SilverStone Raven RV03

Table of Contents

The SilverStone Raven RV03 enthusiast tower case retains much of what we liked in the Raven RV02 and Fortress FT02, while adding elements like front fans, drive mounting behind the motherboard, and USB 3.0 and evolving to a somewhat more conventional shape.

Silverstone Raven RV03

February 18, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
SilverStone Raven RV03
EATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$140~160

The Raven marked the debut of SilverStone’s innovative rotated motherboard design, the first major change in PC tower design we had seen since the adoption of bottom-mounted power supplies. This layout change combined with massive fans blowing cool air from the bottom of the chassis, over the motherboard and out the top proved to be wildly successful. Cooling was helped along by natural convection, but more importantly the fans being on the case floor kept much of the noise output in check.


The box.

The original Raven RV01 was also an aesthetic departure for SilverStone which was and still is known for their classy but minimalist towers. With the excessively bulky, angular, almost creepy RV01, it seemed like they had joined the ranks of case manufacturers pushing extravagant, attention-getting designs. Thankfully in later versions like the Raven RV02 and Fortress FT02, they reigned it in, returning to their roots somewhat by trimming most of the unnecessary frills. The Raven RV03 doesn’t share the smooth lines of its predecessor but doesn’t evoke quite as much "Black Swan" imagery as the original. The avian elements are there but downplayed, with softer, less aggressive angles.


The Raven RV03.

Unfortunately it’s simply not as attractive, particularly the top cover which is a mix of solid chevron-like bands partially covering vents with slits pointing in varying directions. It also has a smaller, trapezoidal side window, and thick waffle-style grills for the power supply protruding outward. Moving the power supply from the top of the case to the floor underneath the front drive bays results in dimensions 7 cm shallower than the RV02. It is a slightly wider and taller chassis so the overall size is the same only with proportions closer to that of a traditional tower.


Accessories.

The included accessories are a bit on the sparse side for a flagship case. There’s a paper manual, a bag of silver screws (an excellent usability choice as the interior is completely black), a few thin strap-ties, and a three-headed 3-pin to 4-pin molex adapter to power the three stock fans together. A piece of double-sided tape and a small block of rubber are also provided so one can attach a front drive bay cover to the outside of the optical drive tray, making it stealthed.

Specifications: Silverstone Raven RV03
(from the
product web page
)

EXTERIOR

Measuring 23.5 x 52.2 x 57.0 cm or 9.3 x 20.6 x 22.4 inches (W x H x D), the RV03’s total case volume is just under 70 liters, close to that of its predecessor. The Raven seems to be shedding mass with each iteration, weighing in at 11.4 kg (25 lb) compared to the 12.5 kg RV02 and 15.0 kg RV01.


The front bezel and top cover are composed of a reinforced plastic outer shell. The power and reset buttons are arranged like beady eyes near the top of the case.


As the case features a rotated motherboard design, all the rear ports are located at the top, requiring a removable ceiling cover with enough clearance for cables. A flap at the front flips upward to reveal USB 3.0 and audio ports.


Just beyond and below the front ports are a pair of fan control switches connected to the 18 cm fans on the case floor. There are only two speeds offered: low and high. Visible on the left are the cables for the front USB 3.0 ports — they connect externally.


On the right side is another vent for the power supply and a pair of simple 12 cm fan mounts, one on the right side panel behind the CPU area and one at the back next to the motherboard expansion slots.


Two large dust filters are attached at the bottom of the case with a series of magnets around the perimeter. The filters have fine screens on them while the metal grills they cover are quite open. The case uses rectangular feet rather than cylindrical, giving it a more industrial look.


The power connector is located under the case, set three or four inches inside. Most users will have to lift the front of the case upward to plug in the AC power cord.


The side panels are thin for a premium case, only 0.8 mm thick. Despite this, they feel fairly solid, exhibiting little in the way of flex. The top cover must be removed to access them as they are secured at the top with thumbscrews rather than at the rear.

INTERIOR

The Raven RV03 has seven 5.25" drive bays which share the same space as two hard drive cages supporting three 3.5" drives a piece. Another four 3.5" drives and two 2.5" drives can be mounted behind the motherboard tray. Cooling is provided by a pair of 18 cm fans on the case floor and a single 12 cm model at the top. You can also install four 12 cm fans in the front (push-pull configuration for the two hard drive caddies) and single 12 cm fans at the rear and on the right side of the case behind the motherboard tray.


Compared to the RV02, the RV03’s layout is flipped around, accessed primarily from the left side rather than the right, with the expansion slots toward the rear of the chassis rather than the drive cage. The other major change is the power supply moving from the top/rear of the case to the bottom/front, sacrificing the RV02’s third 18 cm intake fan and a single drive bay.


A power cable sticking out of the side of the case would be unsightly, so an internal extension cable is used.


The star of the show is the RV03’s giant 18 cm fans blowing across the motherboard toward the graphics card(s). They are wired to two-speed fan controllers at the top of the case and have sleeved 3-pin internal connectors.


The top 3-pin 12 cm exhaust fan looks almost comical compared to the fans across from it. In some systems the rear fan mount might not be usable given its proximity to the expansion slots.


Nested inside the 5.25" bays are two 3.5" drive cages supporting three drives each. They also have fan cages both at the front and back.


For the tool-less approach, plastic locking mechanisms are provided to secure the drive caddies in place. However there are also screw holes provided for fixing them in place the old fashioned way. Individual drives can be immobilized as well with their own screws.


Behind the motherboard tray are a series of cable-tie points and two 2.5" and four 3.5" drive mounts, two of which are placed upside down so cables can be stuffed underneath. This arrangement covers the screw holes of the 5.25" drive cages so they have to be removed temporarily to secure drives properly in the front cages.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the Raven RV03 is a straightforward affair. Our test system consists of an Asus 790GX motherboard, a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD Caviar Black hard drive and a SilverStone 700W modular power supply.


Though hard drives can be installed at the front cage and behind the motherboard tray, they all use the mounting frame with vibration isolators on the bottom.


The front drive cages have the option for fans both front and back and no tools are required to secure the fan mounts and drive caddies to one another. Unfortunately all five pieces have to be assembled together for stability, making removing a single drive a bit of an ordeal (the front drive covers have to be removed as well).


Installing hard drives at the back is much easier — all you have to do is secure it with four screws. There’s no way to get air blowing over them though, but one benefit is that they might become practically inaudible if the case is placed on the right side of the seated user.


Fully assembled with the hard drive at the front. The RV03, being taller than the RV02, has better video card clearance, about 34.3 cm by our measurements. CPU heatsink clearance was 16.4 cm.


As the case is quite wide, there is ample room for cables and this is complimented by several cable tie points. The drive cages can get in the way, but unless they’re all filled, it shouldn’t be too much trouble.


The RV03 has a diffused white power LED and red hard drive activity LED at the top.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and under load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise


Top and bottom mounted fans.

Though the Raven RV03 ships with several unpopulated fan mounts, the cooling system is more than adequate. Two huge 18 cm fans (the same Air Penetrator models found on other SilverStone cases) on the case floor blow upward over the motherboard tray and through the graphics card(s) and out the top. Helping things along is a 12 cm Globe exhaust fan very similar to the one in the RV02. The only notable difference we detected was the struts being curved in a fashion similar to the Scythe Slip Stream series to give it better acoustic properties.

Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan
SPL @1m (dBA)
12V
9V
8V
7V
Top 12cm
18
15
13~14
13
Bottom Center 14cm (high)
34~35
29~30
26
22~23
Bottom Rear 14cm (high)
35
28~29
25
21
Fan
12V
11V
10V
9V
Bottom Center 14cm (low)
25
20~21
17
14
Bottom Rear 14cm (low)
23
21
16~17
14
Measuring mic positioned 1m at a diagonal angle left/front
of case.

The top 12 cm exhaust is a very quiet, smooth sounding 0.18A 900 RPM fan with a noise level of just 18 dBA@1m at full speed. The 18 cm 1200 RPM Air Penetrators are much louder, even with the fan controller set to low. At most speeds they drown out the smaller fan so it may be best to simply leave it running at the full 12V. The bigger fans also sound much worse, producing a noticeable clicking noise throughout their range. It is somewhat muffled with the side panels on, but it’s plainly audible when powered on without any other system components running.

Combined Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Top
Bottom Center
Bottom Rear
9V
9V (low)
9V (low)
18~19 dBA
12V
7V (high)
7V (high)
28 dBA
12V
12V (high)
12V (high)
40 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

As the floor fans have a relatively high top speed given their size and have both a low and high setting, the combined baseline noise level falls within a wide range. The three fans undervolted to 9V (low) is a good starting point, generating a total output of 18~19 dBA@1m. For those who have no fear of noise, all three fans running at full tilt delivers an earsplitting 40 dBA@1m.


At 9V (low), the Raven RV03’s fans produce a noise level of 18~19 dBA@1m. The spectrum looks fairly broadband, but it should be noted the clicky nature of the floor fans doesn’t show up clearly as the noise is cyclical.

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds,
Top / Bottom
9V / 9V (low)
12V / 9V (low)
CPU Temp
27°C
40°C
41°C
SB Temp
42°C
52°C
51°C
HD Temp
36°C
37°C
36°C
GPU Temp
66°C
84°C
84°C
GPU Fan Speed
890 RPM
1680 RPM
1640 RPM
SPL@1m
22 dBA
25~26 dBA
26~27 dBA
System Power
114 W
308W
308W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 23°C.

At idle our HD 4870 configuration produced a fairly low 22 dBA@1m with the stock fans set to 9V. The CPU and graphics card rested at comfortable temperatures, but the hard drive was warmer than usual due to the lack of direct airflow (the 18 cm floor fans do not blow over the drive cages). A minor amount of vibration was passed from the hard drive to the case but not enough to affect the acoustics.

Under load, the GPU fan speed approached 1700 RPM causing a 3~4 dB increase in noise which is quite low for this test system. While not quiet, the HD 4870 stock cooler is among the better sounding blower fan models so the acoustic profile consisted mostly of a soft, hissing type sound and much of the clicking we heard earlier from the floor fans blended away. Temperature increases were modest, 13°C for the CPU, 18°C for the GPU, and 10°C for the Southbridge chip sitting directly beside the graphics card. Increasing the top exhaust fan to 12V did little to help.


Our HD 4870 test system measured 22 dBA@1m when idle and 25~26 dBA@1m under load.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
SilverStone Raven RV03
Fractal Define R2
Antec P280
Antec Solo II
System Fan Speeds
top, bottom @9V/low
rear, front, side @12V
top, rear, front @low
rear, front @12V*
CPU Temp
39°C
48°C
45°C
45°C
SB Temp
51°C
45°C
52°C
47°C
HD Temp
36°C
34°C
28°C
34°C
GPU Temp
83°C
84°C
85°C
82°C
GPU Fan
Speed
1680 RPM
1710 RPM
1950 RPM
1880 RPM
SPL@1m
25~26 dBA
26~27 dBA
27 dBA
27~28 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.
*Nexus 120 mm fan added as bottom intake.

In our single graphics card configuration, the RV03 proved to be superior to the best crop of recently tested cases. The airflow scheme with the rotated motherboard proved to be a boon, particularly for the CPU which ran a full 6°C cooler than in the Antec P280. GPU thermal performance was similar to the Fractal Define R2 which was impressive as we tested that case with a side fan blowing directly over the video card. It’s also notable that the RV03 accomplished this with a lower overall noise level than either the Define R2 or P280. The noise advantage is likely due to the massive floor fans being more efficient at delivering airflow and the fact that they are buried at the bottom of the case, reducing their audibility. The only sore-point was the Southbridge — the heat emitted by it had a more difficult time exhausting with the layout rotated by 90 degrees.

Note: due to changes in our test system, results from previous cases like the Raven RV02 and Fortress FT02 were omitted. As the core designs are so similar we believe their performance would be comparable to the RV03.

Test Results: 2 x ATI Radeon HD 4870 (CrossFireX)

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds,
Top / Bottom
9V / 9V (low)
12V / 9V (low)
12V / 12V (low)
CPU Temp
27°C
42°C
41°C
SB Temp
42°C
67°C
61°C
HD Temp
36°C
35°C
36°C
GPU #1 Temp
77°C
88°C
87°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
940 RPM
2140 RPM
2020 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
61°C
82°C
82°C
GPU #2 Fan Speed
1010 RPM
1820 RPM
1630 RPM
SPL@1m
23 dBA
31~32 dBA
32~33 dBA
System Power
187W
518W
514W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 23°C.

The addition of a second HD 4870 had only a minor acoustic effect on our test system at idle and system temperatures remained mostly the same except for the GPU which warmed up by 11°C (luckily this didn’t cause a significant increase in fan speed). At one meter’s distance, the noise level was a reasonable 23 dBA. Pushed under load, the system exceeded 30 dBA@1m, completely drowning out the top fan so we cranked it to maximum and tried varying the bottom fan speeds.

As it turns, out leaving the floor fans at 9V/low was the sweet spot, giving us the best blend of noise and performance. Further fan speed increases helped the GPU somewhat, but the increase in noise from the system fans canceled out any savings from the minor reductions in GPU fan speeds. Southbridge cooling was the only thing that really improved. In this fan configuration, the noise level was measured at 31~32 dBA@1m, which, while loud by our standards, is quite good for our dual HD 4870 configuration.


Our HD 4870 CrossFireX test system measured 23 dBA@1m when idle and 31~32 dBA@1m under load.

CrossFireX Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
SilverStone Raven RV03
Cooler Master Cosmos II
In Win Dragon Rider
Antec P280
Fan Speeds
top @12V, bottoms @9V/low
top, rear, front @med
top, rear, sides @9V, front @5V
top, rear, front @low
CPU Temp
41°C
46°C
35°C
45°C
SB Temp
66°C
65°C
46°C
64°C
HD Temp
34°C
29°C
31°C
28°C
GPU #1 Temp
87°C
89°C
85°C
89°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
2140 RPM
2280 RPM
1890 RPM
2440 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
81°C
84°C
82°C
84°C
GPU #2 Fan
Speed
1820 RPM
1880 RPM
1680 RPM
1950 RPM
SPL@1m
31~32°C
31~32°C
32 dBA
32~33 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

The RV03’s supremacy vanished with our CrossFire test system as it performed similarly to the massive Cosmos II. It did manage to cool the CPU by an extra 5°C but gave up the same in hard drive temperature due to the lack of front fans in the stock fan configuration. The champion remains the In Win Dragon Rider as its brute force cooling strategy was simply too overwhelming. Its stock fans include a massive 22 cm model blowing over the video card and a 12 cm variant blowing on the back of the CPU. At least the latter can be replicated by adding a fan on the Raven’s right side panel.

Note: due to changes in our test system, results from previous cases like the Raven RV02 and Fortress FT02 were omitted. As the core designs are so similar we believe their performance would be comparable to the RV03.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The SilverStone Raven RV03 endured our torture tests with grace like its predecessors, the RV02 and Fortress FT02, despite shedding a fan in the update. The basic design still works wonders as the rotated motherboard tray design plus the immense fans in the case floor creates effective cooling for the main heat sources while limiting noise. The RV03 is the best tower we’ve tested in recent memory with a single GPU configuration, and one of the best with two cards in CrossFireX. The only way to beat it in such a power hungry system is to have a massive fan blowing directly over the graphics cards a la the In Win Dragon Rider.

Moving the power supply to the bottom front allowed SilverStone to reduce the case depth considerably, giving it a more conventional shape without sacrificing performance. The fan mount on the right side panel that blows directly behind the CPU socket can also be advantageous; we wish SilverStone had included a fan for it. Perhaps our favorite feature is the ability to mount hard drives behind the motherboard tray where the noise they generate is easily masked if the case is placed on one’s right-hand side. SilverStone did this with the Temjin TJ08-E, but the Raven RV03 is more solidly built, and does not suffer vibration issues. The dust filters for the behemoth fans are also more conveniently located than previous Ravens, accessible from the outside without removing the side panel.

A couple of the changes were less positive. The RV02 had a simple hard drive cage that pulled out after releasing a few thumbscrews. In contrast, the RV03 requires drive bay covers and screws on both the left and right sides to be taken off, followed by the dismantling of the drive assembly. Front fans might interfere with the established bottom-to-top airflow dynamic so it might be best to remove the fan cages completely. The side window is also smaller and uglier, fashioned in an odd trapezoid shape. Thankfully they also sell a model without a window.

Overall, the SilverStone Raven RV03 is a substantial improvement over its predecessor and well worth the current street price. US$140~160 is more than reasonable for a spacious, well-designed, high-performing premium tower.

Our thanks to SilverStone for the Raven RV03 case sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Cooler Master Silencio 450: Silence on a Budget?
Cooler Master Cosmos II: Ultra Tower Case
Raidmax Viper: A Modern Budget Tower
Fractal Design Define Mini MicroATX Tower
Antec P280: Performance One Refresh
Antec Solo II: The Legacy Lives On

* * *

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