Supermicro isn't typically associated with gaming products. However, the company's Gaming S5 ATX is riding a reputation for solid construction in the server business, hoping to attract enthusiast customers as well.
A splash of color and the sheen of brushed aluminum separates its Gaming S5 from Supermicro’s traditional products. You're also looking at a sub-20” depth measurement. Given the company's traditions, we were expecting at least two feet. This might be the first Supermicro desktop component we’ve tested that actually fits atop most desks. Of course, you could also shove it under the desk. But then I’d wonder why you want to hide it. Either way, the pair of USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks are lined up along the top of the front panel to ease access from either location.
A pop-out panel at the bottom of the front face features mesh backing to catch large dust particles. Two 120mm intake fans behind the filter can be upgraded to your choice of 120 or 140mm replacements.
Supermicro includes (but does not install) the two grommets for its rear-panel coolant line passages, instead leaving round knock-outs in their place. Extra space for radiator mounting is highlighted by a row of vents above the motherboard’s I/O panel, leaving the presence of only seven expansion slots as the S5’s most obvious externally-visible limitation. That is to say it won't take a full complement of graphics cards; an eighth slot is required to place a double-space graphics card into an ATX motherboard’s bottom slot.
A glance at the dimensions uncovers a few additional restrictions, such as the 11.2” maximum graphics card length in some slots when all drive cages are installed. But a look inside will reveal configuration options for users of longer cards. So, let’s take a peek!
Interior Tour And Building
The Gaming S5 officially supports motherboards up to 10” wide behind its three modular drive cages. Grommets dress up cable passage holes above, in front of and below the motherboard, and an extra hole behind an ATX-sized board allows cleaner cable management on microATX boards.
By default, the 2.5” drive cage is centered between 3.5” cages. Though that fact doesn’t fit neatly into the previous page's dimensions table, it allows the placement of expansion cards up to 12.6”-long in slots two through five. That is, until you move things around.
Covered by a magnetically-attached mesh sheet, the S5's top panel supports multiple spacing options for up to three 140mm or 120mm fans. Though you won’t find space for the end caps of radiators with three 140mm fans, a 3x120mm configuration fits down the center thanks partly to the top panel’s two inches of motherboard clearance. Thicker radiators can be offset to the left side, though upper drive bays limit this location to a 2x120mm length.
The same type of mesh that covers top-panel vents also filters dust at the power supply and lower fan inlets. Users with standard-sized power supplies (PS2 form factor) could potentially put a 2x120mm radiator here, though most high-capacity power units are too long to allow this.
Removing a drive cage extends maximum card length to 16.5”. A modular design allows these to be stacked any way you wish. Using slide tabs, a single cage can be hung from the top or secured to the base, and a screw at the front of each cage prevents it from sliding out.
Slides for the lowest drive cage engage a screw-in tray. Removing the tray provides access to the forward bottom-panel fan mount, and is required for fitment of a front-panel radiator. Users who don’t need any of the drive cages and can use a relatively short power supply will find room for up to three radiators!
Front-panel bay adapters make it possible for some builds, especially gaming machines, to get by without the drive cages. Mounting patterns for 3.5” and 2.5” drives are found behind the black-anodized brushed-aluminum face plate.
Screw-free mounting pins are found on both 3.5” and 2.5” trays, and additional 2.5” drives can be screwed onto 3.5” trays.
The Gaming S5 has enough space behind its motherboard tray to accommodate an ATX/EPS main power lead, along with other cables. But its access holes are very small. We found it necessary to remove the grommet if we wanted to route a 24-pin connector behind the tray. Fortunately, the grommet can be stretched around that connector once it's removed.
In addition to the expected screw kit and grommets to replace the two rear-panel knock-outs, Supermicro adds a front-panel header adapter for motherboards from other vendors. That's because the case’s stock cable is designed exclusively for Supermicro platforms.
Most motherboards (apart from Asus and Supermicro) use the Intel-specified nine-pin front-panel LED/switch header, which places power LED wires adjacently. Carried over from the old AT form factor and retained by Asus, Supermicro’s adapter spaces these pins three positions apart. Splitting the connector allows it to fit both standard and Asus front-panel headers.
An ATX motherboard (12” x 9.6”) fits nicely, but oversized platforms like the 12” x 10.7” MSI X99S XPower AC I like to use would block access to cable passages along the front edge. That could be a big deal for many high-end builders, since a lot of enthusiast-oriented motherboards are similarly oversized.
The finished build looks clean and stylish. But the side-panel vent is a little worrisome concerning noise. Let’s find out if Gaming S5 results can overcome those worries!
How We Test Cases
The system we used in this article only deviates from our official 2015 Reference article in motherboard. We had to swap out the reference system's 10.5"-deep MSI X99S XPower AC for a standard ATX (9.6") model: the X99S Gaming 7.
Obviously, our Lian-Li PC-T80 open bench chassis sits this one out.
Test System Components
|CPU||4.2GHz (42x 100MHz) @ 1.2V Core|
|Motherboard||Firmware 17.8 (02/10/2015)|
|RAM||XMP CAS 16 Defaults (1.2V)|
|Graphics||Maximum Fan for Thermal Tests|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 347.52|
|Chipset||Intel INF 18.104.22.1689|
To facilitate identical cooling on differently-sized motherboards, we're downsizing from Noctua’s huge NH-D15 to its NH-U12S. Though the smaller dimensions could solve fitment issues with some hardware combinations, cooling our overclocked Core i7-5930K is more challenging for its single-tower sink and one fan.
We’ve also transitioned from a noisy blower-style graphics cooler to an axial fan model from Gigabyte. The GV-N970G1 Gaming-4GD keeps its GPU exceptionally cool at reduced noise, while dumping its heat directly into the case.
Power comes from the 80 PLUS Platinum-rated Dark Power Pro 10 850W by be quiet!
Designed by committee, our new test platform runs hot and quiet, negating the dramatic performance differences its predecessor was designed to produce.
|Prime95 v27.9||64-bit executable, Small FFTs, 11 threads|
|3DMark 11||Version: 22.214.171.124, Extreme Preset: Graphics Test 1, Looped|
|Real Temp 3.40||Average of maximum core readings at full CPU load|
|Galaxy CM-140 SPL Meter||Tested at 1/2 m, corrected to 1 m (-6 dB), dBA weighting|
Noise is measured .5m from the case’s front corner, on the side that opens. The numbers are corrected to the 1m industry standard used by many loudspeaker and fan manufacturers by subtracting six decibels.
Even though the newer test hardware produces closer results, we can clearly see that the mid-sized Gaming S5 runs cooler than the much larger Corsair 760T.
Perhaps that extra coolness is due to the side vent, which allows heat to escape from an internally-vented graphics card? Unfortunately, those same holes in the side panel allow noise to escape as well.
As a result of the extra noise (which admittedly isn't much, given the quiet cooling used), the Gaming S5 falls 2.5% below the average of all three cases in acoustic efficiency. That is to say, it has a marginally worse cooling-to-noise ratio.
On the other hand, the Gaming S5 also has a $94 MSRP. We normally use prices only from popular etailers to determine street pricing, but are sticking to MSRP for the Gaming S5’s calculation because it’s not readily available. We found various small sellers offering this Supermicro model-number CSE-GS50-000R for $89 to $136.
Supermicro’s Gaming S5 looks like a great value, but that’s partly because it’s the first sub-$100 case I’ve tested with the new hardware. As I wait for the next mid-market case to come in, let’s consider a few Gaming S5 specifics.
First of all, the S5 is very light and built with extremely thin steel. Supermicro does an admirable job of bracing it internally with rolled edges and a complex drive cage system, but side panel flex can still be a big deal. It’s particularly hard to put back together with that space behind the motherboard tray stuffed with cables. You'll need several hands to line up its slide tabs when cables are pushing against such a springy panel. We saw this issue addressed by adding a broadly-boxed edge on the Silent Base 800 side panels from be quiet! Then again, that case was 50% more costly and still made out of similar-gauge material.
The Gaming S5 also lacks space for slightly oversized motherboards, which are popular at the high-end of most enthusiast motherboard manufacturers. Maybe you won’t put a $400 board in a sub-$100 case, but I’m sure someone will try.
Perhaps the least-forgivable problem is that access holes are too small to pass a 24-pin cable, at least without removing the grommets. Then again, once you get the cable through, you’ll probably leave it there for a long time. It’s just the kind of thing that would have me pulling a Gibbs as the leader of a design department.
On the other hand, the S5 has several excellent design attributes that are sure to please most builders, such as the triple drive cages that can be independently installed or removed, and space for up to three double-fan radiators. Or even a triple-fan, with a bit of effort. The black-anodized brushed aluminum also looks far more convincing than the brushed-texture plastic of many competitors.