Argon NEO

Argon Forty Neo Raspberry Pi 4 Case

The Argon NEO is the latest Raspberry Pi 4 case offering from Argon Forty (or is it Argon40?). Its aluminium construction looks and feels beautiful as well as being functional, as the case acts as a heatsink for the Raspberry Pi 4.

Using the enclosure as a heatsink is not new, the FLIRC cases have led the way for several generations of Raspberry Pi. So how does the new entrant to the market stack up?

FLIRC vs Argon NEO

Price & Availability

On price, the FLIRC is $15.95 and the NEO is $15, so pretty much the same. The FLIRC Raspberry Pi 4 case is available from UK suppliers (£16), whereas the Argon NEO needs to be sourced directly from Argon40.com or SeeedStudio.com (I used Seeed as this was part of a larger order). So what makes the NEO special and worth seeking it out?

Update: Added 10 December 2019

Now available for sale in the UK from The Pi Hut for £15.

Design

On Design, both have plastic bases with small rubber feet. The FLIRC uses a soft touch matt black plastic, the NEO base is glossy semi-translucent with two rows of ventilation slots. It also has “Argon1 :NEO” etched into the base, which I find a little confusing, as “Argon ONE” is another product from Argon Forty and nothing else refers to the product as Argon1 and even the “:” before the NEO isn’t consistently used, so I’m not sure if it’s part of the product name.

The top section of the FLIRC case is aluminium topped with some more soft-touch plastic. The side features the FLIRC name and logo cut into the side of the brushed silver case. The NEO leaves all its metal on show, and though the designs/images shown on the website show “:NEO” cut into the metal, the version I received has the logo printed on, maybe cost-saving, or perhaps production issues of this new product.

Argon Forty NEO magnetic top cover

The star feature of this Argon NEO case is that a section of the top of the case can be removed to provide access to the Raspberry Pi connectors. It does this without impacting its passive cooling ability.

Argon Forty NEO port slots

There is a second layer of metal that interfaces with the Raspberry Pi components with cutouts for the Pi Camera Port and Display Port along with all the GPIO pins and the PoE HAT 4 pins. The metal cover has all the connectors and GPIO pins labelled, which is a bonus. The top section is held in place with a couple of strong magnets, so can be easily removed and refitted without any tools.

NEO with Pimoroni Automation HAT installed

The FLIRC case has a slot at the bottom of the case so that the GPIO pins could be accessed if you use a ribbon cable. The NEO solution allows all the connectors to be accessed and even mount HATs. There is also a slot to mount a Pi Camera if you wish.

Performance

One of the primary reasons for considering either the FLIRC or the NEO has to be its passive cooling performance. In my previous case testing the FLIRC case did well, coming second to an aluminium armour radiator case. The FLIRC and NEO certainly look and feel nicer than the radiator case, but the FLIRC feel short by ~10°C a significant shortfall. We’ll need to investigate how will the Argon NEO stack up.

Argon NEO – Stress Test Results

Performing the 1hr stress test against 1, 2, 3 and then all 4 CPU cores of the Raspberry Pi 4, the NEO case is able to maintain the temperature below thermal throttling limits.

Note this testing was performed without applying the late October 2019 update which improved efficiency, in so that the results could be compared to historical case testing results.

To determine if removing the top cover would help due to removing the air cavity beneath, or make things worse as the amount of metal to absorb and radiate the heat has been reduced, a test under full load was performed.

Removing the cover reducing the peak temperature from 74°C to 71°C.

NEO vs FLIRC vs Armour Radiator

The Armour Radiator style case continues to hold top spot on thermals. The NEO with the cover in place hits a peak temperature of 74°C. the FLIRC is 1°C lower, probably within the error range of the test. With the top section/cover of the NEO removed the temperature hits a peak of 71°C, a couple of degrees lower than the FLIRC.

WiFi Testing

(Added 6 December 2019)

I’ve previously performed testing of WiFi signal strength during some of my previous round of cases testing. As the Argon NEO is another metal enclosure we need to see how it compares.

Note, to avoid variance in results due to environmental factors. All the test results presented here increase new re-tests of existing setups. All performed within a 1hr time window, with the cases placed in the same location, testing one at a time.

The test methodology is as previously described.

Measurements of WiFi signal strength use dBm (0 to -100), closer to zero is better. A simple description of WiFi signal strength can be found here.

Results: 2.4GHz

The first graph shows the averages from the tests for each configuration. The second graph shows all the measurements, to highlight where some configurations had patchy signals, not getting reading from an AP in all 5 test runs.

Results: 5GHz

The first graph shows the averages from the tests for each configuration. The second graph shows all the measurements, to highlight where some configurations had patchy signals, not getting reading from an AP in all 5 test runs.

WiFi Summary

The NEO and the FLIRC perform very similarly, with the NEO able to edge slightly ahead when the top case section is removed.

When compared to a non-enclosed Pi, both cases show a significant impact on the overall signal strength measured and with some of my access points not detected at all, or very intermittently.

These new cases don’t change the previous summary from testing other metal cases. Whilst signal strength is impacted, it doesn’t mean this case won’t work for you. But if you plan to use a Pi in any of these metal cases in an area with a known weak WiFi signal, then these cases will only hamper it further and may result in an inability to connect to the wireless network.

Conclusions

The NEO is a beautifully designed case that provides access to the Raspberry Pi ports and connectors that the FLIRC case lacked. The Armour HAT could work with HATs with some header extensions and care to avoid shorting the HAT on the metal beneath. The NEO almost takes the best of both the FLIRC and Armour Radiator and makes them better.

Minor criticisms of the Argon NEO

  • Determine a clear name and brand/model. Is this “Argon NEO”, “Argon :NEO”, “Argon1 :NEO” or just “:NEO” or “NEO”?
  • The rubber feet supplied with the Argon NEO are a little too large for the recesses marked on the base plastic part of the case. This could just be a supply issue
  • Figure out a way to engrave/emboss/mill the :NEO brand on to the side of the case, as per the online designs/pictures. Printing it doesn’t look as good.

This might be my new favourite case. I hope we’ll see this being stocked locally soon.

Parts Tested

Note, Amazon UK links are affiliate links, meaning I may make a small amount of money in return from you following the link and buying the product.

5 thoughts on “Argon NEO

  • 6th December 2019 at 8:46 am
    Permalink

    The Argon NEO indeed looks like a potential competitor for the FLIRC, my favourite case so far. The deciding factor will be WiFi performance. Has this been tested yet or is a comparison in the works?

    Reply
    • 7th December 2019 at 9:45 pm
      Permalink

      I’ll try and run my WiFi signal strength test in the next few days and update this post with the result.

      Reply
    • 8th December 2019 at 5:03 pm
      Permalink

      Burt, I’ve updated the post with the WiFi test results. The NEO performs about the same, if not a fraction better. But like previous testing, all the metal enclosures have a negative impact on WiFi signal strength.

      Reply
  • 11th December 2019 at 7:45 am
    Permalink

    I’m curious if you’ve tried this Argon40 Neo case with the PoE HAT, and how it performed.

    Reply

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