A subjective look at my new RV03


[H]F Junkie
Jun 12, 2012
The events leading up to the purchase

I was bored with my old case (Sharkoon Rebel 12 Value), I had it for at least five years. But more importantly I was looking for better cooling performance, more modern design, and better options for cable management. So I went for the

SilverStone Raven RV03

So why I choose this case? The main reason is the revolutionary 90 degree motherboard mounting. Of course there are a few other SilverStone cases that offer the same, like the RV01, or RV02, or the FT02. But those cases have two huge drawbacks. For one they are literally huge, both in width and depth. Second they all cost a small fortune, around $400 give or take a few depending on the variant and the retailer. Compared to that the RV03 is half of that, you can pick it up under $200.

I have to admit that originally I was looking at the FT02, for months, but the price kept putting me off from actually going trough with the purchase. In hindsight it was a good thing, because later I realized that the huge case would've been jutting out from beside my desk by a good 5 inches at least. It would've looked stupid. And besides it has no excuse for being so big, since it has less internal drive bays compared to the RV03.

First I apologize for the blurry pictures, I had very bad lighting, since the room is shaded, to try to keep the heat out. It's close to 40C° outside and no air-con.

So before I delve deep into the RV03, I want to say a few words about my old case so you can see what it has to beat.

As you can see the case has 6 internal 3.5 bays and and 11 exposed 5.25 bays, so it had plenty of room for expansion. But cable management is a mess, the location of the psu is weird, as it sucks air from the top, and while the front bezels have dust filters, the huge fan on the side has no such thing, and since it blows inside the case, the dust just kept piling up on every component inside. It kind of make the front filters pointless as well. I tried to reverse the fan, but it ruined the cooling.

I had to move the fan outside the case, otherwise the cpu cooler wouldn't fit in. That's why it's standing out like that.

Let's move on to the Raven. It comes in a pretty unremarkable cardboard box, the accessories and manual are in a box fitted to the bottom of the Styrofoam.

After removing the packaging I realized that this case is still pretty big, it's much wider, and a bit longer than my old case. And only about 3 inches shorter.

Since the motherboard will be fixed in a rotated position, all the cables will come out on the top, so the case has a removable grill on top for easy access. The handle on the back is very useful for lifting and rotating the case during assembly I only wish they put one on the front as well, because it has no clear points that you can grab there.

The little metallic box with the two switches near the front is for changing the speed of the two 180mm fans on the bottom. Unfortunately it's quite useless, because the noise is unbearable on the high setting, so under normal circumstances everyone will use it on low. I'd have preferred potentiometers, so you could set the speed to the highest where the noise is still acceptable to you.

So let's move on to assembly. I laid out every component on the floor that needs to go in:

On the bottom right the there are two Lian-Li 2x5.25 to 3x3.5 drive bays, but in the end I didn't use those. I fitted 4 hard disks to the back of the MB tray as recommended by the manual, and the remaining three to the 5.25 bays with the trays supplied for the case.

So after removing the top and side covers here is what we got:

The bottom left hole is for the PSU, since it's mounted sideways there is a size limitation, but my psu is not too big so no problems there for me.

As I mentioned there are four 3.5 trays hidden in the back, two mounted bottom up. And a 2.5 drive tray in the middle, that has room for two 2.5 inch drives. More than enough for the average user. Not for me though. A mild inconvenience that you have to remove the 3.5 trays to access the left side of the 5.25 bays, to be able to remove the 6x3.5 trays installed there. You have to remove the trays anyway to install hard drives in it, since they need to be secured from the bottom. You can probably squeeze in the HDD's to the trays that have their bottom facing out, but I removed all of them to have easier access. An interesting fact that the HDD trays on the back of the MB tray, are identical to the ones in the 5.25 bays. So they're interchangeable.

The manual recommends to install the PSU first, so that's what I started with:

I had to remove the vibration dampener from the PSU because the space is very tight I just couldn't squeeze it in. Not that it would've done much good, since the PSU sits on a metal rail, so the back of it would've contacted the case anyway.

Since the PSU can't have it's connector on the side of the case we need to attach an extension cable:

Now I don't know why they made it so long, that it's jutting out like that, and there is no obvious place to tuck it away at first glance.

The above picture shows the two 180mm fans fitted on the bottom. I don't really understand why they put that dense mesh on them, since I think that's the main cause of the noise on the high speed setting. Of course they're not removable, it's moulded as one piece with the fans themselves.

According to the manual the second step is to put in the motherboard:

Since I never removed the cpu cooler that meant I had very little access left to the back of the 5.25 bays. Which made the installation of the drives very hard. So here's an advice: Install everything that goes into the 5.25 bays before putting in the Motherboard, or at least the CPU cooler.
This is what the 5.25 -> 3.5 drive adaptors look like when removed

They have a 120mm fan bracket on both the back and the front. The manual recommends installing fans to the back only, but if you do that you can's install drives in it. And since according to the manual the front fans give no additional benefit to CPU cooling, there is no reason to install them apart from cooling hard disks. So the rear fan mounts are good for nothing basically.

For the front fan to be able to breathe you need to remove the covers from the bezels in front of it. This reveals, a dust filter mesh.

But I have to admit that without the cover the bezel looks pretty ugly.

I also have a grievance with the 2.5 drive bay:

The hole to fasten the screw is so tiny that the screw barely fits trough it, not to mention an electric screwdriver. So I had to fiddle with it with a regular screwdriver.

After installing all the drives the back already looks very cramped, and a lot of wires are still not connected.

As you can see after getting every cable in it got really cramped, I don't think that does any good for the temperature of the disks.

But that's the compromise so the front can look neat and clean with nothing obstructing the airflow.

The case has room for an additional fan on the back, what I don't get is why did they make the hole so small. It only fits a 120mm fan, when there is clearly enough room for at least a 140mm one. And of course I only have an extra 140mm fan, but no 120mm ones. So that space remains empty for the time being, but I fear the cooling of the VGA cards will suffer without an extra exhaust fan.

So let's install the video cards:

This is when the location of the PSU becomes an inconvenience. The PCI Express power cables can barely reach the cards, I even had to route them on another hole I just couldn't get them to reach the cards on the left one, that would've been more optimal.

So the last step is to put on the side covers

I feared that the cables will prevent the back panel to go into its place but it went in pretty easily. However the side panels are made of very thin material, and the finish has a very budget feel too. I expect this quality from a $30 case, and not a $200 one.

So there is only one more step remaining connect the cables, which is easier said than done.

Since the connectors are on the top, every cable has to reach a good feet further than it used to be. Fortunately every cable had enough slack for me, but it's something to keep in mind when switching to a case like this. You may notice that one connector is missing, yes where is the power connector? Well I was searching for it too, until I realized that it's on the bottom, in a hole. Which makes no sense at all. If you already have to use an extension cable inside the case, why not put the connector somewhere where you actually can reach it? After a good five minutes of swearing and futile attempts to connect the power cord I gave up, and realized the only way to do it, is to flip the case on it's side. But there was a hitch there is no room to flip the case on it's side where it's located, so I had to remove all the cables I already connected and bring the case back out of it's place turn it over and only then was I able to plug in the power. I'd like to have a few not so pleasant words with the designer who decided that this was a good idea.

There is one more thing where the case is lacking. There are zero usb connectors on the front. They only installed two usb 3.0 connectors on the top of the case, but the cables they supplied only connect to external usb 3.0 connectors, and not internal ones. I don't understand why didn't they include an internal connector for those. This way all they did is moved the usb connectors a few inches forward, since that's how far the top USB connectors are from the usb connectors on the MB.

Now you would expect charts with temperatures and such, but I won't do that. I don't have professional thermometers, and there are dozens of reviews out there that show those raw numbers. I just wanted to give a subjective opinion on the look, feel and the user-friendliness of the case. I will of course add comments on cooling performance in a few days, but don't expect a scientific analysis, and raw numbers.

  • Revolutionary 90 degree motherboard mounting
  • You can hide all the cables behind the MB tray.
  • Every intake hole has dust filters
  • Plenty of expansion space for drives
  • The drives behind the MB tray could suffer high temperatures
  • Cumbersome way to install drives, because you have to remove the trays to put the drives in them.
  • Only two speed setting for the main fans, of which only one is usable
  • The PSU is too far away from the VGA cards.
  • Bottom power connector
  • The dust filters on the bottom fall off very easily, really annoying when handling the case, or trying to put it in its place.
  • Rough look of the front bezels with the cover removed.
  • Lack of USB 2.0 outlets on the front of the case
Scoring card:

design : 7/10
build quality : 6/10
cable management : 9/10
ease of access : 2/10
tool free assembly : 2/10
cooling performance : remains to be seen

overall impression so far: 6/10

I can't deny that I feel a bit disappointed, for $200 I expected a high quality case, but this feels like a budget case with a clever twist only. Now it's down to the cooling performance to decide if this case is worth the money or not.
As I've feared, the compartment behind the MB is like an oven. While the HDDs fitted to the 5.25 slots are at a nice 33 degree celsius, the four drives at the back are reading the following temperatures:

Front Bottom: 36C°
Front Top: 39C°
Back Bottom: 49C° !!
Back Top: 43C°

And these are idle temperatures without any significant disk activity recently.

All the drives are samsung eco green HD154UI except the back bottom one, which is a WD Black WD6401AALS, which is clearly not comfortable.

And these readings are made after I added a 120mm exhaust fan to the side.

So clearly the drive bays in the back are not recommended to use. The front two drives are not that bad. I'll definitely have to move the two drives from the back to the 5.25 bays as well.
For the side fan, did you also tried turning it around and use it as an intake?
For the side fan, did you also tried turning it around and use it as an intake?

Since the side vent has no dust filter I thought it was only intended as an exhaust.
Yes, that side vent was intended as a passive vent so we didn't include a filter there. However, if you read page 34 in RV03's manual, it does recommend getting a separate fan filter if you install a fan there as an intake.
Realistically how much would the hard disk temps benefit from an intake there? I don't think it would be enough to get it down from 49 to something acceptable. If nothing else that one drive needs to go to the front. low rpm green hdds might be able to survive there, but the black caviar definitely needs more cooling.
Black Caviar drives tend to run hotter than the "green" drives, so that drive definitely has to go up front.
As I've feared, the compartment behind the MB is like an oven. While the HDDs fitted to the 5.25 slots are at a nice 33 degree celsius, the four drives at the back are reading the following temperatures:

Front Bottom: 36C°
Front Top: 39C°
Back Bottom: 49C° !!
Back Top: 43C°

And these are idle temperatures without any significant disk activity recently.
Back in 2007 Google did a study on hard drive failures and determined that hard drives actually fail less at temperatures between 45*-55*. This has been confirmed by other studies, most notably by HGST, who are pursuing putting helium in their drives to keep them at "high" temperatures.

http://storagemojo.com/2007/02/19/googles-disk-failure-experience/ - this explains the above research article - note the updates.
https://www1.hgst.com/hdd/technolo/drivetemp/drivetemp.htm - HGST likes to have their drives at 50*
Interesting article, but I have to note, that these are drives operated at data centers, also the HGST article is about the ultrastar brand, which is enterprise. In that environment it might be better to have constant 45C But for your home pc that you turn off and on you can't keep temperatures constant, the best you can do is keep variation down.

It's better to have the drive temperature vary between 30-35 than letting it go 30-55
Remind you the 49 reading was at idle, and at the time room temperature was 30, so that's already a 20 degree variation in a short period of time. I didn't even want to test it under load, to see how bad it gets.

And the HGST article doesn't say they like their drives at 50C it says that's the warning point, when temperature logging becomes more frequent. If anything this article says that they like their drives below 50C.

Fixing an exhaust fan to the back: Really bad idea. It draws the cool air away from the video cards and out of the case. Result: +10C° instantly in the temperature measured on the gpu.

Turning it around so it is an intake fan: Good idea, it gives extra cool air, to the rear vga.

Another good idea: Switching the 180mm fans to high setting, but connecting them to a fan controller with sensors. I have a Lian-Li Tr-5. The rear fan is controlled by the thermometer I put on the inside VGA card. And the front fan is controlled by the thermometer on the cpu heat sink. The control range is just perfect for the fans with this particular controller. The rpm is 700 below 30C°, 900 at 40C° So it achieves exactly what the built in switch can not, that is providing a middle ground between cooling performance and noise. And of course this only spins up the fans when needed. So when I'm only browsing the net, the fans keep as quiet as before on the low setting. But if I start to play a demanding game, it goes up to around 1000 which is still a great deal quieter than the 1200 setting. But I don't mind it anyway since the sounds of the game drown out the fan noise.
Interesting case design. I don't think I've seen one with the motherboard mounting flipped like that before. Is it a pain to remove the top cover and disconnect cables when needed?
Have you tried using DVI connections? How much clearance do you have up there? Also, no pictures of what the rear of the case looks, I'm curious what is back there now.
Interesting case design. I don't think I've seen one with the motherboard mounting flipped like that before. Is it a pain to remove the top cover and disconnect cables when needed?

No trouble at all, you can pop it off any time easily. It's even convenient, because if I want to connect additional hardware, I don't have to go behind the case to connect it.

Have you tried using DVI connections? How much clearance do you have up there? Also, no pictures of what the rear of the case looks, I'm curious what is back there now.

Actually the setup you see on the pictures is not what I ended up using, as it turns out, in order for SLI to work you have to connect both monitors to one card. The only reason I use HDMI cables is because I don't have dvi cables that are long enough to reach my monitors.

There is enough clearance to connect the hdmi cables trough DVI-HDMI converters. If you look at the pictures you can see, that the io shield is lower than the top of the case. So there is plenty of room.

The back of the case is completely unremarkable, there is nothing on it apart from the hole for a 120mm fan. Here is the image from the official page: http://www.silverstonetek.com/images/products/RV03/RV03-Back.jpg
You can put it very close to a wall, because there are no connectors in the back.