Senior Editor takes a post CES 2011 look at Silverstone's new FT03 case, marking Silverstone's foray into the world of Micro ATX. The FT03 fully is a full size case that supports Micro ATX motherboards, leaving oodles of room for anything else you'd like to cram in there. Watch Gordon take it apart, below.
Hybrid drives that combine NAND flash and mechanical hard drives are making a comeback. But what if you could make your own hybrid drive, with as much capacity as you want? That’s the concept behind the Silverstone HDDBoost. The idea is to slot an SSD between your OS drive and the motherboard, allowing your PC to read system files from the SSD instead of the HDD. This effectively adds an SSD to your machine without any of the actual work.
The HDDBoost is easy to install—just screw any SSD into the HDDBoost, slot both into a spare 3.5-inch bay, and connect SATA power and data cables. One SATA cable runs from the old OS drive to the HDDBoost, and another from the HDDBoost to the motherboard. Boot into the BIOS and set the HDDBoost as your boot drive, and away you go. The HDDBoost copies the first gigabytes of your boot drive (which contain your system files) to the SSD. The system treats the HDDBoost as part of one contiguous volume with the capacity of the larger drive—any data present on both drives will be read from the SSD first, speeding up your system’s performance without any further action on your part. If you write to the section of the hard drive that’s synced to the SSD, it will be synced at your next boot. Thus, you can take advantage of some of the speed of an SSD without reinstalling your OS.
Going on name alone, one would expect the Silverstone Fortress FT02 to be an updated version of our Best of the Best mid-tower case, last year’s Fortress FT01. And while it shares a few of the FT01’s traits (like a unibody aluminum frame, acoustic padding, and some stylistic cues like black metal mesh), the vast majority of its DNA comes from the Raven RV02. In fact, it’s the homo sapiens to the RV02’s chimpanzee.
There was some debate in Maximum PC’s offices as to whether the FT02 is a mid-tower at all. It’s certainly got mid-tower width and height—8.3 inches wide and 19.5 inches high are in line with the rest of the mid-tower market—but its depth, at 24 inches, makes it practically a full-tower on its side. In fact, it’s virtually identical inside and out to the RV02, and inherits many of its traits, from the three filtered 18cm fans that blow air from the bottom of the case up to the top, to the rotated motherboard configuration that brings the normal rear panel to the top of the case. The SSD mount that attaches to the left side of the optical bays has carried over from the Raven, as well.
Like its older and larger sibling, the Raven RV01 (reviewed April 2009 as part of our full-tower roundup), Silverstone’s Raven RV02 is an all-black steel and plastic chassis with a defining feature: The motherboard orientation is rotated 90 degrees from the standard layout. But the Raven RV02 is even less orthodox than the RV01, which seems positively pedestrian by comparison. Unlike its full-tower predecessor, the RV02 is deeper than it is tall—25 inches deep by 20 inches tall by 8.3 inches wide, so it sits low to the ground. The front of the case is chunky stealth-inspired plastic, but is much more restrained on the RV02 than on the RV01, with a garage door–style front bezel. The side panels and frame are steel, and the case is black inside and out.
Building a system in the RV02 is a vertiginous experience. At first glance, nothing seems to be in the right place—the right-side panel has an optional plastic window, while the left-side panel is the one behind the motherboard tray. Furthermore, not only do the PCI expansion slots and I/O shield mount to the top of the case, but so does the power supply, which sits to the right of the motherboard at the back of the case, and is held in place by four screws, a Velcro strap, and a plastic bracket. The case’s five 5.25-inch bays and 3-inch-bay hard drive cage sit at the front of the case. The hard drive cage isn’t as user-friendly as we’re used to seeing—to install a drive, you must first remove eight thumbscrews, take out the cage, and use four long screws to attach the drive to the rubber shock-absorbing mounts in the cage. Thankfully, four of the optical-drive slots use Silverstone’s familiar toolless retention mechanism.
Do you go for the speed of an SSD or the capacity of a traditional HDD? If you said 'both,' you're halfway to the finish line on this one. Silverstone's new HDDBoost gadget promises to take the best of both worlds, combine the two together, and yield up to a 70 percent increase in performance over that of an existing host hard drive.
The drive enclosure is compatible with most 2.5-inch SDDs and slides neatly into any available internal 3.5-inch drive bay. A SATA cable then connects the enclosure to a mechanical hard drive, and the device does the rest. There's no special software or drivers to muck around with, and it works with any OS tha supports a SATA interface.
Once everything's hooked up, the HDDBoost takes over and copies your most used files to the SSD, and then accesses them first whenever needed. By doing so, Silverstone claims a huge performance boost, all without sacrificing storage space.
Right now the device is only available in Japan and runs about $50. No word yet on when the company plans on shipping it to the U.S. market, but if the HDDBoost lives up to Silverstone's claims, we wouldn't be surprised to see it show up soon.
Talk about a tight fit. Silverstone was at CES to show off their new line of cases (including the highly-anticipated Fortress 2 mid-tower case), but what caught our eye was their Sugo SG07 mini-ITX case. Last year's SG06 was a respectable gaming chassis, but didn't account for the massive videocards that came out in the second half of the year. The new model is built with those cards in mind, and as you can see from the photo below, snuggly houses a 12.6-inch Radeon 5970 videocard!
The SG07 also comes bundled with a Silverstone custom single-rail 600W power supply to provide ample power to a single-GPU system, and has a beefy 180mm fan on top. There's also a specially-designed ventilation area that's sectioned off on the base of the machine to funnel hot air away from the videocard without heating up the entire chassis.
But does it make sense to put the world's fastest videocard into a mini-ITX system?
Silverstone this week launched the Raven RV02, a "smaller, lighter, and higher performing" chassis than the original Raven RV01, the company claims.
Like the original, the updated design also boasts a 90-degree motherboard mounting layout, however the new version no longer supports Extended-ATX motherboards and "server-level storage capacity." Silverstone says that by sacrificing these features, it was able to make the RV02 more compact and consumer-friendly.
Other features include three 180mm fans, support for liquid cooling radiator mounting, motherboard backplate opening behind CPU socket area for easier installation of third-party heastinks, eight expansion slots, and an updated hard drive suspension system to help reduce drive noise.
The Raven RV02 will come configurable with our without a window, though no word yet on price or availability.
Silverstone is well-known for releasing a few solid chassis every year, usually rehashes of its Temjin full-tower line. But this year has already brought two excellent cases that mark departures from the tried-and-true: the full-tower Raven RV01 (reviewed in our March full-tower roundup) and the mid-tower Fortress FT01.
The Fortress FT01 is a solidly constructed aluminum unibody case that just screams attention-to-detail. Mid-tower cases often lack the amenities of their full-size cousins (compare Silverstone’s own Kublai line with its mighty full-tower Temjin series), but the Fortress handily escapes that trap.
After the chunky, plastic, stealth-bomber-like trappings of the RV01—which we dug, don’t get us wrong—it’s nice to see Silverstone back to the classy brushed-metal look it’s known for. The Fortress’s side panels and front bezels are black brushed aluminum, while the rest of the machine has a dusty matte-black finish, with a bit of wicked-looking mesh covering the intake fans.
Ah, spring: when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of upgrading. But, alas! Your fancy new videocard is too big for your tiny case, and you’re running out of hard drive bays for your RAID. Fear not! A classy full-tower chassis can be just the solution.
In this roundup we’ve collected five full-tower cases—big and tall enclosures with all the bells and whistles: new looks, toolless expansion slots, intake filters, drive bays aplenty, and more. Space-saving isn’t a priority here: The focus is on features, with room for as much hardware as you need to cram in. If you want a portable rig or something to nestle under your desk, these aren’t the cases for you. But if you’re looking to make the most of your computer, portability be damned, one of these beauts could be your huckleberry.
In evaluating these cases, we focused on a few key points: overall build quality, aesthetics, ease of installation, cooling options, convenience, and features like front-panel connectors. We kept price in mind, too, but only to a degree: After all, we’re Maximum PC. We don’t mind paying for excellence; we just object when gear is offensively overpriced.
While most Silverstone cases tend toward polished metal and (if you’re lucky) a side window, the Raven’s hard plastic exterior takes its stylistic cues from a stealth bomber. Appropriately, everything on this 24.3x26x11-inch beaut is hidden behind panels: the front connectors (two USB, audio, FireWire) behind a flip-up, and the five 5.25-inch drives behind a garage door–like sliding panel.
The most striking thing about the Raven, besides its appearance, is that its motherboard mount is rotated 90 degrees clockwise—the I/O ports and PCI expansion slots, normally situated on the back of a case, are on the top and covered by a shroud that allows cables to be routed neatly to the back. This improves airflow (allowing air drawn in by two 18cm fans to rise from the bottom of the case to the top) and takes the stress of weighty PCI-E cards (like, say, dual-GPU offerings from Nvidia and ATI) off of the motherboard.