|Model||Obsidian Series 650D|
About a year and a half ago, we got our hands dirty picking apart Corsair’s first stab at the whole “computer case” thing: the Obsidian Series 800D. Then, last September, we brought in the newer and more affordable Graphite Series 600T for a similar run around the ol’ test track. Today, we’re going to be looking at the Obsidian Series 650D, which melds the 800D’s externals and the 600T’s internals with an asking price smack in the middle between the two.
We were impressed with Corsair’s first two designs, so we’re eager to see if the 650D manages to bring the best of both worlds without breaking the bank. At least on paper, this puppy looks like a potentially great middle ground for folks who don’t care for the 600T’s rounded, somewhat chunky design yet can’t afford to spend $280 on an Obsidian Series 800D. Also, I think I heard something about getting a free sub with a drink after doing three Corsair case reviews.
As you can see below, the 650D has much in common with the 800D visually—it’s tall, rectangular, made of steel and aluminum, and outfitted with a window on the side. Where the 24″ x 24″ x 9″ Obsidian Series 800D towers above mere mortals, though, the 650D is a little more manageable, measuring 20.5″ in height and 21.5″ in depth.
To make room, Corsair has ditched the hot-swappable hard-drive bays and replaced them with a single Serial ATA dock situated at the top. The good news is that there are still six internal 3.5″ bays—so, in effect, the 650D has one more hard drive bay than the 800D. Corsair has done away with one of the 5.25″ external bays, however, so users with lots of optical drives (or miscellaneous control panels and third-party fan controllers) may be disappointed. Then again, four 5.25″ bays is still plenty.
Speaking of fan controllers, the 650D has one of those built in. It lets you adjust the three included fans (200 mm front, 200 mm top, and 120 mm rear) between low, medium, and high speed settings.
The 650D uses the same dual-latch locking system as the 600T for the two side panels. Also, as with the 600T, the panels don’t slide in horizontally; they swing out vertically when unlocked. To put them back in place, simply align the bottom of the panel with the hinge at the base of the case and swing the panel in place. I much prefer that system to the traditional sliding mechanism, since it involves less effort and makes it much easier to tuck in unwieldy cables.
Under the hood
Lifting off the left panel grants access to the 650D’s handsome charcoal internals. This is where the magic happens.
The internal layout should look familiar to owners of Corsair’s Graphite Series 600T—and, you know, those who read our review of that enclosure. Just about everything, from the cut-outs in the motherboard tray to the bottom power-supply emplacement and the arrangement of the storage bays, is pretty much identical. No, really; the resemblance is uncanny.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. The 600T has an excellent, roomy internal design, with cut-outs positioned just at the right spots and some excellent storage bays. If it ain’t broke…
Corsair splits the six 3.5″ hard-drive bays into two trios, and the top one can be moved down to make way for an extra-long graphics card. This is another trick the 650D borrows from the 600T. The actual hard-drive trays are identical, too; they snap onto 3.5″ drives with ease and have mounting holes for 2.5″ storage devices like SSDs. (Installing an SSD will involve removing one of the four rubber-mounted studs, but that’s simple enough to do.)
Nope, nothing unexpected here. The 650D’s right side might look clean enough out of the box, but as we’re about to see, it can get awfully crowded if you run all the cables on this side of the case. Doing so will ensure the cabling doesn’t impede airflow in the main compartment, though.
Odds and ends
Being a somewhat upscale enthusiast enclosure, the 650D offers substantial cooling capabilities thanks to three fans: two 200-mm behemoths mounted at the front and top, plus one 120-mm exhaust fan located at the rear.
Since the front fan draws air into the case, and the other fans blow that air out, Corsair stuck a dust filter on the front fan only. To remove the filter, simply push the top part of it until you hear a click, then let the filter swing down and free itself from the case. Once you’ve cleaned out all that nasty dust, you can slide the filter back in place.
A fully assembled system will probably have one additional fan sucking air into the case: the one on the power supply. Thanks to a vent in the 650D’s bottom panel, the large intake fan on a typical enthusiast PSU will draw in fresh air directly from outside the enclosure. A conventional case would position the PSU at the top of the chassis, which means any air sucked into the PSU would have already been heated by system components. Corsair also puts a dust filter on the bottom vent, ensuring that air sucked into the PSU should be relatively clean.
The 650D doesn’t disappoint on the connectivity front. Corsair keeps dual USB 3.0, dual USB 2.0, FireWire, stereo, and microphone ports behind a small door you can easily push open.
Upstairs from that happy family—and behind a small sliding panel—lies the enclosure’s Serial ATA hard-drive dock, which has a little spring-mounted separator to ensure that any 2.5″ drive you insert will be held steady. (The weight of a 3.5″ drive will cause the separator to retract.) This compartment also houses the fan controller’s diminutive slide switch, which lets you choose between low, medium, and high fan speeds.
We praised the Graphite Series 600T for making system assembly painless. The 650D, as you might expect considering its identical internals, is no different.
The inside of the enclosure is delightfully roomy, even with a full-sized ATX motherboard installed. Corsair ships the case with motherboard standoffs pre-installed, and there’s an extra-tall standoff with a rounded top in the middle, which serves to keep the motherboard in place while you’re bolting it on—definitely a nice touch.
All of the cables hang on the right side, at least if you’re tidy enough to route them properly. Oddly, departing from the 600T’s good example, the 650D doesn’t come with the fan controller wires pre-connected and tucked away. I had to take care of that myself with a cable tie, which was… well, see the jumbled mess of black-and-white wires at the top? Yeah.
Despite the similarities between the 600T and 650D, assembling this machine gave me the (perhaps mistaken) impression that there was less space to go around on the right side of the chassis, which is why I left a couple of the power supply’s cables in the main compartment. My 600T build was slightly cleaner. Perhaps the business with the fan controller and the extra connectors for the built-in hard-drive dock contributed to the messier 650D build.
Getting hard drives and optical drives installed is as simple as ever. As I noted earlier, the 3.5″ trays snap onto hard drives using rubber-grommetted metal studs. The optical drives, meanwhile, need no rails or screws to install. Just remove the front cover, pull the tab on the side of the bay, and push the drive in until you hear a click.
Our testing methods
You’ve already seen our test components on the preceding pages, but here’s an exhaustive list with all of the nitty-gritty details. We used Thermaltake’s V1 cooler on our CPU:
|Processor||AMD Phenom II X4 975 Black Edition|
|Memory size||2GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||Corsair Dominator DDR2-1142 at 800MHz|
|Audio||Realtek ALC889A with default Windows drivers|
|Graphics||EVGA GeForce GTX 280 with GeForce 257.21 drivers|
|Hard drive||Western Digital RE3 1TB|
|Optical drive||Samsung SH-W163A DVD burner|
|Power supply||BFG Tech 800W Power Supply|
|OS||Windows 7 Home Premium x86|
A number of these parts have already been supplanted by newer, faster components, but their energy consumption is what matters here—and they don’t sip power. Using a Watts Up meter, I recorded power utilization at 385W with our CPU and GPU loads running simultaneously. That’s not all that surprising, since we’re talking about a 125W processor and a graphics card with 236W peak power consumption. Keep in mind that today’s fastest components are designed to fit within similar thermal envelopes.
Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.
Here are individual component temperatures inside a fully built 650D system. We ran our tests once with case fans running at their lowest speed and a second time with them cranked up to their highest speed. The motherboard was entrusted with controlling the speed of the CPU fan.
Note that we included numbers for the Level 10 GT mainly to provide a frame of reference. The Level 10 GT is a fancier, more expensive case than the 650D, and its flashy design is more likely to attract a different type of customer than the 650D’s sober, utilitarian exterior. It just so happens that the Level 10 GT is presently the only case I’ve tested with the same set of components as the 650D.
For our first test, we booted up the machine and allowed temperatures to stabilize before taking readings using Speedfan and GPU-Z:
Then, we loaded up the Unigine Heaven benchmark and waited a few minutes for temperatures to stabilize again. We looped that benchmark with stereoscopic 3D and tessellation disabled, “high” shaders, 16X anisotropic filtering, and 4X antialiasing in a 1920×1080 window. Frame rates were a little choppy, so we expect our GeForce GTX 280 broke a sweat.
After logging temperatures with our GPU load, we waited for things to cool down before looping the Heaven benchmark and a Prime95 torture test simultaneously. Once temperatures peaked, we took the following readings:
Kicking up the 650D’s fans cools down the CPU by a couple of degrees under load, and it also reduces motherboard and GPU temps very slightly. However, the 650D clearly does an effective job of keeping our test build cool with the fans spinning at a leisurely pace.
Do noise levels change dramatically when you switch between fan speeds? While we were running our temperature tests, we probed noise levels using an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level Meter to find out. (The missing bars in the graphs below correspond to noise levels below our meter’s 40-dB threshold.)
At idle with the fan controller set to its lowest speed, the 650D is delightfully quiet. Turning up the fan speed leads to a substantial increase in noise at idle, though. Under load, the noise generated by the temperature-controlled GPU and CPU fans blurs the difference between the two case fan settings.
I think that, based on the results above, it’s pretty clear that you’re best off running the 650D with its fans turned all the way down—unless, of course, your hardware is much more power-hungry than what we used. Keep in mind that we ran a 125W processor and a 236W graphics card.
Incidentally, our 650D’s quiet operation was marred by what appeared to be a faulty top 200-mm fan. That fan started clicking intermittently a few hours into testing, and the clicking eventually evolved into full-blown screeching with the fan controller set to high speed. Fans and other items with moving parts tend to be the weakest links of today’s computer builds, of course, but one would expect a $200 case to come with reliable fans. Perhaps this was just a fluke. For what it’s worth, my old P180 suffered a similar problem with one of its fans.
A good way to describe Corsair’s Obsidian Series 650D would be as a Graphite Series 600T wearing a tuxedo. Things are more or less the same under the hood, but the 650D replaces smooth curves with square edges and has no LEDs to draw attention to itself. Like a handkerchief poking out of a breast pocket, the 650D’s SATA dock provides a touch of extra sophistication. (Of course, unlike a decorative handkerchief, a top-mounted dock can be a terribly useful thing—especially if you’re wise enough to perform backups on a regular basis.)
The question is, how much does the tuxedo set you back? Right now, Newegg sells the 600T for $159.99, or $134.99 after a mail-in rebate. The 650D, meanwhile, costs $199.99, or $189.99 after rebate. You’re looking at a premium of at least $40 and as much as $55 for the 650D, depending on whether those rebate checks ever come in the mail.
I’m not sure the 650D is really worth the extra cash. The fact that it costs more than the 600T yet offers two fewer front-panel USB 2.0 ports and only three fan controller settings (compared to an analog dial for the 600T) complicates things further. The 650D isn’t better in every respect, and it’s identical to the 600T in many ways. Corsair is asking you to cough up more for a slightly different mix of features and external design.
Whether you think that’s a fair deal really depends on what you think of the Graphite Series 600T. Folks who like that enclosure on paper but just aren’t down with its rounded, somewhat pudgy looks may gladly cough up the extra cash for the 650D. Others, I suspect, will snag the cheaper case and add a third-party docking station down the line… if they really need it.