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Silverstone GD01 and LC17 HTPC Cases

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Silverstone has a huge lineup of home theater PC cases. The GD01 and LC17 are mid-size models that can accommodate ATX motherboards. They look quite different at a quick glance, especially when the GD01 is equipped with the optional VFD, but under the skin they’re almost identical. How well do they perform the role of silent entertainment machine?

November 16, 2007 by Mike
Chin

Product
Silverstone LC17 & GD01
Home Theater PC Enclosures
Manufacturer
Silverstone
Market Price
US$130 & US$240

Silverstone has been around long enough that its origins as an offshoot from
CoolerMaster (when that name was associated only with expensive aluminum cases)
has probably been obscured. Silverstone concentrated less on all-aluminum design,
and more on hybrids that combine the elegant look of brushed aluminum facia
with the sturdy, less resonant qualities of steel for the remainder of the case.
They’ve developed their own unique identity with unusual products like the massive
all-aluminum TJ-07
, the upside-down motherboard
TJ06
, and a slew of home theater cases.

The latter offerings have become so voluminous, it’s hard to keep track of
all the models. There are very small and slim styles, which they call Slim HTPC/Desktop,
and larger ones which they call HTPC/Desktop. The cases we’re writing about
here belong in the latter category, and they’re not the latest. In fact, they
have been around for a while. The LC17 and the GD01 share many commonalties
with newer full-sized HTPC cases from Silverstone, however, especially in their
mechanical design and airflow layout, which are keys to cooling and acoustics.

SPCR has reviewed HTPC cases from Silverstone before, specifically the LC11
and LC04, but the only review of one that
approached the near-4U height (7″) of the LC17 and GD01 was the LC01,
which is quite dated. The LC17 and the GD01 are both fairly substantial cases,
about the size of a typical mid-tower ATX case turned on its side. Externally
there are cosmetically differences, but internally they are almost identical.
They could even be considered variants of the same model. In typical Silverstone
fashion, the facia is aluminum; the rest is steel.


The more recent GD01 comes in silver or black and sports an LCD display
option with built in IR receiver.

The LC17 comes in black or silver. It has no LCD display option.

The LC17 and GD01 both come in large, well-padded cartons.

Both cases came with a small cardboard box containing an installation
booklet, the usual bag of screws, and other hardware bits. For the GD01, there
was also an MCE-compatible remote control, batteries for it, a breakout ATX
cable adapter to get the required voltages to the VFD, and a CD for the remote/VFD
software.


Ms Kitty is not an option.

SILVERSTONE HTPC CASE SPECIFICATIONS
Model
LC17B-C
(Black with card reader)
GD01S-MXR
(silver + VFD/IR + multimedia + card reader)
Dimensions
425 mm (W) x 170 mm (H) x
425 mm (D)
430 mm (W) x 170 mm (H) x 430 mm (D)
Weight
6.8 kg 5.2kg (11.5lb)
Material
Aluminum front panel, 0.8
mm SECC body
Aluminum front
panel, 0.8 mm SECC body
Motherboard Compatibility
ATX/microATX ATX/microATX
Power Supply Support
Standard ATX/ATX12V Standard ATX/ATX12V
Drive Bays
6 x 3.5″ Internal Drive
Bays
1 x 3.5″ External Drive Bay
2 x 5.25″ External Drive Bay
6 x 3.5″
Internal Drive Bays
1 x 3.5″ External Drive Bay
2 x 5.25″ External Drive Bay
Cooling
*Front 2 x 92mm or 80mm
fan slots
*Rear 2 x 80mm exhaust fan, 2050rpm, 21dBA
*Side 1 x 80mm fan slot & PSU vents
*Front 2 x 92mm
or 80mm fan slots
*Rear 2 x 80mm exhaust fan, 1800rpm, 19dBA
*Side 1 x 80mm fan slot & PSU vents
Expansion Slots
7 Slots 7 Slots
Front I/O Ports
USB2.0 x 1
IEEE1394 x 1
audio x 1
MIC x 1
5-in-1 card reader
USB2.0 x 2
IEEE1394 x 1
audio x 1
MIC x 1
5-in-1 card reader
Available Colors
Silver / Black Silver / Black
Display Type
n/a VFD (Vacuum
Fluorescent Display)
Model Variants SST-LC17B (Black)
SST-LC17S (Silver)
SST-LC17S-C (silver + card reader)
SST-GD01B-R
(black + card reader)
SST-GD01S-R (silver + card reader)
SST-GD01B-MXR (black + VFD/IR + multimedia + card reader)

DESIGN

The greatest differences between these cases is in their front facia. As detailed
in the bottom row of the specs table on the previous page, each model comes
in several cosmetic variants, which includes back or silver color for both,
and a VFD option for the GD01. Both models have holes on the sides near the
front to accept screws for optional rack mount handles.

The GD01 incorporates a curve in its front bezel, easily seen in the photos.
It also features two drop down doors. The lower one, which extends across the
width of the case, opens to reveal the I/O jacks, the card reader, and the reset
button. The upper door provides access to the two optical drive bays. When both
doors are closed, a smooth and clean facia is presented. Our sample was fitted
with a Vacuum Fluorescent Display, which occupies the left side of the front
panel.


The GD01 has two drop-down doors with a smooth press-to-open mechanism.

The LC17 has no curves, and no LCD option, but those don’t affect overall look
that much. It looks as elegant and perhaps a touch cleaner than the GD01. The
color strikes us as being the biggest difference between our two samples.

The LC17 has just one small drop down door to cover its I/O panel.


The LC17 I/O panel packs a lot into a small area.

From the back, the two cases are indistinguishable. If not for the color, you
could not tell that the LC17 is the case on top. Note the two 80mm exhaust fans
on both cases, and the positioning of the PSU on the right, which does not follow
conventional ATX case design. Normally, the PSU would be positioned to the left,
close to the back I/O panel of the motherboard. This PSU positioning is a key
design feature.


Like peas in a pod from behind.

Notice the big side vents on the right visible through the PSU
back panel opening. Those vents are meant to be intakes for the PSU. The PSU,
ideally, should be a 120mm fan design — an easy requirement to fulfill,
as almost all retail ATX12V power supplies sport 120mm fans. There is only one
way to install the power supply, as you can see from the four mounting holes
around the PSU back panel opening. The 120mm fan ends up facing the side vent,
and this means the PSU’s cooling is completely independent and separate from
the rest of the system. For quiet computing, this is a very good thing: It ensures
that the PSU fan, invariably thermally controlled, will not speed up due to
the heat of the other components in the system. The arrangement is similar to
that employed in the Antec P180/182/190 and Antec Fusion/NSK2400 systems, which
have separate chambers to keep the PSU thermally separate from the rest of the
components. In these Silverstone cases, the separate chamber is bypassed altogether
by giving the PSU fan direct access to the outside air. The only downside is
that when and if the PSU fan should speed up, there’s a more direct path for
the increased noise to reach the users.

INTERIOR

That brings us to the interior. The cover, which has a short lip
on either side, comes off easily with the removal of four screws on the back
panel. The metalwork on the main chassis is identical in the two cases, down
to the raised impressions on the bottom, and the “nipples” for the
motherboard mounting points.


Almost identical interiors.

Note the central stabilizing beam. It does improve overall rigidity.
In both cases, if you want to remove the drive cage, the center beam must be
removed.

Both cases have a side vent about 80mm diameter on the other side
near the I/O panel. This is very close to CPU on most motherboards; the side
vent allows intake of outside air for the CPU area. The mesh baffle over the
holes is somewhat restrictive; some 60% of the area is open. There’s less an
inch between the side wall and where the edge of the motherboard would be, but
the bottom edge of an 80mm fan would actually clear the top of the motherboard.
If there are any tall capacitors or other components on the board near that
edge, fitting an 80x25mm standard fan could be problematic.


Both cases have vents near the CPU area.
The side vent is set up to accommodate an 80mm fan.

The main internal difference between the two cases is in the hard
drive cage: The GD01 has a single cage to accommodate up to six drives vertically,
while the LC17 has two cages each able to hold three drives horizontally. Interestingly,
both cases can accommodate two fans on the side of the front panel, just ahead
of the HDD cages, but both cases are delivered with plates covering the vents.


Potential fan vents in front of the HDD cage in the GD01.
Note thin layer of damping on the drive cage for reduction of vibration transfer
from the drives.


Same setup of front vents in the LC17.

Now, if the blocking plates in these front vents were removed, would there
be any airflow path to the outside? Certainly not through the front panel, as
there are no vents in front at all. However, looking underneath the case reveals
something:


The two cases upside down, facing each other: Vents on the bottom side of
the front bezels.

These vents access the cavity between the aluminum front bezel
and the front steel metalwork. On the LC17, they run across the entire width
of the case; on the GD01, the vents are smaller and they run only under the
VFD area, maybe a little over half the width of the case.

Naturally, we felt compelled to remove the plates covering the
vents on the inside. This required removal of the drive cages, and some twisting
with a pair of pliers. The end result on the GD01 is shown below.


Front vents uncovered on GD01.

As you can see in the photo above, the VFD module blocks much of the uncovered
vents, and only the bottom portion of each circular opening has access to the
vent grill on the underside. Still, because of the side vent near the CPU area,
these vents are only useful for providing a bit of cooling for the hard drives.
It will be interesting to find out whether any airflow ends up going across
the HDDs because the back panels fans are such a long distance away, and they
will naturally draw from the side vent first.

The manual actually shows how fans can be mounted here. The hard drives would
have to be mounted further back in the drive cages. Given the limited spacing
between the front edge of the motherboard (where most of the connectors have
to do) and the back edge of the HDD cages, this would lead to an impossible
collision of connectors and cables, except in the LC17 if only the top slots
are used. We don’t recommend using 80mm fans here, especially in the GD01 with
a VFD:

1) The fans would spin uselessly against the impedance of the VFD module
and make unwanted noise.
2) The ensuing cable mess due to the HDDs being pushed further over the motherboard.


LC17 front vents uncovered.

The LC17’s front vents are much less blocked; there’s no VFD module in the
way. Putting fans there is still not going to be a good idea, though. The turbulence
through the narrow bezel space and bottom intake vent slots might be almost
impossible to eliminate.

FANS

The stock fans are two identical 80x25mm models, positioned directly over the
back I/O panel, which is exactly where these fans should be. The fans are well-positioned
to extract the heat from the CPU, the VRM on the motherboard, and the nearby
graphics card as well.

Both cases have the same fans, although the Silverstone case specification
pages cite slightly different data for them. There’s no reason to believe they
are different. When the fans were turned on and monitored one by one, we could
discern no significant audible or airflow differences. In both cases, the fans
have wire guards on both sides, which seems a bit paranoid. One wire guard adds
some minor impedance to airflow; two adds more.


Both cases have 80mm fans with wire guards on both sides.


The trailing edge of the blades is parallel to the struts (red and yellow
dashed lines).
This is not a good acoustic design choice.

Web searches for Silentmatic turned up Silverstone fans on eBay, and searches
for the model number turned up nothing useful at all, so all we really have
is the data on the fan label, and Silverstone’s contradictory noise / airflow
data from their case specs. The model designation SFA8025MS-12N tells
us something too: It’s 80x25mm, Medium speed, Sleeve bearing. So here’s our
summary of given data about the fans:

Given Data: SFA8025MS-12N Fan
Size
80 x 25mm
Rated voltage
12V DC
Current
0.11A
RPM
1800 or 2100
SPL
19 or 21 dBA (@1m?)

We did not run a complete set of tests on the fan, but a few basic measurements
were made on all the fans. They measured the same, although one sounded very
slightly buzzier than the others. The results are shown below.

Measured Data: SFA8025MS-12N Fan
RPM
1750
SPL
19~20 dBA@1m

They are pretty quiet fans. Two of them together measured 22~23 dBA@1m in free
air, outside the case. Of course, in the case with the cover on, the noise jumps
quite bit due to the effects of…

1) cavity resonance — the enclosed air in the case actually has resonances
which get “excited” by the noise of the fans.
2) mechanical coupling — any vibrations from the fans get conducted into
the chassis, which then vibrates in sympathy, causing addtional noise.

Cavity resonance is virtually unavoidable; mechanical coupling can be eliminated
with soft mounting.

SYSTEM INSTALLATION

We chose to install a system in just one of the two cases because they are
so similar. The GD01 was chosen because…

1) it has the VFD, which could be tricky to set up
2) its front intakes appear to be worse, so if the HDD temperatures are OK
in it, then the LC17 should be a bit better.
3) other than the first two items, the two cases are identical, so the thermal
and acoustic performance should be very close.

A fairly hot system was put together, and Windows XP Pro SP2 was installed
and fully updated. This is the same system used in the Moneual
Moncaso case review
, and very similar to that used in many of our previous
HTPC case reviews. The components are:

ASUS
M2N32-SLI Deluxe
motherboard
One of the first for AM2, this is also a power hungry boards, thanks largely
to the 32 full PCI Express lanes that it supports. The target market is high
end gamers, so it’s a bit of a mismatch for an HTPC system, but it does the
job, and it’s passively cooled to boot.

AMD
Athlon 64 X2 5000+
processor
This was the hottest, fastest non-FX processor that AMD produced when the
AM2 Socket was first launched, and it’s still the hottest AMD chip we’ve used
to date. The TDP is rated for 89W, and we believe it — practical measurements
have showed that the difference in AC system power between idle and
load is almost 90W!

Corsair
XMS2
2 x 1024MB DDR2 matched dual channel memory.

Samsung Spinpoint SP2504C
250GB SATA 3.5″ hard drive
One of the quietest 3.5″ desktop drives we know of. At idle, it measures ~21
dBA@1m. The drive was used not for the OS but as a secondary data drive.

Seagate Momentus 7200.1
ST910021AS
100GB SATA notebook hard drive
The system drive. It’s quieter than most 3.5″ drives but noisier
than most notebook drives due to the 7,200 RPM spindle speed.

LG
GSA-H22N DVD±RW drive

Seasonic S12-430
One of our favorite quiet power supplies.

XFX
GeForce GF6800XT 128 MB
video card with Zalman
VF900 VGA cooler
at 5V. The SPL of this HSF at 5V measures 20 dBA@1m.
It sounds a bit like a whispery rubbing of paper.

nMedia IceTank CPU Heatsink
modified with a Nexus 92mm fan, controlled by the motherboard set to “Silent”
Mode

There are better coolers than the IceTank, but its low profile has made it
our de facto standard for testing HTPC cases, which often don’t have room
for the bigger, better heatsinks out there. The IceTank struggles with low
airflow, so the motherboard will crank the Nexus fan up to full speed when
the system is stressed.

> >> Keep in mind that with the 6.2″ or 15.5cm internal height
of these cases, a much taller heatsink can be accommodated. The list would
include any cooler that’s under ~140mm in height, perhaps a little taller if
fins are bendable (such as on a Zalman 9700, for example).

Installation was relatively straightforward. The trickiest part was sorting
the sequence of components to be installed. The basic sequence used was…

1) motherboard, with heatsink/fan pre-installed on the CPU
2) PSU, and insert power connectors on motherboard
3) optical drive cage
4) hard drive cage, with HDDs installed

Depending on the position of the connectors on the motherboard, you may have
to plug in connectors sequentially as each component is installed. Although
the cases are not small, they’re a touch less deep (front to back) than some
other cases, and this means that optical and hard drive connectors may interfere
with motherboard components and connections. Remember, there are extra cables
and adapters associated with the VFD. It’s probably best not to put the drive
cages back in (with drives mounted using screws) until after everything else
has been done.


Not quite halfway through physical installation.


All done, except for the Samsung 3.5″ HDD.
The notebook drive rests on foam; it could have been easily suspended in elastic.

Installation Differences between GD01 and LC17

Positioning the front of the optical drive in the GD01 is pretty simple, no
different than most. The only tricky part is that it’s not possible to adjust
the depth of the optical drive while the cage is actually in place, so the procedure
is to put the drive in the cage with just one screw, then position the cage
in place and see if it lines up, make adjustments if necessary, check again,
then screw the drive down tight before securing the cage. If you don’t have
a matched silver or black drive, so what? Most of the time, the front of the
optical drive will be covered by by the door.

On the LC17, you have to deal with matching metal plates that must be secured
to the front of the optical drive door. We’ve discussed this procedure on other
case reviews before. It’s always a bit of a pain. But a nice mechanism to adjust
the position of the door open/close button makes it pretty compatible with a
wide array of optical drives. Our advice: Avoid hassles, install just one optical
drive, it’s all you need anyway.


Double-sided tape is used to secure the matching black aluminum facia to
the optical drive drawer.


Nicely adjustable mechanism for the door open mechanism.

The other big difference is related to the Vacuum Fluorescent Display in the
GD01. This procedure is often a pain as well, but here, it added only two more
connectors: One USB and one breakout ATX adapter cable for voltage. Still the
latter is a big pain to tuck away.

We could get into details about the VFD / remote control operation and setup,
but frankly, it’s too tedious and not interesting enough for us to expend the
time and energy. We’re more interested in the thermal and acoustic aspects of
the case. Suffice it to say…

  • The remote and VFD are SoundGraph
    iMon
    products, of which we have seen many variants.
  • The VFD looks nice and adds useful functionality in conjunction with the
    remote. It’s also multi-lingual. It can display system information, check
    news and e-mail, and weather. It also has a graphic equalizer and indicators
    for audio functions such as speakers, etc.
  • Please check Silverstone’s
    web site
    for more details.

The final build was a bit more cluttered than we’d like, but not bad. Airflow
paths between intake vents and hot components were kept relatively unobstructed.

THERMAL & ACOUSTIC TESTING

Thermals and noise comprise the core of most SPCR equipment reviews. Our usual
gamut of software tools were installed:

Other tools:

TEST PROCEDURES

Ambient conditions were 21°C and 19 dBA. The noise sources in the system
and the ways they were controlled are as follows:

1) The two 80mm case fans were controlled by an external variable power
supply for testing convenience.

2) The fan on the CPU cooler was plugged directly into the fan header on
the Asus motherboard, which was set to adjust the fan speed according to CPU
temperature. We know the range is rather narrow (about 65~100% of maximum
speed) but as the fan is a low airflow Nexus, we judged this to be appropriate.
Besides, it’s what we’ve done for previous HTPC case reviews.

3) The fan on the Zalman VF900 cooler on the XFX GeForce GF6800XT video card
was left at 5V throughout the testing. We know from previous experience that
this is good enough cooling under most conditions, and quiet enough not to
be a limitation.

4) The Seagate Momentus 7200.1 100gb notebook drive was used as the main
system drive. It sat atop a piece of foam in the drive cage to simulate elastic
suspension.

5) The Samsung SP2504C 250GB 3.5″ drive was used for storage. It was
bolted into the drive cage normally. This gives some idea of how well the
case deals with vibrations from a quiet, medium vibration 3.5″ drive.

6) The Seasonic S12-430 was left to fend for itself. Its noise characteristic
are well documented in our review. It’s a quiet component whose fan should
not speed up even under full load in this system.

The case fans were the only ones we adjusted directly. They were set to 6V,
9V and 12V, and a full set of tests were conducted at each fan voltage setting.

A. Case Fans at 6V

Case Fans @6V: Silverstone GD01 w/ Test System
System State
CPU
GPU
HDD*
AC Power
Noise (SPL)
Idle (Cool’n’Quiet)
30°C
45°C
40°C
98W
25 dBA@1m
Idle (No CnQ)
33°C
45°C
40°C
114W
25 dBA@1m
2 x CPUBurn
68°C
51°C
42°C
187W
27 dBA@1m
2 x CPUBurn +
RTHBRIBL
67°C
68°C
42°C
204W
27 dBA@1m
*The hotter of the two HDDs; the other was always
2°C cooler.

The overall noise signature at idle was smooth and quiet. Most users would
find it perfectly usable even sitting close to them on a desktop. As a HTPC
on a rack under the TV 5~10 feet away, this noise would be drowned out the instant
the TV was turned on. From up close, some of the vibration from the Samsung
3.5″ HDD could be perceived as a low frequency hum, but it was very modest
and inaudible beyond a few feet.

At high loads, the increase in noise was caused by the CPU fan being sped up
by the motherboard’s fan controller. The idle fan speed was reportedly 830 RPM;
it increased to 1400 RPM at full load. The 2 dBA@1m increase seems small, but
it was somewhat more audible than the number suggests, because of an increase
in tonality. A suggestion of “whine” became present at the higher
speed. Still, the overall noise was far below the level of any TV, movie or
music program you might listen to on a HTPC, and thus quite acceptable.

The cooling of the CPU was adequate, although it could have been better. The
GPU cooling was very good, as 68°C is a modest peak temperature for a graphics
card.

B. Case Fans at 9V

Case Fans @9V: Silverstone GD01 w/ Test System
System State
CPU
GPU
HDD*
AC Power
Noise (SPL)
Idle (Cool’n’Quiet)
30°C
44°C
38°C
98W
27 dBA@1m
Idle (No CnQ)
32°C
44°C
38°C
114W
27 dBA@1m
2 x CPUBurn
60°C
48°C
40°C
187W
28 dBA@1m
2 x CPUBurn +
RTHBRIBL
60°C
58°C
40°C
204W
28 dBA@1m
*The hotter of the two HDDs; the other was always
2°C cooler.

The noise became louder at this voltage, but it was the increased tonality
(a small peak somewhere in the midrange) that made it more audible. It was still
quiet enough for most people in most HTPC applications. The cooling improved
quite a bit across the board: 7~8°C for the CPU and 10°C for the GPU.
The small drop in HDD temperature suggests greater airflow through the front
vent as well, despite its impedance and distance from the case fans. The increase
in CPU fan speed under load did not result in as much of an audible difference
as before, due to the higher baseline noise at idle.

C. Case Fans at 12V

Case Fans @12V: Silverstone GD01 w/ Test System
System State
CPU
GPU
HDD*
AC Power
Noise (SPL)
Idle (Cool’n’Quiet)
29°C
42°C
37°C
98W
30 dBA@1m
Idle (No CnQ)
32°C
42°C
37°C
114W
30 dBA@1m
2 x CPUBurn
58°C
47°C
38°C
185W
30 dBA@1m
2 x CPUBurn +
RTHBRIBL
58°C
54°C
39°C
202W
30 dBA@1m
*The hotter of the two HDDs; the other was always
2°C cooler.

The slight tonality that appeared at 9V turned into a higher pitched hum that’s
very difficult to ignore. This is too loud by SPCR standards. The cooling improved
again, across the board. A surprise was that the GPU temperature dropped another
4°C. Note the slight drop in AC power at high loads; this is probably indicative
of improved VRM efficiency due to improved cooling.

D. With a Ninja Mini

This was a last minute test run done just out of curiosity. Would the Scythe
“Minja”
do a better job of cooling the CPU than the nMedia IceTank
in this HTPC?


Ninja Mini in test system with Nexus 92 fan.

The answer to that question is no. The results were so
close to those achieved with the nMedia IceTank that they might as well be a
second test run with the latter (which is why they’re not shown in a table here).
We expected better. Why didn’t we get better? Possibly because the case did
not “breathe” well enough for the low airflow qualities of the Ninja
Mini to come to the fore, possibly because the fan had to be set up to “suck”
through the fins, rather than blow through them. We didn’t have time to explore
the reasons fully or try other fan configurations. In any case, this experiment
showed us that our choice of the IceTank as a cooler for these HTPC reviews
is reasonable. It’s a pretty good cooler if it keeps up with the Minja with
the same low airflow fan.


Minja’s 115mm height leaves another 7/8″ or ~23mm clearance under the
case cover.

ANALYSIS

It should be noted that acoustics requirements for an entertainment PC tend
to be less demanding than for many other types of PCs, simply because music
and movie / TV sountracks help to mask the noise. Please see the page on Acoustics
Around a Media PC
in our Cases Reference article for a fuller discussion.

Despite our misgivings about the front vent intake, the GD01 performed acceptably
from a thermal standpoint even with the low airflow of its fans at 6V. The resulting
25 dBA@1m SPL is very good, especially as it includes the contribution from
a hard-mounted 3.5″ desktop hard drive. Cooling improved tremendously with
the case fans set to 9V, where the noise began to take on a tonal aspect. For
most SPCR readers, this is about as fast as those fans should spin, but it’s
still quiet enough for HTPC duty, where higher ambient noise can be assumed.

The LC17 should perform at least as well, and most likely a touch better due
to the slightly less impeded front air intake path. This comment probably applies
to the non-VFD version of the GD01 as well; the VFD module is a major impedance.

These results were obtained without resorting to an extra 80mm fan on the side
vent close to the CPU. A quiet, smooth fan for intake at that vent could allow
better thermal performance with little cost in noise. It may be worth experimenting
with.

Keep in mind that continuous CPUBurn and RTHDRIBL loading in excess of an hour
is hardly a normal load for a HTPC. None of a HTPC’s duties come close to
matching such an extreme load, which can be said to be a true torture test.
In light of this, the thermal performance of the GD01 case with the fans at
6V is very good indeed.

It should also be noted that the CPU, graphics card and motherboard used in
our test system are hotter than we would recommend for use in a HTPC. We used
them precisely because they pose a more extreme thermal load. By today’s more
power-efficient standards, all of those components are mediocre, and they can
easily be replaced with components that provide equal or better performance
while running substantially cooler.

MP3 RECORDINGS

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality,
digital recording system and are intended to represent a quick snapshot
of what we heard during the review.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the
item sounds in actual use — one meter is a typical distance between
a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains
stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness
of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the
ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects
may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from one meter, chances
are we couldn’t record it either!

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short
article: Audio Recording
Methods Revised
.

  • Silverstone GD01 – Fans at 6V, 25 dBA@1m: One
    Meter
  • Silverstone GD01 – Fans at 9V, 27 dBA@1m: One
    Meter
  • Silverstone GD01 – Fans at 12V, 30 dBA@1m: One
    Meter

Sound Recordings of Comparative Systems

  • Moneual Moncaso 932 — Config 1 (System default) @ idle: 33 dBA@1m:
    One Meter
  • Moneual Moncaso 932 — Config 2 (Reduced Fan Speed) @ idle: 25
    dBA@1m: One Meter
  • Zalman HD135 — Stock fan at 50%: 35 dBA@1m: One
    Meter
  • Zalman HD135 — Stock fan disabled: 28 dBA@1m: One
    Meter
  • Antec NSK3300, Config 1 (System Fan @ L) — 24 dBA@1m: One
    Meter
  • Antec NSK3300, Config 2 (Rear Fan swapped to Nexus @ 5V) — 23
    dBA@1m: One Meter
  • QMicra, Config 1 (System Fans @ 12V) — Idle: 28 dBA@1m: One
    Meter
    ,
  • QMicra, Config 1 (System Fans @ 12V) — Load: 30 dBA@1m: One
    Meter

CONCLUSIONS

The GD01 and LC17 are variants of Silverstone’s family of full-ATX home theater
PC cases which provide good cooling and have good potential for low noise operation.
They combine handsome looks, reasonable size and good functionality at prices
that aren’t out of this world. The aluminum bezel and sturdy steel chassis strikes
a nice balance between looks and functionality.

As supplied out of the box, neither case is optimized for low noise, but turning
down the fans, removing the internal blocking plates over the front vents, and
finding a way to soft mount the hard drive(s) is enough to lower the noise to
SPCR-acceptable levels. As long as the overall thermal load is not significantly
higher than the test system we used, DIY builders should have no problems achieving
good noise levels. Naturally, you still have to exercise care in component selection:
Quiet fans, large heatsinks and lower power consumption are the keys.

The side intake vent for the power supply dictates the use of a “bottom-mounted”
fan PSU, which is a simple requirement to meet, as almost all current retail
PSUs fall into this category. With many modern power supplies (or at least one
selected from SPCR’s Recommended PSU list),
its fan won’t ramp up in speed except under very high load or high ambient temperature
if attention is paid to keeping the sides of the case free from impedance. This
brings us to a basic point: All HTPCs need some room around them to breath if
they are to stay quiet under load or extended use.

There is definitely room for improvement: The front vents near the hard drive
cages could be less impeded, the mesh grill material over the side vents could
be more open, the case fans could be soft-mounted, and provision of soft-mounting
for the hard drives would also be welcome. The side vent would also be better
if designed to accommodate a fan larger than 80mm diameter. Finally, an inch
greater depth would help ease the cabling challenges around the front edge of
the motherboard and the back end of the drives. But these are more quibbles
than serious complaints.

All in all, the Silverstone GD01 and LC17 are fine cases for quiet home theater
PCs.

Many thanks to Silverstone
for the case samples.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

Moneual MonCaso

Zalman HD160 Home Theater Enclosure
Zalman’s HD135 HTPC Case: Gasping for Air
Antec NSK2400 / Fusion Media PC Case
mCubed’s HFX mini: Fanless HTPC “heatsink
case”

Cases: Basics and Recommendations

* * *

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