Olaf van der Spek wrote:
I personally believe that a case only has limited impact on noise level. Silencing a computer can only be achieved by changing hardware IMO.
Really? Good airflow, vents at proper positions and no vents at other positions seem quite important to me.
It's a package, isn't it.
The principles have been discussed many times over, and the basic picture is this: you can never truly quiet a "raging beast" of a rig without excessive measures, whereas even a "poor" case will do with quiet hardware. Less noise, less problems!
(and less investement and elbow grease required post-assembly)
The trick is, as Olaf pointed out, that a good case will provide good airflow and air path management
- this helps not only with cooling, which helps keep even a quiet rig that much quieter or at least cooler (we all want good things to last, right?), as correctly designed air paths are vital for real, SPCR grade silence
. The less sound escapes the better, right? Unless your rig is fully passive, but how likely is that for a gamer.
I would wager the impact ratio to be about 75/25 (hw/case) if you go for silent parts
- the case is the icing on the cake, cutting out the last highs from fans and electronics (foam, layers, layout) and lows from HDDs or heavy duty fans (mass, rigidity, suspension(!)) as well as lowering overall sound volume through projection (away from user) and absorption (again, foam and mass). A good case rounds out the acoustic profile of a rig.
Also, the impact a well designed case can have on cooling is unquestionable, especially with low-noise, low-airflow (even semipassive) cooling.As for recommendations
, I was impressed by the Fractal Design Define Mini I have now. I am a gamer (Battlefield 3 and Dota 2 currently), and it comes across as very suitable for the job: whereas HDD cooling is less than optimal, the bottom ventilation ensures almost noise-free intake for the GPU cooler and the front side vents and grilles provide a good path for the CPU cooler. The case is also very sturdy, cutting out a good chunk of the noise from my 2 HDDs, and has just enough foam to nix fans. The modular vents in the case can be blocked so no extra noise escapes, but still provide an option if you need extra cooling performance. It is also staggeringly affordable for such a quality product.
Unless you use more than 3 HDDs (why would you?) or more than 3 add-on cards (again, why?), you can easily go mATX/minitower. With the mobo and case I have I could even go SLI. Although at 9.5 kg and almost at regular tower height, the Define Mini is not as mini
as they come - but it is good for heavy duty.
If you're already locked into ATX, my second choice for this type of use was the Antec Solo II. It has an excellent pedigree for a good reason and favourable reviews. I did not like some of the mechanics used (fan covers and HDD installation I think), but those would not have been real issues, more like inconveniences.
PS. With these two as a baseline, I'd take another look at the recommended list and especially the reviews to understand why they are the cream of the crop and what the caveats of particular models may be. If you're after looks, well, that's a different ballgame, isn't it.