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We often jest that SilverStone makes but one case a year—a slight modification of its most recent TJ series case. The company has since proven us wrong with the release of its Kublai series KL03 chassis. But after testing this midtower case, we find ourselves clamoring to go back to the familiar ground of SilverStone’s TJ cases. Given the TJ line’s high level of excellence, the KL03’s deficiencies stand out even more and make this chassis look like an ill-conceived side project.
The first thing you’ll notice after unscrewing the case’s side panels—which lack thumbscrews—is the giant retention bar running horizontally across the KL03’s lower half. It supports two 12cm fans and comes with a number of sliding retention bars for holding your PCI-based components in place. However, we’d prefer to have fans, not fan mounts, and the retention bar does little to support the guts of our rig. Adding insult to injury, the bar itself has to be screwed into the case to stay in place. Its plastic locking mechanism isn’t strong enough to support it.
Our frustrating experience with the case’s motherboard area contrasts with our experience installing components in the KL03’s almost-toolless front drive bays. These four 5.25-inch bays come with rails that allow for speedy insertion and removal of your various devices. While removing the actual bay covers can be a taxing process (we had to use a screwdriver to avoid hurting our fingers on the covers’ snapping locks), at least we didn’t have to physically remove screws or, worse, the entire front panel itself.
The case also comes with rails for your drives, but its four hard drive bays are fitted with removable trays. Just drop a hard drive into the tray, screw it in, and push the entire contraption forward. You then have to manually attach the drives’ connectors, save for the one hard drive bay that includes a hot-swap SATA connector. We’re not sure why the KL03 comes with only a single hot-swap SATA connector: We’d prefer to see a full backplane of hot-swap connectors or none at all. The addition of a single bulky hotswap connector feels like a tease, not a feature.
The KL03 provides ample room for the biggest hardware available. The case also supports ATX, EATX, Micro ATX, and SSI motherboard standards. We tested the case with a standard ATX mobo and had plenty of room for cable management and tube routing after installing a pair of 8800 GTXs into the chassis. But we couldn’t route these cables around the rear of the motherboard. Two holes on the motherboard tray look like they are designed for this purpose, but the side door tightly smashes against the tray, rendering these holes useless.
The KL03 comes with ample cooling in the form of a 12cm fan in the rear of the case near the motherboard area and a 12cm fan on the front that blows air over the hard drive bays. The case is a little lacking in the front-panel connections department, however, offering only two USB ports and a single FireWire 400 connector. SilverStone ups the “cool factor” of the chassis by giving the top of its rounded front a pleasing blue glow. But truth be told, the KL03’s construction shortcomings, awkward drive bays, and cabling failures don’t impress us much at all.
Toolless front bays; good cooling; support for all motherboard types.
Retention bar not functional; only one hot-swap hard drive bay; tightly locked front bezel.