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Six Low-Noise, Performance-Oriented Cases, Tested

Six Low-Noise, Performance-Oriented Cases, Tested
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We recently illustrated the features of our six low-noise cases, and today we get to find out how those features help them perform. We provide further detail on the hardware installation process before delving into heat and noise comparisons.

Some of us remember how automotive reviewers panned the Lamborghini Countach for being hot, extremely noisy, hard-riding, and difficult to control. And yet teenagers often dreamed about how the car performed under ideal driving conditions. Meanwhile, automotive enthusiasts with the money to purchase a Lamborghini typically bought a different, more refined performance-oriented car.

More recently, Chris Angelini revealed similar problems in his article AMD Radeon HD 6990 4 GB Review: Antilles Makes (Too Much) Noise and went on to praise a competing product for being detuned to help mitigate those issues. Of course, the most efficient way to quiet a high-performance PC is by choosing a better case.

While many of our readers still get hit with those teenage dreams of ultimate performance as they click through the pages of high-end hardware reviews, more have already passed that phase where, after living with one or two unbearably noisy systems, they're willing to pay a little extra for a combination of slightly-reduced cooling performance with dramatically improved acoustic performance.

Not all of the cases in today’s comparison are specifically marketed towards noise-sensitive buyers though, as each company instead sent us the lowest-noise gaming cases they could find. That could be an issue when gaming boxes are asked to compete against acoustic foam-lined products, but we also know that design plays as much of a role as material in noise reduction. Before we jump to any conclusions, let’s take a closer look at the hardware each of these systems supports, and then see how easily some of that hardware can be installed.

(Ed.: In case you missed it, a couple of weeks back we posted an extensive picture story with these six enclosures in a number of compromising poses. If you'd like to see more angles of each chassis, check out In Pictures: Six Low-Noise Performance-Oriented Cases.)

 Antec
Sonata IV
Bitfenix
Colossus
Fractal Design
Define XL
Lian Li
PC-B25S
NZXT
H2 Classic
SilverStone
Raven
RV02-E
Dimensions
Height17.3"22.6"22.2"21.4"18.4"19.8"
Width8.1"9.6"9.2"8.3"8.4"8.3"
Depth18.9"23.2"22.5"19.6"20.6"
Space Above
Motherboard
0.7"2.5"0.1"0.3"0.2"0.8"
Card Length11.2"13.2"13.2"11.6"12.2"12.2"
Weight20.2 lbs*34.5 lbs27.6 lbs17.0 lbs20.6 lbs20.0 lbs
Cooling
Intake Fans
(alternatives)
None
(None)
1 x 230 mm
(None)
1 x 140 mm
(2 x 140 mm +
1x 120 mm)
2 x 120 mm
(None)
2 x 120 mm
(None)
3 x 180 mm
(None)
Rear Fans
(alternatives)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
None
(1 x 140 mm,
1x 120 mm)
1 x 140 mm
(1 x 120 mm)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
None
(None)
Top Fans
(alternatives)
None
(None)
1 x 230 mm
(1 x 140 mm,
2 x 120 mm)
1 x 180 mm
(None)
1 x 140 mm
(None)
None
(1 x 140 mm)
1 x 120 mm
(None)
Side Fans
(alternatives)
None
(None)
None
(None)
None
(1 x 140 mm,
1 x 120 mm)
None
(None)
None
(None)
None
(None)
Drive Bays
5.25" ExternalThreeFiveFourThreeThreeFive
3.5" ExternalNone1 x Adapter1 x Adapter1 x AdapterNone1 x Adapter
3.5" InternalFourSevenTen***SixEightFive
2.5" InternalOneSeven**Ten***NoneEight***One
Card SlotsSevenEightSeven +1EightSevenSeven
Price$165**$169 $150 $212 $100 $173
*case only **with power supply ***shared on 3.5" tray
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  • 7 Hide
    Tamz_msc , June 6, 2011 4:23 AM
    i7 2600K at 34.5 GHz? o.O
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , June 6, 2011 4:35 AM
    the rv03 is out at less $$$ you guys should do a rv02-E vs rv03 round in the cooling side and thats because the rv03 has more fans
  • 0 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , June 6, 2011 4:45 AM
    Using a SilverStone Fortress Series FT02B-W here. Basically identical interior design, except in my opinion the exterior is more aesthetically pleasing. Glad to confirm the excellent cooling characteristics.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163161&cm_re=ft02_b-_-11-163-161-_-Product

    Another big plus with the Fortress 2 is the inclusion of sound dampening foam on every panel, but to be entirely honest with you, due to the open nature of the case, I'm really not sure how much sound it's actually dampening.
  • 6 Hide
    henryvalz , June 6, 2011 4:57 AM
    34.5 Ghz...

    Hell, yes! About time, pushing those extreme overclocks!
  • 2 Hide
    Gamer-girl , June 6, 2011 5:11 AM
    I think there needs to be info on how much space there is for graphics cards.
  • 4 Hide
    xmaswraith , June 6, 2011 5:32 AM
    34.5 gigahertz? 34.5 gigahertz? Great Scott!

    Marty, I'm sorry. But the only power source capable of generating 34.5 gigahertz of electricity is a bolt of lightning... (begin back to the future theme song!)
  • 2 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , June 6, 2011 5:35 AM
    henryvalz34.5 Ghz...Hell, yes! About time, pushing those extreme overclocks!

    I bet they were overclocking from Pluto.
  • 3 Hide
    killerclick , June 6, 2011 5:51 AM
    JOSHSKORNI bet they were overclocking from Pluto.


    Didn't you watch the news? Astronomers sent a dwarf in a rocket to remove Pluto so it doesn't exist anymore.
  • 0 Hide
    Luay , June 6, 2011 6:24 AM
    RV-03 pushes more air and cools better than the 02, but it's also louder.
  • 0 Hide
    madsbs , June 6, 2011 9:31 AM
    Yet, as a gaming case, the Raven 2 Evolution may not fulfill the aesthetic or storage needs of some computing professionals
  • 2 Hide
    madsbs , June 6, 2011 9:36 AM
    "Yet, as a gaming case, the Raven 2 Evolution may not fulfill the aesthetic or storage needs of some computing professionals"

    This conclusion makes no sense. Why do "computing professional gamers" need storage.
    And further the case holds 5 HDDs. That's 1 SSD + 4x2TB of storage.
  • 0 Hide
    srgess , June 6, 2011 10:04 AM
    35.4ghz with silent operation ! Wondering if it can play crysis !
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 6, 2011 10:32 AM
    Sonata - top mounted PSU = no go, especially for semi passive ones.

    Fractal or Raven? This is harder one.
  • 1 Hide
    VirtualMirage , June 6, 2011 11:54 AM
    The specs on page one for the Fractal Design Define XL are wrong. The intake fan is 140mm, not 120mm. There is room for 2 140mm intake fans plus a 120mm intake fan. The specs list incorrectly shows it as one 120mm fan with an alternative for three 120mm fans.
  • 0 Hide
    Petey1013 , June 6, 2011 2:03 PM
    madsbs"Yet, as a gaming case, the Raven 2 Evolution may not fulfill the aesthetic or storage needs of some computing professionals"This conclusion makes no sense. Why do "computing professional gamers" need storage. And further the case holds 5 HDDs. That's 1 SSD + 4x2TB of storage.



    You mean 5x2TB. It holds 5 HDDs and a SSD.

    Also, the FT02, although more expensive, should have been used due to the extra sound dampening material.
  • 0 Hide
    randomstar , June 6, 2011 2:03 PM
    Anyone remember the Silio case? is it still in production? Quiet, insulated, cools well.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , June 6, 2011 2:07 PM
    This is unusual for Tom's...an inconclusive review on poorly chosen hardware.
  • -1 Hide
    verbalizer , June 6, 2011 2:08 PM
    I do not particularly care for ANY of these cases, thanks anyways..
  • 0 Hide
    chesteracorgi , June 6, 2011 2:29 PM
    I'd rate the Bitfinix, Lian Li and Silverstone for having the best aesthetics. Antec's design placing the PSU at the top is anachronistic: heating the top of the case. Silverstone's idiosyncratic design produces the best cooling at the price of more noise. None of these cases give me a second thought about going with the Corsair 600T.






  • 2 Hide
    marraco , June 6, 2011 3:01 PM
    I would love an article about how to "make it yourself".

    Do a case with good electromagnetic and noise insulation. With good cooling.

    What materials are better? Is electromagnetic insulation that important? (so, is necessary a conductive -metallic- case?)

    how do you solve the precise location of backward holes (for motherboard, and boards).

    how do you make the holes for different form factors (hint: there are standards)

    etc. there is a lot to talk. You can make a cheap case much better than the trademark garbage sold.
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