Arctic Cooling: Quiet System Cases Roundup

Today we are going to take a look at the whole system case family from Arctic Cooling known under Silentium brand name. The remarkable thing about these mid-tower cases is that Arctic Cooling took an absolutely new approach to building a system case and developed a whole new component layout almost from scratch. We will look at 5 models from this family positioned as ready-made solutions for very quiet computers.

by Vasily Melnik
12/14/2005 | 10:45 AM

Arctic Cooling does not need long introductions as you have surely heard of the IceQ cooling system installed on graphics cards from HIS. HIS doesn’t actually make that cooler, but buys it from Arctic Cooling which also sells it as a standalone product under the Silencer brand. So, I guess every PC user who is really interested in advanced cooling solutions knows the Arctic Cooling logo well. The company’s products aren’t inferior in quality and originality even to those of Zalman.

 

The above mentioned Silencer series of graphics card coolers once used to be one of the few popular offers from Arctic Cooling, but the company has enlarged its product range considerably during the past year. It currently offers cooling systems for modern CPUs, noiseless system fans with and without highlighting, and computer cases.

Today we are going to take a look at the latter offer which is the more interesting as Arctic Cooling took an absolutely new approach to building a system case and developed a whole new component layout almost from scratch. The only thing they left in its customary place is the mainboard. The company positions its system cases as a ready-made solution for building a very quiet computer – the user only has to add in the necessary hardware components.

So, let's meet the Silentium product family from Arctic Cooling!

Model Range

The user wants variety? He’s going to get it! The developers of this product range have taken care about that. There are five models that only differ in the color and shape of the front panel. These system cases can be all divided in two groups, the first including the Silentium T1 and T2 (they have a door on the front panel) and the second including the Silentium T3, T4 and T5.

Silentium T1

The people who created the exterior of the Silentium system cases have done their job superbly:

The front door covers two 5.25” and two 3.5” open bays:

The door opens up by 90 degrees only, which may be inconvenient in some situations. The number of open bays is quite sufficient for a home machine.

The T1 model comes in one color scheme only:

Painted a deep black color and having a translucent plastic front panel with a matte white underlay, the case looks cool but also requires some servicing – your fingerprints are going to be visible on the front panel, especially near the lock of the drive bays cover.

The Silentium T1 is the only system case in the series that has the interface connectors in a side, rather than front, panel:

The developer’s desire to avoid spoiling the elegance of the front panel with trivial connectors is understandable, but it is not very handy to work with the connectors when they are placed this way.

Silentium T2

The single common feature in the design of the T2 and T1 models is the door that covers the open bays on the front panel.

The number of the bays is the same as with the Silentium T1.

This system case comes in one color scheme, too.

The silver color of the case with a few touches of black and the originally shaped front panel won my personal “Cool Looks” prize.

The remaining models do not differ much from each other. They are a compact PC case with a classically-designed front panel and differ only in color.

Silentium T3

 

Silentium T4

 

Silentium T5

 

I don’t show you snapshots from all sides because, as I said above, these system cases do not differ, except in the design of the front panel and the color scheme employed. So there are in fact only three really different models: Silentium T1, Silentium T2 and the others. The developers have variegated their model range with little effort and I find this acceptable. It’s always better to have some choice, even the choice of the color scheme, rather than none at all! This unification means one more thing – whatever system case from Arctic Cooling you buy, they are all going to be identical inside. And it is because of this internal design that these cases are so interesting to us.

What’s Inside?

Original solutions can be seen even on the outside – just look at the stand and the rear panel:

There’s a mesh grid where ordinary system cases usually have an exhaust fan, while the traditional place of the power supply is occupied by two system fans. The power cord is to be attached to the case in the bottom right corner of the panel. The stand can be removed to open a very curious view from below:

There are big vent holes here the power supply peeps out through. The purpose of the stand becomes now clear.

Judging by the configuration of the grooves and the shape of the vent openings in the bottom of the case, the stand, besides being a decorative element, also ensures free circulation of air.

To remove the side panel you must first take the case off the stand and release the screws:

And here we’ve got some real surprises:

I bet you haven’t seen many system cases of this form-factor with a non-standard component layout and meant to be assembled by the end-user. Two exhaust fans (Arctic Fan 3) are placed where you’d expect to find the power supply:

Their design is as original as the design of the whole system case:

 

The fan has little of its own case; the queerly-shaped blades are placed at a wide internal; and the depth of the fan is a good 5 centimeters. These features all become more understandable if you read up the fan specification: 1900rpm max, 28CFM (or 48 cubic meters per hour at the max speed), and very modest power requirements (12V, 0.12amp). The specification is just excellent, yet I will check below how the fan meets it in practice. The power supply is located in the bottom front part of the case:

And it is equipped with two more Arctic Fan 3. A special soundproof container for the hard drive is installed in front of the PSU – I’ll talk about it shortly. All the system fans work to exhaust the air from the inside of the case. The outside air comes in through the openings in the bottom and rear panels and cools the graphics card and the processor, respectively. The hot air accumulates mainly at the top of the case and is exhausted by the two rear fans. The rest of the inside air is exhausted by the front fans and cools the power supply along the way.

This airflow design is original – no one seems to have used it in home computers. By the way, the non-traditional internal layout and the special stand give much freedom to the exterior designers. The front panel plays no role in case ventilation, so its shape can be varied at will.

The cable of the power supply is neatly laid along the bottom of the case.

The power supply is one of the best available models for midrange computer systems.

The Seasonic SS-350ATC features an active PFC device and supports a wide range of input voltage – it will work normally even if the mains voltage is unstable in your area. Such PSUs also reduce the load on your UPS device. If you take two identical PC configurations, the one with a Seasonic SS-350ATC is going to work longer on the same UPS than the system with an ordinary 350W PSU. The specified max currents are sufficiently high (17 amperes is declared for the 12V channel which is the most crucial power rail in modern computer systems), meaning that this PSU can power up even a serious gaming configuration. The low power dissipation makes the Seasonic SS-350ATC an ideal choice for building a quiet computer, too. Since the PSU is not in its customary place here, it lacks a turn-off button, and the only way to power the computer down completely is to unplug the power cord from the wall socket. Not an elegant solution, but you can buy a power strip with a turn-off button, if you wish.

There is some mess of cables at the bottom of the case, again because of the non-traditional position of the power supply. To solve this problem, the manufacturer provided special braces for the power cables:

And for the interface cables from the front panel:

The system case offers two 5.25” bays and three 3.5” bays (one more 3.5” bay is internal).

The case comes with mainboard fasteners, some spare rubber hangers for the HDD container and rails to install your 5.25” and 3.5” devices.

The rails are labeled to avoid confusion. To install an optical or hard drive you must first open the front panel:

This is a rather simple operation. All you need to do is unbend three plastic locks on the right side of the front panel. Then take the front panel off carefully – the locks on the left side may be damaged by a hasty movement. Next, take the drive and attach the rails to it:

And then insert it into the bay until it snaps in place:

The 3.5” bays are covered with special brackets which must be removed before installing a device:

The procedure is the same as with optical drives – attach the rails and insert the drive into the bay.

The installed drive doesn’t stick out much from the front panel:

Note that before taking a drive out of the case, you should first remove the bracket under it. The bracket blocks the drive in the bay and you may damage the electronics of the hard drive if you use excessive force. Well, the “classic” way of installing the hard drive is just one option here. As I mentioned above, the case comes with a soundproof container for a 3.5” drive. It is located in front of the power supply.

The solution is rather simple: a massive aluminum box is secured on four thick rubber hangers.

The hangers can be removed if necessary:

The box is covered on both sides with two plastic caps and thick rubber pads. One pad is blank and the other has openings for the interface cables.

You just put the drive in:

And fix it with the rubber pad and cap. The sides of the container are an impressive 5mm thick! The hard drive is absolutely noiseless within this container, but what about its thermal conditions? We’ll check them shortly.

The assembled box looks somewhat unusual:

By the way, note that the drive installed in the traditional manner doesn’t protrude far into the inside of the case, so you can leave it installed when you are replacing your mainboard.

The expansion cards are fastened without screws:

There are special juts against the screw-holes for the cards not to dangle and fall out during installation. After the cards are installed, you only have to slide down the spring-loaded bar:

The pressure is so strong that the card is practically deadly fixed: you cannot move it even a bit.

The assembled system looks not quite common:

In a classic system case the cables and the PSU are in the top rear rather than bottom front corner. I laid the cables neatly enough, though, and have no complaints about the interior design. The case is made in such a way that there’s almost no unused, free space here. This may be a little inconvenient for the assembler, but this also helped make the dimensions of the case small – not all users need a monstrous half-a-meter-tall system case with two or three 120mm fans!

So the Silentium system case is designed and manufactured well – it was a real pleasure for me to work with it. Let’s check out now it how works.

Testbed and Methods

The system case was tested as it was, i.e. without additional adjustment of the speed of the system fans. The assembled and closed system case was tested at a constant ambient temperature maintained by an air-conditioner. When assembling the computer, I took care as far as possible to lay out the cables and wires in such a way that they did not hinder free circulation of air inside.

The system case was filled with the following components:

The choice of the platform is not random. The reviewed system cases are not targeted at overclockers and we were curious to see just how the system would perform with its default fans and without any modifications. We installed two hard drives for comparison’s sake – one into the aluminum soundproof container and the other into the 3.5” bay. This will show us how the aluminum box copes with the cooling of the enclosed hard drive.

There were four test modes:

We read the CPU and the mainboard temperatures by means of Motherboard Monitor 5.3.7.0 and the GPU and the graphics card’s PCB temperatures with RivaTuner. The temperature of the hard drive was reported by HDD Thermometer.

The room temperature was 20°C and remained constant throughout the test.

The temperatures were all read after they had fully stabilized.

Performance

Idle mode

CPU Burn mode

Gaming mode

HDD Burn mode

Summary

And here is a summary table if you prefer numbers to diagrams:

Conclusion

The results are excellent, considering the CPU cooler rotation speed in each of the modes. The cases are very quiet – I could only hear some noise in the CPU Burn mode and only at the rear panel of the case. The exhaust fans can only be heard if you put your ear right to them – the special shape of the blades makes the fan nearly noiseless even at the maximum speed. The other system fans are louder. The exclusive ceramic bearing showed well, too. There’s no vibration at all, and the company’s 6-years warranty is reassuring, too.

The boxed cooler from Intel with speed control worked well, too, providing a wide speed adjustment range. The graphics card’s cooling system was almost silent. As the result, the Silentium system case was one of the quietest I had ever tested (at the default speed of the system fans). My apprehensions about the hard drive’s temperature in the closed box didn’t come true: the temperature of both drives (in the container and in a 3.5” bay) was almost the same during the test, reaching a maximum of 43°C. It’s rather far from the critical 55°C, so this HDD container can be recommended for use as a ready-made, even though not ideal, solution.

The downside of the Silentium series cases is their rather high price (about $120-130) and the limitations as to the resulting power of the assembled system (the testbed configuration is near the permissible maximum. It could only be improved with one more 5.25” device and a slightly faster processor, plus some little things like a modem or a TV-tuner). But if you need a system case for a very quiet, even though not extremely fast, home computer, you should definitely take a closer look at this series. Small, quiet and pretty-looking, the Silentium is going to be a good choice for a home PC. The price is justifiable, too. Four Arctic Fan 3 fans cost about $25, and a Seasonic SS-350ATC power supply costs about $40. Add also the soundproof container for the hard drive and the brand of a renowned maker of cooling systems and the excellent quality of manufacture. I guess this all is enough for the reviewed system cases to be considered as top-end products which just can’t be cheap.

Summary of technical characteristics for Arctic Cooling Silentium series cases: