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Streacom F12C All-Aluminum Multimedia Chassis

The F12C is a departure for Streacom, a desktop media case that uses traditional air cooling rather than a fanless heatpipe system. However, it does retains Streacom’s usual minimalist aesthetics and thick all-aluminum build quality.

December 7, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Streacom F12C
ATX Case
Manufacturer
Price
US$275

Streacom is a player in the limited realm of fanless PC hardware, a manufacturer that specializes in passively-cooled machines, cases, and related accessories. We’ve reviewed many of their previous offerings which employ the usual strategy of utilizing heatpipes to channel the heat to the chassis. The case itself acts like a giant heatsink with a finned exterior portions to increase surface area for more effective heat dissipation to the surround air. Typically constructed out of thick aluminum, they’re fairly pricey but for hobbyists with discerning ears, complete silence is a luxury worth paying for.


The F12C box and case.

At first glance, the F12C is molded very much in the same vein as its predecessors, an expensive (US$275) all-aluminum desktop enclosure with a plain minimalist design available in both silver and black. However, it looks more ergonomic and less industrial as it relies on traditional cooling methods rather than heatpipes. Though it doesn’t ship with any fans, it’s not intended to be passively cooled, making it a big departure for Streacom. It’s being pushed as an HTPC enclosure with enough cooling potential for high-end configurations.


A closer look.

The chassis surface features a pleasant sandblast finish on its 4 mm thick aluminum panels. The front is featureless aside from the power button, a tiny status LED on the left side and an IR receiver slot on the right. The numerous vents are lined with thin removable dust filters. For a desktop style chassis, it has a large footprint (44.0 x 32.0 cm) that can handle an ATX motherboard and a graphics card up to 31.0 cm in length. It’s also quite tall (18.4 cm including the feet) in order to accommodate the kind of cooling required for high-end hardware.

CPU cooler height is capped at 13.5 cm according to the specifications and there are watercooling options available. A total of three fans up to 140 mm in size can be placed on the sides, along with two or three fans of varying size at the top. It can actually hold up to a dozen 3.5-inch hard drives if a mini-ITX board is used but as both the drives and fans share mounting points on the sides, drive support depends on fan configuration.


Accessories.

The screws and standoffs are segregated into individual plastic bags for convenience and a fully illustrated color assembly guide is kindly provided by Streacom.

Specifications: Streacom F12C
(from the
product web page
)
Chassis Material Premium Grade (6063) All Aluminum, 4mm Thick Extruded Panels
Available Colours Silver / Black – Sandblast Finish
Motherboard Support Full ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
Drive Capacity MAX 24 x 2.5″ or 12 x 3.5″ (with ITX)
MIN 2 x 2.5″ + 5 x 3.5″
Front Ports None
Expansion Slot 7 x Full Height Expansion Cards (MAX 310mm)
GPU Support Full Height, 2nd slot or above when using Upper Fan Rails
Cooling Multiple 80, 92, 120 & 140 Fans (Not Included)
Max CPU Cooler Height 135mm
External Dimensions 440 x 320 x 184mm (W x D x H, Including Feet)
Internal Dimensions 432 x 310 x 168mm (W x D x H)
Power Supply Full ATX, no Length Restrictions(Not Included)
Remote Control FLirc or IRRC Solution (Not Included)
Net Weight 4.4 kg

EXTERIOR & PANELS

The Streacom F12C weighs 4.4 kg or 9.7 lb and its physical dimensions are 44.0 x 32.0 x 18.4 cm or 17.3 x 12.6 x 7.2 inches (W x D x H). It’s total volume is 25.9 Liters which is small for an ATX case, but rather large for a desktop style chassis.


Both sides of the F12C have a pair of fan vents with removable filters. The filters are held on with thin magnetic steel frames that can be easily bent out of shape. Also, if the case is picked up by the sides, the filters can be dislodged accidentally with ease with an errant finger.


The top features three long vents with the same filter system. Fans mounted at the top run along the center of the case but the corresponding vent is noticeably narrow.


The rear of the case is surprisingly sealed off compared to the top and the sides with no fan grill above the I/O panel.


The case feet are wide but short and some ventilation has been provided on the bottom of the case.


The panel locking mechanism consists of two large upside-down thumbscrews that mate with corresponding nuts clamped onto the panel. It only takes a few turns to engage/disengage.

INTERIOR

The F12C’s layout is similar to an old school ATX tower flipped onto its side, with the power supply next to the CPU portion of the motherboard. There’s little to say about the internal construction of the F12C as it’s essentially a big cavity with almost everything installed against the sides.


Fan placements are provided at the sides but you can also mount fans at the top via two adjustable rails. This rail scheme means fan sizes can’t be mixed.


The case employs an interesting metal bracket system on the sides to install fans of various sizes and both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives. A rail at the bottom keeps the brackets in place while a metal clip at the top pins it down tightly against the chassis.


Drives can be placed in both vertical and horizontal positions though they’re only affixed on one side.


The brackets are held on surprisingly tight for a tool-less system.


While the brackets are reasonably thick, they do bend from the pressure being exerted on them at both ends. They’re pinned between a metal ridge and a rubber strip at both the top and bottom.


A space at the front of the case is reserved for an optional IR receiver.

ASSEMBLY

Without a doubt, the tension clips used to mount the universal brackets are the worst part of the case’s design. Initially, they popped on without issue but after using them off and on, they became more temperamental, perhaps as the shape of the clips warped from use. If I didn’t get the angle just right, it sometimes would refuse to go on no matter how much force was applied. At other times I found it was simpler to get it mounted over one corner and then slowly slide it over the bracket.

The chassis isn’t very spacious either so a modular power supply is highly recommended, and given the finicky nature of the tension clips, it’s best to plan out how the drives and fans will be installed beforehand so you won’t have to move them after the fact. It’s impossible to mount 3.5-inch drives horizontally on the right side due to the the power supply, and vertical placement requires right/left angle drive connectors due to the case’s height. If a microATX/ATX motherboard is used, 3.5-inch drives mounted on the left side will have to positioned horizontally, overhanging part of the board.


Our test system fully assembled. Due to space limitations, not all of our usual components fit. The Noctua NH-C12P top-down cooler and Asus HD 7870 DirectCU II replaces the Scythe Mugen Max and Asus GTX 980 Strix respectively.


Two aftermarket 120 mm case fans, Scythe Slip Streams, will generate left to right airflow across portions of the video card and CPU heatsink. Cables can be tied down using the vent holes on the floor but wrapping them around the fans also keeps them out of the way.


The universal brackets don’t impede the fans much but the filters are quite restrictive, blocking around 50% of the space.


There is about 3.3 cm of clearance above the NH-C12P cooler, making the maximum heatsink height approximately 14.7 cm if the fan rails are removed. When a standard case fan is mounted to the top panel, there is just 2 mm of separation in our system, making the height limit 11.6 cm.


Though the case is tall enough to accept wide graphics cards, the thumbscrew can cause interference, such is the case with our Asus GTX 980 Strix. Our second choice, the Zotac GTX 970 Extreme Core is too long. The HD 7870 that ended up in our test system is 26.4 cm long and somewhere in between the GTX 970 and GTX 980 in terms of power consumption.


The screw design is innovative but not the most reliable. One of the C-clips holding the thumbscrews in place popped off during assembly. To get the panel properly mounted, one of the top filters had to be removed so the screw could be lifted by hand to ensure contact with the nut. Also, one of the nuts somehow came loose and had to be reinstalled.

TESTING

System Configuration:

  • AMD A10-6800K APU – 4.1 GHz, 32nm, 100W, socket FM2
  • Noctua NH-C12P CPU cooler
  • Asus F2A85-M Pro
    motherboard – AMD A85X chipset, microATX
  • Asus Radeon HD 7870 DirectCU II – 150W TDP
  • 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
  • Scythe Slip Stream case fan – 2 x 120 mm, 1200 RPM model
  • Microsoft
    Windows 7
    operating system – Ultimate, 64-bit

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95
    stability test to stress the CPU.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the GPU.
  • Resident Evil 6 demo standalone benchmark to stress the CPU/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, and the CPU and GPU fans are set to the minimum speed possible. 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.

Baseline Noise Level
(Idle, CPU fan off, GPU fans at minimum speed)
Fan Speed Setting
Avg. Fan Speed
SPL @1m
0%
N/A
17 dBA
30%
640 RPM
18 dBA
40%
780 RPM
19~20 dBA
50%
910 RPM
21~22 dBA
60%
1010 RPM
24 dBA
80%
1200 RPM
29 dBA
100%
1370 RPM
31~32 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA@1m.

The system’s baseline noise with everything set to minimum speed or off is 17 dBA@1m, which is quiet but a little high due to our choice of video card. The Asus GTX 980 Strix we normally use has the ability to shut its fans off, while the Asus HD 7870 DirectCU II can go no lower than ~1070 RPM. The two Scythe Slip Stream 120 mm fans added to the system begin to make an acoustic impact at about 30% speed. At full blast, they can get quite loud, together generating more than 30 dBA@1m. They have a pleasantly smooth acoustic profile at all speeds and the wide speed range gives us some versatility, making them a great choice for testing.

TEST RESULTS

System Measurements: 80°C Target GPU Temp
State
Resident Evil 6 Demo (Peak)
Prime95 + FurMark
CPU Fan Speed
1000 RPM (70%)
1340 RPM (100%)
Avg. System
Fan Speed
910 RPM
(50%)
1200 RPM
(80%)
1340 RPM (100%)
GPU Fan Speed*
1500 RPM
(37%)
2030 RPM
(48%)
1940 RPM
(46%)
CPU Temp
59°C
64°C
62°C
MB Temp
37°C
38°C
37°C
SSHD Temp
37°C
33°C
33°C
System Power (AC)
278W
350W
354W
SPL@1m
23 dBA
30 dBA
31~32 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

The system struggles with our standard load test, a combination of Prime95 and FurMark, which stresses both the CPU and GPU to extreme levels. The CPU fan has to be set to 100% and even then, the processor throttles slightly unless the case fans are also running at full blast. Only moderate GPU fan speeds are required to hit our 80°C GPU target temperature. For stability in this state, a fairly loud 31~32 dBA@1m is generated, with the case fans being the largest contributor.

An actual gaming test like the Resident Evil 6 Demo is substantially less demanding. CPU cooling is still important as 70% CPU fan speed is needed to keep the processor under 60°C, but both the system fan and GPU fans can be slowed considerably. The noise level under these parameters is a much quieter and easily tolerable 23 dBA@1m.

The machine sounds fairly good to our ears, even on load, as the various fans selected for the system are acoustically sound. The Scythe fans are the loudest components but they’re incredibly smooth, helping hide any noise defects from the smaller GPU fans and elsewhere. At 100% speed, the case fans do get a bit whiny but they produce a more pleasant sound than most systems outputting a similar noise level.

The one thing that stands out compared to other enclosures is the noise of our Seagate SSHD. The mounting bracket actually does a decent job of keeping its vibrations in check but the idle whirl it emits is more audible as it’s sitting adjacent to an open vent. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but in most cases, the drive bays are more or less hidden so a single hard drive doesn’t make much of an impact on the overall sound. I suppose given the location and number of vents on the F12C, if something inside sounds bad, there’s no hiding it.

System Measurements: Prime95 + FurMark,
80°C Target GPU Temp
Fan Configuration
Top (intake), Right (exhaust)
Left (intake), Right (exhaust)
CPU Fan Speed
1340 RPM (100%)
GPU Fan Speed*
2280 RPM (55%)
2030 RPM (48%)
CPU Temp
61°C
64°C
MB Temp
41°C
38°C
SSHD Temp
35°C
33°C
System Power (AC)
354W
350W
SPL@1m
30 dBA
30 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
System fans set to 80% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

The case performs slightly better when the fan on the left side is swapped to the top of the case, set to blow down over portions of the CPU and video card. For our Prime95 + FurMark test, the CPU receives some relief such that 80% system fan speed is sufficient for stability, while the rest of the components warm up slightly. The motherboard and hard drive heat up by 2~3°C and the GPU fan speed has to increase by 250 RPM to maintain the same GPU temperature. However, the machine is still quite noisy.

Case Comparison: System Measurements
(Prime95 + FurMark, 80°C GPU Target Temp at 22°C Ambient)
Case
SilverStone GD10
Streacom F12C
CPU Cooler
Noctua NH-L12
Noctua NH-C12P
Graphics Card
Asus GTX 980 Strix
Asus HD 7870 DirectCU II
Avg. System Fan Speed
980 RPM
(3 x 90%)
1200RPM
(2 x 80%)*
CPU Temp
60°C
61°C
MB Temp
51°C
41°C
SSHD Temp
44°C
35°C
SPL@1m
30 dBA
30 dBA
System Power (AC)
359W
354W
Apx. Volume
27 L
26 L
*two fans added

Of the cases we’ve reviewed recently the SilverStone GD10 is the only model that can be fairly compared to the F12C. Both are horizontal desktop style enclosures with ATX support and their dimensions are quite similar as well. The GD10 was tested with a slightly more power hungry graphics card and a smaller CPU heatsink but had some extra help in the form of a third fan.

Though not a strictly apples-to-apples comparison, the two cases produced similar CPU temperatures and the same noise level. The 30 dBA@1m result is 5~6 dB higher than most of the tower cases we’ve examined but obviously with volumes well under 30 Liters, neither is expected to compete at that level. That being said, both cases have fairly restrictive dust filters that undoubtedly hurt performance and it’s impractical to remove them as that would leave large gaping holes.

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.

  • SPCR ATX Test System in Streacom F12C – Operating
    — idle, CPU fan at 600 RPM, system fans at 640 RPM, GPU fans at 1070 RPM (18 dBA@1m)
    — Resident Evil 6 Demo (peak), CPU fan at 1000 RPM, system fans at 910 RPM, GPU fans at 1500 RPM (23 dBA@1m)
    — Prime95 + FurMark, CPU fan at 1340 RPM, system fans at 1340 RPM, GPU fans at 1940 RPM (31~32 dBA@1m)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Performance-wise, the Streacom F12C is underwhelming. Though it seems to be amply ventilated, like the SilverStone GD10, it has fairly restrictive dust filters that makes cooling high-end configurations quietly more difficult than it should be. Additionally, I was unable to use either my first or second choice of video card due to space limitations (one was too wide, the other too long). There are hard drive complications as well as the optimal vertical drive position demands perpendicular power/data connectors and this orientation can’t be used on the left side with microATX and ATX motherboards.

Some of the design choices Streacom made are innovative but flawed in implementation. The panel locking mechanisms are more low-key than regular screws but during our time with it, both a C-clip and a nut came loose. It’s a nice system but it’s somewhat of an odd solution to a problem that didn’t exist. The drive/fan mounting brackets are interesting and quite sturdy but the tension clips used to install them can be incredibly frustrating to use. Screws inserted from the outside would have been a better way to go, with the dust filter frames covering up the screw holes from view.

A HTPC is one place an optical drive makes sense yet the F12C doesn’t have that option, nor does it offer front ports of any kind. The F12C is overkill for a multimedia case, in price, in size, and in construction. Its US$275 price-tag puts it in the luxury category of cases, ATX is overly wide for a horizontal enclosure, and while a thick all-aluminum build is understandable for a passively cooled system, for a regular air-cooled case, it’s completely unnecessary.

Our thanks to Streacom
for the F12C case sample.

* * *

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NZXT Source 530 Full Tower Case
SilverStone FTZ01: Mini-ITX Fortress
SilverStone Grandia GD09 & GD10 HTPC Cases
NZXT Source S340 Mid Tower
Fractal Design Node 202 Compact Gaming Case

* * *

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