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Antec’s Eleven Hundred, the only case to arrive without any intake fans, amazingly matches SilverStone’s KL04 in average temperatures. And it wasn’t even the CPU that received the most benefits from its design, as low GPU temperatures put it in the top position. That is to say, we can’t even credit its 200 mm top fan directly…or can we?
Perhaps Antec’s 200 mm fan worked a little too well. After all, pulling hot air up from the graphics card would certainly make the CPU warmer, and the Eleven Hundred has the second-highest CPU temperature. Still, we believe that the position of its side-panel vents—which were right below the graphics cooler—played a larger role in its lower graphics temperature. Further analysis might even show the 200 mm fan pulling cool air in from those side panel vents, reducing ambient temperature surrounding the card.
SilverStone’s results are easier to figure out, with an intake fan that sits mostly below the graphics card and a case design that allows that fan to push air to nearly every component.
Fractal Design's submission had the lowest CPU and highest GPU temperatures, and a look back at the build hints to how that happened. The Arc Midi’s included intake fan sits above the level of our graphics card, feeding the CPU cooler air, while leaving the GPU to fend for itself. This might be addressed by moving the fan, though it'd take a while to figure out if dual intake fans, single intake fans in two locations, or extra top fans would yield the best results. The broad number of configuration options forces us to rely on case manufacturers to optimize component placement, as they have the best reason to do so.
Cooler Master’s Storm Enforcer had the highest average temperature, but it makes up for that by doing the best job of containing the noise from our graphics card's fan running at 100% duty cycle. It’s unvented side panel appears to be the reason for this performance mix.
Runner-up in the noise stats, SilverStone’s KL04 is the only other case with a solid side panel. Yet, the company had a second trick up its sleeve. Knowing that most folks concerned about noise measure acoustics either from the front or left sides, it put the case’s intake fan on the right side. Seeking the most realistic worst-case scenario, our noise readings are normally taken at 45° from the left front edge.
Indeed, the KL04’s noise measurements were one to two decibels lower than the charted values when we tested it from the same 45°-left angle as the other cases. Because the KL04’s intake fan is actually on the right side of the case, we retested it from 45° to the right, and used the higher noise numbers. SilverStone could have won, but testing it only from the left would have been unfair to its front-fan competitors since we can’t assume everyone is using a PC on their right side.
Even when we use a less favorable angle for testing, SilverStone’s KL04 tops our Acoustic Efficiency chart. Antec and Cooler Master aren’t far behind, though.