Nanoxia Deep Silence DS4
We first looked at the original Nanoxia Deep Silence DS1 case back in January of this year. Almost a full year later and Nanoxia have expanded their range to include four more cases, culminating in the massive DS6 (why no DS3 we wonder?). Having most recently reviewed the hernia inducing DS6 it's now the turn of the diminutive DS4 to get the old OC3D treatment.
Standing just 380mm tall with a depth of 480mm and a width of just 200mm you won't be getting any cookies for guessing that the DS4 is designed to take the M-ATX and Mini-ITX boards that are becoming ever more popular. It's slight physical presence and sleek uninterrupted lines lend it perfectly not just to the more mature desk top, but also to the dorm room or bedsit, and being a "silent" case, having as it does sheets of sound and vibration absorbing material inside, should your bedroom also double as your work and gaming room the minimal hum emitted by the DS4 won't be giving you (or anyone else) sleepless nights.
Inside the case we're pleased to see Nanoxia have blessed the DS4 with a decent sized CPU cut out as well as three grommeted cable management holes. Granted the management holes are a little on the slim side and the rubber grommets aren't the best quality in the world, being a little stiff and not quite fitting properly, but they do the job.
As well as four PCI slots at the rear there's plenty of storage room inside with Nanoxia opting for the modular bay system. Six bays in total are divided up into a set of three and two, both of which are removable, the remaining single bay remains fixed to the base of the case. Removing the bays ups the max GPU length from 265mm up to 395mm. In real terms this means that if you want to accommodate any of the current crop of mid to high end GPUs at least the upper rack of bays is going to have to come out. Removing all the drive bays also enables the fitting of a 120mm rad based AIO in the front of the case, utilising the bracket located behind the front fan mount. Doing so of course will again serve to reduce the max GPU length available so it's a bit swings and roundabouts and you’ll have to decide which is more important to you. All is no lost though as it's still perfectly feasible to get a slim 120mm rad based AIO into the rear fan mount position, or if AIOs aren't your thing, then with 160mm of space on offer inside the case you should be able to fit a decent sized traditional tower cooler. Now it's usually round about this point that we mention the options for 240mm rad based cooling options, but sadly with the slight stature comes the loss of any ability to house a 240mm rad. This may well be a bit of an oversight as we'll see when we come to look at the opposition.
From a quality perspective the DS4 is a bit of a mixed bag. On the surface things are good, the paint is well applied and even, the shut lines are good and there are plenty of well-designed and fitted bolt on features such as the tool-less front fan and filter mounting system. However there are also areas where the DS4 lets itself down, the metal used for the motherboard tray feels thin and tinny, the cable grommets are stiff and ill fitting, and the guy who applies the glue that secures the front fascia PCB fittings and door closure magnets appears to be seeing how well he can do his job with a blindfold on. These might just be small niggles, but to us they matter and more importantly they impact to lower the overall feel of quality.
The real problem for the DS4 though is not its variable quality, it's the competition. The DS4 is priced at £65 which brings it into the same price bracket as quite a few damn decent small mid towers. Not least of which is the Fractal Design ARC mini R2, which offers much of what DS2 is able to but with the ability to take a slim 240 AIO or even a custom 360mm rad based system in the roof. Not only that but where the DS2 can only house a 120mm rad in the front the ARC Mini R2 can take a 240mm rad. You might argue that the DS4 is more compact, and certainly it is by a few millimetres but the ARC Mini R2's 25mm of additional headroom is barely noticeable and makes all the difference. We also need to give thought to the Cooler Master Silencio 352 which comes in £5 cheaper than the DS2. The 352 is actually 2mm shorter than the DS2 and yet can still take a 240mm rad in the front. The choice Cooler Master made to enable this was the option of only one 5.25" bay, however with optical drives on the decline we feel this is a reasonable trade off. We'd also have to say that with all the cards on the table both of these cases have better build quality and feel about them than the DS4.
Like all of the cases we've mentioned above the DS4 is still big for a compact case. If you can live with just another 10cm or so in height then you're into the true mid tower territory with all the full size ATX motherboard support goodness that they offer. Don't believe us, take a look at the Corsair Carbide 330R. Our feelings are if you're going to go M-ATX or Mini-ITX then why not go the whole hog and opt for a small cube case such as the BitFenix Phenom or Prodigy in either their standard or "M" formats. They might cost a few quid more and have slightly less storage but they are small and perfectly formed.
The Nanoxia DS4 isn't a bad case, far from it, it actually has a lot to offer, it's just that there are other options out there that we think might just be more worthy of your consideration. The DS4 doesn't need to be cheaper or better, it needs to be both.