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 Post subject: QMicra from PC Design Lab: SFF Super-sized
PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2006 2:18 pm 
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QMicra from PC Design Lab: SFF Super-sized


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:18 am 
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Quote:
The exhaust vents are much better, using unrestrictive wire grills.
Whilst i appreciate the fact they they are probably the least restrictive grills any retail PC/case is supplied with, i rememeber reading a post here (which included MikeC) which stated that they reduced airflow by ~30%. 'relatively unrestrictive' would be better atleast?
also, where do u draw the line of 'SFF'? yes it has a shuttle 'shape', but it probably has a volume similar to a mid-tower case. i'm also not sure who would buy this, certainly above an antec aria, which, afaik, is smaller, much cheaper, quieter, whilst still having stuff like 4 drive bays, mATX support and ATX PSU support. this seems to somewhat contradict the SPCR 'we wont publish the review unless theres something good about it' policy? unless u really want something made in the USA...

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:19 am 
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May I assume you left the filters installed for the testing?


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:26 am 
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Also, I just checked PCDL's site, and their pictures show two HD brackets per side which allow the drives to be mounted in double-shear. I don't see that in SPCR's pictures, but it would certainly help with bracket sag and drive movement. Devon?


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:36 am 
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Yes, filters were left installed during testing.

Could you post a link to the image you saw with two brackets per side? I'm having trouble visualizing what you're talking about. Having two drives per side might help rigidity, but I don't think the bracket is likely to do much unless there are two drives.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:39 am 
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mb2 wrote:
Quote:
The exhaust vents are much better, using unrestrictive wire grills.
Whilst i appreciate the fact they they are probably the least restrictive grills any retail PC/case is supplied with, i rememeber reading a post here (which included MikeC) which stated that they reduced airflow by ~30%. 'relatively unrestrictive' would be better atleast?
also, where do u draw the line of 'SFF'? yes it has a shuttle 'shape', but it probably has a volume similar to a mid-tower case. i'm also not sure who would buy this, certainly above an antec aria, which, afaik, is smaller, much cheaper, quieter, whilst still having stuff like 4 drive bays, mATX support and ATX PSU support. this seems to somewhat contradict the SPCR 'we wont publish the review unless theres something good about it' policy? unless u really want something made in the USA...

No, I don't think I ever said 30%. I recall measuring ~20%. Also, I quite disagree with you about the Aria -- the Aria is a worse case with poorer airflow and basically, a lousy non-standard form factor PSU that's difficult to mod and impossible to replace. At least this is true for the version we reviewed. (It never made it to our recommended cases list). If it was reviewed by SPCR today, that sample from 2.5 years ago would not get nearly as positive a review. Our expectations of cases are much higher now with products like Antec's own P150, P180, etc.

I am really surprised about your last comment -- there's lots of good things about the QMicra that we noted. Have we got the tone so wrong?

HammerSandwich -- yes the filters were left on.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:54 am 
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Devonavar wrote:
Could you post a link to the image you saw with two brackets per side?

See here.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 10:29 am 
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HammerSandwich wrote:
Devonavar wrote:
Could you post a link to the image you saw with two brackets per side?

See here.

This was addressed briefly in the review, in the section about installing the hard drive. However, in light of these questions about the bottom bracket, we've just expanded that section, adding more fully explanatory text and pictures.

One point: QMicra's picture (linked by HammerSandwich) is somewhat misleading in that it shows the bottom bracket as if it is attached to some part of the internal structure. In reality, the bracket is not attached to anything but the HDD itself. The bottom bracket in that photo is staged -- it must have been stuck on there with adhesive or something.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 10:35 am 
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Much clearer! Thanks, Mike & Devon.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 5:15 pm 
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Hey everyone! THis is Steve from sffclub.com and I also reviewed the Qmicra.

I must say the SPCR did a much better review than another review I saw from a magazine. I think we had some different conclusions because sffclub only does SFF cases while SPCR does many cases and a full sizes is probably easier to make quiet and cool.

The harddrive thing shouldn't be a big deal....When I am using mine the harddrives don't "flex".

Finally, I am not too sure about the andozing analysis done by SPCR. I had a metals engineer at Virginia Tech look at it and he said some different things from SPCR's guy....but who cares :p

Overall, good thorough review and I am very impressed with the thought put into it. I recall PCDLab saying they are working on the price so hopefully that can be solved :).

Anyone have any questions about how I came to my results in my review?


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 Post subject: Thanks for your review!
PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 5:58 pm 
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First and foremost, I want to thank Mike Chin of Silent PC Review for taking time out his busy schedule to review our Qmicra case! His opinions are highly valued and his work was integral in designing Qmicra. (For example, I adopted his suggestion of using a 2-in/2-out low RPM 80mm fan configuration for cooling which works exceptionally well as per his tests.) His review of Qmicra was very thoughtful and I was thoroughly impressed with how he does his homework. Few interviewers bothered to contact me directly to learn more about my company and the case and it was a pleasure dealing with him. For example, I’m used to getting beat up over the case price, but he's one of the few reviewers who actually explained why it is what it is.

I do have a few nitpicks about the review and Mike graciously offered to provide a link to my response. Once again, this shows the quality of this gentleman... I mean who offers to let someone post a review of their review?! So thank you for the opportunity Mike.

-My first comment is about the case size. Please refer to the following comparison between our case and our closest competitors which are currently the most popular SFF cases available.

(H x L x W)
9.75" x 11.25" x 14.00"-Qmicra
9.00" x 11.25" x 15.00"-Ultra MicroFly
9.00" x 11.20" x 13.80"-Aspire X-Qpack
8.50" x 10.35" x 15.50"-Silverstone SG01
9.84" x 11.00" x 13.90"-Lian Li PC-V300

As you can see, Qmicra is well within the range of current small form factor case sizes that house a full sized ATX PSU. Some dimensions are smaller, others are larger, but all are within an inch. The main difference is how I've utilized the internal space. For instance, none of these competitors can fit the Zalman 9500 which was used in his review. And to argue a point for the SFF world, they will all fit on most desktops which can be confirmed by countless users who submit pictures of their systems in numerous forums.

-The hard drive brackets are unique... but not flimsy. This has been a tough sell because the system is so unique but it works exactly as it was designed. The fact is that most cases shove the HDD's in as an afterthought while Qmicra was designed to hold more drives, cool them better, run them quieter and have more resistance to shock than any other system to protect your data to the fullest possible extent. The concept is actually based on making a more robust version of Mike's rubber band HDD mounting system!

Mike did note that the HDD's were very quiet in his results, but I felt that this would be overshadowed by the pictures showing HDD's installed in ways that I don't recommend. I feel partly to blame because a manual was not provided to show how the system works, but it should defy common sense to install a HDD in the outer slot without the lower bracket. In that regard, it makes the system appear more flimsy than it actually is and I ask that you do not attempt to install HDD's in this manner with our case.

In regard to the opinion of Mr. Ralf Hutter, I don't think he understood that the cover is also integral in snugging the HDD brackets in to prevent side to side movement, bounce or undue bending. As a result, they do not "swing in the breeze" as he feared. (You should see a slight depression in the acoustic matting as proof of this.) Also note that they are fastened down below the upper bracket 90 deg. bends so I can assure you that they will never crack or break! If you crack those brackets, you've done something to cause much more damage to your system than taking it to the occasional LAN or friends house... like throwing it off a cliff! *laffs* My customers can testify that the system works as advertised but in the highly remote chance that my numbers are wrong, I will replace your brackets for free if they do fatigue under normal use.

-In regard to the system used for testing, it's always interesting to see the components that people put in Qmicra as it helps to try and account for as many personal tastes as possible. We currently offer the following with our systems to exploit the front to back cooling...

-Arctic Cooling AF8025's front at 0-50% and AF8's rear at 50-100%
-Season S12 PSU which draws air off the top of the CPU HS
-Arctic Cooling Silencer Rev.5 GPU HS to also draw air from the front and out the back
-Silverstone NT01v2 CPU HS for AMD CPU's 2.4GHz or less with no fans mounted as its close proximity to the rear fans is quite sufficient thus making it dead silent. Zalman 9500 for hotter CPU's.

Qmicra was designed to fit a broad range of hardware but we try to seek the highest performance (as well as save our customers time and money) by frequently testing popular components to see what works best. (This information can be found on the main web page as well as in the forums.) As a result, our systems are quite a bit quieter and cooler than the system that Mike put together. Now I don't expect Mike to have what is suggested on hand and perhaps it would have been better if had been sent a complete system to test. But at least his test shows how easy it is to assemble and disassemble a system very quickly and how conducive to modding Qmicra is for hardcore enthusiasts. I loved Mike's ducted PSU by the way. Genius!

-We now offer a powder coated version for those of you who are looking for a more durable finish. The anodized finish is still offered as it is very attractive and classy looking when at home in its work/play space. But the powder coating is much more resistant to dings and scratches (and fingerprints) for those of you who are on the move with your computer more often.

In closing, I would like to thank Mike once again for his review. Qmicra's design is extremely unique and has therefore required me to do a lot of explaining. Providing the opportunity for this rebuttal is one of the many ways that Mike supports the PC enthusiast community which is crucial for new companies like mine to grow. I assure you that I take all the feedback I receive very seriously and am constantly looking for ways to improve the design because I really want to build the case that people want!

Sincerely,
Dave LaLopa
Owner-pcdlab
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 7:36 pm 
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To set the record straight about hard drives.

I probably shouldn't have included that photo of the drive hanging off the outer drive bay. The photo shows our very first attempt at installing the drive ... which is not how we tested it. My instinct was to use the outer bay because it seemed to provide more damping than the inner one, but I didn't end up keeping it that way because the drive ended up making contact with the air filter. The inner bay was used for all testing.

The bottom bracket was left off because of concerns over how the bracket made contact with the upper tray; I think the metal on metal contact at this point is likely to cause vibration noise, especially with the edge of the bracket just barely making contact with the tray. I must admit that the intention behind the bracket was lost on me until I tried using it with a drive in the outer bay this morning. To be honest, I'm still a bit skeptical, but it certainly does help with rigidity. I think a little damping material where the bracket makes contact with the tray would go a long way.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 7:40 pm 
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The combination of:

Quote:
Prominent high quality switches for reliable operation


and:

Image

Was nearly enough to cause me to rupture something. Contrary to what you may be thinking though, I am not mocking Mr LaLopa, nor his product.

You see, that is a very high quality switch. If you've never attempted to find a decent SPST switch, let me tell you, it's not easy in low quantity. I recently had the chance to design a case from scratch for a product; it was to contain a Mini-ITX board, 2 3.5" HDDs, 2 80mm fans and a small PSU. I ended up getting what appears to be the screw terminal version of that switch (Same threading, mouting ring, and appearance anyhow. . .), as it was the only one I could find that did not feel as if it were constantly on the verge of self-destruction. Apparently the SPST switch industry only operates in superlatives.

They are rated for a minimum of 1 million cycles, and if you can find them for less than $10 in lots of ten, then you are more dilegent than I. The claim of a high quality button is, if nothing else, completely accurate.



On a slightly different note, why did you chose to put the filters behind the small holes in the outer case? It makes the front look cleaner, but how long will it be before each of those holes just becomes a little pit of dust due to all of the dust stopped by the filter? It looks difficult to clean.

Once again however I am amused that someone else came to the conclusion that when trying to get a custom case made, those are the filters to use. Though I chose to put them on the outside of the case and in the same color. It's a much less subtle location, and rather distorts the lines of the case. Then again I am not in the case market and not trying to sell a consumer product based upon it's visual appeal.

Edit (well beyond the pale): The originally included image is no longer available, and it has just been brought to my attention that this page still linked to it as it's generating 404s on our server. The replacement is indecently large to include directly, so it's now just a link (and we've since moved to the ring-LED buttons too):
http://www.zettabytestorage.com/images/product/zbox-blue/zbox-blue-bg-blue-full.png

Same button, same filters.
Does anyone know of anything better in quantity of less than 1000?
The problem is needing filters that require little user attention, and no replacement.

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Last edited by Vietor on Sun Aug 05, 2007 6:26 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 7:53 pm 
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Devonavar wrote:
I think a little damping material where the bracket makes contact with the tray would go a long way.


Yes, that's a very good idea. I trust your expertise in dampening so can you suggest a material/product to use there? Once I have a solution, I will post the mod in our forums and include it standard from here on.

-Dave


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 7:56 pm 
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As the review shows, the air intake is the most important weak point in this case.

There seems to be some free bottom space between the front edge of the mobo and the front of the case. How about adding some holes there?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:23 pm 
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Vietor wrote:
You see, that is a very high quality switch. If you've never attempted to find a decent SPST switch, let me tell you, it's not easy in low quantity.


The power switch is a Bulgin stainless steel LED ring illuminated anti-vandal pushbutton switch which is actually designed to withstand extreme weather and tampering. They've become very popular with modders and I thought it would look great on the case. You are correct in that they are expensive as they retail for $20/switch which is already a 1/4 to 1/2 the price of an entire Asian made case! It's over designed and not cost effective but it sure looks sweet and you're getting what you pay for.

Vietor wrote:
On a slightly different note, why did you chose to put the filters behind the small holes in the outer case? It makes the front look cleaner, but how long will it be before each of those holes just becomes a little pit of dust due to all of the dust stopped by the filter? It looks difficult to clean.


Yes, they were mounted on the inside to keep the front face clean and simple so it was based an aesthetics. These were some of the easiest to acquire in large quantities that worked well in testing. (They also come in different colors.) They do not significantly restrict airflow or create more noise from air passing through them and the mesh doesn't create a wall (like foam) for dust to get packed into the vent holes. They're really only going to stop large particulates which is the compramise that was made for filtering vs airflow. They're also not permanently attached so just slide them off the mounting posts if you don't like them.

It's easy to clean them as they are mounted to a seperate bracket along with the fans. Simply pop off the cover, unscrew the power button nut, tip the front fan/filter assembly back and blow the dust out with some canned air. (This is a 2 minute job.) People can certainly use something else if they are concerned about them restricting airflow but I would rather have a filter and do a little maintenance than let gunk pass right into the case.

Check out this mod of the case I did which uses open front holes. It has decorative grills on it but you could add any cover/grill/filter desired based on your needs.

http://www.pcdesignlab.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=11


Last edited by pcdlab on Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:43 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:36 pm 
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Tibors wrote:
As the review shows, the air intake is the most important weak point in this case.

There seems to be some free bottom space between the front edge of the mobo and the front of the case. How about adding some holes there?


There would be no point to adding more holes to the front as the current pattern already extends beyond the inner fan intake area. The intake holes were the best combination of airflow and noise blocking I could find. Actually, a good place to add holes is in the bottom along the edges as this will draw fresh cool air into the middle of the stream. The front grills can also be cutout so you can add whatever cover/filter/grill you want. It's not a difiicult mod to implament but bear in mind that although a completely unrestricted open hole may be good at letting air in... it will also let more noise out.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 1:57 am 
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Quote:
The problem is needing filters that require little user attention, and no replacement.


All filters require replacement at some stage, it's just a question of whether that replacement cycle is measured in months or years. You're basically looking for a self-cleaning filter, I don't know if they actually exist.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 4:52 am 
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jaganath wrote:
Quote:
The problem is needing filters that require little user attention, and no replacement.


All filters require replacement at some stage, it's just a question of whether that replacement cycle is measured in months or years. You're basically looking for a self-cleaning filter, I don't know if they actually exist.


Self cleaning filter is just a normal filter with a wife that puts the vacuum to your computer :lol:


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 6:09 am 
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jaganath wrote:
All filters require replacement at some stage, it's just a question of whether that replacement cycle is measured in months or years. You're basically looking for a self-cleaning filter, I don't know if they actually exist.


I was unclear, though a self cleaning filter would be pretty useful. What I meant was a filter that can be cleaned without removal and will not require replacement or maintenance other than cleaning for a period of months to years.

pcdlab wrote:
The power switch is a Bulgin stainless steel LED ring illuminated anti-vandal pushbutton switch which is actually designed to withstand extreme weather and tampering.


That sounds like a very nice switch, the LED ring removes the question of where to stick the power LED also.

With regard to the filter: I agree that those particular filters are a good compromise between air flow, noise, and filtration. The review does clearly say that the filters are "Easily removable", apparently I missed that on the first read through.

I most assuredly did not mean to imply that cleaning filters every month was more maintenance than having to clean the entire system every few months. Merely that for my particular case, I can not expect the user to perform any action that requires anything more then the most cursory of attention. Thus the external mouting which alows a bit of canned air (applied nearly parallel to the surface of the filter) to clean the filter while only blowing a minority of the dust through it and into the case.

Nice windows on the mod, the location makes them interesting.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 9:37 am 
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pcdlab wrote:
There would be no point to adding more holes to the front as the current pattern already extends beyond the inner fan intake area.

I believe Tibors meant to add a bottom intake to the case's floor, between the motherboard and the front panel. Looking at the pictures, I think this area could serve as the sole intake with a solid front, though taller feet would be desirable for this approach.

I haven't experimented with a bottom intake yet, though the idea keeps haunting me. Noise-wise, it seems like the best approach for a system that sits on the floor, but a desktop case might find less advantage here. Perhaps a more practical idea for something like the Qmicra would be an intake in one side so that the lid could be reversed to ensure it pointed away from the user.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 9:49 am 
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HammerSandwich wrote:
pcdlab wrote:
There would be no point to adding more holes to the front as the current pattern already extends beyond the inner fan intake area.

I believe Tibors meant to add a bottom intake to the case's floor, between the motherboard and the front panel. Looking at the pictures, I think this area could serve as the sole intake with a solid front, though taller feet would be desirable for this approach.

I haven't experimented with a bottom intake yet, though the idea keeps haunting me. Noise-wise, it seems like the best approach for a system that sits on the floor, but a desktop case might find less advantage here. Perhaps a more practical idea for something like the Qmicra would be an intake in one side so that the lid could be reversed to ensure it pointed away from the user.


Oh I see! That is very interesting. I can't think of any reason why that wouldn't work in theory and it might be worth testing on a spare case. My only concern would be if someone put the case on the floor without understanding the system and block the intakes with carpeting.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:14 am 
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pcdlab wrote:
My only concern would be if someone put the case on the floor without understanding the system and block the intakes with carpeting.

Nothing that can't be solved with a little overkill. :mrgreen:


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:11 pm 
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I'm a bit surprised by the rubber sealing strips. I'd have thought one would want to enforce metal-to-metal contact, in order to prevent electromagnetic interference from leaking out from the case. Did this case pass FCC inspection?

(I'm not suggesting this be taken particularly seriously, since generally people don't seem to take it seriously. Even with cases that do pass FCC inspection, people often alter them so that they won't. Even just removing one of those drive bay covers which are punched into the sheet metal of most cases, in such a way that they can be twisted off but can never be reinstalled, and then leaving the bay empty, leaves a huge hole out from which EMI can pour. It'd be easy to fill that hole with an thin snap-in metal plate, like the plates used to seal around motherboard-mounted connectors; but just try finding an appropriate plate! I've searched a couple of times, without success. And then, of course, there are the people putting huge plastic windows in the sides of their cases; they're not putting metal screens behind them, as in microwave ovens, to block EMI. So if this case is a bit leaky, it's not like it's some horrific new thing. I'm just curious.)


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:11 pm 
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I'm a big fan of the bottom intake. It has been extraordinarily effective on my custom wood case. With the only possible paths for sound to escape from the computer on the bottom and rear of the case, what little sound the computer makes is swallowed up by the carpet and a small acoustic absorbing panel propped up behind the case. Of course, I don't have to worry about anyone blocking the gaps between the feet.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 12:21 am 
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Norm, most if not all components in modern PC's are designed in such as way as to minimise EMI generation (ie PSU has its own Faraday cage, short PCB traces, etc); the protection offered by the case is mostly secondary. If you are very worried about EMI or use your cell phone a lot near your computer then aluminium foil over the hole is a stopgap measure until you can find a drive bay cover.

Welcome to SPCR! by the way. :wink:


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 7:11 am 
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A bottom intake is a tough task for a SFF "box type" case. Normally the motherboard is laid flat so it would be hard to put a fan in a case that is trying for a small footprint


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 7:56 am 
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Not really after some choices that are already made for this case.
Full size ATX PSU ~14cm
Optical drive ~19cm
Space for cables inbetween them ~2cm
Total ~35cm.

Mobo 24.4cm

That gives you 10cm for fans.
With a case width of 28.6cm, there is room for three 8cm fan openings.
____________

On top of that: This is SPCR. People here generally think that front intake fans are only usefull when they are blowing directly towards a HD. Which they don't realy do in the current design of the Qmicra. This is probably one of the reasons it is reviewed without them. For a passive front intake you are not restricted to the shape of fans. But with a three hole setup as I propose in the previous paragraph you can actually put in one or two fans that do blow directly at the HD's.

Lastly I wasn't asking for a full bottom intake initially, but an additional bottom intake.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:27 pm 
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Joined: Sat May 06, 2006 9:02 am
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Perhaps you could with the Micro Fly and Qmicra but not with the SG01, qpack (questionable), or any other case really....errr, pc-v300 maybe. You still have problems though. For one you need to relocate the feet either foward, way out or backward...which is ok but then you need to raise the case up a little with bigger feet and finally you would need to clean your case out often as you pretty much created a vacuum cleaner. All of this just so you could possibly make the case quieter. Under normal operations you probably want the front fans in a SFF case off anyway so forcing them to the ground is a waste. A risk of making the case ugly is higher as well. Finally, I am not all certain the rewards would be that great. In my sound tests I have found 1) that 80mm fans can prove to be a better choice in SFF and 2) that having the front fans off (see Micro Fly) won't reduce the noise low overall. You might be able to make the case that it will reduce the noise in the area that you will hear (ie the front of the case).

This whole posts sounds very negative but I think the idea of front flat fans is one that should probably be tried to see what happens as my concerns are not exactly proven. Perhaps I will mod one of my Cases and see what happens to the sound levels and overall cooling.

Do you have any ideas of what case I should use to do test on? Keep in mind that I have access to a pretty nice sound lab (that SPCR might even be impressed with :p) so I could get great results!

Thanks Tibors and I look forward to your respone.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:30 pm 
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Joined: Sat May 06, 2006 9:02 am
Posts: 30
oh, another concern is stuff coming out from the motherboard....mainly the Video card since these are even expanding. To date I don't know of any of these that might be a problem...but worth a note


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