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 the system case has its own speed controller, we switch it to minimum speed, too. We do not change the default configuration of airflows determined by system case design.
The following components are installed into the system case:
- ASUS P5E mainboard
- Core 2 Duo E6850 processor
- Zalman CNPS9500 AT cooler
- Four hard disk drives Western Digital Raptor WD740GD
- HIS IceQ3 Radeon HD 3870 graphics card
- 2GB DDR2-800 SDRAM Patriot PDC24G6400LLK
- Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2
- Seasonic M12D SS-850EM power supply (850 W)
The CPU temperature is read with the ASUS PC Probe utility included with the mainboard. The temperature of the HDDs is measured with HDD Thermometer. The graphics card’s temperature is reported by its control panel. 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)
- Prime95 (Prime95 running in In-Place Large FFTs mode to load both CPU cores fully)
- 3DMark06 (3DMark06 running at 1280x1024 with maximum graphics quality settings)
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.
First, let’s check out the performance of each system case and see how the cooling of hard disk drives depends on their position. The HDDs are numbered from top to bottom.
The HDD sandwich is too thick to be cooled properly in the Asgard. The outermost HDDs feel better than the others under load, yet are still too hot, considering that they are cooled by a 120mm fan rotating at 1000 RPM. The temperature of the other components is far from comfortable, too. The airflow from the intake fan is blocked by the HDD rack.
However, there is a way to improve the ventilation if you don't need to fill in the whole rack with hard disks. You can just leave one empty bay between neighboring HDDs. As a result, the temperature of the HDDs lowers by 4°C in idle mode and by 6°C under load, making you worry less about their health.
This system case is not very noisy unless the HDDs are under serious load. This is indicative of low rigidity of the chassis that makes the HDDs resonate.
The HDDs are placed better in the Midgard but the transverse rack becomes a new obstacle in the way of the airflow. It proves quite a problem for the two 120mm system fans rotating at 650 RPM. The HDDs are rather too hot.
Xigmatek Midgard Max
As soon as the airflow gets stronger (the fans rotating at 1000 RPM), the three HDDs find it easier to breathe. The topmost HDD is the only one that has a high temperature, obviously missing the airflow from the fan. Note also that the increased fan speed doesn't affect the temperature of the other system components much.
The system case is comparable to the Asgard in terms of noisiness. That is, it is quiet at the maximum fan speed and almost silent at the minimum speed. However, the HDDs would be rather too noisy under load (but not as noisy as in the Asgard).
The Utgard cools the components well even at the reduced speed of the fans. The HDDs do not differ much in terms of temperature. Alas, this system case cannot be called silent even at the low speed of the fan.
Xigmatek Utgard Max
For users who don't care about noise but want their components to be cooled properly, there is the max speed mode: 1400 RPM for the 120mm fan and 750 RPM for the 170mm giant. As a result, the temperature lowers by 2-3°C, making the case downright noisy. It is the 120mm fans that mostly contribute to this as they produce a low-frequency irritating sound whereas the 170mm model just whispers with the air which is being pumped through.