Let’s first check out the results for each system case and see how the cooling of the HDDs depends on their position.
The HDDs are numbered from top to bottom. It is clear that the two central HDDs are cooled better than the others, but generally speaking all of the HDDs should find these conditions comfortable. They do not require a stronger airflow even under maximum load. The other components are cooled properly, too. So, this system case is good in terms of cooling. No wonder as this design with two 120mm system fans has long proved to be the most practical one.
The HEC 6XR8 is also quiet, just as we could expect. There are no vibrations. The fans produce a quiet hum that you can hear only when you put your ear next to the system case. It is the WD Raptor drives with their clicking read/write heads that were the main source of noise in this system.
The HDDs are numbered from top to bottom again. The first drive is separated from the others by an empty compartment. The other drives go one after another down to the bottom of the case. The HDDs are cooled properly enough thanks to the airflow created by the exhaust 120mm fan at the back panel, but the tightly packed HDDs at the bottom feel somewhat worse than the top ones that have some free space around them.
The cooling system is weak, so the computer is nearly silent at work. The HDDs are the main source of noise in it. I heard no rattle despite the relatively low price of this system case.
The HDDs are still numbered from top to bottom. There is one bay that is cooled from the left side, so I installed HDD1 into it while the others were accommodated in the bottom cage.
The test results indicate that the unusual position of the fan is quite appropriate. The HDD cooled by that fan is 4-5°C colder than the others. The system case cools all the components well, though. It would be odd if there were any overheat with such an abundance of system fans.
The Smilodon proved to be far louder than its opponents. The reason for the higher level of noise was not in the nonstandard design of the case but in the 80mm fans. So, I performed another test cycle having disabled all the three 80mm fans. Thus, the system case was cooled with the two 120mm fans only.
The temperatures are now higher but still far from dangerous. Even the HDD outside the cage does not become too hot without its dedicated fan – it is quite satisfied with the overall airflow in the case.
The noisiness of the system case becomes normal, though. It is as quiet as its opponents. So, the 80mm fans are indeed the reason for the higher level of noise. You may want to remove them altogether or replace with quieter fans. By the way, the nonstandard chassis doesn’t produce any rattling sounds – its rigidity is appropriate.
And finally let’s compare the system cases among themselves (the diagrams show the temperatures of the coldest and hottest HDDs).
The HEC and Raidmax are the best when idle. The latter uses all of its five fans and provides better cooling (at a higher level of noise). When the 80mm fans are turned off, the Raidmax loses its small advantage, though.
Under heavy HDD load the Raidmax shows the best results because one of its HDDs has a dedicated fan and a lot of free space around. The three system cases are roughly equal as concerns the temperature of the “hottest” HDD. It is the HDD at the bottom of each case because the airflow is the weakest around it irrespective of the number of system fans. With one system fan only, the Gigabyte is in fact equal to its opponents. Interestingly, the CPU has the lowest temperature in the HEC case, but the mainboard has the highest temperature in it. This must be due to the specific configuration of airflows determined by the shape of the case and the laying out of the cables.
We’ve got the same overall picture under maximum CPU load. Take note that the Raidmax doesn’t win much from using a lot of system fans. It might have a larger advantage if my CPU cooler were less advanced and the graphics card had a single- rather than dual-slot cooler (the dual-slot cooler helps exhaust the hot air out of the case).
And finally, here is the mode that simulates the maximum load on home computers. The Raidmax is again better than its opponents at cooling every component, but I don’t think its noise justifies its cooling efficiency. When its 80mm fans are turned off, it becomes as good as the Gigabyte case. The HEC is the best at cooling the CPU and HDDs, but worst at cooling the mainboard and graphics card.
Generally speaking, every system case coped well with cooling the components at any load.