Viewing page 5 of 5 pages. Previous 1 2 3 4 5
THERMAL & ACOUSTIC TESTING
Given the similarity between the NSK-3480 and the previously tested NSK-3300,
a full thermal test was unnecessary. We refer you to the
results of our original NSK-3300 test for details. Overall, we were
very pleased with how the NSK-3300 performed both thermally and acoustically.
The NSK-3480 should be identical.
The top chamber, however, has seen more substantial changes. The different
power supply undoubtedly has a different fan, and a different fan speed to power output curve, which may affect
noise levels. Our test therefore focussed on how the top chamber had changed.
To this end, we used our power
supply testing system to duplicate exactly the loads in the original test without rebuilding the system inside. We were concerned only with the thermal and acoustic properties of the PSU under various loads in its chamber. A Zalman 9500 heatsink running at 5V was
hooked up in the main chamber to approximate the noise profile of the original
test. The 21~22 [email protected] hard drive from the NSK-3300 test was left out as insignificant.
As the power supply fan was the only variable source of noise in the original
test, any audible changes in this test reflects the new EarthWatts power supply.
Ambient conditions were 22°C and 18 dBA. It was 2°C cooler than during the
NSK-3300 test. The ambient noise was unchanged.
At idle, the noise profile was about the same as the older version of the
case. The reason was quite simple: In both cases, the dominant source of noise
was the TriCool 120mm system fan, which mostly produced the whoosh of turbulence noise.
The default noise level was quiet and easy on the ears, but not quite silent.
With only the power supply fan running, much of the turbulence noise disappeared,
and the overall noise level dropped to 22 [email protected] Both the system and the power
supply could probably be swapped for slower, quieter models, but most users
will have no need to do this.
Although the noise measurements did rise slightly across the range of tests,
the audible effect was nearly imperceptible. At no time did the PSU fan change in
speed audibly; the increase happened slowly enough that it was inaudible.
Subjectively, there was a sense of a slightly greater volume at full load, but
this was noticeable only under close listening. For practical purposes, the
power supply fan may as well have been running at a constant speed in our test.
This is a significant improvement over the original NSK-3300, in which the power supply
fan started to ramp up at a much lower load, and became easily audible under the highest loads. The NSK-3480 fan will ramp up if you have high enough a load, but there's no question that it is possible to keep a wider range of systems quiet with
the new power supply. (Exactly how much power the PSU will deliver before its fan starts to speed up significantly will depend on your system details and ambient temperature; we'd guess somewhere around 300W AC input at similar ambient temperature.)
Sound Recordings of Comparative Systems
HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE
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.
The NSK-3480 is a worthwhile upgrade to an already excellent case.
The new power supply is 80-Plus and has higher capacity, longer cables, and
quieter performance than the original SFX12V unit shipped with the NSK-3300.
The remaining tweaks are minor but welcome for the most part. The relocated
access port between the two chambers ease the cable management concerns that
we had with the original version, and the longer cables should allow things
to be kept neater. The expanded top vent help keep the power supply cooler,
especially in situations where the front of the chamber is blocked by cables
and/or drives. The side vent for the CPU certainly can't hurt cooling.
If it's not wanted, or if it seems too much of a noise leak, it's easy to block off.
The only faults we can find are minor: The short main ATX and AUX12V cables are a bit
awkward to work with, especially with a third of their length taken up running
across the case to the access port. This is quite easily fixed by flipping the
power supply, however. On the other hand, some of the other cables seem excessively
long for such a small case, but the effort required to hide (or simply remove)
the cables is not great.
Overall we came away with much the same feeling we had with the NSK-3300: An
excellent, compact choice for a low-end or mainstream system that doesn't require
the extra space or heavy cooling of a gaming rig. US$70 for a high quality case
and power supply combo is pretty tough to beat.
Many thanks to Antec
for supplying the NSK-3480
* * *
Articles of Related Interest
NSK-3300: Quiet Out-of-the-Box
QMicra from PC Design Lab: SFF Super-sized
Lian-Li PC-101: Aluminum *Can* Be
Antec EarthWatts 430: Green Computing Hits
Cases: Basics and Recommendations
* * *
this article in the SPCR Forums.
|Help support this site, buy the Antec NSK-3480 MicroATX Mid-Tower from one of our affiliate retailers!|