Testing Methodology

For testing ATX cases, we use the following standardized testbed in stock and overclocked configurations to get a feel for how well the case handles heat and noise.

Full ATX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-875K
(95W TDP, tested at stock speed and overclocked to 3.8GHz @ 1.38V)
Motherboard ASUS P7P55D-E Pro
Graphics Card Zotac NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 (244W TDP)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6Gbps
Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive
CPU Cooler Zalman CNPS9900 MAX with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Gold 750W 80 Plus Gold

A refresher on how we test:

Acoustic testing is standardized on a foot from the front of the case, using the Extech SL10 with an ambient noise floor of ~32dB. For reference, that's what my silent apartment measures with nothing running, testing acoustics in the dead of night (usually between 1am and 3am). A lot of us sit about a foot away from our computers, so this should be a fairly accurate representation of the kind of noise the case generates, and it's close enough to get noise levels that should register above ambient.

Thermal testing is run with the computer having idled at the desktop for fifteen minutes, and again with the computer running both Furmark (where applicable) and Prime95 (less one thread when a GPU is being used) for fifteen minutes. I've found that leaving one thread open in Prime95 allows the processor to heat up enough while making sure Furmark isn't CPU-limited. We're using the thermal diodes included with the hardware to keep everything standardized, and ambient testing temperature is always between 71F and 74F. Processor temperatures reported are the average of the CPU cores.

For more details on how we arrived at this testbed, you can check out our introductory passage in the review for the IN-WIN BUC.

Last but not least, we'd also like to thank the vendors who made our testbed possible:

Thank You!

We have some thanks in order before we press on:

Assembling the Fractal Design Define R3 Noise and Thermal Testing, Stock
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  • Peskarik - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    Define R3 is an older design, that was what Fractal told answered me when I mentioned the fixed drive cage, which I as well find to be a nuisance.
  • Coup27 - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    For someone who hasn't kept pace with case designs for a long time, could somebody please explain why the PSU now goes at the bottom instead of the top?
  • jrs77 - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    The PSU sits in the bottom to make it easier to cool and less noisy. Usually PSUs have a thermal-controlled fan, which then runs faster, if it sucks hot air from within the case. That's why they get mounted on the bottom, where they can suck in fresh air instead, running cooler and more silent. Also, this setup allows for fans being mounted in the top as additional cooling for the CPU, etc.


    The trick with the cable-routing is to rout the cables prior to installing the motherboard, then they'll fit through the grommets easily enough.

    Well, and for cooling and noise... using better and more fans (Scythe S-Flex SFF21D) to drop both, temps and noise-levels does help.
    The biggest plus for the Define R3 is the understatement and the sounddampening at a very low price.

    The allways mentioned CM Silencio doesn't have the top-fan-mounts, which are pretty good for installing a 240mm rad.
  • piroroadkill - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    For one thing, it is becoming a heavier and heavier component with increasing power needs, and I don't think 4 screws at the back and just leaving it hanging is a great idea. With it at the top you'd end up with a big shelf splitting up the case to hold it, otherwise.

    Bottom is actually pretty good, and it means you don't have a big mains cable trailing across the back of all your other cables round the back of your machine.
  • Casper42 - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    When will some half way decent Case Mfg eventually realize that when moving the PSU to the bottom, you should really move the Optical bays as well. It doesn't seem that bad in this case because its limited to 2 Optical bays, but every other case with a bottom PSU and 3 / 4 optical bays means that after installing a nice large GPU, you effectively have created a wall between the Fans pushing cool air in at the bottom and the CPU which is now way up at the top of the case.

    The Cooler Master Silencio 550 that someone in the comments mentioned is a PERFECT example of this.
    Look at the side shot with the video card.
    So that tiny slit above the right side of the video card and a whopping 1" gap between the video card and the side panel is where your CPU gets its cool air from?

    Move the damn Optical bays to the bottom so they line up with the PSU (ideally only 2 bays like the R3) and now you have 2 x 120 or 2 x 140 pushing cool air in the front that line up perfectly with the components that need the best cooling. Upper fan cools the RAM and CPU and the lower fan cools the GPU(s).
  • JonnyDough - Friday, November 11, 2011 - link

    and thought it might benefit you, the world.


    Please watch this video on PBS. It is, needless to say - quite interesting, particularly if you are not familiar with fractals.
  • Gnarr - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    Thanks for a great article :)

    I however want to point out that "Methodology" is the study of methods, so unless page 4 is supposed to be teaching us the methods of testing, instead of telling us what methods were used for testing, it should be called "Testing methods", not "Testing Methodology" :)
  • JonnyDough - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    Its no secret that the tech sites I read need better editors. Good catch. :D
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    Nope. Methodology: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/methodology

    Only 1b suggests methodology as the study of methods. 1a and 3 both support the use of the phrase "Testing Methodology", though "Testing Methods" is equally acceptable.
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, November 12, 2011 - link

    I don't really see anything special here.

    Since you mentioned the foam, can you make a an article about foam and how it effects temperatures and noise, if at all? I think the best you can do if you want a quiet PC is choose cool running, quiet hardware. A case does not make or break a silent/cool PC. Of course, that doesn't mean cases are unimportant, they can screw some things up if they are badly designed. But mostly, it's the components inside the case that should be of concern.

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