Pros

Unmatched by its peers in terms of both aesthetic design and premium materials; offers tremendous airflow potential

Cons

Far too loud at stock settings; assembly posed unusual and unnecessary challenges

Star Rating

The CS01

Introduction

Here at The Tech Buyer's Guru, we absolutely love to see innovation in the Small Form Factor PC arena. One of the undisputed leaders in this market is and has for a long time been SilverStone, based in Taiwan. SilverStone has virtually created entire market segments with its unique cases, including such pioneering products as the SG05 and RVZ01, both of which created new form factors. SilverStone's newest entry in the ITX market is the CS01, available from Amazon for $124.99, as of our publication date. The CS01 isn't exactly cutting edge when it comes to miniaturization; in fact, it goes in another direction SilverStone is well known for: stunning aesthetic design. Following in the footsteps of the FT03 Mini, the CS01 provides an attractive vertical tower design clad in brushed aluminum, with a focus on media streaming duties. The "CS" in the CS01's name refers to case storage. It's designed to pack in lots of hard drive storage, but not much else, while looking really, really good in the process.

We'd like to extend a special thank you to Silverstone for providing this review sample.

Description and Features

There are in fact two models of the CS01 - the model shown here, with internal bays for two 2.5" drives and two 3.5" drives, as well as the CS01-HS, which has two internal 2.5" bays and six external hot-swappable 2.5" bays. SilverStone informed us that the CS01-HS was originally the only model planned, but we'd say that with Seagate's 2TB drive being the largest available 2.5" drive, and Seagate's 8TB drive being the largest available 3.5" drives, for true ultra-high-definition media streaming, the CS01 makes a lot more sense. You can pack a total of 20TB of storage into it, while the CS01-HS can only serve up 16TB over far more drives. That being said, a few compromises had to be made in the effort to convert the CS01-HS to a standard case with internal bays, which we'll discuss in the performance section on the next page. The first you can see in the promotional photo above: a simple mesh panel has been placed on the opening where the hot swap bays would be. If Silverstone had been really creative in the conversion, it would have placed another mesh panel between the upper loops of the case, neatly tidying up the cable output area, which, as you'll see in the photo shown later on this page, can really mar the looks of an otherwise extraordinarily-sleek case. Maybe it's not too late... what do you say, SilverStone?

One thing that's immediately apparent about the CS01 once you see it up close is that it's simply not that compact. At 12.7" tall, and 8.3" in both depth and width, it totals 14.2 liters, or more than the equally attractive and far more capable SilverStone FTZ01. The FTZ01 can fit three 2.5" drives and one 3.5" drive, as well as a full-size, dual-slot video card, while the CS01 can only fit a single-slot, low-profile card. In terms of expansion, you are essentially limited to WiFi, RAID, and sound cards, or the handful of ultra-compact video cards that can actually outperform Intel's and AMD's built-in video solutions. Which case you prefer ultimately depends on your usage scenario and the space you have available for placing the system, but there's no doubt that the unique CS01 form factor simply isn't the most efficient for an ITX system. On the flipside, it does allow for one fan to do the work of many, as the bottom-mounted intake fan forces cool air through the entire main column of the case, in one fell swoop cooling every component contained within. As we'll discuss more on the next page, however, it does come at the cost of noise.

To put the case to the test, we loaded it up with the following components:

Note that the Core i5-6600K is really far more CPU than you'd need for a system like this, but considering the minimum power rating of most SFX power supplies is around 300W, it's certainly not going to overwhelm any power supply. You could, however, get into some trouble with cooling a hot-rod CPU in this case, as we'll discuss on the next page. Alas, this is the CPU we had available for the test, so we figured it was a good enough option even if a dual-core would probably be optimal. Also note that here at TBG, we really don't use 3.5" drives for anything but data backup, so we plugged in two of the 2.5" drives we had on hand to test with: a Samsung SSD and a Seagate SSHD. On cooling duty, we used our ultra-compact Noctua NH-L9x65, which at 65mm tall just slips in under the CS01's 68mm cooler clearance rating. And while there are more powerful coolers available that are just as low-profile, they typically use a much bigger footprint, which it turns out would be incompatible with the CS01, again something we'll highlight on the next page. If there's one thing SilverStone has become expert at, it's not quite giving all the specifications one would need to pick components not sold by SilverStone. As always, though, TBG is here to help you sort it all out so you too can enjoy using a SilverStone chassis!

Complete Setup

As can been seen above, the CS01 makes for a very sleek system. The brushed aluminum side panels exude class, and the curved air intake area at the bottom adds both function and flair to the design. In fact, we found it was also great for passing a cable through to the back for a high-performance wired mouse, although we photographed the above setup with standard wireless gear. As we noted earlier, we just wish Silverstone would provide an additional cover to hide the mess of cables that protrudes from the inverted motherboard I/O panel. It's the only thing that keeps this stellar case from reaching design nirvana.

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