Does case volume affect cooling?

I'm getting ready for another project and I got to wondering whether case volume affects cooling.

Some of the newer gaming cases are really huge. The interior volume is in excess of 2 cubic feet. Ventilation, airflow, and cooling are excellent despite the large size.

There are small cases with an interior volume of one cubic foot or less. If properly designed and configured could a small case match the cooling capacity of the larger cases?
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  1. You'd need higher rpm fans to keep up the neccesary air flow I would imagine, but with the right setup I bet you could make it perfectly viable.

    One problem though are points to mount fans, not seen many cases of that size but cant imagine they have many as they're most likely designed for HTPC systems with lower energy components etc etc.

    All depends on what do you want to actually stick in it.
  2. Well, I'll have to say it's common thinking that larger case = cooler parts. Most likely because there is more place to disperse heat and more places to mount fans.

    Yet, I have to agree with FG (interesting name, might I say?). A properly configured small case should have very nice airflow, and cooler components.

    Just take the example of 1-2U servers. They have perfect airflow. Push to back, pull from front. Even though they are so small (~1.75" thick per rack Unit) they can be relatively cool.
  3. I would imagine that a smaller case could actually achieve better cooling if it has the same amount of fans as the air would be passing through it quicker so the case temp will stay much closer to ambient, but larger cases usually allow more fans which is probably why they tend to stay cooler.
  4. hunter315 said:
    I would imagine that a smaller case could actually achieve better cooling if it has the same amount of fans as the air would be passing through it quicker so the case temp will stay much closer to ambient, but larger cases usually allow more fans which is probably why they tend to stay cooler.

    I was debating this in my mind, while it would be able to shift the relative volume of air much more quickly (like you said keeping it closer to ambient), due to the smaller volume of air inside the case it would also heat it up much more quickly.
  5. Bigger case has a higher volume of air in terms of capacity. Higher volume means higher heat capacity.

    Air flow is the heat exchange rate which has big impact on how much heat is move out of the case given a certain amount of time.

    Air flow is also affected by turbulence created inside the case. The more hardware you have the actual ability to move hot air from the different hardware is significantly reduce. In a tight space with multiple add on cards the less effective is the heat exchange is.

    Bigger case offer a better solution in terms of air flow assuming the fans are set the same settings. There is more space for the air to move around.

    Bigger case offer the option on toning down the fans and attain considerable cooling.

    Smaller case you need to turn up the speed of the fan.

    Mid tower case is the most ideal not so big and yet sufficient cooling
  6. With an air-cooled system, the components are kept cool by air carrying the heat away. The cooling capacity depends on how rapidly heated air is replaced with cool air. If you have a large and small case with the same fans, the small case will replace the air more quickly, and should therefore keep the components cooler - other factors being equal.

    For example, if you use one fan that can move 20cfm (cubic feet per minute), then the air inside a 1 cubic foot case will be replaced 20 times a minute, but the air inside a 2 cubic foot case will only be replaced 10 times a minute. So the smaller case should have twice the cooling capacity.

    But leon2006 is correct in that the tighter space inside the smaller case will cause turbulence - this will manifest as a higher resistance to airflow which means the same fan won't be able to move as much air. It can also mean eddies inside the case where air exchange is poor, leading to "hot spots".

    Do the turbulence effects cancel out the higher exchange rate? Depends entirely on the specifics of each case, I'd imagine.
  7. The advantage of a large case is more space inside - hence less clutter and and better airflow - yes you may need higher RPM fans but this is not always the case.

    I have the Antec 1200 - and cant fault it with the i7920 - idle 32/33 and loaded around 40/42 - admittedly the case is not the best looking but then thats just personal taste
  8. Well, I keep thinking if I can keep everything equal I should be able to get somewhat similar results with a smaller case. The problem as I see it might be clutter inside the smaller case. Cable management wouldn't be as good. I'm thinking with a few case modifications I might be able to do it. Ventilation, airflow, and fans would have to be in proportion to a large gaming case such as my HAF 932.
  9. Noise.
    If you care about noise, then finding a smaller case that can run 120 fans @ <1500rpm both intake and exhaust is paramount.
    Clutter is less important now with SATA cables than with the old PATA ones.
    Hot video cards tend to push heat out the 2nd slot vents.
    Cable management in smaller cases is always more of a bitch.
    Yes, 2U servers may have perfect flow, but they are also noisy.
    How hot of a cpu are you considering? Will vreg cooling be critical?
    A bottom mount psu allows for a top rear vent as well as a rear upper vent. This helps cooling power greatly.
  10. Newf - Noise is not a problem for me. Back in the old days I used to install those 120mm, high volume, high airflow, Panasonic Panaflo case fans. Now they were noisy - well over 40dba. I'm currently using Scythe S-Flex 1500 rpm fans for my Thermalright Ultra 120 cpu heatsink and the exhaust fan on the rear panel of my HAF 932.

    I do case mods so I have the tools necessary to improve ventilation and airflow. A few blowholes and case fans would not be a problem. I also have a 2 ft x 2 ft piece of AC Ryan perforated mesh that I can use. It's easy to work with. I should be able to mod a small case so it looks and functions like the big ones.
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