Be quiet!’s cases are divided into three groups: Dark Base cases are the high-end flagships, Pure Base are (relatively) budget, and Silent Base is the range of cases in between. We’ve most recently covered the Pure Base 600 and the Dark Base Pro 900 at either end of their price spectrum, and now we’re reviewing the Silent Base 601 in the middle.
The Cooler Master SL600M was one of the most promising cases we saw at Computex 2018, using CM’s now-familiar 200mm fans in a bottom-to-top airflow configuration. Although the “chimney effect” and “stack effect” are genuine insofar as their physical existence, the usefulness of natural convection processes fades when confronted with high CFM, directional fans. Hot air does rise, of course, but air blasted through a fan goes wherever you want it. In this regard, we are not firm believers in the “chimney effect” as a marketing characteristic for computer cases -- not unless those are passively cooled, anyway -- even still, the last case we tested with a similar configuration was the RV02, which remains one of the best cases we’ve tested thermally.
These improvements are for other reasons, not because the heat is rising. It’s because the air path is superior, and placing several large fans at the bottom of a case (given sufficient distance from the table) can cool parts faster. The path to the GPU is shorter, and so cooler air is hitting the video card fans faster.
Cooler Master’s SL600M ends up at around $200, and enters a market with more competitors at its price class than is typical: The NZXT H700i, Cooler Master’s own H500M (or H500P Mesh), and the Phanteks Evolv X are all relatively recent contenders in this arena.
Today, we’re reviewing the Cooler Master SL600M for thermals, acoustics, build quality, and value.
The Phanteks Evolv X has gotten a lot of praise lately. We had to wait for one of our readers/viewers to spare a unit (thanks, Kris!) so that we could run the Evolv X through our full suite of tests. The Evolv X is primarily interesting for its dual-system expansion capabilities, wherein the Revolt X PSU can be used to power two systems jointly. Phanteks is selling its Evolv X for $200 base, $465 for the combo with the Revolt X and ITX mounting plate, and is also selling several accessories for added cost (like SSD sleds, for instance). Phanteks has been unable to accommodate a meeting with us the past four times that we've tried, so we figured we'd source the case separately and review it. We're not sure if it's a lack of confidence in its products, but we wanted to find out.
Today, we're reviewing the Phanteks Evolv X case for build quality, thermals, cable management, dual-system assembly, and more.
This review has been a long time coming, since testing coincided with the busiest part of our office move. We last mentioned the Ophion (and the larger Ophion Evo) in our June roundup of the best cases at Computex. The impression we got back then was that the tempered glass was for show and that Raijintek was considering better-ventilated side panels for the release version. There have been some changes made, but they’re not quite what we expected.
Today’s review looks at the Raijintek Ophion mini-ITX case for build quality, form factor / usable area, thermals, and cable management.
Fractal’s newest case officially released under the name of “Define S2,” but our review has been slightly delayed by the office turning into an overclocking war zone. Fractal has hit a comfortable stride with their cases. The S2 is a successor to the Define S, but to all appearances it’s almost exactly the same as the Define R6, which we reviewed about a year ago. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though: the R6 is a good case and received praise from us for its high build quality and stout form factor.
The Fractal Define S2 case is the R6, ultimately, just with a lot of parts removed. It’s a stripped-down version of the R6 with some optional reservoir mounts and a new front panel, with rough equivalence in MSRP and ~$10 to ~$50 differences in street price. The R6 and S2 are the most direct competitors for each other, so if choosing specifically between these two, Fractal can’t lose. There are, of course, many good cases in the $150 price range, but the R6 and S2 most immediately contend with one another.
We reviewed the behemoth Cooler Master Cosmos C700P almost exactly a year ago, and now CM is back with the even heavier 51.6lb C700M. Like the H500M versus the H500P, this is a higher-end and more expensive model being added to a family of cases rather than replacing them. The new flagship has a few upgrades over the original, but it retains the same basic look with pairs of big aluminum rails at the top and bottom and dual-curved side panels.
Cooler Master’s C700M is very much a halo product, but our review of the C700M will focus on build quality, thermals, acoustics, and cable management. Ultimately, this is a showpiece -- it’s something one might buy because they can afford it, and that’s good enough reason. We will still be reviewing the Cooler Master C700M on its practical merits as an enclosure, as always, but are also taking into consideration its status as a halo product -- that is, something from which features will be pulled to the low-end later.
We last saw the Level 20 VT a couple months ago at Computex, alongside the Level 20 GT and XT. The VT is an mATX case, the smallest of the three.
Inside and out, the VT is similar to the mini-ITX Thermaltake V1 we reviewed, and even more so to the micro ATX V21. The major difference is the use of tempered glass, which could be a sign of Silverstone Syndrome, or following up a well-ventilated case with a sealed box; however, as we pointed out at Computex, the Level 20 cases are being sold alongside the older mesh-fronted V1 and V21 rather than replacing them. In addition, Thermaltake has also earned the benefit of the doubt with cases like the View 71 and View 37 that appear sealed but still manage to keep temperatures reasonable.
Lian Li’s Lancool One is a case we’ve seen multiple revisions of, first at CES (under the name Fusion Elite) and then again during our pre-Computex factory tour. “LanCool” is/was a subsidiary that was treated like a distinct brand for selling cases which were less exotic and more affordable than Lian Li’s standard fare. This is the first use of the name in several years, and it’s now more of a prefix than a separate entity. The version we were sent for review was the Lancool One Digital, which has a few minor differences from the base model as seen below.
The Lancool One ships at $90 for the non-”Digital” version, with the Lancool One Digital offering addressable RGB LEDs for an extra $10. Our Lian Li Lancool One review works with the Digital version, but the cases are the same aside from lighting changes.
We’ve been following the In Win’s A1 since CES 2017, where we saw it in a trio of cases with wood accents. The final version was at CES this year, now with some slightly different specs and no wood (although it’s still a possibility in the future).
In Win describes the A1’s design as “modern Scandinavian style,” which might be an attempt to say “Ikea-ish” without attracting litigious attention. It looks unique even without the wood veneer: the base and legs are made of clear acrylic, ringed on the inside with RGB LEDs. It doesn’t really create the illusion of “floating in A1r” as In Win says, but it does make the case stand out.
Our review of the In Win A1 mini-ITX case looks at overall build quality, ease-of-installation features, and temperature results in various tests. The case is presently ~$170 via Amazon, and includes a 600W 80 Plus Bronze PSU.
Lian Li’s O11 Air is one of the most awaited cases this year, first shown at CES in January. The O11 Air is advertised as an airflow-focused case, the counterpart to the O11 Dynamic (~$130). This is done by removing the tempered glass on the O11 Dynamic (reviewed here), and instead opting for two intake fans and a grill. Our performance test results for the O11 Air might surprise you, though.
The Lian Li O11 series uses the same tooling for both the O11 Dynamic and O11 Air, with some subtle changes to tooling on the O11 Air. Other primary changes include, obviously, the inclusion of fans and front/top-panel grills for airflow, contrary to the Dynamic’s glass focus.
A quick outline of the differences between the O11 Air and O11 Dynamic are below:
- Mostly the same core tooling, but there are some new screw holes in the back (to support 2x 80mm or 1x 92mm rear fans)
- 2x80 or 1x92mm rear mount (noise is an issue)
- Adds 3x120mm or 2x140mm front fan mounts
- Includes 2x 120mm fans at 1500RPM max
- O11 RGB includes 2 1500RPM 120mm fans and 3 Bora Lite fans to install wherever you want, but costs an extra $20-$30 (which isn’t bad, really).
Most of the build quality and ease-of-installation features remain the same, and our analysis and review of those features also remains the same. We’d encourage you to check our “The Build” section of our Lian Li O11 Dynamic review for more thoughts on overall quality.
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