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SilverStone RV01 Raven Case Review

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AkG

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SilverStone RV01 Raven Case Review




Manufacture Product Page: RAVEN
Model Number: SST-RV01-BW
TechWiki Info: Silverstone RV01 Raven
Net Weight: 15KG
To check Prices Click: Here
Warranty: 1 year



It certainly is not everyday that we come across a case which is truly unique. Sure we have reviewed many cases, some of which you could argue are unique for their near perfection; however, even the greatest have all used the same tried and true layout in a typical East West / Back to Front fashion (or ATX or BTX format). Today’s case is special, for it truly is unique; it literally takes conventional wisdom and lays it on its ear.

The case we are referring to is the all new SilverStone Raven. This is certainly not a cheap case with a retail price of $235CAD and up, nor is it most likely going to be available in every brick and mortar / mom and pop computer store. At this point it is available in limited quantities from many retailers and e-tailers throughout the country but its unique styling may end up being its own worst enemy. After all, its one thing to bring in an expensive case you know someone will want but it is a bit of a stretch to expect many consumers to take a risk on case which is completely different from anything they have seen before. Especially in this economic climate.

Unlike conventional wisdom, which has the motherboard laid out in such a way that the PCI slots and I/O connectors are located at the back of the case, the Raven has the whole entire “back” of the case repositioned so it is literally the TOP. Heat does rise so we can see some merit to this design scheme but we can also see a lot of potential negatives as well. In the end we have a feeling the success or failure of this case hinges on how well the engineers over at SilverStone have done their jobs and not only anticipated these hazards but actually designed workarounds to either minimize or remove said hazards. This to us makes this case not only interesting from a structural point of view but also from an engineering one.

We also have a sneaking suspicion that this case is going to make it or break it on a more visceral level and be an all or nothing affair. Either you will love its unique layout or you will loath it; it is as simple as that. To us this is the sign of a great company, as any company can produce a great “normal” case (as long as they are willing to invest the time, money and resources into doing it right); but, its something all together different to attack a market niche no one else even sees and then have the moral fortitude to actually build that niche’s “perfect case”. It is for this reason we are not surprised it is those maverick’s over at SilverStone which have released an enclosure that bucks every trend out there.

SilverStone may have only been around since 2003, but in this short time they really shaken the aftermarket computer industry and some would even go as far to say they have taken it by storm. Whether its their great power supplies, or their top of the line cases, the name SilverStone to many people literally translates to QUALITY; and this something many, many older more established companies would kill to have. To have done so in such a relatively short period of time speaks volumes about them.

Where this the Raven is likely going to be an all or nothing affair we will do our best to provide you with the knowledge and the tools you need to decide whether or not this case is right for YOU. With that in mind, sit back, grab your favourite beverage and let’s get this ride started!


 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications



<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/cases/Raven/specs.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



We have to wonder if there is an unwritten rule which states the shipping container a box comes in has to be as impressive as the case that resides in it. This would go a long way to explaining some of the paltry shipping containers we have seen over the years. The box that the Raven resides in ranks among the largest we have seen...ever. Let me tell you, seeing the delivery guy lug this thing up the front steps was something to behold.


This box is definitely what you would expect from Silverstone. It is literally crammed with large detailed pictures of the Raven and information galore. All in all the art work is first rate, if a bit on the more pedestrian side and its doubtful anyone but a classically trained engineer will call this box a work of art.

However, we wish SilverStone had not sullied the case with over-hyped slogans with words like “Extreme” peppered in more heavily than hot sauce at a chilly heads convention. On the plus side, at least they didn’t go all hyper-marketing and use “Xtreme” or such nonsense and actually used the Queen’s English.


Once we got over chuckling about the Extreme Enthusiast Chassis pretentiousness we opened this sucker up and peaked inside. As expected SilverStone took the tired and true approach and turned it on its ear. Instead of two long pieces of Styrofoam packing on the front and back, the Raven scheme has them on the top and bottom. While impressive, we have seen better and the major down side to this scheme is the fact that it makes the shipping box frickin’ huge. We almost laughed when we opened it up and peaked inside as the cavernous interior of this box actually makes the large Raven look tiny.


Moving on to the accessories we were a little disappointed in what was included. Please don’t get us wrong, the list is passable and all the accessories were of exceptional quality; all of which we were expecting from a first class company like Silverstone. Maybe it was the self labelled moniker “Extreme Enthusiast Chassis” that got our hopes up, maybe it was just the enthusiast part; in either case we were expecting veritable cornucopia of goodies to accompany this case. At the very least we expected a boat load of cable ties and other cable management accessories.

In total you get your typical bag of screws, a very decent manual, four small metal brackets (for mounting a dual 120 bay, or bigger, WC rad of the back of the case), and count them, TWO cable ties….and that is it. Not exactly what we call an enthusiast level accessory list, let alone Extreme Enthusiast.
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions



As we said at the beginning of the review, you are either going to love or hate the Raven and this goes double for its unique looks as well. It really looks like someone had taken a NZXT case and force fed it steroids while chaining it to a Stairmaster for 6 months. In any case the Raven is all about making a statement and it dos accomplish this very well indeed. Of course, one could make a good case that with its side air intake vents and angular looks it was modeled after the original Dodge Viper; but one way or another this case is aggressive looking and is certainly crammed with bold styling. If this is not your cup of tea, you might as well stop reading this review as the Raven is not for you and we highly doubt it’s looks will ever grow on you. Like we said you’ll either instantly love the sharp edged looks of the Raven or you will loathe it.


As with many cases the top is what sets the overall styling of the case. If the top is flat, sleek and smooth with classical styling the chances are fairly good the rest of the case is going to follow suit and this case is no different. The top of the Raven is very angular and it certainly has a unique look and feel to it, but it is a bit too plastic looking for our tastes. Please don’t get us wrong; it doesn’t look cheap but even the best plastic has a different look and feel to it than metal.

One interesting thing about the top is unless you knew in advance about the idea behind this case you probably would never guess the connectors usually associated with the back of a case are located on the top. This was one concern we had when he first heard about this case as we had a mental image of a spaghetti tangle of wires all hanging off the top of an otherwise clean enclosure. Luckily, this is not how this case looks as SilverStone has taken the time to include a top cover for it.


This cover takes up about half of the top and does do a good job of making the case look aggressive albeit at the price of looking plasticky. Located at the rearmost portion of this area are two rather large circular spring loaded latches which are the lock and retaining mechanisms for this removable sheath. With a simple push and twist on both of them (one at a time) you can easily unlock and slide the cover back and then off. This should make installing your necessary wires and cables a breeze, while at the same time protecting them from an errant knock. To make sure you do not break these dial-like latches, English instructions have been molded in and around them.

In keeping with the overall design of the Raven, this area is certainly well ventilated and should have at worst a minor impact on the static pressure need to remove heat. We say at worst because we have our doubts it will have any noticeable impact on case temperatures due to its height clearance from top of the case to the inside top of this sheath.


The only major down side to this setup, besides its love it or hate it looks, is the height restrictions it places on any connectors you may use. All in all you only have at the most 79 mm of room between the top of the case to the inside of this plastic cover (this at the tallest point directly in the center of the top of the carry handle). Under the best circumstances this should be enough room for even your DVI connector, albeit it is a tight fit. However if you are still using an analog monitor (as a lot of old school “gamers” still are) you may be out of luck as a digital to analog converter (DVI to VGA) plug plus the normal analog monitor plug will result in a stack too tall for the cover to be re-seated.


Continuing our tour of the back of the Raven, we also see a nicely done metal handle which does triple duty as a hand hold, a cable router and support column for the aforementioned cover and its locking mechanisms. This may not seem like such a big deal but this multi purpose design is the epitome of good engineering; why use three parts when one will do a better, cleaner job? The only down side to the handle design is the lack of height it affords your cables.


As with many cases, directly “above” (or more accurately in front) of the multipurpose handle are the seven peripheral slot covers. In this instance SilverStone has made the wise decision and included their AeroSlot ventilated covers. These will certainly help the heat escape from the top of the case. After all, the Raven is all about the unique “stack effect” of letting heat rise up and out the case and having the PCI slots acting as mini air dams certainly would have been a bad idea. Also in keeping with this highly ventilated idea, directly to the side of the PCI AeroSlots is a large rectangular exhaust vent. This may be a passive setup, and while not unique to the Raven, does once again reduce the chances of hot spots inside the top of this case.


Moving on “up” you have your typical location for the I/O panel and 120mm exhaust fan. We will of course go over the fan in more detail but suffice to say this fan helps make a passive “stack effect” a more active one.

You may notice that unlike most cases there is no cut-out for the PSU, and this has been done on purpose. It is one thing to hang your motherboard on its side, but a completely different to expect people to hang their PSU from the top and have it held in place by only four small screws. As with many cases, the Raven uses a bottom mounted PSU location.
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions pg.2

Exterior Impressions Con't



Moving to the front half of the Raven's top, we come to an extremely well hidden yet poorly thought out front panel. In a nut shell you have a nicely angled cover which does a great job of concealing the various connectors but when it is flipped up, it exposes a fairly miserly assortment of options. From left to right you have a lone FireWire connector (400 not 800), headphone and MIC jacks and only two USB connectors. To us this lack of any e-SATA ports and only two USB ports is not acceptable. Maybe we are being overly harsh; as we consider 4 front USB and 1 e-SATA ports to be the absolute minimum for a case this size, but we don’t think we are being unfair.

The key reason why we do not think we are being overly harsh is the fact this is a case where you cannot easily plug and unplug USB devices directly from the motherboard, making those front USB ports all the more precious. We can easily see many situations where two will not be enough for many of the Raven's target customers. In some ways the lack of an e-SATA port is just icing on the cake insult wise; once again, you will not be able to easily plug an e-SATA capable device into the motherboard. This is 2009 not Y2K and oversights like this should not happen; especially when you are talking about a SilverStone case.


Directly in front of this stealthed panel are the rather large Power and Reset buttons. These buttons are triangular in shape and are flush mounted. The only real problem we have with these buttons is the fact they are both the same size. In the dark, you may end up pressing the wrong button and having a soft reboot instead of a hard one (or vice versa) but this is as we said a minor irritant at best. Also on the positive side is the positive feel of these buttons; they may be made from plastic put they not only have a short throw (something this reviewer likes, as it reduces the chance of useless “half presses”) but a very good solid feel to them. You know exactly when they have been depressed and it reminds us of other high end cases with good circuitry and switches built in. All in all the buttons may be made from plastic but they hide some very good equipment.

In front of the power and reset buttons is a rather large yet stylish Raven logo molded right into the plastic. It may only be a Direct Injection molded logo but it really does add a bit of subtle flair to an otherwise over the top case.


Moving to the front of the case we are once again reminded of a knight's helmet or a gable roof or even a stealth fighter; everything about the front is angular with clean edges galore. However, we do have a major gripe with this aspect of the Raven. To be more precise we have issue with the angular strip which lights up like a Christmas tree when the unit is powered on. There is no mistaking when this bad boy is on as you could probably use it as a good night light…if you are into eerily blue lit rooms for sleeping in that is.


This high visibility strip really is a double edged sword. On the one hand it is easy to know when your system in on or active; but this does become annoying when in darkly lighted rooms. If you are into mood lighting when playing your games and you hate extraneous light sources you will loathe this light strip. If you have your computer in your room and you leave it on while you sleep you too will come to hate it. For everyone else, ambivalence is probably the likeliest outcome.


On a more positive point, and just like a knight’s helmet opens up, or the bay doors of the stealth bomber open up to expose the “accessory rack” so too does this case's front door open up to expose the 5.25 bays. Where the Raven does not rely on the usual front to back air movement scheme, the SilverStone engineers opted to remove the front fan and air intake port. This move in turn freed up a lot of real estate which allowed those ingenious engineers to incorporate a sliding door. With a simple backward and downward push, the door slides into the bottom bezel and is completely out of the way.

Even better than its theoretical advantages, is the fact this door actually works in the real world. With a simply push, the door slides down to reveal the 5.25 bay area. The feel of the door sliding down is very unusual and the closest we can describe it, is it is a lot like opening the long side door on a minivan. It is our belief that SilverStone has set the door up in a dual rack and pinion type setup.

This door is not only smooth in opening it is a self closer as well. When the door is pushed all the way to its full down position, one more push will cause it to rise and slide shut all on its own like an automatic lifting gate found on some vehicles. The only issue we have with this door is the closing mechanism and the door's lack of handles. As time goes by we have to wonder how well this spring based closing mechanism will age. Seriously, if something does go awry, how you will unstick a stuck door which is smooth and has no handles?


When you are finished playing with the unique door and actually leave it open, you are greeted to five 5.25 bays, all of which have black plastic blanking plates. These blanking plates are held in place with small tabs located on each side and are easy and simple to remove. We a big fan of this style of retention mechanism and always like it when we see it incorporated into the design of a case. However, there is no FDD plate included and while very few people actually use a Floppy anymore it still would have been nice for this $235 case to come with this cheap accessory! Also note worthy was how light and flimsy these plastic panels are. These are the kind of cheap blanking panels you would expect on a $50 case not a $200+ case and we were disappointed with them.

Before we move on we would like to highlight and reiterate one point of this case's deign: namely the vertical air movement of this case. The front of the Raven is solid plastic with no ventilation holes nor mesh to be seen anywhere. Most people expect some air movement to originate somewhere on the front of a case, but it makes perfect sense for this case as it has been designed in such a way to suck air in from the bottom and push it up and out the top.


Unlike the front of the Raven, the back is not quite as air tight. In fact the upper-most portion of the back has a row of exhaust vents that give the single large black piece of plastic a rather sinister look. The look may not be for everyone but we actually prefer the look of the back of the case to the front. Under most circumstances this would not be considered a good thing but we think it just adds to the quirky, unique look SilverStone was going for.
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions pg.3

Exterior Impressions Con't




As mentioned earlier, this is a bottom mounted PSU case and as such the rear plastic panel does not cover this area. However, in what we are coming to believe is a trend the PSU area is more of a separate section and one could argue the PSU area seems to be added on as an after thought. In any case, the PSU area does not hinder nor take away from the striking angular looks of the RAVEN; rather SilverStone has been able to use it to their advantage and help accentuate these strong bold styling of the unit.


Except for the small oddly positioned window on one side, both side panels are mirror images of each other. Usually this means both are boring flat slabs of metal whose only job is to keep air in (and out) and to keep prying fingers away from your computer’s goodies. We are actually very glad and impressed to say this is not the case with Raven. The side panels of this case remind us a lot of the flaring of a muscle car where air could be sucked into the engine in the most aerodynamically friendly way. In many ways this analogy is spot on as the lower quarter of the these flares are meshed to allow fresh air to be sucked greedily inside.


The biggest reason we are in love with these side panels is the fact they are darn near bullet proof and easily make up a good portion of the weight of the case. To say they are made from thick metal which does not flex or bend with handling is an understatement is say the least. You really have no worries about these bending or otherwise becoming deformed during normal installation and removal.. As previously mentioned, the bottom area of these side panels is heavily meshed and does have some plastic moulding on it as well.

Like all well thought-out filtration systems, these mesh filters are removable so you can easily keep them nice and clean by just removing a whole bunch of screws. As an added bonus removing these screws also allows you to yank off the plastic molding.


These case panels may be heavy and while that is unusual and nice to see what really makes this case’s side panels unusual is not their weight but their installation and lock up. With most cases you either slide the panels in or swing them into position all in a horizontal plane (i.e. they move side to side not up and down), with this case they pivot along the lower length of the case and swing down and then up and out.

This unique motion does take some getting used too and so does the whole removal and reinstallation procedure. These doors do not have any hand holds or any way to easily hold onto them. You almost need to hook a finger and push them out of position and let gravity do the work for you as they abut up against the top plastic modeling. Then when they are a couple inches away from the case you then have to grab the door and lift it out of its track. Compounding the hassle factor is the two latch mechanisms which hide underneath the top plastic cowling/sheath. To unlatch a door you do need to first take off the top cover then slide the lone latch (per side) to the unlock position and then pry the door out. This is not overly bad, but reinstalling it means doing all this in reverse, and no slamming it home will NOT work.


Gently flipping this case on its side reveals are fairly well-constructed bottom. One large external piece of mesh covers the PSU area and helps keep dust out of the system. To clean this piece, you simply slide it out the back of the case, wash, let dry and reinstall. Trust us when we say your PSU will thank you for this as long as you keep it clean; otherwise it can reduce the amount of fresh air your bottom fan mounted PSU can suck in to keep itself cool.


The other mesh filter is internally located and the only reason we can see it is due to its mounting tags which stick out. This covers the rather large intake vent located towards the front area on the bottom of the Raven. When we get to the internal details we will go over this filter more.


As you can see, the four feet of this unit are large molded plastic diamond shape pieces with rather large diamond shape rubber strips glued to them. These feet will certainly keep the Raven stable and allow it to stay in one place, but we are not fond lovers of non-replaceable feet with glued in inserts. It has been our unfortunate experience that this style has a tendency to wear out faster and role up like a Fruit Roleup after awhile. Only time and testing will tell if these feet are different but in the mean time I thinks it’s a safe bet to give the SilverStone engineers the benefit of the doubt; after all this is an high price case and I doubt SilverStone will besmirch their good name over something as small and simple as poorly designed feet. At least we hope...
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions


Unless you knew what you were looking for on first glance you wouldn’t think anything odd with the internal layout of the Raven. Sure, there is a dual chamber design with a “sub floor” delineating the PSU area from the motherboard area but this is a SilverStone case so this is not exactly out of the ordinary. When you take a closer look, some things do start to stick out as being odd like the “lack” of a rear exhaust fan and inclusion of a top exhaust fan. As with the Purloined Letter it’s only when you take a really close look that the big things start to stand out, even though they are right there in front of you all along. Then and only then do you start to see the genius in this lay out.

The genius in this layout is the logical conclusion of a theory which has been unraveled in real time and in metal for all to see. The theory is actual very simple and real “why didn’t we think of that” kind of deal. This theory is goes like this: “heat rises, any board which gets in the way of the heat rising (say a GPU w/ its card above it in a normal layout) will block this heat from rising and cause the item to run even hotter. Since heat rises best with no blockages, the best way to do this is to remove said blockages.” The answer to this theory is actually very clever, instead of doing a 180 turn ala BTX standard (and have the hot item above the PCB which while a good idea still level board in the way if you use more than 1 GPU), SilverStone has rotated the motherboard 90° so all the GPUs are edge on to any heat rising. Not satisfied to let the hot air passively rise SilverStone then went a step further and have installed large fans in the bottom of the Raven to suck cool air in and push the air up and out the top of the case. This real world application of the age old mechanics of Thermodynamics, is called by SilverStone the “Stack Effect” and is as we said ingenious use of known techniques, which are just being used in a new and exciting way.

To better understand what we mean by this here is a short Youtube video showing the stack effect in action.

<object height="344" width="425">


<embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/douRh490E3I&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" height="344" width="425"></object>

While the stack effect would work even if SilverStone did not include any fans, the fans are truly what takes an idea and makes it reality. As such let’s start with the fans which accomplish this amazing task and make the magic happen.


The lone exhaust fan which helps suck the hot air from the top of this case is a 9 bladed, 120mm fan made by Xinchangfeng Electronics Co., Ltd. who are better known as Martech. In this instance it is the DF1202512RFLN model fan. Very little is known about this fan but based on experience and normal fan manufacturing nomenclature this is a Rifle bearing fan. Our standard spin and full speed test back this supposition up as it is not only a very tight fan displaying no shaft or off axis blade slop consistent with rifle bearing fans. When running at full speed we did notice a very, very slight tick-like whirring noise which we have come to associate with high end rifle bearing fans. As we said this is all supposition but it would be very surprising if we were wrong. There is a slight possibility of this fan being a sleeved bearing fan, but our experience and the 50,000 hr life expectancy says otherwise.


While the top fan is quite important, the real heart of this system is the dual 180mm fans which are specially mounted in the bottom of the motherboard area. As you can see in the above photos these fans cannot be swapped out for different fans.



The two 180mm fans are 7 bladed 180*180*32mm low speed, sleeve bearing RL4Z S1803212L-3M model fans made by GlobeFan. These fans move somewhere in the vicinity of only 55-60 CFM. We cannot be more precise than this because A)SilverStone has not released that information but B) Globe Fan's website lists a 180*180*25mm Low speed fan (RLXX S1802512L) which at 800RPM has a listed CFM of 59.42. We are inlined to believe the extra "thickness" of the SilverStone model has more to do with its unique mounting brackets than anything else and these two fans are for all intents and purposes the same.

As with the exhaust fan these two fans are very well mannered and very quiet. They do exhibit a moderate amount of shaft and off axis slop but this is par for the course with sleeve bearing fans. All in these are decent fans which produce only a minor amount of vibrations but really wish SilverStone had included either a more high performance version or at the very least alternate mounting brackets so we could easily swap them out for a more standard 120mm fans.
 
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Interior Impressions p.2

Interior Impressions Con't



At the top of the Raven we of course have the components normally found along the back other cases. As mentioned earlier in this review, the peripheral slots' blanking plates are nicely ventilated which turns them into what SilverStone calls their PCI "AeroSlot" covers. These PCI slots use the more old school, retention method of screws; on this case they are not even thumb screws which are easy tightened; rather they are the regular old, old school ones which require a screwdriver. We can understand why SilverStone did not opt for a tool-free as the old screw method may give you a certain comfort factor considering your expensive GPU is hanging on its side. However, would it have cost all that much to use thumb screws?


To further help reassure you, SilverStone has included a large crossbar with plastic retaining arms attached to it. These long arms are there to further help secure your cards in place and help keep them from being dislodged during a bumpy ride. The ends of these arms have small foam rubber pads on them to reduce any chances of marring your cards or otherwise damaging them. These arms lock into place via a rather nifty plastic ratchet and pawl like setup. If you are so inclined you could remove this crossbar completely as it is only held in place via screws.


Skipping over the motherboard for the moment brings our attention to the built-in six bay hard drive cage. This drive cage uses a drive caddy system in which your hard drives are first installed into a plastic caddy and then the caddy is installed into the drive cage. Unlike the drive caddy and cage setup found in the Fortress case we reviewed a while ago this drive cage and the drives themselves are mounted vertically, or on edge to the fan mounted directly below the drive cage. With all the drive caddies installed (even if only a few are filled) this setup is still fairly restrictive and we recommend only keeping the drive caddies you need to use installed. The upside to this setup is that it is not only a fast and easy way to install your hard drive(s) it is also a fairly secure way as well.


Also on the positive side, this case -just like the SilverStone Fortress once again-, comes with the first bay configured for hot-swapping. This goal is accomplished via a RAVEN customized SilverStone CP-05 adapter. While it was certainly nice to see SilverStone include a Hot-Swap adapter we wish they had included more than one, as most users will have more than one drive. You can purchase CP-05’s directly from SilverStone but this to us smacks of corner cutting. This is not a cheap case, yet this penny pinching does tend cheapen it somewhat.


Moving further on up the front of the Raven we come to the five 5.25 “optical” bay drives. Also like the Fortress these bays drive use a tool-less installation mechanism which is a lot like a rocker switch. When you want to secure your drive you simply push in on the switch and two pins pop out and secure the 5.25 device in place. It certainly is a fast, easy and highly intuitive process though if you wish you can also install screws on the other side as well. All in all, fast, easy, customizable and secure; what more could you ask for in a retaining mechanism?


While the motherboard area maybe laid out slightly differently than a normal one with everything skewed by 90° it does take a moment or two to pick out the finer points of this setup. The lack of a removable motherboard tray pops into focus pretty darn quickly but it does take a moment to notice the cable routing cut-outs. All in all these four cut-outs are not exactly what you would classify as spacious. They are on the small side but they are strategically placed and are rubber lined so what they lack in size they make up for in efficiency. Personally, I prefer four well placed holes exactly where I need them over two large general purpose ones. We will see later in this review if these are properly positioned but on first blush at least two don’t seem to be as they look like they are going to be blocked by the “back” edge of the motherboard (two directly under PCI Slots).


You may notice in the previous picture four more smaller cut-outs. These are not cut-outs per say but are in fact built-in cable clips. When we get to the other side of the Raven, we will go into more detail but in a nut shell SilverStone has taken sections of the motherboard tray, cut C shaped lines into it and stamped these into metal clamps. While this sounds crude, it is efficient and there is no sharp edges present. Heck, the whole interior is burr and sharp edge free and you would have to work mighty hard to get scratched let alone cut.

The only downside to this motherboard area is the lack of information regarding which holes are for what standard. This is something we come to expect from SilverStone and while this is not a problem for most experienced DIY computer builders who are most likely a big part of this case’s target audience, the very least they could have done it included a “map”.


Before we move on I am certain some of you eagle eyed readers out there have noticed one important fact which we have so far failed to mention: there is no cable hole / cut-out for either the 4/8pin power cable nor the larger 20/24 pin main power cable. In the formers' case it is because one of the four included cut-outs will suffice and in the later you are expected to use the large hole in the “bottom” of the motherboard zone and run your main cable up to the motherboard this way. Under normal circumstances we would find this unacceptable to say the least, but this is not a “normal” enclosure and as such the distance to your 20/24pin connector (at least on most motherboards) should be minimal.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions p.3

Interior Impressions Con't



The gateway hole from the PSU zone to the motherboard zone is large and free of sharp edges. Unlike the other cut-outs this hole has not been rubberized or sleeved in any manner; rather, the metal edges themselves have been rolled upon themselves giving a worry free, buttery smooth edge. Sleeves and rubberizing compounds wear out after awhile, where as this is a permanent solution. We were very impressed to see this done as sleeves are a lot cheaper, and taking the time to roll the metal not only takes time but costs more as well. Bravo SilverStone for going that extra mile.


Moving on down and into the area in front of the power supply we come to the second filter we talked about earlier in this review when we went over the bottom of this case. This filter helps ensure those large 180mm fans have a constant supply of fresh air. Of course, if you have a back mounted fan PSU like the PCP&C 750W for example this feature should also allow your PSU suck in nice fresh air.


As you can see, in the pictures your PSU actually sits on two rubberized rails. These strips are for all intents and purposes vibration dampeners and help keep your PSU nice and quiet, though with modern PSU vibration noise is not as big a concern as it used to be. In any case it once again shows the time, effort, money and though which went into designing the Raven


Last but certainly not least on our list of internal components is the back of the motherboard area. This is one area which a lot of companies fail to take into account. Luckily, some manufacturers are listening to the neat freak and mod community and are actually giving us enough room to do most of out cabling back there. This case, we are happy to report, not only gives you a decent amount of room to work with but actually has gone the extra mile and included built-in cable holders. There are pros and cons to built in cable holders, the biggest of which is they never wear out (like glue stick on ones) yet they are not as customizable either.

When we talked about the other side of the motherboard area we mentioned SilverStone had included four of these strategically placed cable holders. All in all we think they should in theory cover a wide enough assortment of cable options to keep most buyers happy, assuming they are not blocked by the motherboard that is. On the positive side, we were impressed with the fact they were all sleeved in what appears to be form fitting heat shrink material.


One thing which becomes blatantly clear when looking at the back of the motherboard area is this case's motherboard zone appears to be a modified normal tray and not a completely new design. The dead giveaway which tells us Silverstone’s engineers preferred to just reengineer an existing design then start from scratch is the two large squareish indents in the tray which in a typical case would be where a backplate for an aftermarket cooler would reside. If this had been properly positioned it would have been a very nice feature as it would eliminate fears of shorting out your motherboard from the backplate touching the tray.


To be completely honest we are a bit ambivalent to the design and layout of the Raven, both the front and “other side” are well laid out with great assortment of features which should keep even the most discerning of buyers happy, but we wonder if all these features are usable.
 
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AkG

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Installation

Installation


Please note: we left the fan off the V2 (and installed it upside down from its proper orientation) so you can easily see the location of your power connectors.

Just as we have done in the past, the very first thing we like to install is the power supply and get that over and done with. While the Raven may have a unique motherboard installation process, the power supply is as simple as can be. As stated through out this review the Raven is a bottom mounted PSU case and as such the PSU installation is as easy as can be.


Before starting with the PSU we first removed both side panels to give us some extra room to work with. When this was accomplished we simply slid the unit into place along its two PSU rails and secured it with four knurled screws (just as we would with any other case’s PSU). As you can see in the above photo, SilverStone has included a PSU arm to help keep the it from moving around. It did make installing the PSU a little more difficult than normal (as it was a tight fit) but we think the extra security is worth the extra effort. In this instance we have gone with our tried and true Seasonic S12 600W which is a standard-length ATX power supply; however as you can see in the picture this area can easily accommodate much longer units.


After installing the power supply we turned our attention to installing a hard drive. As with all drive cages which use a variation on the drive caddy system we strongly recommend leaving all the empty drive caddies out of the case. This increases the chance of losing them, but by doing so it should increase the amount of air flow. Air flow in the Raven is crucial for making the Stack Effect as efficient as possible. Please do not get us wrong, you can safely install 6 hard drives in this case with very little to no ill effects; however, it may have a slight negative impact on the cooling potential of this case and this case is all about cooling potential.


To install the hard drive the first thing you have to do is release a caddy from the cage by opening the front door of it and pulling it out. Once this is done you then mount the removable drive caddy unto your drive. This too is not a tool-less installation process, as you have to first line up the drive and drive caddy holes and then screw in four speciality screws (with rubber grommets for anti-vibration). When this is accomplished you then press down on the drive to slide the screws into their locked position. This may sound complicated but if you have ever done this with either another SilverStone case or even Antec you will be right at home as it does become second nature pretty quickly.


When this is accomplished all you have to do is slide the drive back into one of the six prearranged places and close its locking arm. As we said earlier we have come across many iteration on the drive caddy and cage system and this is one of the better example of a consumer oriented, user-friendly system. It is a classic example of how to properly implant a tool-less installation and in a nut shell it “just works”.


Once the power supply and hard drives are in properly installed, the next thing we like to do is prep the 5.25 bay area and then install our optical drive. Unlike some cases where you need to remove the front of the case to prep the area (i.e. yank out all those metal blanking panels) the Raven allows you to simply pop off the 5.25 covers and then remove the necessary metal covers without the need of removing the front face. This certainly saves time and does reduce the risk of breaking a retaining wing which keep the front of the case (i.e. the face) in place. In this instance the top two 5.25 slots are already prepped for us as they come with their metal chassis blanking panels already removed. If you plan on using one of the lower slots you will first have to remove the pre-stressed panel but this is still above average and was a nice touch.


Once you are ready to install your drive all you have to do is slide it into position and then push up on the large tool-free retention mechanism. This pushes two pins out and into position. Since they are not spring loaded you do have to be careful to line them up with the holes of the optical drive first. In practice, this means you push the drive most of the way in, try to push the large switch, slide the drive in further, try again and rinse and repeat until you have lined them up. It may sound difficult but once you get the hang of it , it becomes a simple and very effective setup.

To release the drive simply push the large lever like switch again and the retaining pins sink out and away from the optical drive allowing you to easily remove it.


With the PSU, HDD and optical drive installed the next thing on our list of things to do is prep the motherboard area by removing the brace bar which runs from front to back and then installing the included standoffs. Removal of the bar is easy as removing some screws and angling it out and then yanking the clipped end out of its slot. With this done we then went ahead and started to install the motherboard standoffs. We really wish SilverStone had taken the time to label the holes or at least include a layout chart for them as it may be a bit confusing for even seasoned professionals.

The confusion stems from the fact you have to install all the pins 90° off their normal axis. The easiest thing to do, is place the Raven case on its side and rotate it so the top of the case is where the “back” of normal case would be. This will make it easy to remember what pins are needed for your motherboard.

Since we opted for installing a stock OCZ Vendetta 2 we did not need to install any motherboard backplate. If your after market CPU cooling solution requires a backplate (say a Vendetta 2 w/ “crossbow” backplate upgrade) we recommend you install it now before going any further with your installation process.


Once we had the motherboard in place and secured we turned our attention to the video card installation. As with most cases, this is not a tool-less installation procedure. However, while it did require a screwdriver it still was as simple as removing a retaining screw from the proper AeroSlot filled PCI slot, removing the AeroSlot blanking plate and gently installing our video card before using the retaining bar to secure it in place. After we had reinstalled the retaining bar, the majority of our install was complete.


As the old saying goes everything was steaming along fine…until the wheels fell off. Earlier in this review we mentioned that you would need extra long SATA cables to reach from the hard drive to the motherboard and boy were we not kidding. Even though we knew this for a fact our longer cables still did not reach and we had to go out and get some extra, extra long ones. We wish SilverStone had included some of these cheap accessories as we are sure more than one customer’s Raven-based build will be stalled by lack of cables.

Depending on whether or not you want to route your cables behind the motherboard (i.e. do a neat and professional looking job) or just string them across the front the length of cable needed will vary; however, buy the longest frickin’ cables you can find before hand and pray that they will do. This issue will be exasperate if you use the top most 5.25 bay or the hard drive bay closest to the front of the Raven.

Please do not get us wrong; this is not a huge issue and besides the hassle factor is more of an annoyance than anything. The SATA 3.0 standard allows for 1 meter cables and while you will need long cables (we had some 36 inch ones in our Ye Olde Parts Bin which were more than long enough even for the optical bay drive installation) no signal errors should happen unless you get a bad cable. Morale of the story: SilverStone may have cheaped out but you shouldn’t. Spend a couple extra dollars and get good quality cables. They may just save you a lot of time, hassle and troubleshooting.


Once we got past the SATA cabling issue (we dodged a bullet by not using PATA at all in this build and we recommend you do as well) the cable routing was almost straightforward. We say “almost” as our suspicions were correct about the two rear most cut-outs. These two holes are completely covered by our motherboard making cable routing very difficult. This may or may not be a big deal, but most of those slick cable clips will go to waste as it stands. To be honest we were not happy with the options available and even without the front connectors not installed it was fast becoming a spaghetti of wires.


All in all the installation procedure was a mish-mash of good and bad, but overall we would rate it slightly above average but nowhere near what we expect from a SilverStone case. This may be a situation where SilverStone is being their own worst enemy, as were we expecting nothing less than perfection. Overall, it’s still a fairly easy installation and as long as you are prepared for the SATA cable issues, and less than tidy cable routing, you should have very little cause for pause. Unfortunately, above average or not, this case feels like a first generation product, one where all the quirks & kinks have not been ironed out yet.
 
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