BitFenix Phenom Mini-ITX Case

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TEST RESULTS: Test System with Intel HD 3000 Graphics

First we present the results for our test system running on integrated graphics and a single hard drive. This represents a very basic configuration for something like a media PC.

System Measurements: HD 3000 IGP Test System
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan
800 RPM
1050 RPM
CPU Temp
31°C
57°C
56°C
PCH Temp
31°C
46°C
46°C
HD Temp
36°C
37°C
37°C
System Power (AC)
39W
133W
134W
SPL@1m
20 dBA
20 dBA
23 dBA
CPU fan at full speed.
Ambient temperature: 21°C.

Sitting idle with the CPU fan at full speed and system fan at 800 RPM, the internals were well cooled and the machine's noise level was a low 20 dBA@1m. The system warmed up substantially on full load but not overly so with the CPU temperature stabilizing under 60°C. Increasing the system fan speed to maximum brought the noise level up by 3 dB but didn't really help with temperatures.

Our IGP test system had a fairly benign acoustic profile throughout testing. A small tonal peak was noted at 120 Hz, corresponding to our 7200 RPM test hard drive. We could feel some faint tremors on the case exterior but no more so than most cases. We failed to detect any vibration-induced noise by ear.

Test Drive Noise Summary
Drive
Vibration
1-10 (10 = no vibration)
Idle Airborne Acoustics @1m
Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB
7~8
17 dBA
Samsung F3 EcoGreen 2TB
7
15~16 dBA
WD Caviar SE16 320GB
6
18~19 dBA
WD Red 3TB
9
13~14 dBA

Next we added three additional hard drives (detailed above) to the IGP test system. This is representative of a small server build, which is probably the ideal application for this case, given its multiple 3.5 inch drive bays. The 7200 RPM drives were placed in the more secure lower bays while the 5400 RPM models were mounted in the sloppier removable drive cage. The same array of drives were tested previously in the Lian Li PC-Q18 and Chenbro SR30169, mini-ITX cases which are well suited for server use, equipped with SATA backplanes.

Case Comparison: HD 3000 IGP Test System (Idle)
Case
Lian Li PC-Q18*
BitFenix Phenom Mini-ITX**
Chenbro SR30169***
System Fan Speed(s)
5V
800 RPM
500 RPM
CPU Temp
24°C
33°C
39°C
SB Temp
29°C
33°C
37°C
HD #1 Temp
35°C
40°C
42°C
HD #2 Temp
35°C
31°C
35°C
HD #3 Temp
30°C
37°C
37°C
HD #4 Temp
36°C
31°C
33°C
System Power (AC)
54W
53W
60W
SPL@1m
21~22 dBA
23 dBA
23 dBA
Ambient temperature: 21°C.
*Config differences: Scythe Big Shuriken 2, 1100 RPM
**Config differences: Noctua NH-U12P, 1100 RPM
***Config differences: Core i5-3470S (vs. Core i5-2500K), Noctua NH-L9i at 2400 RPM, AcBel CE2 300 (vs. Cooler Master Silent Pro M700W)

The Phenom doesn't match up to the PC-Q18 for HDD cooling, and it also had much more vibration-induced noise. The drives ran cooler in the Phenom than the Chenbro SR30169 but the subjective acoustics of the Chenbro were superior despite the same 23 dBA@1m reading. Vibration was a complete non-issue in the SR30169, while the Phenom produced a strong rhythmic pulsing.

With four drives, the system produced tonal peaks both 90 and 120 Hz caused by the vibrations of the 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM drives, respectively. Though not visible in the screenshot above, the 90 and 120 Hz peaks rose and fell continually every couple of seconds, which corresponds to the pulsing sound effect we heard. The 120 Hz tone was lower in amplitude because the 7200 RPM drives in the more secure bottom drive cage. The 5400 RPM drives in the loose middle cage is responsible for the dramatic spike at 90 Hz.


On each side of the drive cage is a metal tray for housing a single 2.5 inch drive.

In attempt to reduce the vibration level we tried a simple modification to make the hard drive assembly fit more snugly: Applying masking tape to the edges of the trays and cage. This resulted in a much more secure fit, though it did not reduce the measured noise level. It did sound better, however — the 90/120 Hz pulsing was less severed, though the effect was still audible. More experimentation with this type of mechanical modifcations to better stabilize the HDHs in the upper cage would be useful. BitFenix would also be well advised to go back to the drawing board and create a more rigid, stable HDD mounting structure/system; it's not the materials, it's the design.



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