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Corsair Obsidian 550D Quiet Mid-Tower Case

Corsair Obsidian 550D Quiet Mid-Tower Case

April 9, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Corsair Obsidian 550D

ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$130~140

Corsair, best known for making memory and power supplies, has been manufacturing cases for some time now, but the Obsidian 550D is the first to grace our labs with its presence. It's a fitting choice as it's the only chassis in Corsair's catalogue marketed specifically as a quiet product. At first glance, the 550D has the look of a plain, closed, airflow-starved silent case. In reality, it incorporates a mix of noise reduction and performance features, giving it a hybrid nature reminiscent of the Antec P280.


The box.


Cushioning.

Though the Obsidian 550D comes packed in an unassuming colorless cardboard box, it's nowhere close to a generic or budget case. Its current US$130~$140 street price places it at the higher end of the quiet case spectrum, in the same league as the Antec Solo II and P280. Aside from the usual styrofoam, there's also a bit of extra cardboard protecting the side and front door. It's a small gesture that we appreciate as we've received a few cases over the years with shipping damage.


The Obsidian 550D.

The 550D measures 19.5" tall and almost 21" deep with its overall size falling between the Solo II and the P280. It's a plain looking case aside from the brush aluminum door and the fan vent covers adorning the side and top. Like the Fractal Design Define R2/R3, it offers optional fan mounting points that can be covered when not in use to limit the noise exiting the case. The fan covers are attached using a simple push-to-release system (explaining the tape holding on the side cover during shipping) rather than unsightly screws. Notice the marks on the top right corner of the side panel — that was caused by sweeping away a small piece of dirt. The paint has a powder coated finish that is susceptible to smears and smudges.


Accessories.

The case accessories were contained in a small box stuffed into one of the hard drive bays inside the case. The included zip-ties, cable holders, and screws are all segregated and bagged separately. The 550D also ships with an internal USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter, just in case your motherboard lacks a USB 3.0 header.

Specifications: Corsair Obsidian 550D

(from the
product web page
)
Form Factor Mid-tower
Dimension 19.5" x 8.7" x 20.9" (H x W x D)
Weight 16.5 lb
Material Steel structure with black brushed aluminum faceplate
MB Support ATX, mATX
Power Supply ATX (not included)
Expansion Slots 8
Drive Bays Four 5.25” drive bays

Six 3.5” hard drive bays with 2.5” compatibility
Cooling Six 120mm/140mm fan mount locations

Two 120mm fan mount locations

One 200mm side panel fan mount location

Three 120mm fans included
Radiator Support Supports most 240mm dual radiators (15mm spacing)
Front I/O Panel Ports Two USB 3.0 connectors

One FireWire connector

3.5” headphone and microphone connector

Power and reset switches
Warranty Two years

EXTERIOR

The Corsair Obsidian 550D is constructed primarily of steel, with an aluminum front door. It measures 49.5 x 22.1 x 53.1 cm or 19.5 x 8.7 x 20.9 inches (H x W x D) for a total case volume of 58.1 L and weighs 7.5 kg or 16.5 lb.


The 550D's front door is striking, a solid panel with a pleasant brush aluminum construction. It's about the sturdiest we've seen and it shuts tightly, exposing only the power/reset buttons and audio/USB 3.0 ports.


The interior of the door is lined with noise dampening foam as are the side panels. A plastic cover at the bottom releases with a slight push, revealing two 12 cm intake fans covered with a mesh filter held on by magnetic strips running along the sides. Note: There are vents along the sides of the fan mounts not visible in the image above.


The door is symmetrical and the hinges are held on with screws so it can be flipped to swing open from the opposite side.


The top of the case hides another pair of 12/14 cm fan mounts. Rubber washers are on all 12 cm fan holes except for the ones on the bottom panel.


A side panel fan is counterproductive for a truly quiet chassis. In this case there is an option for a single 20 cm fan or two 12/14 cm models.


At the rear, the expansion slot covers are well-ventilated and there are four watercooling holes on the side. At the top are release buttons for the side panels. There is no need for thumbscrews as access is completely tool-less.


There's another removable dust filter at the bottom of the case for the power supply, and an optional fan mount; It's the only one with a full plastic frame. Toward the front you'll notice four thumbscrews — they hold the bottom hard drive cage in place.

INTERIOR

The interior of the 550D is adequately sturdy, particularly the hard drive cages, which have very little give. However, for a case in its price range, its side panels are noticeably anemic, only 0.6 mm thick. Thankfully there is a substantial amount of noise dampening foam lining the panels, making up for some of the structural deficiency.


Measuring 5mm, the noise damping sheets are among the thickest we've seen in a case. The material is rather stiff, with a springy, styrofoam-like texture.


The side panels are secured with bayonet mounts along the top of the case. The barbs holding them in place move forward temporarily when the release mechanism at the back is pushed. It's a clever system and a nice change from the usual side-mounted thumbscrews.


Component placement is typical for a modern tower. There's a large hole on the motherboard tray for CPU heatsink backplate installation and large cable routing holes. The two hard drive cages at the front of the case are both removable via thumbscrews.


The case ships with three 12 cm stock fans, one in the back and two in the front. There are two more 12/14 cm placements at the top and on the side panel, and a single mount on the case floor as well.


The bottom of the power supply is cushioned with rubber pads, but there's also some damping material running around the edges of the rear.


The upper drive cage is secured to the one below it, but not to the 5.25" cage above. Despite this, the arrangement is quite secure. When the door is shut, there is a narrow gap so the intake fans aren't suffocated. The sides of the cages are ventilated as well to maximize airflow.


Loops for typing down cables are available at the back around the edges of the motherboard tray.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the Obsidian 550D is straight forward. Our usual ATX case test system was used: An Asus 790GX motherboard with Phenom II X4 955 CPU, a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD Caviar hard drive and a Cooler Master 700W modular power supply. (See full system details on the next page.)


The plastic hard drive trays are flexible, wrapping around drives without the need for screws. Both 3.5" and 2.5" models are supported.


The caddies don't lock into place as tightly as we would like, creating possible vibration issues.


By our measurements, the maximum CPU heatsink height is 17.9 cm but the release mechanism for the side panel sticks inward, possibly causing interference. With our system configuration there was only 4 mm of clearance above the 156 mm tall FZ120 cooler.


The Obsidian 550D is spacious for a noise conscious case as it has been designed to be equally suited for performance systems with high-end hardware and heavy duty cooling. By our measurements, graphics card clearance is 32.2 cm, though the top hard drive cage can be removed for a substantial increase to fit just about any video card ever made.


There were no issues with cable management, but the CPU heatsink cutout at back was a little lower than most cases.


There is little room behind the motherboard tray but most of the cables fall around it where the clearance is an adequate 20 mm.


Pleasant white LEDs indicate power and hard drive activity.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise


Stock 12 cm fans.

The Obsidian 550D stock fans are quieter than most, each producing less than 20 [email protected] Rubber washers are also included on most of the placements to reduce vibration. We have no complaints about the fan acoustics — quite smooth, with only a hint of bearing chatter well-muffled by the case panels.

Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan
SPL @1m (dBA)
9V
10V
11V
12V
Rear
12
14
16
17~18
Top (moved from Front)
15~16
18
18~19
19
Front
14
15
17
18
Combined
 
7V
9V
12V
15
19
24
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

As the two intake fans produce the same amount of noise, we moved one of them to the top position to mix things up. The front position is typically the loudest, but in this case, the door shields it well, so it ends up sounding about the same as the fan in the rear. Putting a fan on top makes it slightly louder as the top panel lacks structural integrity; it hangs from a large, unsupported honeycomb grill making it susceptible to vibration. The combined noise level of the three fans is quite low, just 24 [email protected] at full speed, 19 [email protected] at 9V, and 15 [email protected] at 7V.



At 9V, the stock fans generated a noise level of 19 [email protected] with a generally smooth, broadband character.

Test Results: Radeon HD 3300 IGP


System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fans
9V
CPU Fan
9V
12V
CPU Temp
26°C
47°C
44°C
SB Temp
34°C
35°C
35°C
HD Temp
32°C
32°C
32°C
System Power (AC)
49W
151W
151W
20 dBA
20 dBA
21 dBA
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Our IGP test system measured a modest 20 [email protected] with the CPU and system fans at 9V. On load, the CPU temperature rose by 21°C while the Southbridge barely heated up at all. There was no difference in noise level (the power supply fan might have ramped up but was drowned out by the rest of the system). Speeding up the CPU fan to 12V lowered the CPU temperature by 3°C and increased the noise level by 1 dB.



Our HD 3300 IGP test system measured 20 [email protected] on load with the stock fans at 9V and CPU fan at 9V.

While our SPL measurements were low, we could hear a low pitched hum being generated by the system, likely the result of hard drive vibration. We could feel the vibrations in the case. Typically, this effect is caused by loose side panels and/or hard drive cages, but both are quite solid in the 550D. In this case, the culprit seems to be hard drive trays which don't snap tightly into their cages.

IGP Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
NZXT H2
Antec Solo II
Fractal Define R2
Corsair Obsidian 550D
System Fans
rear, fronts @low
rear @low
rear & front @12V
rear, fronts @9V
CPU Temp
51°C
47°C
51°C
44°C
SB Temp
38°C
38°C
38°C
35°C
HD Temp
37°C
35°C
34°C
32°C
19 dBA
19~20 dBA
19~20 dBA
21 dBA
CPU fan set to 12V.

Ambient temperature: 22°C.

With our IGP test system, the Obsidian 550D fared well against competitors. Though the noise level was 1~2 dB higher, the 550D had lower temperatures across the board.

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870


System Measurements (HD 4870)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fans
9V
12V
12V (front fan moved to top)
CPU Temp
29°C
47°C
44°C
44°C
SB Temp
46°C
56°C
54°C
52°C
HD Temp
31°C
31°C
32°C
31°C
GPU Temp
78°C
87°C
86°C
86°C
GPU Fan
920 RPM
1970 RPM
1890 RPM
1870 RPM
System Power (AC)
116W
309W
307W
307W
21 dBA
26~27 dBA
27 dBA
27~28 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.

Ambient temperature: 22°C.

The addition of a HD 4870 (150W TDP) increased the idle Southbridge temperature significantly, but its fan spun at just 920 RPM, leaving the system's noise level unaffected. The system heated up tremendously on load, but not as much as we typically see. Even with the stock fans at just 9V, the CPU temperature did not exceed 50°C. Cranking the fans up to their maximum speeds resulted in a 3°C and 2°C improvement in CPU and Southbridge cooling respectively. The extra airflow allowed the GPU fan to spin down slightly, so there was only a negligible amount of additional noise.

As a last test, we moved one of the front intakes to a top position to act as an exhaust. It didn't make much of a difference. Southbridge cooling improved slightly, the GPU fan speed remained stable, and there was a slight increase in noise. The acoustics of the system at load was similar in all three test states, with the sweet spot being at 12V with the fans in their default configuration.



HD 4870 test system measured 27 [email protected] on load with system fans at 12V.

The HD 4870 stock cooler produces a noticeable but soft hissing noise that would be considered inoffensive by many, so while the system was 6 dB louder than the integrated graphics configuration, the noise level wasn't too unpleasant.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
Fractal Define R2
Antec P280
Corsair Obsidian 550D
Antec Solo II
System Fans
rear, front, side @12V
top, rear, front @low
rear, front @9V
rear, front @12V*
CPU Temp
48°C
45°C
44°C
45°C
SB Temp
45°C
52°C
54°C
47°C
HD Temp
34°C
28°C
32°C
34°C
GPU Temp
84°C
85°C
86°C
82°C
GPU Fan

Speed
1710 RPM
1950 RPM
1890 RPM
1880 RPM
26~27 dBA
27 dBA
27 dBA
27~28 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed

All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

*Nexus 120 mm fan added as bottom intake.

Housing our HD 4870 configuration, the Obsidian 550D is competitive with the Antec P280, producing very similar thermal and acoustic results. It's a decent showing for a quiet case, but doesn't quite match to the Antec Solo II or the Fractal Define R2/R3. Both of these cases had cooler GPU and Southbridge temperatures.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Obsidian 550D left us with a favorable impression of Corsair's ability to manufacture quality cases. The 550D design is well thought-out with good attention to detail. The overall build quality is appropriate for the price, with the exception of the surprisingly thin side panels. Thankfully, the acoustic dampening foam adds some heft/stability, and the clever way the panels mount is quite secure. The front door is strong and easily reversed to swing from either side. The panels hiding the various fan placements are easily removed as well. Each one is equipped with nifty dust filters held on with magnets running along the sides. We've seen this before on the bottom of SilverStone cases but they were never as secure.

The case is well equipped from a silencing perspective. The power supply mount is padded at the bottom and the back, and rubber washers are provided for most fan mounts. Larger 14 cm fans are an option for all the fan mounts save the two at the front, and the the stock 12 cm fans themselves are quiet, with a good acoustic character. Noise-wise the only flaw is the looseness of the hard drive trays in the cages. The cages themselves are sturdy, but the flexible plastic caddies aren't held on tightly enough, allowing hard drive vibration to affect the acoustics of the entire machine. A fan controller would also have been nice; it's a notable omission considering how the case is being marketed.

Our other complaints are mainly aesthetic. The exterior has a matte finish, so it doesn't attract fingerprints, but the surface is prone to scratches and smudges. Brushing away a small piece of dirt or grit on the surface results in a long powdery grey streak. We managed to scuff up our sample within minutes of taking it out of the box. The removable panels that hide the extra fan mounts are another issue. Their outlines are plainly evident, and the case looks worse when you take them off. Proper enthusiast cases are typically designed with these fan placements flush against the rest of the chassis, but when used on the 550D, it simply looks like something is missing. This is an unfortunate consequence of Corsair's desire to make the 550D appealing to everyone, rather than just the silence obsessed. The release latch for the side fan compartment also sticks inward a fair bit, limiting the height of some third party CPU coolers.

Despite its flaws, the Obsidian 550D's performance is good compared to other cases marketed to the noise conscious . It did particularly well in our low power IGP test system, where it was on par with past favorites, the Antec Solo II and Fractal Design Define R2/R3. It couldn't quite match either case with our our single mid-power video card test configuration, but did manage to post respectable numbers similar to that of the Antec P280. This isn't surprising as the P280 has a similarly spacious design that attempts to bridge the divide between silence and performance.

The Corsair Obsidian 550D is currently priced at ~US$130 at various e-tailers while the Antec P280 can be had for a little less. The 550D is smaller by about 10L in volume, has more numerous and larger fan support, and the ability to remove a hard drive cage to accommodate an extra long graphics card. The main advantages it holds over its competition are cooling rather than noise related. If you're looking for a quiet case, the Obsidian 550D certainly fits the bill, but it's not worthwhile for housing a minimalist system as much of its functionality would be wasted.

Our thanks to Corsair for the Obsidian 550D case sample.

* * *



Cosair Obsidian 550D is Recommended by SPCR

* * *

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SilverStone Raven RV03

Cooler Master Silencio 450: Silence on a Budget?

Cooler Master Cosmos II: Ultra Tower Case

Raidmax Viper: A Modern Budget Tower

Antec P280: Performance One Refresh



* * *

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