A volumetric study of mATX cases

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A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:19 am

Been wasting time looking for mATX cases that could fit my needs and wants (I think thats the time wasting contradiction right there). I wasn't totally unproductive though: with all the (basic) research behind me, I decided to draw the mATX cases I like most in 3D, using GOOG's SketchUp.

I dont know if it helps anyone but me, but I found the exercice and the results quite interesting. See, my deskspace is limited at the moment. I cannot put the case on the floor, so my problem is having a noisy PC on my desk, 1m away from my ears. But noise is not the topic here, deskspace and emcumbrance is. Hence this volumetric study of mATX cases.

I took 2 ATX cases to compare against, Antec's P180 and SOLO. I draw these two, plus 18 mATX:

Antec Mini P180 http://www.antec.com/Believe_it/product.php?id=Mw==
Antec NSK3480 http://www.antec.com/Believe_it/product.php?id=MzM=
Antec NSK1480 http://www.antec.com/Believe_it/product.php?id=MzE=
AOpen H450B http://global.aopen.com/products_detail.aspx?ctgr=&auno=2473&mdstl=
AOpen H425B http://www.aopen.nl/products_detail.aspx?ctgr=&auno=2565&mdstl=
AOpen H420A http://www.aopen.nl/products_detail.aspx?Auno=2123
Asus TM-210 http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/info_1255.html
Cooler Master Elite RC-342 http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=2962
Cooler Master Elite RC-341 http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=2876
Cooler Master Centurion RC-541 http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=2723
HEC-Compucase 6K60 http://www.hec-group.com.tw/pccase/6k/
Lian-Li PC-V351 http://www.lian-li.com/v2/en/product/product06.php?pr_index=317&cl_index=1&sc_index=25&ss_index=64&g=spec
Lian-Li PC-A03B http://www.lian-li.com/v2/en/product/product06.php?pr_index=310&cl_index=1&sc_index=25&ss_index=63&g=spec
Lian-li PC-A05N http://www.lian-li.com/v2/en/product/product06.php?pr_index=289&cl_index=1&sc_index=25&ss_index=63&g=spec
Rosewill R512 BK http://www.rosewill.com/products/s_1259/productDetail.htm
Rosewill RS-M288 http://www.rosewill.com/products/s_1500/productDetail.htm
Rosewill R363-M http://www.rosewill.com/products/s_1122/productDetail.htm
Silverstone SG04 http://www.silverstonetek.com/products/p_spec.php?pno=SG04&area=usa


1. Face view (may not be showing whole image)
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2.Higher Face view
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3. High view with angle
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4. Summary of specifications (all the data may not appear in the post itself)
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5. Cases by height (as in the above images), by depth and by width (all in descending order)
Image

You can email if you want the SketchUp .skp file or the specs : pasdepardon at gmail dot com.

Did you find this exercise useful? If yes, thanks. If but, what would you change / make more pertinent? If no, you're probably right! :)
Last edited by Pasdepardon on Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:47 am

Wtg man, that's some great data you have there! Very interesting. What you can also look at to make it complete is how the volume is used. For example, how much usable space is in each case? It's possible some of the space is just wasted. Some cases may use some extra space for cable routing, some may be slightly longer to accommodate longer expansion boards, etc.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:50 am

You are right about the importance of usable space inside the case. But presenting straightforward, easely readable data on the matter is hard, because its qualitative in nature, me thinks. Its, IMHO, more a matter of how you use/organise the inside, in the end.

For example, the Mini P180 is wide, because it features half an inch of space between the MB and the backplate. Its great to hide cables, but comes with a bigger vol. footprint. In the NSK3480, you could use the upper 3,5" bay to tuck away excess cablery, but you would sacrifice a HDD bay. I dont really know where I'm getting to, but quantifying the inside space seems hard. Case reviews dedicate almost always a page explaining the assembly (in itself) of the system inside the case, pointing to annoyances or smart features.

You mentionned wasted space. In what sense? Volume that is not occupied (or obstructed) helps airflow, hence cooling components, hence reduce fan speed (and noise), for example. So here, usable space means non-occupied space. But reading your post again, I can see where you're getting at: different uses mean the need for different space configurations (ie case XYZ cannot accomodate gfx cards of YUL length, etc...).

Thank you for your input. I'll think about a chart or something similar.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:25 am

My living room PC lives in a C$60 ASUS TM-210.

It's 170x395x355 mm WxDxH, which is smaller than any of the cases that you've sketched. The included Bestec PSU is junk, but for the number of drive bays available, it's a small and light enclosure. It doesn't have the same build quality as my P182, but it didn't cost as much as the Antec case, either. I'm using a Scythe KAZE-JYU SY1025SL12M fan to keep it cool and quiet. Graphics cards up to 9.9" long will fit in this case. Radeon HD3870X2 is about ¼" too long. Radeon HD4870 1GB fits just fine.
Last edited by JustAnEngineer on Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:46 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:It's 170x395x355 mm WxDxH, which is smaller than any of the cases that you've sketched. The included Bestec PSU is junk, but for the number of drive bays available, it's a small and light enclosure.


Interesting. I'll add it.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:55 am

One of the trade-offs of working in a very small case is that the order of assembly becomes important. To replace the PSU, I had to remove the CPU heatsink. To reach the fourth memory slot, I had to pull the hard-drive from the top internal bay while swapping DIMMs (which required pulling the CPU heatsink), etc.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 6:27 am

If you're concerned about noise (and rightly so for a case that's going to be on your desk), only the 3480 and Mini180 make my shortlist. The Mini is too large for my taste, since it's the size of many a full ATX case, and quite pricey, so I'd go for the 3480, which is very well regarded in quiet computing circles.

The Lian Li is an interesting case, but occupies more desk real estate because of its squatness. It's also neither the quietest or loudest case around, but why choose it except for aesthetic reasons?

Get the 3480.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:19 am

The Mini P180 is not particularly mini is it? The Solo is probably a better choice in the same footprint since at least it can accomodate a full ATX board. I suppose it depends on whether you really like doors or not. My P182 is on my desk, and noise isn't really noticeable until everything gets cranked up while gaming. A smaller case could be more of a challenge from an airflow/noise compromise point of view, but I'm sure you should be able to get a good result with the sort of system you're planning.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:38 am

Thanks to the OP for the good job. Please I would like to see the TM210 added for comparison too. ;)

JustAnEngineer wrote:My living room PC lives in a C$60 ASUS TM-210.

It's 170x395x355 mm WxDxH, which is smaller than any of the cases that you've sketched. The included Bestec PSU is junk, but for the number of drive bays available, it's a small and light enclosure. It doesn't have the same build quality as my P182, but it didn't cost as much as the Antec case, either. I'm using a Scythe KAZE-JYU SY1025SL12M fan to keep it cool and quiet. Graphics cards up to 9.9" long will fit in this case. Radeon HD3870X2 is about ¼" too long. Radeon HD4870 1GB fits just fine.
I am using the same case, but the TM210, which is the black version. I bought the one without the junk PSU at the time (C$43 I think). I also swapped the stock loud fan with an Antec TriCool 92mm, where medium is just about acceptable for me.

JustAnEngineer wrote:One of the trade-offs of working in a very small case is that the order of assembly becomes important. To replace the PSU, I had to remove the CPU heatsink. To reach the fourth memory slot, I had to pull the hard-drive from the top internal bay while swapping DIMMs (which required pulling the CPU heatsink), etc.
Not only that, but patience is also well tested. When you realize you made a mistake and messed up the order, you have to undo a few steps and do it from the top again. A PITA in exchange for smallness. I use a tower style heatsink so even removing HDDs I will need to take out the whole board (because I would rather not reapply thermal paste by taking out the heatsink). :o Things are also a lot tighter with little wiggle room. The ATX12V cable took me a while to stick into the small gap, and the fan on the heatsink took a lot of patience to mount (the OCZ Vendetta uses those plastic grommets mounted in-between the HS fins).
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:32 am

I'd lean towards the NSK3480 with no consideration of aesthetics (which the Lian Li is the best looking of all those, IMO). The best NSK3480 setup I've seen is this one.

On the note of case reviews... most of them are horrible. I know there are serious time constraints and case reviews are probably not the most clicked reviews but... if you're going to review a case with cable management features you should use those cable management features when you place the case inside. Otherwise I just feel like the entire review is invalidated.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:26 pm

Skrying wrote:On the note of case reviews... most of them are horrible. I know there are serious time constraints and case reviews are probably not the most clicked reviews but... if you're going to review a case with cable management features you should use those cable management features when you place the case inside. Otherwise I just feel like the entire review is invalidated.
Agreed. Moreover a lot of reviews run along the lines of:
first page -- wholesale copy of manufacturer's website "about" page
second page -- wholesale copy of manager's claims about the product
third page -- half a dozen shots of the cardboard container and styrofoam the case is shipped in
You're sometimes four or more pages into the review before you even see the product or get any actual original information about it.

This doesn't apply only to case reviews (there are a lot of bad tech review sites on the inraweb, which is why I spend time here), but it seems particularly egregious with them perhaps because the barrier to entry to reviewing a case is so low -- no knowledge of benchmarking software or fancy equipment required. (Though actually they should be providing db and temperature data, they almost never do).
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:37 pm

Skrying wrote:I'd lean towards the NSK3480 with no consideration of aesthetics (which the Lian Li is the best looking of all those, IMO).
The Lian Li may "look" better but I consider it too fat. I prefer the slimmer "tower" look vs the more "cube" like look.

Skrying wrote:The best NSK3480 setup I've seen is this one.
Everytime I see something like that I have to present the other side of the argument. :P
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:25 pm

This exercice made me realize that some simple rules must be followed when choosing mATX FF.
It's a tradeoff between: volumic footprint vs cool & quiet vs main usage vs performance vs price. Quite logic, nothing extraordinary, sure, but it helps the decision making.

I think to reach a "perfect balance" between these variables, you need to get "your hands dirty". Patience, planning the build order, the choice of components, testing, routing again, etc.... Most of the time, that means spending time and more money than initialy planned.

I've added the TM-210 and will post the updated sketches later today (replacing the old ones). I'll put the Rosewill R512, RS-M288, R363-M too. Maybe the TM-210 is subcontracted to another manufacturer.

For the specsheet, i'll add the manufacturer links to the product, the max number of gfxcard, the max length of the gfxcard, something about cable routing, material (alu or SECC), HDD bays, something about fans, link to reviews... Still, not really sure if that was the purpose of the post, though :-? Since the topic is about volumes in space, I'll try to focus on that (how to best use the space inside to reach a good balance).

Always glad to read your input.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 3:56 pm

I was looking at the Cooler Master RC-541 case as well, may be a good candidate as well. ;)
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:17 pm

Flying Fox wrote:
Skrying wrote:I'd lean towards the NSK3480 with no consideration of aesthetics (which the Lian Li is the best looking of all those, IMO).
The Lian Li may "look" better but I consider it too fat. I prefer the slimmer "tower" look vs the more "cube" like look.
In that case have you considered the Siverstone SGO3 / SG04 line? They're mini-towers that can accept 10.5" video cards but they're a smaller in real life than they generally appear in pics (and they're much lighter than even many steel cube cases, if that matters). Not without their issues, particularly wrt tall CPU coolers and PSU placement, but of course that's life in the SFF world.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:29 pm

Flying Fox wrote:I was looking at the Cooler Master RC-541 case as well, may be a good candidate as well. ;)


Any reason you would go with that over the Cooler Master Elite 341? I'd rather have the Elite's 120mm fans and support for longer video cards.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 4:33 pm

Skrying wrote:
Flying Fox wrote:I was looking at the Cooler Master RC-541 case as well, may be a good candidate as well. ;)


Any reason you would go with that over the Cooler Master Elite 341? I'd rather have the Elite's 120mm fans and support for longer video cards.

At the time I was looking at these µATX cases (where I eventually picked the TM-210), my main concerns were the number of 3.5" drive bays and overall height (the lower the better). I am pretty sure I am not going to get those >9.5" video cards myself, plus I feel that the 92mm rear fan mount is good enough. Obviously with such a small case I am not going to go crazy on the overclocking. Also, price was another factor.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:43 pm

Flying Fox wrote:At the time I was looking at these µATX cases (where I eventually picked the TM-210), my main concerns were the number of 3.5" drive bays and overall height (the lower the better). I am pretty sure I am not going to get those >9.5" video cards myself, plus I feel that the 92mm rear fan mount is good enough. Obviously with such a small case I am not going to go crazy on the overclocking. Also, price was another factor.


Worth pointing out then that both cases have supports for two 3.5" internal, two 3.5" external and two 5.25" external driver bays.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:59 am

Skrying wrote:
Flying Fox wrote:At the time I was looking at these µATX cases (where I eventually picked the TM-210), my main concerns were the number of 3.5" drive bays and overall height (the lower the better). I am pretty sure I am not going to get those >9.5" video cards myself, plus I feel that the 92mm rear fan mount is good enough. Obviously with such a small case I am not going to go crazy on the overclocking. Also, price was another factor.


Worth pointing out then that both cases have supports for two 3.5" internal, two 3.5" external and two 5.25" external driver bays.

At the time I picked, I valued the extra 3.5" internal bay and the 14" height (of course that made internal assembly a bit more difficult, but that is a problem with small cases in general). I was coming from a Shuttle cube (SN45G) so I wanted something more of a real tower. And the low price of C$43 suited me just fine too.

I am shoving new components in the case too. The black also fits quite nicely beside my Panasonic plasma TV so it will be my main rig and I will occasionally move it to be an HTPC as well.
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Re: A volumetric study of mATX cases

Postposted on Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:51 pm

UPDATE:
More cases have been added.
More specs too: number of bays, and number+ type of intake/exhaust fans.
Cases were sorted too.

Now, the images feel crowded with so many cases, and the wow factor (if there was any to begin with) seems lesser.

However, I have to say that the Cooler Master cases (especially RC-341) are quite nice. And cheap (sub 70$) are quite adequate too.

It was difficult to caracterize the space inside and how to best use it. Some cases are just plain in the inside, others feature compartements, complex drive bays/cages, noise cancelling material, etc...

On the topic of volume, I still find the nsk3480 is the best solution, for me. But thinner cases are ideal for the living room. Elongated boxes just seem to fit nowhere (PC-V351). The AOpen brand is quasi non-existent in NA.

If you check some of the links, maybe you'd feel another common data is of importance. Could probably add it too.
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