Of course you can't actually compare these two cases. The R5 is a full-fledged midrange ATX tower of 55.6 litres, as opposed to this miniscule ITX box of 7.2 litres.
When the case finally arrived, I settled for the following setup:
Parts taken over from the R5 build:
- Intel Core i7-6700K
- Kingston HyperX Fury DIMM Kit 8GB, DDR4-2666
- Samsung SSD 960 EVO 500GB, M.2 (OS)
- Samsung SSD 850 EVO 1TB, SATA (data)
- MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming X 8G
- ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac
- Noctua NH-L9i
- Corsair SF450 450W SFX12V
Data drive behind the front panel. (There is space for 2 more in the bottom)
Bottom. Mounting holes for the HDD/SSD bracket, which can take another two drives, some people use it to hide away cables.
Open top. The plug of the power cable is not ideal for Corsair PSU. On the right you can see the PCIe riser cable for the GPU. It is a 3M cable and appearantly bloody expensive.
CPU and PSU side. Cable management is a bit complicated in such a small space. It can look much worse, but I have also seen some very clean builds.
GPU side. The MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X fits well. Distance to the side panel is 4.5mm, 28mm to the front panel. It could not be taller, as the PCIe power plugs need some space, as can be seen in the second picture.
CPU side closed.
Coming from a case as big as the R5 I really had to get used to building inside such a small space. But it is a very well thought-out design and once you know, how to handle it, it is not as cumbersome, as I feared at first.
There is no cutout in the mobo mounting panel, so you have to take out the mobo, if you want to mount/dismount the cooler or the M2 SSD.
Other than that you can readily access everything. The side panels are kept in place by Lian Li's push pins and as long as you don't secure them with additional screws, you can easily yank them off and get inside to do whatever you think needs to be done.
I tested both the Cryorig C7 and the Noctua NH-L9i and settled for the NH-L9i. The C7 is a tad more powerful, but it has an annoying fan noise. It also generated really loud turbulences, being taller and the fan too close to the side panel. The NH-L9i fan has to spin a bit faster to get the cooling done under full load but in general it is the better solution to my ears. With 89°C temps were just below throttling and too high for my taste. During gaming the CPU settled around 65-70° with audible fan noise.
Not satisfied with this, I went on and did my very first delid/relid of a CPU. It's a bit odd to spend 30€ on a delid-tool you use only once, but considering it is a 300€ CPU, I just bit the bullet and got that thing. Practiced once with a Pentium G4400 and then moved on to the 6700K. I used liquid metal between the die and the heat spreader. Both CPUs are still alive and well after the surgery and temps went down from 89° to 72°. Absolutely worth it!
Next I created a fan duct for the CPU fan, which seperates the suction area of the fan from the rest of the case. Cereal Boxes are a great source of cardboard!
With this simple and dirt cheap measure I gained another 6° and started adjusting the fan curve with SpeedFan, so finally the data under full load of the CPU (P95) looks like this:
You can check out this spread sheet here.
During gaming temps are now around 60° for both CPU and GPU. Fans of both are around 800 RPM. This is not a taxing game for the GPU. Unigine heaven pushes the temps to 73° @1350 RPM on the GPU side and a little above 60° on the CPU side. The most audible noises during this are some coil whine coming from both the GPU and PSU and the fan of the PSU. It is not a very bad fan, but the next mod I will be doing is replacing this fan with a noctua one and have it also controlled by SpeedFan.
I also wanted to get the temps down by undervolting, but either I was unlucky at the silicon lottery, or I am doing something badly wrong. As soon as I put the offset lower than -0.02V things get unstable.
A reguar computer case divides the tasks of drawing in fresh air, cooling a component (CPU, GPU) and pushing out hot air to different fans. With this case, each fan acts as a case fan and cooling fan at the same time. Fresh air gets drawn it at the suction side of the fan and pushed through the cooler at the pressure side of the fan. This generates a slight overpressure inside the case and the hot air escapes through the top, parts of the sides and even a little through the bottom.
There are two sections, which are fairly seperated by the mobo mounting panel and the PSU. They are not completely seperated, though. Hot air can get pushed from one side to the other underneath the PSU, but in the end, the cooling concept works and the temperatures are well balanced between the components.
Some people removed the IO shield allowing hot air to escape through the back, which also improves the temperatures.
There are lots of discussions, whether a blower-style GPU is "better" for this case or not. A Founder's Edition card certainly is much louder, therefore the MSI Gaming card is the better choice for me. I do wonder, though, if things were a little bit cooler, if the cooling fins of the GPU were vertical and not horizontal, so hot air would be directed upwards and not sideways. But in the end, this card works admirably well inside the A4. The fans sit close enough to the side panels and draw in fresh air. I also made a fan duct, but it did not improve the situation. That thing was huge and flabby, though, I guess, I would have to come up with something sturdier.
What I miss:
- Built-in ODD and HDD-bay to quickly swap backup disks.
- The ease of working inside a well designed case like the R5.
- Other than that: Nothing.
- The sheer compactness
- Desing (aesthetical and technical)
- Cooling concept
The final question: Is it silent?
During idle, it is inaudible (GPU and PSU fan stop, CPU fan @ 700RPM)
During gaming, there is some slight coil whine and the PSU fan (which I will swap); a little bit of GPU fans
Running handbrake, the CPU fan ramps up to 1200-1300 RPM, which is audible, but not disturbing.
My first SPCR-oriented rig was a setup around an FX-8120 inside a Solo2 case with the PSU facing up.
The A4-SFX rig is much more powerful, much smaller and quieter at that.
The R5 is of course a bit better in the silence department, but at least with this setup, things are not far off. As soon as there is some everyday noise (like the fridge in the kitchen next door right now) it disappears acoustically.
I was a bit sceptical, when I ran my first tests, but after some mods, things turned out really well. As long as you keep some balance you will end up with a powerful, compact and pretty silent rig. Of course you could stuff even more powerful components inside this case, but at a temperature and noise penalty, I would not be willing to accept. Being silence-oriented, this setup is as far as I would go.
Overall it's a great little case, which allows to house a lot of power inside a small space, and it looks really cool on your desk!
I replaced the PSU fan with a Noctua NF-A9x14 and hooked it up to the nearest fan plug on the mobo. The NF-A9x14, which you can buy seperately has slightly different specs, compared to the NF-A9x14, which is sitting on the NH-L9i (2000 RPM vs 2500 RPM), so I had to tweak the curve a bit, to get similar RPM on both fans.
SpeedFan works fine with this mobo, but ulitmately I just used it to define an appropriate fan curve and transferred the break points to the BIOS. You can choose 4 temperatures (1° steps) and bind them to PWM percentages (1% increments). It is not as comfortable as shifting around a fan curve, but it works just as well and -hey- it's running on BIOS, thus it will not fail, even at 100% system load.
The problem with the PSU fan was twofold: Firstly, it's a (low quality?) fan, which makes too much noise for my taste. Secondly, once the system gets heated up (gaming), the GPU emits lots of heat also on the backside, which heats up the PSU enough, to constantly switch on/off it's fan at idle (after a gaming session), creating some weird chirping noises. This has also been described by other users on hardforum, so I'm not the only one experiencing this.
Originally I planned on defining a second fan curve in SpeedFan, which depends on the GPU temp (you can combine several fan curves for one fan in this software), but then I tried it with an always-on approach (as opposed to Corsair's semi-passive mode), which is linked to the CPU temp. This works fine for me and I can transfer this into the BIOS. So that's what I will stick to for the moment.
FWIW, this is the PSU fan:
And this is how the CPU side looks like now:
The noise level of the system has gotten lower another notch, it is inaudible at idle (2 Noctua fans running at 700RPM) and quite a bit softer at load. A typical gaming session will have all 4 fans (CPU, PSU, 2 GPU) running at 800-1000 RPM. Audible, but far from annoying.
I thought about replacing the GPU fans, but now, that the PSU fan has gone, I have to say MSI did a great job with this cooler. The fans create no bearing noises, all I can hear is the whoosh of the air streaming through the side pannel and the cooler. No tonality either.
I did unmount the fan shroud and fans, just to check out, if the Noctua fan would fit. I don't see much reason to do this now, but it actually does fit. It is as high as the original fan:
This is the GPU fan:
All that's left to do is to try out a NF-A9 (25mm) on the CPU heat sink.