Silverstone Raven EATX Tower Case

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TESTING

The previous system assembly pages should have given you more than a little hint that we're not treating this Silverstone in usual SPCR fashion. Rather than a system of components for silent computing, we've put together a powerful dual-graphics card Crossfire gaming rig. This is the type of system most likely to be installed in the Raven. Since so many of our readers are gamning enthusiasts these days, it seems a better approach, especially with this case.

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPU-Z to monitor CPU frequency and voltage.
  • CPUBurn K7 processor stress software.
  • FurMark stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • SpeedFan to monitor temperature and fan speeds.
  • Seasonic Power Angel AC power meter, used to measure the power consumption of the system.

Fan Measurements

The two 180mm internal fans that came with the case were very quiet and smooth through out their ranges, though were prone to clicking, especially at lower speeds. Leaving them at full speed is definitely an option, especially in a gaming system with a not-so-quiet graphics card.

Stock 180mm Fan
Voltage
Noise Level
Speed
12V
18 dBA
700 RPM
9V
14 dBA
560 RPM
7V
12 dBA
450 RPM

The Raven's 120mm exhaust fan unfortunately had bad noise characteristics, specifically tonality smack in the midband frequencies where human hearing is most sensitive. The fan's has a maximum speed of less than 1000 RPM which helps keep down the noise level. However, with our test system mounted inside, it was still the most audible and annoying sounding component, even drowning out the fans of the two HD 4870's we installed in CrossFire. With the thermal advantages of having the motherboard tray rotated, we opted to remove the 120mm fan from the system during testing.

Stock 120mm Fan
Voltage
Noise Level
Speed
12V
19 dBA
960 RPM
9V
16 dBA
860 RPM
7V
13 dBA
720 RPM
5V
11~12 dBA
560 RPM

Baseline Noise

Finally, noise measurements were made of the case with the two 180mm fans spinning inside. The air cavity resonances inside a case amplify fan noise, as do any vibrations transferred from the fans into the case, so these measurements can be regarded as the baseline SPL levels for the Raven. Adding components can only increase the noise. The 120mm fan was removed, as we believe its cooling value is minimal while its noise is far too obtrusive.

Raven Baseline SPL
Both 180mm fans running inside the case at same speed. Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front of case.
Voltage
SPL
12V
22 dBA
9V
17 dBA
7V
13 dBA

The perceived noise is moderate even with the fans at full speed. There is some low frequency emphasis due mostly to cavity resonance, but the overall effect is smooth and benign. In our view, the cooling/noise balance is best with the 180mm fans at 9V. The noise is very low, probably inaudible in most carpeted rooms, especially if the case can be placed under a desk (though it would have to be a pretty big desk with pently of space over the top of the Raven to allow air exhaust and disspation.)

It is worth repeating some details provided by Silverstone about the 180mm fans:

While developing the RAVEN case, we spent quite a lot of time solving the problem of keeping the 180mm fans quiet in the "blowing up" position. Sleeve bearing fans are generally quieter than ball-bearing fans but when they are positioned to blow air up, they vibrate a lot. A custom spacer developed to fit between the C ring and the bearing cover was the solution for us.

Test Results

For testing, we reduced the CPU and system fan speeds to 70% using SpeedFan to minimize the the idle noise. The differences between the temperatures recorded when idle and under load were good considering the amount of noise generated by the CPU and system fans. The CPU temperature increased by 26°C, southbridge by 7°C and hard drive by only 2°C.

Increasing the fan speeds to maximum had a minimum effect on cooling. The graphics card temperatures were especially unaffected by the change in fan speeds, with their respective coolers ramping up to deal with the extra heat when the case fans were at 70%. This suggests the airflow and pressure of its heatsink fan is critical in the 4870 card's cooling; no other element in a PC case has as anywhere near the same impact on GPU temperature. This is due partly to our 4870's near-enclosed, airflow-channeled heatsink/fan design.

System Measurements
State
Idle
Full CPU + GPU Load
CPU + Sys
Fan Speed
70%*
70%
100%
Noise
20 dBA
27 dBA
29 dBA
CPU Temp
33°C
59°C
56°C
SB Temp
53°C
60°C
60°C
HD Temp
30°C
32°C
30°C
GPU #1 Temp
73°C
87°C
86°C
GPU #1
Fan Speed
1030 RPM
2160 RPM
2060 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
75°C
78°C
78°C
GPU #2
Fan Speed
900 RPM
960 RPM
920 RPM
AC Power
225W
430W
*70% speed is equivalent to 8~9V
Ambient temperature: 22°C

The second video card did not heat up as much as the first, though Catalyst Control Center confirmed that our cards were working properly in CrossFireX mode. We also noticed a jump in the 3DMark score once the second card was installed and configured (from about 15,000 up to 18,000). It is possible that our GPU testing tool, FurMark, does not yet support CrossFire.

The overall noise level of the system measured higher than the typical SPCR system — 20 dBA when idle, 27 dBA on full load with the CPU and system fans reduced and 29 dBA at maximum speed. The character of the noise was quite good though, mostly broadband, lacking in tonality, and surprisingly smooth. For high-end gaming system, it is excellent.

For someone seeking to build a quieter system in this case, consider that without the noise of the video cards at load, our system would not have risen much above 22~23 dBA@1m even with both the 180mm fans at 100%. This is audible but still very quiet. Replacing the stock GPU coolers with big open finned aftermarket heatsinks and quiet 120mm fans would probably make it possible to have the same cooling performance under load at this quiet level. Less thermally challenging systems would be easy to run <20 dBA@1m in the Raven.

The space between the plastic outer skins and the inner steel panels may also benefit from fanatical silencing attention. Insertion of some type of damping material might improve the case's sonic insulation and reduce any tendence to vibrate.



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