Remembering that the Enermax ECA3171-BR-AP’s $50 price is temporary, we also tested it using the less expensive ECA3170-BL’s single-fan configuration. The two configurations that include only an intake fan were also retested with the fan in back, since we know that the result will be lower CPU temperature at zero added cost to the builder.
Antec’s lowest-cost Three Hundred includes two powerful exhaust fans and no intakes, resulting in the lowest temperatures at both low and high fan speeds. Enermax follows it with a dazzling light show using three fans.
The VS-9 performs best out-of-the-box against the single-fan configurations because its unlit fan is mounted as exhaust. Moving the ECA3170 and Elite 430’s LED front fan to the same place allows these to pass the VS-9, though they lose their front lighting.
Noise levels are “where the rubber meets the road.” Antec’s Three Hundred uses thicker panels to minimize noise output by the graphics card and CPU cooler, though we did hear some escaping from the unused side-panel fan grille. AeroCool has the quietest fan, but the case did a poor job of isolating internal component noise.
Dividing the average temperature for all configurations by the individual temperature of each configuration gives us a percent scale that awards lower temperatures. Conversely, dividing the actual noise level for each system by the average for all systems gives us a noise scale that punishes the highest noise levels. Dividing the first result by the second yields the following Acoustic Efficiency chart.
Antec’s Three Hundred takes first and second place, depending on fan speed. We’d use the second-place “low-speed” mode, since few of us would want to work next to a pair of fans that emit 36.7 decibels constantly.
Enermax takes second place with three fans, while Cooler Master’s third-place finish is a good result for its use of only one fan, even though we had to move that fan to get this level of performance.
AeroCool understands that the rear fan does the real work, and knowing that it wouldn’t be easy to see the lighting with its fan in back, omitted any LED components. Had we not tested the other two single-fan enclosures in the alternative configuration, the VS-9 would have moved up to third place.