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Case And Case Cooling

System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $2600 Performance PC

Case: Antec P280

Several of our ideas about ideal case design came into conflict for this particular build. First, we wanted something with a high-quality finish, such as anodized aluminum, to hint at the quality of the parts inside. But we also wanted something quiet, since noise can ruin the ownership experience. Moreover, I wanted a case that would look equally good on top or next to a desk.

At first I considered adding damping material to one of my favorite Lian-Li designs. That went out the window, though, when I realized that all of the cases in mind required USB 3.0 loop-back cables protruding haphazardly from the back. Cooler Master’s ATCS 840 is no longer available. And SilverStone’s Fortress 2 is really too long to put on most desks.

Read Customer Reviews of Antec's P280

Antec’s $140 P280 was finally chosen mostly for its layout and features, but partly because its aluminum panel lends a slightly dressed-up appearance. Thick steel side panels and an acoustic foam liner in the drive bay door keep much of the noise from graphics cards where it belongs (inside the case). Front-panel ports near the top edge ease access from either low or high relative positions, and a dual-intake triple-exhaust design assures us that proper cooling would be at our discretion.

Additional Case Cooling: Rosewill ROCF-11004 Cooling Fans

We bring up proper cooling because the P280 doesn’t include intake fans. Given the massive sucking power of the Radeon HD 7970’s intake, coupled with lots of airflow from Zalman’s CNPS12X, we didn’t even know if intake fans would really be required. But we didn’t build this machine to merely match a list of minimum requirements. We wanted it to excel at overclocking.

Read Customer Reviews of Rosewill's ROCF-11004 Fans

Rather than drop big bucks on a famous name, we began reading user reviews to find the best cooling-to-noise ratio for the price. Rosewill’s Hyperborea fans rely on hydro dynamic bearings to reduce noise, offering a rated 57.53 CFM at 16.05 decibels in open air. Two buyers indicated that these ratings weren’t too unrealistic, and a price of only $9.26 per fan was low enough to convince us to give them a try.

Unfortunately, the distance between Antec’s intake fan mounts and Asus’ motherboard connectors was far too long for typical fan leads. Rather than buy two four-pin extenders, we decided to give one four-pin splitter a try at half the price. Our ammeter shows a maximum of 310 mA start-up current and 2 W continuous power consumption at full-speed for both fans combined, and the power meter on our wall jack concurs.

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