Date: May 23, 2011
Author(s): Ryan Perry
With the major success SilverStone’s Raven series has experienced in the past, the RV03 has a lot to live up to. A full-tower on its side, the Raven 03 orients your motherboard to exhaust heat out the top, and as a result, makes installation an interesting process. Let’s take a look and see if this gold-trimmed $130 offering hits its mark.
‘Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked upstarting –
‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’
While I can’t guarantee an Edgar Allan Poe-like experience during the course of this review, I can guarantee an up-close-and-personal look at a raven; the Raven RV03 full-tower case from SilverStone to be precise. Available with or without a window, the Raven 3 picks up where the Raven 2 left off with another unique internal layout that supports micro-ATX, ATX and extended-ATX motherboards.
Fans of the Raven series will notice the gradual evolution of the exterior to what it has become today. The newest Raven tries to bring a little bit of refinement and flair to the nest by adding gold accents on each side of the plastic front panel that extend up and over the top, all the way to the back. This is a small but drastic departure from the all black scheme of the previous offerings.
At the very top is a frosted V-shaped plastic accent that glows white when the system is powered on. Below this are the power and reset buttons with seven 5.25″ drive covers taking up most of the front panel. The drive covers are two separate pieces and the solid front plate can be removed leaving a mesh insert for extra airflow.
For those who like a uniform exterior, the front plate of the drive bay cover can be used to stealth an optical drive or in order words, make it look like one is not installed. Behind the covers for the bottom six 5.25″ bays are two pre-installed 5.25″ to 3.5″ converters, which is a welcome feature since seven optical drives or fan controllers would just be silly.
Rounding out the front is the Raven logo towards the bottom that returns from the previous version.
On the left side of the case is a large trapezoid window that shows off the interior. The original Raven had the motherboard facing in this direction while the second had it flipped and facing towards the right. This time around, SilverStone has opted to go back to the original configuration. The only other point of interest is the angled vent at the bottom front corner for the power supply to exhaust warm air out of the system.
Due to the internal layout, which will be looked at shortly, the rear of the case is very plain with only a small opening at the top to route cables and double as a handle, a grill for mounting a 120mm fan and a small rectangular grill to the left.
Over on the right panel in the center is a grill to mount another 120mm fan to cool the back of the motherboard with a second angled vent towards the lower front. Again, due to the internal layout, a 25mm thick fan can be installed on this panel instead of a thin 15mm as found in many other cases. The extra thickness usually equates to more airflow, so this should help to keep temperatures down even further.
Up top at the front under a flip cover are two USB 3.0 ports and the 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks in between them. Connectivity for the USB ports is provided by two cables that connect to available USB ports on the motherboard I/O. If no USB 3.0 ports are available, the cables can be connected to USB 2.0 ports, but the front connections will operate at slower speeds and lower voltage.
Behind the top panel connections, hidden somewhat by the top cover is a two channel, two speed fan controller that controls the two bottom 180mm intake fans.
The rest of the top is taken up by the vented plastic cover. This hides all of the connections that would normally be found on the back of standard chassis. Since the cover is vented, it also allows warm air to be exhausted up and out of the case, taking advantage of its natural movement. In order to remove the side panels, the top cover needs to be removed by pulling up at the front and again on each side near the back. The thumbscrews holding the side panels can then be removed and the panels pulled up and away.
Flipping the case over shows off the four rubber pads attached to the moulded plastic feet that lift the Raven 3 well off the ground to provide extra air flow for the power supply and bottom fans. Both openings for these are covered over by two fan filters made of a plastic frame and wire mesh and held on by magnets meaning they can be easily removed from the left side without having to move or tip the case. Finally, in front of the forward filter is the recessed 3-prong power connection.
As is usually the case with SilverStone products, no matter how much is going on outside, there is tons of fun to be had on the inside, so let’s look at the interior next and see what it is like to build in.
As usual, I always remove the drive bay covers and as many panels as possible to give an unobstructed view. Starting at the front, the 5.25″ drive bays are a bit of an onion. Stay with me now, Shrek fans. By referring to them as an onion, I mean there are layers upon layers of goodies to look at.
As mentioned earlier, six of the drive bays are taken up by two 120mm fan brackets that each hold three 3.5″ hard drive trays. These are capped off at the back with two more 120mm fan brackets for some serious cooling.
Moving around to the left side is where things get busy, so strap yourself in. At the bottom front of the case is where the power supply is installed. Power is delivered to the system by way of an extension cable that runs from the power supply to the bottom front of the case. A standard power supply cable is then connected to the port and run to the power source.
Above the power supply are the tool-less drive locks for the seven 5.25″ bays. On the bottom of each is a plastic catch. Squeeze up and the locking can be flipped up after it releases. Once the drive is in place, the lock can be pushed down until it clicks into place. SilverStone has also given users the option of securing drives in place with screws to ensure everything stays secure.
The bottom of the case features what will do the bulk of the cooling; the naughty sounding, double 180mm AP181 “Air Penetrator” fans. Capable of moving anywhere from 80 to 130 cubic feet of air per minute at as little as 700 or as much as 1200 revolutions per minute, both are controlled by the fan controller on the top of the case. If more cooling is needed, these can be swapped out in favour of up to three 120mm fans.
With the motherboard rotated clockwise 90 degrees, cable management is a little different than in most cases. There are two holes for running cables on the right, bottom and left side of the tray. In the upper right area of the tray is a huge cutout for helping to install or remove aftermarket heatsinks that feature a backplate. The pre-installed motherboard standoffs are setup to accept boards that make use of the first two vertical, or in this case horizontal rows of standoffs such as the GIGABYTE GA-P55-US3L. but there are extra standoffs included for those with standard width boards.
Seeing how the rear panel is bare except for the mounting area for a 120mm fan to push cool air directly towards the GPU, I’ll move on to the top.
Since the back is now the top we see eight vented PCI slot covers, the motherboard I/O opening and a 120mm exhaust fan. With this many slot covers, this case is begging for some multi-GPU action.
Behind the motherboard tray on the right side is something that I was impressed by when looking at the Fortress FT03 earlier this year. Hidden here is room for four 3.5″ hard drives and two 2.5″ drives. In the bottom front corner there is enough room to hide any unused power leads by tucking them in by the power supply.
Included with the Raven 3 in a white cardboard box is everything needed to build a system. All thrown into one bag are screws to secure the motherboard, screws to secure devices in the 5.25″ bays and the 2.5″ drive tray, long screws to install 3.5″ drives, a three 3-pin to 4-pin molex connector to help power any additional fans added by the user, some cable ties and two pieces of adhesive foam that can be used to stealth an optical drive.
Eye candy aside, it’s time to load up the Raven 3 and see if it can soar above the competition. Ok, I’ll stop with the bird metaphors. It’s build time!
The power supply slid in without any problems and there is enough room to tuck any unused cables out of the way. It took a little bit of coaxing to get the power cable to connect to the power supply because of the orientation of the 3-prong connection with the power supply facing fan down, but it did eventually reach.
Next, the motherboard went into place just as easily once the extra motherboard standoffs were screwed into the tray in the proper configuration, so I moved on to the hard drives. Mounting drives in the Raven 3 is an ordeal to say the least, and regardless of where the drives are being mounted, tools will be needed. The drive cages in the 5.25″ bays can be slid out the front but not before removing four screws from the left side and another four from the right for each converter. What’s more, in order to remove the screws from the right side, the two forward 3.5″ drive trays need to be removed.
Once the converters are free, small plastic tabs on the fan brackets need to be pushed in on both sides at both ends so the metal trays can be removed and the drives installed. After all of this was done and when it was time to assemble the drive cage again, things were so tight and required so much force that I thought the plastic tabs would snap off making for a very uneasy section of the build.
Luckily, mounting 3.5″ drives behind the motherboard tray is much easier. Simply remove the screws that hold the trays in place, line up the holes on the underside of the hard drive with the holes in the tray and secure it from the bottom with the long screws. The screws thread through rubber washers to help absorb any vibration but because the washers are so large and so soft there is a good degree of movement when the drive is nudged. However, they still keep the drives very secure.
Mounting 2.5″ drives are where things take another wrong turn. As mentioned, one tray behind the motherboard can can accept two drives stacked one on top of the other. The problem with the bottom drive is that the head of the included screws are too wide. Since the head is too wide, it makes contact with the bottom of the tray meaning they can never be threaded through straight, if at all. Unless you have some standard 2.5″ drive screws lying around, you’ll have to pick some up or only install one drive in the top position.
Also, each screw needs to be maneuvered through a hole in the side of the tray and then through metal tabs before being threaded into the drive. I found myself getting so frustrated with this that I swear I was six years old again trying to beat my sister in a game of Operation. Buzz! Luckily a screw driver with a magnetic tip wasn’t too far away.
Everything else installed without issue although when it came time to run the SATA cable for the optical drive, mine was almost to short due to the way the motherboard is rotated. For a full-sized ATX board, the ports may be even further towards the back of the case so be warned that longer-than-normal SATA cables could be needed.
There is tons of room on the back side of the motherboard tray to tuck cables away. If any of the unused hard drive trays are interfering with cables or power leads, they can simply be removed. I found that some of the trays helped with cable management since the cables could be run through or tucked behind them negating the need for zip ties.
When it came time to power the system on, the two Penetrator fans were dead silent when running at full speed but moved a good amount of air even on low. The fan of the Corsair H60 used in our test system was the loudest component so this is one seriously quiet case.
The last case that SilverStone sent along, the Fortress FT03, was a top performer, so let’s see if the latest Raven can continue the trend.
All of our testing is performed under controlled conditions to ensure accurate and repeatable results. The test system is kept in a near steady 20°C ambient environment with readings taken before and after testing with a standard room thermometer. AIDA64 Extreme Engineer is used for monitoring and recording temperatures throughout the test process. Tests are run with all case fans running at 100%.
Windows is allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes after startup to ensure all services and test applications are loaded before recording the idle CPU and GPU temperatures. CPU load temperatures are generated by performing a 20 minute run of OCCT’s LINPACK test using 90% of the available memory. LINPACK is a personal favorite of the Techgage staff because it stresses the processor more than other applications, which translates into greater heat output. GPU load temperatures are also generated by running OCCT’s built-in test for 20 minutes.
Stock CPU settings were obtained by setting the AI Tweaker option with the BIOS to Auto and the maximum overclock frequency of 4.0GHz was obtained after extensive testing to ensure stability. The VCore was raised to 1.250V and the memory run at 1.60V.
The final clocks for the GPU are 760MHz on the core and 2000MHz QDR or 4000mhz relative for the memory with the voltage increased to 1.087V using MSI’s Afterburner overclocking utility. As with the CPU overclock, testing was done prior to ensure full stability.
For the previous few case reviews I have been mentioning that our test system was in the works and I am happy to announce that the components have been finalized and will be used in this build. Moving forward, all cases will have their temperatures added to a database so readers can see how one compares to another.
The components of our test machine include:
Techgage Test System
Intel Core i5-661 – Dual-Core (3.33GHz)
ASUS P7H55D-M EVO mATX – H55-based
Corsair Dominator 2x2GB DDR3-1600 7-8-7-20-2T
EVGA GeForce GTX 470
Western Digital 2TB Green
Antec TP-750 Blue
Corsair Obsidian 650D Mid-Tower
SilverStone Raven 03 Full-Tower
Corsair H60 (Exhaust Configuration)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
With only two cases in our current database, we can see that the Raven 3 is slightly ahead of its sole competitor in almost all regards with the major difference being a 3 degrees when the CPU is placed under full load at stock frequency. This is likely due to the fact that one of the bottom fans is feeding cool air directly to the CPU and is backed up by the fact that the GPU temperature is also 2 degrees less under full load.
It’s a good thing that the Raven RV03 offers some outstanding cooling while remaining virtually silent because there are a few major flaws or at least design issues that could keep this case from being a winner.
I’ll start off with the subjective bit; styling. I love the look of the Raven 3 case. Everything about it appeals to me, but everybody has different tastes. The Raven 3 seems to be a more refined version of the first but a more aggressive version of the second with just enough flash to appeal to my eye. The white light accent at the top was a nice touch too, without being too tacky.
Something that cannot be debated is the quality of the case. It’s built very well, there’s no flex to any of the parts, the paint job is excellent inside and out, and everything with the exception of the 2.5″ drives installed flawlessly.
USB 3.0 front panel connections (if the motherboard supports it), excellent cooling capability, very nice cable management and tons of room for expansion all make for a very well rounded case. Then there are the little things as well such as the ability to stealth an optical drive and mesh drive covers behind the solid plastic covers to ensure maximum cooling.
Since I mentioned the 2.5″ drives, I have to mention those flaws again. It wouldn’t have hurt to include eight standard 2.5″ mounting screws instead of leaving the user to try to secure their drive in vain using screws intended for 5.25″ devices. I’m not sure who missed this on the design team, but it could not have been thought through.
Also, the mounting method is very intricate in that users have to maneuver the screws through the side of the tray, get it lined up with the metal tab and then secure it in place. Maybe I just have terrible hand-eye coordination (that would explain some of my recent dismal gaming performance) but this is far from a user-friendly approach.
Also the fact that so much needs to be done in order to use the 5.25″ bays to mount 3.5″ drives is another strike against this case. This may not be too bad for someone who has a set-it-and-forget-it build where drives will be installed for months or even years at a time without ever having to be moved. It would have been nice to see a tool-less mounting system for the drive cages as well to eliminate the need to remove all of these screws, and in doing so, two of the 3.5″ drive trays from the right side.
One final point to mention is that I had to re-run the power cable from the outlet, around my desk instead of behind it in order to reach the location of the power connection at the front of the case. Having the connection here means users will lose about two feet from the length of the power cable. This configuration allows for a very clean look but it would have been nice to see the internal power cable run along the right side of the case and out the back or out the bottom right.
To some, I may be overly critical of the cases that I review. The Raven RV03 does so much, so right, but it’s the rest that keeps it from being a true winner in my eyes. It weighs in at about $135 so I would expect a little more refinement in the drive mounting system.
If you need a solid case with loads of room to work in as well as for your present and future components, the Raven 3 is a great choice. Just be prepared to put in a little bit of extra work depending on how you lay out the components.
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