m-ITX Cases: SEED MA-280B and Cooler Master Elite 100

Cases|Damping
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TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPU-Z to monitor CPU frequency and voltage.
  • Prime95 processor stress software.
  • FurMark stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • SpeedFan to monitor temperatures and fan speeds.
  • Seasonic Power Angel for measuring AC power at the wall to ensure that the heat output remains consistent.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate the fan speed during the test.
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our standard fan testing methodology.

Primary Audio Test Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan at load using Prime95 to stress the CPU and FurMark with the Xtreme Burn option (if possible) to stress the GPU.

Stock Power Supply Test Results

We found it curious that the case would have a 40mm fan to cool the power supply, as typically DC-to-DC boards do not require active cooling. This implies that the power supply's efficiency may be poor. As such, we thought it would be fitting to put it through a quick run on our power supply testing rig.

Stock PSU: Output & Efficiency
DC Output Voltage
DC output
AC Input
Efficiency
+12V
+5.5V
+3.3V
11.83V
4.90V
3.24V
20.5W
28W
73.1%
11.10V
4.83V
3.21V
55.8W
74W
75.4%
picoPSU + 80W Power Brick
12.12V
5.03V
3.32V
21.5W
27.1W
79.4%
11.73V
4.99V
3.32V
65.0W
76.6W
84.8%
11.61V
4.98V
3.32V
80.6W
95.3W
84.6%

Our testing shows that the unit's efficiency is definitely lower than expected, about 73% at 21W load and 75% at 56W load. By comparison, a picoPSU with an 80W AC power brick runs almost 80% efficient at 22W and 85% at 65W and above. Not only is the stock power supply less efficient, the +12V rail took a steep nose dive to 11.10V on high load. The PCB components did get a little hot during testing, so it seems the inclusion of a fan was an apt move on SEED's part, though it would have been smarter to simply use a more efficient PSU.

Noise

SEED claims an SPL of 14 dBA@1m for the included fan. We did not test the fan by itself in open air, but found that it was fairly smooth sounding, and it has a benign acoustic character, lacking the tonality of the majority of fans in its class.


Fanless.

Fan @ 12V/1m.

SEED MA-280B
Measuring mic positioned at diagonal angle top/left of case.
Fan
SPL @1m

SPL @0.6m

Off
17 dBA
20~21 dBA
10V
20 dBA
26 dBA
12V
23~24 dBA
28 dBA

At one meter distance, with only the hard drive generating noise, the SPL measured 17 dBA. With the fan on running at 10V, the SPL increased by 3 dBA. At full speed, the noise increase was an additional 3~4 dBA.

COOLING & POWER

The MA-280B had no problems cooling our Zotac ION board when idle with CPU/GPU temperatures in the low 70's. When a CPU load was applied using Prime95, the Core temperature leveled off at just under 100°C while the GPU was a balmy 87°C. However the system remained stable with Prime95 plugging away for 20+ minutes.

System Measurements: SEED MA-280B
Test State
Avg. Core
GPU
HDD
AC Power
Idle
73°C
73°C
49°C
22W
CPU Load
99°C
87°C
55°C
27W
CPU + GPU Load
100°C+
94°C+
60°C
38W
Ambient temperature: 21°C

The system was stable initially when we added FurMark as a GPU load, but after 15 minutes the GPU overheated after reaching 94°C, causing the application to crash. The processor remained stable as far as we could tell but the Core temperature sensors went haywire after it exceeded 100°C. FurMark pushes GPUs further than most games, but it's clear that if ION is truly pushed with 3D applications, a fan of some sort is highly recommended.

The IONITX-A does come with an optional fan for the CPU/chipset heatsink, but we could not use it due to lack of vertical clearance. The hard drive is directly above the cooler and it presses down on the fan, preventing it from spinning. The case's only fan didn't make any difference due to its size, speed, and location — turning it on did not help, it only generated more noise. A fan on the right side next to the vent may help, but it would be hard to find a quiet one that would fit.

We can't recommend using this case with an ION system, unless it was strictly for 2D use. Intel's Atom boards have chipset fans so they will be right at home inside the MA-280B, but at the cost of extra noise.



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