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Raidmax Viper: A Modern Budget Tower

Despite being a budget tower, the Raidmax Viper has all the modern trappings one would expect in a more expensive product. On paper it looks like a great value, but in reality its ambition hampers both performance and functionality.

December 29, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Raidmax Viper
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$60~$70

Raidmax is an a well-known case manufacturer headquartered in the United States with a long history of producing affordable towers but with a splash of garishness to differentiate them from the majority of the mass-produced OEM cases. Their latest case is the Viper, a budget tower in the US$60~$70 range that borrows heavily on the design of Cooler Master’s Elite series of cases which typically retail for US$40~$50. The Viper aspires to be a bit more though, outfitted with all the modern trappings one would expect to see in a more respectable tower.


The box.

It’s a change of pace from the types of cases we typically review, but is just as worthwhile as not everyone can afford US$100+ for what is essentially a shell protecting all the really important components inside a PC. It would be easy for us to snub our noses at such a product, but even a cheaply constructed case can be a good product as long as its design is fundamentally sound. We don’t have high hopes though as manufacturers tend to most of their care and thought into their more profitable, high-end gear.


The Viper.

The Viper is a classic example of an affordable enthusiast tower — it has more features (like USB 3.0) than generic towers and is dressed up a bit to appeal to those who can’t afford something like the excessively excessive In Win Dragon Rider. According to Raidmax, the front panel has an “aggressive design” consisting of a swinging door with orange trim that bulges out slightly and decorative intake vents angled upwards. Our sample shipped with three 120mm fans with 4-pin molex connectors; The ones placed on the front and side are translucent models graced with blue LEDs. There’s a window on the left side panel to better view the light show inside.


The accessory pack is Spartan, consisting of a few standoffs, washers, screws, a PC speaker, and a few pieces of gear to to tie off cables and such.

 

Specifications: Raidmax Viper
(from the
product web page
)
EXTERNAL DRIVE BAYS 4 X 5.25″, 1 X 3.5″
INTERNAL DRIVE BAYS 4 X 3.5″ H.D.
SYSTEM BOARD 10” X 12” MAX SIZE ATX FORM FACTOR / MICRO ATX
EXPANSION SLOTS STANDARD ATX 7 SLOTS
I/O PORTS 1 X USB3.0 + 1 X USB2.0 / 2 x AUDIO*
DIMENSIONS 521(L) X 185(W) X 445(H)mm
COLORS Black, White, Red
COOLING SYSTEM
FRONT 1 X 120mm blue LED fan
SIDE 1 x 120mm blue LED fan (optional)*
BACK 1 x 120mm Black frame with Black leaves fan
TOP None
*Possibly typos as our sample had two USB 3.0 ports and the “optional” side fan was included.

EXTERIOR

The Raidmax Viper is a plastic/steel case measuring 18.5 x 44.5 x 52.1 cm or 7.3 x 17.5 x 20.5 inches (W x H x D) for a total case volume of just 42.3 L. By contemporary standards it’s a little short and quite narrow.


The door is a thin piece of plastic with weak hinges inconveniently covering up the power and reset buttons, as well as the front USB and audio ports. It’s nice to see USB 3.0 on a budget case, but it requires an internal USB 3.0 header that many motherboards lack. As no USB 2.0 adapter is included some users will be stuck without front USB altogether.


At the rear of the case, we can see it has a standard bottom power supply layout. Though the front is orange on black, you can see it has a strong blue on black scheme going on.


The underside has a more rugged look with long tank-thread like feet rather than the standard knobby variety. There’s no ventilation on the case floor aside from the power supply vent which has a removable fine mesh filter.


The side panels were surprisingly snug against the chassis so the handles at the back were warranted. We would have preferred a simple handhold at the back of the panel instead as we had this nagging feeling the plastic handles would break off every time we used them. Though quite secure, the panels were anemic, only about 0.6 mm thick.


The side intake fan unfortunately is mounted flush against the side window. The combination of zero separation and restrictive ventilation slits is a perfect recipe for an extremely loud side fan.

INTERIOR

The Viper has a standard layout sufficiently long for all current single GPU graphics cards, though compared to most US$70+ cases it is a bit shorter. Even if the dimensions were larger we wouldn’t recommend it for high-end configurations as cooling could be an issue; there are no additional fan placements inside. The interior construction is much better than the side panels, with the drive cages in particular being relatively solid.


Inside we see all the usual features, a cutout behind the CPU area of the motherboard tray and some cable management holes on the side with grommets, though they are rather thin. The overall dimensions, build quality and the tool-less mounts for the optical and hard drive bays are suspiciously similar to the Cooler Master Elite series of budget cases.


The rear fan has blue blades and lacks the LEDs of its two siblings. It seems odd Raidmax wouldn’t make them all the same unless at the last minute they decided it would be too bright.


Four very thin pads lift the power supply up over the vent on the case floor.


The front fan blows over three of the four internal hard drive bays.


To pop off the plastic front bezel one simply has to pull outward with force at the bottom. This gives access to the front fan screws and the metal spacers covering the external drive bays. Once unscrewed the fan can be removed from the right side of the case.


There isn’t much in the way of cable management features on the other side, except for a couple of hooks for cable-ties.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the Viper is a straightforward affair. Our test system consists of an Asus 790GX motherboard, a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD Caviar hard drive and a Cooler Master 700W modular power supply.


The Viper has a very simple drive locking system common to many budget cases. The mechanism has two pegs which go into the drive’s mounting holes and a block at the center that goes into a hole on the drive cage. The block is then rotated, locking the drive against the cage, immobilizing it.


There is still some wiggle room however as the opposite side isn’t locked down so screws are required to truly have it secured. There are holes for the locking mechanism on this side, but there’s also a ridge at the center that creates too much separation, giving the pegs only a tentative hold of the drive. Oddly enough this issue doesn’t exist for the 5.25″ bays.


Our HD 4870 test system, fully installed. There was 5.5 cm of space to the right of the graphics card, making the total clearance about 29.6 cm (11.65 inches). There was a 4 mm gap above our FZ120 CPU cooler, making heatsink clearance only 16.0 cm (6.3 inches).


As the case lacks dedicated holes for the 4-pin AUX12V and/or 8-pin EPS12V connectors, we had to string our 4-pin cable through the side and it just barely made it.


The clearance behind the motherboard tray was atrocious, only 4~5 mm. Luckily we didn’t have too many cables overlapping and the side panel just barely fit.


With both LED fans going, the orange trim looks out of place. The case is also available in red on white and black on red flavors, but neither color scheme really works for us.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise

Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan
SPL @1m (dBA)
12V
9V
7V
Rear
21
17
15
Front
22
18
15~16
Side
37
36
33
Rear & Front
24
19~20
16~17
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

With our system assembled we performed a quick test of the fans’ acoustics. As expected the side fan sounded terribly buzzy, completely drowning out the other two. Even undervolted to 7V, the noise it emitted was a massive 7 dB louder than the front and rear fans combined at full speed. When removed and compared to the front fan (they are the same make), subjectively, we couldn’t tell them apart, so it was clearly a mounting issue with the side panel. The other two fans were surprisingly smooth and inoffensive even at 12V. With the side fan being so annoyingly loud, we were forced to disable it during thermal testing as it would have completely torpedoed the results.


At 9V, the front and rear fans generated a noise level of 19~20 dBA@1m.

Test Results: Radeon HD 3300 IGP

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
7V
9V
CPU Fan Speed
9V
12V
CPU Temp
29°C
52°C
49°C
48°C
SB Temp
34°C
39°C
37°C
36°C
HD Temp
32°C
32°C
32°C
31°C
SPL@1m
20 dBA
20 dBA
21 dBA
23 dBA
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Our IGP test system was reasonably quiet at idle, measuring 20 dBA@1m with the CPU fan at 9V and the system fan at 7V. On load, the CPU and Southbridge temperatures rose by 23°C and 4°C respectively while the hard drive remained at a cool 32°C; There was no difference in noise level (the power supply fan probably ramped up but was likely drowned out by the rest of the components). Speeding up the CPU fan to 12V proved to be more effective than ramping up the system fans to 9V, cooling down the processor and chipset by 2~3°C and with less additional noise.


Our HD 3300 IGP test system measured 21 dBA@1m on load with the stock fans at 7V and CPU fan at 12V.

With the stock fans being quite smooth the resulting system noise was low at 21 dBA@1m, however we did detect a noticeable low pitched hum produced by the hard drive. The sound actually showed up in the spectrum analysis as a tonal peak at ~120 Hz which corresponds to the 7200 RPM speed of the hard drive. Typically when we encounter hard drive vibration issues with cases it’s a rhythmic strumming due to loose hard drive cages rattling the side panels. In this case it was a more constant but subtle effect that couldn’t be alleviated by bracing the cage or side panels.

IGP Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
NZXT H2
Antec Solo II
CM Silencio 550
Raidmax Viper
System Fans
rear, fronts @low
rear @low
rear, front @12V
rear, front @7V
CPU Temp
51°C
47°C
51°C
49°C
SB Temp
38°C
38°C
41°C
37°C
HD Temp
37°C
35°C
31°C
32°C
SPL@1m
19 dBA
19~20 dBA
19~20 dBA
21 dBA
CPU fan set to 12V.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Competing against previously tested “quiet” cases, the Viper compares unfavorably. In our sweet spot fan configuration, thermally the Viper was in-between the Solo II and Silencio 550, but had a noise level 1~2 dB higher.

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870

System Measurements (HD 4870)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
7V
9V
12V
CPU Temp
34°C
54°C
54°C
52°C
SB Temp
49°C
54°C
54°C
53°C
HD Temp
32°C
31°C
31°C
31°C
GPU Temp
77°C
86°C
86°C
85°C
GPU Fan
890 RPM
1930 RPM
1880 RPM
1850 RPM
SPL@1m
21~22 dBA
27 dBA
27 dBA
30 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 23°C.

Adding an HD 4870 created a more thermally challenging situation for the Viper. While relatively cool and quiet when idle, full load brought the CPU and Southbridge temperatures into the mid to high 50’s and the GPU fan spun up to 1930 RPM, keeping the GPU core at 86°C. Increasing the system fan’s speed to 9V only affected the GPU, allowing the fan to slow down slightly without increasing the core temperature. The overall noise level was raised to 27 dBA@1m which is respectable for this configuration. Pushing the system fans to full speed wasn’t worthwhile, having a small thermal affect and great acoustic cost.


Our HD 4870 test system measured 27 dBA@1m on load with the system fans at 9V.

The HD 4870 stock cooler produces a noticeable but soft hissing noise that would be considered inoffensive by many, so while the system was 6 dB louder than the integrated graphics configuration, the noise level wasn’t too unpleasant.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
LanCool PC-K59
Raidmax Viper
Antec Solo II
CM Silencio 550
System Fans
top, rear, front @7V
rear, front @9V
rear, front @12V*
rear, front @12V
CPU Temp
45°C
53°C
45°C
57°C
SB Temp
54°C
53°C
47°C
56°C
HD Temp
30°C
30°C
34°C
31°C
GPU Temp
84°C
85°C
82°C
89°C
GPU Fan
Speed
1780 RPM
1880 RPM
1880 RPM
2330 RPM
SPL@1m
26~27 dBA
27 dBA
27~28 dBA
27~28 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.
*Nexus 120 mm fan added as bottom intake.

Housing our HD 4870 configuration, the Viper edges out airflow-starved cases like the Silencio 550 both in thermal and acoustic performance. Against a more formidable foe in the Solo II, the Viper manages to be a tad quieter, but with much higher temperatures. We also threw in the LanCool PC-K59 for comparison as it represents a budget enthusiast tower that can currently be had for not much more than the Viper. The more spacious and better-cooled LanCool case proves to be superior in all areas, most noticeably in CPU temperature. The Viper just doesn’t have enough fans and ventilation to compete; It might have fared better if the ridiculously loud side fan was placed on the case ceiling as an extra exhaust instead.

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 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

We get the sense that Raidmax threw everything they could into the Viper while adhering to a strict budget rather than thinking about how everything would work together. The front bezel in particular is horrid, from the orange trim that clashes against the more dominant blue of the interior, to the door with its weak hinges covering up the power and reset buttons as well as the front audio and USB ports, and finally the decorative but restrictive front intake. The inclusion of USB 3.0 is actually problematic as they neglected to consider motherboards, mainly budget models, that lack an internal USB 3.0 header. This is a non-issue on more expensive cases as they typically offer a USB 2.0 option as well.

On the inside everything you expect to see in a decent tower case is present like a bottom power supply placement with a removable air filter and a backplate cutout for third party heatsinks, but some of the other must-have features are subpar. The holes for running thick cables are limited in both size and number and behind the tray there is hardly any room so it’s difficult to hide a mass of cabling without a modular power supply. Graphics card clearance is a decent 29.6 cm, enough for any current single GPU card, but CPU heatsink clearance is a stingy 16.0 cm; Anything higher and the side panel may bulge. The tool-less drive mounts are only provided on one side of the case and are not quite secure without screwing in the opposite side. If you have only one or two 5.25″ devices you can move half of the locking mechanisms to the other side but the same can’t be said of the 3.5″ drives because of an asymmetrical cage design.

Three included fans is rather nice for a budget case and they were surprisingly quiet though we would have preferred 3-pin variants so they’d play more nicely with fan controllers. Unfortunately you can really only use two of them unless you’re hard of hearing. The side panel fan mount is simply wretched, turning a perfectly fine fan into an unbearably noisy beast. Disabling this fan will save you from the blinding LEDs but it leaves a small 120 mm sized vent to better hear any fans inside; It would have probably been better off with a solid side panel. With limited airflow and no additional fan placements, the Viper can’t compete with enthusiast class cases. It doesn’t quite stack up to silence-oriented cases either due to its thin construction, flawed side window, and the lack of a dampened hard drive mounting option.

On paper, the Raidmax Viper is a good value, offering more contemporary features than a lot of cases in its price range, but it reality much of the window dressing added to give the Viper more appeal gets in the way, preventing it from performing as well as it could. It pretends to be an enthusiast tower, but it’s a thinly veiled facade that breaks down quickly under cursory scrutiny like a Prado purse you might buy in a sketchy back alley. We would recommend spending a bit more money for something nicer, but if you’re really hard up for cash, at least look for a case with a little less flash and a little more substance, even if it’s a bit behind the times.

Our thanks to Raidmax for the Viper case sample.

* * *

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Antec P280: Performance One Refresh
Antec Solo II: The Legacy Lives On
SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E: MicroATX Evolved
Cooler Master Silencio 550 Quiet ATX Tower
In Win Dragon Rider Enthusiast/Gaming Tower

* * *

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