Antec NSK1480: The Fusion gets Smaller

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For live system testing, two new sources of noise were introduced: The cooling fan on the Scythe Big Shuriken CPU heatsink, and the Western Digital Green Power hard drive. Neither of these are particularly noisy components.

The test system was a midrange Core2Duo system capable of playing back HD video smoothly. It's far from the hottest system out there, but it's pretty much all you need in an HTPC, especially the kind of system that this midrange case is targeting.

All tests were done with both exhaust fans on Low and the intake fan disabled. While the second exhaust fan was probably not strictly necessary from a cooling point of view, keeping it running ensured that no warm air was recirculating through the case as might be the case if one of them was disabled (effectively turning the exhaust into a potential intake). In addition, our earlier baseline tests showed that leaving the second fan running did not cause a measurable increase in noise.

System Measurements
CPU Load
CPU + GPU Load
CPU Fan Speed
550 RPM
610 RPM
630 RPM
Exhaust Fan Speed
Both "L"
Both "L"
Both "L"
Intake Fan Speed
Noise Level
24 dBA@1m
CPU Temp
SB Temp
HDD Temp
Power Consumption (AC)
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA

Our minimally noisy system added about 3 dBA@1m to the baseline noise level. Most of this can probably be attributed to hard drive which is located near the front of the system. At 24 dBA@1m, this isn't the quietest we've heard this system, but it's also not noisy. In actual usage, this noise level would be perfectly acceptable in an HTPC. Even in a dead silent living room, the noise would not be very intrusive unless it was being listened for specifically.

The noise level stayed constant throughout the test, even at the heaviest load. Our fan data showed that the CPU fan speed increased slightly under load, but the increase wasn't audible. This is hardly a surprising result, as 95W is hardly a stressful load even for the relatively small 350W power supply, but it is good news.

Thermally, the NSK1480 had no issues (though again, our test was far from the toughest we could have tried). It's not choked for air, and we know from past experience with Antec's other thermally-isolated designs that the basic thermal design is sound. Our decision to leave the intake fan off seemed quite clearly justified, as our low power WD Green Power never came close to breaking 40°C.

Given its small size and the surprising speed at which cable clutter built up, it wouldn't surprise us if the case struggled a bit if it was really pushed with numerous high end components. A hot, half-height graphics card blocking airflow would do a lot to boost the ambient heat in the case and make it tougher to cool things down. A warmer CPU might run into problems since many of the top end heatsinks will not fit. But these are hypotheticals, and the case isn't really intended for these top end systems.

Baseline test #1: PSU + 1 Exhaust (L). Noise character shows up as a relatively smooth arc, with most of the energy concentrated between 200~4,000 Hz. Low end drops off sharply below 200 Hz.

Baseline test #3: PSU + all Tricool fans on Low. Essentially the same graph as test #1, but slightly higher. No obvious change in noise character (this was bourne out by subjective listening).

In system test: Idle and all Load conditions.
Again, not much to see. This is a good thing — baseline noise hasn't really changed and noise character is fairly smooth.

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