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SilverStone Kublai KL01 Mid-Tower

Date: November 1, 2007
Author(s): Greg King

SilverStone has been producing amazing cases for a while, but for some, their best offerings are pricey. That’s where the Kublai series comes into play. Built on the essence of the higher-end models, they attempt to pack quite a punch with their Kublai, all at an affordable price. Have they succeeded?



Introduction


Next time you see a local case modder or system builder, ask them to name a few of their top chassis manufacturers. There’s a good chance that you will hear the name SilverStone thrown around a fair amount. Long known as a dominant player in the top tier case market, SilverStone has had a great deal of success with their Temjin line of chassis with most commonly hear complaint being their price.

With cases reaching well into the $300 range, these cases are clearly not for the everyday do-it-yourselfers like you and I, but rather for project modders and boutique system builders that market their PCs to those with deep enough pockets to afford such cases.

With many of their cases in the highest of pricing brackets, SilverStone has answered many complaints with their Temjin inspired line of cases, the Kublai series of PC mid-towers. Designed with the experience the SilverStone engineers have gained in the building of the Temjin line of cases, they have put an equal amount of thought into the looks and layout of the Kublai series. With 2 different offerings in this class of cases, we turn our attention today towards the KL01; SilverStone’s first offering of this series.

Bringing a hybrid approach to its design, SilverStone has been able to keep the price of this series down by using a steel frame with an all aluminum front door and side panels. With its steel design, we are curious how this approach will ultimately affect the weight of the case as well as the thermal properties with the system powered on.

Closer Look

Arriving in a typical SilverStone package, the KL01’s features are well documented on all sides of the packaging. Taking a quick look around the box, it’s clear that the KL01’s features include hot swappable drives. While this isn’t a first, it’s a nice addition to any tower as far as we are concerned.

Removing the case from it’s protective packaging, we can see a full side window, giving any system builder ample opportunity to show off their mad wiring skills, or, as you will see, or complete lack of said skills.

As we move around the KL01, we can see a full length front aluminum door that is hinged on right side of the case, allowing the door to swing open to the right. At the top of the door, we find a long power light that runs the entire width of the case. When powered on, the plastic will glow a pleasant blue. Located just above this light is the power button. Unfortunately, this does not glow.

With the door open, we can see that the KL01 has eight available drive bays, 5 if the bottom hot swappable hard drive cage in installed in the chassis. Each of the bay covers is perforated, allowing cooler outside air to be drawn into the case, aiding in total system component cooling.

If we remove the front 120mm fan, we can see the four available hot swappable drive bays. While they may appear as such, only one drive is a true hot swap bay with the inclusion of the included SilverStone CP-05 drive accessory. The other three much be manually hooked up inside the case with the regular data and power connectors.

Paying attention to the last paragraph, you might have noticed that we commented on the drive bay and how it much be accessed with the front 120mm fan removed. For most systems this might prove to be a royal pain in the rear but not with the KL01.

SilverStone has taken a brilliant approach to convenient fan removal and made the fan itself completely wireless when disconnected form the case itself. There are simply metal strips that press up against 12 metal barbs that stick out of the adapter on the case. It is through this connection that the fan receives the needed power to operate and makes hard disk installation in the KL01 a breeze. This is something that more companies would pick up on and implement in future case designs.

Turning our attention to the back of the KL01, we can see that it follows the standard ATX layout and the power supply is positioned at the top of the case, deviating from the popular method of placing the power unit at the bottom of the case, helping in system cooling and overall appearance of the interior of the case.

One thing we like, and this might be a negative for some, is the open PCI plates. This allows cooler outside air to come into the case from the back as well as the front. While this might prove to be a rather dusty trade off, its one that we like and would like to see used on more cases.

Let’s take a look at the interior!



Interior

The interior of the KL01 is rather ordinary and doesn’t do any innovating but that’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. There are mounting holes for motherboard standoffs and an included 120mm exhaust fan, meant to draw warm air given off from the CPU out of the case.

The drive bays can be completely tool less if you want as there are a pair of metal posts that will stick into the mounting holes on the CD or DVD drive. Notice that they are attached with screws, meaning that they can be removed or moved lower if you find that you would like the hard drive cage up higher in your case.

Directly behind the top two drive bays, there is a large rubber coated hook that can be used to corral some of your power supply cables, keeping them firmly behind the drive bays and out of sight through the window. This is yet another small touch that SilverStone has added to the KL01 and we, for one, like it.

The power supply area is quite ordinary and with the exception of a few shelves to help support the PSU itself, quite empty.

We mentioned earlier the inclusion of the CP-05 hot swap adapter. This is just a pass through that is attached to the back of the drive cage and will pass through data and power to the hard drive. It is installed in the top bay but can be moved to any of the other three if the user so desires. With our drive installed in the rails, we did not encounter any difficulty in installation and our drives were never off. For such a simple device, it shows a great deal of thought on SilverStone’s part and works perfectly as it should.

No case is complete without its I/O cables. In the case of the KL01, there are the standard power, reset and HDD activity as well as a four pin power connector for the front LED power indicator.

Also on the KL01 are three more cables for the top mounted I/O panel. There are connectors for the two USB ports, one 1394 firewire ports as well as the headphone and microphone jacks. The KL01 can accommodate hookups for standard AC ’97 or HD audio, depending on what your sound card or motherboard use.

There are a couple other odds and ends included with the KL01. There is a manual, a small bag of screws and stand offs and a couple of 3.5” to 5.25” drive adapters. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

With all of that out of the way, let’s move on to installation.



Installation

With most cases, there isn’t anything special to the installation of hardware into it… if it fits, it fits. With the KL01, this is the case as well…pun somewhat intended.

Our first order of business was to install our hard drive into the drive rails. For this review, we are using our tried and true Seagate ES 750 GB hard drive. All that is needed to install the rails is to slide the drive in between the two sides and bolt it down with four of the provided screws. From there, its simply sliding it into the drive cage.

To secure the drive into the cage, the front locking arm must be extended out and the drive then needs to be pushed into the cage. When the drive is in, simply rotate the arm closed until it latches. This locks the drive in place. With that done, we can replace the front fan and get inside.

With the drives in place, and the motherboard installed, we quickly noticed a rather significant problem. Any user with a motherboard that has rotated SATA ports at the bottom of the board will find that the drive cage effectively blocks access to most of the SATA ports and the ones it does not completely render useless; it makes it difficult to get to.

For anyone with a board that has the standard SATA ports that stick up perpendicular to the motherboard, this will not be a problem but in our case, the abit IP35-Pro would not work with the exception of the two ports in the upper back corner.

We also found that the USB, Firewire and audio cables for the front I/O panel were unusable with this motherboard. With a graphics card installed, the three cables would not reach their respective board pins, making the front ports virtually powerless.

We should also mention that we did try to move the hard drive cage up in the case to see if we could get around the SATA port problem. Sadly we could not. If we moved it up, the drives interfered with the 24 pin power connector and if we moved it up to the top, the case suddenly became uncomfortably top heavy with both the cage and the power supply at the top. We finally decided to place the cage at the bottom, cut our losses and proceed with the testing.

With everything installed, there really isn’t a lot of room to hide the wiring in the KL01 as its mid tower stature just isn’t large enough to throw the cables out of the way. Cases of this size beg for modular power supplies and rightfully so. We ran into the same problem that we did with the Zalman GT1000 case but in it’s case, the window stopped at the drive bays, allowing us a bit more room to hide the cables from sight.

Powered no, the case looks absolutely fabulous. The front blue power light looks great and is evenly lit, giving the front a very classy look to it. The all black design accents the blue quite well and it’s here that it case looks more like other SilverStone cases as this editor has never seen one that doesn’t at least look good.

On to testing and my final thoughts.



Testing and Results

There really isn’t a lot to our testing to be honest. We install everything, record the temperatures at load and at idle. As a rule, we try our best to keep ambient temperatures as close as possible between tests as well.

With that out of the way, the hardware used is:

With a front mounted 120mm fan, as well as a single 120mm fan in the back, SilverStone has followed the standard cooling methodology for a case of this size. The hard drive cage is designed as well to allow as much air from the front fan as possible and while the more drives added to the cage will restrict airflow, there was adequate air fed to the Zalman 9700 with our two drives installed. This is no doubt a result of the placement of the drives, opposed to the Zalman GT1000 case that had the drives rotated 90 degrees and their backs facing away from the motherboard. This resulted in a little better air flow and ultimately, a little better CPU temps.

Idle
Load
CPU 34°C44°C

It should be noted that we did not do any GPU testing as the only card we had on hand that would fit was our x1650 Pro. The x1900 XTX and 8800 GTS were both too long and could not be used without relocating the hard drive cage, an issue we spoke about earlier in the review.

Final Thoughts

Looking back on our experiences with the SilverStone KL01, the feelings we walked away from the review were mixed. On one hand, the KL01 is a superb mid tower chassis for anyone building a machine on a budget. The looks of the case are top notch and the overall feel of the case was a solid one.

On the other hand, there where a few things that were clearly overlooked. The most notably was the SATA port issues. This might have been an issue SilverStone knew about, and quite possibly played the odds that most users would not have a board with rotated ports. After all, the cage doesn’t complete block them all and we were able to use two of the six available on the abit board.

On the other hand, when 66 percent of the SATA ports on a board are blocked, it’s not something that can really be over looked. We should mention that we tested the KL01 with another motherboard, a DFI 975 X/G Infinity and it worked perfectly fine. With that said, it would be irresponsible of us to recommend this case to any user with a board that has rotated SATA connections.

The cooling of the case was a strong point for the KL01 as well. The dual 120mm fans working together provided adequate air for the Zalman cooler and the front fan power connectors was definitely a favorite for us while testing.

SilverStone claims that the Kublai series of cases are descendants of the Temjin series and in many regards; we can see this claim as fact but there are a few issues that I would like to see not associated with the stellar Temjin lineup.

Issues aside, the SilverStone Kublai KL01 earns a 7 out of 10. It’s not a bad case. On the contrary, it’s a rather good case that could be great if a few issues are taken into consideration the next time SilverStone’s engineers sit down to design the next Kublai chassis.

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