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Mini Tower Case Cooling - Review Needed

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hi,

This is my very first post on this forum. I know most of you are experienced in building high-performance systems, so I'd appreciate your reviews. For convenience, I've included links and images everywhere they are necessary. First, here are the specs:

Case: Fractal Design Define Mini
Motherboard: ASUS MAXIMUS VI GENE
PSU: Corsair AX760i
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K
CPU cooler: Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme + 3rd Thermalright TY-143
RAM: G.SKILL Trident X F3-1600C7D-16GTX
Video card: EVGA GeForce GTX 780 w/ ACX Cooler
SDD: Samsung 840 Pro 256GB
HDD: Western Digital VelociRaptor 1TB
ODD: LG BH16NS40
Card reader: Scythe Kama Reader 3

Before I go into where I want to place everything, I'll mention that I haven't bought the case and video cards yet---I've merely listed my top options so far. As you will see below, the case/video card/CPU cooler combination is far from ideal. Regardless of price, if anyone can suggest a more suitable case, I'd love to hear what they have in mind as long as long as it fits the following criteria, even though I might be willing to compromise here and there:

  • It should be designed for quiet computing. If not, I might be able to buy some foam for the panels (I believe Liam Li sells some), since there are many fans involved, and/or grommets for the HDD, which runs at 10,000 RPM.
  • There shouldn't be a bajillion holes that I can't cover with dust filters, as is the case with the Cooler Master N200 case. Unfortunately, the environment is rather dusty despite my constant struggle with it. smile.gif
  • The PSU and its air intake should go to the bottom of the case (unlike most of Liam Li's cases that I've seen).
  • It should allow me to use my 165 mm tall cooler (unlike the Corsair Obsidian 350D, for instance).
  • It should be a mini tower since I don't have a lot of room for it.
  • It should allow for decent cable management and airflow.
  • A CPU cutout in the motherboard tray would be nice but this is not imperative.
  • Preferably, it should have a minimalistic design.

The case I've picked only officially supports CPU coolers up to 160 mm tall but mine is 165 mm so it will probably touch the foam on the side panel---I've read of two similar setups, except one of them had a cooler that was even taller (168 mm). It's not ideal but at least I get a bit of free support out of it. smile.gif

Furthermore, the video card is rather massive and pushes air towards the bottom of the case. I am thinking of installing a fan below it that would blow air through the back of the case. Perhaps something like the Antec Super Cyclone, although that would require me to build some sort of an air duct to direct the video card's air output towards it, especially given its length. Alternatively, I could a bit of base and turbo clock speed and get an EVGA GeForce GTX 780 SC, which blows air through the back. The latter would even allow me to install a side fan, since it is a bit shorter. What do you think?

For reference, here are the two cards:



vs.



Before I go on, here is an image of the case:

Fractal Design Define Mini

To take advantage of convection, I would like to direct the air from the CPU cooler to the top of the case, if it fits fits that way (remember, three fans). I may or may not be able to also install a fan on the top vent. Do you think it would be better to direct it towards the back of the case? In this case, I would surely have room for fans on the top as well as back vents. In either case, regardless of the cooler's orientation, does it make sense to install fans on both vents, given what the cooler is trying to do?

Since I'm going for negative pressure and dust filters, I am thinking of installing two Blacknoise NB-eLoop B12-PS (bottom of the page) fans (120 x 120 x 25 mm, 98.7 m^3 or a bit over 58 CFM each) on the front, connected via an Y-cable (the motherboard only has 3 fan headers). The fan on the back vent would be a Blacknoise NB-eLoop B12-P (also 120 x 120 x 25 mm, 132.4 m^3 or a bit under 78 CFM). For the top vent, I'm thinking Noctua NF-A14 PWM (140 x 140 x 25 mm, 115.5 m^3 or a bit under 68 CFM if I use the included Low-Noise-Adapter), provided I can fit it there (see above, on CPU cooler orientation). Note that I've decided the size of the fans based on what the case allows me.

In order to fit the video card, I plan on removing the top HDD drive cage. The one below it would be rotated by 90 degrees so as to allow for better airflow. I'd place the SDD in the lowest tray, since convection would cause any heat from the HDD to elevate, and the HDD right above it.

Since you may want to know this when providing suggestions, the case allows me to install an additional 120 mm fan on the bottom, next to the PSU, and another 120/140 side fan, which I've mentioned earlier. If I do get a shorter video card and choose to install these extra fan, I can take advantage of the included PCI fan controller that would be installed in the vertical slot shown below:



This is probably not relevant but the optical drive would go in the top bay and the card reader in the one below it (the case comes with a 5.25" to 3.5" converter).

I apologize for the somewhat lengthly post and thank you in advance for your answers. Let me know if there is any other piece of information you would like to know.

Cheers,
Bogdan
Edited by RoofTopJoe - 8/7/13 at 3:40am
post #2 of 36
Reference cards are much louder because of their blower fan design.

Why are you looking at Define Mini and not Define Midi or Define R4? R4 would be quieter.

As an example here's a Define R4 with TY-147 fans (front fans modified to fit) controlled by PWM signals from motherboard CPU fan header and GPU fan header. The GPU fans are not PWM because we had a couple of Arctic F12 TC extra and tried them.. and they worked so well they are still on it. GPU = VTX3D Radeon HD 7950 X-Edition V3 cover removed w/2x Arctic F12 TC fans mounted with zip-ties. Was 70c now 50-60c, ultra settings, 60fps unless particularly detailed cut scenes. Normal use is dead quiet and not even loud when gaming or working CPU 100%. All fans top out at less than 1200rpm.. including TY-143's. Now the lower HDD cage is removed and case sets 45mm off of floor (better airflow to bottom intakes).
CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), default quality
post #3 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hi,

Thanks for the reply. As stated in the original post, I'm interested in a mini tower case. The cases you've mentioned, although awesome, are unfortunately a bit too big. I am, however, reconsidering the Fractal Design Arc Mini, even though I'd need to deal with sound dampening on my own.

Cheers,
Bogdan
post #4 of 36
It is much easier to keep a system quiet than it is to get rid of noise. Having a quiet system is about using good components with good fans that will supply the air you need at low rpm. Having case fans as well as component fans speed controlled by component airflow demands keeps system quiet unless it is working hard. I'm running an old Define R2 modified to use 140mm front fans. (see my sig) System is virtually silent below 900rpm. It idles 25-27c@650-700rpm and full 100% load is 43-50c@950-1050rpm. Just loud enough for me to be sure I can hear it and know it's working. The sound level changes very little even if I have it out on bench running tests. Still virtually silent. biggrin.gif
post #5 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hi,

Makes sense. The deal is, the last time I had a desktop computer, case fans were less of a requirement. I've been using laptops for quite a while so it's hard for me to estimate loudness, which is why I may be tempted to exaggerate. On the other hand, the Define R2 does feature ModuVent. Given that I've been careful about sound levels when picking out the (high quality) fans, I will worry about foam only if it comes to that. smile.gif

Cheers,
Bogdan
post #6 of 36
I don't understand why you are striving for negative pressure. You'll have a filter but a good portion of the air going into that case in a negative pressure scenario is going to bypass that filter. Its going to go in through every nook and cranny (and those aren't filtered). You can easily have positive pressure and still be very quiet and more efficient cooling.

Also since quiet is a big concern, consider dropping the noise creating Velociraptor in favor of the Caviar Black (or Blue). In real world usage Black (or Blue) are nearly as fast, have far more space, tend to be more reliable long term and are much quieter.
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
4790K Asus Maximus Gene VII MSI 780ti Gaming Mushkin 
Hard DriveHard DriveOSMonitor
Samsung SM951 M.2  Samsung 840 EVO Windows 10 Dell U3011 
KeyboardPowerCase
WASD w/Cherry Blues and O rings EVGA SuperNOVA 550 G2 CaseLabs S5 
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CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
4790K Asus Maximus Gene VII MSI 780ti Gaming Mushkin 
Hard DriveHard DriveOSMonitor
Samsung SM951 M.2  Samsung 840 EVO Windows 10 Dell U3011 
KeyboardPowerCase
WASD w/Cherry Blues and O rings EVGA SuperNOVA 550 G2 CaseLabs S5 
  hide details  
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post #7 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoofTopJoe View Post

Hi,

Makes sense. The deal is, the last time I had a desktop computer, case fans were less of a requirement. I've been using laptops for quite a while so it's hard for me to estimate loudness, which is why I may be tempted to exaggerate. On the other hand, the Define R2 does feature ModuVent. Given that I've been careful about sound levels when picking out the (high quality) fans, I will worry about foam only if it comes to that. smile.gif

Cheers,
Bogdan
The matt in Fractal Design case is not foam. It is very dense and hard. My understanding of this kind of matt is it stops the metal panels from resonating / vibrating. No vibration, no sound.

Thing is with all the vent holes in a case (and we have to have vents) any noise made inside of case comes out through them anyway. Removing vent grills also reduces noise and increases airflow. Normal grills restict 10-40% of airflow depending on what fan is used. My R2 has no back or bottom vent grills. Bottom does have filters as they are intakes. I have no exhaust fans, but do have a duct from CPU cooler to back vent so no heated air leaks so it can't warm up the cool case air.

Moving my HDD cage 8mm farther away from front fans (that was all the room I had) lowered noise significantly too.

Raising case on casters also lowered the noise. Less restriction of airflow to bottom fans. Stock feet give 20mm-ish clearance, I now have 45mm-ish.

HDD's make more noise than anything else. Even at full load fan speeds. IA small transformer in the loft that powers the doorbell hums louder than computer. biggrin.gif
Edited by doyll - 8/7/13 at 7:19am
post #8 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hi,
Quote:
Originally Posted by ixsis View Post

I don't understand why you are striving for negative pressure. You'll have a filter but a good portion of the air going into that case in a negative pressure scenario is going to bypass that filter. Its going to go in through every nook and cranny (and those aren't filtered). You can easily have positive pressure and still be very quiet and more efficient cooling.

I wanted to go with negative pressure for improved cooling. You do make a good point, though---the case won't be hermetically sealed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ixsis View Post

Also since quiet is a big concern, consider dropping the noise creating Velociraptor in favor of the Caviar Black (or Blue). In real world usage Black (or Blue) are nearly as fast, have far more space, tend to be more reliable long term and are much quieter.

Well, I already have the VelociRaptor so it's a little too late... smile.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by doyll View Post

Moving my HDD cage 8mm farther away from front fans (that was all the room I had) lowered noise significantly too.

This is an interesting observation. Alas, I probably won't be able to do anything of the sort with such a small chassis (currently set on the Define Mini, possibly with foam since it doesn't come with ModuVent).

Cheers,
Bogdan
post #9 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoofTopJoe View Post

Hi,
This is an interesting observation. Alas, I probably won't be able to do anything of the sort with such a small chassis (currently set on the Define Mini, possibly with foam since it doesn't come with ModuVent).

Cheers,
Bogdan
Fractal Design may now set the cage a little farther from the fans. wink.gif

Nothing the matter with the Define Mini. It just limits things; fans are 120mm vs 140mm, CPU clearance is 60mm vs 170mm, GPU clearance is 260mm vs 295mm in length.

Did you know 2x 140mm fans move as much air as 3x 120mm fans of same design. wink.gif
Edited by doyll - 8/8/13 at 2:38am
post #10 of 36
Thread Starter 
Err, I meant the Arc Mini R2, which is a tad bigger, offers better cooling options and has improved clearance. It will even fit my CPU cooler.

But... I don't think they've started shipping it yet. I should send them and e-mail to ask about the release date.
Edited by RoofTopJoe - 8/7/13 at 11:03am
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