NZXT S340 Elite CPU Temperature Benchmarks
Although covered well on the second page of this article, it’s worth noting again (for folks who skip the methodology page): We test cases with both CPU and GPU workloads active, to more heavily load them for (1) worst-case scenarios, and (2) gaming scenarios. Most games, although they do tend to more heavily lean on one component, are not going to exclusively load the CPU or the GPU. To this end, we run both workloads simultaneously to gauge performance. We’re using K-type thermocouples that have been calibrated to read external case ambient and internal case ambient, and have determined that our case testing methodology has a variance of +/- 0.5C given the slight fluctuations in performance workloads.
Starting with CPU temperatures, the S340 Elite at max RPM lands at around 55.8C delta T when under load conditions. This positions the unit behind Corsair’s 270R, a $60 case, and well behind the 570X. This is considerably worse than the 570X’s capabilities, also at max RPMs, but the 570X is a far more expensive case – and larger, so not necessarily a fair direct comparison.
NZXT S340 Elite GPU Temperatures
Let’s look at GPU temperatures.
The S340 Elite is better only than the 570X with its lowest fan speeds, or than the TjMax-abusing In Win 303 with 0 fans – obviously, though, you’d buy fans for that case.
The S340 Elite with a 1300 max fan RPM sits at 53.9C load delta T, and its complete lack of change between fan RPM changes shows something critical: The GPU is receiving exactly zero benefit from the cooling solution. The only reason we see any change is because some hot air that radiates from the CPU cooler is being drafted away from the PCB backplate, or maybe because we have an uncertainty of +/- 0.5C. If you live in an environment where ambient is around 30C, any GTX 10-series GPU will either boost its fan speed or limit its clock speed, since 81-83C should be pretty easy to hit with high ambient.
NZXT S340 Elite Internal Case Ambient
Speaking of, here’s a look at case internal ambient. External ambient for these measurements is in the range of 20-22C. The S340 Elite is among the hottest cases on our bench, hitting about 46C internal ambient when the thermocouple is triangulated between the CPU, GPU, and front of the case. This is not a delta measurement, but rather an actual temperature reading. Ambient this high can easily drive GPU thermals up. NZXT ends up a full 10C warmer than the 570X, the most expensive case on the bench, or about 4-5C warmer than the 270R (a cheaper case).
NZXT S340 Elite Noise Levels
As for noise, the S340 Elite complete system runs a dBA of about 38.1 when at its max RPM. dBA drops to 34.5 when running a 1050RPM fan speed. Part of this noise output is because the fans are directly against the top and rear panels.
NZXT S340 Elite Conclusion
NZXT’s S340 Elite has a clear disadvantage in cooling. It’s not necessarily the most important metric for an enclosure, but keeping the GPU clear of thermal limitations to better enable boost functionality is important. The user is obviously going to have either a tower cooler or a liquid cooler. With a liquid cooler, you’re not really worried about air intake as much. Just put the radiator against the back wall, then exhaust the hot air out of the radiator. No big deal. In fact, removing the top fan and positioning the radiator in the rear would allow it to naturally intake air from the outside (or setting the top up as an intake, though that’s completely unnecessary).
With a tower cooler, you’re assuming the cooler is going to evacuate its own air out of the back, and that it won’t need assistance in doing so.
In both of these configurations, there’s an obvious missing link: Intake. There’s no intake in this case. Now, there’s also probably no dust, but if you hope to run AIC SSDs in the lower PCI-e slots, the GPU will suffocate. The same is true for multi-GPU configurations – just don’t run them in an S340 Elite, because it’s going to hamstring performance and choke the clock-rate.
We’re making a bigger deal of this with the S340 Elite than the S340 for two reasons: (1) it’s $100, and that targets a different market, and (2), AIC SSDs have become more commonplace since the release of the S340, and next year will herald the arrival of affordable PCI-e SSDs.
This doesn’t have to be a sacrifice of performance for looks, either. This is something NZXT could do with learning. Their cases have been on-point lately for design and cable management, but they just haven’t quite figured out cooling yet.
Here’s how we’d instantly improve the S340 Elite: Shorten the glass side panel so that it doesn’t protrude beyond the PSU shroud. Then, stick the front steel panel onto an underlying frame with mesh, and cut a grill into the side of the new front panel. This gives a 1” depth from the front panel to the interior, and now we can actually use a middle fan for intake without being utterly pointless.
The S340 Elite also does some things brilliantly: Its cable management is best-in-class, hands down. No one does cable management at this price better than NZXT right now. Corsair has a lot to learn in this department.
Pass-throughs in the PSU shroud are well-positioned, if beginning to look a bit like a designer shirt with all the holes in it, and the plastic clamps are perfect. The interior is clean, the tempered glass… checks a box, we guess, and the ease-of-installation is also in the top tier of enclosures. NZXT does well to hit the small points, like exposing expansion slot screws so that you can actually get at them with a perpendicular angle, unlike competitors who favor cross-threading as a means of getting screws into a case.
That said, NZXT has a lot to learn from Corsair, too. And we only mention those two explicitly because they are leaders in the US case market, and both have been on our benches lately. Fractal, Phanteks, CM, and plenty others deserve mention – but we just haven’t tested their stuff lately.
Corsair kills NZXT in cooling performance. Just destroys them. If NZXT would just make it so the front panel could somehow breathe, then slap a fan there, the GPU performance would instantly increase.
And to re-iterate what’s in the thermal section, this isn’t the most important metric in the world – but someone with a 30C ambient (not unreasonable) would ultimately end up with either a higher GPU fan RPM or a lower GPU clock. AIB partner models will almost certainly increase their fan RPMs prior to sacrificing the clock (depending on which you use), but that still results minimally in a louder system. Worst case, you lose a couple MHz off the clock unnecessarily. Temperature is a silly reason to lose performance in a GPU, but also the most common.
This is mentioned to encourage NZXT to improve, not to discourage purchases. Let’s be real: As an enclosure, the S340 Elite is competitive. It’s $100 – fairly unbeatable, given its features list and price. There’s not much nearby competition. The In Win 303 deserves notice, but you’ll need to buy fans for that, the Corsair 460X is also noteworthy, and the Cullinan is a bit more expensive, but currently ~$130.
NZXT’s done well with improving what it’s good at. For $100, it’s really not a bad buy – and we would recommend it – just be aware that there are thermal limitations as to how much should be in those expansion slots.
Editorial: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke
Video: Andrew “ColossalCake” Coleman