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 Silent mode (the quietest mode 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 2 Duo E6850 processor at 3.00 GHz
- Zalman CNPS9500 AT cooler
- ASUS P5E Socket 775 mainboard (Intel X38)
- Western Digital Raptor WD740GD hard disk (74 GB, 3.5”, 10,000 RPM, SATA)
- Three Western Digital Raptor WD740ADFD hard disks (3.5”, 10,000 RPM, SATA)
- 2GB DDR2-800 SDRAM Patriot PDC24G6400LLK
- HIS HD 3870 IceQ3 Turbo H387Q512NP graphics card (Radeon HD 3870)
- Corsair AX650 power supply (650 W)
- Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit SP1
We test system cases with their bundled PSUs if they have one. If not stated otherwise, the HDDs are listed in the order of their placement from the top main HDD bay downwards without any gaps.
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 running on all the HDDs to load them fully)
- 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 with 8x MSAA, Xtreme burn-in; we show you the peak temperature of the hottest CPU core in the diagrams)
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 noise level is evaluated subjectively.
We tested the Carbide 300R twice: with the front fan in its default position and with that fan installed next to the disk rack. The summary table below will only list the latter result because the default position of the fan leads to downright unsatisfactory results.
Corsair Carbide 300R (default)
When the fan's position is improved, the HDDs are cooled much better. Even our very hot Raptors had a temperature of only 40°C in the middle of the disk rack. The tradeoff is that the temperature of the other components is somewhat higher now.
Corsair Carbide 300R
Lowering the temperature of the disks by 25°C and increasing the temperature of the CPU and graphics card by 1-2°C looks like a profitable exchange for us. It’s clear why the CPU and graphics cards get hotter: when installed above the disk rack, the front fan produces a stronger stream of air which is not heated up by the hard disks.
With the front fan repositioned, the system case is good in terms of HDD temperature, average in terms of CPU and mainboard temperature but surprisingly poor at cooling the graphics card.
The next product, 400R, was tested only once. It has no speed regulation for the front fans and is free from obvious ventilation-related flaws.
Corsair Carbide 400R
The HDDs are cooled perfectly in this system case. The chipset is good, too. The rest of the results are average for system cases of this class.
The flagship Carbide 500R model was tested at each of the three speed settings of its fan controller.
Corsair Carbide 500R (low)
This system case is superior to its cousins in nearly each parameter even at the bottom speed of the fans. The additional side fan is obviously useful. The 400R is better in terms of the HDD temperature just because it has faster front fans. Anyway, the HDDs in the 500R are no hotter than 37°C.
Corsair Carbide 500R (medium)
Switching to the medium speed of the controller lowers each temperature by 1 or 2°C (except for the graphics card whose cooling system is rather indifferent to the external conditions).
The 500R is rather quiet at such settings although not as silent as at the minimum speed of the fans.
Corsair Carbide 500R (high)
Switching the fans to their maximum speed provides fewer benefits than switching from the minimum to medium speed while the fans get as loud as the 400R’s. The noise isn’t uncomfortable but can be heard easily. Considering that the Carbide 500R cools the components efficiently even at the minimum speed of the fans, we see no reason to prefer the maximum speed.
Finally, the following diagrams will help you compare the tested system cases with the open testbed.