With each Raspberry Pi generation, this style of aluminium armour/radiator case appears on the market and is sold under a range of names/brands. The release of the Raspberry Pi 5 is no exception, I ordered 4 variations from AliExpress to see how they performed.
The cases chosen were purchased on 13 December 2023, and prices reflect what I paid at that time:
- Fully enclosed passive case (£3.45)
- Partially enclosed passive case (£6.88)
- Partially enclosed single 30mm fan (£8.32)
- Partially enclosed dual 25mm fan (£10.75)
The partially enclosed variations of the case all share the same base, with the changes only being in the top section to accommodate between zero and two fans. They are made from an unknown material but likely an aluminium alloy, they weigh in at:
- Fully enclosed: 190g
- Partially enclosed passive case: 95g
- Partially enclosed single 30mm fan: 90g, 85g without fan
- Partially enclosed dual 25mm fan: 95g, 85g without fans
This compares to Argon NEO 5 at 110g (100g without fan) and the FLIRC for Raspberry Pi 5 at 65g.
The actively cooled variants, have the fan pushing air down from the top on the metal cooling plate, with just a 1mm gap to move the air sideways through the cooling fins. Removing the fans after my testing found signs of a small amount of oil from the bearings deposited onto the aluminium case. This might hint that the bearings could become noisy over time if they lack lubrication.
The fully enclosed case has 5 protrusions to heatsink down from SoC, PMIC, SRAM Memory, RP1 I/O Controller and Ethernet Transceiver. The partially enclosed cases have 4 protrusions, opting not to heatsink from the Ethernet Transceiver. This approach is more than the FLIRC case which heatsinks the SoC and the Argon NEO 5 case which heatsinks both the SoC and the PMIC.
1 The side has a slot which would enable a ribbon cable or similar to connect GPIO header.
2 The rear of the case has a slot which would allow for thin cables to be routed out of the case
3 The RTC connector could potentially be used with the battery housed externally, or possibly internally, but there is limited space due to the number of heatsinking protrusions.
Partially enclosed variants
1 GPIO and POE headers may require header extensions to ensure connected devices don’t interfere with the enclosure.
Testing is performed using my fork of stressberry to run all core stress tests and plot the graphs. The Pi is configured with:
- OS: Raspberry Pi OS (64-bit) release 2023-12-05 with Desktop. All updates applied as of 21 Dec 2023
- Kernel: Linux rpi5 6.1.0-rpi7-rpi-2712 #1 SMP PREEMPT Debian 1:6.1.63-1+rpt1 (2023-11-24) aarch64 GNU/Linux
- Bootloader: Wed 6 Dec 18:29:25 UTC 2023 (1701887365)
- OS configuration:
- WiFi Enabled
- SSH Enabled
- System is configured to boot to the console
- Samba, Stress, Stressberry
- Python: 3.11.2
- Stressberry test configuration:
- Wait for the temperature to reach a steady state, measured through no changes of SoC temperature for 1 minute.
- 5 minutes idle at the start and end of the test.
- Stress on all 4 cores concurrently for 30 minutes
None of the AliExpress Alloy cases tested trigger thermal throttling of the Raspberry Pi 5 under load. The AliExpress passively cooled enclosures outperform the FLIRC case, this is due to the finned design which increases the surface area and the additional thermal mass provided by the heavier cases. The partially enclosed vs fully enclosed perform similarly.
The actively cooled versions provide a measurable benefit, something I was a little surprised with given the limited airflow paths. The partially enclosed actively cooled cases outperform the fully enclosed Argon Neo 5 case by a small margin.
The fan speed on AliExpress Alloy cases peak during the test at ~3400rpm for the 1xFan version, ~3600rpm for the 2xFan version and ~5800rpm for the Neo 5. The reported fan speed of the 2xFan version is noisy, I suspect this is due to the two fans being connected in parallel such that both fans will be reporting their fan speed.
AliExpress Raspberry Pi 5 metal enclosures perform well thermally and the fans aren’t noisy, though over time this may change if the bearings dry out. The fully enclosed version provides more cable exits than the FLIRC case, however, if you need more regular access to the ports, then the Argon NEO 5, or the partially enclosed version would be more suitable.
The partially enclosed versions provide access to the various headers and connectors, though with the connectors recessed in holes in the metal top shell accessing the connectors will be a bit fiddly.
These cases are great for the price, though they lack the premium finish of some other cases on the market.
- Raspberry Pi 5 (Amazon) (Pimoroni) (ThePiHut)
- Raspberry Pi 5 PSU (Amazon) (Pimoroni) (ThePiHut)
- RPi 5 Aluminium Alloy fully enclosed case (AliExpress)
- RPi 5 Aluminium Alloy Passive Cooling case (AliExpress)
- RPi 5 Aluminium Alloy Single Fan case (AliExpress)
- RPi 5 Aluminium Alloy Dual Fan case (AliExpress)
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