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Fractal Design Torrent Review: Totally Different, Totally Cool

Is there such a thing as too much airflow?

Fractal Design Torrent
(Image: © Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom's Hardware)

For thermal and acoustic testing, we are using the following software and settings: 

CPU Clocki9 9900k: 4.6 GHz (46x 100MHz) @ 1.1v 
GPU ClockRTX 2070 Super: Stock
GPU DriverNvidia GeForce 445.87
Case & CPU Fan SpeedsStock Configuration 100%, Standardized CPU 100%, Case fans 50%.
GPU Fan Speeds75%

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom's Hardware)

Test Results 

The included 140mm fans will spin as low as about 500 RPM, maxing out at around 1600 RPM, whereas the 180mm RGB fans will drop down to just 250 RPM at the low end and max out around 1150 RPM. These are good fans, capable of running very quietly, though they offer far more cooling power than is necessary at the top end. 

Acoustic Results 

For our acoustic tests, we run three scenarios: CPU full load, CPU and GPU full load, and an optimized idle. The CPU Full Load test runs the CPU and case fans at their maximum speed. For the CPU and GPU full load acoustic test we add the Nvidia RTX 2070 Super FE at 75% fan speed, because in practice it never runs at 100 percent and is far too loud when it does.

For the optimized idle, we run the GPU fan speed at 40 percent (the 2070 Super FE GPU does not have a Zero-RPM mode), and run the CPU and included case fans at the lowest speed they will spin at.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

For the optimized idle result, the Torrent performs very well, matching the room’s noise floor. This makes it practically inaudible if you have a zero-RPM GPU. With the fans running at full blast, the Torrent runs quite loud, certainly living up to its name. However, as we’ll see in the next section where we test thermals, there really is no reason to ever run the case’s fans at this high speed –it’s likely topping them out at 1000 RPM for the 140mm fans and 800 RPM for the 180mm spinners is all anybody will ever need. In a way, that’s the beauty of a chassis with this many fans: Each fan doesn’t need to work as hard. 

Thermal Results 

For the thermal tests, all case and CPU fan speeds are set to 100 percent. The i9-9900K is pegged at a 4.6GHz clock at 1.1v on all cores to ensure consistent power consumption across test scenarios, and letting the GPU run at 75 percent fan speed enables it to maintain its power target while maintaining one set reasonable fan speed, so that the temperature is the only variable. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Fortunately for Fractal, the counterpoint to the high noise levels is chart-leading thermal performance. Of all cases I’ve tested, the Torrent jots down the lowest overall temperatures I’ve seen – it will truly handle anything you throw at it, thermally. The good news here is that you don’t need to run the fans at full speed when gaming – with this much thermal headroom, it’s easy to optimize for a quiet fan curve that offers just enough cooling. 

Conclusion 

(Image credit: Niels Broekhuijsen, Tom's Hardware)

Fractal Design’s Torrent is a chassis unlike anything we’ve seen from the Swedish case maker, changing up the standard, sleek ATX recipe we’re used to from them and offering something a little more aggressive, with a strong focus on airflow.  

In that way, the Torrent has succeeded: It offers great, striking looks that balance aggression well without sacrificing modern design, and it has more cooling performance than any other case I’ve tested. 

But it isn’t perfect. Especially with the RGB version, there are a lot of cables to manage, and you’ll rely on your motherboard to power the lighting effects. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but there just isn’t really a good spot to dump all these cables. Normally I’d throw the slack into the PSU chamber at the bottom, but it’s at the top in this case and that’s too much of a detour, so you’ll have to spend more time than I did if you want things to look tidy – and you’ll want to because the side panel, also on the cable management side, is made of glass. 

Next to that, there’s the matter of price. This version of the case costs a mighty $240, though skipping the RGB will save you $50. That puts it in premium chassis territory, and while its lavish inclusion of five large fans goes a long way to justifying the price, I feel this case lacks the design smartness found in most Fractal Design cases like the Meshify 2 and Meshify 2 Compact. It would also be great to see a smaller Torrent Compact that finds a way to save some overall desk space while making a bit more room for cable routing.

That said, if you like the Fractal Design Torrent’s looks and crave its cooling performance, this case is well worth considering. Just be ready to spend a little more time tidying up cables and setting up a modest fan curve if you want to keep things pretty and quiet. 

Niels Broekhuijsen

Niels Broekhuijsen is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He reviews cases, water cooling and pc builds.

  • waltc3
    Don't care for the PSU mount--reminds me of very early ATX (and pre-ATX) motherboards that put the PSU up at the top! I remember it well. I much prefer it at the bottom of the case in a walled off compartment. What happens with the PSU at the top is a lot of the hot air from the CPU and the GPU gets sucked into the PSU's intake fan, reducing its efficiency. Sort of a weird arrangement here...;)
    Reply
  • derekullo
    It would be interesting to see how cases compare to open bench with the same acoustic and thermal tests.

    A "bench"mark you could say.
    Reply
  • Sippincider
    At the exchanger/fins level you can definitely have too much airflow. Don't have the engineering details in front of me, but it's possible to push air so quickly the heat transfer isn't effective; a given amount of air needs to spend so much time in contact with the fins. (Or in other words, bolting on a bigger faster fan doesn't necessarily make it cooler; learned this the hard way many years ago!)

    At the case level, if you go mass overkill, only a portion of the air will actually be doing cooling. The rest will be along for fun, making noise and pulling dirt into your system. Then there's the opposite extreme favored by a certain fruit company, of pulling just barely enough air through to keep the system from thermal throttling...
    Reply
  • Pytheus
    Too many intake fans, not enough output fans.
    Reply
  • peterf28
    I own fractal design define mini .. very nice case - but too heavy. Always check weight.
    Reply
  • peterf28
    Pytheus said:
    Too many intake fans, not enough output fans.
    It is called positive pressure
    Reply
  • IceQueen0607
    Gross. Poor airflow. Seems this case will suffer from a positive airflow. In hot places like where I am that is not a good thing.
    No side fans. No, there isn't a situation where you can have too much air flow!

    I have a Thermaltake W100. Changed the left side door to the same as the right side door and added and extra 4 fans. Total 13 fans (counting rad), with negative air flow.
    Reply
  • Pytheus
    peterf28 said:
    It is called positive pressure

    I'm well aware. I believe it's better to be moving hot air out just as fast as pushing cooler air in. Mixing cool air with the hot will not produce optimal results.
    Reply
  • magnusb
    Pytheus said:
    I'm well aware. I believe it's better to be moving hot air out just as fast as pushing cooler air in. Mixing cool air with the hot will not produce optimal results.

    You can mount fans any way you want ...
    Reply
  • Pytheus
    magnusb said:
    You can mount fans any way you want ...
    Not really. The case has a total of 7 fan placements. 3 front, 3 bottom, and 1 back. Front and bottom fans are always intakes, that leaves one fan as an out. Not at all customizable.
    Reply