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Corsair Carbide 600Q Inverse Tower

The Corsair Carbide 600Q is a tall and wide minimalist case, both in terms of appearance and noise. It features an inverted motherboard orientation, an open front airflow design, noise damping sheets, and a fan controller.

December 19, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Corsair Carbide 600Q
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Price
US$150

The last two Corsair Carbide cases we examined, the 500R and the Air 240, were marketed as heavily ventilated enthusiast cases and certainly looked the part. The 600Q is surprisingly nondescript by comparison, adopting an almost featureless minimalist aesthetic with smooth clean lines, and noise damping material, in the same vein as many of Fractal Design’s cases. And like Fractal’s Define series, a windowed version is available in the 600C, though it’s arguably more snazzy than most such cases as its transparent panel stretches from edge to edge.


The Carbide 600Q.

As our site focuses on quiet computing, Corsair supplied us with the less sexy 600Q. Without the window to glam it up, the 600Q is not particularly attractive, though that’s probably due to its unusual dimensions which take some getting used to. Compared to a typical ATX tower, it’s rather tall (~21 inches) and wide (~10 inches) but also surprisingly shallow (~18 inches). The exterior has a pleasant matte black finish and a plain aesthetic design with the only visible features being a front I/O panel featuring a fan controller, a 5.25 inch drive door, and almost completely open intake vents along the sides of the front bezel.


Airflow scheme.


Conventional orientation.

Most of the magic is on the inside. As I mentioned earlier, it has substantial front ventilation and this airflow is not restricted by any obstructions as there are no drive cages in the way. Front fans can blow unimpeded over the motherboard and video card in a similar fashion to the Fractal Define S and NZXT S340. It also has an “inverse” motherboard orientation, that is to say the board is positioned upside-down compared to standard convention, though it’s not clear exactly why this is a superior way to go. Hot air rises after all, and the graphics card is the hottest component in most high-end systems. This layout means the CPU should heat up the GPU rather than the other way around.

Corsair’s airflow diagram looks flawed, depicting an AIO CPU cooler with its radiator mounted to the front of the case and fans blowing inward. The heat coming off the processor is transferred to the radiator and then blown back inside. Ignoring this aspect of the image, it should be noted that if you flip the case around into a standard orientation, everything works exactly the same. If anything, it makes more sense that way with the hot air going out the top rather than underneath.


Box and case.


Accessories.

Corsair doesn’t pay too much attention to their packaging, shipping the 600Q in a vanilla cardboard box with minimal decoration. The accessories are packed inside two smaller boxes inside the chassis. The larger of the two contains an extra 140 mm fan and mounting screws along with a note stating that “the 600Q is super quiet and cool with just two fans… but here’s an extra one in case you want a little more cooling.” The other box holds the remaining screws separated into individual bags along with a few zip-ties.

Specifications: Corsair Carbide 600Q/C
(from the
product web page
)
Warranty Two years
Weight 10 kg
Form Factor Full-Tower
Dimensions 454 mm x 260 mm x 535 mm
Motherboard Support Mini-ITX, MicroATX, ATX, E-ATX
Max. GPU Length 370 mm
Max. CPU Cooler Height 200 mm
Max. PSU Length 210 mm
Expansion Slots 8
Drive Bays (x2) 5.25 in
(x2) 3.5 in
(x3) 2.5 in
Material Steel
Power Supply ATX (not included)
External Connections (x2) USB 3.0
(x2) USB 2.0
Fan Controller
(x1) Headphone Port
(x1) Microphone Port
Fan Mount Locations Front: (x2) 120/140mm
Bottom: (x3) 120mm or (x2) 140mm
Rear: (x1) 120/140mm
Fans Included Front: (x2) 140mm
Rear: (x1) 140mm
Radiator Mount Locations Front: 280mm
Rear: 140mm
Bottom: 360mm
Compatible Corsair Liquid Coolers H55, H60, H75, H80i, H90, H100i, H105, H110

EXTERIOR & PANELS

The Corsair Carbide 600Q is a steel chassis with a plastic top and front panel. It weighs 10 kg and measures 53.5 x 26.0 x 45.4 cm or 21.1 x 10.2 x 17.9 inches (H x W x D). Its total volume is 63.1 Liters which is above average for a typical contemporary ATX tower.


The 600Q’s door is a small one, lined with with damping material and hiding a pair of 5.25 inch bays. The hinge rotates slightly past perpendicular.


The front I/O panel is located on the top of the case on the left side and includes both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, mic and line-out jacks, power and reset buttons, and a sliding switch for the three speed fan controller. The white hard drive and power LEDs glow just bright enough without being distracting.


The front bezel is almost completely open on the sides, ensuring that the intake fans receive an ample supply of fresh, cool air from the outside.


With its flipped layout, the 140 mm exhaust fan is located at the bottom while the power supply is housed up top. To further increase airflow, both the expansion slots and the area next to it are ventilated. Incidentally, the power supply is designed to be inserted through the back using the visible metal frame.


The case feet elevate the chassis by a considerable 3.2 cm in order to feed the 3 x 120 mm or 2 x 140 mm fan positions underneath. A removable wire mesh filter fits over this space and is secured tightly with a series of magnets around the frame.


The side panels are 0.8 mm thick and lined with stiff dimpled damping mats and secured with two thumbscrews at the back.


A pair of 120/140 mm fan placements reside at the front of the case, serviced by a removable dust filter. The second pre-installed 140 mm fan is mounted in the top position to help cool the motherboard and graphics card. The front panel is mounted using side clips and features the same acoustic damping material as the side panels and drive door.

INTERIOR

The 600Q’s interior is fairly well constructed with no points of weakness. Though the motherboard tray has a giant hole cut out for CPU cooler backplate installation, it feels solid. The tray spans across the entire case from front to back, giving it additional structural integrity as does the plastic power supply divider.


Airflow is one of the 600Q’s main strengths. The intake vents are essentially wide open and there’s nothing impeding the front fan. The chassis isn’t deep either so the distance between the front and rear fans is shorter than usual. The plastic compartment at the top keeps the PSU cabling out of sight, giving the windowed version of the case a cleaner appearance.


Cable routing holes surround the motherboard area and are fitted with rubber grommets except the two at the bottom. While the bottom fan placements are offset to create more clearance between the motherboard and a floor-mounted radiator, this area is better utilized for intake fans. Venting hot CPU exhaust out the bottom is not ideal and pushing it up into the case would increase internal temperatures.


While the chassis is fairly large case in terms of volume, 3.5 inch drive support is limited to just two slots underneath the 5.25 inch drive bay and the power supply.


Three 2.5 inch drive trays are provided at the back, mounted vertically behind the motherboard tray.


The 3.5 inch drive caddies are tool-less and lined with damping pads to limit vibration.


The fan controller can handle a trio of fans (3-pin only) and is powered via a SATA power connector.

ASSEMBLY

As the 600Q lacks hard drive bays at the front, the interior is spacious and easier to work in than other shallow cases. Assembly is a snap as long as the power supply has long cables. Our test unit is an older model with shorter cables, making it impossible to reach the major connectors via the main routing holes. Incidentally, the top of the case can be removed but the clips are on so tight that it maybe more trouble than it’s worth.


The power supply is oriented such that the main power cables emanate from the right side, while the back of the motherboard tray is on the left side. To stay hidden, the cables have to take a longer path than normal. As a result, a couple of our cables have to be routed through one of the 3.5 inch bays to reach their destination.


The 24-pin, 8-pin, and 8/6-pin PCI-E power cables, which measure 46 cm, 57 cm, and 45 cm long respectively, all have to pass over or to the side of the motherboard, in plain view. An extra 3~5 cm for the 24-pin and 8-pin cables would have been sufficient to keep them out of sight, while an additional 10 cm would be needed for the GPU power cables. The third 140 mm fan provided has been installed at the front lined up across the exhaust fan.


The tower is quite wide so CPU heatsink clearance is a non-issue. The Mugen Max has about 34 mm of breathing room above the top fin.


The drive tray does not press tightly against the sides of our 3.5 inch drive but due to gravity, it sits on the entire length of the damping strips. The more of the drive is in direct contact with the caddy, the more vibration will be passed on.


The drive tray sits somewhat loosely in its slot. As none of the main cables pass behind the board, cable management is not complicated on this side.


There is about 30 mm of space behind most of the motherboard tray, leaving plenty of room for cable slack. Even standard (not angled) SATA power and data cables fit.

TESTING

System Configuration:

  • AMD A10-6800K APU – 4.1 GHz, 32nm, 100W, socket FM2
  • Scythe Mugen Max CPU cooler
  • Asus F2A85-M Pro
    motherboard – AMD A85X chipset, microATX
  • Asus Strix GeForce GTX 980
    graphics card – 165W
  • Kingston HyperX LoVo memory, 2 x 4GB, DDR3-1600 in dual channel
  • Seagate Desktop SSHD hybrid drive – 2TB, 7200 RPM, 8GB NAND Flash, SATA 6 Gbps
  • Cooler Master
    Silent Pro M700
    power supply – 700W, modular, ATX
  • Microsoft
    Windows 7
    operating system – Ultimate, 64-bit


Test system device listing.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digitalaudio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

Testing Procedures

The system is placed on load using Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility. This puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application. Throughout testing, system temperatures, noise levels, and power consumption are recorded. During the load test, the system and GPU fans speeds are adjusted to various levels in an attempt to find an optimal balance between cooling and noise while maintaining a GPU temperature of 80°C (assuming an ambient temperature of 22°C).

Baseline Noise

For our baseline noise tests, the system is left idle, the CPU fan is set to its minimum speed under PWM control, and the GPU fans are off by default. The system fans are connected to controllable fan headers and are set to a variety of speeds using SpeedFan and the case’s fan controller, if one is provided. This gives us a good idea of what the stock fans sound like at different speeds with minimal interference from other sources.

Baseline Noise Level
(Idle, CPU fan at 400 RPM, GPU fans off)
Fan Speed Setting
Avg. Fan Speed
SPL @1m
Two Fans
Three Fans
0%
N/A
14 dBA
30%
440 RPM
15~16 dBA
16 dBA
40%/Low
580 RPM
18 dBA
19 dBA
50%
720 RPM
20~21 dBA
21~22 dBA
Med
770 RPM
21 dBA
22~23 dBA
60%
810 RPM
22 dBA
23~24 dBA
80%
980 RPM
26~27 dBA
28 dBA
High
1060 RPM
29 dBA
30~31 dBA
100%
1130 RPM
30~31 dBA
32 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle side/front
of case.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA@1m.

The 600Q seems to be inherently quiet as our system produces just 14 dBA@1m with all the fans at minimum speed or off, as opposed to the typical 15 or 16 dBA that most cases generate under the same conditions. With the system fans running, the noise emitted can be anywhere between 15~16 and 32 dBA@1m depending on the speed and whether the third fan is installed. Connected to the provided fan controller, the fans run at an average speed of 580, 770, and 1060 RPM on the low, medium, and high settings respectively.

The model number of the 600Q’s stock fan is A1425L12S-2, making it a lower speed (1000 RPM) variant of Corsair’s Air AF140 Quiet Edition. However, the acoustics produced by these fans is rather different. The sound is smoother overall but it has an underlying wobble/unevenness that makes it almost as unpleasant as the buzzy/tonal AF140 we reviewed a couple of years ago. At higher fan speeds, this effect is a bit less noticeable as the additional turbulence and buzzing helps mask it somewhat.

The electric twang of our 7200 RPM SSHD is audible at close proximity, possibly due to it echoing off inside the plastic PSU compartment surrounding it. Vibrations from the drive can be felt at the top of the case but it’s confined there for the most part rather than being transferred to the rest of the chassis. The 600Q’s lack of modular components means there are fewer parts susceptible to rattling.

TEST RESULTS

System Measurements: Two Fans, CPU + GPU Load
Avg. System
Fan Speed
810 RPM (60%)
720 RPM
(50%)
580 RPM
(40%)
580 RPM (40%, no filter)
GPU Fan Speed*
1120 RPM
(42%)
1170 RPM
(43%)
CPU Temp
54°C
55°C
55°C
55°C
MB Temp
40°C
42°C
43°C
36°C
SSHD Temp
31°C
32°C
32°C
32°C
GPU Temp
80°C
76°C
System Power (AC)
352W
354W
354W
351W
SPL@1m
24 dBA
23~24 dBA
23 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
CPU fan at 60% (800 RPM).
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Operating with just the two pre-installed fans, a system fan speed of 40% produces the quietest result under our testing parameters, 23 dBA@1m with the GPU fans at 43% speed. System fan speeds of 50% and 60% garner only negligible temperature improvements and barely affect how well the video card is cooled, allowing the GPU fans to relax by just 1% to keep the GPU at our 80°C target, and the net result is a noisier machine.

Removing the front filter causes a 7°C drop in motherboard temperature while the GPU cools by 4°C. This sounds significant but it’s actually a relatively small difference compared to cases with more restrictive filters. It’s also notable that the CPU is not effected by this change at all, possibly because it’s supplementing its intake airflow by using the vents at the bottom of the case.

System Measurements: Two vs. Three Fans, CPU + GPU Load
(80°C GPU Temp)
Fan Configuration
Two Fans
Three Fans
Avg. System
Fan Speed
720 RPM
(50%)
580 RPM
(40%)
720 RPM
(50%)
580 RPM
(40%)
GPU Fan Speed*
1120 RPM
(42%)
1170 RPM
(43%)
1010 RPM
(40%)
1120 RPM
(42%)
CPU Temp
55°C
55°C
54°C
54°C
MB Temp
42°C
43°C
43°C
44°C
SSHD Temp
32°C
System Power (AC)
354W
354W
354W
353W
SPL@1m
23~24 dBA
23 dBA
23~24 dBA
23 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
CPU fan at 60% (800 RPM).
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Adding the third fan generates almost identical results as the stock configuration. There’s less thermal stress on the GPU, allowing its fans to slow down slightly but the noise of the extra fans offsets any overall acoustic benefit. The third fan is superfluous for our testing configuration/parameters.

The noise produced by this system does not differ much from those generated during our baseline tests. Most of the added noise emitted by the GPU fans and higher CPU fan speed is fairly evenly distributed from about 170 to 2300 Hz. It does sound less high pitched and more pleasant than the case fans alone producing an equivalent SPL.

Comparison

Case Comparison: System Measurements
(CPU + GPU Load, 80°C GPU Temp at 22°C Ambient)
Case
SilverStone FT05
Antec S10
Corsair 600Q
Fractal Define S
NZXT Source 530
CM Silencio 652S
Avg. System
Fan Speed
2 x 500 RPM
4 x 80%
580 RPM
(2 x 40%)
630 RPM
(2 x 60%)
800 RPM
(2 x 50%)
550 RPM
(4 x 40%)
GPU Fan
Speed
1000 RPM
1050 RPM
1170 RPM
1120 RPM
1220 RPM
1120 RPM
CPU Temp
53°C
56°C
55°C
60°C
59°C
62°C
MB Temp
36°C
42°C
43°C
45°C
44°C
45°C
SSHD Temp
33°C
35°C
32°C
35°C
38°C
32°C
SPL@1m
21~22 dBA
22 dBA
23 dBA
23 dBA
23~24 dBA
24 dBA
Volume
46 L
86 L
63 L
58 L
61 L
57 L
Street Price
(USD)
$185
$320
$150
$80
$90
$105

The Carbide 600Q is among the best performing cases we’ve tested, only bested cleanly by the SilverStone Fortress FT05 and Antec Signature S10. It ties the Fractal Define S in measured noise but holds a consistent advantage in system cooling, especially the CPU, which runs 5°C cooler. It does cost almost twice as much however and is larger than most ATX towers.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The first case I examined with an inverted motherboard was the SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E back in 2011. Its good performance was was probably due to the large intake fan rather than how the components were laid out. Compared to cases with traditional designs, the most noticeable difference was the GPU being greatly affected by the rising heat from the CPU. It basically shifted the thermal burden from one component to another, leaving me unconvinced that this layout was advantageous.

The Corsair Carbide 600Q does a few things differently that makes this motherboard orientation more beneficial. The bottom of the TJ08-E is sealed while the 600Q’s floor is heavily ventilated, giving the CPU heatsink an additional source of intake. The TJ08-E is designed such that the power supply intake fan faces up, essentially thermally isolating it from the rest of the system. In contrast, the PSU fan faces the video card in the 600Q, possibly helping the exhaust from the GPU escape the system (given how efficient power supplies are these days, it can handle a bit of extra thermal stress). Most importantly, supplied by unrestricted vents, the front fans have a straight shot through the case without being impeded by any drive cages.

Under our testing parameters, the 600Q performed at an extremely high level, running both cooler and quieter than almost every case we’ve tested. The third fan wasn’t even necessary and in fact, its addition did not improve the overall results. A built-in fan controller is always nice to see but the three speed switch doesn’t offer much granular control. While the case is quiet in the empirical sense, the stock fans are subpar subjectively, producing a distracting wobbly noise that sounds like something inside is off-balance.

Though the case has unusual dimensions, trading depth for height and width, its appearance is inconspicuous, more minimalist than even Fractal’s Define towers as its top is completely featureless rather than having open fan placements or modular fan panels, and the build quality feels more solid all around. The Carbide 600Q, NZXT S340 and Fractal Define S share the same drive-less open airflow scheme and all suffer from limited hard drive support as a result, with the 600Q having only two slots for 3.5 inch drives. The fan positions at the bottom of the case could have been easily adapted to offer additional drive mounts for some extra versatility. The 5.25 inch bays are a rare sight in a case of this type and could be retrofitted for extra hard drives.

If not for the stock fans, the Corsair Carbide 600Q would be a killer quiet case. This is something that Corsair needs to work on as both the Air 240 and Carbide 500R are similarly afflicted. Cases from their competitors, like Phanteks, NZXT, Fractal Design, BitFenix, and SilverStone, are all equipped with superior sounding fans, so they really need to step up their game in this department if they want to be taken seriously as a noise-conscious manufacturer. The Carbide 600Q is painfully close to greatness, but falls just short. It’s also rather expensive, selling for US$150 and the potential cost of replacing the fans making it an even pricier proposition.

Our thanks to Corsair
for the Carbide 600Q case sample.


The Corsair Carbide 600Q is recommended by SPCR

* * *

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* * *

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