Patrick Lathan

Patrick Lathan

The review embargo on Corsair’s new Crystal 280X micro-ATX case lifted during Computex, possibly the busiest week of the year--but since we’ve just started testing small form factor cases, we chose to push back the review another week or two.

The 280X is fairly large to call itself small form factor, and that can be an unfair advantage when comparing performance against truly small mini-ITX cases like the SG13. One justification is that (unlike the Cryorig Taku), the 280X uses its extra room to supports full-size components except for the motherboard, which must be either micro ATX or mini ITX.

NZXT opened their revamped H series of cases a few months ago with the H200i, H400i, and H700i, which are all mostly differently sized versions of the same case. The H500/H500i is a brand new addition--no, not that H500--and NZXT has made some tweaks since the first batch. The NZXT H500 is an S340 replacement, priced at $70 MSRP for the H500 and $100 for the H500i (which includes a “smart” device and RGB LED strips).

We liked the H700i overall, but we had some criticisms, mostly about the “i” representing the included smart device. NZXT told us they listened, so let’s start by checking off those earlier complaints.

It’s been a long time since we’ve reviewed any mini-ITX cases. The standard system that we use for testing ATX cases includes a full-sized GPU, PSU, and CPU cooler, which may or may not fit in small form factor cases, as well as an ATX motherboard that definitely won’t. Even if our components were small enough to fit, ATX and mini-ITX enclosures are like apples and oranges--SFF cases often have specific uses and different priorities than standard mid-towers.

Enough time has passed that it’s worth it to put together a separate ITX benchmarking system with a separate table of results to compare. To start off our database, we’re doing a roundup of three not-so-new cases from our backlog: the Thermaltake V1, Silverstone SG13, and the Cryorig Taku. This will start our charts, and we intend to work toward expanding those charts with the full suite of cases, as usual, including several upcoming products at Computex.

For our 2700/2700X review, we wanted to see how Ryzen 2’s volt-frequency performance compared to Ryzen 1. We took our Ryzen 7 2700X and an R7 1700 and clocked them both to 4GHz, and then found the lowest possible voltage that would allow them to survive stress tests in Blender and Prime95. Full results are included in that review, but the most important point was this: the 1700 needed at least 1.425v to maintain stability, while the 2700X required only 1.162v (value reported by HWiNFO, not what was set in BIOS).

This drew our attention, because we already knew that our 2700X could barely manage 4.2GHz at >1.425v. In other words, a 5% increase in frequency from 4 to 4.2GHz required a 22.6% increase in reported voltage.

Frequency in Ryzen 2 has started to behave like GPU Boost 3.0, where temperature, power consumption, and voltage heavily impact boosting behavior when left unmanaged. Our initial experience with Ryzen 2 led us to believe that a volt-frequency curve would look almost exponential, like the one on the screen now. That was our hypothesis. To be clear, we can push frequency higher with reference clock increases to 102 or 103MHz and can then sustain 4.2GHz at lower voltages, or even 4.25GHz and up, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to plot a volt-frequency curve with just multiplier and voltage modifications. We typically run out of thermal headroom before we run out of safe voltage headroom, but if voltage increases exponentially, that will quickly become a problem.

We covered Lian Li’s O11 Dynamic at CES earlier this year. It’s related to the older PC-O11 model, but this new version was designed in collaboration with professional overclocker Der8auer, whom we’ve interviewed several times. It’s obvious that he knows how important good cooling is, and his delidding tools make it clear that he wouldn’t carelessly put his name on a low quality product, so we were very interested in getting our hands on one of these cases for review.

Lian Li also has a reputation, and it doesn’t involve making enclosures that are normal looking or affordable by mortals. They took a step away from that reputation with the Alpha 550X and 330, cases that at least approach a competitive price. The O11 Dynamic goes a step further, with the Newegg pre-order price set at an affordable $100, or $130 by the time this is published.

Our Lian Li O11 Dynamic review precedes the inevitable O11 Air review, which is due for a release date in May or June. The O11 Dynamic will begin shipping immediately, and is targeted more for liquid cooling enthusiasts than air-cooled builds -- but you could still buy fans, obviously, and air cool the O11 Dynamic.

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