Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7236/corsair-carbide-330r-case-review

Having fleshed out their case lineup from top to bottom, Corsair is starting to show some of that old experimental spirit again. The Obsidian 350D turned out to be one of the best micro-ATX cases I've ever tested, and the Carbide Air 540 will actually be showing up in a future article as the case of choice for a very specialized build. Now, with the new Carbide 330R, Corsair has created a variant on the Carbide 300R designed to offer silent performance for end users who aren't ready to spend up on the splashier Obsidian 550D.

The competition at $99 is tough, though, especially for users who want a silent enclosure. Corsair has to contend with the intermittently available Nanoxia Deep Silence 1 and 2 along with Fractal Design's Define lineup. Silent computing is a tough racket to break into; while the 550D was a solid enough option, it continued to suffer from the iffy air cooling thermal performance that has plagued many of Corsair's designs (excepting the stellar Carbide Air 540).

The 330R adopts the internal framework of the Carbide 300R but changes some of the exterior, extracting additional mileage out of a fairly solid design. The front fascia is replaced by an acoustically padded door, but there are gaps around where the door closes that allows plenty of air to travel into the enclosure. Meanwhile, the side panels are both solid and feature acoustic padding, and the ventilation on the top of the case is covered by a snap-in shield that allows you to choose whether you want to close off the top and prevent noise from escaping or employ up to a 280mm closed loop cooler.

As I mentioned, the interior of the Carbide 330R is basically the same as the 300R, just with acoustic padding added where appropriate. There's a fine enough balance struck in expandability, and Corsair's commitment to making the case as easy to assemble as possible is evident as there's a stud in the middle of the motherboard tray for aligning the motherboard; no standoffs need be installed, either, as the tray itself has standoffs built into it and extruded.

Corsair Carbide 330R Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX, E-ATX
Drive Bays External 3x 5.25"
Internal 4x 2.5"/3.5"
Cooling Front 1x 140mm intake fans (supports 2x 120mm/140mm)
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Top 2x 120mm/140mm fan mounts
Side -
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 7
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 170mm
PSU 240mm
GPU 450mm
Dimensions 19.49" x 8.27" x 19.06"
495mm x 210mm x 484mm
Special Features Supports 280mm radiator in top
Acoustic padding
Price MSRP $89; $99 at NewEgg

Interestingly, Corsair doesn't include any kind of fan control, opting instead to include a pair of low noise 140mm fans. You'll see later that they do manage to keep noise levels down, but at the risk of spoiling the results, the overarching trend with computer cases continues to be "Silence, Performance, Price: Pick Any Two."

I've said this before: when I'm feeling tired and need to work but don't want to exert myself too much, I review a Corsair case. The Carbide 330R continues Corsair's greatest tradition and achievement: cases that are fantastically easy to build in. If you read my review of the Carbide 300R from some time ago, a lot of this is going to be pretty familiar to you.

As I mentioned, the motherboard tray comes with a stud in the center for aligning the board, and the standoffs are all extruded out of the tray itself. That all makes installing the motherboard an incredibly simple affair. Getting things wired up early on proved to be fairly easy, too. This is nothing new.

There are toolless clamps for the 5.25" drive bays, and the quartet of 3.5"/2.5" drive sleds snap in around 3.5" drives; 2.5" drives must be manually screwed into the bottoms of the sleds. I appreciate that the 2.5" drives are aligned on the sleds in such a way that it's very easy to line up cabling between 2.5" and 3.5" drives. I don't mean to be dismissive here, but there isn't too much to report. My experience with the clamps on the 5.25" drive bays is that they're mostly sound, but could stand to be a bit more secure.

The power supply and expansion cards are all easy enough to line up, and cabling is really only complicated by the amount of hardware you plan to stuff into the Carbide 330R. I could be mistaken, but it seemed like the hole in the frame for the AUX 12V line was widened ever so slightly since the initial review of the 300R. I didn't have as much trouble routing that cable as I did the last time, but I've also reviewed another twenty or thirty cases since then.

It's hard not to sound dismissive of the Carbide 330R's assembly, but the reality is that this is pretty par for the course for Corsair. Since we're dealing with a variation on an existing chassis, there isn't anything new where assembly is concerned; this is extant hardware being adapted to serve a slightly different market and purpose. The result is that the assembly inherits all the strengths and weaknesses of its predecessor, and assembly is happily one of the things Corsair continues to get very, very right.

For testing full ATX cases, we use the following standardized testbed in stock and overclocked configurations to get a feel for how well the case handles heat and noise.

ATX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K
(95W TDP, tested at stock speed and overclocked to 4.3GHz @ 1.38V)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD4H
Graphics Card ASUS GeForce GTX 560 Ti DCII TOP
(tested at stock speed and overclocked to 1GHz/overvolted to 1.13V)

2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 in SLI
(full fat testing only)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD

Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive

3x HGST DeskStar 3TB 7200-RPM HDD
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Plus 1000W 80 Plus Silver

Each case is tested in a stock configuration and an overclocked configuration that generates substantially more heat (and thus may produce more noise). The system is powered on and left idle for fifteen minutes, the thermal and acoustic results recorded, and then stressed by running seven threads in Prime95 (in-place large FFTs) on the CPU and OC Scanner (maximum load) on the GPU. At the end of fiteen minutes, thermal and acoustic results are recorded. This is done for the stock settings and for the overclock, and if the enclosure has a fan controller, these tests are repeated for each setting. Ambient temperature is also measured after the fifteen idle minutes but before the stress test and used to calculate the final reported results.

For the "full fat" testbed, the GTX 560 Ti is swapped out for a pair of GTX 580s, and three hard disks are added to fill out the case.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our testbed.

While I'm curious to see how the Corsair Carbide 330R stacks up against alternatives like the Nanoxia Deep Silence cases and the Fractal Design Define R4, it's also worth paying attention to how it compares to the existing 300R. The 330R includes roughly the same cooling system, although it remains to be seen if the fans are identical. I suspect Corsair opted for quieter fans, but we'll see.

Ambient temperature during testing hovered between 23C and 25C.

CPU Load Temperatures (Stock)

GPU Load Temperatures (Stock)

SSD Load Temperatures (Stock)

It's not unexpected that the 300R would outperform the quieter, more closed-off 330R; the CPU thermals are the only results where the 330R beats the 300R, and that's within the margin of error. The 330R does manage to post better thermals than Fractal Design's Define R4, though.

Idle Noise Levels (Stock)

Load Noise Levels (Stock)

Interestingly, while the 330R is quieter at idle, the 300R is actually quieter under load. If you look at the temperature of the GTX 560 Ti, you'll see why: the 560 Ti runs much cooler in the 300R. Since graphics card fans tend to be among the biggest contributors to system noise, the hotter-running 560 Ti in the 330R is louder and overwhelms the acoustic material.

CPU Load Temperatures (Overclocked)

GPU Load Temperatures (Overclocked)

SSD Load Temperatures (Overclocked)

The trends largely continue with the overclocked bed. The 330R is able to consistently beat the Fractal Design Define R4 and mostly competes with the Nanoxia Deep Silence cases.

Idle Noise Levels (Overclocked)

Load Noise Levels (Overclocked)

The 330R continues to beat the Fractal Design soundly, but Nanoxia's cases are much quieter while offering similar performance. Meanwhile, the 300R is essentially overwhelmed and the 330R is able to produce better acoustics under stress.

Our full fat testbed is going to seem a little unfair to a case that only has a 140mm intake and a 120mm exhaust, but it must be tested nonetheless.

CPU Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

Top GPU Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

Bottom GPU Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

SSD Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

Highest HDD Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

All things considered, the Carbide 330R is able to put in an acceptable showing. The hard drives and bottom GPU are cooking due to the lack of active airflow, though. This is definitely too ambitious a build for the 330R.

Idle Noise Levels (Full Fat)

Load Noise Levels (Full Fat)

The dampening materials do a good job of keeping noise down at both idle and load, but heat does remain an issue for the 330R.

The viability of the Corsair Carbide 330R as a silent enclosure is really going to depend on what your needs are and what's available. More and more as I test, I find that cases engineered for quiet running are at a very clear disadvantage with our standardized testbed, but that's also part of the fundamental issue that bears repeating here: a dampened enclosure will make a quiet build silent, but will make a normal build loud.

In the 330R's favor, its primary competition in the marketplace consists of the Fractal Design Define R4, which it generally beats handily. That's really the target; I love the Nanoxia Deep Silence cases and would easily recommend one over the 330R, but Nanoxia doesn't have Corsair's American market presence and seems to be having trouble keeping vendors stocked. Meanwhile, the AZZA Silentium and BitFenix Ghost are both more or less dead on arrival. If you can get the 330R for the $89 Corsair asks for it on their website (out of stock as of the time of this review), then you'll have the start of a good silent system.

Working against the 330R is the fact that it's not a hail mary, and it's pretty clear it can be beaten. Corsair is making good use of the existing 300R chassis and offering a compelling enough sister product, but the competition is hungry. Nanoxia's chief competitive issue is availability, but that's not something to rely on. Meanwhile, Fractal Design could very easily iterate the Define into an R5 that runs roughshod over the 330R.

I'm not over the moon for the Corsair Carbide 330R, but I don't really have to be. This is an iterative product that has a specific role and essentially succeeds at playing that role. The chief issue is that the 330R still doesn't fix the gap in Corsair's product line that the 550D was supposed to solve. The 550D is generally superior to the 330R where noise is concerned, but thermals are a bit of a toss-up, and ultimately Corsair still doesn't have a superior answer to the competition. Fractal Design's Define XL R2 beats on the 550D until candy comes out, and is cheaper to boot. This is a contested space and Corsair needs to bring their A game; the Carbide 330R gets the job done and for a good price, but it's a solid B when we needed something more.

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