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Quiet Gaming Cases, Part 1: Antec, Azza, And Cooler Master

Quiet Gaming Cases, Part 1: Antec, Azza, And Cooler Master
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The pursuit of performance often dictates that we simply live with a loud PC. Enthusiasts sometimes feel forced to choose between reasonable acoustics and the ventilation needed to overclock. Today, we evaluate three cases that promise to deliver both.

Much of the noise that emanates from a modern gaming PC is attributable to high-end graphics cards. Modern GPUs employ two types of coolers: centrifugal and axial. Centrifugal coolers, also known as blowers, use an impeller to push air out through an exhaust at the back of the card. Meanwhile, axial-flow fans have blades that blow directly toward the card, where it exits around the sides of the heat sink and into the case itself.

If all of that is too much for you, just know that both solutions have their advantages and downsides. Blowers are noisy, and they aren't as effective as axial coolers. Axial fans tend to operate more quietly, but pollute the inside of your chassis with their heated air.

Single-radial GPU CoolerSingle-radial GPU CoolerTriple-axial GPU CoolerTriple-axial GPU Cooler

As an overclocker, I’m dubious of graphics cards with axial coolers, since they typically have a really bad effect on the ambient temperature of most enclosures. You never want a high-end graphics card to sabotage your CPU overclock, after all.

Yes, you can use water cooling to make the whole axial versus centrifugal debate a moot point. But now you're talking about spending more money, too. There's another way to approach this conundrum, and it often gets overlooked: simply choose a better case.

We expect most cases to have vents for warm air, but we expect quiet enclosures not to have them on their side panels, right next to a noisy graphics card. The concept here is simple: reflected noise is usually less obtrusive than direct noise, and noise-dampening materials help enhance this effect. They also help minimize panel vibration and alter resonant frequencies, often to the point where they're no longer noticed. Those are the features we want to see from a gaming-oriented chassis that its vendor considers quiet.

The table below lists the dimensions, optional cooling capacity, maximum number of drives, and sound-dampening materials for the three cases we're testing today. In the days that follow, we'll be going in-depth on six more enclosures before figuring out which one does its job the best.

  Antec P280 Azza Silentium 920 Cooler Master Silencio 650
Dimensions
Height20.6"18.2"18.8"
Width9.1"8.8"8.2"
Depth22.3"20.5"21.0"
Space Above
Motherboard
1.3"0.8"1.3"
Card Length13.8"12.3"11.5" - 17.0"**
Weight21.7 Pounds15.8 Pounds23.0 Pounds
Cooling
Front Fans
(alternatives)
2 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
2 x 120 mm
(1 x 140 mm)
Rear Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
Top Fans
(alternatives)
2 x 120 mm
(None)
None
(None)
None
(1 x 140/120 mm)
Left Side
(alternatives)
None
(None)
None
(None)
None
(None)
Right Side
(alternatives)
None
(None)
None
(None)
None
(None)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalThreeFourThree
3.5" ExternalNoneOneNone
3.5" InternalSixFiveSeven
2.5" InternalSix* +2Five* One***
Card SlotsNineSevenSeven
Noise Dampening
SidesPolycarbonateFoamFoam
TopNoneFoamFoam
FrontFoamClothCast Aluminum
Price$120 $80 $160
*Shared on 3.5" tray
**Slots 1-6 w/o Center Cage
***By Adapter on 3.5" External Backplane


Most of the common noise-reducing techniques can be found across the three samples in today’s test, including thicker material to block the noise (Cooler Master’s cast drive door), reflection-weakening foam (Azza’s top and side panels), and vibration-dampening weighted film (Antec’s polycarbonate layer). Before we test the effectiveness of these techniques, we’d first like to show you a few of the features that we think make each of these cases a viable contender in our competition.

Display 44 Comments.
  • 0 Hide
    jrayx , December 26, 2012 3:45 AM
    I like the Silencio 650 features, but the airflow is restricted in the front and bottom. And no one sells that case in my country.
  • 0 Hide
    James296 , December 26, 2012 3:46 AM
    sweet, been looking for a quiet gaming case =)
  • 5 Hide
    dthesleepless , December 26, 2012 4:17 AM
    I'd like to see how the Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 compares in your testing.

    In my testing I found it to be the most efficient silent case I've ever had on my workbench.
  • 6 Hide
    EzioAs , December 26, 2012 4:23 AM
    Things I love about silence optimized case: Simple, elegant look. Nothing tacky and doesn't looks like it was made for some 12 years old

    Things I hate about silence optimized case: Usually doesn't cool well (poor airflow) and isn't really that much quieter compared to non silence optimized case

    It 's really hard to find the right balance but I'm loving the Antec P280. Exterior and interior looks good and seems spacious enough. Price isn't so bad either.

    Any chance you could review the Nanoxia Deep Silence 1? Heard a lot of good things about it .
  • 7 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , December 26, 2012 4:33 AM
    I'd like to see the Fractal Design Define R4 (and/or XL if it's not out of stock, which it currently is) reviewed and compared at some point. It's suppose to be a quiet case. Gaming, not sure about that one.
  • 1 Hide
    jupiter optimus maximus , December 26, 2012 4:37 AM
    There is also the Corsair 550D to look at for the quite gaming experience.
  • -9 Hide
    killerclick , December 26, 2012 4:39 AM
    As usual, Cooler Master is mediocre at best. What pathetic company, the only thing they seem to do good is marketing to budget-conscious consumers.
  • 3 Hide
    EzioAs , December 26, 2012 4:55 AM
    Quote:
    As usual, Cooler Master is mediocre at best. What pathetic company, the only thing they seem to do good is marketing to budget-conscious consumers.


    I disagree. A lot of their chassis are good (HAF, Elite). I like their storm stryker/trooper. Most of their peripherals have great quality and reasonable price compared to something like Razer. Their coolers are also great as well (Hyper 212/212+/212 EVO). I just find their power supply unit to be the 2nd grade components, almost all of them I wouldn't use or recommend to other people
  • 1 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , December 26, 2012 5:17 AM
    ^ except for the high-end cooler master PSU's. They are quite decent, probably because Seasonic actually makes them.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , December 26, 2012 5:58 AM
    dthesleeplessI'd like to see how the Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 compares in your testing.In my testing I found it to be the most efficient silent case I've ever had on my workbench.
    JOSHSKORNI'd like to see the Fractal Design Define R4 (and/or XL if it's not out of stock, which it currently is) reviewed and compared at some point. It's suppose to be a quiet case. Gaming, not sure about that one.
    Perhaps you will...has anybody ever noticed the resemblance between those two?
  • 3 Hide
    dasick , December 26, 2012 6:25 AM
    Hm... A PC case noise benchmark test without a HDD???
    SSD is totaly silent, but HDD can make quite a bit of noise, and is still a basic part of every PC today.
    You guys seem to have forgotten something.
  • -5 Hide
    Crashman , December 26, 2012 6:52 AM
    dasickHm... A PC case noise benchmark test without a HDD???SSD is totaly silent, but HDD can make quite a bit of noise, and is still a basic part of every PC today.You guys seem to have forgotten something.
    An HDD can make a lot of noise, but not nearly as much as a graphics blower. The HDD was rejected as redundant noise.
  • 0 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , December 26, 2012 9:20 AM
    Can you even buy the Azza Silentium 920 case anywhere? I can't find it on Amazon or Newegg.
  • -3 Hide
    killerclick , December 26, 2012 9:25 AM
    EzioAsI disagree. A lot of their chassis are good (HAF, Elite). I like their storm stryker/trooper. Most of their peripherals have great quality and reasonable price compared to something like Razer. Their coolers are also great as well (Hyper 212/212+/212 EVO). I just find their power supply unit to be the 2nd grade components, almost all of them I wouldn't use or recommend to other people


    Their products are great when compared to box coolers and cheap no-name cases, but inferior to Corsair, Noctua, Scythe, Antec and the like. Hyper 212? Junk - even Tom's thinks so. Why buy fourth best? Find me one roundup of anything where Cooler Master comes out on top in performance or acoustics.
  • 5 Hide
    EzioAs , December 26, 2012 9:52 AM
    Quote:
    Their products are great when compared to box coolers and cheap no-name cases, but inferior to Corsair, Noctua, Scythe, Antec and the like. Hyper 212? Junk - even Tom's thinks so. Why buy fourth best? Find me one roundup of anything where Cooler Master comes out on top in performance or acoustics.


    Look at the price. The Hyper 212+ is not even remotely close to the price of top air coolers however it offers extremely good value and the link you provided is enough evidence. I'll also vouch for it since I have one and I'm using it to cool my 3570K running at 4.5GHz fully stable with cpu voltage of 1.18V and max temps of 78 degrees on the hottest core. I paid $30 for it and I can get my cpu to 4.5GHz, fully satisfied.

    Corsair do have great cases (no doubt here) but look at the total number of cases they have and the price point. Cooler master have everything from $30 to $300+ case.

    Look, this is not a debate on whoever makes the best products. We don't need one company dominating the other. If we do, we get fewer alternatives and high prices. Let's say you're right and let's take a look at the SSD market. Based on what I've found out so far is Samsung has the highest performing consumer SSD, the 840 Pro (if I'm wrong, consider this a hypothetical situation). However, does that make other SSDs like the crucial M4 or OCZ vertex 4 irrelevant? If the M4 and vertex 4 had lower prices and better price per GB than the 840 Pro, wouldn't it be a better deal for someone who's not looking for the best and/or is not willing to pay the premium?

    To conclude, there's nothing wrong with Cooler Master not taking the performance crown, value is not simply performance/aesthetics/size, it's more of how much you can get for the price you pay.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , December 26, 2012 9:52 AM
    killerclickHyper 212? Junk - even Tom's thinks so.
    It's a decent low-cost cooler and the one Tom's fell back to in the recent SBM when Newegg's mid-priced parts were out of stock.
  • 1 Hide
    Draconian , December 26, 2012 10:47 AM
    Where's the Corsair 550D?
  • -3 Hide
    killerclick , December 26, 2012 11:48 AM
    EzioAsTo conclude, there's nothing wrong with Cooler Master not taking the performance crown, value is not simply performance/aesthetics/size, it's more of how much you can get for the price you pay.


    Yeah, but who wants to save $15 on a CPU cooler they buy once in two years, especially if the CPU it cools costs 15 times as much?
    And you said "great quality and reasonable price", it's more like "mediocre quality and reasonable price". Great quality would come up on top, being in the bottom half in most comparisons is not great quality, unless compared with a box cooler, in which case the price would be beyond unreasonable.
  • 0 Hide
    EzioAs , December 26, 2012 12:24 PM
    Quote:
    Yeah, but who wants to save $15 on a CPU cooler they buy once in two years, especially if the CPU it cools costs 15 times as much?
    And you said "great quality and reasonable price", it's more like "mediocre quality and reasonable price". Great quality would come up on top, being in the bottom half in most comparisons is not great quality, unless compared with a box cooler, in which case the price would be beyond unreasonable.


    Some people just aren't enthusiast :??:  . Some people just want to spend little and they only change parts after a couple of years. You can call cooler master's products mediocre all you want, as far as I'm concern, most of them are decent to great quality
  • 3 Hide
    cknobman , December 26, 2012 12:25 PM
    I absolutely love my Antec P280, my favorite case I have ever owned.

    My $250 Lian Li was nice and all aluminum but its overall design and features paled in comparison to my Antec p280.

    I added 1 120mm fan to the front of my Antec and will admit it is not exactly "silent" but it is not what I would consider noisy either and I am more than willing to live with it since I have easily overclocked my 3770k to 4.5 ghz with a cheap $25 3 heat pipe cooler.
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