ProsThe smallest ATX case on the market; excellent fit and finish, very low price
ConsOnly one fan included; large CPU coolers will not fit; needs better 2.5" drive trays
Once everything was pieced together, it was time to put the GD09-based build to the test. In terms of CPU cooling, we had absolutely no problems running our Core i7-7700K at stock speeds using the low-profile Noctua NH-L9x65 cooler. Even with the CPU at 100% load running at 4.5GHz on all cores, temperatures never exceeded 72° C. We used a fixed fan profile that kept the CPU fan running at just 1300RPM until the CPU hit 70° C, meaning it was virtually silent up to that point. Users are always free to tailor a custom CPU fan profile according to their needs using modern motherboard UEFI or Windows software, and we strongly encourage that approach when setting up an HTPC. It's quite likely that the typical HTPC will never see 100% load, meaning the fan can be run at a very moderate speed.
Take note that we tested this system with a high-performance video card (the EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB Founders Edition), and for that reason we chose to install an intake fan next to the power supply and flip the orientation of the pre-installed fan, creating a natural flow from the left side of the case (as seen from the front) to the right side of the case. Additional fans will not be necessary for builders using this case exclusively for home theater duty, as HTPC-centric video cards produce very little heat. You can see the extra fan mounted below, right next to our SilverStone power supply. Note that this ultra-compact 140mm-long PSU made it easy to install both cables and that extra fan. We'd strongly recommend against the use of power supplies any longer than 150mm, as they'll likely make it impossible to install a fan in the adjacent fan slot once required power cables are attached. We might as well take this opportunity to mention the high-quality snap-on dust filters that cover all fan air intakes. While we'd like these even more if they were magnetic, the inclusion of effective dust filters on a case at this pricepoint is still admirable - many inexpensive cases have totally useless dust filters that are simply for show.
So how did the case handle a gaming load? It did well enough for HTPC purposes. During an intense Battlefield 1 multi-player session, our CPU topped out at 70° C, while our GTX 1070 hit 75° C at stock settings and 77° C at its maximum overclock. That of course is with an optional fan installed and the stock fan flipped to work in concert with the GPU's cooling. In the default configuration, we really wouldn't try gaming with this level of video card. Frankly, we wouldn't go much higher than a 150W GPU like the GTX 1070. There just isn't enough airflow on tap. And take note: not only would custom-designed open-air cards fill this case with more hot air than it can handle, most won't even fit due to the height restriction (5.25") that this case has. Remember, you have to save room for power cables!
As for the pre-installed SilverStone 120mm fan, we found it more than acceptable. It's not the quietest 120mm fan you'll ever find, but it has a very reasonable noise profile, with no unseemly scratching sounds that become all too evident in cheap fans. Furthermore, with a maximum rotational speed of 1075RPM, it's a perfect match for an HTPC case. As is typical of SilverStone fans, it's much faster than the rated speed (which is 900RPM, by the way), as SilverStone prefers to be conservative with its capacity ratings. Either way, the goal here isn't extreme airflow, it's a reasonable balance of thermals and noise given the typical HTPC usage scenario. That probably means that only minimal overclocking should be attempted in this case - it's just not made for that, nor should it be purchased with that goal in mind.
Another thing we should note regarding performance is that the case did a great job muffling internal sounds, thanks in part to the anti-vibration padding provided in the hard drive trays, but also very much a result of the solid front panel and nearly-solid top panel. While these design attributes aren't ideal for thermals, they are perfect for noise suppression, especially with regard to noise that would otherwise be emitted in the direction of the listener (e.g., a user sitting on a sofa enjoying content played on an HTPC). One last nice touch: the front panel lined up perfectly with our optical drive, making the whole affair look very put together.
Given its very reasonable asking price of $75, the SilverStone GD09 has basically carved out a niche unto itself. It has essentially no competition at its pricepoint, and in fact could easily match many higher-priced models. Its extremely compact footprint (for an ATX chassis) is a distinguishing feature that any home theater enthusiast will appreciate, as it can easily fit in most AV consoles (and can even be rack-mounted!). It's not perfect, but it's pretty close, and the only real downsides we found were limited clearance for high-end CPU coolers, somewhat limited airflow for high-end video cards, and a less-than-stellar SSD mounting system. For the intended audience, none of these issues matter; in fact, while we feel obliged to point them out, as long as buyers know what they're getting, they really won't be disappointed.
As of our publication date, the SilverStone GD09 is available for $74.99 shippped from Amazon. Its fraternal twin, the GD10, which adds a locking front panel but is otherwise identical, is available for $93.99 shipped from Amazon. Frankly, we think anyone thinking about build a home theater PC should at least consider the GD09, which we believe is the very best value among all full-size HTPC cases on the market. If you'd like to build your own PC using the GD09, check out our recommended parts selections in our High-End Home Theater PC Buyer's Guide, updated monthly!