Three Cases Compete; Only One Can Win
Our previous round-up pointed to 42 dB(A) as the lower limit for noise pollution, with 35 dB(A) being the lower limit for general annoyance. Corsair’s Obsidian 550D isn’t annoying at idle by those standards, but it does surpass 42db with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 580 cranking away at full speed. Fortunately, if you like Corsair’s design as much as we do, you're probably pretty safe assuming that the Fermi-based card won't ever hit its highest fan speed setting in real-world use. At least, we've never managed to trigger 100% during game play. As it turns out, though, another case copes with the same noise output more effectively, so it doesn't end up mattering that the 550D edges past the 42 dB(A) threshold we set in Part 1.
Likewise, Gigabyte took a chance by entering its low-cost Luxo M10 in our quiet case competition, likely hoping to achieve a value victory. Although the case does yield the highest value result, it also allows excessive noise out into the environment, both at full load and at idle. We're happy to illustrate that the Luxo M10 is cost-conscious effort, but it can't be recognized as a quiet gaming case, so we're moving it to the bottom of our value chart.
Better temperatures, lower noise, and a lower price give Fractal Design’s Define R4 the definitive win today. In fact, the margin of victory is great enough that we’re comfortable giving it our Tom's Hardware Approved award. It still needs to compete against six additional cases in our upcoming final analysis, so the Define R4 could even graduate to a better award.