Puget dissects vertical vs. horizontal chassis cooling

By on August 10, 2011, 3:47 PM

We've seen an influx of desktop computer cases that claim to offer superior cooling by rotating the system's internals and embracing the natural occurrence of convection. Silverstone's Raven series immediately comes to mind as we've reviewed two of them this year. Although we can personally attest to the Raven's incredible cooling capacity, how much of it is attributed to the vertical orientation? That's precisely what Puget Systems has attempted to answer.

The company examined the thermal dissipation of two popular chassis: the Antec P183 V3 with a conventional horizontal arrangement and the Silverstone FT02B-W with its newfangled vertical voodoo. To be clear, Puget didn't pit the enclosures against one another, but they physically rotated each case to record temperature differences between horizontal and vertical orientations. Both were outfitted with top-end hardware and a couple different cooling solutions.

The conclusion? Flipping your hardware by 90 degrees offers no discernable thermal advantage. Two of the four tests resulted in a tie, one gave a minor edge to the vertical orientation and another favored the horizontal configuration by a few degrees. Puget found that convection plays a minimal role (if any) in desktop cooling because even the weakest fans impose far more force on a case's hot air than its natural buoyancy. There's a full equation here.

Again, that's not to say Silverstone's cases aren't damn good at cooling hardware. Quite the contrary. While convection can likely be dismissed as a marketing gimmick, Puget noted that the Silverstone's peculiar layout has an advantage in the sense that it adds minimal resistance between the intake and exhaust fans. The airflow doesn't have to cut through as many components (namely a stack of 3.5-inch drives) and the overall travel distance is reduced.

Additionally, there's simply more room for fans in the bottom of a chassis than the front. Vertical cases such as the FT02B-W can accommodate two or three intake fans measuring 180mm or larger, versus one or two 120mm fans or smaller. Before you purchase a Silverstone enclosure, Puget highlighted some potential disadvantages for vertical cases: they're dust magnets, and they're more prone to compatibility issues than their horizontal counterparts.

"Some components may not fit properly because most manufactures design for traditional oriented cases. For example, a long 5.25" device may not fit in the Silverstone FT02B-W as it may come into contact with a PCI card that is installed in one of the lower PCI slots," the company explained. As a footnote, we should mention that we're on the brink of publishing a review of Silverstone's latest addition to the Fortress chassis series, the FT03.




User Comments: 15

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TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Interesting. Taken just at face value, you'd think the vertical cases would have a reasonable advantage in cooling. Appears not. ...

(shrugs) I've always loaded up my cases with a crap-load of high-end quiet fans and bought the biggest case I could find to keep the components cool. Seems to work out quite well.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

yeah I've never owned a small case. I think the smallest I've had is my tj-07

Guest said:

The most important takeaway from that review is that you can buy top of the line air cooling components and cripple them with a garbage case like the P183. In other words, as long as you have great case airflow, it doesn't really matter if you have it positioned in a vertical or a horizontal position. However, it's FAR more critical to have a good/well ventilated case!

PinothyJ said:

Guest said:

The most important takeaway from that review is that you can buy top of the line air cooling components and cripple them with a garbage case like the P183. In other words, as long as you have great case airflow, it doesn't really matter if you have it positioned in a vertical or a horizontal position. However, it's FAR more critical to have a good/well ventilated case!

Holy cow bells! A Guest actually posted something constructive and worthwhile!

Well I'll be damned...

fpsgamerJR62 said:

I tend to focus more on the width of a particular case rather than its height. With a wider case, it's easier to move components around as well as mount extra case fans. I think I have about 7 fans currently running inside my Thermaltake case at the moment which is a big help since I live in a tropical climate.

Guest said:

Err.. Talk about unimpeded air flow, whats going to get directly in the way of the fans drawing air from underneath?

Oh yea the floor!

At least you won't need to vacuum clean the floors though, lol.

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

pinothyj said:

Guest said:

The most important takeaway from that review is that you can buy top of the line air cooling components and cripple them with a garbage case like the P183. In other words, as long as you have great case airflow, it doesn't really matter if you have it positioned in a vertical or a horizontal position. However, it's FAR more critical to have a good/well ventilated case!

Holy cow bells! A Guest actually posted something constructive and worthwhile!

Well I'll be damned...

And then....

Guest said:

Err.. Talk about unimpeded air flow, whats going to get directly in the way of the fans drawing air from underneath?

Oh yea the floor!

At least you won't need to vacuum clean the floors though, lol.

lol, spoke too soon.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Reminds me of the argument that you should buy your gasoline in the morning (in the summer) before the day heats up, causing the gas to expand, which would result in you getting less gas per gallon. Turns out they calibrate gas pumps at the same temp each time and raising the temp of a tank of liquid that's underground would take far more heat than a hot day.

I still like Silverstone's case, if for no other reason than I wouldn't have to lay under my desk to get to the I/O panel.

Guest said:

Why so Trillionsin, do you think restricting air on one side of a fan has no impact on the flow the other side?

:)

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Unless you're going fanless, there is no reason to flip the case.

Guest said:

open case is the best case. :)

Guest said:

Never mind the airflow, I know my old graphics card would have liked to be vertical. The cooler on it was just so massive I was scared something would bend.

Guest said:

I have used the RV03 and RV02 and must confess that although I like the idea in principle, certain heatpipe coolers DO NOT like vertical orientation. My 560Ti's are a prime example, both overheated in the RV03 shutting down the computer after 10 minutes of Bad Company 2 (96C)...

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

I had a similar problem with an upside-down chassis. (180 degrees)

Blew a GTX280 with furmark upside-down.

Guest said:

I'd like to see more detailed comparisons. This is really conclusive, I just think it'd be interesting to see data for no fans, low fans, high fans on a case in horizontal (normal tower setup), vertical (ft02 and raven style setup), and flat (old school desktop style setup) for a case.

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