The Deep Silence 4

Nanoxia Deep Silence 4 Case Review

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Fresh from looking at Nanoxia’s largest case, we will now look at their smallest. The Deep Silence 4 is a four-slot compact case that is designed to fit a mATX motherboard. Nanoxia clearly took pains to retain their sound deadening design and other valuable features; they worked to keep noise in while sweated to keep the cost out. Did they succeed? Let’s see.

The Deep Silence 4

The Deep Silence family now has five members – the DS1, the DS2, the DS4, the DS5 and the DS6. The DS4, smack in the middle of this family picture, is clearly the smallest. When you struggle to move a monster like the DS6, moving to a pipsqueak like the Deep Silence 4 is quite a relief.

In order: DS1, DS2, DS4, DS5, DS6

In order: DS1, DS2, DS4, DS5, DS6

 

Features of the Deep Silence 4

(From the Nanoxia product page):

Two 5.25 inch bays for external drives can be found behind the foam insulated front door in the upper part of the case front, as well as a 2-channel fan control and the reset button. The door is equipped with a magnet to ensure a fast closing and easy opening.

On the front of the top cover you can find the I/O-panel. It offers 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, as well as Mic and Audio connectors. This ensures that appropriate devices can be connected quickly and easily.

You can mount Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards in the Deep Silence 4 case. Thanks to the modular HDD-cages you can install VGA-cards with a maximum length of up to 395 mm. When using all the HDD-cages, you can use cards with a length of 365 mm. …

The Deep Silence 4 is fully soundproofed. Features like the decoupled mounting of PSU and hard disk drives, as well as anti-vibration case feet are part of the sound insulation concept as well. …

A Nanoxia VentCover is used to close the optional opening for a 120/140 mm fan under the top cover. …

Two 120 mm Deep Silence fans are included in the Deep Silence 4. One ventilator is mounted behind the case front, the second at the rear of the tower. At 14.2 dB(A), the Nanoxia Deep Silence 120 mm fans generate an air flow of about 60.1 CFM and a static air pressure of 1.27 mm H²O.

A 120 or 140 mm fan can be mounted under the top cover. Front and bottom of the case are equipped with easy to clean dust filters. …

Two modular HDD cages for up to 5 hard disk drives are included in the Deep Silence 4. Another, permanently fixed cage for a single HDD brings the HDD-capacity of the case to six. For a maximum variability, the modular HDD-cages can easily be removed.

Due to this versatility, the installation of longer graphics cards up to a maximum length of 395 mm is possible. By removing unneeded HDD cages, the serial front fans can also more effectively cool the VGA cards.

Mounting holes for the installation of an additional 2,5 inch drive bay can be found on the left of the modular HDD-cages, perfect to add an SSD.

CPU-coolers with a maximum installation height of up to 160 mm can be fitted in the Deep Silence 4. …

Specifications

Model Deep Silence 4
EAN Dark Black 4260285296406
EAN Anthracite 4260285296451
EAN White 4260285296475
Case Type Mini Tower
Form Factor Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
5.25 inch drive bay external 2 x
3.5 inch drive bay external 1 x (optional)
2.5/3.5 inch drive bay internal 6 x 2.5/3.5″ + 1 x 2.5″
Case Fan (Front) 1 x 120 mm (1,300 rpm)
Case Fan (Rear) 1 x 120 mm (1,300 rpm)
Case Fan (Top) optional 1 x 120/140 mm
Height (Approx.) 380 mm (15 inches)
Width (Approx.) 200 mm (7-7/8 inches)
Depth (Approx.) 480 mm (18.9 inches)
Material steel, plastic
Weight (Approx.) 7.8 kg
Maximum installation height of CPU coolers 160 mm
Maximum VGA Card Length 265 (395) mm

A Tour of the Deep Silence 4

The DS4 shipped in the retail box, unlike its siblings, which arrived in cardboard shipping cartons. Here you can see the DS4 box next to the DS6 box. It seems bigger than it should be given the relative size of the cases. This case is well-packed then.

Boxes, DS4 & DS6

Boxes, DS4 & DS6

Packing, DS4

Packing, DS4

An oblique view of the Deep Silence 4 with the front door open shows both your access to the two 5.25” slots and the length of case – it is significantly longer than it is tall. Note the foam backing on the door. This is Nanoxia’s standard way to bring silence to this part of the case.

A close-up view of the of the 5.25” bays show two mesh slot covers with easy-open latches. They are easy to open, but behind that padded door, the mesh doesn’t add too much to the cooling ability of the case. The reset button is evident – placing it behind the door is safer than putting it next to the IO cluster. Finally, the two fan control sliders. Since they are behind the door, “set ‘em and forget ‘em” is clearly the philosophy here.

DS4 door open

DS4, Open Door

5.25" slots, close up

5.25″ Slots, Close Up

These next pics nicely contrast the height vs length of the DS4. The back view of this shorty case shows it will fit at most a mATX sized motherboard, as evident by just four rear slot covers under the 120m exhaust fan. At the top there are two grommet protected holes for an exterior radiator. At the bottom is space for the PSU. Peering through the PSU hole we can just make out the bottom grill for a face-down PSU.

The top view shows us a grill backed by a plate. This is very similar to what we saw in the Deep Silence 2. There are screw positions for a 140 mm or a 120 mm fan if we remove that plate. At the front of the top cover is the IO cluster. Stay tuned for a close-up.

DS4 Rear View

DS4 Rear View

DS4 Top View

DS4 Top View

And here is a close-up of the IO cluster as you would see it looking down from the front. We have our standard headphone and microphone jacks, an on/off button (complete with surrounding LED), two USB 3.0 ports and a USB 2.0 port. Putting the IO cluster on top maintains the clean look of all of the Deep Silence cases. However, I question the decision to build a short case and put the IO on top. Later, we will look at a case under a shelf. That is certainly one of the situations where you might want a short case like the DS4. Yet the top-mounted IO ports take away from the DS4’s ability to slide under a shelf. Regardless, it is nice to see that Nanoxia included a USB 2.0 port so you can pop your wireless mouse or keyboard transponder there without wasting a fast USB 3.0 port.

IO Cluster

IO Cluster

The right side of the case is bland as well, but you can see daylight through the front cover. This is where the air enters to feed the front intake fan.

Daylight Through the Front

Daylight Through the Front

The next view shows us the bland bottom of the Deep Silence 4. That PSU filter slides out the back. As you can see, it has about the perfect mesh for a filter, letting air through while stopping the dust.

DS4 Bottom View

DS4 Bottom View

DS4 PSU Filter

DS4 PSU Filter

So how do we get to the front fans? Grab the bottom of the front panel and pull. Here I think we see Nanoxia trying to pull cost out of making this case, to keep the price down. All the other members of the Deep Silence family have padded doors that front the bottom intake fans. Here, you must pull the front cover off. Behind the front cover we see Nanoxia’s standard acoustic padding. But still we must remove the cover to get at the fan. The filter slides off. Again, the mesh strikes the right balance between airflow and dust blockage.

Why is the lack of a door a problem? The second picture shows a computer under a shelf with a week’s accumulation of dust. Admittedly this computer is in a dusty environment, but it is cleanable with a weekly vacuuming. If this were a DS4, the front cover would have to be pulled off – a disincentive to cleaning the filters weekly. The other minor point about this picture is that it shows how a computer under a shelf needs front-mounted IO ports. Top-mounted IO ports would not work here.

Front Cover Open

Front Cover Open

A Computer Under a Shelf

A Week of Dust Buildup

Getting inside the Deep Silence 4

Let us remove the side panel and look at it. It would seem plain, but for the acoustic mat. A close-up view of a corner shows the open clips that allow the panel to slide into the front of the case, as well as the dogs that cinch the panel down on top and bottom. By the way, both left and right panels are identical.. You can quickly lose track of which is which.

DS4 Side Panel

DS4 Side Panel

DS4 Panel Corner

DS4 Panel Corner

Now that we have the side panels off, let’s look inside. The Deep Silence 4 offers us a box of accessories, a world-class user’s manual, four expansion slot covers held in by thumbscrews, a 120 mm exhaust fan, a large CPU window through the motherboard tray, two 5.25” slots with tool-free latches, and six 3.5” slots distributed in three HD cages. The case wiring is bundled up in the center.

On the opposite side, we see the two 5.25” slots have tool-free latches on this side as well. There are three pass-through grommets, seven tie points and the large CPU window. The edges of the CPU window and the non grommeted pass-through are hemmed – no sharp edges. However, it is very clear from this view that the bottom 3.5” HD slot gets no airflow from the front fan. What you don’t see is the EPS12V pass-through. That is not a good sign (more on that later). The HD cages have tabs that when lifted allow the cages to be pushed out.

Motherboard DS4 Cavity

DS4 Motherboard Cavity

DS4 Back of Motherboard Tray

DS4 Back of Motherboard Tray

Nanoxia supplies us with a 3.5” mount for the 5.25” slot. This allows for outward-facing card readers and other such 3.5” devices. They also have no less than six outputs from their two fan sliders – three from each. It is hard to see how you would get six fans in the Deep Silence 4, but they have provided support for that many.

3.5" Mount for 5.25" Slot

3.5″ Mount for 5.25″ Slot

Slider Output Sockets

Fan Slider Output Cables

The DS4 has all your standard case wiring – including the AC’97, which no one uses any more. I suppose someone with a really old system might use this, but the successor HD Audio was released in 2004. It is probably long past time to get rid of this and save half a penny.

The accessories start with a 5.25” adapter. Along with the internal 5.25-to-3.5” adapter we saw earlier, this replacement slot cover allows you to use outward-facing 3.5” devices. Now, if someone would only make a USB 3.0 card reader, we would all be in heaven. We further have motherboard standoffs, various screws, a split 4×4 EPS12V extension (if you only have a 4×4 EPS socket, this allows you to skip a cable), solid plugs for the rear radiator hose holes, and skinny zip-ties. Nanoxia provides four PSU screws. Since they can be used interchangeably with thumbscrews, you can fasten your PSU with thumbscrews and use the PSU screws for expansion cards (more about this later). Look carefully at the EPS12V extension cable. The female end does not have a side gripper. This is important class, and will be on the test.

DS4 Case Wiring

DS4 Case Wiring

DS4 Accessories

DS4 Accessories

The PSU rests on four pads. Yes, it’s cheap, but the pads do the job. But note the padded gasket where the PSU is attached to the frame. This is a nice touch for a small case.

PSU Padding

PSU Padding

The HD cages pull out. Squeeze the tabs and the HD trays pull out of the cages. Attaching a 3.5” or 2.5” HD to the trays is standard Nanoxia – with special screws. 3.5” drives are cushioned to reduce vibration. As if this weren’t enough, you can install a seventh drive – a SSD mounted on the floor of the case adjacent to the HD cages.

DS4 HD Cages

DS4 HD Cages

HD Trays

HD Trays

Returning to the front of the case, we open hinged fan holder. As promised, there are the clips that hold the fan in place. But, behind the fan are the sides of the removable HD cages, and are they restrictive! Now, I have seen worse, but these sides are mostly steel with small holes for limited airflow. Of course, having the sides more solid makes for heavier HD cages, which is another reason not to do this. But, we will see what the thermal testing shows.

Next we look at the motherboard tray. The CPU window looks huge, which is a good thing. However, only a part of the pass-through for the EPS12V cable is visible, which is worrisome.

Side of HD Cages

Side of HD Cages

DS4 Motherboard Tray

DS4 Motherboard Tray

Measuring internal space with Nanoxia cases is a little more difficult than other cases because the acoustic layer subtracts from the space that is available. So, we must measure from the inside. Our extension ruler tells us that there is less that 18 mm between the inside of the right panel and the edge of the motherboard tray. The digital caliper actually reads 17.3 mm. Subtract the thickness of the steel and we’re probably looking at 16 mm space.

Measuring the distance from the motherboard try to the left panel, we have about 177 mm. Given that a motherboard is mounted with standoffs and has its own thickness, we will see if this is enough for a full tower heatsink. I intend to test this case with a Noctua NH-D14, so we will see if it fits.

Measuring Clearance Behind MB Tray

Clearance Behind MB Tray

Clearance in MB Cavity

Clearance in MB Cavity

Building a System in the Deep Silence 4

We are now ready to build. First of all, we will consult our World Class user’s manual (PDF). On page 7, Nanoxia says, “Attach the included EPS extension cable on to your motherboard – do not connect it to the power supply yet.” Now, the PSU I use has a long EPS cable. I thought I would run it through the EPS pass-through. It would not go through. The side clip on the plug got in the way. So I took out the EPS extension cable and attached it to my motherboard, as instructed. Then I struggled to get the other end through the hole in the motherboard tray. To make a long story short, it does go through – but only if you put the female end on the outward edge and slide it down. The only reason the female plug goes through is that it is unencumbered by a side clip. So, now the long cable is extra-long due to the extension, which must be used to get through the too-narrow pass-through. Lucky, I have Velcro strips. One of those bound up the excess length.

On the motherboard side, you can see that I used only the three bay HD cage to get the best cooling from the intake fan. I left the top open to let some air in. On the back side, you can see not only the bundled EPS cable, but the CPU window, which has generous margins all around the heatsink backplate. One thing you cannot see is the cable clearance. I found I had to lay the case on its left side to get the right panel on. At least nothing felt forced. Just a snug fit.

Enhanced Airflow (X)

Enhanced Airflow

Behind the MB -- Built

Behind the MB – Built

Nanoxia wants you to put the two bay HD cage on the bottom. In part, they want you to do this because it gives you room to put a long graphics card in the case. If you leave the cage in place, there is room for a 10.5″ (27 cm) graphics card. Even a three bay cage will interfere with the #1 card slot, so they want the bottom slot to be a two bay cage. Note the small passive graphics card in this build. Can you see a corner of the waxed paper that protects it from the metal fins of the NH-D14? This build was put together to try to maximize cooling.

I discovered this when I was unable to put the two bay cage above the three bay cage I had already mounted. It turned out I had missed a slot so the back of the cage was riding up. I was unable to make it fit properly. The second picture shows you why – a hard stop in the slot. When Nanoxia means for you to put the three bay cage over the two bay cage, they make it impossible to do it the other way around.

Space for a Graphics Card

Space for a Graphics Card

Why the slot won't slide

The Culprit

So I changed things around a little bit. In particular, the graphics card is in slot #4. That is where it sits when this motherboard tests other cases. As you can see, the graphics card’s heatsink sits right on the PSU. With no airflow, it might not cool so well,  hence the other build with the graphics card in slot #1. In this build, we have both HD cages. Note that both the top position in the top cage and the bottom position in the bottom cage receive no airflow from the fan. These would be good places to put SSD’s.

The second picture is from Nanoxia. It shows their idea for water cooling in the DS4.

All HD Cages Installed (H)

All HD Cages Installed

AIO Cooling -- Pic by Nanoxia

AIO Cooling — Pic by Nanoxia

In case you were wondering, the NH-D14 had no problem fitting inside the DS4. As a rule of thumb, if a case uses a 120 mm exhaust fan, it can fit a full tower cooler. So, I would expect an NH-D14 to fit in this case, but not a Silver Arrow, for example. This cooler fit in the case with and without its fans.

Clearance for Heatsink

Clearance for Heatsink

Testing Setup

Of course we will test this case’s thermals. We always do, right?

Test Setup
CPU Intel i7 860  HT enabled, LLC enabled; ran at 2.93 GHz
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2; supplied 1.1125 Volts to the CPU
RAM 4 x 2 GB G.Skill low profile DDR3-1600 at 10x (1333 MHz)
Graphics Card PowerColor AX3450 Radeon HD 3450 (fanless)
Solid State Drive Kingston V+ 100 64 GB
Hard Drive Toshiba DT01ACA100 1TB 7200RPM SATA3
Power Supply SeaSonic X650 (fan mostly doesn’t run) 650 Watts
Heatsink NH-D14, fanless and with NF-P14 + NF-F12
Stress Software OCCT 3.10; logs temperature readings
SSD Software CPUID HWMonitor; keeps track of max temperature readings
Measuring Equipment
Tenma 72-942 Sound Pressure Level Meter
Digital TEMPer USB Thermometer with dedicated logging software

Core temperatures were obtained by running the system for an hour. The temps rose for some 20 minutes until they leveled off. CPU and GPU core temps were recorded and averaged for the last half-hour of each test run. The sound was measured at an actual distance of 1 meter in front of the case. This is the industry standard for noise, so we will use it.

With the acoustic dampening Nanoxia put in this case, we need to see how well it worked. Accordingly, stock fans were installed on the NH-D14. Noise was assessed with the SPL meter at 10 cm from the side panel, and again with the side panel taken off. This is the same method that was used on the DS6.

Results of Testing

First let us dispose of the front fan low settings. With the case in the improved airflow setup (the first of the built-system pictures above) the temps were tested when both fans were set to Low (L in the chart below). The idea was that the air in the case would flow through the heatsink and keep the CPU cores cool enough to do useful work. In a basement where the ambient SPL was 30.5 dBA on the night of testing, the SPL was 31 dBA one meter in front of the case. That is next to silent, but the CPU hit the 87° C limit at 9.5 minutes and shut down. It became too hot to do useful work.

In some cases, having the back fan at full speed improves the cooling, so while the front fan was set to Low, the rear fan set to High (LH in the chart below). Having the back fan going full only brought the case up to 31.5 dBA, so it was still essentially silent. But as you can see, the airflow in the case was still not enough to passively cool the CPU enough to do useful work. It still hit the 87° C limit at 9.5 minutes.

DS4+DS6-GPU+CPU

We are not done with the chart above. With both fans set to High, we will now compare the first setup (X in the chart above) with the second setup (H in the chart above) – the one with both HD cages in place. Not surprisingly, they both make equal amounts of noise – 32.5 dBA in a 30.5 dBA environment. Very quiet, and the Deep Silence 4 created enough airflow to passively cool the CPU. Not surprisingly, with one of the HD cages gone the CPU was cooler.

The next chart shows SSD and HD temps. To put the results in perspective, the ambient was around 20° C.

DS4+DS6-SSD+HD

With the NH-D14 running its stock fans, the sound pressure level was 42.5 dBA 10 cm from the left panel. With the panel off the SPL was 51 dBA. Same spot, 8.5 dBA of noise attenuation. So the side panel does a fine job of stifling noise.

Putting a Fan in the Top of the DS4

Like the Deep Silence 2 and the Deep Silence 5, the Deep Silence 4 has acoustically padded inserts for its grills.

Acoustic Padding at the Top

Acoustic Padding at the Top

The insert is a plastic plate backed with foam.

Acoustic Insert

Acoustic Insert

Here is a 140 mm fan removed from a DS5 and put in the top corner of the DS4. Note that there are actually two positions for the fan, one about a cm ahead of the other.

140 mm Top Fan

140 mm Top Fan

It fits, but it has to go in next to last, after the EPS extension cable has been laboriously threaded into its pass-through, but before the extension is attached to the PSU. You must fasten a screw, then use the body of the fan to push the EPS cable to the side. Only then can you lock down the fan and go to the back of the motherboard tray to plug the EPS extension into the EPS cable coming from the PSU.

Not Much Room

Not Much Room

Conclusions

There are cases where you run into annoyances when building a system inside, but once you are done you have no further worries. The Deep Silence 4 is like that. For a number of reasons I have had to leave this system in the DS4. It is really an easy case to like, once the annoyances from actually installing the system fade. What you have is a compact case that’s not too heavy and easy to move around. It looks good.

Nanoxia built a quiet case as usual, but they may have worked a little too hard to wring extraneous cost out of the Deep Silence 4. 200 mm is the absolute thinnest case you should ever look at, and this case shows why. With the padding on the panels, the cables behind the motherboard tray were a snug fit. The DS4 would have benefited from another few mm width.

If you get this case, you may want to pull out the removable HD cages and leave them out. They are unduly restrictive anyway and block airflow. Instead, you can fasten your SSD to the floor of the case and put your file drive in the fixed hard drive cage. This will leave the front of the case open to airflow from the intake fan.

It was a little disappointing to find Nanoxia is so wedded to their pristine look that they passed up the opportunity to make this a great case for sitting under a shelf. Because the IO ports are on top, you must leave several inches of headroom.

But this is a great case to sit on a desk. It is so quiet and unassuming that it does not intimidate the way some towers do. And it looks good.

DS4 Pros

  • Very quiet
  • Clean lines – looks good
  • Small enough to be lightweight
  • Big enough to fit all your components – within reason
  • There is room for a full tower heatsink
  • World Class User’s Manual, and It’s online

DS4 Cons

  • A little cramped behind the motherboard tray
  • Getting the EPS extension through the motherboard tray is harder than it should be

The Deep Silence 4 is available in Black, Anthracite, and White for $79.99 at Amazon.com and for $73.16 at Tigerdirect.

Click the stamp for an explanation of what it means.

– Ed Hume (ehume)

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