Internals and Installation
If you follow my videos on the different cases that we post on our YouTube channel you'll likely have heard me say something like the following at one point or another. "There is a lot of room to work inside." One of the advantages of a larger case is that you can build it more easily, routing cables where you want and hiding some things that might get in the way. It also makes building for a first time DIY enthusiast much more simple – components are easy to add and remove and physically getting your hands / head inside the case makes seeing what you are doing a possibility.
With Mini ITX cases that advantage is usually ripped away as you are dealing with very tight spacing between components. Often times you will be cramping your fingers trying to move cables from one side of the motherboard to the other or redoing the ORDER of component installation to enable things to actually install. The Silverstone RVZ01 does okay in this area, but there are still areas to be concerned.
The above image shows the completed project with motherboard, processor, cooler, graphics card, power supply and SSD installed with only the top case panel removed. The SSD is an Intel model (silver) on the left side, mounted upside down on top of a housing that actually includes the graphics card. The large heatsink is a Silverstone NT06-PRO with a fan mounted under the fins. Clearly you can see there isn't a lot of extra space in here – which is actually what you want for a small form factor design.
Here we see the Raven Z RVZ01 with pretty much everything removed except the motherboard, the MSI Z87I Gaming Mini-ITX option just recently released. The fans you see on the left are mounted to the bottom of the case and the bundle of wires on the right includes the front panel USB/audio connections as well as the LED and button wires for the power and reset functions.
Installing the motherboard is pretty straightforward, and it should be the first thing you screw into the case. In this design there is no rear access to the board so you want to be sure you have the cooler mounting hardware installed as necessary before plopping that PCB down.
The section with the cables cluttered in them will actually house the power supply for the PC. Silverstone has a specific form factor for this kind of power supply called SFX. These units are about half the size of a standard ATX power supply which definitely helps save space in the design but it also means you are limited to one of two Silverstone SFX power supplies on the market: a 300 watt or 450 watt option. They claim another wattage will be available soon and we might see it revealed at CES next week.
For our installation we used the Silverstone ST45SF, a power supply that Lee reviewed for us back in 2011. The included cables are already shorter with the SFX power supplies but Silverstone also sent along a specific cable pack, the Silverstone Short Flat Flexible Cable Set for power supplies. As you can see these modular cables are designed for smaller cases and can help dramatically when you don't have a lot of space to wind and store excess cable clutter.
When I wrote this, all the flat cable sets were out of stock on Amazon and Newegg but hopefully they'll back on shelves soon. If you don't have those cables, you can definitely still use the included cables, it's just a bit more difficult of an installation process.
After mounting the power supply to the included bracket with the RVZ01 you'll have to plug in the extension cable that actually routes the external power to the unit.
Removing the front panel cable clutter and placing the power supply (and bracket) back in the case is the next step in building your system in the RVZ01. At this point you'll want to install the power for the motherboard making sure to route the cables along the outside of the motherboard (and system memory) to leave room for the CPU cooler installation.
The bracket used to house the storage devices (2 x 2.5-in drives and 1 x 3.5-in drive) also holds the slot-loading optical bay if you want to install one of those. Maybe more importantly, it will also hold the graphics card you choose to install in the RVZ01.
Flipping the bracket over reveals the PCI Express extension and angled adapter that allows the full size graphics cards to be installed in a parallel angle to the motherboard itself. The rear panel slots are actually a part of this bracket as well which makes it stronger and more supportive of the weight of the GPU.
For our testing we used the new MSI GeForce GTX 760 Mini-ITX Gaming Series graphics card, a design that is built for small form factor cases that limit your GPU space. Keep in mind though that the Silverstone Raven Z case is compatible with graphics cards up to 13-in long, so using the 6.7-in long MSI card isn't really a requirement.
The PCI Express extension is included with the case to work in conjunction with the angled adapter.
Installing and attaching the GTX 760 Mini-ITX Gaming card from MSI is pretty simple at that point and resembles installation into a standard motherboard and case. You then use a couple of screws to attached the back panel to the RVZ01 bracket and you are good to go.
Though our MSI card only requires a single 6-pin power connection, the Silverstone SFX 450 watt power supply did include cables for an additional 8-pin connection as well so larger, more power hungry cards COULD be used. You'll want to be careful and watch how much power your GPU will draw though as 450 watts for a full capacity isn't that high for options like the R9 290 series or the GTX 780 Ti.
After everything is mounted on the bracket you'll want to carefully slide down the entire group of components into the case being sure to line up both the back panel portion and the PCI Express connection to the motherboard. Doing this sounds super simple, and it can be, but you'll likely find cables from the front panel and power supply in the way. Carefully clear them out of the way and redirect them where you can access them easily.
You will also have to attach the power cables from the power supply to the graphics cards before lowering the GPU bracket into place.
Here is what the Silverstone Raven Z RVZ01 looks with the GPU bracket installed – nearly half of the case's physical space is taken up.
Installing your heatsink at this point is the next and nearly final step though it will vary quite a bit based on which cooler you are using. In our case we used Silverstone's NT06-PRO which is really a high-performance cooler built with a low profile design. Getting a cooler with this kind of efficiency in a HTPC-style case is an impressive feat but it did not come without its own complications.
First, the heatsink is tall enough to interfere with the stock, top-mounted 120mm intake fan, forcing us to remove it and move it to the bottom of the case. Secondly, mounting this heatsink was a huge pain in such a tiny space. It took two of us several attempts to do so and even took some part removal (like the GPU bracket) to have a chance. Even then we found it cumbersome to access ANYTHING else on the motherboard with the heatsink installed. In the photo above you can see that the heatsink nearly completely covers the PCB.
In reality I think you'd be better off going with some smaller; still low profile but with a less massive heatsink to make the installation and maintenance process easier. I like the Zalman CNPS8900 or the Zalman CNPS 2X but there are a lot of other options out there and, in a pinch, the stock Intel cooler is going to be the easiest installation option for this case design.
Pricing and Conclusions
I am still waiting on Silverstone to get back to us on an expected MSRP for the Raven Z RVZ01 chassis but previous Raven ATX designs have never gone below the $140 mark, so you can expect this case to be in the range of $150-200. If it's lower than that, consider it a happy surprise! (UPDATE: After talkign with Silverstone this morning I was told that "it should be around $100 USD when it becomes available later this month or in February.")
As it stands now, not only is the Silverstone Raven Z RVZ01 one of the best SFF/HTPC cases we have built a system in it is also the best possible choice for users that are trying to replicate the Valve provided Steam Machines that went out in December to the lucky 300 beta testers
Notice how similar the layout is between the RVZ01 and the Steam Machines? In fact, based on the iFixit.com teardown, the Steam Machine is even using the same 450 watt SFX Silverstone power supply.
Here is the pricing breakdown of our entire system build.
|Silverstone Raven Z RVZ01 Mini ITX System|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4670K - $219|
|Heatsink||Silverstone NT06-PRO - $71|
|Motherboard||MSI Z87I Mini-ITX Motherboard - $175|
|Memory||8GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 - $89|
|Graphics Card||MSI GeForce GTX 760 Mini ITX Gaming - $269|
|Storage||Intel 530 Series SSD 240GB - $164|
|Case||Silverstone Raven Z RVZ01 - $85|
|Power Supply||Silverstone ST45SF-G SFX 450 watt - $94|
|Optical Drive||Silverstone Slot Loading DVD Drive - $65|
|OS||SteamOS - FREE!|
|Total Price||$1246 (Amazon.com Full Product Cart)|
A PC based on these components would be a perfect fit for a living room PC based on Windows or SteamOS for high image quality 1080p gaming. There is even room to grow with this design as the case itself can handle much larger graphics cards including the current king-of-the-hill GeForce GTX 780 Ti as long as you have the power supply to handle it. (Silverstone will hopefully have a more powerful SFX model for us early in 2014.)
If you are on the hunt for a Mini-ITX chassis that supports powerful components and would prefer a case design that looks at home in your A/V rack, then Silverstone's Raven Z RVZ01 is definitely a great option to consider. I am looking forward to upgrading our build with a higher wattage power supply and higher performance graphics card to concrete its place on my shelf with the Xbox One and PS4. It's not a perfect design, but we have yet to find a SFF case that is.