Corsair Carbide SPEC-04 Review: Fan Placement Testing, Noise, & More

By Published May 19, 2017 at 1:14 pm
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Additional Info

  • Component: Case
  • Original MSRP: 50
  • Manufacturer: Corsair

Corsair’s SPEC-04 ($50) is a new mid-tower aimed squarely at the budget market. The case shares its price and much of its hardware (and tooling) with the aged SPEC-01, but with the alien, angular appearance of the SPEC-ALPHA, channeling the aesthetics of the once-$80 case into an affordable $50 package.

Borrowing tooling from its predecessors, the SPEC-04 is able to ship with a lower price-point, aided further by a stripped-down set of interior accoutrements. The SPEC-04 is a small case, but capable of supporting ATX form factor components. This makes the unit deployable for ultra-budget machines, theoretically perfectly fitting for G4560 users.

Today’s review will heavily analyze the thermals, acoustics / noise levels, and build quality of the Corsair Spec-04 case. We test for thermal throttling and additional fan installation, wherein some time is spent adding +1x 120mm fan to multiple positions in the case.

 

Corsair SPEC-04 Case Specs

Form Factor

Mid-Tower

Motherboard Support

MicroATX, ATX, Mini-ITX

Dimensions

492mm x 201mm x 433mm

Weight

4.2kg

I/O

(x1) USB 3.0
(x1) USB 2.0
(x1) Headphone Port
(x1) Microphone Port

Expansion/Bays

(x7) Expansion Slots
(x3) 3.5” drive bay
(x2) 2.5” drive bay

Cooling

Fans:

Front: (x2) 120mm (1 included) or (x2) 140mm

(Front can mount x3 120mm without HDD cage)
Top: (x2) 120mm
Rear: (x1) 120mm


Radiators:

Front: 120mm or 140mm
Rear: 120mm

MSRP

$50

Corsair SPEC-04 PC Build

The SPEC-04 is an incredibly light case, easily carried in one hand. 4.2kg is much less than the other mid-towers we’ve reviewed lately, approximately 1/3 the weight of the hefty Bitfenix Shogun, and correspondingly easy to lift out of its packaging. Weight is one way to add perceived quality to components, but lightness is welcomed during the building process: flipping the case over and moving it around was trivial, unlike some other recent cases. The thinness of the steel is noticeable, but not a problem as most parts of the case are bent in such a way that it’s reinforced.

Clearance is minimal in most areas. The MSI CPU cooler we use for case testing barely fit under the edge of the chassis frame, and although the side panels are convex in the center and do allow some additional space, our cooler was positioned at the less roomy margin. It did fit, but since we don’t remove the cooler (for consistency between tests), it made it difficult to angle the motherboard into place. Even without that policy, the lack of height above the motherboard would have made it difficult to install a cooler from inside the case. There are no cutouts above the motherboard, and the only route available for our CPU power cable was a cutout behind the actual board that squashed it against the chassis. Best to pre-wire that. Elsewhere in the case, cutouts are generously distributed along with plenty of cable tie points. There was very little room for cable management, so cables had to be tied down securely in the center of the case to take advantage of the convex side panel.

Front I/O is minimal: there are only 2x USB ports -- 1x 3.0 and 1x 2.0, and the standard 3.5mm in/out jacks. The I/O is mounted to the chassis on the non-windowed side of the case, keeping the outward-facing side clean and presentable. The USB ports are connected via a single cable which plugs into a 3.0 socket on the motherboard.

corsair spec 04 case 2

Expansion slots screw in externally, a somewhat uncommon feature among the cases we’ve reviewed. This causes a small protrusion on the back of the case, but primarily it makes the slots blessedly easy to reach with a screwdriver and without cross-threading risk. Hard drive and SSD installation was also easy; the 3.5” bays are tool-less and the cage can be fully removed, although Corsair doesn’t make a big deal about this, presumably because customers buying a $50 case will want to use a hard drive. There are actually four 4x 3.5” slots, but only three drive sleds are included.

The skeleton of the SPEC-04 is identical to that of the SPEC-01, but without the 5.25” optical drive bays, making space for one more fan mount than its ancestor. Corsair doesn’t advertise three front intake slots as (unlike the 01) using the bottom-front slot requires removing the HDD cage, leaving only a couple 2.5” mounts. This gives Corsair’s case the potential fan capacity of Silverstone’s excellently cooled RL06, but packaged with only one to Silverstone’s four. The fan we received maxed out at about 1300RPM.

corsair spec 04 case 4

Intake is filtered by the mesh triangles on the front of the case rather than removable filters. Theoretically, the mesh triangles are themselves removable, but it’s far easier just to wipe down the front panel once in awhile, as the mesh is firmly latched into place. There is one removable filter over the PSU intake.

The exterior is clearly following in the footsteps of Corsair’s angular SPEC-ALPHA, but with a skeleton and pricetag identical to the SPEC-01. The side window is fairly large and takes advantage of the lack of optical drive bays to extend farther than it could otherwise, and it’s tinted (despite being plastic), reducing glare from the white LED fan. Users can form their own opinions on appearance, but I personally dislike the lack of symmetry in this and the ALPHA: it looks more decorative than functional, and it makes me concerned about the amount of air available to the intake fans (see below for actual results on this). The ALPHA style has quite a few advocates, though, and this case was made for them.

Case Testing Methodology

We tested using our new Skylake case test bench, detailed in the table below. This particular configuration is brand new with the launch of the 570X & 270R. Results on this test platform cannot be compared to previous case benchmark results, as the platform has completely changed.

Conducting thermal tests requires careful measurement of temperatures in the surrounding environment. We control for ambient by constantly measuring temperatures with thermocouples and laser readers. We then produce charts using a Delta T(emperature) over Ambient value. This value subtracts the thermo-logged ambient value from the measured diode temperatures, producing a delta report of thermals. AIDA64 is used for logging thermals of silicon components, including the GPU diode.

All case fans are manually configured to their maximum throughput using BIOS, then we configure to an RPM closer to 1050 for a universal "quiet" testing. If a fan controller is present, we opt-in and test on multiple settings. This forces testing of case fan performance in addition to the case's air channeling and airstream design. This also ensures minimal variance when testing, as automatically controlled fan speeds can reduce reliability of benchmarking. The CPU fan is set to 1100RPM (constant) for consistency, and the CPU is overclocked to 4.4GHz with a vCore of 1.272V (constant). C-States and power saving states are disabled.

  Component Courtesy Of Price
Video Card MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X (OC Mode) MSI $640
CPU Intel i7-6700K @ 4.4GHz GamersNexus $300
CPU Cooler MSI Core Frozr L MSI TBD
Motherboard MSI Z170A Gaming M7 MSI $180
Memory Corsair Vengeance LED 32GB 3200MHz Corsair $200
SSD Samsung 850 EVO 120GB Samsung N/A
PSU Corsair RM650x Corsair $100
Case This is what we're testing! - -

The video card is configured to run at 55% fan speed at all times.

Prior to load testing, we collect idle temperature results for ten minutes to determine the unloaded cooling performance of a case's fans and air channels. Thermal benchmarking is conducted for 1400 seconds (23 minutes), a period we've determined sufficient for achieving equilibrium. The over-time data is aggregated and will occasionally be compiled into charts, if interesting or relevant. The equilibrium performance is averaged to create the below charts.

Load testing is conducted using Prime95 LFFTs and Kombustor “FurMark” stress testing simultaneously. Testing is completely automated using in-house scripting, and executes with perfect accuracy on every run.

Our new testing methodology includes real-world workloads, like Blender on the CPU, Blender on the GPU, and 3DMark - FireStrike Extreme (1440p) Stress test. The Blender passes use GN's in-house CPU benchmark render scene, with one pass rendered entirely on the CPU and the next pass rendered entirely on the GPU. During the CPU render pass, we set the GPU fan to 25% (minimum manually tuned duty cycle). During the GPU pass, we configure the fan speed to 55% (the VBIOS average high when under load). This prevents unpredictable fluctuations. 3DMark serves as our gaming workload, providing a 1440p workload on both the CPU and GPU. These two tests are in contrast to our torture scenario, which looks at worst case performance.

Continue to the final page for in-depth thermals, noise, & the conclusion.


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Last modified on May 19, 2017 at 1:14 pm

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