For testing full ATX 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.

ATX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K
(95W TDP, tested at stock speed and overclocked to 4.3GHz @ 1.38V)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD4H
Graphics Card ASUS GeForce GTX 560 Ti DCII TOP
(tested at stock speed and overclocked to 1GHz/overvolted to 1.13V)

2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 in SLI
(full fat testing only)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD

Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive

3x HGST DeskStar 3TB 7200-RPM HDD
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Plus 1000W 80 Plus Silver

Each case is tested in a stock configuration and an overclocked configuration that generates substantially more heat (and thus may produce more noise). The system is powered on and left idle for fifteen minutes, the thermal and acoustic results recorded, and then stressed by running seven threads in Prime95 (in-place large FFTs) on the CPU and OC Scanner (maximum load) on the GPU. At the end of fiteen minutes, thermal and acoustic results are recorded. This is done for the stock settings and for the overclock, and 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.

For the "full fat" testbed, the GTX 560 Ti is swapped out for a pair of GTX 580s, and three hard disks are added to fill out the case.

Thank You!

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

Building in the Corsair Carbide 330R Noise and Thermal Testing
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  • Icehawk - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    I'd love to see how these cases do with a more focused quiet build - I used a Fractal Define Mini on my last build (OC'd i7/670/SSDs only/AIO water/fanless PSU) and without too much effort or compromise have a near silent machine under any load. Would be interesting to see how such a build would work in the various cases.

    Not sure about the rest of you guys but the best thing I ever did from a sound standpoint was to move all my HDDs out of my box and get them remote.
    Reply
  • Laststop311 - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    Good comment. Seems this is overlooked in many quiet pc articles. Get a NAS box or even just attach a drive to your wireless router via usb if you can't afford a nas box. Keep only SSD's local in your machine. This has 2 bonuses not only does it make your system quieter it also increases air flow and removes some of the heat generation in the case lowering temps and noise win win. Reply
  • Grok42 - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    Couldn't agree more. There isn't any downside to keeping your bulk storage in the closet other than a light bit of cost for the separate system, NAS system or External drive enclosure. This is so outweighed by the up sides. Just having a single local SSD means the sound and heat are less in your main system. You can run much smaller boxes or have better airflow through a normal size one. Most important of all is security. I build new systems all the time and reload my current ones. Having all my data on a separate box means that I am never taking chances with it or taking it offline for others that use it in my house. Reply
  • JDG1980 - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    I don't understand why the inverted motherboard design hasn't been more widely adopted. The "standard" ATX tower design seems pretty dumb: you've got the CPU cooler in a dead spot behind the optical drives (with no airflow from the intake fans), and one of the two front intakes is largely wasted by blowing at the back end of the PSU. If the motherboard is inverted, you've got both intakes blowing directly over the motherboard, providing extra cooling to the CPU and video card(s). This seems like a no-brainer, so why do most companies stick to the old ways?

    By the way, it looks like Newegg has the Nanoxia Deep Silence cases back in stock. Who knows how long that will last, though - last time it was about 2 weeks before they were marked "discontinued".
    Reply
  • Grok42 - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    I think the trick is to build boxes without optical and that have the PSU at the bottom. Reply
  • JDG1980 - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    Or you could put the optical drives on the bottom, and the fans at the top, giving the motherboard direct airflow. But no one does that either. Reply
  • inighthawki - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    Hot air rises so you generally want intake fans at the bottom to blow cold air in and exhaust fans near the top/back to push hot air out. Reply
  • JDG1980 - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    That's largely a myth. Unless you are running case fans at a *very* low speed, they are going to overpower any convection effects. Having cool airflow directly over the motherboard is far more important than a strict bottom-to-top path. Reply
  • inighthawki - Sunday, August 25, 2013 - link

    I've seen reports of people seeing noticeable reductions in temps by doing it. It's not really a myth. If your fans overpower the convection too much you just end up getting a more average overall case temp, and thus the exhaust does a worse job moving out hot air, just warm air. Effectively requires your fans to push more air to achieve the same goal. Reply
  • ShieTar - Monday, August 26, 2013 - link

    I think it is a semi-myth. Inside of the case, once the air is heated up it should never slow down enough to be affected by convection, but rather the GPU/CPU fan should move directly to the closest exhaust fan.
    But outside of the case, the exhausted air still needs to be removed so it can't flow back to the intake. What works here depends on where you place your case. If it is under a table, top exhaust might be just reflected down. If it stand besides a table, with the back to a wall, top exhaust is the more efficient option, as convection will set in as soon as the hot air is hanging over the case.
    Of course, there can be areas inside the case that are bypassed by the main airflow, e.g. RAM, SouthBridge, HDDs. For those parts, convection can play a role, but the better option here is to make sure that these parts can participate in the airflow rather then rely on convection.
    Reply

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