Corsair’s Carbide Series Air 240 revisited

Corsair’s Carbide Series Air 240 case put in a good showing in my full-length review. I liked its relatively spacious interior, its dual-chamber cooling design, and its quiet demeanor, all of which come at a reasonable price of $90.

One thing I didn’t get to test, however, was the case’s cooling performance (and noise levels) with all of its stock fans in place. Part of the Air 240’s claim to fame is a trio of 120-mm fans for its dedicated motherboard chamber—two intakes and one exhaust. This setup is supposed to allow cool air to flow directly to the hottest components inside the case.

Unfortunately, my MSI A88XI AC Mini-ITX motherboard has only one system fan header, so I didn’t get to see the full potential of the Air 240’s cooling design in action. The TR staff and I felt that this was an unfair mark against the case, despite its good showing in our tests, so I made plans to retest the Air 240 with all of its fans installed.

My solution to the fan header problem comprised three fan splitters and a Zalman Fan Mate 2:

This decidedly low-tech solution lets me to run up to four fans in the Air 240, which is perfect for my needs. The only sacrifice here is motherboard-based fan control. Having used a mobo with great onboard fan control, the Asus Z97-A, I gotta say that the Fan Mate setup feels like a step back into the Stone Age. At least this solution is cheap, though. The Fan Mate 2 is only $7 at Newegg, while the splitters can be had for $3.50 apiece.

Armed with the freedom to add two more fans to the Air 240, I repositioned my Cooler Master Nepton 120XL CPU cooler as an intake fan. I then put one of the stock Corsair 120-mm fans back at the front of the case, and I installed another in its stock position above the motherboard, as an exhaust. To keep things neat, I concealed the new rat’s nest of fan wiring in the Air 240’s storage chamber. As for the Fan Mate, I hid it at the back of the case by threading its cables through an open expansion slot.

Based on my original test results, I’m hoping the Nepton 120XL will cool the CPU better when it’s not being asked to handle all of the waste heat from the system. I would also expect GPU and motherboard temperatures to be helped by the second intake fan and the dedicated exhaust fan. Let’s see if my hunches are borne out by cold, hard data.

Our testing methods

Here are the specs of the Casewarmer as it sits today:

Processor AMD A10-7850K
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 again 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:

  • 10 minutes of idle time at the Windows 8.1 desktop
  • 10 minutes running the Unigine Heaven benchmark
  • 10 minutes running both the Unigine Heaven benchmark and the Prime95 CPU torture test
  • 10 minutes of idle time at the Windows 8.1 desktop

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 set fan speeds for idle and load conditions using the Fan Mate, based on my personal tolerance for noise. I kept the Fan Mate at its minimum setting for idle and cranked things up to about 75% of the controller’s effective range for load testing.

The ambient temperature in my office at the time of my tests was about 72°F (22.2°C).

 

Cooling performance

Here are the results of my cooling tests, plotted over time:


And here are the minimum and maximum temperatures from each phase of testing:


So, uh. Wow. What a difference a couple of fans make. For some components—namely the motherboard, CPU, SSD, and hard drive—the load temperatures don’t even exceed the idle temps I gathered with the Air 240’s gelded configuration. Cooler Master’s Elite 110 is left in the dust here, with temperatures ranging about 5-10°C higher for just about every component at idle and under load.

All told, this is excellent performance. The Air 240’s dual-chamber design really comes into its own with all of the stock fan mounts populated.

Noise levels

Another big question left unanswered by my initial review was how noisy the Air 240 gets with three or more 120-mm fans spinning away inside. I used the iOS app dB meter to quantify the amount of noise that the extra fans add to the Air 240’s noise output. Here are some charts for comparison:


The Air 240 does get louder with more fans installed, as you might expect. The differences are most pronounced under load, especially on the right side of the case. Even so, these results are in line with the other small-form-factor cases I’ve tested, and the Air 240 delivers these numbers with the most fans of any case I’ve worked with yet.

Getting the best subjective noise character out of the Air 240’s new configuration did take a little trial and error. My first instinct was to crank the Fan Mate’s dial as low as it could go, but the Cooler Master Silencio fans emitted a distinct rising and falling pitch at this setting, which was annoying. Adding a bit of speed with the Fan Mate smoothed out this siren-like quality completely without making the case appreciably louder. That tradeoff’s OK with me.

Otherwise, the Air 240’s stock fans are pretty well-mannered. The worst noise they produce is a low-pitched, slightly tonal whoosh at speed, which is noticeable but not distracting. The Cooler Master Silencio 120 fans on the Nepton 120XL have a bit of a higher pitch when turned up. They’re more tonal than the Corsair fans, too, and slightly more distracting.

Conclusions

So, there you have it. With all of its stock fan mounts populated, the Carbide Series Air 240 delivers superb cooling performance. Just as importantly, it delivers this performance without getting too much louder than it did in my initial tests.

I’m pleased to see that the Air 240 performs so well on the cooling front, because it has many other virtues. There’s plenty of room for longer, high-performance graphics cards, and system building is a painless process compared to the other small-form-factor chassis I’ve used. Although the Air 240 is targeted at microATX builders, my experience demonstrates that it works well for Mini-ITX mobos, too. The one sticking point for enthusiasts might be the limited clearance for tower-style CPU coolers, but the proliferation of closed-loop liquid setups lessens the sting somewhat.

Now that we have a complete picture of the Carbide Series Air 240’s performance, I can safely say that it ticks all of the boxes on my small-form-factor checklist. As a result, I’ve decided to revise my original verdict: I’m now happy to call this case TR Recommended.

Comments closed
    • Anomymous Gerbil
    • 5 years ago

    What are the pros/cons of using the CPU cooler as an exhaust rather than intake?

      • EzioAs
      • 5 years ago

      For pros, it’s generally better to have more exhaust than intake. You want to remove heat/hot air inside the case as much as possible. Secondly, if there is no filter for intake, it’s better to set the cooler as exhaust so that less dust can enter the radiator fins.

      The con would be you’re cooling the radiator with hot air dumped inside the case. Temperature difference might be miniscule or significant, depending on a lot of variables.

        • Anomymous Gerbil
        • 5 years ago

        Cheers.

        On a separate note, I never understood the “positive pressure” versus “negative pressure” debate. The amount of air entering the case must equal the amount of air leaving the case, so… what’s the difference?

          • EzioAs
          • 5 years ago

          Positive pressure is good if you have filtered intake. That way, you can make sure that dust will only enter through the filtered vents, and easier to clean up.

    • JJAP
    • 5 years ago

    Is the comparison with the CM 110 fair? Not only is it two generations old (the 120 and now the 130), it’s a (I assume) smaller mITX-only case.

    Thanks for this, btw! Noise and temp are very important.

      • VincentHanna
      • 5 years ago

      Comparing cases is not like comparing CPUs. Very little will have changed in the past 2 years.. and the things that will have changed are things like location of the cord holes and size of the vent.

      Form factor matters though for temperature and noise reasons.

    • tyr2
    • 5 years ago

    Thank you for providing such consistently excellent reportage. Thank you, more, for consistently making it eminently readable; I cannot recall when last I saw “comprise” used properly in a tech-focused publication.

    Re: Ghetto fan controller.
    I’ve incorporated several of Gabe’s 8-Way PWM splitters (http://www.swiftech.com/8-WayPWMsplitter-sata.aspx)), of late, on my multiple radiator builds. Most recently, I used 10 Noctua NF-F12 PWM fans (P/P RX-2.120 + RX-3.120 top/bottom) along with three Noctua PWM case fans (2 front + 1 rear) yet failed to get a “readable” db-level one inch from the exhaust (upper) grill on a 5.4ghz clocking. “Failings,” such as that, I’ll happily abide.

    • ImSpartacus
    • 5 years ago

    Does anyone else want to see a multi-GPU Haswell-E system crammed into an Air 240?

    Maybe I’m a masochist, but that just seems really compelling.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This