performance than mATX. Most often, they don't even offer more ports or better quality.
    Reply
  • just4U - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I have to agree with other's on this.. Nothing wrong with Matx setups.. and you don't have real compromises with the MB either. Look at Asus's Gene line, Or Gigabytes M3. Reply
  • NA1NSXR - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    My X58M was offered new BIOSes periodically to support the entire lifespan of 1366. It was also capable of overclocking as well as any full ATX board in its price range, well encompassing any OC on air cooling anyone would be doing. Fewer SATA ports are moot, as my mobo had way more ports than pretty much any matx enclosure could support anyway, and I had 8 USB ports. So I don't know what you are talking about. It sounds like you just did not do the planning, which is the funnest part anyway. There is no reason to use full atx on air cooled, single GPU computers anymore, unless the extra PCIe slots are absolutely needed.

    Quite frankly when I see a massive "gamer tower" these days I just roll my eyes.
    Reply
  • Operandi - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Looks like a fairly decent case aside from the 60mm fans but holy crap does it eve stop with the taken to “11” overly designed boxes that constantly try to convey the image of just about anything but a PC case?

    That and the price is a joke when I can get a Lian LI PC-Q08B for the same price.
    Reply
  • Lucian2244 - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I second that, it looks like a travel bag !
    And if it was hard for you to assemble it, i can't imagine how it would be for me as I only assembled ATX cases so far.
    Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Yeah, that's way to busy for a SFF case. Angles here, windows there, extra vents, raised lines, additional bevels and a pop-up roof. To be fair, it looks like they took a full ATX design(that probably looked fine) and scaled it down until everything got jammed together. Reply

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