Our testing methods
Here are the specs of the Casewarmer as it sits today:
|Motherboard||MSI A88XI AC|
|Memory||8GB AMD DDR3-1600 (2x 4GB DIMMs)|
|Graphics card||Zotac Nvidia Geforce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition|
|Storage||Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD, Samsung Spinpoint F1 750GB HDD|
|Power supply||Cooler Master V550|
|CPU cooler||Cooler Master Nepton 120XL|
|OS||Windows 8.1 Pro|
Thanks to Corsair for the Air 240, and to MSI, Cooler Master, AMD, Kingston, and Zotac for their respective contributions to the Casewarmer.
I relied on three software tools to test the Carbide Series Air 240:
Each test cycle included the following phases:
The tests and methods we employ are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, join us on our forums to discuss them with us.
I used the fan profiler feature in MSI's Command Center software to create a low-speed curve for idle temperatures. Unlike with my previous tests, I kicked in a little extra fan speed (75% at 55°C) for load temperatures, since the Nepton is handling the waste heat of the entire system. The Silencio fans that Cooler Master bundles with its latest Nepton coolers are good performers, so I wasn't worried too much about extra noise.
I grabbed the Cooler Master Elite 110 off my parts shelf to serve as a point of comparison for the Air 240, since the death of the Seidon 120V made our old data unusable. I'll discuss its performance below, as well.
Why didn't I re-test the Graphite Series 380T, too? As it turned out, I couldn't fit the Nepton 120XL into the 380T at all, even with only one fan on the radiator. Despite my best efforts, the cooler either hit the DIMMs or blocked motherboard power connectors. Corsair claims that the 380T supports the company's own double-width coolers on its website, so I'm not sure why the 120XL didn't fit. Either way, I couldn't re-run my tests with the yellow wonder.
I wouldn't recommend an extra-beefy liquid cooler like the Nepton 120XL for the Elite 110, either. It fits, but only just. I had to use the flat-headed screws from the Seidon 120V to ensure that there was enough room for the snap-on front panel. Even so, between the push-pull fans and the thicker radiator, the double-stuff 120XL turns a snug case into an uncomfortably cramped one. Removing the "pull" fan would make more room, but the numbers gained wouldn't be useful for this review.
With only the Nepton 120XL's fans serving to move air inside the Casewarmer, I had to do a little trial-and-error to arrive at the best cooling setup, too. Initially, I was hoping to use the Nepton as an intake, with the full-length vents at the top and bottom of the case serving as enablers of convective airflow. No such luck. With that setup, GPU temperatures soared into the low 80C range under load. After some brainstorming with Cyril, I moved the Nepton to the top of the case, with its fans blowing hot air out, which helped. The pictures in my build log represent this final configuration.
Be warned, though, that mounting the radiator to the top of the case isn't supported in all configurations. With a microATX motherboard, the fan and radiator combo will hit the mobo when installed up top. I only got away with this setup because of the Caswearmer's Mini-ITX motherboard.
Here are the results of my cooling tests, plotted over time. The ambient temperature in my office at the time of my tests was about 72°F (22.2°C).
And here are the minimum and maximum numbers for each testing phase:
Even with its stock fans sitting out this round, the Air 240 does a good job of keeping the parts inside cool. The only really worrisome numbers are the motherboard temperatures at idle, which can likely be chalked up to the missing exhaust fan above the motherboard. CPU temperatures also suffer slightly, since the Nepton 120XL is blowing heated internal air over its radiator, but I'll take that slight increase over a big jump in GPU temps.
The HDD and SSD results demonstrate the value of the Air 240's dual-chamber design. Compared to the much smaller, single-chamber Elite 110, the temperatures of my storage devices barely budged in the Air 240. The Elite 110 does show the advantages of setting up one's CLC as an intake, though, as well as having air blowing over chipset coolers. The A10-7850K didn't get as hot in the Elite 110 during any phase of testing, and the A88XI AC stayed cooler at idle while also cooling down faster in the post-test phase. The Air 240 would likely have performed better with all of its included fans in place.
Here are the noise levels I measured for the Air 240. Each measurement was performed 6" from the case, using the iOS app dB meter. The usual caveats apply: these numbers may not be scientifically accurate, but they do provide a relative idea of the loudness of each case.
Subjectively, the worst offender in the Casewarmer continues to be the cooler on the Zotac GeForce GTX 660 Ti, whose whiny fans make themselves clearly known through the large vents on the Air 240. The Nepton 120XL also makes a fair bit of noise under load, but its Cooler Master Silencio 120-mm fans have a mostly broad-spectrum noise character, so it's not a big deal.
Compared to the Elite 110, the Air 240 wins on both a subjective and objective basis, at least with its drastically reduced fan complement. The smaller Elite 110 has a large vent right next to the GPU bay, which makes the noisy character of the Zotac 660 Ti even more obvious. The Air 240's solid side panel and more traditional vertical motherboard orientation keep the GPU noise a little more muted. The Air 240 might turn in higher noise numbers with all of its fans in place, however.
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