ProsThermals are improved over the original; still looks fantastic; very easy to build in
ConsSingle USB Type-A port is disappointing; thermals are still mediocre
Since 2013, we've reviewed over 30 cases, including some of the most popular, best-selling mini-ITX cases ever released. One brand that stands above the rest in terms of its contribution to the ITX market is SilverStone, and we've reviewed just about every ITX case they've released over the past half-decade. So of course we were excited to check out the new LD03-AF, the airflow-enhanced version of the LD03 we reviewed in 2019. While the original certainly impressed us with its looks and builder-friendly features, its thermal performance just wasn't up to SilverStone's typical standards. It felt like too much of a compromise to achieve a certain "look." With the LD03-AF, SilverStone adds a vent next to the video card mount, plus an Air Penetrator fan at the bottom of the case for more focused airflow, in the hopes of redeeming that beautiful if flawed gem of a case. Does it achieve its goals? We'll tell you!
Special thanks to SilverStone for providing us a sample of the SilverStone LD03-AF Mini-ITX Chassis.
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While we were a bit disappointed by the LD03-AF, it was more due to our high expectations than any fatal flaw. It's by no means a bad case, in fact its edge-to-edge glass puts it in rare company, and it may be the only ITX case to feature such a design (Lian Li's 011 Dynamic sets the standard for glass cases in the ATX arena), and in fact its the only case on the market that truly goes edge-to-edge on three sides, making it quite distinctive. But unfortunately, that same look contributes to very constricted airflow in a small chassis, even with the added vent and more powerful intake fan of this airflow version of the LD03. The core issue here is that while SilverStone has devised an effective means of providing intake air, it has not solved the problem of limited exhaust flow from the case, which turns this crystal cavern into a hot box in no time. During our testing with an ultra-high-end RTX 2080 Ti video card, the front glass panel of the case reached temperatures of around 140°F, which we consider a sign that this system just couldn't breathe.
In the end, we can only recommend the LD03-AF to users of more moderate video cards. While you can actually stuff a pretty powerful CPU in this system thanks to its directed airflow and compatibility with great 120mm air coolers like the Scythe Fuma 2, you cannot put a big GPU in this case and expect it to do well unless its liquid cooled. And if you're going liquid cooled, you might as well go with a smaller chassis. So feel free to use the LD03-AF for your next workstation GPU power budget below 200W, or preferably 150W. We think a combo like the Ryzen 9 3900X plus a GTX 1660 Super for app accleration would be a perfect match, and we may in fact recommend such a build in the near future.
We expect the SilverStone LD03-AF to be available on Amazon for $129.99 by late June 2020.