System temperatures and noise levels
Cases like the SG07 are few and far between, so we don't have any comparative results for our temperature and noise testing. However, we did test the case with its fan at both high and low speeds, at least under load. At idle, system temperatures were low enough that we didn't bother with the high speed setting. All testing was conducted with the GeForce GTX 470 installed.
To gather data at idle, we let the system sit at the Windows 7 desktop until temperatures stabilized. We then used Prime95 and a looping DiRT 2 demo generate a combined CPU and GPU load. Temperatures were measured with SpeedFan, and a TES-52 digital sound level meter was used to gather data on noise levels.
See what I mean about there being no need to use the high fan speed setting at idle? Even under load, the CPU only got up to 57°C with the slowest fan speed—not bad considering we're using the tiny stock cooler inside a very small enclosure.
Generous venting on the SG07's left panel is no doubt responsible for the reasonable GPU temperatures we're seeing here. The Gigabyte card does have three massive fans that are doing an excellent job of keeping the GPU cool, but they'd be considerably less effective squished up against a solid panel that impeded airflow.
Kicking the SG07's fan up to high speed doesn't move temperatures by more than a few degrees, but it does have a bigger impact on system noise levels. The difference in noise levels is immediately and obviously apparent, even from a few feet away. However, the high speed setting isn't so loud that it annoyed me while playing games with the sound piped through speakers or open-ear headphones. With the low speed setting, our SG07 build was quiet enough that I'd use it as a desktop PC or put it across from the couch in the living room.
We're building a gaming rig, remember? Time to fire some up to see what a dually Core i5 backed by an overclocked GeForce GTX 470 can do inside a shoebox. I played a selection of recent titles on the system and used Fraps to monitor frame rates. My highest-resolution monitor tops out at 1920x1200, which is the resolution used for all the games tested.
Alien Swarm is one of the best free games released in recent memory. This top-down co-op shooter doesn't look half bad, either. It ran very well on our little gaming box with details cranked, antialiasing enabled, and 16X anisotropic filtering. Fraps' frame-rate counter sat at a solid 60 FPS throughout most of our gaming session and never dipped below 57 FPS.
Although DiRT 2 is getting close to a year old now, it's still one of the best-looking games available for the PC. We turned up all the details in this DirectX 11 title and tacked on 4X antialiasing and 16X aniso for good measure. Even with those settings, frame rates stuck to the mid-60s, occasionally dropping down into the high 40s and spiking up to 80 FPS. Smooth—literally.
For me, Just Cause 2 is more of a playground than an actual game. And what a luscious playground it is with the details cranked, 4X antialiasing, and 16X aniso. With those settings, our Mini-ITX gaming box stuck largely to the mid-40s, even as explosions and flying debris filled the screen.
The Battlefield series and I go way back, and the most recent entry in the franchise is by far the most visually stunning. It's also the most demanding, but our gaming shoebox proved more than capable of producing fluid frame rates. With the details maxed plus 4X AA and 16X aniso, frame rates largely stuck to the mid-60s. The lowest frame rate we observed was a still-smooth 46 FPS.
Much has been made of Mafia II's "Apex high" detail setting, which was a little too demanding for our dual-core Mini-ITX build. However, with the "Apex medium" setting, frame rates bounced between the low-30s and mid-40s. The game still looked gorgeous, in part because we had all the other graphics options turned up, antialiasing enabled, and aniso cranked to 16X.
Metro 2033 fills in as our final and perhaps most graphically impressive gaming test. We saw frame rates in the mid-to-low 30s with high detail settings, antialiasing enabled, and aniso turned up to 16X. Unfortunately, enabling advanced PhysX effects plunged frame rates into the 20s, which isn't quite smooth enough for first-person shooters.