be quiet!’s Silent Base 800 case reviewed

Not all PC cases need to be flashy man-cave trophies. German company be quiet!’s philosophy for its Silent Base 800 case focuses on maximum airflow and minimum noise levels instead. While many builders are moving toward more compact cases, this full-tower case is made for builders seeking to house powerful systems without worrying about space constraints.

At 9″ wide (10.5″ with its legs), the Silent Base 800 falls on the slim side of full-tower ATX cases. The front of the case is divided into four areas. The top door conceals 3 optical drive bays, while the push-to-open bottom door lowers like a drawbridge.Two 140-mm fan mounts hide behind this door.

be quiet! populates these mounts with two of its Pure Wings 2 140-mm fans, and it covers them with a pop-out dust filter. Both doors are equipped with noise-suppressing material. The two mesh covers that border the main portion of the front panel conceal a small opening for the front fans to draw in air. Our Silent Base 800 has silver accents around its vents, but builders have the option to choose black, orange, or red accents, too. The rubber grommets and drive rails inside the case are color-matched to these accents, as well.

The left side of the case is dominated by a double-glazed polycarbonate window. be quiet! says these two sheets of plastic (with an air gap in between) help reduce the amount of system noise that can escape through this panel. The right-side panel has a pop-out air vent in its center that can be pulled out for extra airflow or left closed for more noise suppression. However, given the short distance between this vent and the back of the motherboard tray on the Silent Base 800, it’s not clear how much air might flow through this vent if it were opened.

The top cover of the Silent Base 800 extends a few inches above the metal frame of the case, creating an air duct. The top panel of the metal chassis has mounts for two 120-mm or 140-mm fans, or a 240-mm or 280-mm long radiator. Two slots on top of the plastic fascia and a grate at its rear allow for intake or exhaust airflow. The Silent Base 800’s top panel I/O includes a large backlit power button, headphone and microphone jacks, two USB 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. There is no reset button.

The top panel is difficult to remove. In order to take it off, I had to remove both side panels and grope around under the ceiling of the case. I then had to fiddle with several push-release pegs before finally yanking the panel out of the frame. This procedure ended with a terrifying crack that made me think I broke something, but after doing it a few more times, I gradually realized this sound is just typical of the process. The 44 mm of room under this panel doesn’t leave a lot of clearance for fans or radiators. A typical case fan is 25 mm thick, and a radiator stack is about 52-57 mm thick. Builders can fit two fans in this space, but those spinners won’t have much room to move intake or exhaust air.

Turning the Silent Base 800 around reveals the rear I/O cutout and a 120-mm fan mount. This mount comes with a Pure Wings 2 120-mm fan preinstalled. be quiet! also includes rubber grommets at the rear for external liquid-cooling hardware, plus a pull-out dust filter for the power supply intake.

The bottom of the case mirrors its top half. A pair of U-shaped plastic feet snap into the bottom panel to elevate the case off floors or desks. Two small rubber pads on the bases of these feet could reduce vibration transfer into those surfaces, as well. The feet are removable, and the company says the case can be used without them, although the Silent Base’s narrow base and tapered sides would make us wary of doing so.

Here are the Silent Base 800’s most important specifications in convenient tabular form:

  be quiet! Silent Base 800
Dimensions (W x H x D) 10.5″ x 22″ x 15.7″  (266 x 559 x 495 mm)
Supported motherboards ATX, microATX, Mini-ITX
3.5″ drive mounts 7
2.5″ drive mounts 2
5.25″ drive bays 3
Fan mounts 2 140-mm front fans

2 120-mm or 140-mm top fans

1 120-mm or 140-mm bottom fan

1 120-mm rear fan

Radiator mounts 1 120-mm or 140-mm front radiator

1 240-mm or 280-mm top radiator

1 120-mm rear radiator

Included Fans 2x be quiet! Pure Wings 2 140-mm front fans

1x be quiet! Pure Wings 2 120-mm rear fan

Front panel I/O 2x USB 3.0

2x USB 2.0

Headphone

Microphone

Max. graphics card length 290 mm with top 3.5″ drive cage installed

400 mm with top 3.5″ drive cage removed

Max. CPU cooler height 170 mm (without window)

167 mm (with window)

Gap behind motherboard 2″

The windowed Silent Base 800 goes for $149.99 on Newegg right now. That lofty price tag puts this case in the company of some formidable competition, like Corsair’s Carbide Series 600C and the Cooler Master MasterCase Pro 5. be quiet!’s case will have to clear a high bar to prove itself worthy of that price tag. Now that we’ve taken a look at the Silent Base’s exterior, let’s open it up and get to building.

 

Getting inside the Base

The case’s traditional main chamber has seven 3.5″ drive slots spread across two modular cages, along with three 5.25″ drive bays. All of these cages reside in front of the motherboard tray. There are two additional 2.5’’ drive mounts on the back of the motherboard tray, too. One or both of the 3.5” drive cages can be removed to make way for longer graphics cards. The 3.5″ drive cages feature triangular openings in the frame to allow airflow from the fans to pass through more easily.

A mounting plate screwed into the bottom of the 5.25″ bays can be removed and reinstalled on the floor of the case to allow builders to reposition a 3.5″ drive cage there, or it can be screwed into the floor of of the 5.25″ drive cage to allow a 3.5″ cage to be installed there, as well. With the upper cage in place, the case can house a 290-mm-long graphics card. Without it, the Silent Base 800 can house a 400-mm-long graphics card.

One of the more interesting features of the Silent Base 800 are its tool-free rubber drive rails. The case comes with enough rails to fill all seven drive bays. The mounts decouple the drives from the case, isolating and suppressing the noise from the drives and reducing vibrations passed into the case. To install the mounts, be quiet! includes thumbscrews that secure the rubber rails to the drive itself.

The Silent Base 800’s motherboard tray doesn’t use traditional standoffs. Instead, it features an in-tray standoff design. This is a handy touch that avoids the annoyance of screwing in the small, easily-lost brass standoffs that many cases use. The tray is equipped with four grommets to let cables pass through from the other side of the case.

Behind the motherboard tray, builders have just under 2″ of space to route and tie down cables. We only found one easily-accessible cable tie-down behind the motherboard tray beyond the pre-tied points for the front panel cables, a design choice that could make for a more tedious build. A large opening behind the drive cages bridges both sides of the case, so it can be used as an extra cable routing path if it’s needed.

The build

Before beginning the assembly of a system inside the Silent Base 800, it’s a good idea to remove the case’s feet. Resting the case on its side with the feet installed creates an awkward angle, and it also creates undue stresses on the plastic mounting tabs for each foot.

The first hurdle I ran into with the Silent Base 800 was my fault. The windowed version of the case can swallow 167-mm CPU coolers, but the Cooler Master MasterAir Maker 8 heatsink we use for testing measures 170 mm tall. Initially, one of the cooler’s fans touched the side window, preventing me from closing the case. To make the cooler fit, I switched from the G.Skill Trident Z DDR4 we usually keep in our case testing system to some lower-profile Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 RAM. I also removed the cover on top of the MasterAir Maker 8. This created a hair’s breadth of space between the cooler and the panel.

Once I made room for our CPU cooler, I also had to remove the Silent Base’s upper 3.5” drive cage to make room for our 295-mm-long GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card. The card blocked the middle grommet on the motherboard tray, too. Builders who plan on installing lengthy graphics cards should take extra precautions when planning their builds.

For cable routing, the case encourages builders to stuff their cables in the grommets directly in front of the power supply, then feed them back through the upper grommets. Since we only had one grommet available to us because of the GTX 980 Ti, cable routing proved more frustrating than it might have otherwise been. I barely had enough space to zip-tie the cables in our build. Because all of my cables were bottle-necked to one grommet, they didn’t run neatly behind the motherboard tray, either. This situation made reattaching the right-side panel difficult.

I encountered another hiccup while installing the power supply. The Silent Base 800’s power-supply mount has a rubber gasket running around its perimeter to reduce vibrations. Our be quiet! power supply also has rubber bumpers on its edges for the same purpose. When both of these gaskets were in place, we couldn’t get the power supply screws to thread into the PSU itself.

After some careful exploration, we discovered that the rubber bumpers on our PSU could be removed with a butter knife and a large amount of force. We took off the offending bumper and found that we were able to screw the power supply into place. These bumpers aren’t easily removable, though, and it’s disappointing that we had clearance issues with parts from the same company. Builders should avoid power supplies with extra rubber dampers when building in the Silent Base 800.

During some informal testing, I installed Cooler Master’s Nepton 240M liquid cooler in the Silent Base 800, as well. A radiator this large can only be mounted to the top of the case. Although the radiator is only 30 mm tall, I had to give up my attempt to mount the radiator fans in an exhaust configuration, because the space between the topmount and the motherboard is so small that the radiator would have come in contact with the motherboard and the CPU cooler.

With the radiator mounted as an intake, it was able to pull a mild amount of air through the top air duct, but it doesn’t seem optimal to mount the radiator here. Builders planning to use liquid cooling with an extra-large radiator probably won’t be happy with the Silent Base 800’s mounting options. Those planning to use liquid cooling with a radiator 140mm or smaller should mount their radiators to either the front or back fan mounts on this case.

All told, this case isn’t the hardest one to build in that I’ve ever worked with, but it’s no walk in the park, either. Now that our test system is inside, let’s see how the Silent Base 800 performs.

 

Our testing methods

Here’s the configuration of our test system:

Processor Intel Core i7-6700K
Motherboard ASRock Z170 Extreme7+
Memory 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200
Graphics card Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 Ti G1 Gaming
Storage OCZ Vector 180 480GB

Samsung Spinpoint F1 750GB HDD

Power supply be quiet! Dark Power Pro 850W
CPU cooler Cooler Master MasterAir Maker 8
OS Windows 10 Pro

Our thanks to be quiet! for the Silent Base 800 and the Dark Power Pro power supply, and to ASRock, Corsair, Gigabyte, and Cooler Master for their contributions to our test system.

The Silent Base 800 will face off against Cooler Master’s MasterCase Pro 5 in our tests today.  For more information, see our review here.

I used the following applications in my tests:

  • AIDA64 Engineer, version 5.2
  • Unigine Heaven benchmark, version 4.0
  • Prime95, version 28.5

Our case test cycle consists of the following phases:

  • 10 minutes idling at the Windows desktop
  • 10 minutes running the Prime95 Small FFTs CPU torture test
  • 10 minutes running Prime95 and the Unigine Heaven GPU benchmark
  • 10 minutes of cooldown time at the Windows desktop

Cooling performance

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


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


It appears some background process was running during the Silent Base 800 test, causing some minute temperature spikes during the idle phases of our testing. While it makes the graph look strange, we don’t think it unfairly affected the outcome of our test. At idle, the cases kept the components near the minimum temperatures we recorded for most of the 10-minute phase. During the most demanding phase of our testing, however, the MasterCase Pro 5 kept our GTX 980 Ti a full 5° C cooler than the Silent Base 800, registering a peak temperature of 71° C compared to the Silent Base’s 76° C. While 76° C is well within the safe temperature range for our card, I expected better performance from the Silent Base 800 to the front fan positioning, especially with hard drive cage removed.

My guess is that the major delta in GPU temperatures comes from insufficient airflow to the Silent Base 800’s front fans. The mesh-covered openings on the front of the case become mostly blocked when the fan door is closed. This forces most of the air to come from the much smaller opening at the bottom of the front panel. I ran the Silent Base 800 through an informal test with the front door open. In that configuration, the case kept the temperature of the graphics card to 71° C, putting it on par with the MasterCase Pro 5.

Other components inside the Silent Base 800 got pretty toasty, too. The motherboard registered a maximum temperature of 8° C hotter in the Silent Base 800, although the be quiet! case kept our CPU 2° C cooler than the MasterCase Pro 5 did. All told, the Silent Base seems to prioritize noise suppression over absolute cooling performance, but hotter components also tend to make more noise. Let’s see whether that tendency revealed itself in our noise testing.

Noise levels

Here are the noise levels for idle and load for the Silent Base 800 and the MasterCase5:


Despite its extensive use of noise-suppression material, the Silent Base 800 didn’t turn out to be any quieter in our tests than the more open MasterCase Pro 5. That said, the Pure Wings 2 fans that came with the Silent Base 800 stunned me. These case fans are practically inaudible at idle, and they have an exceptionally pleasant noise character under load.

Even if the Silent Base 800 wasn’t quieter than the MasterCase Pro 5 in absolute terms, its noise-suppression material helped hush the high-pitched whine of our GTX 980 Ti better than that case did. We’d be curious whether the Silent Base would sound even better if it was keeping the graphics card cooler, though. The heatsinks on hotter components have to work harder under load, and considering that the Silent Base 800’s noise results are largely a wash with the more open MasterCase 5, we have to wonder whether all the extra silencing material is really worth it.

As far as storage noise goes, the rubber drive rails kept the 3.5’’ hard drive impressively quiet except for seek noise. During the idle phase of the test, the hard drive responded to some demand or another, and its seek noise was about as prominent as shoes in a dryer. I haven’t heard such prominent seek noise from any other case. It’s possible this result could be chalked up to the age of the hard drive in our test system, though. A newer drive would likely produce less noise than our decade-old Samsung Spinpoint F1.

 

Conclusions

The be quiet! Silent Base 800 is a quiet case with excellent fans and clean lines. At first glance, it’s reminiscent of a fine German automobile. Given its $150 price tag, it’s priced like a German luxury car, too.

Get inside and start the engine, and the Silent Base reveals some quirks. The narrow width of the case means it feels less spacious that we think an ATX full tower should. Our large CPU cooler didn’t fit the Silent Base 800 at first. To be fair, we should have checked the spec list of the case before building, but one of the reasons to get an ATX full tower to begin with is to avoid worrying about these kinds of things.

Installing lengthy graphics cards knocks off quite a bit of the Silent Base’s 3.5″ drive space, too, since one of its drive cages has to be removed to accommodate those big coolers. Repositioning it elsewhere in the case is only practical if you’re willing to sacrifice 5.25″ bays or space in front of the power supply. Of course, these tradeoffs are common in many other cases, as well, but similarly-priced chassis like Cooler Master’s MasterCase Pro 5 are much more modular and flexible. The be quiet! case also has much more restrictive liquid-cooling mounting options compared to many other modern cases. 

be quiet! deserves praise for its extensive efforts to dampen system noise, but our tests showed that the Silent Base 800 doesn’t run any quieter in practice than the much more open MasterCase Pro 5. Despite that performance, the Silent Base also makes critical components like the graphics card and motherboard run hotter than they do in the Cooler Master enclosure. We don’t think this would be a hard thing to fix in future be quiet! cases—the Silent Base’s front fans just need more room to breathe. We verified as much by opening the front door of the case while the system inside was under load, a move that caused graphics card temps to drop on par with those of the MasterCase.

All those caveats overshadow be quiet!’s superb Pure Wings 2 fans, which are among the best we’ve ever heard. They’re several cuts above the average stock case fan. We’re also taken with be quiet!’s design language. The Silent Base 800 asserts a distinct identity without looking like a Fast and Furious set piece, but it also doesn’t fade into anonymity. That’s a hard line to walk, and be quiet!’s designers have done it with aplomb. We don’t think those positives are enough to justify the case’s $150 price tag, though.

Even if the Silent Base 800 didn’t blow our socks off, be quiet! has since introduced a revised flagship case called the Dark Base 900 that addresses many of our concerns. That case has extensive modular features, including an invertable motherboard tray and clip-in storage trays. It also has much more room inside for liquid coolers. Jeff got his hands on a Dark Base 900 at Computex, and his impression is that the new case is well worth a look. If you’re shopping for a case in this price range, it might be a good idea to forgo a few Big Macs, save up an extra $50, and check out the Dark Base 900.

Comments closed
    • farmpuma
    • 3 years ago

    In my humble opinion this is a typical to slightly smallish mid-tower case. Generally full tower cases are much taller internally and they support E-ATX motherboards.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 3 years ago

    Who builds a case that doesn’t work with other components made by the same manufacturer? That PSU situation is completely ridiculous. The pads in the case should be easily removable to work with a be quiet! power supply.

    Lots of “this isn’t quite right” and “that isn’t exactly how it should be” for a $150 case. Bzzzt, try again.

    • Srsly_Bro
    • 3 years ago

    I like this case.

      • Srsly_Broccoli
      • 3 years ago

      You would. ¬_¬

    • TwistedKestrel
    • 3 years ago

    With regards to the odd fan compartment on top – is there room to install fans/rads on the bottom side of those openings instead?

    • JosiahBradley
    • 3 years ago

    All of the corsair builds I’ve done are silent and the cases actually cost less and look better and have a water cooling support matrix for corsair AIOs. Don’t really see any advantage the bequiet has.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    I haven’t used the 800 for a build yet (mainly because the 600 seems to have support for almost all the same stuff without being so huge) but I’ve built into the 600 a few times now and like it a lot.

    The best thing about these is that you get about $45 of really good quality fans included, rather than the econojunk that you either discard immediately or use for the year it will last before making terrible noises.

    • DPete27
    • 3 years ago

    I don’t understand why the liquid cooler fans could be mounted as intake but not exhaust…All that requires is to flip the fans over. You can leave the fans on the same side of the radiator for either configuration. I assume you were only attempting to orient the fans in a “push” setup, and ignoring the option to have the fans “pull” air through the rad?

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 3 years ago

      Putting static-pressure-oriented fans in a pull configuration isn’t good for performance, or at least that’s always been my understanding. Regardless, the case isn’t optimized for liquid cooling.

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