SilverStone LD03 Mini-ITX Case Review: A Cut Above

Manufacturer: SilverStone SilverStone LD03 Mini-ITX Case Review: A Cut Above

SilverStone’s LD03 isn’t your typical mini-ITX enclosure, and this goes beyond the striking design. There a plenty of small cases with tempered glass panels, and we’ve seen vertical mini-ITX cases (such as the Phanteks Evolv Shift), but it’s not just hyperbole to call this one “unique”.

The exterior is quite different, featuring asymmetrical glass panels with contrasting plastic (vented) sections above and below. Three sides of the case are darkly tinted glass, the top features a large vented panel that slides free without tools, and the bottom offers a large – and filtered – opening for intake.

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But the most important aspect of the LD03’s design is not visible from the outside; the internal component layout follows what SilverStone calls the “stack effect design”. This consists of a 90 degree motherboard rotation and airflow path that travels from the lower intake up to the exhaust fan on the top to take advantage of natural convection – with plenty of help from the included case fans.

I approached this review with the usual questions: what sort of components does it support (cooler and expansion card limitations), how easy is the build process, and how are the thermals and noise? Step one is generally to remove it from the packaging, so I did that first.

Product Specifications
  • Model Number: SST-LD03B (Black)
  • Material: Tempered glass panels, steel body
  • Motherboard: Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX
  • Expansion slots: 2
  • Drive bays (internal): 3.5” x 1 (compatible with 2.5″), 2.5″ x 1
  • Cooling system
    • Top: 1 x 120mm fan
    • Bottom: 1 x 120mm fan
  • Component Clearance:
    • Power supply: SFX & SFX-L
    • Expansion card: Compatible up to 12.1” (309mm) long, width restriction 6.59” (167mm)
    • CPU cooler: 190mm
  • Front I/O ports
    • USB 3.0 x 2
    • Audio x 1
    • MIC x 1
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 265 x 414 x 230 mm (10.43 x 16.3 x 9.06 inches), 25.2 Liters
  • Net weight: 5.34 kg (11.77 lbs)
Pricing
$119.99 USD, Amazon.com (as of 01/03/20)
Manufacturer Description

“SilverStone’s LD03 is the second chassis in the Lucid series. Applying the architectural glass concept to the mini-ITX format, it offers a one-of-a-kind aesthetic in the Small Form Factor market. With striking lines and lots of eye-catching detail, it will make a true statement on your desk.”

LD03 Design

The fact that SilverStone takes risks with their enclosure designs is part of what endears the brand to me as an enthusiast. No, not every case in their vast lineup is a striking or unusual design, but I see some of the same DNA in the LD03 that I first noticed with the original Raven case years ago.

This case has sharp angles, hard edges, and asymmetrical elements dressed in stealthy smoked glass panels, and I instantly loved the look. Personal preferences vary, of course, and it’s pretty clear I have a soft spot for designs like this. I’m a self-proclaimed enclosure nerd (whatever that means), and this is what I like to see.

Exterior
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A look around the LD03 reveals the same three glass side panel concept from the larger Lucid Series LD01 enclosure, only this time the panels on the sides are a different shape. At first glance this will appear to be an all-glass enclosure as it sits on a desk, with the plastic top panel the first sign that other materials are involved.

The rear of the LD03 is steel, and constitutes one side of the internal steel frame that holds the case together. This rear panel is home to a filtered fan opening for the power supply, and this filter pops out easily without tools – as does the large filter on the bottom of the case.

The LD03’s top panel slides off without tools, revealing the section normally found on the back of a case. It offers a 120 mm fan mount for exhaust fans and radiators, and the location of the motherboard I/O means that all cables connect at the top (and can then be routed out of the slot at the rear of the plastic panel once it’s back in place).

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With the top out of the way it’s a simple matter to remove the three glass panels, with the front simply pulling straight off. The two side panels require the release of a pair of buckles on each side, and then they slide off.

Next up is the interior, and then we’ll have a look at the build I came up with for this review.

Interior and Build

With the glass panels removed we are looking at a steel cage with mounting points for a mini ITX motherboard, dual-slot GPU up to 12-inches in length, SFX or SFX-L power supply, and either air or liquid cooling mounted above and below the system.

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With the glass panels removed we are looking at a steel cage with mounting points for a mini ITX motherboard, dual-slot GPU up to 12-inches in length, SFX or SFX-L power supply, and either air or liquid cooling mounted above and below the system.

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One side of the internal frame is home to the storage bracket, and this can be removed with a pair of screws. Up to two drives can be installed here, with mounts to supports either a 3.5-inch + 2.5-inch combo or a pair of 2.5-inch drives. A nice touch is the soft material lining the end that rests against the frame, which helps resist vibration.

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Putting together a build based on the components last used in the SilverStone LD01 review this past July, I installed the mini-ITX motherboard – which still had a Scythe Katana 5 air cooler attached – and then set about picking a GPU. Could I have used a larger CPU cooler or gone with an AiO liquid solution? Absolutely. The surprising amount of flexibility with the LD03’s cooling options was one of my biggest takeaways from the build process.

Alternate CPU coolers aside, I had one GPU in mind from the beginning with this build: the EVGA RTX 2080 SUPER FTW3 Hybrid. This card’s GPU cooler design combines a 120 mm AiO liquid cooler and a traditional blower for the memory and VRMs, and seemed ideally suited to a case like this.

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I had a choice of mounting the GPU’s 120 mm radiator and fan on either the top or bottom of the case, and I chose the bottom. Here the radiator will be pulling cool air from the main intake at the case floor, and if I were to build a custom loop in the case I’d probably place my primary radiator down at the bottom as well.

While it would have been simple to install a 120 mm radiator at the top of the case as well for the CPU, this was a quick Core i5-9600K build and I didn’t find it necessary. But liquid is certainly not necessary – even with a more powerful CPU like a Ryzen 9 3900X or Core i9-9900K – thanks to a very generous 190 mm height limit for CPU coolers.

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With a SilverStone SX700-LPT (SFX-L form-factor) power supply installed – which SilverStone sent along with the LD03 for this review – the interior looks a bit more crowded just due to the cables that I gathered up in the center of things. Cases like this don’t really have an ideal solution for “cable mess”, and some custom work would need to be done to eliminate the excess. At least it’s not visible from the outside thanks to the dark glass.

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There isn’t much to say about this simple build that used a CPU air cooler, single 2.5-inch SSD, and the hybrid-cooled GPU. It all fit easily, and this case begs for an even higher-end build. I’d love to revisit this case using a Ryzen 9 CPU, and experiment with both a large air cooler and a top-mounted AiO cooler.

It inspires confidence to see the vents for the air intakes for the PSU and case floor, and while the photos in the gallery above don’t show it both of these locations have full screen filters that snap into place. As to the top panel, there is a small insert that can be removed to allow for easier insertion of the power cable, which plugs in next to the motherboard I/O backplate with this design:

The build is complete after cables have been directed out of the slot in the top cover, and this cover is locked back into place. With the build complete I was left with a system that hides these cables better than I was expecting, and looks great overall.

Next we’ll take a look at the thermals and noise with this particular build in the LD03.

Thermals and Noise

Enclosure Test Platform
Processor Intel Core i5-9600K
Graphics Card EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER FTW3 HYBRID
Motherboard GIGABYTE Z390-I AORUS PRO
Memory Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4-3200 16GB (8GBx2)
Storage Samsung SM841 128GB SSD
Power Supply SilverStone SX700-LPT 700W (SFX-L)
Operating System Windows 10 64-bit (1903)

Temperatures

Since this group of components – other than the GPU – was used to test the Lucid Series LD01 enclosure, I included those results on the charts below. At least the CPU temps and noise with the same CPU/cooler can be compared.

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The temperatures with the same CPU/cooler combo as the LD01 are very impressive, as the LD03 offers a 5+ degree drop in CPU load temps. The CPU cooler’s position at the top of the case (especially with a 120 mm exhaust fan almost acting as a second fan just above it) helps a lot here, and airflow in general was excellent.

What about the GPU? Using the EVGA Hybrid-cooled option gave this build an unfair advantage, and that’s why the results were left off the charts. GPU load temps dropped from a delta of 43.4 – 43.9 C with an ASUS Strix RTX 2070 all the way down to delta 32.7 C degrees with the EVGA RTX 2080 SUPER FTW3 Hybrid. A much more powerful GPU with much lower temps. Like I said in the build section, this GPU is pretty much ideal for an enclosure like this.

Noise

Here is the one weak point of the LD03 experience – at least out of the box. The stock 120 mm exhaust fan (top mount) is not particularly quiet, and is not PWM. Swapping this out with a quiet fan would be my first modification, though around 37 dBA isn’t the end of the world, either.

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As you can see the LD03 would need low noise fans to be as quiet as the LD01 on this chart – but the LD01 didn’t come with any fans. The pair of 140 mm be quiet! fans I used on the front intake of that case were virtually inaudible, and a similar fan with the LD03 would produce similar results. Would temps be as good? I’ll have to experiment and report back.

Conclusion

I really like the Lucid Series LD03, and I think it’s a big leap forward from the LD01. It’s a different form factor, sure, but the thermal concept is significantly improved, with plenty of airflow and the advantage of natural convention working in favor of the installed components.

Hot air rises, and cool air descends (I saw it in a movie once), so a design where the cool air from under the case is drawn up through the top of the case makes a lot of sense – particularly for a smaller footprint design like this with glass on three sides.

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The LD03 looks great, performs well, and its $119 price tag isn’t exorbitant for a stylish small form-factor design like this. It would be a nice bonus if ultra low-noise fans were part of the package, but that depends on your need for noise levels below the 37 – 38 dBA range. I really don’t have a problem with this, but I like to customize the fans in my cases anyway.

This case obviously isn’t for everyone, and I feel like I’m always saying “personal tastes vary”, but I really like the design. The ease of use and solid engineering choices make this more than just a striking design, as this was one of the best-constructed small form factor cases I’ve tested. If you can tailor your build to its design the LD03 is an easy recommendation.

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About The Author

Sebastian Peak

Editor-in-Chief at PC Perspective. Writer of computer stuff, vintage PC nerd, and full-time dad. Still in search of the perfect smartphone. In his nonexistent spare time Sebastian's hobbies include hi-fi audio, guitars, and road bikes. Currently investigating time travel.

1 Comment

  1. BigTed

    I’m with you on this case – it’s aesthetically pleasing for those with more ‘mature’ tastes.

    Reply

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