DAN C4-SFX

Falc

Minimal Tinkerer
New User
Apr 15, 2020
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Hi Dan,
Quick question, when it says: `Case Fans: 2x 80mm fan at the back, or 1x92mm at the back, 2x120mm at the bottom` on the front page under the traditional layout.

How tall can those bottom fans be? I'm considering both the Noctua NF-A12x15 and the Noctua NF-A12x25.
 

dondan

SFF Guru
Original poster
DAN Cases
Feb 23, 2015
1,498
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UPDATE - Thermal Review

1. Preamble:

After 2 months of working with the first prototype I am now done with the thermal test of the C4-SFX. It was a lot of work because of the many possibilities with the case. I learned a lot about what configuration does work and what configuration will result in higher temperatures. At first, I like to talk about some basics so everyone is on the same level to understand this thermal review.



2. How does modern hardware works:

Modern hardware is very intelligent when it comes to fan speed, power consumption and clocks. This is valid for modern NVIDIA and AMD GPUs and also for Intel and AMD CPUs. These components try to clock as high as possible until they reached clock, temp or power limits. This means if the components are not cooled proper they will increase in the first step the fan speed. If this does not help they will lower clocks. If temps are low enough the components will clock as high as possible until they reached the power or turbo clock limit. Every review that only show the temps without the clocks and fan speed is not made thoroughly.



3. Basic principles what affect temperatures:

There are a few principles that needs to be know to understand how components can be cooled more efficient or how components affect each other.



3.2 Fan distance to flat surface:

A fan that is close to a flat solid surface like a table will not get enough air or can’t exhaust enough air to work on 100% performance. A case where the GPU is on the bottom needs higher case feets so the GPU fan will get enough air. This is why a radiator on the bottom of the case with slim case feets is very sub optimal. This is also valid for a situation where cables or other internal components are close to the intake zone of a fan. A basic min. distance rule is fan height.



3.3 Fan distance to vented surface:

A fan that is very close to a vented surface will recycle less air from the inner surrounding. For example, in a sandwich case that has support 3 Slot GPU, a axial fan GPU with 2 Slot will work much worse than in a sandwich case that is made for only 2 Slot cards. It is easier for the GPU to pull the surrounded air. This has to do with the restrict level of the vent hole surface. For example, a mesh is much more restrictive than some bigger vent holes because it will work like a filter/more solid surface.



3.4 Heat origin and routing:

A heat location that is close to a vent panel, with fans on it that moves air outside the case, will result in much better overall temperatures. On many configurations I see a radiator for CPU cooling at the front, side or top of the case with fans setup to intake. These will result in hot air moving inside the case. This hot air will be recycled by the GPU. While it is easy to eliminate this situation for the CPU with an AIO it is more complex for the GPU where the fans are setup for intake. Only a de-shrouded GPU fan with custom fans will solve this problem. So, for every case the biggest rival is hot air inside, that will be recycled by components.



3.5 Recycled hot air:

A component its intake and exhaust is not ducted to a outer vented surface of the case will recycle hot air from itself or other components. In worse case it is easier for the component to suck in hot than fresh air through a restricted vent hole panel. This will happen in an ITX cases where a 2 Slot GPU is installed in a possible 3 Slot area. This problem is prominent for axial fan GPUs. Another solution could be a case fan under the GPU in the unused area that will work like a duct for intake and push hot exhaust air away from the intake (because case fans are bigger as the GPU itself).

Another problem of recycled hot air is a buildup thermal situation. For short loads this is not a problem but under constant load the heat will increase and increase so it will take very long for the system to have a balanced temperature that will be much higher. So, uncover this effect it is important to run thermal test very long.

3.6 Not balanced loads:

Fan speeds are not controlled by a single component. This means if a GPU is under heavy load the CPU fan will not crank up. This can result in a situation where under heavy combined load the overall temperature can be better as on single constant load if one component pushes hot air into the case. For example, while gaming the GPU is under heavy load and force hot air into the case. Depending on the game the CPU has a much lower load and the fan speed on the radiator is lower. These fans will move less air outside the case and the GPU will recycle much more hot air. So sometimes it could be better to have a CPU fan profile that increases the speed also medium temperatures. I know for Ryzen this is no so easy because if its idle temp peaks.



3.7: Fan size and speed:

In some situation it could be better to user slimmer fans that requires less intake zones for pull air for 100% performance. All of the explained points can be even worse if the fan spin on a slower level because vent holes or heatsink surface become more restrictive.



3.8: The perfect world

In a perfect world all fans are working against a very less restrictive surface, heat will be moved away so it cannot be recycled by other components and no fan is close to solid surfaces.



4. Test scenario

The first big rule for every thermal test is to create a base line to test against. Every review that does not include these does not show what is possible. So for my thermal test I tested how the GPU perform without a case under heavy load and a second test for the CPU with all different heatsink configurations.

For all tests inside the case I used a combined test of Valley Benchmark and Cinebench R20 Multithread. I used Cinebench because the load is extreme but less enough to give some performance for the GPU to run Valley. A too hard CPU test would result in less GPU load in Valley Benchmark. Valley benchmark is good because it requires less CPU load. There are scenarios where maybe one or the other component could be a bit hotter but not in combined load. Making a thermal test only for one or the other component will not show a balanced temperature. Furthermore, it is important to disable VSYNC because otherwise a FPS cap will lower GPU load. Every test run was made with a room temperature of 22°C and the duration was as long it reached a level where the thermals not changed for 10min.

For the monitoring part I record the CPU/GPU Temp (not hotspot), the CPU/GPU fan speed and the CPU/GPU Clock. I used the newest version of GPU-Z and CoreTemp.

For testing I used the following hardware:


  • Ryzen 9 3900X (more heat than 3950X because of worse binning) (145W TDP)
  • 32 GB DDR4
  • Gigabyte X570I Aorus Pro
  • Gigabyte X5700 XT Gaming OC (225-250W TDP)
  • Corsair SF600 Platinum

  • EKWB 240 AIO + 2x Noctua A12x25 or A12x15
  • Noctua U9S + 1x Noctua A9-PWM or 2x A9-PWM

I ran every hardware in default configuration so no undervolting or disabled Turbo.

I made no changes to the GPU fan profile. The CPU fan profile was setup in this way, that between 70-80°C the fan speed is increased from 40% to 100%. For the AIO The AIO pump fan profile was setup in this way, that between 80-85°C the speed is increased from 60% to 100%. So in idle and light load the system was inaudible.

Here are the relevant test scenarios I picked out for the review. I did a lot of more testing but I do not thing these are relevant and will make the results even harder to read:


  • Classis-Layout – default – 240AIO (pull out) – GPU (pull in)
  • Classis-Layout – 180° flipped – 240AIO (pull out) – GPU (pull in)
  • Classis-Layout – 180° flipped – 240AIO (pull out) – GPU (pull in) with DUCT BARS
  • Classis-Layout – 180° flipped – 240AIO (pull out) – GPU deshrouded (pull out)
  • Classis-Layout – default – U9S (pull to back) – GPU (pull in)
  • Classis-Layout – 180° flipped – U9S (pull to back) – GPU (pull in)
  • Classis-Layout – 180° flipped – U9S – (pull to back) – GPU deshrouded (pull out))
  • Sandwich Layout – 180° flipped – 240AIO (pull out) – GPU (pull in)
  • Sandwich Layout –180° flipped – 240AIO (pull out) – GPU deshrouded (pull out)
Note: For tests I used a case feet height of 15mm instead of 8mm on the pictures.



5: Test results

The test results are ordered by the overall temperature (CPU + GPU) starting with the lowest.






6. Review of the configurations:

6.1 Classis-Layout – 240AIO


The classic layout with AIO is an easy basic configuration that can result in very good overall temps when done correctly. In my advanced testing I also tested configurations with the AIO pull fresh air in but this results in much worse temperatures for the GPU. If the AIO is setup to move air outside it helps reducing the GPU temperatures because less heat will recycled by it. This does work less good as for the sandwich, because the directed exhaust of the GPU is not pointed to the radiator. To reduce recycling heat even more I installed special duct bars, that can be attached on the left and right side of the GPU (adjustable depending on the size of the GPU) so the GPU fans can only source through the top/bottom. This will result in even better GPU temperatures on the flipped orientation where the GPU sits on the top of the case. The only real left limiting part is here the restrict level of the vent pattern. The best temperatures will be on a deshroud GPU where two 120mm fans pull air through the GPU heatsink out of the case.



6.2 Classis-Layout – default – U9S

This configuration is the weakest inside the C4-SFX. The problem is, that not enough air is pushed outside the case. The GPU will recycle a lot of hot air and while the GPU becomes hotter and hotter this affects also the CPU. In flipped mode it becomes better but only a deshrouded GPU works best. I only can recommend this setup for components with a lower TDP like 3700X and a RTX 2060/2070.



6.3 Sandwich Layout –240 AIO

This is maybe the easiest well-balanced configuration without deshrouding the GPU. But even this is possible with two fans attached to the AIO bracket. The GPU sources fresh air from the side and the AIO pulls the hot air outside the case. Yes this will affect CPU temperatures (not on a critical level) but results in best GPU temps. The GPU exhaust is forced into the direction of the radiator so there will be less heat surrounding the GPU. I also did some testing in default orientation where the radiator is on bottom, but the temperatures on CPU and GPU will be higher because of the too low case feets.



7. Final Thought:

After testing is done I have mixed feelings with this product. Don’t get me wrong this product is on very high level and there would be no problem selling it like it is.

But while I love the flexibility of this product a pure sandwich based AIO case is better for the normal user. And a well-designed sandwich case with flexible riser could be even better because there would be no blocking of one fan on the radiator with the hard riser. Furthermore, with a flex riser and the motherboard attached to the center both side panels will be used for intake.

On the other hand, the hard riser is much cheaper and the classic layout offers also air cooling and no future gen5 gen6 PCIe problems. It is still very small and have a very nice look with the clean front and the power button on the top. The last two weeks, I did further research on layout optimizations so even in 11.2L it could be possible to support 280AIO, 3 Slot sandwich and classic layout. Also, the fan duct bars are a nice feature to improve GPU thermals on the classic layout.

I think I will take a break for 2 weeks to go on with further testing und playing with layouts. Than I decide if I will move back to an flexible riser sandwich case or move on with an optimized classic/sandwich layout that include 3Slot and 280AIO support. While I know this will result in bad feedback if I change product again I like to create a product that is worth to call the second product of DAN Cases. Keep in mind this thread is not about advertising a product that is available soon it is development process with all the back and forth.

Maybe I am stock in the situation of Second product syndrome that was already known by Steve Jobs XD.



Thank you for reading my wall of text

Regards and stay safe

Daniel
 

carpet3

Chassis Packer
Mar 1, 2019
15
12
Thank you for the thorough testing.

What I would say is, remember, perfection is the enemy of good.

From the look of the results it seems to me you have a product that a lot of people are excited to get their hands on that still has decent thermal results.

Could they be better? Certainly seems like it from your comments but are they a showstopper? I don't think so.

I would suggest these are acceptable for a large number of people ( particularly considering these are worse case numbers) and we are now more aware of the limitations. Tweaks can always be made to later revisions.

What are everyone else's thoughts?
 

max1c

Efficiency Noob
May 8, 2020
7
0
Thank you for the thorough testing.

What I would say is, remember, perfection is the enemy of good.

From the look of the results it seems to me you have a product that a lot of people are excited to get their hands on that still has decent thermal results.

Could they be better? Certainly seems like it from your comments but are they a showstopper? I don't think so.

I would suggest these are acceptable for a large number of people ( particularly considering these are worse case numbers) and we are now more aware of the limitations. Tweaks can always be made to later revisions.

What are everyone else's thoughts?

I completely agree. All I want is a small good looking classic layout case. A new and improved Ncase M1 so to say. I was very excited about this case and have been looking forward to the release since the thread started. But all the changes keep making it worse in my eyes and now it looks like it might not even happen at all. Very disappointing. There was also no testing with NH-C14S. Is that because it doesn't fit?
 

bushonpen

Chassis Packer
May 18, 2020
16
29
Thank you for the thorough testing.

What I would say is, remember, perfection is the enemy of good.

From the look of the results it seems to me you have a product that a lot of people are excited to get their hands on that still has decent thermal results.

Could they be better? Certainly seems like it from your comments but are they a showstopper? I don't think so.

I would suggest these are acceptable for a large number of people ( particularly considering these are worse case numbers) and we are now more aware of the limitations. Tweaks can always be made to later revisions.

What are everyone else's thoughts?
To me, these results are still quite good, because EKWB 240 is not the best 240 AIO. The components that were used for the test run quite HOT and the temps in the C4 are not that far from the baseline albeit at higher rpm and slightly lower clock speeds. Also, no 90mm on the back was used in the classic layout, which might reduce temps by 2/3 degrees. We must also not forget that although this is a premium case, it does not mean that everyone will get the most power hungry/hot CPU and GPU out there. Overall, I am satisfied with the product as it is and I love its design the most out of all the other options out there. I will buy it in its current state if it rolls out, but I would not mind waiting for a bigger version since I will make a new system at the end of 2021 when ddr5 comes out. That being said, I don't want a 280 AIO compatibility if the overall visuals of the case change drastically and couldn't care less about a 3 slot gpu, since I am fine with a 2 slot one, and would much rather have 25mm on the bottom in the classic layout instead of 15mm fans.

My feedback on the current state of the case is that when a person buys the case, he/she may have an option for 8mm or 15mm depending on the desire of the buyer (performance vs visuals). And I got confused about the DUCT BARS; would it be a possible addiction as an accessory or is it something that the user might have to make on their own if they want to?

Personally, I have been in a similar situation when writing a philosophical essay. It would never be "perfect", but at one point I had to submit it and only then could I see real feedback in form of counterarguments. In this situation, no personal testing can account for the myriad possible configurations, which users will use that will paint a more detailed picture of the capabilities of the case. The best solution might be to put the Dan C4 out after some tweaks that are results of this test and then start a project for a 280AIO case version that might be something like Dan C4 280 Perfetto and will adhere to the ideals you have set out for yourself. Look at the Lian Li O11 Dynamic as an example, it was designed by derba8er, but it was still not perfect, so they made a MINI, an XL, and an AIR version.
 
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aa1931

Minimal Tinkerer
New User
Jun 28, 2020
4
2
To me, these results are still quite good, because EKWB 240 is not the best 240 AIO. The components that were used for the test run quite HOT and the temps in the C4 are not that far from the baseline albeit at higher rpm and slightly lower clock speeds. Also, no 90mm on the back was used in the classic layout, which might reduce temps by 2/3 degrees. We must also not forget that although this is a premium case, it does not mean that everyone will get the most power hungry/hot CPU and GPU out there. Overall, I am satisfied with the product as it is and I love its design the most out of all the other options out there. I will buy it in its current state if it rolls out, but I would not mind waiting for a bigger version since I will make a new system at the end of 2021 when ddr5 comes out. That being said, I don't want a 280 AIO compatibility if the overall visuals of the case change drastically and couldn't care less about a 3 slot gpu, since I am fine with a 2 slot one, and would much rather have 25mm on the bottom in the classic layout instead of 15mm fans.

My feedback on the current state of the case is that when a person buys the case, he/she may have an option for 8mm or 15mm depending on the desire of the buyer (performance vs visuals). And I got confused about the DUCT BARS; would it be a possible addiction as an accessory or is it something that the user might have to make on their own if they want to?

Personally, I have been in a similar situation when writing a philosophical essay. It would never be "perfect", but at one point I had to submit it and only then could I see real feedback in form of counterarguments. In this situation, no personal testing can account for the myriad possible configurations, which users will use that will paint a more detailed picture of the capabilities of the case. The best solution might be to put the Dan C4 out after some tweaks that are results of this test and then start a project for a 280AIO case version that might be something like Dan C4 280 Perfetto and will adhere to the ideals you have set out for yourself. Look at the Lian Li O11 Dynamic as an example, it was designed by derba8er, but it was still not perfect, so they made a MINI, an XL, and an AIR version.

If I may ask, what is the best 240mm AIO? I plan on purchasing one for my future SFF build.
 

Sijnk

Chassis Packer
Apr 2, 2019
14
8
@Dan: Good descision to think about it. There is a market for the current iteration. But i don't know. The C4 as the big brother of the A4 was to make power hungry CPUs possible in a small case. But at the moment, the C4 can't do that really well. So, i would say 280AIO is the way to go with this iteration.
 
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thelaughingman

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Jul 14, 2018
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@dondan thank you for the thorough testing and sharing of your thoughts. Take as much time as you need to regroup and reflect, seems like you're having a mental block. Agree with many of your points, the C4 would sell and I would have bought it as is as I mentioned before. But after a couple of night sleep I now have a clearer sense of what I want also.

I have the A4 and X1 for aircooling, and they can accommodate the 92mm AIO to push the CPU further. As I now plan to expand to 240mm AIO, the T1 fits my needs as being the most space optimised. Thus moving the C4 up to 280mm AIO would be quite a natural evolution to me if the case is well optimised (only 11.2L as in your post). Since 280mm AIO is on par with 360mm AIO performance-wise, a 11.2L 280AIO compatible case would open up tons of doors IMO.
 
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dondan

SFF Guru
Original poster
DAN Cases
Feb 23, 2015
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Could they be better? Certainly seems like it from your comments but are they a showstopper? I don't think so.
I would suggest these are acceptable for a large number of people ( particularly considering these are worse case numbers) and we are now more aware of the limitations. Tweaks can always be made to later revisions.

While this is valid for a normal company that need returns I am in the great position that I do this next to my daily work so I have the time to tweak as long as it takes.
Furthermore I am unsure if in the current state the product generates enough interest. If I look on the request rate on this thread it is ok but if I look on the numbers of comments to my post it is very low and only a feew members are active in this thread.



There was also no testing with NH-C14S. Is that because it doesn't fit?

In combination with the used motherboard there was only one possible install position for the C14s (heatpipe bends facing topside) and in this position the heatpipe ends have contact with the back of the GPU. Even with spacers the heat from the back of the GPU goes into the C14S.


I don't want a 280 AIO compatibility if the overall visuals of the case change drastically...

And I got confused about the DUCT BARS; would it be a possible addiction as an accessory or is it something that the user might have to make on their own if they want to?

If I go with 280 AIO support for this the case will be only 10mm longer. 148mm*235mm*325mm (W*H*L). Furthermore I will imrpove the height space using so in the same height it will be possible to have 3 Slot GPU or a 2 Slot GPU with 25mm bottom fans. The outer look will be the same.

@Dan: Good descision to think about it. There is a market for the current iteration. But i don't know. The C4 as the big brother of the A4 was to make power hungry CPUs possible in a small case. But at the moment, the C4 can't do that really well. So, i would say 280AIO is the way to go with this iteration.

To be fair a 280er will not change the temperatures that much for the CPU (maybe 3-5°C) but it will create less noise and better GPU thermals because it move more air outside the case.

@dondan As I now plan to expand to 240mm AIO, the T1 fits my needs as being the most space optimised. Thus moving the C4 up to 280mm AIO would be quite a natural evolution to me if the case is well optimised (only 11.2L as in your post). Since 280mm AIO is on par with 360mm AIO performance-wise, a 11.2L 280AIO compatible case would open up tons of doors IMO.

This is the big question. Do I made a sandwich case like the T1 with support for 240 AIO and normal height fans ~10L (132*235*320) or a case like the current one with two layouts and 280 AIO support ~11.3L (148mm*235mm*325mm).
 
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aa1931

Minimal Tinkerer
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Jun 28, 2020
4
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This is the big question. Do I made a sandwich case like the T1 with support for 240 AIO and normal height fans ~10L (132*235*320) or a case like the current one with two layouts and 280 AIO support ~11.3L (148mm*235mm*325mm).

My ideal case would be the smallest one that still supports a 240mm AIO with normal size fans. Thus, my vote would go to that option.

However, creating the second option that supports two layouts and has 280mm AIO support would definitely be more unique and innovative for SFF ITX cases.

I feel like you can't go wrong with either choice. Either way there will be a market for your case.

I plan on buying either this case or the FormD-P1 by Wahaha360 for my first SFF build!
 
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dondan

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Feb 23, 2015
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My ideal case would be the smallest one that still supports a 240mm AIO with normal size fans

Please allow me to add or suggest: That have enough room to allow for an easy/comfortable build. It could be a very bad experience if you got a case designed under this apsect and you realise that you have to buy a custom cable kit for $100+ to use it. It is one thing to see some crazy build from other members that include many custom stuff vs doing it by yourself :)
 

dondan

SFF Guru
Original poster
DAN Cases
Feb 23, 2015
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@ALL: This is for all the silent readers out there. Please use the like or dislike function to give me a better feeling about the interest rate in this thread.

I totally understand that there are many readers that don't want to write in this thread but by using the like or dislike feature you can help me a lot.

PS: Some requested a updated first post with all the prototype pictures. I made an update to the second post of this thread:

Thank you :)
 
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bushonpen

Chassis Packer
May 18, 2020
16
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If I go with 280 AIO support for this the case will be only 10mm longer. 148mm*235mm*325mm (W*H*L). Furthermore I will imrpove the height space using so in the same height it will be possible to have 3 Slot GPU or a 2 Slot GPU with 25mm bottom fans. The outer look will be the same.


This is the big question. Do I made a sandwich case like the T1 with support for 240 AIO and normal height fans ~10L (132*235*320) or a case like the current one with two layouts and 280 AIO support ~11.3L (148mm*235mm*325mm).
Given this information, out of these two options, I would suggest a 280 AIO support and not another purely sandwich case, as there are many already and I plan to do the Classic Layout build whether it has a support for a 280 AIO or it is in the current state. 10mm is nothing really and having a 280 AIO + 25mm bottom fans coupled with a 2 slot EVGA Black Gaming card would be amazing.