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

Creating A Quiet Case: More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

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.

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Single-radial GPU Cooler

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Triple-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 P280Azza Silentium 920Cooler Master Silencio 650
Dimensions
Height20.6"18.2"18.8"
Width9.1"8.8"8.2"
Depth22.3"20.5"21.0"
Space Above Motherboard1.3"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.

  • jrayx
    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.
    Reply
  • James296
    sweet, been looking for a quiet gaming case =)
    Reply
  • dthesleepless
    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.
    Reply
  • EzioAs
    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 .
    Reply
  • JOSHSKORN
    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.
    Reply
  • There is also the Corsair 550D to look at for the quite gaming experience.
    Reply
  • killerclick
    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.
    Reply
  • EzioAs
    9540164 said:
    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
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    ^ except for the high-end cooler master PSU's. They are quite decent, probably because Seasonic actually makes them.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    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?
    Reply