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FSP CST350 Plus Evaluation | PCMag

Not simply one other conveniently compact PC case, the $89.99 FSP CST350 Plus delivers a high quality look and really feel which will make the standard frustrations of constructing right into a small chassis appear worthwhile. Count on some uncommon user-friendly touches: You get USB Sort-C and twin USB-A ports on the entrance panel, and FSP was considerate sufficient to make the reset button tiny in order that customers can be much less prone to press it by mistake. (Plus, the headphone and mic jacks are separate, in case you’re rocking a traditional twin-cable headset or separate mic.) However the actual attraction of the CST350 Plus is within the flexibility. It could actually take MicroATX or Mini-ITX motherboards, SFX or ATX12V energy provides, liquid cooling, and vertical video-card mounting, in a shifting array of attainable combos. Drawback is, a few of these combos create conflicts; decoding these is vital to getting essentially the most out of this in any other case strong, and well-performing, chassis.

The Design: All In regards to the Flex

Builder views on the CST350 Plus will possible have extra to do with qualitative issues reminiscent of element desire and fitment, and little to do with quantitative issues like efficiency: That is, in spite of everything, a case designed with the potential to mount as much as 9 2.5-inch drives, however marketed as solely holding three. The world might by no means know why.

FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

The front I/O of the FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Molly Flores)

Quite than ask why, let’s begin with the what and the way. The CST350 has three radiator mounts (for as much as 240mm radiators), however a fast look across the again reveals that it additionally is ready to host a vertical-mount graphics card the place one of many radiators might go. After all, like most instances, it doesn’t embrace a riser cable for that graphics card mount, since most builders would in all probability choose to save cash and/or go away the aspect radiator mount free by placing their playing cards instantly into the motherboard’s slot.

The rear panel of the FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Molly Flores)

Opening the aspect, we see that each the aspect and backside panel have twin 120mm fan mounts together with different holes for mounting drives. These two panels account for 4 positions of the case’s drive help, whereas the highest panel accounts for 2 extra.

A side profile of the FSP CST350 Plus with side panel removed

(Credit score: Molly Flores)

Up entrance, we discover two extra drive mounts (now we’re at eight), although these are unique to 2.5-inch drives. The facility provide cage, seen via the big higher opening, can host yet one more drive on its high. (That is 9.)

The front of the FSP CST350 Plus with front panel removed

(Credit score: Molly Flores)

Mud filtration for the highest and aspect panels is achieved with filter sheets which can be trapped at two sides and have magnetic strips on the open edges. For the reason that entrance filter isn’t detachable, we’d in all probability go away it soiled till now we have compressed air or a vacuum cleaner at hand.

The dust filters on the FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

Exterior PCIe slot covers could make insertion and removing a bit harder, however FSP eases this slightly by making the entry gap over its 4 common slots slightly wider. The agency additionally provides fascinating pivoting covers which can be secured with a magnet screwed to the again of the case.

A close up of the back of the FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

Issues start to get difficult once we begin pulling aside the layers: Eradicating the highest fan bracket reveals that the entrance of the case has two completely different energy provide brackets, for SFX and PS2 provides (the latter, aka ATX12V). Mounted to the motherboard tray, the SFX drive cage is the one which holds the odd drive on high. It’s also possible to take away that cage and reinstall it to the again of the entrance panel.

The skeletal frame of the FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

Now keep in mind what we simply stated about turning the SFX mount sideways and attaching it to the entrance panel, since you’ll want to try this in case you’d like to make use of the chassis with a MicroATX board. In its default location, it leaves solely sufficient room for a Mini-ITX motherboard.

The PSU cage of the FSP CST350 Plus with tape measure

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

The humorous half is that ditching the SFX cage fully provides builders sufficient room for a bigger (MicroATX) motherboard and a bigger PS2/ATX12V energy provide…barely. Right here, we’re attempting the case with a big PSU in place…

The skeletal frame of the FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

One drawback: We actually need to use a MicroATX motherboard and a side-mounted radiator, however our radiator will solely match that aspect mount with the case’s SFX cage mounted on the motherboard tray. We’ll strive mounting the radiator to the underside as a substitute.

Constructing Contained in the FSP CST350 Plus

FSP eases our construct by together with a screw tray with the traditional choice of #6-32 energy provide screws, #6-32 pan head radiator screws, vibration-damped #6-32 and M3 shoulder screws for one of many exhausting drive mounts, and M3 screws for the motherboard standoffs. Further standoffs, cable ties, and a PC speaker are additionally bundled.

The included screws, standoffs and ties for the FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

Motherboard cables embrace a lead for the 2 Sort-A ports, a USB 3 Gen 2 header cable for the Sort-C port, the standard HD Audio for the headphone and microphone jacks, and the usual eight-pin button/LED group.

The front panel I/O cables for the FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

Backside-mounting radiators is frowned upon with AIO coolers just because any air bubble that floats as much as the best level would possibly find yourself trapped within the pump, rendering the pump ineffective. After all, that doesn’t at all times occur, and it could be value a strive since our energy provide blocks the opposite two radiator mounts. Let’s give it a go…

The filled FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

Word the overlap of the radiator and its followers over the MicroATX board right here. Sadly, the motherboard’s warmth sink is just a bit too thick to permit our radiator to achieve its mounting holes, and the graphics card slot is…within the mistaken place. We’d strive the PCI Categorical x8 slot above it, if not for the heat-sink difficulty. Time to go Mini-ITX.

The filled FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

The Dagger Professional 850W is an SFX energy provide, and mounting it towards the motherboard tray provides us a pleasant hole between the highest of the ability provide cage and a side-mounted radiator. From right here, we concentrate on sustaining the opening between the side-mounted radiator’s followers and the motherboard/energy provide by shoving cables both beneath, above, or ahead of these elements.

The filled FSP CST350 Plus, other side

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

We’re conserving one other open house beneath the graphics card, noting that the underside panel is totally ventilated and has tall toes below all 4 corners for improved airflow. Our greatest remorse will not be having a shorter set of modular cables for the ability provide, to scale back the cabling mass.

The completed FSP CST350 Plus

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

Above is the case all buttoned up and constructed. By way of the side-panel perforation, we are able to nonetheless see the brand on the graphics card however not a lot else from this angle. The construct’s RGB water pump cowl is seen from instantly in entrance of the system, and its reflection on fan blades is seen from above.

Testing the FSP CST350 Plus: Surprisingly Quiet and Cool

So, earlier than we leap into the testing fray, this is a abstract of the elements we utilized in our check construct…

The 2 key rivals listed below are the Lian Li A4-H2O (a reasonably good match for this mannequin) and the SilverStone Alta G1M. The excellent news is that even with all followers turned to exhaust, the CST350 Plus had the bottom CPU temperature of lately examined Mini-ITX or MicroATX instances…

A graph measuring CPU Temps on the FSP CST350 Plus

Voltage-regulator temperatures look nice too, although we certainly should credit score FSP’s determination to mount its 120mm fan above the voltage regulator of our motherboard for this final result.

A graph measuring Voltage Regulator Temps on the FSP CST350 Plus

The CST350 Plus does a good job with noise, and we imagine that its outcomes are due primarily to the graphics card pointing downward, with noise leaking out of the entrance panel. Conversely, the Lian Li A4-H2O factors the cardboard to the appropriate, and the SilverStone Alta G1M factors its followers towards the entrance.

A graph measuring Sound Pressure levels in the FSP CST350 Plus

Verdict: One thing of a Measurement Dilemma

One different factor which will have an effect on the alternatives of compact system builders is that the FSP CST350 Plus isn’t all that compact, at the least not when in comparison with the Lian Li A4-H2O. We might perceive that if solely it had been a totally useful MicroATX model of the A4-H2O (proven at left, beneath, alongside the FSP case), but it surely’s not: Putting in a MicroATX motherboard might effectively stop a 240mm radiator from being put in in any of the case’s three mounts, as a result of conflicts with both motherboard elements or the ability provide.

The FSP CST350 Plus next to the Lian Li A4-H2O

(Credit score: Thomas Soderstrom)

Conversely, those that had been planning to go along with a comparatively giant (as much as 155mm tall) heatsink-style CPU cooler and conventional graphics card mounting will discover loads of house for a MicroATX board and a plethora of case-mounted drives. This case is all about realizing precisely what you will put inside it now…and what you would possibly need to add later. Selections might have penalties: In case you go along with this FSP case, you will need to make the appropriate ones now, to keep away from element rebuying down the street.

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