Enermax StarryFort SF30 Mid-Tower Case Review
During CES 2019 Enermax released the StarryFort SF30, a mid-tower case with their newest SquA RGB fans. The SF30 is a steel and plastic case that utilizes a tempered glass side and front panel. Included are four ARGB fans as well as an ARGB strip designed to illuminate the inside of the chassis. If that’s not enough, they are all addressable for maximum PC dazzle. Let’s take a look at Enermax’s newest model.
Enermax StarryFort SF30
Features and Specifications
The StarryFort is one of Enermax’s newly released cases and they are not missing out on the RGB craze that has taken a strong foothold in the community. RGB lighting seems to be the main focal point for the SF30 but there are other key features as well.
The main RGB illumination feature is four pre-installed 120 mm SquA RGB fans. These produce an incredible visual experience with square-shaped lighting and “gleam through holes” at the back of the fan frame. In addition to brilliant RGB lighting, SquA RGB’s Air Inlet design and Vortex frame help to generate more airflow and stronger air pressure for superior cooling efficiency. The RGB effects aren’t simply relegated to just the fans either. There is also an embedded LED strip on the left side to add to the colorful rainbow of lighting.
Control of this addressable lighting is handled by one of two ways, either through the motherboard software or connecting the reset button to the included RGB integration hub. While connected to a compatible motherboard, the lighting effects are dependent on the specific motherboards provided software. When connected via the reset button, the user can select one of 13 preset effects. They are rainbow, snake, peach and green scroll, colors breathe, colors scroll, bilateral colors scroll, red, green, blue, white, yellow, azure, and peach.
The StarryFort SF30 is also a flexible platform for water or air cooling. As far as water cooling, it can house up to a 360 mm or 280 mm radiator up front. The top can utilize up to a 240 mm or 280 mm radiator and at the rear, a 120 mm radiator. For air cooling, they list room for a 157 mm air cooler, but this review confirms the potential for up to 160 mm of clearance.
This case features a removable HDD caddy to allow space for thick radiators at the front or to have additional space for longer power supplies and cable routing. It is possible to mount either two 3.5″ HDD’s or two 2.5″ SSD’s in the hard drive caddy if you opt to leave it installed. There is also a tool-less SSD tray and two additional locations for mounting two more 2.5″ drives for a total of five possible hard drives.
Finally, the front interface panel for the StarryFort is fairly typical with two USB3.0 ports, a pair of HD audio input and output jacks, a power button, and a reset/lighting button.
Here’s a complete list of the specifications per the Enermax website.
|Enermax StarryFort SF30 Specifications|
|Product Name||StarryFort SF30|
|Materials||Outlook: Plastic, 0.6mm SPCC Steel
Body: 0.6mm SPCC Steel
Side panel: 4mm Tempered Glass, 0.6mm SPCC Steel
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||415mm x 205mm x 480mm / 16.3 x 8.0 x 18.9 inch|
|Motherboard Support||ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX|
|I/O Port||USB 3.0 x 2
Audio In & Out (supports HD Audio)
|Liquid Cooling Support||
|Power Supply Support||Bottom mount, Standard ATX|
|Price||Newegg $99.99 / Amazon $99.99|
The StarryFort SF30 comes shipped in a brown cardboard box with thick corner reinforcements. The printing is in black and clearly displays the product, model number, an isometric view of the case, and its specifications and features. Opening the box, the chassis is safely sandwiched between two Styrofoam end caps and a thin Styrofoam strip at the top. As is typical with case packaging, there is a large plastic bag preventing any moisture from damaging the contents should this package end up left on the front porch. This particular package was damaged during shipping, but the contents were protected adequately due to the above-mentioned foam packing.
|Packaging ISO 1||Packaging ISO 2|
|Packaging Open||Packaging Foam and Plastic Bag|
There’s not a lot of accessories with this chassis but what is included are the essentials to get most builds completed. The contents are limited to a black and white installation pamphlet, two Velcro tabs (one red, one black), six rubber grommets for mounting HDD’s, and a small bag of miscellaneous screws.
Exterior At A Glance
Enermax coated the StarryFort in black paint with a satin finish. The finish on the plastic front panel matches the paint well enough and the tempered glass panels are devoid of tint, though there is a black painted bezel surrounding the edges. The new SquA RGB fans are easily visible as is the internal compartment.
Looking at the front of the case head-on, the three 120 mm SquA RGB fans are prominently displayed. At the very bottom of the glass is an Enermax logo in gray. Surrounding the glass panel on all four sides are the slotted intakes. The front panel ever so slightly tilts to the back giving a little more breathing room at the bottom than up top.
Rotating to the left we can see the large, full view, tempered glass side panel. This panel is secured using four thumb screws at the corners. At the bottom of the glass is a thin ARGB strip for that little extra bling factor everyone seems to be striving for. At the very bottom of the left side is a PSU cover plate.
|Left View||Left Side Thumb Screw|
Spinning 180° we get to the right side panel. There isn’t much to see here, just a flat featureless steel panel.
The back of this case looks fairly typical. From this view, we can see the rear exhaust fan with slots for a 120 mm fan, seven expansion slots, lower PSU opening, and two more thumb screws for removing the right side panel. Inside the power supply opening is where the plastic accessories bag is stored during shipping.
Laying the case down on its right side we look at the top and notice a magnetic dust filter. This filter is of the small steel mesh variety, not the fine fabric style. If the top was used as intake then this filter would not be as good as the fine mesh, but better than nothing at all. Since most users will be exhausting out of the top, this filter would likely be used just to keep the dust out when the system is not in use. Also, located at the top, is the front interface panel. We’ll cover the front interface in more detail later in the close-up section.
Finally, at the bottom are the four plastic feet, PSU intake filter (also small steel mesh), and adjustable mounting screws for the HDD caddy.
Moving along to the tear down phase of this review, let’s take a closer look at the details of the StarryFort SF30.
The front panel is removed in the same fashion as most cases. Simply grasp the bottom of the front panel and give it a gentle tug. Just like that the front panel is off and full access is granted to the front three fans. Since the front interface panel is not connected to the front panel there are no attached cables that need disconnecting. A closer look at the front panel shows the air intake slots that surrounds the tempered glass. This case does not feature an intake filter sadly. Frequent cleanings will be a necessity.
|Front Chassis||Front Panel|
|Front Panel Inside||Front Bottom|
Remove the left panel by means of the four thumb screws. Notice there are rubber grommets at these mounting points to isolate any vibrations. Also, there is a protective film on both sides of the tempered glass.
With the left panel out of the way, we can see the very large cut-out for mounting the CPU heatsink. There are locations to install motherboard standoffs for mini-ITX, micro-ATX, and ATX sized boards with the standoffs pre-installed at the ATX locations. Cable pass-through holes are positioned above and to the left of the motherboard. These are placed appropriately but do lack rubber grommets.
Towards the front of the motherboard tray are eight holes that are for mounting a pair of SSD drives to the right side of the case. Looking inside and to the rear is the fourth fan. Naturally, this is set to exhaust. To the top is the location for mounting top fans or water cooling radiators. You’ll notice there are slots for mounting 120 mm or 140 mm fans. At the far right of the top is the front interface circuit board. Looking toward the front we see the back sides of the intake fans. There is a large cut-out in the lower shelf for thick, 360 mm long radiators. There are also a few holes in this lower shelf for routing cables to the bottom of the motherboard or for routing power cables to the graphics cards.
Below the main compartment, at the very bottom of the left side is the PSU cover panel. There are five screws used to secure this panel. There is no need to remove this panel as everything located in the basement of this case is easily accessible from the right side. It’s also impossible to re-mount this panel after a power supply has been installed. Consider this a free lesson learned the hard way by yours truly.
While there’s not much to see on the right side with the side panel on, that is not the case once removed. With the two screws removed from the back, the right panel simply slides to the rear on four tabs. This technique is simple, effective, and likely will help keep the cost down.
With the right panel off we can once again see the large CPU cooler cut-out as well as the cable routing holes surrounding it. To the left are the two SSD mounting locations. At the middle of the motherboard tray is where we find the included ARGB controller. This controller can be powered either with the reset button (as shown) or with a separate cable connected directly to a compatible motherboard. There are a total of six ports for attaching the for included fans, ARGB strip, and one additional item. The controller is powered by a SATA power connector.
Continuing to the right of the controller are two locations to mount another SSD. Note, there is only one SSD tray but two locations to mount it. The SSD tray is secured with a single thumb screw and four tabs that slide into matching slots. Finally, at the bottom of the right side, we get to the basement where there is an HDD caddy that is capable of housing two 3.5″ or 2.5″ drives. At the very rear of the case is where the power supply nestles quietly on four rubber pads.
|Right Side Mounting||Right Side|
|SquaRGB Controller||SSD Tray|
Looking to the back of the StarryFort, starting at the top is one of the right side panel thumb screws. Adjacent is a knock-out hole. The purpose of this hole is uncertain. Below this is the standard motherboard cut-out. The rear exhaust is designed for a 120 mm fan and has a vertical adjustment of 25 mm. Further down the rear are the seven expansion slots. Enermax opted to only include a single expansion slot cover plate. The remaining six slots use knock-out plates. This technique is fairly common on budget cases but rarely seen at the enthusiast level. This is a bit of a disappointment. Next to the expansion slots is an expansion card retaining plate. This is not a tool-less retaining plate as some cases have. It simply lacks the strength to hold cards without the use of the expansion card mounting screws. This does however, improve the appearance. At the very bottom of the rear is the PSU opening. The fastening points are designed to allow the power supply to intake cool air from below the case and through the mesh filter and exhaust through the rear.
While reassembling the right panel it was discovered the thumb screws that secure the right and left side panels are of different threads, though they look nearly identical. Minor details like this can lead to frustrating delays during the build process, not to mention the potential to strip one of the screws.
|Rear Top||Rear Bottom|
|Right Panel Thumb Screw||Thumb Screw Differences|
There are two main features located at the top of the case, the top vents and the front interface panel. Looking at the top filter first we can easily see it is secured using magnets along its edges. This makes cleaning simple and easy. A closer look clarifies that is made of a small steel mesh, an inexpensive way of filtering out a fair amount of dust.
Moving along to the front interface panel we see it uses four dust plugs to further assist in keeping this case free of unwanted filth. There are nine input/output features here including the first one which is a blank, unused button. Adjacent to the blank are two USB 3.0 ports followed by the headphone and microphone jacks. Then two tiny lights, one Power and the other an HDD indicator. The small square button is the reset button that can also be used to toggle the ARGB controller functions. Last, is the large square power button.
|Top Side||Dust Filter|
Flipping the case to its right side again we look closer at the bottom. The four trapezoidal feet feature small rubber pads to prevent unwanted movement. These rubber pads also aid in absorbing minor vibrations from within the case. As mentioned earlier the PSU intake utilizes a small mesh filter for preventing some dust from entering the power supply. Towards the front of the case is where the HDD caddy gets mounted. A quick measurement shows there is 40 mm of adjustment which will be handy if mounting a radiator at the front of the chassis.
There are four fans included with this case. These are Enermax’s newest SquA RGB fans and they look fantastic (pardon the pun). These nine-bladed fans feature foam rubber at the corner mounting tabs to help eliminate vibration. They utilize a four pin Molex connector for power and are rated at 1000+/-200 RPM at 12v and draw 0.13 amps. For the RGB effect, a three pin RGB connector is used. Enermax made these with an oblong frosted front ring at the front and small “gleam” holes along the outside of the frame at the back. This produces numerous gorgeous rainbow effects and 16.8 million different colors. The SquA RGB fans are compatible with Asus Aura Sync, Asrock Polychrome Sync, MSI Mystic Light Sync, and Gigabyte RGB Fusion 2.0.
|Fan Front||Fan Back|
For storing data, the StarryFort utilizes a dual HDD caddy, an SDD tray, and two SSD mounts located behind the motherboard tray. The HDD caddy uses two tool-less trays for mounting 3.5″ drives or 2.5″ drives, though the later will require screws which are included in the accessories bag. The SSD tray can house any 2.5″ drive and has screw holes on both the back and sides of the tray. Care should be taken when mounting the drives into this case as mounting drives with the connectors at the wrong end will make it impossible to connect the drives. This holds true for the HDD Caddy as well as the front lower SSD location.
|HDD Caddy||SSD Tray|
|Storage Caddies||Incorrect Mounting of Lower Front SSD|
Correct Mounting of Lower Front SSD
We’ve analyzed each section of this case, now let’s install some components and look at its build potential. We will highlight this case’s ability to house custom water cooling components as well as large air coolers.
Water Cooled Build
Looking to maximize the water cooling potential a 60 mm x 360 mm radiator was installed in the front. It was necessary to remove the HDD caddy to accomplish this. There is zero vertical adjustment due to the length of this sample radiator. A different brand radiator could yield a maximum of up to 15 mm of adjustment. Up top, a 35 mm x 240 mm radiator was added along with a pair of 25 mm thick fans. There was 35 mm of adjustment here. Caution should be taken if this layout is desired as there is very little space between the radiators for fittings. Short 90° fittings would be ideal. In this configuration, there is very little room for a pump and reservoir. Creativity will be a necessity. A horizontal reservoir/pump combo would be ideal here. If the HDD caddy is desired with a front radiator then do not exceed 38 mm for the front radiator thickness.
Big Water Potential
Air Cooled Build
For the air-cooled build, a very popular, 158 mm tall heatsink was selected. Even though the case specifications call out a maximum of 157 mm for the CPU cooler, this taller one fit with ease. Measuring from the top of the CPU to the inside of the side panel measures 160 mm. It’s safe to say that a 160 mm cooler should also fit. There was no issue installing the 280 mm long GPU as there are no HDD cages in the main compartment of this chassis and measurements confirmed enough room for a 375 mm long GPU.
|Air Cooled Build||Air Cooled Build ISO|
Behind the motherboard tray, there is very little room for routing cables. With a minimum thickness of 15 mm and a maximum of 20 mm, it is possible to route cables behind the motherboard tray, but it is far from easy, or enjoyable.
|15mm Minimum Clearance||20mm Maximum Clearance|
Typical Cable Management
Thermal Testing Procedure
Using the air-cooled build it’s time to test whether the StarryFort is getting adequate airflow. With the case in its stock orientation and all the fans at full speed, an overclock will be applied to the CPU and GPU. The overclock will be as high as possible, maintaining stability and staying within the thermal limits of the components. To apply a load to the CPU and GPU, Aida64 Extreme and 3D Mark Firestrike will be run simultaneously for 30 minutes. This will provide the maximum internal case temperature which will be noted. Then, we’ll remove the side panel and continue for another 30 minutes measuring any temperature drop. If the case is getting proper airflow then the case temperatures will remain within a few degrees of the original result. If there is a significant temperature drop with the side panel removed then the case is starving for fresh, cool air.
|Enermax StarryFort SF30 Testing System|
|Case||Enermax StarryFort SF30|
|Motherboard||ASRock 990FX Extreme9|
|CPU Cooler||Cooler Master 212X|
|Memory||G.Skill 2133Mhz CL9 Sniper 8 GB|
|GPU||Sapphire Vapor-X HD7950|
|Storage||OCZ Agility3 250GB SSD|
|Power Supply||EVGA 850GQ 850W|
|Operating System||Windows 10 64 bit|
|Stock fans||4x Enermax UCSQUARGB12-SA 120mm @1200RPM|
|Temperature Probe||Amprobe TMD-52|
Thermal Testing Results
Looking at the results, the SF30 had only a 1°C temperature drop with the side panel off. This is an outstanding result signifying there is ample room between the front fans and the glass panel anf the new SquA RGB fans are capable of pushing a good amount of air. The amount of intake venting and lack of a front filter, as well as impressive venting at the top are also likely major contributing factors.
The StarryFort SF30 has many good features. The 0.6 mm steel chassis and panels offer a solid structure without making the weight excessive. The addressable RGB lighting is as nice as it comes and there is plenty of it. Many enthusiast level cases come with a pair of fans, but the SF30 includes four fans. The SquA RGB fans are for more than just looking at too, they push quite a bit of air and are relatively quiet. There are plenty of options for adding a custom water loop into this case. The thermal capacity is excellent and there is a good amount of storage space for nearly any build.
As with most reviews, there are always a few things that manufacturers could have done a bit better. In this review these are fairly minor and, while they may pose an inconvenience or cause frustration during the build process, they are in no way severe enough to warrant a poor grading. Probably the biggest con for the StarryFort is the lack of a front filter. While this could be a deal breaker for some, there are plenty of consumers out there where this would not be a concern. Other features like the blank button on the front interface panel could have been utilized as a dedicated RGB controller. Instead, the user must now choose between lighting control or a reset button. Another would be the two different thumb screws for the left and right side panels. Finally, if the pair of front SSD mounting was raised another 25 mm there would be enough room to mount the SSD’s in any orientation. These minor inconveniences cause a little frustration, but should not distract from the overall quality of this product.
All in all, this case is built with quality, offers a variety of build options, produces some of the nicest lighting any case has to offer and excels in its thermal capacity.
The final aspect to be reviewed is the retail price. The Enermax StarryFort SF30 retails for $99.99 at Newegg and Amazon. The retail price for this case is reasonable and if you consider that a three-pack of the SquA RGB fans sell for $79.99 at Amazon, then this is really one heck of a bargain.