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The Thermaltake New Soprano is a sleek-looking, low-noise case. The thick front door blocks noise coming from the front fan, which has intakes on the sides. The top and sides of the case do not have fan mounts, but that serves to keep the noise down. Both side panels have sound-dampening foam, with the right side's material being thinner to accommodate cables behind the motherboard. The bottom of the case has a 12cm fan mount if you need more airflow, or if you want to put a water cooler on the CPU or GPU.
The motherboard standoffs are pre-installed, so installation went much quicker. The case has a few rubber grommets to the left of the board, and we had no trouble threading cables behind the board's tray. Our choice of drive installation had the drive connectors facing the rear of the case, so we didn't end up with as clean a look as we would have liked.
Right now, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 is the second-fastest single-GPU card on the market (*Note: This article was written before the recently revealed GeForce GTX 780 Ti), behind Nvidia's GTX Titan. It's identical in size, and very close in gaming performance, with the main difference between the two being that the 780 has two disabled SMX units, for a total of 12, and lacks double-precision compute capability. Though we already knew the card was fast from our benchmarks, we were also eager to test the card's heat output and noise levels in a PC that we built from scratch. Subjective tests showed it to be noticeably quieter than the Titan (and like that card, you can select a target temperature or power target according to preference). The back of the case has a bracket that helps hold down the PCI slot covers, so we had to remove that before installing the card.
The GTX 780 is 10.5 inches long, so space was a little tight with the storage drives right next to it, but it was manageable. A card that’s 11 inches or longer, such as the GTX 690 or HD 7990, would not have fit unless we installed the drives below the card.
An LGA1155 or 1150 system with a single GPU should run fine on 500 watts of power, so our Corsair HX750 was arguably overkill, but we like having some power in reserve for hot days. It's also a modular PSU, which is better for cable management. It should also produce highly regulated power for overclocking stability, and it's backed by a 7-year warranty. It felt like a unit worthy of a $325 CPU and $650 video card.
The Phanteks TC14PE CPU cooler is a good value for a dual-fan, dual-radiator unit, allowing us a 4.4GHz overclock without excessive noise levels. A water-cooler might have been better, but the case's limited fan mounts would have left us with too few options to add fans for improved airflow through the system. Also, with an untested CPU, GPU, SSD, and motherboard, we wanted to avoid the unpredictability of a new cooler. The RAM also didn't have to be anything exotic, since games don't tend to benefit from high memory speeds, so two sticks of low-profile 1,600MHz Corsair Vengeance DDR3 RAM did the trick.
Turning on a new PC for the first time is always a tense moment. With a case as quiet as the New Soprano, we had to double-check that we were actually up and running. Once you get a few feet away, this build is basically silent.
Performance was excellent, too. By default, the Core i7-4770K runs at 3.5GHz and can Turbo Boost one or two of its cores to 3.8GHz when it doesn’t need all four to be running at full speed. We were able to overclock the CPU Turbo Boost on all four cores to 4.4GHz, which is a pretty good result for a CPU not using liquid cooling. The air cooler's dual 12cm fans helped keep the Haswell CPU stable while also delivering a noise level that wasn’t distracting. We tried bumping it to 4.5GHz, but with Prime95 running its gnarliest test, the overclock crossed the 80 degrees C threshold, which is a bit too hot for our tastes, so we settled at 4.4GHz.
Combine that with a GPU core overclock of 150MHz and a GPU memory overclock of 100MHz (effective), and our reference card was benchmarking about 10 percent faster than stock speeds. The GTX 780 put out a lot of heat, but most of it was being blown directly out of the case thanks to the card's blower cooling design. It accomplished this feat despite its fan operating so quietly that it was effectively silent once the case was closed.
The positioning of our storage devices didn't end up being as helpful as we would have liked, since the video card hogged most of the air coming through the intake fan. But the airflow is at least getting to the GTX 780 more quickly, if not the CPU. We had enough airflow to our storage devices, though, as they were both lukewarm, and the SanDisk Extreme II SSD booted quickly and seemed very peppy.
In retrospect, it probably would have been better to go with a more conventional case, or at least one with more fan mounts. For example, if we had two mounts in the top, as with the Fractal Design Define R4 (which is also low-noise), we could have easily put in a 240mm radiator and even set up a custom liquid-cooling loop. Removable drive cages also would have been preferable.
Other than that, the system has a good feel to it. It's rock-solid (after we figured out the right settings for the CPU overclock), runs cool and quiet, and produces blistering performance.
|3DMark Fire Strike||9,448||9,694
|3DMark Fire Strike Extreme||4,774||5,013
|3DMark11 Performance||15,195||12,647 (-16.8%)
|3DMark11 Extreme||5,924||5,096 (-14%)
|Batman: Arkham City (fps)||109||75 (-31.2%)|
The zero-point machine compared here consists of a 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K, 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard. It has a GeForce GTX 690, a Corsair Neutron GTX SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.