Building the Box
The first major challenge presented by this build, as discussed on the previous page, was finding components that would actually fit inside the slim Silverstone RVZ02 case and still provide high-end performance. Due to a thickness of less than 4", almost every single CPU cooler on the market has to be immediately ruled out, including all liquid coolers. And that's complicated by the fact that the RVZ02 has absolutely no options for active cooling. You get some large side vents and that's about it. So if you don't choose your components wisely, you'll end up in an overheating situation pretty quickly. You can certainly use a dual-core processor with Intel's stock cooler, but we wanted to try cramming in Intel's high-powered Core i7-6700K quad-core CPU, and even wanted to dip our toe into the overclocking waters with it. Rest assured, this is not an easy thing to do with the RVZ02.
In the end, we took a chance on a cooler that, based on its 58mm height, seemed like it might just fit. We never do this in our buyer's guides, because we don't want to leave our readers with components that don't work together. And that's a common problem in online forums: you ask a question, and you'll get a number of responses that don't fully consider the limitations of the particular build you have in mind. In the end, our combination of CPU cooler, motherboard, and RAM did just barely fit together, but as you'll see, we do mean just barely. In the photo to the right, you can see our Core i7-6700K processor surrounded by the CPU cooler mount. Note the position of the mount in relation to the motherboard heatsink on the left and the RAM slots on the right. And that wasn't the worst of it; we actually had to bend up two tiny fins on our heatsink to clear the motherboard's WiFi module (visible in the lower-left corner of the photo, extending further than it should into the CPU area). This, dear readers, is what we call a close call! Let this serve as a reminder that you really can't just go off of specs alone when pushing the limits of an ITX build.
The next step was to flip the board over and install the M.2 solid-state drive, shown in the photo to the left. M.2-style drives are all the rage right now, but there's plenty of confusion about how they work. The first thing to keep in mind is that there are multiple types of physical connectors (M-type being the most common on high-performance drives), but secondly, there are two types of underlying interfaces, SATA and PCIe. All SATA M.2 drives will work just like their 2.5" cousins - nothing separates their performance in the slightest. PCIe drives are much, much faster, but are also about twice the cost per gigabyte.
We went with a SATA-based Samsung 850 Evo 500GB more for the purpose of clearing out some space in our system, and also to experiment with the use of M.2 drives on the back of ITX boards (where they must reside on such a small PCB). To install the drive, you'll need to first screw in the attachment pin, then insert the drive not unlike a stick of RAM, and then secure the drive with a tiny screw (having an eyeglass screwdriver will prove handy here!). Alas, we came away a bit less than impressed with the behavior of the drive in this system and wouldn't recommend the use of M.2 drives on ITX boards, as we'll discuss in the performance section.
In the photo above, you can see the cooler mounted on the motherboard, which is now installed inside the case, flanked by the power supply to its right. Also note the RAM sticks - they are literally right up against the heatpipes on the right side of the cooler. This was a very close call indeed. By the way, we should note that while the flat-style cables of the Silverstone power supply look pretty sleek, they aren't ideal for small cases where you have to make a lot of tight bends to get around components. That's a bit ironic considering it's designed specifically for such cases.
We were very happy to see, as mentioned before, that the Raven RVZ02 is compatible with low-cost laptop-style optical drives. We picked up a great drive for about $20, but knew going in that an adapter would be necessary to convert the laptop-size SATA power connector to the desktop-size power connector. We turned to a one-piece StarTech adapter that we had on hand, and it worked... for the most part. Unfortunately, it was a very tight fit, pushing up against the side of the case when installed. We'd instead recommend StarTech's two-piece SATA converter, which moves the bulky desktop-style connectors away from the drive and thus the side of the case.
The next challenge we faced was one that we didn't realize Silverstone had in store for us. The drive bays are all tool-less, with the dual 2.5" trays swinging upwards to drop drives in, and the optical drive sliding in from the front and locking in with a handy snap panel. No screws required! The only problem was the layout and distance between the drives. The Silverstone SX500-LG power supply was essentially custom-made for the Raven ITX series, and yet the spacing on the single strand of SATA power connectors was all wrong for this case. There's simply no way to connect the optical drive and two 2.5" drives without the use of third-party extension cables. And that's a major oversight on Silverstone's part. For components that practically won't see the light of day in any other application, these should fit hand in glove, and they do not. While our build didn't require a fourth drive (beyond the M.2 SSD, 2.5" SSD, and optical drive), we attempted to install a 2.5" hard drive for illustration purposes, and there was simply no way to do it with the parts we were using. If builders use the two-piece StarTech SATA adapter we suggested in the previous paragraph and flip the order of the three power connectors, however, there will be just enough reach to make it all come together. Still, this work-around just shouldn't be necessary.
All right, with that challenge overwith, we can show you the complete "topside" installation in the RVZ02. This includes the motherboard, CPU, RAM, power supply, SSDs, and optical drive, and despite Silverstone's best efforts to thwart us, the cabling. Yes, cabling is a very important task in ITX cases, so failing to include a discussion of the difficulty, or just skipping the cabling all together as is often done in many media promo photos, just wouldn't do justice to the challenge of building ITX systems. Apart from the aforementioned flat-style PSU cables, the USB 3.0 cable was abusrdly-long for this application, as if Silverstone pulled it off the shelf from one of its huge super-tower ATX cases. The mess of round cables you can see hovering over the motherboard and touching the CPU cooler is the USB 3.0 cable, and it really is impossible to route in an ideal fashion. By the way, we should mention that while Silverstone markets a Short Cable Set for its ITX cases, we don't recommend its use in this case, which is actually quite spread out for an ITX design.
All right, let's flip this baby over to bolt in our monster video card and then give it some gas!