Summary: Hoping to build a near-silent PC? If so, you may want to purchase a case that's specially designed to combat noise. NZXT's Whisper is one such case, boasting noise isolating foam and whisper quiet fans. See how well it tackled our noisy Radeon X1800 in this review!
The NZXT Whisper is a full-tower ATX case featuring an aluminum frame encased in a 10mm thick layer of noise dampening foam. The exterior of the Whisper is bare in appearance, while the front door sports a grill aesthetic that glows blue from the 120mm LED-powered fan on the bottom. Up top are the peripheral connectors, hidden behind a latch that when exposed, flips the ports up for easy access. There are two USB 2.0 ports, a microphone and headphone jack, and one e-SATA port. The side panels feature a nice matte black finish, while the front door is held in place with a small magnet. The back of the Whisper has exhausts for one 120mm fan and two 80mm fans, as well as water tubing ports.
Inside the Whisper, things start to get a little bit more interesting. On the side panels, you can see the 10mm thick noise dampening foam, with necessary cutouts to allow a tight seal on the frame. Looking at the inside of the Whisper, you see that NZXT has decided to engineer a chamber separator, with up to nine hard drives supported in the lower portion, and the rest of the components going in the upper portion. Hard drives are held in small form factor trays that are easily removable and utilize small grommets on the screw holes to cut down on vibration noises. The lower chamber is where the previously mentioned 120mm fan is located, as well as two 80mm exhaust fans, just above the power supply mount.
In the upper chamber, you have mounting holes for all motherboard form factors, from microATX to Extended ATX. NZXT even put a small decal with a guide that makes it easy to identify the proper mounting holes for the stand-off screws, making it a snap to mount your motherboard. The motherboard tray has two cutouts to allow for some wiring and cables to rout behind the panel, improving airflow. There is also an access hole between the chamber seperater for routing hard drive cables. At the rear of the case is the single 120mm exhaust fan, just above the two water tubing ports. The Whisper supports up to six 5.25” devices in the upper chamber and the bays utilize a simple click-lock mechanism to securely hold them in place.
One thing that we immediately noticed when looking over the Whisper is the lack of an air intake for the upper chamber. With three fans cooling the bottom chamber, not including any that may be in your power supply, we have no doubt that your hard drives would be kept well cooled. But can the Whisper keep your mainboard, graphics card and CPU cool by only utilizing a single 120mm exhaust fan? We’ll find out in the next page, but first how we tested.
AMD Athlon X2 5000+ Black Edition @ 3.05Ghz
Looking at the temperatures above, it becomes very obvious that noise dampening carries with it the cost of efficient cooling, especially where it’s needed the most. Idle temperatures were fine, however once everything was placed under load, we start to see some numbers that are not that attractive. With a decent overclock on our CPU, we saw temperatures in excess of 60 degrees Celsius. This may not be near the shutdown temperature as recommended by AMD, but it is still high enough to raise an eyebrow in concern.
The X1800 also got nice and toasty, as it consistently rested above 80 degrees. These higher than expected temperatures have a tendency to reduce the lifespan of components, causing premature failure. It looks like the lack of a fan pulling cool air over the motherboard and components hit the Whisper where it was weakest.
Quiet: No one can say they heard the Whisper coming, as it is one of the quietest cases we have tested. The dampening foam absorbed a lot of high RPM fan noise, while the solid construction also aided in cutting down on any vibration noises.
Temperature: Unfortunately, the default setup of the Whisper did not perform as well as we would’ve liked, causing our CPU and GPU temperatures to rise. Although the temperatures weren’t so high as to affect system stability, they would make us think twice about running the Whisper without the addition of extra fans, especially in the critical upper chamber.