From smaller power supplies to positive pressure, Silverstone is pushing in a lot of unusual directions

[This post is a "CES doggy-bag" of sorts.  I talked with Silverstone at CES 2012 in depth about their lineup and was interested in the unique directions the company is going in, so want to share the models they discussed with me and key info on them.  Meant to share this sooner but SOPA week got in the way.  - JM]

We caught up with Taiwan's SilverStone Comp., Ltd., last week at the Consumer Electronics Show.  Since SilverStone's 2003 entrance into the market it quickly became known as one of the premium makers of home theater PC (HTPC) cases.  While third party numbers are a bit hard to come by, SilverStone's marketing manager Tony Ou boldly proclaims that SilverStone is today the top selling HTPC casemaker in the business, thanks to their lineup of over 20 modls.

But SilverStone is taking a number of interesting directions in the case market, directions that could transform it into a powerhouse in other markets.  The company is a bit of a cooling renegade in that it is executing the kinds of unusual strategies that other companies only toy with.

I. Mainstream Cases -- With Unusual Positive Pressure Design

In terms of gaming or rendering rig tall, tower-style cases SilverStone has fleshed out its lineup with the TJ04-E, which wil hit the market priced at around $160 USD.  

Temjin series 4 E

The case incorporates one of SilverStone's key case initiatives -- positive pressure.  Positive pressure refers to when your intake fans pull in more air than your exhaust fans put out.  This creates a buildup of pressure.  An interesting recent study by a hardcore enthusiast Newegg reviewer offer some third party support for this approach, finding that it delivers the best cooling performance while also living up to the much promised feature of lower dust build up (because dust tends to be blown out of the vents by the pressure).

The case also an 8 hard drive (HDD) cage.  The unusual aspect here is the density of the packing.  In order to pack the hard drives so densely without airflow/heat issues, Silverstone's case cuts away one of the walls of the drive cage.  Where as most drive cages we saw at CES featured the standard slots that pass air through, Silverstone's exposes the bare drives (with an optional heat sink for better thermal performance).  Speaking with other case manufacturers there was some doubts if this approach would generate sufficient airflow, but SilverStone assures us that this solution not only deliver superb hard drive density, but superb cooling as well.

Temjin series 4 E

Up to 8 drives can be squeezed in the cage, along with 1 uncaged HDD, and up to 6 SSDs (for a theoretical total of 15 (!) drives).  The case design is otherwise about what you expect from a luxury case, incorporating features like fan filters and backside cable routing.  The overall design is a slick brushed aluminum look, which should appeal to fans of a more sedate and modern case design.  The entire case is also lifted off the floor, allowing cables to pass underneath.

Moving downwards, Silverstone was also showing off two new mid-tower cases -- the Kublai Series KL03 and KL04.  The KL03 ($130 USD) is a bit of an oddball in that it does not incorporate airflow and additionally has a bit more of a decorative design with side vents.  By contrast the KL04 ($150 USD) is much more like the TJ04-E, complete with positive pressure, the built in 8 HDD cage, a total capacity of 15 HDDs, a lifted case, and the sophisticated sharp lined metal body.

Kublai Series 4

Dipping down to even smaller form factors SilverStone was showing off the Micro-ATX geared PS07.  Another positive pressure case, this case packs an impresive 6 drives and cleanable dust filters.  

Precision Series 7

But one of Silverstone's most interesting cases is its smallest -- the new FT03-Mini.  Essentially a shrunk down FT03, this case imposes a 9.8-inch limit on graphics cards, so that new Radeon 7970 HD is not going to find its home here.  But on the upside the case is tiny, retains the raised form factor for discrete cable running, and packs an amazing 140 mm fan to create positive pressure.  Indeed it's worth noting that Silverstone is pushing positive pressure from its largest cases -- like the TJ04-E -- to its smallest -- the FT03-E.

Silverstone Fortress Mini

Rounding out the company's case lineup, Silverstone has also reworked its bread and butter HTPC case lineup, including its large Grandia Series cases.  The GD07 ($130 USD) features some near perks such as a kid-safe locking front panel and accompanying locking power button.  The GD08 ($140 USD) adds capacity for another hard drive, bumping the total to 12 3.5-inch drives (including eight in a convenient hot swap rack with steel handlebars to lift the (somewhat heavy) drive cage out easily.  The usual suspects -- positive pressure design and removable filters on the vents -- have found there way into both of these models.

II. Power Supplies, Odds and Ends

Outside of the case realm Silverstone is dropping its new high power Zeus Series power supply, rated at 1350 watts.  It has a switch allowing both six single +12 V rails or a single unified rail.  The power supply manages an 80 Plus Silver rating, indicating good power efficiency.  This model will drop in a couple of months, priced around $400 USD.

Zeus power supply

Silverstone is also looking to dramatically expand its SFX Series of power supplies, complete with Gold and Silver 80 Plus models.  Where the power supplies market has traditionally been dominated by one size standard -- ATX -- Silverstone is pushing hard towards smaller "SFX" supplies.  These supplies don't sacrifice the perks you've come to expect, like modular cabling, but they do allow for smaller form factors.  

Currently only a single Bronze certified SFX power supply (450 W) is available from Silverstone, but Silverstone tells us this is a big priority for them.  The lineup will grow as the year goes on.   Expect higher efficiencies and potentially even higher watt models to come later this year.

SFX form factor PS

The company is also selling a fans lineup, which includes an impressive 180 mm 60-167 cfm, 500-200 rpm fan that ranges from 17-42 dB.  That's relatively quite compared to many of the fans you see today.  Silverstone is also one of several companies that is launching an ExpressCard to USB 3.0 converter, which for $20-25 USD will provide you with a way to upgrade this legacy slot in your older laptops to support the latest in USB technology.

Silverstone 180 fan

Overall Silverstone is pushing in some interesting directions like SFX power supplies and smaller case form factors, and positive pressure for all its premium case models.  We leave it to our benchmarking colleagues like Anandtech to determine whether these novel directions yield studs or duds.

[All images courtesy of Silverstone]

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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