The case of the perfect case

Okay, yeah. Let’s get right down to it.

For years, I’ve been waiting to replace my computer case with the perfect case. Of course, no one makes one. I’ve scoured Newegg’s catalog, but to no avail. No one else takes between 4 and 7 pictures of their products, though, so I haven’t bothered looking anywhere else.

Here’s what I need:

[ul]Case must be more than 18 inches deep. Height and Width are irrelevent, but my Abit AT7-Max2 requires 1 inch more than most ATX cases have in the depth department, otherwise, the case would have to be a full tower to prevent the CD-ROM drives from hanging over the motherboard, where they may not end up fitting due to motherboard doohickeys.

Case must accomodate at least 1 120 mm fan - Preferably in the front. The ability to place a 120 mm fan in the exhaust position would be an added bonus.

Case must have the internal 3.5" bays located directly behind the front intake fan. I’m sick of mounting my hard drives in the 5.25" bays and using those shitty baycoolers.

Minimum of 3 external 5.25" bays, and 2 3.5" bays.

Solid construction and rounded edges, because I hate bleeding on PCB’s.

Ability to mount feet on it is a plus. Ability to mount casters is a super-mega-double-plus.

Is it too much to ask for beige? I figure it is, so I won’t. Beige is an ultra-infinity-plus.

I DO NOT WANT A DRIVE BAY DOOR. I do not want to have to open a fucking door to access my CD-ROM drives, and I don’t want to click eject only to realize, “Shit, the door’s closed. There goes another drive.” Doors suck. I will hunt down and kill whoever invented them if I find out who it was. If you’re reading this, start running.

I could give two shits if it has a power supply or not, and I could give three shits if it has front-mounted USB. I have power supplies coming out my wazoo, and a hub for a reason. However, I will not complain if the perfect case cannot be purchased without these features.[/ul]
If anyone has seen anything vaguely resembling the perfect case I’m dreaming of, let me know.

This one was pretty close, until I realized it had a door. And it doesn’t come in anything but that ugly off-black, so it can go suck an egg.

This was the closest I could get, but guess what - Black! And gold? How gaudy is that shit? Ugh.

I’m really starting to think I need to invest in some sheet metal and crafting tools. I’m starting to wonder if the only way I’ll get a case with these specs is by making it myself.

If you’re losing drives due to drive bay doors… you either have some weak-ass drives or strong-ass doors.

And I don’t see anything wrong with black.

I have a Lian Li PC-52 case and I really like it. It’s not beige though, but it is deep enough and has a fan in the front (not sure what size it is at the moment. 3 external 5.25, 2 external 3.5. Hard drive goes right in front of the fan in the front. Anyway, they sell them on Newegg with pictures. I’ve been happy with mine.

Good luck

Black would require me to go through the trouble of painting my optical and LS-120 drives. I’m in no mood to bother with that, even if it would only be an hour of work.

Those are 80mm fans in that model, and it’s aluminum. That’s too much damned money, honestly. I’ll pay $100 for a case if it’s perfect. This one’d need to be drilled heavily to install 120mm fans, and my drives would still not match. Thanks for the attempt though, I do appreciate the suggestion.

How many hours of work do you plan to spend swapping everything over to this new case, then?

I use an Addtronics 6896A, which has a 120mm (and an 80mm) fan in the front. They say it will hold a full-size ATX board, but is only 17.5" deep. My only wish for it is another or larger exhaust fan in the back. If that isn’t big enough, you can get the 7896A, which is the full tower version.

Probably an hour and a half or so.

But you gotta understand: To me, that’s fun. I get a kick out of tearing down and rebuilding my system. Painting stuff, though, does nothing for me.

Supertanker, that Addtronics case is damn nice. The problem is it doesn’t have any 3.5" bays located behind the intake fan. I’d need to throw my hard drives up in a top, which means extra cooling fans there. It also lacks a second external 3.5" bay, and if it had 4 5.25" external bays, I might be comfortable with that. But someday I may end up grabbing another 3.5" bay device, like a multifunction card reader, or a PCMCIA reader, and I’d rather not install it in a 5.25" bay to 3.5" converter.

Me, neither. :)

Black would require me to go through the trouble of painting my optical and LS-120 drives. I’m in no mood to bother with that, even if it would only be an hour of work.

A pretty minor job, and they sell faceplates for most drives (unless yours are oddly shaped) if you want to make it even easier. Or just get a case with a door that covers the external drives.

I also have a Lian-Li case (a PC-61), and I love it. It wasn’t cheap, but it’s easily the best-made case I’ve ever worked with, and I plan to keep it for a while. Sturdy, attractive, well laid out, everything secured with thumbscrews, and it’s got this great motherboard tray that slides out the back like a drawer (makes motherboard assembly a snap). It doesn’t have a front 120mm fan mount, but it does have room for two 80mm fans there (so plenty of airflow), and the internal 3.5" cage is directly behind those fans. They even have a filter for the air intake–a very nice touch.

Yes, but faceplates = More shit to buy. I doubt I’ll be able to find one for my Kenwood 72x drive, let alone my Imation LS-120.

Also, two 80mm fans is unacceptable. I’m currently running mid-flow 92mm’s, and THESE are too loud for my tastes. They’re pushing about 45 CFM.

You know how loud two 80mm’s would have to be to get the same airflow? About a 25 to 50% increase in loudness.

I have some 120mm fans in my closet that I’ve been dying to use. 100 CFM of airflow, less than 42 dB. And if I decide, “Hey, this is way too much airflow,” I can turn them down to 75 CFM and lose a buttload of dB.

$123 for a case, and you call that cheap?

Jesus. I paid $108 for my Antec full-tower back in the day, and this thing’s practically aircraft grade stainless steel.

For $123, the thing better be made out of titanium. Aluminum? Thanks, I’ll take steel and plastic for 1/3 the price.

I dunno–the stealth fans they sell these days are pretty damn quiet. I have six fans in my case–all 80mm–and it doesn’t make much noise at all. Less than my old Micron machine, which only had two fans (and wasn’t a particularly loud machine. I mean, it’s not perfectly silent or anything, but it’s far from loud.

$123 for a case, and you call that cheap?

You misread me. I said that it wasn’t cheap.

For $123, the thing better be made out of titanium. Aluminum? Thanks, I’ll take steel and plastic for 1/3 the price.

Aluminum is a great case material, though. Radiates heat far better than plastic, and lighter than steel.

That whole “radiating heat” thing has yet to be proven. The tests I’ve showed temperature differences that fell well within the margin of error for a test.

And that’s the point - I don’t want to load up my case with 6 stealth fans to get the airflow of two 120mm’s.

If memory serves me, the stealth 80mm fans put out 27 CFM and are 21 dB. My 120mm fans that are sitting in my closet are 90 CFM, and only 36 dB. Do the math. I could tune them down to 75 CFM and probably drop them below 25 dB, and still be pushing out 3 times the air as those 80mm’s. Not only that, but since they’re spinning at a lower RPM, the noise is less grating on the ear.

Anyways, noise is a peripheral point. My primary concern is airflow, and then how much noise I’m going to get with that airflow. There’s no combination of fans that’s going to give as high airflow and little noise as a couple of 120mm fans, and that’s just a simple case of physics.

I appreciate the suggestions, but I’ve made up my mind here. I’m not going to be talked into altering my specs for something that’s CLOSE.

The two cases I linked to earlier could be made suitable with a little spray work. They’re the closest I’ve found so far. With the Antec case, I’d just need to tear off the drive door and spraypaint the rest of it beige. It’d take a lot of drilling and stuff to get those Lian-Li cases up to 120mm spec, and even then, I’d have already dropped an arm and a leg in acquiring them.

Oh, I agree. But the problem is that, as you mentioned, there simply aren’t many cases designed with 120mm fans in mind. I settled for a case with multiple 80mm fans as a comprimise, and it’s not a bad one. My machine is still quieter than most retail PCs, and probably not much noisier (if aat all) than your setup. Bear in mind that decibel levels aren’t cumulative in a linear sense; that is, two fans putting out 21 dB of sound do not put out 42 dB of sound together. If that were the case, then my PC would be as loud as a 767 revving its engines. I don’t know the math behind it, but I suspect that six 21 dB fans probably aren’t much louder than a pair of 36 dB fans.

There’s a way to do the math; it’s a logrythmic relationship.

It’s kind of irrelevant anyways. I’ve got an investment, albeit small, in the 120mm fans, and begin able to use them and get optimal airflow is more important to me than finding a beige case. At this point, I’d be willing to get that Antec, since the only thing it’s gonna do is offend my eyes. From a practicality standpoint, it’s nearly perfect.

Did you check out the Evercase offerings? They seem to be close to what you are looking for. The only thing I’m not sure about is mounting a 120mm fan at the front spot.

Check out the E4252-AB on that page.

Yeah, the Evercase’s were pretty nice. The thing that killed the deal for me on those is those silly 3.5" internal drive bays. The not only look awful, they barely line up the HDs with the front fan. The design on the Raidmaxes and others is so much better. Fits 7 hard drives? Sure, why not!

I do have the ability to use two SATA drives and 5 IDE drives with my mainboard…;)

I was curious, so I did the math in excel:

Two fans running at 36 dB
= 39.01 dB

Two fans running at 25 dB (Machfive’s best case)
= 28.01 dB

Six fans running at 21 DB
= 28.78 dB

If the sound of the fans is similar enough (phase correlated), the combined volume can be a little higher. Two identical fans combined can be as much as 6 dB louder than a single fan. But you’re not saving your ears as much as you think you are.

But as you say, this is about air movement, not loudness.


Do modern hard drives really need special cooling solutions? I’ve seen more and more people using special hard drive cooling equipment lately and I’m confused as to why. Manufacturer specs don’t call for additional cooling. If it was required, the retail hard drives would come with cooling equipment attached like processors do. Is this something only overclockers need to worry about? Or perhaps a danger to high-end gaming rigs because newer cpu/gpu’s run blazingly hot ?

I’ve never installed any special hard drive cooling ever. I’ve never had a hard drive die on me before I decided it was time to pitch it due to obsolence.


Do modern hard drives really need special cooling solutions?[/quote]

Technically? No.

But drives do generate heat, and plenty of it. Some of these drives get reasonably toasty. Keeping a drive cooler WILL increase its longevity, and that’s what I’m going for. I have had drives die on me before, and I often wonder how much sooner they’d have died if I didn’t keep them aerated.

How So? My experience has been that vibration and other mechanical stressors kill hard drives. Is there a study you could link to showing a noticeable difference in HD lifespan resulting from extra cooling?

I’m not trying to pick on Machfive, I’m just professionally curious. It is sometimes my professional responsibility to suggest hardware configs for x86 servers. I’d like to make sure there aren’t any holes in my education, so I don’t do my customers a disservice. :)

No worries mate.

I haven’t seen any longterm studies, but the logic that’s been suggested as an explanation seems like a valid enough hypothesis.

  1. Heat leads to expansion of moving components.
  2. Those increases get the drive closer to its operating tolerances.
  3. Drive suffers greater wear and tear at higher levels of heat, leading to a more likely mechanical failure.

It’s not exactly scientific, but lack of hard data going one way or the other, I’d rather be safe that sorry.

Also, here’s for some obligatory anecdotal evidence.

You ever hear of the Freezer Trick, also called the Novell Trick, for those who are believed to have discovered it?

Essentially, let’s say you have a hard drive that’s suffered mechanical failure. It is, for all intents and purposes, dead. There’s a good chance that if you stick it in a freezer overnight, then hook it up the next day, you’ll have a good 20 or 30 minutes to snag as much data off the drive as you can. I’ve done this personally, and was freaking amazed.

The way it works is that whatever problem was occuring with the drive, freezing it shrinks the size of all the components the tiniest bit, allowing them to operate a bit longer before they became even more fubar’d. I suppose there’s a better way to explain this, but I can’t think of one.

Either way, like I said, better safe than sorry.