Micro-ATX Case Final Thoughts
While many of these points have been mentioned (or will be reiterated in the conclusion), I wanted to make sure I placed some of my observations while using the Urban SD1 together. The following are some of the thoughts I had while working with the Urban SD1.
Observation 1: Lots of thumbscrews to disassemble. Not that big of a deal, but there’s a lot of em! Perhaps a necessary evil (the removable sections are nice!), and at least most don’t require the use of a screwdriver.
Observation 2: NO CABLE MANAGEMENT. None. Not even a little. No windows, so maybe it doesn’t matter – but with a PSU hanging OVER a spinning CPU fan, perhaps some way to route cables to the side while sliding the motherboard tray in would be nice. Some tie down points would do wonders.
Observation 3: Loud (depending on your components…). There really isn’t any noise dampening or redirection, you get ALL of it (especially since cases like this usually sit on top of your desk). The stock fans are quiet at least, but your components probably won’t be. With that comes heat. The Prodigy M handled a custom cooler (XFX) R9 290, maxing it out at 72C under a 100% GPU compute load. The SD1? 80+C. The top panel by the PSU got uncomfortably warm to the touch. Really, there just wasn’t a way to get rid of the heated air. A single exhaust fan would help quite a bit, but there just isn’t much room. The Armor A30 added a fan to the top, this would be one possible solution. I know the R9 290 is a bit unfair for this type of enclosure (even though it WAS within temperature specs), but there are cases of similar size that can keep it cooler (and therefore quieter).
While working in the Urban SD1, I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons between this case and a Fractal Design Node 304. This isn’t a comparison article, and each chassis has its own strengths and weaknesses that vary depending on your own preferences. Sometimes one of the best ways to illustrate some of those strengths or weaknesses is just to place it next to another case. It was fascinating for me to see the wildly different approaches to internal design between the two, and while they end up being pretty close in size they couldn’t be more different.
Obviously the Node 304 is mini-ITX only, but the stock airflow is superior to the Urban SD1. Both enclosures would struggle with a hot card like the R9 290, but the 140mm exhaust fan of the Node 304 helps prevent the heated air from accumulating at least. Of course, the Urban SD1 can accommodate a larger variety of parts because of its micro-ATX compatibility. I’d say taller CPU coolers would be a benefit of opting for the Node 304, but it’s a toss-up depending on your ITX board if it’ll clear the rest of your components – at least both will fit a 120mm AIO liquid cooler without much of an issue.
It’s tough to beat the efficiency of the Node 304, but the expanded part selection afforded by the micro-ATX compatible Urban SD1 is a benefit. Really, seeing the two made me wonder what would have happened if Thermaltake would have taken the opportunity to reinvent the Lanbox Lite as an ITX box…