Optional 2.5" Drive Installation
We're going to briefly mention how 2.5" SATA drives can be utilized in this system, although we did not test them out. Both the motherboard and case support up to two 2.5" drives, and these can be either solid-state or mechanical, giving you plenty of options in terms of both capacity and performance. Remember, the M.2 slot on the AsRock motherboard we used only accepts PCIe-based cards, so if you're looking to build an ultra-budget system, you're going to want to go with SATA-based 2.5" drives. An example might be the PNY CS1311 120GB solid-state drive. As of our publications date, such drives are less than half the cost of 250GB-class PCIe-based SSDs, and about 2/3 the price of 120GB PCIe-based SSDs like the Corsair MP500, so they're definitely going to save you a lot of money. That being said, we don't recommend investing any money into ultra-low-capacity drives, so we view the main benefit of 2.5" compatibility to be the ability to repurpose older SSDs. Just about any PC enthusiast probably has one laying around, and it can easily be used in this system. As far as mechanical drives go, we highly recommend they only be utilized as secondary storage; using a hard drive as the main OS drive will seriously bog down this zippy system.
What's so interesting about the STX format is that a number of new standards had to be developed by hardware manufacturers to make it a reality. We've already discussed the new ultra-compact M.2-based WiFi cards, and now we're going to show you the innovative solution manufacturers came up with to handle SATA drives. Because all 2.5" drives require two cables, both a bulky power cable and a data cable, they weren't going to work in a system that has no internal power cables and little space for cabling. The solution? A tiny integrated adapter, of course! If you look closely at the back of the motherboard, pictured above, you can see two unique ports on the right-hand side, labeled SATA1 and SATA2 (feel free to click on the photo to get a better view!). These connectors aren't used in any other form factors, so of course a new cable also had to be created. You can see that cable below:
One end attaches to a port on the bottom of the motherboard, and the other has a slimline connector that integrates both SATA power and SATA data connections. The AsRock motherboard we used included two of these adapters, and we suspect that other motherboard manufacturers are following suit.
The last piece of the 2.5" puzzle is installation in the case. The SilverStone VT02 uses extra-long motherboard standoffs to raise the board just enough to make room for two 2.5" drives to tuck underneath the board. These drives will actually mount to the chassis floor, and will be affixed with screws going through the bottom of the case. The necessary screws are included with the VT02. Thankfully, the VT02 also has some nice rubber feet that lift it off of a desk, table, or counter, ensuring that screw heads won't come in contact with the surface below.
Installing the M.2 SSD and Motherboard
Installing the M.2 SSD is really pretty simple, especially if you've already had the experience of installing the M.2-based WiFi card. It actually sits above the WiFi slot, and is secured with an identical screw. The STX format is compatible with "2280" M.2 drives, which refers to length. While there are shorter and longer drives out there, 2280 drives are the only ones that will work, and luckily, they also happen to be by far the most common. Remember, as we mentioned on the previous page, you must use a jeweler's-type screwdriver to affix the tiny screws used to secure M.2-based devices.
While we've already included photos of the motherboard installed in the chassis, we thought we'd provide a bit more detail about how that installation actually works. The trickiest thing will be fitting the motherboard will be getting the motherboard's I/O ports to fit through the metal punchout that snaps into the back of the chassis. We really wish manufacturers would abandon these flimsy relics, but alas, we have a feeling there's no cheaper way to produce an I/O panel. When you're intalling the board, make sure that the metal "hanging chads" don't block your HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, which is a very real possibility given how they are contructed. You'll probably want to bend the punchouts up and out of the way before dropping in the motherboard.
Also clearly visible in this photo is the front panel cabling. The fiddly connectors used in every other standard are a thing of the past, thanks to the unified STX front panel standard. There's just a single connector block that attaches directly to the motherboard, and it handles the power buttons and front panel LEDs, and as for front-mounted USB and audio, it's all built right into the motherboard. SilverStone actually shared with us one of the early challenges of working on the STX standard: the placement of these ports differed by a few millimeterse between various motherboard manufacturers, which as you can imagine was a nightmare for case manufacturers who had to integrate port openings that would match up with these ports. Luckily, everything's been worked out at this point, and all cases and motherboards will feature the exact same front port arrangement, which includes a single USB Type-C connector, the future of USB connectivity.
The last step before closing up the system is to affix the motherboard to the case. It uses just four screws, one in each corner, and these screws are included with the VT02 chassis. Amazingly, if you're using M.2 storage, these will be the only other screws you'll utilize inside the case. Most PC builders are probably used to affixing dozens and dozens of screws to build a PC. Not so with STX!
As long as we're in this corner of the case, we might as well mention cooling. The one and only fan that will be operating in this system will be the CPU fan, and that means you better make sure to attach the fan lead to the CPU_FAN1 header on the motherboard, which can be seen in the photo above. Also note that the Intel stock cooler is the largest cooler that can fit in this chassis. We found that the clearance was so tight that we could actually touch the top of the Intel heatsink by pressing down on the top of the case. For this and other reasons we'll mention on the next page, we strongly discourage you from seeking out aftermarket cooling for an STX system.