The revolution of 200mm fans was a short-live one. Large fans are still around, but the brief, bombastic era of sticking a 200mm fan in every slot didn’t last long: The CM HAF X, NZXT Phantom 820, SilverStone Raven 02 (180mm), Throne & Thor, and 500R all have designs that have largely been replaced in the market. That replacement comes in the form of an obsession with the word “sleek” in marketing materials, which generally means flat, unvented paneling that would conflict with the poorer static pressure performance of large fans. That’s not to say 200mm fans are inherently good or bad, just that the industry has trended away from them.
That is, until the Cooler Master H500P, which runs 2x MasterFan MF200R units dead-center, fully garnished with RGB LEDs. We didn’t necessarily like the H500P in its stock configuration (but did fix it), but we know the case is popular, and it’s the best test bench for 200mm fans. There’s a good chance that purchasers of the NF-A20 are buying them for the H500P.
And that’s what we’re reviewing today. In this benchmark, we’re reviewing the Noctua NF-A20 200mm fans versus the Cooler Master MasterFan MF200Rs, which come stock with the H500P. The MF200R fans will almost certainly become available separately, at some point, but presently only ship with the H500P.
“Chassis” is pretty loose, here. The Thermaltake Core P90 follows the Core P3 and Core P5 lines, but only insofar as being an open air, semi-exposed bench-style “case.” It’s more of a mounting board for parts, really, and presents them in a triangular layout, the board and VGA on flanking sides.
The case includes 2x 5mm tempered glass side panels (though we think it might be a decent bench platform without the glass), mounts the power supply within the central frame, and is dotted with cable routing holes on both component-hosting panels. This case remains wall-mountable, just like its P3 and P5 successors, though may be a bit unwieldy to get onto the stud mounts, if for no other reason than radiator support up to 480mm. That’s a lot of liquid to hang on the wall.
We made it through the C700P, H500P, Dark Base Pro 900, and Core G21, but cases we saw at Computex 2017 are still rolling in for review. This week, we’re examining the Bitfenix Enso, a budget case that hits both the tempered glass and RGB trends. It’s a pleasant change from the streak of ultra-heavy cases we’ve been reviewing, but as anyone who watched Steve’s recent address to case manufacturers will know, the Enso is far from perfect.
Our Bitfenix Enso review takes the case to task for thermals, alongside the usual acoustics and build quality testing. Our first look at the Enso (back at Computex) highlighted the case in a “needs work” category, calling out its extremely competitive price target and feature set, but also calling attention to concerns of ventilation. We’re back to see if Bitfenix has improved the case in the six months since.
Be Quiet!’s Dark Base cases are their highest-end silence focused models, and the newest of these is the Dark Base 700. We recently reviewed Dark Base Pro 900, but the 900 and 700 are much different cases. Naming conventions imply that the 700 is simply a scaled-down mid tower version of the full tower 900, but there are significant differences in tooling and features despite their external similarity.
The Dark Base 900 (including the Dark Base Pro) has an MSRP of $200 ($250 for the Pro), while the new Dark Base 700 has an MSRP of $180. The Dark Base 700 is loosely related to the 900, primarily in its invertible motherboard layout and material and panel quality, both of which are high for this case.
We’ve reviewed a lot of cases this year and have tested more than 100 configurations across our benchmark suite. We’ve seen some brilliant cases that have been marred by needless grasps at buzzwords, excellently designed enclosures that few talk about, and poorly designed cases that everyone talks about. Cases as a whole have gone through a lot of transformations this year, which should seem somewhat surprising, given that you’d think there are only so many ways to make a box. Today, we’re giving out awards for the best cases in categories of thermals, silence, design, overall quality, and more.
This awards show will primarily focus on the best cases that we’ve actually reviewed in the past year. If some case you like isn’t featured, it’s either because (A) we didn’t review it, or (B) we thought something else was better. It is impossible to review every single enclosure that is released annually; at least, it is impossible to do so without focusing all of our efforts on cases.
Here’s the shortlist:
The NZXT H700i mid-tower is the largest of NZXT’s new H-series lineup, which also includes the H400i micro-ATX and H200i Mini-ITX enclosures. Visually, the H700i is a successor to the popular S340 and S340 Elite--sharp edges, smooth surfaces, and a prominent cable management bar are familiar features, but various updates and the new NZXT “smart device” set it apart.
There’s one strip of LEDs mounted on PCB at the top of the case and an additional 12” flexible magnetic strip in the accessory kit. The original plan was apparently to have two strips preinstalled, but this way the user can decide where to place the second one. Lighting is controlled by the smart device, which also attempts to control fan RPM-to-noise/thermals response curves. These curves are better set manually by the user, as we’ll discuss later.
In this review of the NZXT H700i case, we look at thermal performance, acoustics, build quality, and the “smart” device.
The AM5 Silent is a new case from manufacturer Sharkoon, with noise-damping material in place of the original AM5’s acrylic side window -- but it’s far from a new chassis.
After our Antec P8 review back in September, readers were quick to point-out that the chassis (meaning the steel core of the case) was curiously similar to the Silverstone Redline 05; in fact, it appears that they’re completely identical outside of the P8’s tempered glass and the RL05’s generously ventilated front panel.
Our newest video leverages years of data to make a point about the case industry: Thermal testing isn't just to find a potential item of nitpicking or discussion -- it has actual ramifications in frequency response, power consumption/leakage, and even gaming performance. The current trend of case design has frighteningly spiraled into design trends that are actively worsening performance of systems. This is a regular cycle, to some extent, where the industry experiments with new design elements and trends -- like tempered glass and RGB lights -- and then culls the worst of the implementations. It's time for the industry to make its scheduled, pendulous swing back toward performance, though, and better accommodate thermals that prevent frequency decay on modern GPUs (which are sensitive to temperature swings).
This is a video-only format, for today. Although the content starts with a joke, the video makes use of charts from the past year or two of case testing that we've done, highlighting the most egregious instances of a case impacting performance of the entire system. We hope that the case manufacturers consider thermals with greater importance moving forward. The video makes the point, but also highlights that resolving poor case design with faster fans will negate any "silent" advantage that a case claims to offer. Find all of that below:
Hardware news for the last week includes discussion on an inadvertent NZXT H700i case unveil (with “machine learning,” apparently), Ryzen/Vega APU, Vega partner card availability, and Coffee Lake availability.
Minor news items include the AMD AGESA 188.8.131.52 update to support Raven Ridge & Pinnacle Ridge, Noctua’s Chromax fans, and some VR news – like Oculus dropping its prices – and the Pimax 8K VR configuration.
Find the video and show notes below:
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