Pros

Unique, eye-catching design; great access to interior; flexible cooling layout

Cons

Thermal performance is only mediocre; expensive

Star Rating

Assembly

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.

built

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.

Performance

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.

Idle

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.

CPU

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...  

GPU

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.

Conclusion

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. Sittting 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 accomodate 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!

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