Cases below $70 with breathable, mesh front panels have become rarer in the past few years, but the trend is starting to pick back up: At CES, we saw a deluge of $60-$70 mesh cases, like the Phanteks P300A, which takes the principles of the P400A and down-costs them, and the SilverStone Fara R1, which is meant to be a successor to our long-praised Silverstone RL06. The RL06 was a long-time budget masterpiece. It managed chart-topping performance at around $70-$80, accomplished with four 120mm fans, a short chassis length that brought fans closer to components, and a mesh front. Now, we’re reviewing the spiritual successor to the Silverstone RL06, and that’s the Fara R1 mesh variant that we saw at CES.
The Fara R1 is one of several cases in the Fara line that share the same basic chassis tooling, like the V1, but the feature that sets the R1 apart and the reason we requested it for review is its mesh front panel--we haven’t seen many well-ventilated cases for budget builders lately, and our impending economic doom is the perfect time for budget builds. There’s always a bright side. Silverstone does, in fact, refer to this case as the Fara R1, but GN Sr. Camera Operator Andrew thought that the box said “FARAR1.” Maybe that’d be how DIYPC would name its Zondda follow-up, but not Silverstone.
Either way, enough people have complained about Silverstone’s letter-letter-number-number case names (especially us), or they were in danger of a repeat. If the full name is too much to handle, the official abbreviation is FAR1.
Silverstone shaved every penny it could off the production of this case, for better or worse, creating a utilitarian enclosure that reminds us strongly of the Cooler Master NR600, another budget mesh case that launched in early 2019 and has remained a strong competitor at the $70-ish price point since. The R1 is also positioned to be a successor to our perennial budget-tier favorite, the Silverstone RL06, which is almost impossible to find at a decent price these days. Today we’ll see how the Fara R1 stacks up against these and other cases in build quality, noise, and thermals.
Respected manufacturers of silence-focused PC cases like be quiet! and Fractal Design use a number of tricks to keep noise levels down. These often include specially designed fans, thick pads of noise-damping foam, sealed front panels, and elaborately baffled vents. We tend to prefer high airflow to silence when given a choice, and it usually is presented that way: as a choice. The reality is that it doesn’t have to be a choice, and that an airflow-oriented case can, with minor work, achieve equivalent noise levels to a silence-focused case (while offering better thermals).
Our testing tends to reinforce that idea of a choice: our baseline results are measured with the case fans at maximum speed and therefore maximum noise, making cases like the SilverStone RL06 sound like jet engines. The baseline torture tests are good for consistency, showcasing maximum performance, and for highlighting the performance differences between cases, but they don’t represent how most users run their PCs for 24/7 usage. Instead, most users would likely turn down the fans to an acceptable noise level--maybe even the same level as intentionally quiet cases like the Silent Base 601.
Our thesis for this benchmark paper proposes that fans can be turned down sufficiently to equate noise levels of a silence-focused case, but while still achieving superior thermal performance. The candidates chosen as a case study were the Silverstone Redline 06 and the be quiet! Silent Base 601. The RL06 is one of the best-ventilated and noisiest cases we’ve tested in the past couple of years, while the SB601 is silence-focused with restricted airflow.
One variable that we aren’t equipped to measure is the type of noise. Volume is one thing, but the frequency and subjective annoying-ness matter too. For the most part, noise damping foam addresses concerns of high-frequency whines and shorter wavelengths, while thicker paneling addresses low-frequency hums and longer wavelengths. For today’s testing, we are entirely focusing on noise level at 20” and testing thermals at normalized volumes.
SilverStone’s RVZ03 isn’t new, but after years of ATX case reviews we have quite a backlog of promising small form factor cases. The RVZ03 is part of the Raven line, a loosely related group of “extreme enthusiasts chassis” that could also be called “the ones that have a V-shape on them.” We recently revisited the RV02, one of the best-performing full size cases we’ve reviewed.
It’s a thin, console-like enclosure, typically shown standing vertically, but also capable of being laid on its side Taku-style. The ubiquitous Vs on the front are clear plastic backlit with RGB LEDs hooked up to a controller; the controller can accept input from a standard 4-pin RGB header and includes adapters to control normal LED strips as well.
After seeing dozens of cases at Computex 2018, we’ve now rounded-up what we think are the best cases from the show, with the most interesting design elements, price points, or innovations. As always, wait until we can review these cases before getting too hyped and pre-ordering, but we wanted to at least point-out the top cases to pay attention to for the next year.
We’re calling this content the “Most Room for Improvement at Computex 2018” content piece. A lot of products this year are still prototypes, and so still have lots of time to improve and change. Many of the manufacturers have asked for feedback from media and will be making changes prior to launch, hopefully, but we wanted to share some of our hopes for improvement with all of you.
Separately, Linus of LinusTechTips joined us for the intro of this video, if that is of interest.
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.
The PM02 is the successor to Silverstone’s Primera 01, a case we’ve often referenced but have never fully reviewed. As Silverstone points out on their site, Primera is Spanish for “first,” so please take a quiet moment to appreciate the name “Primera 02.” This (still) isn’t a review of the PM01, but since it will continue to be sold alongside the PM02 (~$140), we took this opportunity to do some testing and make a close comparison. The original Primera should be a familiar sight to anyone that’s seen our render rig or the community-funded gift PC from a few months ago. Because the two cases seen in those videos are being used, we acquired yet another for this article--we like the 01 a lot.
This review will benchmark the SilverStone PM01 vs. the PM02 and RL06 airflow PCs, with additional testing conducted across other popular on-market cases, including the H500P.
We’re revisiting one of the best ~200mm-ish fans that existed: The SilverStone Air Penetrator 180, or AP181, that was found in the chart-topping Raven02 case that we once held in high regard. We dug these fans out of our old Raven, still hanging around post-testing from years ago, and threw them into a test bench versus the Noctua 200mm and Cooler Master 200mm RGB fans (the latter coming from the H500P case).
These three fans, two of which are advertised as 200mm, all have different mounting holes. This is part of the reason that 200mm fans faded from prominence (the other being replacing mesh side panels with a sheet of glass), as companies were all fighting over a non-standardized fan size. Generally speaking, buying a case with 200mm fans did not – and still does not – guarantee that other 200mm fans will work in that case. The screw hole spacing is different, the fan size could be different, and there were about 4 types of 200mm-ish fans from the time: 180mm, 200mm, 220mm, and 230mm.
That’s a large part of the vanishing act of the 200mm fans, although a recent revival by Cooler Master has resurrected some interest in them. It’s almost like a fashion trend: All the manufacturers saw at Computex that 200mm fans were “in” again, and immediately, we started seeing CES 2018 cases making a 200mm push.
This year’s CES saw content expansion for us, adding a second video producer to the road crew. This allowed us to better split article/video load, and balance sleep marginally better with work – up to 5 hours average for everyone, rather than the usual sub-5.
Anyway, there were plenty of products we covered in video format that didn’t make it into articles, and that was entirely due to physical limitations of the time-space continuum. We wanted to bring reader attention to some of the must-watch videos from the show, including our coverage of the Lian Li O11 chassis (the best case we saw at the event), the SilverStone Micro-STX form factor case, and Enermax’s updated Saberay.
Here they are:
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:
We moderate comments on a ~24~48 hour cycle. There will be some delay after submitting a comment.