Ahead of Computex 2015 in Taipei, KitGuru was given exclusive access to Silverstone’ Technology’s headquarters. Centre stage was a series of new case models, which have an interesting common ancestry. Silverstone’s Technical Marketing guru, Tony Ou, was on hand to explain what makes this new line-up of micro-ATX cases special.
Almost immediately, an interesting question came up during our meeting with Tony: With a case manufacturer, who designs the underlying framework? The question is interesting, because it forces a separation in thinking between the frame and the final, completed model, with branded bezel, that goes on sale to the public.
“We work with factories that have their own highly skilled R&D teams”, explained Tony Ou in a conversation with KitGuru’s Andrzej. “While the final look, feel and configuration is always ours, around half the time the actual framework will come from the factory’s R&D team”.
One platform, three PC cases Silverstone’s new family of micro-ATX PC cases consists of three models, which are very different and are designed for different types of computers, but which share the same platform.
“What makes the final variations possible, was a huge effort from our design team on the underlying chassis framework before we went anywhere near the factory,” said the expert. “We had a new level of flexibility in mind before we started – and we’ve worked hard to see that innovation through to the final models.”
One of the chassis is designed for maximum noise suppression, another is aimed at customers with extreme storage requirements and the third one is made specifically for enthusiasts, who prefer small form-factor micro-ATX platforms.
“The usage scenarios we had in mind were noise suppression, extreme storage and something for the serious micro ATX enthusiast”, said Tony.
Silverstone TJ08-Pro: World’s first micro-ATX case with USB type-C connector
Personal computers in general are getting smaller. There are a lot of people who prefer compact systems nowadays. By contrast, full-tower PCs are getting less popular. But while end-users want smaller computers, they are generally not willing to sacrifice performance for dimensions. As a result, modern PC cases should be architected to handle power-hungry and overclocked components. This is exactly what the Silverstone TJ08 Pro is.
“The TJ08-Pro is aimed at the enthusiast market, with the best air flow ever for a micro ATX chassis,” said Mr. Ou. “We tweaked every part of the design to ensure optimal airflow for the CPU and GPU as well as creating the best possible overall ambient temperatures inside.”
Maximum cooling efficiency in a compact form-factor seems like an impressively bold claim, but this is something that will need to be put to the test independently.
Yet another impressive feature of the TJ08-Pro are two USB 3.1 type-C reversible ports on the front panel. The new case from Silverstone will be one of the first cases with USB type-C receptacles in the DIY market.
“We are also proud to reveal that it has a pair of USB Type C connectors on the facia,” we were told. “We’re expecting to see a lot more of this in 2015.”
While the final pricing will be set shortly, from what Tony Ou said we guess that the aluminium TJ08-Pro will come in around the £89 inc vat mark in the U.K.
Silverstone Precision PS07-E: The silent predator
Because small form-factor systems with serious compute power usually require more fans than large PCs, in many cases high-performance compact computers are noisy. In a bid to address that problem, Silverstone has developed its Precision PS07-E, a micro-ATX chassis with maximum noise suppression.
“We use the ‘E’ suffix for ‘Evolution’ on the Precision PS07-E variant for this chassis frame,” said Tony Ou as he moved onto the largest of the three units. “The original PS07 had a single 180mm fan at the front, but we have replaced that with a pair of whisper quiet 120mm fans. As you would expect in a silent chassis, we have included noise reduction material throughout, but the design innovations go beyond that. We even experimented with different vent sizes and angles along the side – each time checking to see which variation reduced noise the most. We are confident that this case is as quiet as we could make it.”
The Silverstone Precision PS07-E has an impressive look and can fit all modern CPUs and graphics cards. However, it was not easy to wed noise suppression materials with internal architecture that ensures efficient cable management.
“Another feature that was difficult to achieve was the bulges in the side panels”, Tony told us. “This additional space really helps with cable routing, but when you are working toward a price point, the metal panels are quite thin and the process to bend the metal becomes complicated. This was the point where the factory R&D guys really came into their own. They developed a special technique that not only made it easy for us to create the shape – the shape itself actually adds to the rigidity of the chassis overall”.
Despite the addition of all that noise reduction material, the sealed front panel and other bezel modifications, the underlying steel/plastic combination is likely to see the Precision PS07-E case come out at a lower price point than the TJ08-Pro.
Silverstone CS-380: The storage monster
The third case on Silversone’s new micro-ATX family is the CS-380, the the storage monster as one might call it, which will be marketed under the name CS-380. One of the thing that gets noticed immediately about the case is the lack of painted inner panels.
“It has to be that way”, explained Tony Ou. “As well as PC enthusiasts who want a massive amount of internal, hot-swappable storage, we also believe that this chassis will be attractive for professional storage companies that want to build products like bespoke NAS devices. In that situation, painting the internals actually impacts the EM profile of the package in a negative way.”
The Silverstone CS-380 chassis can hold up to thirteen storage devices, an impressive number for a micro-ATX case. Moreover, eight of twelve drives can be hot-swapped, according to Tony Ou.
“Internally, we have a pair of four-drive back planes which makes swapping drives on the fly very simple,” said the technical marketing expert. “Technically, you can mount an additional 5.25” drive in the top of the case and we then have four bays for 2.5” drives.”
KitGuru reported back in January about Toshiba’s launch of its 3TB 2.5” drive. Which means you can install nine full size 6TB drives, three 3TB 2.5” drives and still boot from a 1TB SSD.
“Yes,” Tony Ou confirmed. “In that configuration, you would have micro-ATX desktop system with around 64TB of storage available.”
All of this additional technology has a price, but with a street estimate around £165 inc vat, it shouldn’t put off users who have enough cash for 64TB of storage.
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KitGuru says: It is an impressive way to adapt a single framework to three very different scenarios. As we left, we did ask Tony Ou if we had missed anything. “They all support water cooling,” he replied. You should see these in stores across the globe soon after Computex.