ProsHuge airflow from four included 140mm fans and fully-meshed front panel; stylish design; fair price
ConsTight interior space despite large exterior; non-functional air "scoops"; fan hub offers no speed control
Here at The Tech Buyer's Guru, we really like reviewing cases. That's not because it's easy or quick. In fact, case's are one of the most time-consuming components to review, because to do it right, you actually have to build a whole new system! But we feel the selection of the right case is of critical importance to do-it-yourself PC builders, and the more cases we can get our hands on, the better advice we can give to our readers. We don't have to test every case to know which features work and which don't, but we certainly need to keep up on the latest appoaches to case design.
And so we contacted SilverStone as soon as it announced the Primera PM01, because on paper (and in photos), we felt it had a lot of the modern features that would help it stand out from an endless array of copycat contenders. SilverStone was kind enough to provide a sample PM01 just as it was launched in North America, and we've been hard at work getting to know the case for the past month or so. Based on our experience building and extensively using a system in the case, we're pretty sure we can give our readers the straight story on this very curvy case!
We'd like to extend a special thank you to SilverStone for providing a review sample of the SilverStone Primera PM01 White Case.
Description and Features
SilverStone markets the PM01 as being inspired by modern sports cars. Right off the bat, you'll probably notice that the PM01 has a fairly aggressive profile, and much of what makes it interesting to look at does indeed borrow from the automobile world. Take, for example, the angular front mesh panel, the air scoops (non-functional, just like on many sports cars!), and the combination of hard-edged lines and graceful curves. SilverStone adds a feature you won't find on many factory-spec sports cars but one that's certainly popular with modders: ambient lighting. And while LED fans are nothing new, they look quite striking due to how deeply recessed they are in the front fascia, and they are complemented by well-placed LEDs around the case's side window as well as its "hood", for lack of a better term (calling it a top panel just wouldn't do it justice!).
But all those curves and scoops come at a cost: they make the case extremely space inefficient. At 220mm wide, 571mm high, and 560mm deep, this case punches out to 70.3 liters, but its height and depth are way out of proportion to its decidely-compact interior space. As we'll discuss on the next page, the relatively narrow width, which hints at what were perhaps more modest origins, causes some serious cable management concerns that a typical 70L case wouldn't have.
The fact that function follows form in regard to a few design flourishes doesn't bother us too much, but there are several areas where SilverStone let a serious design win slip from its hands. Take, for eample, the top air duct, which looks very stylish but could have been so much more functional. You have to remove it to mount a liquid CPU cooler, as we did, but the large interior volume taken up by the hood is rendered useless due to a lack of pass-through points for cables or tubes. It would have been so cool if SilverStone had designed this hood to accommodate dual 120mm fans, or even better, a 240mm or 280mm radiator, allowing builders to free up space inside the case. In the photo below, you can see how much potential this area might have had if SilverStone had taken the next step in its design of the PM01.
Another area where SilverStone might have added a few dollars to the bill of materials to make the case even better is in its 10-in-1 fan hub. SilverStone wisely added this hub to the back of the motherboard to allow users to utilize the four high-quality 140mm case fans included with the PM01. Attaching that many fans to the typical motherboard would quickly use up all available fan headers. But unfortunately, this fan hub is directly wired to a SATA power cable, with neither a user-selectable fan controller nor a PWM fan extension to piggy-back off of a motherboard's fan controller. This is a big oversight as far as we're concerned, as any fan connected to the hub will be forced to run at full speed. The fans SilverStone provides are thankfully rated only to 1050RPM, which means they are quiet even when maxed out. We applaud SilverStone for not going down the road so many cooler and case manufacturers do, equipping products with ultra-high-speed fans to "juice" the benchmarks at the expense of a tolerable user experience. That being said, these fans are dead silent when brought down to around 700RPM, and we only wish SilverStone hadn't forced users to find a work-around to achieve this sonic bliss. By the way, while the PM01 has no external fan controller switch, SilverStone did include an LED switch on the top of the PM01. It allows the user to select high, low, "breathing," or off, and while it works well, we wish it remembered our selection after shutting the system off, because, frankly, the LEDs are really bright at their default "high" setting.
We'll highlight some of the PM01's other major features on the next page when we step through the assembly process, but first, let's go over the components we used to put the case to the test:
- CPU: Intel Core i7-6900K
- Motherboard: Asus X99-Pro/USB 3.1
- Memory: G.Skill 4x8GB Ripjaws 4 DDR4-3000
- Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB
- Solid-State Drive #1: Samsung 950 Pro 512GB M.2
- Solid-State Drive #2: Samsung 850 Evo 1TB
- Power Supply: EVGA Supernova 1000 PS
- CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro H100i v2
- Operating System: Windows 10 Home
This is in fact the basis for our brand-new ultra-high-end benchmarking system, and we'll be publishing a step-by-step assembly guide using many of the same components soon (although our venerable GTX 980 Ti will be replaced with a couple of GTX 1070s in SLI for a little added oomph!). SilverStone got lucky here, because we could have chosen a bunch of different cases for this build, but the PM01 came along at just the right time. Is it ideal for this setup? No, not quite, as we'll discuss in this review, but then again, with a retail price of just $109.99, it's relatively inexpensive, and probably would be a better fit for a slightly less ambitious system.
One last concern deserves mentioning at this point. The PM01 uses a sleek shroud to hide the power supply and its associated cables, as do most modern high-end cases. But unlike many of the cases we've tested recently, it doesn't allow power supplies to be mounted with their fans pointed up, as there are no ventilation holes on top of the shroud. This isn't ideal, but we could understand this choice based on the improved aesthetics a solid shroud provides.... if, that is, SilverStone didn't go and really mess up the design of the bottom fascia of the case. You see, there's essentially no open venting between the front and rear feet; rather, the case sits on a large molded plastic base. We've honestly never seen anything like this, and while it looks really cool, it most definitely doesn't work really "cool." We think SilverStone may need to redesign this in its next iteration, because it truly is a design flaw, from our point of view.
That being said, after making a few adjustments to work around its weaknesses, we're confident this case will work just fine for this build. You can see our completed build above; we think you'll agree it's a pretty sleek setup! So let's go ahead and step inside this case to see why, despite its imperfections, we still really like the Primera PM01!