Smaller quiet and cool cases that are easy to work with?

Enclosures and acoustic damping to help quiet them.

Moderators: NeilBlanchard, Ralf Hutter, sthayashi, Devonavar

Post Reply
NSParadox
Posts: 24
Joined: Thu Jun 26, 2003 2:25 pm
Location: San Mateo, CA
Contact:

Smaller quiet and cool cases that are easy to work with?

Post by NSParadox » Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:58 pm

I like the idea of small gaming computers, but after building an SFF 5 years ago was very difficult to work with. Changing the video card would mean I'd have to unplug lots of things and remove lots of the case. I also had frequent issues with overheating and ended up turning the fans much more than I originally wanted to.

At the same time, the P180-style cases are waaaay too big for my needs and I don't like the big, boxy aesthetic. My current build uses a Sonata 3, and I'd love to go at least a little smaller if I can.

My typical builds are the following:
- Sweet spot gaming oriented CPU with a bias towards more cores instead of higher clockspeed (i5-760, Q6600, etc.)
- A $30-$50 CPU HSF
- 1 sweet spot video card with better-than-stock cooling (8800GT, 460 GTX 1GB, etc. variants where I don't need to install any additional cooling solutions)
- 1 SSD
- 1 hard drive
- 1 DVD drive
- Standalone sound card or NIC when needed
- Replaced system fans if stock case fans are too loud as long as no dremeling is required

I'm pretty sure I could house everything in a mATX case, if not ITX. However, I want something that's not going to be significant work to properly cool, maintain, and upgrade. My wife and I both work and have a child, and life only gets more busy every day.

Any recommendations for a case that may work well given the fact that I'll never come close to using all the space required for ATX? Are there SFF/ITX cases that fit this bill, or at the very least mATX towers?

Thanks!

Fire-Flare
Posts: 422
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:44 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Smaller quiet and cool cases that are easy to work with?

Post by Fire-Flare » Sun Jan 02, 2011 12:07 am

Have you considered using a test bench case? They lack walls for easy part swapping and therefore tend to have excellent cooling, the components breathe and vent without obstructions. I suggest keeping your kid away from it though.

Plus you're right, disassembly is a pain and I tinker with my setup a lot.

I heartily recommend the Lian-Li T60. I'm using passive video cards with BIG heatsinks and it you can install a Scythe Mugen 2 in there without it touching the handle.

It may be a bit bulkier than what you're looking for though.
My build: viewtopic.php?f=14&t=69018

Swiftech MCP35X review: viewtopic.php?f=27&t=65287

boost
Posts: 661
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 10:29 am
Location: de_DE

Re: Smaller quiet and cool cases that are easy to work with?

Post by boost » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:19 am

NSParadox wrote:Are there SFF/ITX cases that fit this bill, or at the very least mATX towers?
Lots.

There are some nice MATX towers coming out:
Fractal Design Define Mini
Lian Li A04
Already out and with a lot of airflow and good reviews, but imho totally fugly:
In Win Dragonslayer
Good airflow, limited height for CPU cooler:
Silverstone Sugo SG03/04

MATX Cubes:
Lian Li V35X
ITX Cube:
Lian Li Q08 SPCR review.
Gaming oriented ITX cubeish:
Silverstone Sugo SG07 SPCR review.
Another gaming oriented aluminum ITX cube, not out yet:
Cubitek Mini Tank
Even smaller ITX, limited CPU cooler height and graphics card length:
Lian Li Q11

MATX Desktops, somewhat limited CPU cooler height:
Silver Stone GD05 SPCR review.
Lian Li C50
Fire-Flare wrote:Have you considered using a test bench case?
No, and I won't. There's lots of good options out there. Benches are only good for benching.
Lian Li V600, Asus P77Z-M Pro, i5-3570K 4.4GHz with Scythe Orochi, 140mm Slipstream 500RPM and Mugen2 115X Bolt through kit, Evga GTX 970 Superclocked, BeQuiet E9 580W CM

tim851
Posts: 543
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2008 11:45 am
Location: 128.0.0.1

Re: Smaller quiet and cool cases that are easy to work with?

Post by tim851 » Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:36 am

Good list from boost.

Be aware that every case that puts the PSU above the mainboard will limit cooler height and make it necessary to at least remove the PSU to perform just about any maintenance task. Also, you are pretty much limited to the Scythe Big Shuriken height-wise. It's an inexpensive, relatively well performing heatsink, but I had trouble getting it to cool a Quad Core quietly (by my standards that means silent).

From personal experience I can say that the Silverstone SG04 has rather bad airflow. You can mount two 120mm fans, but they have no reasonable air intake. Once you close the front door, the top one loses about 2/3 airflow (estimate).

I'd like to add the veteran Antec NSK-3480 and Silverstone TJ-08 to the list. Both mATX cases with relatively standard layout.

I have the TJ-08 and it is no different to work with than a regular ATX-Tower. And at 37x37x20 cm, it's quite a bit smaller than regular ATX-cases, more so, than the numbers would suggest.
It can take just about any CPU heatsink, the front 120mm fan has superb airflow. The front is beautiful aluminum, the rest of the case is some cheap metal frame shared with one or two cheaper cases. But it doesn't really jump the eye.
Small negatives: It's a short case, so using extra long PSUs can spell trouble with optical drives. Any regular PSU will be fine though. And there is no space between the right side panel and the mainboard tray, which means there is no way to route cables behind it and if you use a non-modular PSU and two optical drives, it can get a bit messy inside, since there is nowhere to tuck away the cables.

speedkar9
Posts: 307
Joined: Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:39 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Smaller quiet and cool cases that are easy to work with?

Post by speedkar9 » Sun Jan 02, 2011 8:20 am

Antec NSK-3480 and Silverstone TJ-08
+1

Suspend the HD in the 2nd optical bay, mount the SSD on the case floor. 120mm exhaust to cool a semi-passive CPU, and 1 or 2x92mm intake to cool a passive video card.
[url=http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=60019]Antec 302-S Project[/url]
[url=http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=516201#516201]Solo PC with flipped PSU & Mobo[/url]
[url=http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=59157]Basement PC flipped and converted[/url]

[img]http://img237.imageshack.us/img237/9425/img0230copy.jpg[/img]

datapappan
Posts: 199
Joined: Wed Nov 10, 2004 1:44 pm
Location: Sweden

Re: Smaller quiet and cool cases that are easy to work with?

Post by datapappan » Sun Jan 02, 2011 8:33 am

I quite like the In-Win KB623/644, for mATX - very short and small overall.

Don't know how easy they are to work inside though. A real con is that the PSU is SFX size, not much to choose from there, and overly expensive.

Otherwise I hear good things about the NSK3480.

Sorry, no personal experience of small cases.

/ d
[size=75][CPU: 2.4 GHz P4 Northwood w. AC Freezer 4 (fanless-Bluefront PSU mod inspired) / MB: ABIT VT7 (Via PT880) / GPU: ATI Radeon X800XL w Zalman ZM80D-HP / HDD: Seagate Barracuda IV SATA 80GB / CD: Samsung CD-DVD combo / Seahawk ALU Case / PSU: FSP 350-THN (fan mod-Everflow connected to CPU fan header)[/size]

NSParadox
Posts: 24
Joined: Thu Jun 26, 2003 2:25 pm
Location: San Mateo, CA
Contact:

Re: Smaller quiet and cool cases that are easy to work with?

Post by NSParadox » Mon Jan 03, 2011 6:27 pm

Thanks for all of the ideas. I really like the look of the Define mini, but wonder what the airflow will be like. It seems that systems with front air intakes are all the rage according to SPCR.

The Silverstone Sugo SG03 looks great too.

Has anyone had experience with any of the cubes and how easy they are to work with, whether mATX or ITX?

Post Reply