Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7084/silverstone-raven-rv04-case-review

Introducing the SilverStone Raven RV04

The SilverStone Raven RV04 is, to put it mildly, long overdue. While announcements about its existence date back to just over a year, I can tell you this case has been in development since not long after SilverStone released their remarkably strong Temjin TJ08-E. That case's stellar performance surprised even SilverStone; I'm reasonably certain they thought the Fortress FT03 was going to be their strongest Micro-ATX enclosure for some time to come, but the TJ08-E changed the game. After I reviewed it, I asked them directly for an ATX version and received the kind of cagey answer I ultimately wanted to hear.

Unfortunately, the journey of the full-sized TJ08-E descendant has been more than a little fraught. It's my understanding that tooling problems, among other things, have led to lengthy delays. In fact even the Raven RV04 will be showing up late on American shores; we'll likely actually get the high end version of this chassis, the Fortress FT04, first.

The design has a lot to live up to. SilverStone's Fortress FT02 has practically been the gold standard for air cooling for some time now, and they posit that the FT04 is actually capable of producing even better performance. Part of the reason they have this confidence is because they seem to understand a vital truth about cases and cooling that many of their contemporaries still grapple with: nothing cools better than a direct line of airflow through the CPU cooler. The rotated motherboard and convection cooling was never the magic that made the FT02 and previous Ravens work; it was good marketing and seemed sound, but the reason those cases were so good at their jobs was the fact that they had giant fans blowing directly through the CPU tower coolers. Air wasn't moving at an angle like it does in traditional ATX cases.

SilverStone Raven RV04 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX, E-ATX, SSI-EEB, SSI-CEB
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25"
Internal 7x 3.5", 4x 2.5"
Cooling Front 2x 180mm intake fan
Rear 1x 120mm fan mount
Top -
Side -
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 8
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 165mm
PSU ~200mm with optical drive
GPU 338mm
Dimensions 8.62" x 22.87" x 19.57"
219mm x 581mm x 497mm
Special Features USB 3.0 via internal header
Removable drive cages
Three-speed intake fans
Support struts for CPU fan and graphics cards
Window or windowless models
Price $159

The Raven RV04 is, in true SilverStone fashion, kind of an oddball. But it's an oddball even by SilverStone standards. What should strike you immediately is the fact that they don't include a 120mm exhaust fan by default, flying in the face of conventional wisdom. This is something actually covered in their press material; by not including the 120mm exhaust fan, they're able to let the extant front intake fans to channel air directly from front to back. The flow of air inside the RV04 winds up being defined almost entirely by the coolers used on the processor and graphics card(s). Ordinarily I pay even less attention to PR than you do, but SilverStone's is usually pretty on the money, and without spoiling too much I can tell you that I definitely didn't miss the exhaust fan.

In and Around the SilverStone Raven RV04

What I'm about to say is likely going to surprise readers familiar with SilverStone products: the Raven RV04 is actually a little flimsy. Build quality is usually top shelf from SilverStone, and the chassis proper is mostly okay, but the outer shell is entirely "reinforced plastic." This is a company that does aluminum better than Lian Li, so to see chintzy plastic used for the fascia and top of the case is almost mirror-universe-level bizarre.

75% of my disappointment with the RV04's shell comes from the front door design, and this photo doesn't even tell the whole story:

The hinges for the door are cheap plastic, and not just that, but the door doesn't close securely at all. Even a whiff of carpeting makes the door unusually difficult to shut correctly, and there isn't so much as a magnet to hold the door in place. There's just no way around it: the design is terrible, and I sincerely hope the higher end Fortress FT04 version of this chassis fixes it. I'm actually mystified as to why SilverStone included a door on the Raven RV04 at all; a flat front fascia with venting on the sides for the intake fans would've gotten the job done just as well.

There's also a removable plastic shroud on the top of the RV04, but since it doesn't have to move like the door does, there's less of an issue with the design. This plastic feels at least a hair sturdier than the door, but the lined gamer-styling feels out of place for a SilverStone product. The Raven cases have always looked at least a little daring compared to the rest of SilverStone's lineup, but I'm skeptical as to how much of that was responsible for the success of the line. Aesthetics are not a universal science, though, and your mileage may vary.

What should really clue you in to the RV04's unconventional design is the fact that the windowed side panel is on the right side instead of the left; SilverStone flipped the motherboard layout just like they did with the TJ08-E. It makes a lot of sense once you take the side panel off and see just how they've arranged the interior, too.

SilverStone is using just two 180mm intake fans to cool your entire system in the RV04, and the fans are evenly split into zones. The top fan blows directly on the expansion slots, while the bottom fan blows through the hard drive cage and the CPU cooler. Spacing of hard drive mounts allows a decent amount of air from SilverStone's bottom Air Penetrator fan to go through and cool the processor, and the top fan's airflow is almost totally unobstructed. The specificity of this airflow design is key to understanding the RV04.

That top cage is where the two 5.25" drive bays live along with the power supply. The RV04 is designed to have the power supply installed flipped, with the bottom intake facing the top of the enclosure. Meanwhile, the center hard drive cage along with the two drive cages on the bottom of the RV04 are removable, but here we run into another issue.

2.5" drives screw directly into the bottom of the RV04, but that's not the problem. The problem is that you have to somehow guide the screws into the recesses in that front plastic piece to use two of the four 2.5" drive mounts, and that's incredibly difficult.

The TJ08-E's internal design wasn't especially clean, but it was functional and delivered results given the relatively small stature of the enclosure. With the RV04, SilverStone has more space to get the design right, yet the interior still feels curiously slapdash. There's a place for everything and everything in its place, but I can't help but feel like this could've been a much cleaner design. The two bottom cages are just silly; do we really need seven 3.5" bays? Why not simplify the bottom cages into at least a single one that supports easier mounting of 2.5" drives? There's a lot of refinement that could've been done with the RV04, and I'm still shocked the door design shipped in this state.

Assembling the SilverStone Raven RV04

As I said, there's a place for everything and everything is in its place in the SilverStone Raven RV04, and there's also a clear way the case comes apart and then back together again. As is typical of SilverStone cases, the RV04 is not an entry level design. Virtually nothing about it is toolless and assembling a system inside it requires at least a little doing. It mostly makes sense, but you'll definitely want to read the instruction manual.

For starters, the motherboard tray is removable, but not in the traditional sense. Traditional removable trays actually slide out of the back of the case and take the expansion slots with them, but this tray is for just the motherboard. It's held into place by notches, and three screws secure it. Remove the screws and you're left with a tray that has six standoffs preinstalled and markings that helpfully measure the size of your motherboard but also tell you which standoff holes to populate depending on your board's spec. The nice thing about this design is that it allows you to pop the I/O backplane in and then use the tray itself for leverage if you're dealing with a particularly thick or finicky backplane.

Before you do that, though, you'll want to remove the primary drive cage (the one that holds the five 3.5" drives) and the top panel of the case. That drive cage is going to obscure the primary ATX line on the motherboard, so you'll also want to wire up power to the motherboard before anything else. In times like these, a modular power supply can be a huge help.

3.5" drives securely mount to the inside of the cage, but you'll have to screw them in manually. The same is true for the 5.25" drives; the shields are easy enough to remove from the bays, but you'll have to use special thumbscrews included with the RV04 to mount the drives themselves. Installing 2.5" drives in the Raven RV04 is the stuff of nightmares, though. The manual recommends you remove the cages above the 2.5" drives when you do the installation, but that's not actually the issue.

The placement of the screws for mounting the drives is the issue. The rear cage is probably easy enough to use, but the front one is obstructed by the plastic shroud around the front feet of the case. It's just a poor design.

Thankfully, there's much better clearance for the power supply in the RV04 than there was in the TJ08-E, and allowances were made to make installing expansion cards at least a little easier. There are holes in the chassis to allow a screwdriver to pass through and tighten or loosen the screws used to secure expansion cards.

Wiring the RV04 proves to be a bit of a mess, though. While the TJ08-E was an even more difficult case to wire, the RV04 is no slouch either. Part of the issue stems from the orientation of all the individual components. SSDs are oriented with their connectors towards the center of the case and designed to be cabled through holes in the tray below the motherboard itself. 3.5" hard drives are oriented parallel to the case itself, so their connectors face the CPU's heatsink. This is by necessity; drive cages can substantially obstruct front intakes, so orienting them in this fashion complicates cabling a little but also tremendously improves flow-through to the CPU.

Case headers and SATA lines prove to be all over the map, though. There are ways many of these cables are supposed to be routed, but there are also loose cable loops from the way the front fans are wired together (and from there to their speed switches on the front). The RV04 is also remarkably shallow for an ATX case; this is undoubtedly by design and not necessarily a bad thing.

I found assembly of the Raven RV04 to be mostly sensible, but also in many ways needlessly complicated. The science behind the design is sound, but this is clearly engineered for efficient cooling first, with usability being a distant second. I feel like SilverStone could've done a better job simplifying and streamlining the design of the RV04. All through assembly, the same thought kept going through my head: "this thing had better be worth the hassle."

Testing Methodology

For testing full ATX cases, we use the following standardized testbed in stock and overclocked configurations to get a feel for how well the case handles heat and noise.

ATX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K
(95W TDP, tested at stock speed and overclocked to 4.3GHz @ 1.38V)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD4H
Graphics Card ASUS GeForce GTX 560 Ti DCII TOP
(tested at stock speed and overclocked to 1GHz/overvolted to 1.13V)

2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 in SLI
(full fat testing only)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD

Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive

3x HGST DeskStar 3TB 7200-RPM HDD
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Plus 1000W 80 Plus Silver

Each case is tested in a stock configuration and an overclocked configuration that generates substantially more heat (and thus may produce more noise). The system is powered on and left idle for fifteen minutes, the thermal and acoustic results recorded, and then stressed by running seven threads in Prime95 (in-place large FFTs) on the CPU and OC Scanner (maximum load) on the GPU. At the end of fiteen minutes, thermal and acoustic results are recorded. This is done for the stock settings and for the overclock, and if the enclosure has a fan controller, these tests are repeated for each setting. Ambient temperature is also measured after the fifteen idle minutes but before the stress test and used to calculate the final reported results.

For the "full fat" testbed, the GTX 560 Ti is swapped out for a pair of GTX 580s, and three hard disks are added to fill out the case.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our testbed.

Noise and Thermal Testing

Since the SilverStone Raven RV04 includes fan control for both intake fans, I tested it at each of the three settings. What I found interesting, and I'm sure you will, too, is the way this $159 case performs compared to others in its class. Most other cases have more fans (some, like the Rosewill Blackhawk Ultra, have a lot more fans); the Raven RV04 is getting by with just two 180mm intakes and no exhaust fans.

Ambient temperature during testing hovered between 23C and 24C.

CPU Load Temperatures (Stock)

GPU Load Temperatures (Stock)

SSD Load Temperatures (Stock)

I consistently found throughout testing that the "medium" fan setting was the best choice for the RV04. Graphics card thermals are competitive at stock speeds, but the CPU runs cooler than every other case I've tested, and often by a substantial margin.

Idle Noise Levels (Stock)

Load Noise Levels (Stock)

Noise levels aren't going to set the world on fire, but they're not awful either. Users who want to have more fine-grained control over fan speeds will want to switch to an analog fan control; swapping out the 180mm fans is likely possible but not worthwhile.

When we overclock the system, the RV04 starts to show its true colors.

CPU Load Temperatures (Overclocked)

GPU Load Temperatures (Overclocked)

SSD Load Temperatures (Overclocked)

The processor continues to run incredibly frosty, with only the powerful Rosewill Blackhawk Ultra even competing with the Raven's performance here. Graphics card performance, on the other hand, is very middle of the road.

Idle Noise Levels (Overclocked)

Load Noise Levels (Overclocked)

The Blackhawk Ultra has to run 2dB louder to compete with the Raven RV04's thermal performance, and it's the second best case at cooling the CPU. Noise levels once again aren't excellent, and the ASUS GeForce GTX 560 Ti generates a tremendous amount of noise when heavily overvolted and overclocked, but we're still competitive. What's clear is that for serious workloads, the "low" fan setting is out of the question.

I saved the best for last, though. I had a hunch the full fat testbed would really show off the Raven RV04, and it turns out I was right.

CPU Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

Top GPU Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

Bottom GPU Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

SSD Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

Highest HDD Load Temperatures (Full Fat)

At this point, what's abundantly clear to me is that the Raven RV04 is going to be one of the best cases you can purchase if you plan on air cooling your processor. In a traditional ATX enclosure design, an exhaust fan is needed to help direct airflow from the CPU cooler, but the RV04 genuinely does not need one. Graphics card temperatures are also quite good; the two GTX 580s we use for the full fat testbed have blower style coolers instead of open air coolers like the one on our GTX 560 Ti, and blower coolers seem to benefit tremendously from the RV04's design.

Idle Noise Levels (Full Fat)

Load Noise Levels (Full Fat)

The full fat testbed tends to be a monster when it comes to noise levels as well, but the medium fan setting of the Raven RV04 is able to provide the best balance of noise and thermal performance. While the Raven was providing stellar CPU performance and merely competitive GPU performance in our stock and overclocked testbeds, it outright sweeps the full fat testbed.

Conclusion: Wait for the Fortress FT04

The long awaited SilverStone Raven RV04 is a strange bird and a mixed bag. I liken it to NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 480: for its purpose, it was the best, but you had to make some real compromises. The 480 had ugly power consumption and thermals and nasty noise compared to the Radeon HD 5870, even if it was measurably faster. By the same token, the Raven RV04 has a flimsy fascia and door and is needlessly complicated to build a system in, but offers probably the absolute best air cooling performance you can find.

I'm unhappy with the build quality of the RV04 and the internal design. The core concepts of the design and the thermal design itself are all top notch, but the Raven starts breaking down when looked from a practical perspective. If you're not the type to tinker with your desktop, the slightly goofy interior will probably be a one time hassle. Unfortunately, no matter what kind of user you are, you're going to have to deal with the abysmal door design. Is it worth putting up with?

As it turns out, there are a couple of flies in the ointment. First, there's the fact that closed loop coolers are becoming increasingly popular, and the Raven RV04 is very obviously not designed for these. There's space to mount a 120mm closed loop in the rear of the case, but honestly if you do this, you're not using the RV04 properly. Anyone interested in doing any kind of liquid cooling really needs to just rule out the RV04 entirely; this isn't a jack of all trades like many traditional ATX cases are these days, this is an air cooling case through and through.

The other fly in the ointment is the impending Fortress FT04. The FT04 and RV04 use the same chassis, but the FT04 should have a higher quality shell and I suspect the problematic door design will be mitigated somewhat. You'll pay more for the FT04 when it arrives (I've heard around $199), but you can also expect it to be quieter and slightly easier to use. Odds are that's going to be the air cooling case to go for.

Ultimately, once you're in the price bracket the SilverStone Raven RV04 is in, you're probably going to be looking for something more specific than a straight up ATX enclosure. The RV04 is able to perform amazingly well with nothing but two 180mm intake fans and smartly designed airflow, which is something that many high end enclosures only wish they could claim. If you want to build a dual or multi-GPU rig, use cards that come with blower-style coolers, and then stick something like a Noctua NH-U12S or NH-U14S on the CPU. At that point I'd be hard-pressed to find a more efficient air-cooled design, and for those purposes I would recommend the RV04. However, given my intense misgivings about the door design, I'm inclined to play the waiting game and see how the Fortress FT04 turns out and I would advise you to do the same.

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