SilverStone LD03 Glass Mini-ITX Case Review
We always start our case reviews by noting how many cases we’ve reviewed here on TBG, and with this review we’re up to 27. Gluttons for punishment, perhaps, given how much time it takes to review cases, but PCs are ultimately defined by the cases they use, so it’s a component that can make or break the PC experience. Because we’ve seen so many, we have a pretty good sense of what makes a great case, and where the rest of PC cases fall behind.
That’s why we’re so excited to be the very first review outlet in the world to get our hands on SilverStone’s newest ITX case, the LD03. It’s been a long, long time since SilverStone has released an all-new high-end ITX case, and the LD03 builds on everything that SilverStone has incorporated into previous models, while adding features and design elements that have never been seen before in the ITX world. The LD03 is truly new from the ground up, which means it has the potential to redefine the small form factor gaming segment. And at 25 liters, it does indeed just make our cutoff for a true SFF design.
Because this is such an important new release, we rolled it out in two stages. First we provided a video preview within three days of receiving the case, which you’ll see below, and then we completed our complete performance review, which is provided on the next page.
Special thanks to SilverStone for providing us a sample of the SilverStone LD03 Glass Mini-ITX Case featured in this review.
Description and Features
The LD03 is part of SilverStone’s Lucid series, which denotes an emphasis on light and glass. While it doesn’t have any built-in lighting, its three tempered glass panels certainly provide a great showcase for anything you’d like to install in the case. And while it’s not tiny, at 10.43″ wide, 16.3″ tall, and 9.06″ deep, this vertical tower has a desk-friendly footprint. Even better, at 25.2 liters, it just makes our cutoff of 25 liters for true small form factor status (OK, we’ll admit, we had to round down there, but it was soooo close!).
To give you a better sense of the LD03’s unique layout and features, we put together a preview video before we jumped into the build process. Here it is:
We like to keep our builds as modern as possible, and here’s the build list for our upcoming LD03 full review:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
- Motherboard: Gigabyte B450 I Aorus Pro WiFi
- Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Hybrid 11GB
- RAM: G.Skill 2x8GB Sniper X DDR4-3400
- Solid-State Drive #1: Samsung 970 Pro 1TB M.2
- Solid-State Drive #2: Samsung 860 Evo 500GB 2.5″
- Solid-State Drive #3: Crucial MX500 500GB 2.5″
- Power Supply: SilverStone Technology SX800-LTI 800W
- CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro H60 AIO 120mm
- RGB Lighting: SilverStone LS03 Addressable RGB Strips
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home
Next you’ll see what it was like to install this gear in the case, and how the LD03 handled the heat of some seriously high-powered components!
In terms of small form factor cases, we’d say the LD03 takes the prize for the absolute easiest to build in. The case grants access from three sides, and being 25 liters, it’s compact, but not so small that you can’t get your hands inside it to connect up cables or insert a screwdriver. Honestly, it was actually a pleasure to work with the case, which can’t be said of many SFF cases.
Get the full picture of the assembly process in our detailed assembly video:
While the overall experience was very good, there were a couple of minor issues that we should highlight. First, you have to pay very close attention to the order in which you install components. We found, for example, that installing the motherboard before the 2.5″ solid-state drives meant we lost access to two of the eight mounting holes for the drives. They were simply blocked by the motherboard. Similarly, you absolutely must install the power supply before you install a radiator in the bottom of the chassis, and you probably want to remove the bottom fan regardless when installing the PSU. Speaking of the PSU, you actually have to do some disassembly for installing it: three tiny screws must be located and removed in order to extract a bracket into which the power supply fits. Then you drop the PSU/bracket combo back into the chassis.
A final small issue we had was that the top panel, which covers the I/O area and acts as a grill for the system’s exhaust, is hard to remove. It uses an awkward combination of push tabs and a pull handle, and it never felt natural to us. Half the time the panel popped out of our hands and onto the table while removing it. Luckily, SilverStone is well aware of the issue and has published a handy “how to” video illustrating how to remove that top panel. Seriously! Something tells us that there probably could have been a better way… just saying.
While we weren’t fans of that top panel, the side panels use an incredibly slick pop-tab system, and it’s what allows SilverStone to achieve the nearly seamless glass design. We sometimes felt like just popping the side panels on and off for fun, it was that satisfying. So you win some, you lose some, but since there are two awesome side panels and just one lousy top panel, we’ll give SilverStone the win here!
And while we commented on the good looks of the system on the previous page, it looks so much better built up, especially if you add some lighting. We used SilverStone’s premium LS03 Addressable RGB Strips to add some great lighting to the top of the case, while both our CPU and GPU coolers added their own touches of white lighting to the mix.
This is what really counts in a high end system, and overall, the LD03 doesn’t disappoint, but it does have its quirks. We tested it in two different configurations: GPU radiator top, CPU radiator bottom, and then vice versa. As much as we thought it might be a wash, it most certainly wasn’t. To get a sense of how this compact case compared, we pit it against some pretty serious competition: the ultra-high-airflow Cooler Master H500P Mesh, and the ultra-quiet be quiet! Dark Base Pro 900 Rev. 2. Both are ATX cases, and both had room for a bigger CPU cooler, namely the Corsair H100i RGB Platinum 240mm. So apples to oranges, right? Well, keep in mind that no other ITX case can properly support dual radiators (the Phanteks Evolv Shift improperly supports them, requiring one fan to be attached outside the case), so we couldn’t exactly pit it against its ITX competitors.
First up, the idle numbers, which aren’t all that important, at least with regard to temperature. But get a load of the idle noise when the CPU is mounted to the top. That’s due to the pump noise of the Corsair H60 cooler. It’s just not very pleasing when it’s right up top near the case’s wide-open grille. Buried at the bottom of the case, it’s masked a whole lot better. Do keep in mind that larger cases will always seem quieter than smaller ones, all things being equal, because the noise-generating components are further away from the exterior, and thus the user’s ear. It’s simple physics. The sound waves attenuate much more if they have to travel two feet to your ear than one foot, and attenuate further if there are obstructions like other components or panels in between.
Another thing to point out about this result is that the CPU cooler works wonderfully in the LD03 when its radiator is mounted at the bottom, beating out the big boys for a baseline temperature, but is a whole lot worse when fed hot air from the GPU, which always exhausts heat into the case (unlike a CPU, a GPU at idle actually does produce palpable heat).
We’ll just get on our high horse here and mention that many major case and cooler manufacturers, notably Corsair and NZXT, like to promote their systems with their CPU coolers attached to the front of the case, blowing in. As we’ve established, this is just fine for the CPU, but it’s terrible for other components. Watch what happens in the next two tests as we turn up the heat.
Applying an intense load to our Ryzen 7 2700X pushes the heat up, but not past our ATX rigs. That speaks volumes to the sound fundamental design of the LD03. In fact, with the CPU radiator at the bottom, pulling cool air in, it’s not only just as cool as our ultra-high-airflow H500P Mesh, it’s quieter too. But take note of the GPU temperature in this test – it goes up considerably when it’s fed hot air from the CPU (whereas the GPU sits cool as a cucumber when its radiator is at the bottom). Things are about to get funky, though, folks…
Oh, goodness, what a mess. When the GPU radiator is at the bottom, this benchmark, which stresses both the CPU and GPU, shows the limits of the LD03. It turns into a hotbox, pure and simple. Sure, the GPU is doing OK, but it’s far hotter than our ATX cases, and the CPU is getting out of control, far hotter than it was under a 100% CPU stress test. No good, folks. When the hot GPU radiator is mounted up top, the balance is better, but both the CPU and GPU are still quite a bit hotter than our ATX cases, and the noise levels are higher too. If all you ever did was game on your system, and you didn’t care about idle noise, then go ahead and mount your GPU radiator at the bottom to take in cold air and fill the case with super-heated air. For everyone else, you’ll want the GPU rad up top, because even at 70C, the GPU is far from its breaking point, and will get pretty close to maximum boost.
The LD03 is a true revelation in the small form factor space. First and foremost, it’s legitimately small form factor, coming in at 25 liters. Far too many ITX cases are far larger, and really shouldn’t be viewed as small form factor at all, despite their use of a compact motherboard. We also love the design – both from an aesthetic and a functional point of view. Sitting on a desk, the LD03 could probably pass for a model of the skyscraper of the future. The extra flair SilverStone added to the top and bottom edges of the glass make all the difference – it really is more than just a plain glass box. We also like that the case is very easy to work with; in fact, it’s the most builder-friendly SFF case we’ve ever tested.
With all that said, we can’t help but feel that SilverStone missed an opportunity with the LD03. First of all, unless you’re using a GPU with a TDP under 200W, you’re going to need to use a liquid cooler. That means about 99% of ultra-high-end video card models are off the list. Secondly, SilverStone previewed, but didn’t release, a mesh panel for the GPU side of the case, which would go a long way to opening up the case to all sorts of GPUs. But third, and this is something we imagine SilverStone hadn’t though of, the front panel could actually be redesigned to accommodate a radiator, freeing up the bottom of the case for cool air intake. The groundwork is already in place, as the front panel uses a plastic frame to suspend its glass panels; all SilverStone needed to do was replace the lower half of the glass with mesh and add some mounting holes. It would turn this case into a completely different animal, allowing a setup where dual radiators could exhaust heat simultaneously. As is stands, the LD03 is a work of art, it just needs a little extra engineering to turn it into a performance powerhouse as well.
The SilverStone LD03 Glass Mini-ITX Case is available for $159.99 shipped free from Amazon as of our publication date. That price is far above what SilverStone had hoped, and it’s related to US tariffs that are out of its control.
As always, to see all of our recommended cases, simply browse TBG’s PC Buyer’s Guides, which highlight our top 24 favorite cases on the market!