Date: October 7, 2009
Author(s): William Kelley
SilverStone’s Raven RV01 chassis might not have been the most well-received, but the company has attempted to make up for all the mistakes of the initial chassis with a follow-up, the RV02. Fortunately, the company has done just that, and except from a rather minor issue, and possibly its price, this is almost a perfect chassis.
If I were asked as to which component of the modern PC which has seen the least true innovation, I would quickly answer “the chassis”. It would be unfair to say that there have not been noticeable steps forward in design and construction, but there really has not been a revolutionary leap forward, either. Thankfully, the poor breathing white boxes of the 90’s are long behind us, and we are finally starting to see some big strides forward.
The current driving force behind nearly all current case configurations is airflow. Whether we like it or not, PC components are getting hotter and larger. CPU manufacturers are adding more and more cores to their processors, and video cards seem to grow an inch with every new release. Heatsinks are growing proportionally as well, and the once exotic water based cooling solutions are now becoming common place, requiring more free space and airflow. It makes one wonder just how far ahead these designers must look to even stay with current technology.
Founded in 2003, SilverStone has quickly become one of the first names that comes to mind when thinking of high-end PC components. From power supplies to cooling solutions as well as the chassis and other peripherals, they have proven time and time again their ability to build high-quality and top-performing products.
With the release of the original Raven RV01, we finally saw a design like no other with the implementation of turning the motherboard 90 degrees. The only other “radical” change attempted before this was the short-lived BTX design which flipped the motherboard to the opposite side of the chassis. While the RV01 had growing pains, it finally offered some real change in design and some outside-the-box thinking. The second generation RV02 looks to be taking the original concept further along the evolutionary ladder. So let’s haul it out of the box and see just how far and in which direction it takes.
Once out of the highly decorated box, we get our first look at the Raven RV02. As usual, SilverStone has done an excellent job with protective packaging. My first impression was definitely positive as the high level of quality of the manufacturing is readily evident. There is a solid feel and all the lines and gaps in the panels are straight as an arrow. Even the plastic has a high-end feel with no creaking or looseness anywhere. The paintjob is also without flaws.
As per this design, the left side panel of the chassis is devoid of windows and venting. Looking down along the side you get a strong impression of the depth of the chassis, which comes in at just under 26″. Conventional chassis’ are usually this tall, not this deep. Other than the SilverStone logo on the top rear, there is not much else to look at here.
Swapping sides shows off the oversized window on the right side panel. I was fully impressed with the quality here and the strong stiff feeling of the windowed panel. Many times strength is sacrificed in order to have a larger opening. Those of you that enjoy looking in at the inner workings of your monster will not be disappointed in the least at the panoramic sizing of the opening.
Staring down the top from front to back allows us to take in the simple yet very effective design. In the very front there is a large V shaped piece that glows blue when your PC is on. Directly behind that there is a reset button on the right and a power button on the left. Between those controls are two well-placed USB ports with headphone and microphone jacks in between. I really like the spacing since far too many others place the USB ports too close together making them nearly impossible to use at the same time. The fully functional venting dominates the rest of the topside with the rest of the I/O connections hiding beneath.
To the rear of the chassis we are once again reminded of the uniqueness of the design. There is a large filtered opening in the middle that allows you to install the power supply in an orientation to draw in fresh air from the outside. The filter is simple to remove with a quick press of the tabs. To the top of the rear is the slot for you to run all your cabling cleanly outside.
Dropping down to the bottom we see the heart of the cooling system. Three speed adjustable oversized 180mm filtered fans draw in massive amounts of air. The openings are large and the spacing of the grating is also quite large, causing little to no turbulence in incoming airflow, which also gives the side benefit of keeping the noise down.
You external water cooling enthusiasts are also given openings fitted with grommets at the rear as well. While I am not sure of the awkwardness of the angles and how that would affect tubing routing, there are both kink resistant tubing and elbowed fittings available to take care of any problems in this department. While on the subject of water cooling, SilverStone includes brackets to internally mount a radiator up to 360mm long.
With a quick pull the top cover pops off for quick access to the input output section of your PC. It is hard to tell in this picture but they have recessed this area two inches with a further inch and a half available under the meshed panel. There is ample room for cabling while keeping the interference for exiting airflow down to an absolute minimum. This is a far better implementation over the original RV01.
You are also given eight PCI slots should you desire to really push the envelope with multiple video cards. A single 120mm fan takes care of exhaust duties over the CPU area. The power supply is mounted in the rear of the chassis keeping it in a “normal” orientation which addresses another major shortcoming of the original’s bottom mount design.
Between the exhaust fan and the power supply are three small slide switches that control the speeds of the bottom mounted 180mm fans. On high-speed, the fans are slightly audible while setting them all to low takes their noise nearly completely away. I personally like this placement since there is little effort required to access them to change speeds on the fly should you choose to. If you decide to use a fan controller instead of the included controls, you will be happy to know that they have given all of the case fans plenty of length to reach the 5 1/4″ slot area without the need for extensions.
I wanted to highlight another well-thought-out detail at the top rear. Keeping the cabling cleanly routed outside is a must and this large fortified bracket is well suited for the job making removing and installing the cover a breeze without the fear of pinching the cables.
From the inside looking down we see the heart and soul of the cooling system. Three 1800mm fans intake cool outside air from the bottom of the chassis and pull it over the entire heart of your PC. The thick plastic grates are strongly secured and the spacing and size of the holes also minimize air turbulence and noise. Take note that your hard drives will also receive all the air they need to stay nice and cool.
To help keep out the dust we are given large and simple-to-remove filters placed under each fan. Removing the side panel is all the is required to simply slide them out of their homes in order to give them a cleaning. This is one of the best implementations of fan filters I have seen to date.
Another trademark SilverStone feature is the quick release tool-less 5 1/4″ locks. With a quick push on the top to release and another push on the bottom to firmly lock your drives in place there is no fuss in the installation and removal process. Drives are held very firmly in place and this will undoubtedly benefit noise reduction by not allowing any unwanted vibrations from looseness.
Hard drive mounting is facilitated with an easy to remove cage at the bottom front. Eight thumbscrews are used to secure it firmly in place. Drive orientation is kept perpendicular to the bottom of the chassis and this will allow the air to flow around and between for maximum efficiency.
With the drive cage removed from the chassis we see the oversized slots for airflow as well as the rubber isolators for each screw. It was a simple affair to slide in drives and align the screw holes. The supplied hardware firmly attaches the drives while giving them room to float on the rubber isolators.
The inside of the rear of the motherboard tray is set aside for cable management. There are plenty of slots for the included reusable wire ties as well as regular cable ties should you choose so. There is roughly just over an inch in space between the tray and the side panel so you will have no problems tucking all your wiring inside and out of the interior airflow.
One important feature to highlight here is the large opening behind the CPU mounting area. By giving us this nice access hole we have the ability to simply and quickly remove install heat sinks and cooling devices of all kinds onto the processor without needing to remove the motherboard from the tray. While this may be a feature that is not put to the test very often you will be very pleased when you do need it since there is nothing worse than having to tear down your PC just to install a new cooler.
Included with the case is a large assortment of accessories for adapting to your required configuration. From the 2.5″ SSD converter to the 3 1/2″ to 5 1/4″ bay adapters, there is nothing left out here. There are more than enough screws for all your peripherals as well as some adapter plates for the internal mounting of water cooling radiators. I really liked the inclusion of the fan power plug since it will power three fans off of one power plug. The included instruction manual is somewhat small and devoid of much detail, although it is a decent guide that will help you figure out what you need to.
Onto the installation and temperature testing!
To assure that our results are as accurate as possible, all of our chassis testing is performed under highly-controlled conditions. Our test chassis is kept in a near-steady 20°C ambient environment, with readings taken before and after testing with a standard room thermometer. After we boot up our machine, we allow Windows to settle itself down for 10 minutes, to stabilize processes that might be running in the background. Once Windows is completely idle, we record the current CPU temperature as that in our results.
BIOS settings are verified prior to each run, and to help with quick switching of our various profiles, we make use of the motherboard’s ability to store multiple configurations. We primarily use two for our testing here – stock speed, of 3.0GHz, and also a maximum over clock, of 3.95GHz. Stock settings were achieved by using “Load Optimum Default”, and storing those as our stock profile. The maximum over clock was obtained after extensive testing and tweaking to insure it was stable. The CPU’s vCore was raised to 1.400v, and the Northbridge was raised to 1.30v. The RAM is run unlinked to run at factory speeds and voltages.
For our monitoring and temperature reporting, we use Everest Ultimate Edition 5, from Lavalys. It allows us to grab the results from each one of the cores, and the CPU as a whole, so we believe it to be indispensable to our toolkit. To help push our Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 to its breaking-point, we use LinX. The reason is simple: it utilizes LINPACK. After much testing with various “stress testers” in the past, we’ve found that running a multi-threaded tool that supports LINPACK, like LinX, pushes both AMD and Intel CPUs like no other. This results in higher temperatures than others (like Prime95) can muster, and also greater power consumption.
Because our test machine is equipped with 4GB of RAM, we set LinX to use 3072MB, and then set the test to run 5 times over, which takes about 15 minutes total. With the help of Everest, the CPU’s various temperatures are recorded throughout all of the testing, and also for a minute after the test ends. The maximum recorded temperature found in the results file is labeled as “Max” in our results.
Without further ado, here is a breakdown of our test machine:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 – Quad-Core, 3.0GHz
Gigabyte X48-DS5 – X48-based
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320GB
LG 20X DVD DL
Xigmatek Thor’s Hammer
Working on the RV02 was for the most part a breeze. There is a ton of space for even those with large hands and even more space for the largest of video cards with roughly twelve inches of space between the PCI back plate and the bottom fans. The one annoyance was the requirement of removing six screws from the front panel in order to pop it off to open up the DVD slots. The screw holes were difficult to access in a few spots causing me to drop the screws more than a few times. I had to laugh that I even found an extra screw that must have been dropped inside by the assembler at the factory.
Running the cabling through the slots to backside of the motherboard tray was also a snap. There are many ways to route everything as well as lots of hold downs for securing them in place. After a mere 10 minutes of effort I ended up with a good clean and out of sight arrangement.
There is also a nice area below the power supply and behind the rear most intake fan to stash all the extra wiring from your power supply. Those of use without a modular unit won’t be punished and forced to come up with a creative solution to secure the extra wiring out of the way of the air flow.
There are plenty of slots along the bottom that will let you slot wiring for the motherboard and the peripherals. Again, little effort was required to run everything where needed and yet another flaw of the original RV01 has been corrected in spades as to cabling. The RV01 has major issues with cable routing requiring longer than standard cables as well as stretching wires across areas in the path of cooling air. No such problem exists in the RV02.
After spending roughly twenty five minutes of my time I was pleased to stand back and admire the results of my build. I rate the ease of installation a ten out of ten on this chassis. There are no sharp edges anywhere and everything is logically located. If you don’t pay attention to the orientation you don’t even realize you are building inside a chassis with everything rotated on a ninety degree axis.
With the side panel finally re-installed the final results of the fruit of our labor are for the eye to behold. The magnificent large window is just awesome and really lets you enjoy the work you have done minimizing the clutter inside.
Keeping the exterior cabling clean is a simple affair. There is a ton of room inside the top for any type of wiring. My test monitor is a little on the old side, and I have to use a DVI to VGA adapter, so I was worried the top panel would not fit on with this setup. This was yet another flaw on the original design.
I am happy to report that there is plenty of room under the panel for this arrangement. The monitor cable was not forced into any crazy angle that would make me worry about destroying the wiring inside its sheath.
Firing up the heat, here are the results of my testing.
Acoustic testing resulted in a reading of 41dB at idle and 42.5dB at full load.
Overall testing went very well and the noise levels were quite low. It is hard to find a good balance between noise and cooling and I feel SilverStone has done remarkably well in this respect. Placing this case prominently on top of your desk for all the world to see will not harm your senses and will put a smile on most any enthusiast’s face.
The original Raven RV01 was not the most well-received chassis on the market. The price was high and there were a lot of flaws in the design that were too hard to overlook. Cable management issues were rampant and caused many would-be purchasers to look elsewhere. The revolutionary design was just not enough to convince people to make sacrifices. Problems like these usually spell disaster for any new design.
Lucky for us, SilverStone was up for the challenge and in my eyes not only saved this unique design, they improved it in every area they were criticized on. Many companies do listen to consumers and it shows in their products. There is no doubt the RV02 is one of these products. This is a fact that just cannot be overlooked. Coming in at a retail price of ~$199 there is also alot of value here. Sure, that is a lot of money for a chassis, but you do get what you pay for here.
Cable management is one of the top considerations in people’s minds while shopping for a chassis. No one wants to be forced to use extensions or even new peripherals such as power supplies because of poor design. The RV02 passes these requirements with flying colors. The only real stretch was the power connector for the DVD drive, yet there was enough length to keep the wires neatly tucked behind the motherboard tray.
The next requirement is ample space. Between monster CPU heatsinks and the ever-growing graphics card, space is always at a premium. Again, there are just no worries here since there is enough room for the largest heatsink and longest video card. Add to that the spacious cavern for which to build in, and you have a solid recipe for success.
Finally, and probably most importantly, airflow is possibly the single most important factor in choosing a chassis. All the bling in the world will not help preventing your expensive hardware from melting down. Adding lots of fans also does not guarantee the ability to move the cold air in and the hot air out. The RV02 not only gets the job done, it gets the job done extremely well. Heat naturally rises so taking advantage of this was a very smart move. You just will not be disappointed in this area.
I give the Raven RV02 the Editor’s Choice 9 out or 10 rating. This case does its job so well that there was simply no way I could give it a lower score. If not for the annoying screws in the front panel, I could have seen myself almost giving it that magical elusive 10 out of 10. SilverStone deserves two thumbs up here and you simply must give this chassis a strong hard look if you are in the market for a new chassis. If you liked the concept of the original, but were turned off by the less than stellar reviews, be sure to check it out.
SilverStone Raven RV02
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