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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]


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More PC Case Cooling Hype
By Beenthere on 1/22/2012 6:37:28 PM , Rating: 4
The old positive vs. negative pressure PC case cooling is so technically ignorant that it defies logic. For those who don't know you can have either positive or negative PC case pressure and very little airflow.

Airflow is the only thing that matters in air-cooling of the case. If your case has enough airflow thru the proper areas of the case and the heated air is expelled properly, all is well. It does not matter if you achieve this via negative or positive case pressure. your PC simply does not care.

If I had a dollar for every false post on PC case cooling posted in just one hardware forum I could retire a very wealthy man... <LOL>




RE: More PC Case Cooling Hype
By TakinYourPoints on 1/22/2012 8:38:51 PM , Rating: 2
You beat me to this post. :)

Airflow is top priority. That said, I'm not going to hate on Silverstone's cases either, their Fortress/Raven cases (fantastic airflow) and some of the Corsairs are all I really recommend these days.


RE: More PC Case Cooling Hype
By Beenthere on 1/22/2012 8:59:54 PM , Rating: 1
The cases are very nice looking. That isn't the point though. I've actually seen online videos by PC case makers who had no clue that the way they were blowing smoke into a case affected how the smoke pattern displayed...


By TakinYourPoints on 1/22/2012 9:12:01 PM , Rating: 2
I totally understand what you're saying. I am saying though that the 90 degree rotation on the motherboard and three large fans pushing air from the bottom results in excellent airflow in the specific Silverstone cases I mentioned. They nail airflow in those cases, particularly for GPUs, and they do it without compromising noise (I like cases to be silent or nearly silent as well).

They may be blowing hot air in this article (ho ho ho), but that isn't to say that they've been unsuccessful with cooling and airflow in some other products either.


RE: More PC Case Cooling Hype
By PrinceGaz on 1/23/2012 12:21:16 PM , Rating: 1
Indeed. In fact both positive and negative internal air-pressure are a bad thing as regards to airflow, as fans work most efficiently when the pressure either side of them is equal, so they're only actually moving air rather than also having to work to force it to or from an environment with a different pressure.

That said, a very slight positive pressure is probably desirable to a slight negative pressure as that ensures all the air intake is through the intake fans and filters thus minimising internal dust build-up.


RE: More PC Case Cooling Hype
By TimboG on 1/24/2012 2:10:23 AM , Rating: 2
I would tend to believe that "technically ignorant" being used in your post has been a "false post".

I don't know how long you have been working with high-end PCs but if you hadn't noticed, let me point out one simple thing that most "Professionals" overlook.

Not so long ago ATI introduced the X800XT video card with a fan that exhausted the hot air from the GPU heatsink out the rear of the case. In doing so this became another exhaust fan for the PC. This design is still in use today with the release of the HD7970. If this type of GPU cooling is used in negative pressure airflow designed cases the GPU then has to work harder to cool the GPU. This is because the fan must run at a higher RPM to maintain the needed airflow againt the negitive pressure in the case.

This is probably why when you read customer reviews of video cards with this design the reviewers rate the noise level of the cooling solution so differently.

Now that you have another exhaust fan creating even more negative pressure within the case some of the other user added units, such as card readers, BluRay drives, etc., become clogged with dust.

So, YES, positive pressure now has become a positive solution to these problems. This does not consider the other positives such as better dust control by using filters at the intake points, better power supply heat management by not pulling air in thru the power supply exhaust, and there are so many other little things to mention that I feel sure other members will be kind enough to point out.

Thanks, TimBo


RE: More PC Case Cooling Hype
By Warren21 on 1/26/2012 12:41:10 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the X800 XT used a single slot cooler nearly identical to the one on the 9800 XT.

The card you are thinking of is the X850 XT and XT PE.

Also, neither were the first to introduce the concept, though I'm not sure that's what you were implying. The FX 5800 used an exhaust venting design much earlier, though there could potentially be an even earlier card (maybe something workstation class?) that accomplished this.


RE: More PC Case Cooling Hype
By TimboG on 1/27/2012 1:56:20 AM , Rating: 2
Hey, cool, I did forget about the "leaf blower" fan on the Nvidia cards, thanks for keeping me on my toes.
And I stand corrected on the X800/X850 XT.

I guess there is a point I was trying to make. Look how long having negative pressure for cooling our PCs has been causing problems with both the GPU cooling and the all important power supply cooling.

I’ve seen so many blown capacitors in power supplies over the years, and most all were because of stagnate air in the unit. Put it this way, the case fans are trying to pull air in thru the power supply exhaust while the power supply fan is trying to push it out. The air flow basically stops. Or it’s at such a low volume that it’s not enough air flow to properly cool the power supply. I see this happen too many times with negative pressure cooling.

With the GPUs the only real problem has been noise. The higher the negative pressure in the case the faster and louder the GPU fan spins when the GPU is under load.

One last point, don’t forget if you are using negative pressure to cool your PCs, a lot of the heat that finally makes it out the rear of your case gets sucked right back in thru the vents stamped into the rear of the case, thru vented slot fillers or back in thru your power supply!


Possitive Pressure?
By Prime2515103 on 1/22/2012 2:33:52 PM , Rating: 2
They've been on this for over four years now (http://www.anandtech.com/show/3475). Is there something new here?




RE: Possitive Pressure?
By Prime2515103 on 1/22/2012 2:37:00 PM , Rating: 2
Oops, it put the parenthesis and period in that link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/3475


RE: Possitive Pressure?
By JasonMick (blog) on 1/22/2012 2:37:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They've been on this for over four years now (http://www.anandtech.com/show/3475). Is there something new here?


Hey tried to check out your link, but it gave me an error.

I know positive pressure isn't anything new, what is new is seeing it pushed across an entire lineup so heavily. Talking to some other case companies, they've expressed a lot of skepticism about positive pressure being the way to go overall.

I'm not saying who's right or wrong -- and maybe there's some companies that are on Silverstone's side of the fence. It's just interesting to see the difference of opinions and concerted push across the lineup.


RE: Possitive Pressure?
By Alexvrb on 1/22/2012 4:28:04 PM , Rating: 2
Positive pressure is a good thing, but only in an "all else remaining equal" scenario. You can achieve positive pressure in almost any case, but doing it RIGHT is a completely different story. If Silverstone is careful in their designs, the results should be decent. The cases have to be somewhat sealed against excessive leakage too. In a traditional case you can almost randomly punch holes in the case and they become cool air intakes. Of course that also invites even more dust, often negating the front filters.

That's another thing I like about positive pressure designs. As long as the front filters are doing their job, it's a lot harder for dust to get in. After all, anywhere there's an air leak, it's going to be pushing air OUT, rather than sucking it (and dust) in. Nothing is perfect, of course. If your filters are too good that brings a whole slew of other problems such as reduced airflow, increased noise, and periodic filter replacement (cleanable designs tend to have bigger holes than cotton/paper disposable designs).


RE: Possitive Pressure?
By Jedi2155 on 1/23/2012 8:24:21 AM , Rating: 2
I have a Cooler Master HAF 932 chassis, and I experienced the much lower dust build as claimed by the positive air pressure on my chassis. There is a giant 200mm fan on the side door, and I surprisingly have experienced much lower dust build up than my old Lian Li PC-7B Plus II.

I can vouch for the concept, but I'm not sure about specific case designs...


RE: Possitive Pressure?
By leexgx on 1/23/2012 4:17:42 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.anandtech.com/show/3475 (look at the URL bar) yours some how has an ). in it


Extreme Negative vs Positive pressure
By FishOutOfTheWater on 1/22/2012 3:02:24 PM , Rating: 2
I’m no Physics major but I read a lot. Taken to extremes wouldn’t Negative vs Positive pressure be like cooling in a vacuum vs liquid cooling.




By YashBudini on 1/22/2012 8:47:27 PM , Rating: 2
I think if you took an actual air pressure reading outside and inside the case you'd be hard pressed to see a difference. IE no need to go to extremes.


By amanojaku on 1/22/2012 8:27:35 PM , Rating: 3
I don't care what she does, as long as she goes from suck to blow.




By Mitch101 on 1/22/2012 1:51:25 PM , Rating: 2
Id like to see some Thermal Imaging, Temp Monitoring, and sound tests to back up their claims. Im sure they are on to something with positive pressure air flow thermals but I would like to verify the claims a little more than seeing a picture that shows dead air space right next to the only external airflow. Im still skeptical and I hope some reviews take on the claims.

I do have some requirements to every case I purchase now
1-Only big fans (120's or larger) and no irregular fans sizes that cant be easily replaced.
2-Must have air filters to prevent dust as much as possible.
3-Hard drive cage must be offset or 90 degrees out so drives can be replaced or added easily after mobo is installed. If 90degrees out does it have room for power and sata cables.
4-Removable front face.
5-If built in USB and Audio slots must be located below drive bays or recessed in a way that they will not interfere with the DVD drive tray.




Antec 900
By RyuDeshi on 1/22/2012 4:43:52 PM , Rating: 2
So if flip the top 200mm fan around on my Antec 900, that could help temperatures? I might have to give it a try and test it out.. it does look like it causes much more air to flow across the GPU, which could help.




Been doing it.
By FredEx on 1/22/2012 6:29:11 PM , Rating: 2
I have been doing positive pressure for many years. I'm using a heavy full tower Inwin case I have had for years. I've built three new systems in it, with upgrading here and there in between. I'm looking to build a totally new system again this year. The case does not look special from the outside. I have sealed the case for complete air control. I'd used tape and silicone sealer mostly. Incoming air is filtered and vents out the top and through the two power supplies (yes two PSU's...a modified one runs just the video cards).




By Ihmemies on 1/22/2012 7:36:37 PM , Rating: 2
Silverstone has some well thought designs like Raven 2 ( http://www.techspot.com/review/351-silverstone-rv0... ). It has three 18cm fans on bottom pushing air through the case. Motherboard is rotated 90 degrees so all the connectors are facing upwards.

Because warm air moves naturally upwards, fans don't need to move that much air. With well selected GPU & CPU coolers (like Arctic Cooling Twin Turbo 2 & Thermalright Macho) it's easy to cool even most powerful systems reasonably quietly.

Also because the case fans cool everything inside the case, fanless high efficiency PSU's like Super Flower's 500W work well. Only reason there aren't more cases like Raven 2 / Fortress 2 is probably the size. People want tiny cases and generic cases with small 12cm fans are a lot easier to design.




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