Argon FortyCase Reviews

Argon NEO 5 Raspberry Pi 5 Case

The NEO 5 is the latest compact half-aluminium case from Argon Forty, sometimes this case is advertised as the NEO 5 BRED, which appears to stand for Black Red. The Neo case for the Raspberry Pi 4 was one of my favourite passive cooling cases for the Pi, this new iteration now includes an integrated active cooling fan intended to handle the higher thermal loads of the Raspberry Pi 5.

Update 4 Feb 2024: I’ve now received an “Argon NEO 5 BLCK” from the team at Argon Forty, which is the same as the “BRED” version, with the red plastic base related with a black gloss plastic base.

Disclaimer: This Argon Neo 5 case was supplied for review by Argon Forty, they do not have any editorial influence.

Design

The design is a clear evolution from the original NEO case, adapting to the changes introduced by the Pi 5. The top cover is secured by two screws rather than the magnets used in the original NEO, I prefer the magnets. Removing the top cover provides access to all the peripheral connections of the Pi 5 and exposes the active cooling solution, more on that below. The rear of the case features a semi-transparent red button which makes the status LED visible and actuates the on/off button on the Pi 5. The base of the case is red plastic with soft rubber feet. The Micro SD card connection can be protected with a small cover secured by a screw. The base also features a couple of wall-mounting screw holes.

The matt finish on the metal parts attracts dust and fingerprints more than the smooth and semi-gloss finish of the previous generation case, but that’s far from a deal breaker.

Cooling

Moving away from the passive cooling of the original NEO case, the Argon NEO 5 Raspberry Pi 5 case combines using the metal chassis as a heatsink with active cooling using a 30mm PWM blower fan. Air is pulled into the case through openings on the two sides and slots on the base, the air is pulled through the blower fan and exhausted up and over top of the USB-A ports through some finned metal paths to maximise the surface area for cooling. The cable for the fan is run neatly under the Pi 5 to maintain a clean appearance.

The Argon NEO 5 Raspberry Pi 5 case uses two thermal pads to interface with the Pi 5, one on the SoC (think CPU) and the other on the PMIC just behind the USB-C power connection.

Peripheral Accessibility

With the top cover removed all the peripheral connectors are accessible on the Argon NEO 5. Each of the connections and GPIO pins are very clearly marked on the metal plate, making it ideal for people experimenting with the GPIO header.

There aren’t any openings in the case to allow cables to run out of the case with the top cover in place. Raspberry Pi HATs may be able to be used, but will need GPIO extension headers to raise the HAT above the cooling fan. An extension for the 4-pin PoE connection will also be required once the new version is released, though I’m unsure if the upward slope of the cooling fins will interfere with a HAT trying to utilise those pins, only time will tell.

40pin GPIO4pin POEFanCam/Disp 0Cam/Disp 1UARTRTCPCIe
✔️1✔️1✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️

1 GPIO and POE headers may require header extensions to ensure connected devices don’t interfere with the fan and cooling fins.

Thermal Testing

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

Results

Testing was performed in various configurations, including a bare Raspberry Pi 5 sitting on my desk (legend: RPI5).

The bare Raspberry Pi 5 can be seen to thermally throttle regularly in this test. When enclosed in the Argon NEO 5 case without the fan connected some throttling is seen towards the end of the test, with the cover being removed helping to minimise throttling. With the fan connected temperatures are kept below 70°C with the cover on and below 60°C with the cover removed.

Comparing the Argon NEO 5 Raspberry Pi 5 case with the official Raspberry Pi case (full review), with their fans connected neither configuration leads to thermal throttling. Both cases with their top covers in place run hotter than without, with both running their fans faster. With the covers removed the fan speed varies to regulate the temperature. The additional thermal mass of the NEO 5 case allows the temperatures to ramp more slowly, so would likely run overall cooler than the official Raspberry Pi 5 case for less stressful workloads.

Conclusion

Like the previous NEO case, the aluminium design helps to keep the Pi cool enough to avoid throttling and makes accessing the board connectors easy. The addition of a fan to handle the extra power demands of the Raspberry Pi 5 is unwelcomed, but possibly a necessity for this generation. Fortunately, the fan is PWM controlled to keep the speed as low as possible and minimise noise. However, I have to admit the fan isn’t loud when it is running in the testing performed so far. The results also show it’s possible to rely on the additional thermal mass of the aluminium case without the fan connected to reduced temperatures and avoid thermal throttling for all but the most intense workloads.

Once again the Argon NEO 5 case feels like another high quality product from the team at Argon Forty.

Product Links

Amazon and AliExpress links are affiliate links which help support the site, where possible I’ve used links which should take you to the product in the Amazon store in your region. Links to other suppliers are included for your convenience.

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