I was a long believer in keeping my PC quiet. Part of that has been to always use a case marketed as silent or quiet. My first such case was an Antec Solo (Antec has removed it from their website), which I purchased in 2011. I found far too cramped, so a year later I got a Corsair D550, which I enjoyed until October of this year (2018), when I began to question my loyalty to silent PC cases.
Quiet PC cases have several drawbacks. They are heavier and more expensive. In my experience, they fit less hardware into the same amount of space. I suspect that the obstructions they add to airflow also reduce thermal performance. That is to say, under load, the temperature of your GPU and CPU will be higher, and so the components can overheat or wear out faster. Even worse, higher temperatures can cause fans to spin faster to compensate, causing additional noise. This negates the entire purpose of having a specially designed case for lower noise.
To see if the extra weight and money have really been worth it, I purchased a Thermaltake Core V21. This case is small yet roomy, and importantly contains nothing special to warrant being marketed as quiet. I took sound and thermal measurements while running torture tests on my CPU and GPU at the same time. The hardware is the same except the case, the motherboard, and the front case fans. The motherboard is the same brand, but I had to get a new one due to the reduced size of the new case.
The following are averages of three measurements each, taken from 6 inches in front of the case. This is favorable to the 550D, as it has two obstructions between the sound meter and the front fans, which reduce the noise. The V21’s front fan has a grill and filter, but no complete obstructions.
|case||idle db(A)||load db(A)|
|Thermaltake Core V21||43.4||46.3|
The idle noise increase isn’t noticeable. The load noise is lower with the 550D, but it’s not enough to matter if you’re doing something else that makes noise, like playing a video or game.
|case||max CPU (°C)||max GPU (°C)|
|Thermaltake Core V21||71.4||74|
The difference in temperature is quite large. For me, I’m going to take slightly more noise, by which I mean measurable but not really noticeable, as a trade-off for better thermal performance and cheaper, lighter computer.