QMicra from PC Design Lab: SFF Super-sized

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QMicra, Config 1 (System Fans @ 12V) — Idle: 28 [email protected]: One Meter, One Foot
QMicra, Config 1 (System Fans @ 12V) — Load: 30 [email protected]: One Meter, One Foot

QMicra, Config 2 (System Fans @ 7V) — Idle: 24 [email protected]: One Meter, One Foot
QMicra, Config 2 (System Fans @ 7V) — Load: 28 [email protected]: One Meter, One Foot


Antec NSK3300, Config 1 (System Fan @ L): 24 [email protected]: One Meter, One Foot

Antec NSK3300, Config 2 (Rear Fan swapped to Nexus @ 5V): 23 [email protected]: One Meter, One Foot

Lian Li PC-101, Config 1 (No Intake Fan): 24 [email protected]: One Meter, One Foot

Lian Li PC-101, Config 2 (Intake Fan @ 5V): 26 [email protected]: One Meter, One Foot


These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system and are intended to represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.


We said at the beginning that the QMicra is a niche product, and we stand by that assessment. Its niche is performance-oriented users who want something small and quiet but refuse to make cooling or performance sacrifices to achieve it. Those who want to stuff four drives and SLI into a portable box may find just what they're looking for in the QMicra. It will be smaller and lighter than most of the alternatives. It might even be quieter. But, in absolute terms, it won't be small, it won't be light, and it won't be quiet compared to what is possible with a more modest system. Ordinary users for whom one drive is plenty and external graphics are optional can find much smaller, quieter, and cheaper alternatives by looking to existing SFF barebones systems.

Overall, the cooling performance of the QMicra is not bad, although users will be hard-pressed to stuff a high-end system into it without accepting a fairly high minimum noise level. From a noise perspective, it's fairly good so long as its thermal limits are respected. The Pax Mate damping material, the rubber sealing strips, the grommets, and the unique hard drive harness all do their part to improve noise quality, even if they cannot make it quieter. In this respect, the QMicra is similar to the Antec P180, which sounds nicer than most cases, even though it may not measure much quieter.

Unfortunately, there a few niggling details that prevent us from wholeheartedly recommending the QMicra. The front intakes are too restricted to provide optimal airflow, and cooling suffers because of it. Fit and finish was also a bit of an issue, which is a shame since there is considerable attention to detail in the design. Details like the rubber sealing strips or the silicone grommets are not implemented as well as they could be, and this detracts from the overall quality of the case. It would be nice to see the sealing strips glued down, and softer grommets that surround the whole shaft of the screw.

However, the biggest strike against the QMicra is the price. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, its closest competitor may be the Silverstone SG01 Evolution, which we have not reviewed, and which we'd probably find lots to nitpick at. However, it can be found on line for just ~$130 and it has more of the look most buyers expect of a high end case. A $330 case is probably acceptable for a large, well-equipped, extreme high end case, but the QMicra (case only without power supply or fans) looks like a pretty hard sell at that price. Perhaps the price will change if PC Design Lab can grow its niche enough to mass produce the case.

Many thanks to PC Design Lab for the QMicra sample.

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Articles of Related Interest

Shuttle SD11G5: Pentium-M SFF PC
Lian Li PC-101: Aluminum *Can* be Quiet!
Antec P150 mid-tower case w/ Neo HE 430 PSU
Antec NSK3300 mini-tower case
Cases: Basics and Recommendations

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