Corsair 680X RGB Case Review vs. Lian Li O11 Dynamic

By Published March 12, 2019 at 9:00 am
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The Corsair Crystal 680X is the newer, larger sibling to the 280X, a micro-ATX case that we reviewed back in June. The similarity in appearance is obvious, but Corsair has used the past year to make many changes, and the result is something more than just a scaled-up 280X and perhaps closer to a Lian Li O11 Dynamic.

First is the door, which is a step up from the old version. Instead of four thumbscrews, the panel is set on hinges and held shut with a magnet. This is a better-looking and better-functioning option. It’d be nice to have a way to lock the door in place even more securely during transportation, but that’s a minor issue and systems of this size rarely move.

Removing the front panel is a more elaborate process than usual, but it’s also unnecessary. The filter and fans are both mounted on a removable tray, and everything else is easily accessible through the side of the case. Fan trays (or radiator brackets, or whatever you want to call them) are always an improvement. If for some reason the panel does need to be removed, it involves removing three screws from inside the case, popping the plastic section off, and removing a further four screws from outside. The plastic half is held on by metal clips that function the same way as the plastic clips in the 280X, but are easier to release. Despite appearances, the glass pane is still not intended to be slid out, although it could be freed from its frame by removing many more screws.

Corsair 680X Specs

Dimensions (L x W x H)

423mm x 344mm x 505mm

Material

Steel, Plastic, Glass

Cooling Layout

Front: 3x 120mm, 2x 140mm (2x 120mm included)
Top: 2x 120mm, 2x 140mm
Bottom: 2x 120mm, 2x 140mm
Rear: 1x 120mm, 1x 140mm (1x 120mm included)

Radiator Compatibility

Front: 360mm, 280mm
Top: 280mm, 240mm
Bottom: 280mm, 240mm
Rear: 120mm

Expansion Slots

8 + 2 Vertical

Motherboard

E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX

Storage

4x 2.5” SSDs
3x 3.5” HDDs

Clearances

PSU: 225mm
CPU Cooler: 180mm
GPU: 330mm

Dust Filters

Front, PSU, Top, Bottom

Front I/O

USB 3.0 x2, USB 3.1 Type C x1
Headphone/Microphone x1
Power
Reset

Space is plentiful with the PSU, drives, and cables all stuck into the side compartment, which also makes extra room on three sides of the motherboard for large cable cutouts. This is especially helpful at the bottom, where intake fans could be mounted without a PSU or shroud to get in the way. That said, cable management could be better--there are tie points inside the compartment, but they’re too narrow to easily accept velcro straps. The 280X was small enough that just providing a place to stuff the cables was enough, but the 680X deserves a better thought out solution, like some integrated straps or larger loops.

There are a lot of drive bays but the structures are pretty flimsy, and one of the 3.5” drive sleds in our sample came loose in shipping. They are toolless designs, but they could be sturdier.

corsair 680x case 2

The top glass panel has an extra layer of standoffs stacked on top so that there’s an air gap of about 17mm between glass and chassis, as opposed to about 5mm in the 280X. The standoffs can be shortened to bring the glass closer to the body of the case, but there’s no reason to do that. The top panel isn’t removable as one big section like it was in the 280X, but that wasn’t a helpful feature in the 280X since there was another steel plate underneath--so it doesn’t count as a downgrade. Under the glass section of the 680X’s top panel is a large empty gap with mounts for two 120mm or 140mm fans : the filter is packed separately.

That’s a good move when it comes to our testing, since the stock numbers won’t be affected by an unnecessary top filter, but it’s still there if anyone needs it. Both the front and top filters are simple magnetic mesh rectangles, but they’re inset into the surface of the case in a way that’s more thoughtful than usual. Both fit flush with their respective fan cages and are sandwiched between them and the chassis. The bottom filter is mounted on a plastic frame that ejects from the side of the case on the same side as the glass door, so everything should be easy to access and clean in situ.

GN Case Testing Bench (Sponsored by CableMod)

  Component Courtesy Of
Video Card MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X (OC Mode) MSI
CPU Intel i7-6700K @ 4.4GHz GamersNexus
CPU Cooler MSI Core Frozr L MSI
Motherboard MSI Z170A Gaming M7 MSI
Memory Corsair Vengeance LED 32GB 3200MHz Corsair
SSD Samsung 850 EVO 120GB Samsung
PSU Corsair RM650x Corsair
Cables CableMod Pro Mesh Cables CableMod
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.

We recently validated our test methodology using a thermal chamber, finding our approach to be nearly perfectly accurate. Learn more here.

Thermals & Noise

The 680X comes with four fans: three front intake and one rear exhaust. That’s plenty, and they’re placed where we would have chosen to put them, so additional tests were limited to removing the entire front panel and moving the bottom-most intake fan underneath the GPU to see if it would benefit it more.

CPU Torture Thermals - Corsair 680X

corsair 680x review cpu only

We’re starting with thermals for just the Corsair 680X, then will add comparative results momentarily. The torture test raised CPU dT to 58.6 degrees Celsius in the stock configuration. Removing the front panel had a large benefit, lowering this down to 50.3 degrees over ambient, for a reduction of 8 degrees. Brute forcing airflow with three intake fans is fine, but the case would be much better cooled without a decorative pane of glass suffocating them. The filter is even entirely independent of the glass panel, so it could be torn out and the case would be just as well filtered and function better; that said, you can still have your glass and eat it, too – or, well, you shouldn’t eat glass, but you get the idea. A bit more spacing or more even inlets spaced across the glass panel would reduce this delta meaningfully. Aesthetics are a valid concern, but it’s frustrating to see an 8.5-dgree dip just from removing a completely decorative panel. Placing the bottom intake fan under the GPU may have helped the CPU dT a little as well, but not outside the range of variance. It would make sense, since normally it only blows air under the GPU, but when it’s mounted at the bottom of the case it can blow air upwards to the CPU as well.

corsair 680x review cpu all

Comparatively, 58.6 degrees Celsius is about as warm as cases get on our chart before they enter runaway thermal territory. It’s not the worst, but it is placed between the silence-focused Dark Base Pro 900 and the In Win 303 with half as many fans. The similarly laid out O11 Dynamic with three fans in ranked high with an impressive 49.2 degrees Celsius dT, because Lian Li didn’t bother trying to draw air through a glass front panel and instead provided a mount on the side of the case. That didn’t technically count as a stock test, though, since Lian Li sent us fans separately and we installed them as we saw fit. Realistically, the O11 Dynamic is cheaper even when adding fans to the cart and can be made to outperform the 680X readily, although it is smaller than the 680X while still remaining compartmentalized. Depending on what you’re going for, the O11 Dynamic may be a good alternative.

Compared to other cases, the 680X really isn’t impressive out of the box. Some of this has to do with the fan choice or placement, but much of it is that front panel. By dropping temperature around 8 degrees, the 680X would land right around where Corsair’s own 570X sits, a glass enmeshed case that uses wide spacing to allow air intakes everywhere.

GPU Torture Thermals - Corsair 680X

corsair 680x review gpu only

Moving on to GPU temperatures first with just the 680X, GPU dT was 52.7 degrees over ambient during stock torture testing, and dropped to 51.4C dT with the front panel removed. That’s a much less dramatic change than on the CPU, but only one of the three fans is pointed at the GPU and freeing up the airflow therefore has less of an impact. Moving the intake fan below the GPU rather than in front of it actually raised temperature a couple degrees up to 54.2C, which is because it was positioned in the bottom-front position, primarily cooling part of the VRM and then allowing the rest to drift up to the CPU. Positioning the fan toward the back-side would allow more direct GPU cooling, but sacrifice some of the CPU cooling that we were trying to save. Positioning the fan below the card allowed all of the air to go to the card, rather than splitting some with the CPU.

corsair 680x review gpu all

The stock GPU dT is acceptable, around the performance of the H700i or the open-air Core P3. The bottom of the case is one big vent free of PSU clutter, and the number of fans that Corsair includes with the case means that one of them is fully dedicated to GPU cooling, which is better than most enclosures we review. Again, the O11 3x side fan test isn’t “stock,” but the result was a few degrees cooler than the 680X.

3DMark Firestrike Thermals

corsair 680x review 3dmark

GPU temperature during Firestrike was 55.7 degrees over ambient, slightly above the torture test. That’s still near the middle of the comparative chart, but on the same level as the lackluster Silverstone PM02. Moving multiple intake fans to the bottom of the case or switching entirely to a bottom-to-top airflow layout would definitely improve GPU temperatures, but with the glass panel at the front of the case, CPU temperatures can’t afford to be pushed higher.

Blender Case Test

corsair 680x review blender cpu only

Blender is used for a realistic single-component workload in our testing. CPU temperature with the Blender test rendering exclusively on the CPU was 40.7 degrees, definitely towards the warm end of the chart. It shares its place with the stock Define C, which comes with two fans. The O11 Dynamic ran at 38.3 degrees dT with the three side fans--a smaller gap than in the torture test, but still a noticeable one.

corsair 680x review blender gpu

GPU dT was 27.7C during the GPU render, perhaps on the warm side of average. The O11 Dynamic did better again here with a 25.2C dT average. Neither GPU nor CPU temperatures reached anything close to their maximums, but it’s a good demonstration that even without heavy synthetic workloads the hardware is running warmer than it needs to.

Corsair 680X Noise

corsair 680x review noise

We measured the 680X at 42.5 dBA. It could certainly run quieter with decreased fan speeds, but there are four 120mm fans, and the large air gaps around the front panel do very little to muffle the noise generated at max speed. The trouble with all of this is that the Corsair 680X is not particularly quiet nor particularly effective at cooling, which is odd since it is named the “680X RGB High Airflow.”

Conclusion: Corsair 680X vs. Lian Li O11 Dynamic

The 680X proves Corsair is interested in making improvements to its designs. It’s not exactly the same as a 280X, and improvements have been made; however, it’s still a case that’s fundamentally limited by the style of the front panel, which is one of the major defining features of both the 280X and 680X. Without some serious reworking of the case, there’s just not a good way to get air past that decorative glass front panel. The O11 dynamic is a case that takes the cleverest part of the 680X--putting the PSU and other components in a separate spacious chamber--and avoids the worst part by putting fan mounts on the side of the case instead of the front. Unfortunately, because the case is listed in review guides and retail sites (Newegg, particularly) as “High Airflow,” we must grade it on these marketed merits. The 680X does not deliver on its high airflow promise, and so fails in this category of the review. Build quality is superb, cable management space is stand-out, and ease-of-installation features are well accounted for. Corsair has done well on these, but has failed on the “high airflow” marketing deliverable, and also runs with a price premium that allows for the purchase of two Lian Li O11 Dynamic cases that have superior cooling capabilities when coupled with fans. The O11 Air would also work. You’re buying fans with the Dynamic, but at $130 plus fan cost, it’s still far cheaper than the $280 of the 680X.

The 680X, then, primarily is worthwhile for a specific look.

Original MSRP of the O11 Dynamic is $130, and they do get sold for that price, although they tend to be out of stock. They don’t come with any fans, so that needs to be factored in, but it still easily undercuts the 680X RGB’s MSRP of $250, with style and function in the same ballpark and better performance. The 680X isn’t a bad case, but it also isn’t better than the cheaper O11 Dynamic or O11 Air.

Editorial, Testing: Patrick Lathan
Host, Test Lead: Steve Burke
Video: Josh Svoboda, Andrew Coleman

Last modified on March 12, 2019 at 9:00 am

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