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NZXT Source 530 Full Tower Case

The Source 530 abandons much of the style NZXT is known for in favor of relatively pedestrian looks and an open airflow scheme. Though not designed as a quiet case, it nevertheless qualifies as one through sheer cooling efficiency.

August 31, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
NZXT Source 530
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Price
US$90

NZXT cases usually have a bold visual style along with a tidy interior that keeps the more unsightly guts of the system out of view. The H440 is a prime example, with its striking asymmetric design, hidden power supply and drive bays, and the various color accent options. Their more affordable models also exhibit the NZXT style, like the Source S340, possibly the best looking tower on the market at the sub-US$100 price-point. The larger Source 530 examined here belongs to the same family, but it abandons some of NZXT’s design theme in favor of airflow to maximize performance.


The Source 530.

This ATX tower is a bit of anomaly in NZXT’s catalogue, a fairly open mid-range design available only in a single matte black model like their budget modes; usually, a NZXT case priced at US$90 has multiple color options. The Source 530 has some girth to it, measuring close to 20 inches in height/depth and more than 9 inches in width. The heavily ventilated front panel accommodates two 120/140 mm fans or a single 200 mm giant. The ceiling has fully exposed fan mounts with a raised design that support up to three 120/140 mm fans, making it the perfect spot for securing a radiator for watercooling. The interior is not covered up in any way and the window is shaped and positioned to look away from from the messier areas.


Front panel.

The Source 530’s front panel is imbued with a bit of NZXT’s iconic asymmetric design but it’s so slight that it can be mistaken for shipping damage. The top-right adds to this effect as there’s a slight droop where the hard drive activity LED is located, making the corner appear caved in. The plastic bezel has semi-reflective solid sides while the front has a mesh design covering a grate with larger holes on the inside. The case’s three tool-less 5.25 inch drive covers are made up of a similar mesh material.


Accessories.

A small white box inside the case is packed with the icnluded accessories. Each set of screws is separated into individual bags along with bolts (presumably for mounting fans to a radiator), a nut driver to secure the standoffs, and numerous zip-ties for bundling up cables.

Specifications: NZXT Source 530
(from the
product web page
)
Size Full Tower
Model Number CA-SO530-M1
Drive Bays External 5.25″: 3
Internal 3.5″/2.5″: 6
Internal 2.5″: 1 + 6
Cooling System Front: 2x 140mm/120mm or 1x200mm
Rear: 1x 140mm/120mm (1x120mm included)
Bottom: 2x120mm
Top: 2x 140mm or 3x120mm (1x120mm included)
Interior: 1x120mm/140mm
Clearance CPU Cooler: 183mm
VGA Card: 282mm (With Cage & Pivot Fan, 310mm (With Cage), 444mm (Without Cage)
Cable Management: 26mm (Lowest Point), 34mm (Highest Point)
Dimensions 235mm x 507mm x 510.5mm (60.9 liters)
Material Steel, Plastic, Mesh
Motherboard Support ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX, EATX (322x272mm)
Expansion Slots 8
External Electronics 1 x Audio/Mic
2x USB 3.0
Product Weight 9.2 kg
Warranty 2 Years

EXTERIOR & PANELS

Like most cases at this price-point, the Source 530 has a steel frame and a plastic front. The whole package weighs 9.2 kg or 20.2 and measures 50.7 x 23.5 x 51.1 cm or 20.0 x 9.3 x 20.1 inches (H x W x D). Its total volume is 60.9 Liters, above average for a modern ATX tower.


The top of the Source 530 has a raised section in the center for fans/radiators. While this makes the position stronger structurally, the contours are unsightly. Instead of fixed mounting holes, rails are offered so each fan’s position can be tweaked. One of the two stock 120 mm fans is installed in the rearmost placement oriented to exhaust upward.


A second fan is secured to the back in a similar adjustable placement. Two white LEDs (not visible) are located at the top of the rear port cut-out and expansion slots to shine downward on the connectors.


The LEDs are powered on/off with a switch residing on the right/top side of the front bezel, sandwiched between the power and reset buttons.


At the bottom of the case, the power supply vent is composed of slits while the two 120 mm fan positions are completely open. Both sections are covered by removable dust filters lined with fairly fine mesh.


The side panels are between 0.9 and 1.0 mm thick and use a hinge design to grip the chassis.


Popping off the front panel allows access to the 5.25 inch bays, front fan mounts, and the removable dust filter covering the intakes. There are two 120/140 mm fan ports and an option for a single 200 mm fan.

INTERIOR

While the Source 530 has fairly thick panels for a sub-$100 case, the
internal construction leaves a lot to be desired. The drive cages are thin,
as is the motherboard tray. The latter extends all the way to the floor and
is riveted to the 5.25 inch drive structure, giving the entire structure extra
stability, but the tray itself lacks material as it is punched full of holes.


The case has a spacious layout with plenty of room along the top and sides of the motherboard tray. Six 2.5/3.5 inch drives in total can be fit into the three different sized removable drive cages. The cages are interchangeable so they can be arranged in any order.


Though 5.25 inch drives are less relevant these days, the case has a solid tool-less mounting mechanism with metal latches.


An interesting but seemingly pointless feature is a fan bracket on the inside attached to the main drive cage. A 120/140 mm fan can be secured here using the top mounting holes only and can be tilted slightly to direct air diagonally upwards rather than straight across.


Like most modern towers, there’s an elevated damped power supply
position but the 530 has two additional nubs for deeper models.


The drive caddies are accessed on the right side of the case as
are the thumbscrews holding each individual drive cage in place. There’s
an additional 2.5 inch drive bracket next to the fan hub. Cable management
is good, with multiple large routing holes and hoops for tying down
wires.


The fan hub powers up to 10 fans but there are no control options.
It’s powered by a 3-pin to 4-pin molex adapter, while the case lighting
is powered with a SATA connector.


Though they don’t look very secure, the drive cages are well immobilized if the thumb screws are tightened sufficiently. The screws are fitted with washers and the drive sleds have rubber grommets on the inside to limit drive vibration.

ASSEMBLY

With ample clearance on each side of the motherboard and removable drive cages,
the Source 530 is easy to assemble if you have any experience. Cable management
may be slightly more tedious but only because the fan hub is located behind
the motherboard tray and there are a couple of extra cables for connecting the
rear LEDs.


The Source 530 with our test system installed. The top fan was moved
to the front to deliver fresh air to the graphics card. This usually
produces superior results in a two fan configuration.


The chassis is fairly wide so there are no clearance issues with
the Scythe Mugen Max CPU cooler. It stands 16.0 cm tall and there is
about 3.0 cm of space above it. If you prefer watercooling, the distance
between the top edge of the motherboard and the ceiling vents is 5.4
cm so there’s room plenty of room for a radiator and fans.


Fans can be installed on either side of the front portion of the chassis. However, if fans are mounted to the interior, they interfere with the drive cages. Additionally, if fans are placed behind the front panel, they have to be screwed in from the inside which can be difficult if the rest of the system has already been assembled..


The drive caddies are made of a thick but flexible plastic material that doesn’t snap on as securely as metal sleds. However, the grommets lining the mounting holes isolate the drive well, so the amount of vibration passed to the rest of the chassis should be limited.


Cabling at the back is relatively tidy. There’s a good 2.4 cm of clearance behind most of the motherboard tray and a bit more room is available toward the drive cages.


The lighting at the front is nicely diffused by translucent material.


The view from the back with the back lighting activated.

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. This gives us a good idea of what the stock fans sound like at different speeds with minimal interference from other sources.


Our test drive, slightly modified.

Before any measurements, a small modification to the case was made. A foam
block was taped to the 5.25 inch drive bay just out of view of the side window.
While drive vibration wasn’t an issue (at least when using a single drive cage),
pressing down on the left side panel, particularly near the center, made the
system noticeably quieter, possibly because the panel doesn’t fit as tightly
against the chassis as it should. This simple addition helped steady the panel,
improving both the sound quality and measurable noise level.

Baseline Noise Level
(Idle, CPU fan at 400 RPM, GPU fans off)
Fan Speed Setting
Avg. Fan Speed
SPL @1m
0%
N/A
15 dBA
40%
670 RPM
16 dBA
60%
900 RPM
19~20 dBA
80%
1050 RPM
23~24 dBA
100%
1190 RPM
26 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA@1m.

With the rest of the system’s fans running at minimum speed, the case fans
don’t make an acoustic impact on the noise level of the machine until about
40% speed (670 RPM). They remain fairly quiet until approximately 1000 RPM,
becoming significantly louder beyond this point as the speed increases. At full
speed they emit 26 dBA@1m, which is moderate, but reasonable for a tower with
only two fans.

The included fan is the FN V2 120 mm, the same used in the Source S340. It
has a delightfully smooth sound with a broadband acoustic profile. Much of the
noise it produces is in the medium frequency range between 250 and 1000 Hz and
it’s bereft of tonality at all speeds. While the Source 530 is a well-ventilated
performance-oriented case, that didn’t stop NZXT from equipping it with one
of the best sounding stock fans on the market.

TEST RESULTS

System Measurements: CPU + GPU Load,
80°C Target GPU Temp
Avg. System
Fan Speed
800 RPM
(50%)
900 RPM
(60%)
980 RPM (70%)
1050 RPM (80%)
GPU Fan Speed*
1220 RPM
(44%)
1180 RPM
(43%)
1120 RPM
(42%)
1120 RPM
(42%)
CPU Temp
59°C
58°C
58°C
57°C
MB Temp
44°C
44°C
41°C
38°C
SSHD Temp
38°C
37°C
37°C
37°C
System Power (AC)
356W
355W
355W
355W
SPL@1m
23~24 dBA
24 dBA
24~25 dBA
25 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
CPU fan at 60% (800 RPM).
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

For our system configuration, the stock fans running at 50% (800 RPM) produces the quietest result, 23~24 dBA@1m with the GPU fans at 44% speed. Increasing the speed of the system fans doesn’t have a big impact on CPU cooling, while motherboard cooling only see a noticeable improvement at 70% and above. The GPU does cool down enough to slow its fans slightly but the extra noise from the system fans generates a net noise gain for the system.

Removing the dust filter inside the front panel has barely any impact on performance. The bezel is so well ventilated, the filter has no influence.

The noise emitted doesn’t differ much from what was produced during
the baseline tests. The CPU and GPU fans sound worse than the stock case fans,
but they don’t spin fast enough to change the overall sound of the machine.
At the machine’s sweet spot, the noise is about as pleasant as 25 dBA@1m can
sound.

Comparison

Case Comparison: System Measurements
(CPU + GPU Load, 80°C GPU Temp at 22°C Ambient)
Case
Fractal Define S
NZXT Source 530
CM Silencio 652S
NZXT H440
NZXT Source S340
Antec P100
System Fan
630 RPM
(2 x 60%)
800 RPM
(2 x 50%)
550 RPM
(4 x 40%)
810 RPM
(3 x 60%)
910 RPM
(2 x 60%)
980 RPM
(2 x 80%)
GPU Fan
1120 RPM
1220 RPM
1120 RPM
1410 RPM
1170 RPM
1530 RPM
CPU
60°C
59°C
62°C
66°C
62°C
60°C
MB
45°C
44°C
45°C
51°C
46°C
44°C
SSHD
35°C
38°C
32°C
36°C
34°C
32°C
SPL@1m
23 dBA
23~24 dBA
24 dBA
24 dBA
25 dBA
25~26 dBA
Size
58 L
61 L
57 L
53 L
38 L
56 L
Price (USD)
$75
$90
$110
$110
$70
$75

Compared to previously tested offerings at or around US$100,
the Source 530 does fairly well, coming close to the Fractal Define S in overall
performance. In terms of ventilation, it is the most “open” model
in this comparison, but this doesn’t hurt it in the noise department. Under
our testing parameters, it can boast slightly improved CPU and motherboard temperatures
as well as a lower noise level than most of the field.

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 NZXT Source 530 strikes a nice balance between airflow and noise, proving
that a heavily ventilated model can find the sweet spot just as well as more
closed designs. Versatility is great as it offers an ample amount of clearance
for all major components and CPU coolers of all sizes, support for a fair number
of drives, removable/interchangeable drive cages, and plenty of fan placements.
A fan controller for the hub would have been welcome, but at least the included
fans sound sublime and hard drive vibration is limited. Though not a quiet case
by design, it has the major strengths PC sileners seek.

Despite being the best performing NZXT case we’ve tested thus far, it is possibly
the least NZXT-like model in appearance. The exterior lacks the clean lines
of the S340, the striking asymmetry of the H440, and it is not offered in multiple
colors. The ceiling grate is an eyesore, jutting out from the rest of the chassis,
and the spot housing the hard drive LED looks droopy and sad. On the inside,
it doesn’t attempt to hide the drive bays, power supply, and cabling. Instead
of making the interior neater, they utilized a small, oddly shaped window to
keep the mess out of view. The lighting at the back is a nice touch, but overall,
it lacks the style exuded by most of NZXT’s lineup.

The Source 530’s appearance is a stark contrast to the Fractal Design Define S and Define R5, but it surprisingly offers comparable performance for a reasonable US$90. It’s a splendid choice for an enthusiast tower case, if you don’t mind its pedestrian aesthetics.

Our thanks to NZXT
for the Source 530 case sample.


The NZXT Source 530 is recommended by SPCR

* * *

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NZXT Source S340 Mid Tower
SilverStone Precision PS11B-Q Budget Tower
Antec Signature S10: A Second Coming?
Antec P100 Case: Performance One on a Budget
Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
Zalman Z11 Neo ATX Case

* * *

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