Testbed and Testing Methodology
We test assembled system cases at a constant ambient temperature of 23°C maintained by an air conditioner. As we assume that most users prefer low-noise computers, we set the speed of the CPU and system fans (those connected to the mainboard’s 3-pin connectors) into the quietest mode available in the mainboard’s BIOS. If a system case has its own speed controller, we switch it to minimum speed, too. We do not change the default configuration of air flows determined by system case design.
The following components are installed into each system case:
- Intel Core i3-2120 processor at 3.30 GHz
- Socket 115x Intel E97379-001 cooler (an aluminum core)
- Zotac H67-ITX WiFi mainboard (Intel H67)
- ASUS EAH6450 Silent/DI/1GD3(LP) graphics card (Radeon HD 6450, 1 GB DDR3)
- Seagate ST9500420AS hard disk (2.5”, 7200 RPM, SATA)
- Memory modules: Cell Shock CS3222580 1GB DDR3 SDRAM PC14400 and SEC M378B2873GB0-CH9 1GB DDR3 SDRAM PC10600 (dual-channel mode, PC10600, 1333 MHz, CL9)
- Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
We test system cases with their bundled PSUs if they have one. The temperature of the CPU is measured with Core Temp 0.99.8. HDD, GPU and mainboard temperatures are measured with CPUID Hardware Monitor. The speed of the fans is measured with an optical tachometer Velleman DTO2234. There are the following test modes:
- IOMeter (IOMeter’s Access Time test putting a high load on the disk subsystem)
- Linpack (Linpack-based Intel Burn Test 2.5 runs in the stress test mode, loading both CPU cores; we show you the peak temperature of the hottest CPU core in the diagrams)
- MSI Kombustor (full-screen mode, DirectX 9 rendering, 1280x1024, Xtreme burn-in)
Every temperature is read after the system has worked for half an hour in the current test mode. The following table shows the temperatures of the components if the system is assembled without an enclosure (“open testbed”).
The noisiness of the systems is evaluated subjectively.
Our configuration now includes an ASUS EAH6450 Silent/DI/1GD3(LP) graphics card whose passive cooling agrees with the quiet & compact PC concept and lets us see if the computer case can cool the GPU without any interference from smart active cooling systems.
Since we’ve got a new CPU cooler and a discrete graphics card, the open testbed data were recorded anew.
As for the disk subsystem, it may be logical to install HDDs the particular computer case is designed for. However, if we did so, we wouldn’t be able to compare test results of different products. If one case is only compatible with 2.5-inch disks and another, with 3.5-inch ones, how can they be compared?
Therefore we decided to use the same 2.5-inch drive even in those computer cases that are not intended for such HDDs. After all, a 2.5-inch HDD can be secured at least with one screw in a 3.5-inch bay while the opposite is impossible. Although this testing approach is hardly practical, we can find no better way of comparing different computer cases in terms of HDD cooling.