Moneual MonCaso: Touchscreen Gadgetry and Solid Cooling in One?

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TEST RESULTS

Ambient conditions were 21°C and 18 dBA.

The system was initially configured by plugging in all the case fans in stock form, without doing any kind of speed control. As noted, the fans are thermally controlled, so our hope was that the baseline noise level would be acceptable without any extra modification. One of the two drive bay fans was damaged in our sample; its bearings ticked noisily, so we decided to disable the fan during testing. Unless all four drive bays are full, it's unlikely that both would be necessary anyway. For the initial test, the full-size storage drive was left unplugged to keep the hard drive out of the equation. The system drive, a notebook drive suspended in one of the drive bays, was too quiet to affect the results.

Thermal Test Results: Moneual Moncaso, Configuration #1
System State
CPU
GPU
HDD
System Power
Noise (SPL)
Cold
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
30 dBA@1m
Idle (Cool'n'Quiet)
30°C
43°C
33°C
105W
33 dBA@1m
2 x CPUBurn
65°C
46°C
33°C
198W
34 dBA@1m
2 x CPUBurn +
RTHDRIBL
62°C
58°C
33°C
213W
34 dBA@1m

Configuration #1

The Moncaso was borderline quiet on boot. The fans spun just around the threshold where motor whine becomes an issue, so the noise character was mostly the whoosh of air turbulence, with a low-pitched hum in the background. It wasn't an offensive noise, but the amount of airflow noise was pretty substantial.

Within a few minutes of booting, the thermal conditions inside the case had boosted the system fan speed to the point where the motor hum began to dominate. The measured noise difference was a small 3 dBA@1m, but the subjective difference was substantial; the noise was now tonal instead of broadband, making it much harder to ignore.

That's the bad. The good is that, once stabilized, the fan speed barely moved, even under sustained CPU load. The amount of heat in the system nearly doubled, but the 1 dBA@1m increase in noise was barely measurable. Thermal control? What thermal control? Needless to say, pushing the heat up a further 15W by engaging the graphics card had no effect on noise whatsoever.

Thermally, the Moncaso was perfectly adequate. The temperatures we saw were in line with the results we've seen in most other well-cooled systems. The 65°C load temperature was hot, but that's more of a reflection of our choice of heatsink and fan than a strike against the case itself. We refer you to our review of Zalman's HD135 case for an example of what happens when case airflow isn't sufficient.

Configuration #2

The thermal performance we saw in the first test convinced us there was some headroom to turn the fan speed down, so that's what we did. Certainly, there was some space for acoustic improvement! The two exhaust fans on the back panel were undervolted to 7V, while the fan in the drive bay was dropped to 5V.

Thermal Test Results: Moneual Moncaso, Configuration #2
System State
CPU
GPU
HDD
System Power
Noise (SPL)
Idle (Cool'n'Quiet)
31°C
45°C
33°C
103W
25 dBA@1m
2 x CPUBurn
66°C
47°C
42°C
196W
27 dBA@1m

The results in the second test were nearly identical to the first test, confirming our suspicion that the system fans were spinning far faster than necessary in our configuration. The only substantial difference was the temperature of the hard drive, which jumped nearly 10°C. It should be noted that this drive — the system drive — was mounted in the bay with the damaged fan so the rise in temperature probably had more to do with its distance from the active fan than the speed of the fan itself.

Under load, it took more than an hour before we heard any change in noise. The noise level eventually settled 2 dBA@1m higher than idle, but it's unlikely that typical usage would push the system hard enough to create such a large change. In reality, the fan speed probably would have remained unchanged.

The acoustic improvement was substantial. The measured noise dropped by 8 dBA@1m, and the noise character smoothed out enough to fade into the background. Although it is far from the quietest system we've seen, 25 dBA@1m is acceptably quiet. It won't be inaudible in a quiet living room, but it will easily be drowned out by any sound effects or music.

Configuration #3

Thermal Test Results: Moneual Moncaso, Configuration #3
System State
HDD
System Power
Noise (SPL)
Idle (Cool'n'Quiet)
33°C
113W
26 dBA@1m
HDD Seek
33°C
117W
30 dBA@1m

Our last configuration threw the full-sized storage drive into the mix to see how well the drive bays handled drive noise. Given the relatively high noise level of the system, we did not expect to hear a major change, so we were surprised to see measured noise jump up. Close listening confirmed that there seemed to be slightly more noise, but the overall noise character did not change.

Seek noise was considerably worse. Hard-mounted in the drive bay, the seeks produced a rumble that was clearly audible above the background fan noise. The peaks measured 30 dBA@1m, nudging just above our (admittedly arbitrary) 30 dBA@1m threshold between noisy and quiet. There's no question that things could be improved by some method of soft-mounting the drive.



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