There was a time when expansion cards were legion inside our PCs. We crowded our expansion slots with modems, network adapters, sound cards, USB cards, and RAID controllers. The more PCI and ISA slots a computer had, the better. Trading expansion for size was a laughable idea.
Today, though, things are quite different. Like high-tech vacuum cleaners, motherboards have sucked up most of the functionality once relegated to adapter cards. Everything from audio to networking to RAID is now integrated as standard, even on bargain-basement mobos with cryptic brand names and unreadable manuals. Many of us still buy full-sized ATX gear out of habit, of course. However, we often find that, aside from a game-worthy GPU and perhaps a nice discrete audio solution, we really don’t need that many expansion cards.
So, why not ditch our slot-laden ATX motherboards for something a little more snug? And why not trade our king-sized ATX mid-towers for more compact cases?
That’s exactly the kind of move Corsair is seeking to enable with the Obsidian Series 350D. You’ll find room in this enclosure for only microATX and Mini-ITX motherboards—ATX mobos are persona non grata. In spite of that, the 350D is cut from the same cloth as the rest of Corsair’s cases. Enthusiast-friendly fare like cable-routing holes, tool-less drive bays, and plentiful cooling abounds, and Corsair has sought to balance outer compactness with inner roominess. As a result, the case is compact, but its innards aren’t so tight as to make the assembly process uncomfortable.
On paper, this looks like a first-class way to switch to microATX. Not just on paper, in fact. This case has the same slick, subdued style as Corsair’s other offerings, and it’s quite the looker.
Corsair sells two versions of the Obsidian Series 350D. The most affordable one will set you back $89.99 at Newegg, before another sawbuck’s worth of shipping fees. The model we’re reviewing is a tad more expensive, at $99.99, and it replaces the plain left-side panel with one that boasts an acrylic window.
This model of the 350D looks a little bit like a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids version of Corsair’s Obsidian Series 650D. I suppose that’s no accident, since the two enclosures are part of the same product line. The 350D just happens to be a little smaller—and a little newer, as well, since it was announced just a few months ago.
From the back, the 350D could be mistaken for just about any one of Corsair’s other cases. Look carefully, though. There are only five expansion slots, down from eight on the 650D and 10 slots on the humongous 900D. The family resemblance is definitely there. The case has thumb screws, a bottom-mounted power supply emplacement, and punch-out holes for liquid-cooling tubes. Everything is painted black, even the interior, which makes the case look a bit like a stealth plane.
We’ll pop off the side panel and go in for a closer look in a moment. For now, here’s a handy, at-a-glance overview of the Obsidian Series 350D’s various amenities:
|Corsair Obsidian Series 350D|
|Dimensions (H x W x D)||17.3″ x 8.3″ x 17.7″|
|Supported motherboards||microATX, Mini-ITX|
|3.5″ drive bays||2|
|2.5″ drive bays||3 (5 if 3.5″ bays are used)|
|5.25″ drive bays||2|
|Included Fans||140-mm front intake
120-mm rear exhaust
|Front panel I/O||2x USB 3.0
|Max. graphics card length||15.0″|
|Max. CPU cooler height||6.3″|
|Gap behind motherboard||1.0″|
Corsair definitely hasn’t skimped. The 350D has room for five fans, five internal storage drives, and graphics cards as long as 15 inches. Most tall, tower-style CPU coolers should be supported, and there’s a substantial gap behind the motherboard tray for cable routing. A couple of front-panel USB 3.0 ports round out the package. What’s not to like?
Well, to be fair, the 350D isn’t that much smaller than ATX enclosures. Compared to the 650D, it’s only about 3.2″ shorter, 3.8″ shallower, and 0.7″ narrower. Of course, microATX only shaves 2.4″ off the full-sized ATX form factor, so it’s not meant to get you into shoebox-sized territory. Some manufacturers save additional space by mounting the power supply over the CPU socket, but that’s hardly a convenient arrangement for an enthusiast rig.
A closer look
Now that we’ve given you the Cliff’s Notes about the Obsidian Series 350D, let’s go in for a closer look—and pop off those side panels while we’re at it.
The 350D is made of steel, but its front panel is fashioned out of brushed aluminum. At the top lie the two 5.25″ bays, pairs of USB 3.0 and audio ports, and the power and reset buttons. The power button is the big flat one in the middle; the reset button is tiny, recessed, and lumped next to the audio ports. There’s little danger of hitting it accidentally, unless you try hooking up a mic without looking at what you’re doing.
The bottom half of the front panel is detachable and conceals the intake fan filter. To detach the panel, simply push the top two corners inward. The spots you’re meant to push are each marked with five little white dots.
Under the panel lurks the fan filter, which is also detachable. Removing it involves pulling on a tab at the top. And behind that sits the 140-mm intake fan, which ships with the case by default. If you need extra airflow, the 350D has room for a second 140-mm intake. You’ll have to unscrew the stock fan and move it a couple inches (either up or down) to make room for the extra spinner, though.
Pop off the windowed panel, and you’re greeted by a familiar-looking interior. At least, it ought to look familiar if you’ve ever used a Corsair case before. All the usual ingredients are present: tool-less 5.25″ bays, dedicated SSD bays, removable 3.5″ trays, rubber-lined cable routing holes, and a big cut-out behind the CPU socket area. The cut-out is there, of course, to allow the installation and removal of heatsinks while the system is assembled.
From this angle, we have a better look at the internal cooling features. The case ships with a 120-mm exhaust fan at the back. There’s also room for dual 140-mm fans—or a 280-mm radiator—at the top, and Corsair includes a removable dust filter underneath the power-supply emplacement.
Most PSUs these days have big, bottom-mounted intake fans. In enclosures like the 350D, where the PSU compartment is at the bottom, the power supply will be sucking air directly through the bottom of the case. A removable filter can help keep the unit dust-free.
A closer look—continued
So, what’s going on around the other side?
The left side of the 350D is intended for cable routing. There are plentiful rubber-lined routing holes, along with about an inch of clearance behind the motherboard tray.
Hard drives and SSDs are also supposed to be mounted so that their connectors face this way. In this arrangement, one may connect and route each drive’s power and data cables without interfering with airflow in the main compartment.
Speaking of SSDs, the Obsidian Series 350D has an interesting SSD cage. I don’t believe we’ve seen one exactly like it before. The cage lies just under the 5.25″ bays, and the user can detach it by simply pulling the main tab on the left. The design of the SSD bays is modular, with each bay snapped to the one above it. Corsair offers additional SSD bays for purchase from its website.
Installing a solid-state drive is just a matter of pushing the drive into one of the three bays until the corresponding tab locks it in place. There’s a flat plastic spring at the back of each bay, so releasing the locking tab causes the drive to pop out roughly half an inch, making it easy to grab and pull out.
The 350D can accommodate more than three SSDs, by the way. The 3.5″ drive trays are exactly like the ones on other Corsair enclosures; they have rubber-grommeted studs to hold 3.5″ drives, but they also have mounting holes on the underside for 2.5″ drives.
We put together an all-new set of parts to test PC enclosures for our last review. We used the same parts this time, but with a couple of changes to accommodate the Obsidian Series 350D. First, we swapped our full-sized Asus P8Z77-V LE Plus motherboard for a similar microATX specimen, the Asus P877-M Pro. Then, we dispensed with our Xonar DG sound card, since the P877-M Pro doesn’t have any PCI slots to play host to it.
We’ve often praised Corsair cases for making PC assembly painless. The 350D is just as much of a joy to work in as the firm’s larger enclosures, despite its smaller size.
Like its siblings, the 350D facilitates motherboard installation in two ways: all the standoffs are pre-installed, and one in the center is actually a tall stud with a rounded top. The stud helps to keep the motherboard in place while you’re screwing it in. As euphemistic as that sounds, it’s actually very convenient. In many enclosures, one must keep pushing the board up against its I/O shield while putting the first screws in place.
Installing storage devices is straightforward, too. As we noted earlier, putting in an SSD is as simple as pushing it in one of the 2.5″ bays. There does seem to be some vertical wiggle with thin, 7-mm drives like the one we used, but that’s hardly a cause for concern, since SSDs have no moving parts and don’t vibrate. Corsair does supply some optional screws to fasten 2.5″ drives into the bays. There aren’t enough screws for all three bays, though. Each bay requires two screws, and Corsair only provides four.
Putting in optical drives and mechanical hard drives is just as easy. The optical drive slides in from the front and automatically locks into place when it reaches the required depth. Removing it is a simple matter of pulling a tab on the side of the bay. As for the hard drive, you just take out one of the drive trays, warp it to mate the studs with the drive’s mounting holes—oh my!—and slide the tray back into place. You also have the option of fastening your optical and mechanical drives securely with screws. Again, though, Corsair doesn’t provide quite enough screws. Fastening each drive 3.5″ will require two screws, and after mounting the motherboard, we were left with just three spare screws of the right type.
Then there’s the power supply. Thanks to a lip at the top of the PSU emplacement, the unit slides into place and stays there even before it’s screwed in. Corsair provides two rubber-lined holes at the back of the PSU emplacement for power cables. Other cable-routing holes are present beside the motherboard and above it, thereby covering the 24-pin ATX power connector, the CPU’s power connector, and the back of the top 5.25″ drive bay—among other things.
Cable routing was the only thing made more difficult by the 350D’s diminutive confines. Corsair is generous with routing holes and space behind the motherboard tray, but the fact remains: most PSUs are designed for full-sized enclosures. In a small-form-factor case, they’re going to leave you with more cable slack than you need.
Even though we used a modular PSU, we had to put in some extra effort to keep cables from sticking out at the side. The panel had to be held shut while the thumbscrews were going in, and it bulged slightly outward once we were done. Using the included zip ties might have mitigated that problem, but we’ve never been forced to use those to get the side panel to close in our previous builds.
In any event, if you’re considering the 350D for your next build, we recommend staying away from non-modular PSUs. Things would be even more uncomfortable with a bundle of useless cables.
Aside from that one little issue, the 350D rarely gives you the sense that you’re compromising by building a microATX system instead of a full-sized ATX one. More importantly, it never feels like your fingers are too big to get something done.
Now, the only question that remains is this one: can the 350D cool a modern enthusiast PC quietly and effectively? Let’s find out.
Our testing methods
We compared the Obsidian Series 350D to Corsair’s Carbide Series 200R and Antec’s Three Hundred Two, which are the only other enclosures we’ve tested using our latest case warmer parts.
Now, as we noted on the previous page, the 350D’s size constraints forced us to use a different (albeit similar) motherboard and to ditch our sound card. However, since we’re using the same chipset and only sacrificing a non-vital expansion card with negligible power draw, we think the comparison is still fair. Being able to put the 350D’s performance in context is quite useful, too.
|Processor||Intel Core i7-2600K|
|Motherboard||Asus P877-M Pro|
|Memory||4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz|
|Graphics card||XFX Radeon HD 7870 Black Edition|
|Storage||Samsung 830 Series 128GB
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB
Asus Blu-ray combo
|Power supply||Corsair HX750W 750W|
|CPU cooler||Thermaltake Frio|
|OS||Windows 8 Pro|
We’d like to thanks Asus, Corsair, Kingston, Intel, Samsung, Thermaltake, and XFX for supplying all this excellent hardware.
We tested using the following applications:
The tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to discuss them with us.
Temperatures and noise levels
We used AIDA64 to keep track of temperatures for individual system components (the processor, GPU, motherboard, and storage drives) throughout a 40-minute period.
We left the system idle at the Windows 8 desktop for 10 minutes. Then we fired up the Heaven GPU benchmark and left it running by itself for 10 minutes. We then added a Prime95 CPU torture test to the mix and left it running, together with the Heaven benchmark, for 10 minutes. Finally, we stopped both tests and let the system cool down for the final 10-minute stretch.
Here are the results, plotted as lines over time. You can click the buttons below the graph to see temperatures for the different components:
I’m not sure what’s up with the 350D’s odd fluctuations in CPU temperature—background processes consuming cycles, perhaps? Aside from those, the Obsidian Series 350D performs very closely to Corsair’s full-sized Carbide Series 200R. There’s a small difference in storage temperatures, but the others are practically identical under load.
The plots above depict broad trends, but we can also show you some exact numbers. The bar chart below shows the minimum temperatures from the idle and cooldown parts of the run. It also shows the highest temperatures recorded during the two load tests.
Yep. The 350D does no worse under load than the 200R. It does run a little hotter at idle than its larger sibling, but keep in mind that we tested the 350D in August and the 200R in November, so the differences in ambient temperature could explain much of that discrepancy.
The bar chart above does show a far higher CPU temperature for the 350D in our GPU load test. There’s a simple explanation for that, though. CPU temperatures fluctuated unexpectedly during that stretch of testing, as we saw in the plot above, and the figure in the bar chart is simply the highest temperature recorded.
What about noise levels? We used our TES-52 digital sound level meter to measure those.
The 350D is a little loud from the top, which is admittedly not much of a surprise, since the enclosure’s top panel is full of holes. Noise levels from the front are a little higher than the 200R’s at idle, too.
Subjectively speaking, the 350D definitely can’t be called a noisy case. There are no shrill or annoying sounds—just the whooshing of fans and the quiet humming of the hard drive. The enclosure’s noise profile doesn’t change in a noticeable way under load, either.
Our only complaint is that, unless our hard drive was screwed to its mounting tray, the vibrations from its motor made the case buzz rather loudly. Screwing in the drive, as we did before capturing the numbers above, turned the loud buzzing into an inconspicuous hum. This would be less of an issue if Corsair supplied enough screws for both 3.5″ trays. However, it doesn’t.
Throughout this review, we’ve said that the Obsidian Series 350D is very similar to Corsair’s other cases. That may be an obvious observation, but it bears repeating.
The only major difference between this enclosure and Corsair’s other specimens is the number of cable-routing holes, drive bays, and expansion slots. All the important features are there; their number has simply been reduced to match the microATX form factor’s shrunken dimensions.
For that reason, the 350D makes microATX seem like a truly compelling alternative to ATX for a modern gaming PC. Going with the smaller form factor involves few to no sacrifices, and it leaves one with a more compact machine that’s easier to fit into a workspace, less cumbersome to carry around, and just as pleasing to look at. There’s room inside the 350D for much beefier hardware—and cooling—than what we used, including dual graphics cards and jumbo radiators. Unless you use your PC as a workstation or home-theater system, odds are that microATX will supply all the expansion slots you’ll ever need.
The 350D isn’t flawless. Ideally, it would have more room behind the motherboard tray for the extra cable slack from power cables. Corsair’s decision not to ship enough screws for all the storage bays (tool-less as they might be) is puzzling, as well. Some of us will want to bolt down our hard drives and SSDs, either as a safety precaution or to minimize vibration noise. Also, while the 350D isn’t loud by any stretch of the term, it’s not the quietest case we’ve ever tested.
However, in spite of those imperfections, the 350D is pretty darn close to perfect—especially considering its mission and price tag. Keep in mind this puppy only costs a hundred bucks, or $90 if you opt for the windowless model. Whether it’s for a high-end gaming rig or a budget dorm PC, anyone with modest expansion needs would do well to consider a microATX build… and Corsair’s Obsidian Series 350D.