The tests are performed with a closed and assembled system case at a constant ambient temperature that is maintained by a conditioner. Most users are likely to prefer quieter PCs, so I set the CPU cooler in the Silence mode (the quietest of the three modes offered by modern mainboards from ASUS). The system fans worked in the Low mode. I did not modify the configuration of airflows except that I removed the funnels from the back panels.
The following configuration was assembled in the tested system cases:
- ASUS P5E mainboard for ATX system cases and ASUS P5G-MX for microATX cases
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 CPU
- Zalman CNPS9500 AT cooler (except for the NSK1380 case)
- One to four Western Digital Raptor WD740GD HDDs
- HIS Radeon HD 3870 graphics card
- 2x2GB DDR2-800 SDRAM (Patriot PDC24G6400LLK)
- Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2
The ASUS P5G-MX does not support a 1333MHz FSB, so the E6850 processor was clocked at 266x9=2400MHz on it instead of its default 3GHz. The CPU dissipates quite a lot of heat even in this mode for a good test of system cases like the NSK3480 and NSK1380. Top-end CPUs are unlikely to be installed into such compact cases. Moreover, it is reasonable to consider the Core 2 Duo E8xxx series, with very low heat dissipation, for the NSK1380.
Some cases were shipped without the PSUs, so for Antec P182 and Nine Hundred system cases we used Antec NeoPower 650 Blue power supply and Antec Three Hundred – Xigmatek NRP-MC651.
I want to note that I had no power-related problems with my configuration even when I used the 350W NSK1380. This issue is covered in more detail in our review of Antec power supplies.
The CPU temperature was read with the ASUS PC Probe program supplied with the mainboard. The HDD temperature was reported by HDD Thermometer. The graphics card’s temperature was read with its driver.
There were the following test modes:
- IOMeter (IOMeter’s Access Time test runs on every HDD, loading them to the full)
- Prime95 (Prime95 is running in the in-place large FFTs mode that loads both CPU cores fully)
- 3DMark06 (3DMark06 is running at 1280x1024 with the highest graphics quality settings)
Each temperature was read after half an hour of operation in each test mode, i.e. when the temperatures had stabilized.
The level of noise is evaluated subjectively.