Our testing methods
Here are the specifications for the Casewarmer:
|Memory||8GB AMD DDR3-1600 (2x 4GB DIMMs)|
|Graphics card||Zotac GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition|
|Storage||Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD|
|Power supply||Cooler Master V550|
|CPU cooler||Cooler Master Seidon 120V closed-loop liquid cooler|
|OS||Windows 8.1 Pro|
A big thanks to Cooler Master, Gigabyte, MSI, Zotac, AMD, and Kingston for contributing hardware to make this review possible.
I relied on three software tools to test the Elite 110:
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.
Here are my test results, plotted over time:
As you can see, the Seidon 120V and Elite 110 combo kept the A10-7850K plenty cool. These CPU temperatures are in line with what we've seen from larger cases with tower-style air coolers. The Zotac GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition didn't get too hot, either, relatively speaking. The motherboard got pretty warm, but I never had any stability issues that would imply the temperatures were problematic.
Let's now take a look at some minimum and maximum numbers:
Since the PSU was drawing in air through the top vent, its fan may not have been doing much to evacuate heat from the area around the CPU socket. That seemed like it might have been a partial cause of the high motherboard temperatures you see above. I ran an informal test with the PSU inverted, though, and I didn't see any changes in motherboard temperatures over time.
From the start, I had a bit of trouble getting good fan profiles set up for the Elite 110. The MSI A88XI AC motherboard in my test system lacks good fan control software, whether in the EFI or the available Windows utility. The MSI EFI doesn't allow the system fan to be set to less than 50% of its rated speed, which is a baffling limitation. MSI's Windows-based Control Center fan utility shares this problem, but by dumb luck, I discovered that running the Fan Tune profiling utility will create a fan curve that runs the system fan well below 50% of its rated speed.
I used this profile for my noise tests, which cut idle noise levels by almost 10 dB. Getting the profile to work all of the time, however, was seriously annoying: every time I restarted Windows, I had to load the Control Center software manually, switch the system fan control to Smart mode, and reload the saved profile from the Fan Tune utility. This routine was a huge pain. Geoff had a glowing impression of the fan control software included with MSI's Z97 Gaming 7 motherboard, so I have no idea why things are so rough on the A88XI AC.
Since I didn't have one of TR's lab-grade decibel meters, I relied on the iOS app dB meter - lux decibel measurement tool to get a rough idea of how loud the Elite 110 gets under idle and load conditions. For reference, the noise floor in my office was around 30 dB, according to the app. I took each measurement about 6" from the case.
At idle, the sound pressure at the front of the Elite 110 was around 34-35 dB at the front, top, and on the left side. The right side was a little louder, at 39 dB. Under load, the front and the sides of the case went up to 47-50 dB, while the top was the quietest, at 45 dB.
Just as important as raw sound pressure level data is the character of the noise that the Elite 110 produces. The worst offender in my testing was the GPU cooler, which produced a high-pitched whine under load. Second-worst was the included 120-mm fan, which emitted a hum with a distinctive pitch under load. Better fans produce more of a full-spectrum "whoosh" noise, which is easier to ignore. Finally, if I was at the right angle, I could discern the Seidon 120V's pump noise, which is a steady, low ticking sound.
In all, the Elite 110 is louder than the average tower case, at least under load. That's not surprising given its cramped confines and lack of vibration-dampening fan mounts or other noise-reducing amenities. Subjectively, my own Corsair Obsidian 450D build stays much quieter when stressed, partially because of its two 140-mm front fans and beefier GPU cooler. When compared to a mini-PC like the Brix Gaming, however, the Elite 110 fares much better. You'll recall that the Brix Gaming produces 56-60 dBA under load, and its tiny fans are much whinier than the larger 120-mm spinners in the Elite 110 and the V550 PSU.
Given the low cost of entry for the Elite 110 and the Seidon 120V combo, it wouldn't be a big deal to add a quieter 120-mm fan to one's shopping cart if noise is a major concern. There's no way to mitigate the Seidon's pump noise, but given how well the cooler performs, I could live with the mild ticking. Liquid coolers frequently have a higher noise floor than their air cooling counterparts due to their pumps, anyway.
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