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
As suggested on the previous page, SilverStone has worked hard to optimize airflow in this chassis. As can be seen in the interior shot shown here, the main motherboard compartment is as wide open as they come. Nothing's going to stand in the way of air getting to your critical PC components! And as with many top-quality cases, you have nice rubber gromments protecting many of the cable management cutouts, along with a stylish matte black interior finish. And while we didn't use it, we should note that there's actually a "trap door" in the front of the power supply shroud, allowing you to mount 360mm CPU coolers vertically on the front panel.
Once we remove the right side panel and expose the inner workings of the case, we see how SilverStone has made the main compartment so clean: everything is tucked away tightly behind the motherboard tray. You have two vertical SSD mounts, three slide-out 3.5"drive trays, along with the power supply mounting area. You may wonder why we decided not to use the SSD mounts, instead affixing our Samsung 850 Evo to a 3.5" tray. Well, as it turns out, the cable management area behind the motherboard tray is barely 1/4" wide, meaning that the simple act of hooking up SATA power cables to vertically-mounted SSDs would make reattaching the side panel an exercise in frustration. Even without the SSDs mounted there, we really had to work hard to keep our 24-pin motherboard cable out of the way of the side panel. It's over a 1/4" thick, after all. On a positive note, the pre-installed cable ties are awesome, featuring an extra loop to make opening and closing the ties easier. It's a bit hard to explain, but trust us, they work. Too bad there isn't enough space between the motherboard tray and the side panel to actually route the motherboard's power cable through those fasteners!
We have just a few other nitpicks that we think SilverStone should consider addressing to make the assembly process go more smoothly. First, we were surprised to find that only six motherboard standoffs were installed from the factory, despite the fact that standard high-end ATX motherboards require nine. Yes, ultra-narrow ATX boards require different standoff positioning, but we think SilverStone should assume that users of the PM01 have a high-end board to drop in their high-end case. Second, we'd really like to see captive screws on the side panels, a feature that's made its way down to many midrange cases we've tested recently. Finally, SilverStone may wish to borrow a design element pioneered by its competitor Phanteks, which has also worked hard to break free from the pack when it comes to interior case design. The large open area behind the front fans could easily accommodate modular drive sleds, but instead SilverStone leaves this area almost completely unusable, equipping it only with mounts for the extremely uncommon liquid coolant reservoirs. Yes, the reservoirs used in custom cooling loops look really cool, but we sincerely doubt many buyers of the PM01 will choose to install one, if for no other reason than that the side panel window actually blocks this area from view!
Once the motherboard was installed, it came time to mount our big 240mm liquid CPU cooler. As we mentioned on the previous page, the cooler and its fans must be mounted internally, even though you need to remove the top hood to secure them. And as it turned out, there was precious little clearance above our motherboard's top heatsink once the radiator was installed, so little in fact that our 120mm fans touched it. We decided to mount the cooler towards the front of the chassis, because had we mounted it in the rear 240mm bracket, we would have lost all access to motherboard power connectors and fan headers. And unfortunately, we're going to have to call SilverStone out here for a little bit of misleading marketing. The PM01 specifications, as shown on the SilverStone website, clearly state that the top panel can accommodate a 280mm cooler. Based on that specification, we had considered buying the Corsair Hydro H115i 280mm cooler specifically for this build, to replace the Hydro H100i v2 240mm cooler we already had on hand. Thank goodness we didn't waste the money on that cooler, because no one is ever going to be installing a 280mm cooler on the top panel of the PM01. There isn't the slightest chance you can get two 140mm fans and a radiator in there with a motherboard installed. It seems SilverStone forgot to include the space the motherboard takes up when it took its measurements! As an aside, you can mount a 280mm cooler to the front panel, but we view this an sub-optimal, as it means hot air will exhaust directly into the case.
OK, so we had our issues with the build process, but how does this case perform? Well, in a word, it depends. The case has the potential to run louder than necessary, while also overheating the power supply. But that didn't happen in our build. We re-routed all of our fan connectors from the included hub to our motherboard in order to gain fine-grained control over fan speeds, allowing the system to run whisper-quiet at idle. We also equipped the build with an exceptionally-efficient Platinum-rated power supply, which generated virtually no waste heat even when putting out 450W of power. As a result, the fan never spun up, indicating that even in the tight confines of the PSU shroud, it wasn't overheating. Want to use a high-wattage, low-efficiency unit in this case? You better think twice!
As we mentioned above, we positioned our CPU cooler towards the front of the chassis due to it barely clearing our motherboard's top edge. This had a positive effect on operating temperatures, as the CPU might as well have been sitting outside the case: the CPU cooler took in air directly from the front panel, and pushed it directly out the back of the top hood, which we've pictured here. While the case's scoops are non-functional, its rear vent is most definitely working to full effect. In other words, no hot system air entered the cooler, and no CPU exhaust air entered the case. Sweet!
Note that the PM01 isn't quite as quiet as its competitors using increasingly-popular solid front panels, but interior temperatures are so much lower when you don't curtail airflow in that manner. We found that even when overclocked to 4GHz at 1.25V, our eight-core i7-6900K remained under 80°C with an AVX load, which is simply mind-blowing considering how much stress it's under. We are of the opinion that enthusiasts running overclocked high-end builds are going to like the PM01's balance of low-noise operation and extreme interior airflow. It really is quite impressive.
There's just no other way to say this: the PM01 is about as close to perfection as you'll find in any case near the $100 mark. It sports a cutting-edge exterior design along with a sleek approach to interior layout, eschewing the typical ghastly array of hard drive cages that plague most of its competitors. This in turn allows its front-mounted wall of 140mm fans to do their best work. Indeed, the PM01 hints at the future of case design, and it's been a long time coming. You see, airflow has always played second fiddle to case "expandability," in the form of a seemingly endless number of 3.5" and 5.25" drive mounts. In our opinion, it's about time PC enthusiasts junk all their optical drives and low-capacity hard drives and become acquainted with a case based on a thoroughly-modern view of storage. You've got three 3.5" bays and two 2.5" bays, plus any M.2 slots your motherboard comes equipped with. In our opinion, that's more than enough, and if you don't agree, it's probably time for you to start chucking all the 200GB hard drives you've been passing from system to system for the last ten years!
But as is often the case with its products, SilverStone lets lofty concepts get in the way of true ingenuity. From the impossibly-narrow cable management area, to the only semi-functional top hood, to the lack of fan controls, to the blocked power supply air intake, the PM01 is clearly a work in progress. Luckily, we know for a fact that SilverStone is always listening, and we have no doubt that in the near future, we'll see a PM01-E that fixes all of these oversights while providing additional upgrades that we have yet to dream of. The letter "E" stands for evolution in SilverStone speak, and it's a concept SilverStone takes to heart. That's why we keep coming back to SilverStone cases. We have yet to find one that's perfect, but every single SilverStone case we've reviewed pushes the boundaries of case design, and goodness knows someone has to do it. Thank you SilverStone for daring to think different!
As of our publication date, the SilverStone Primera PM01 is available in White with Blue LEDs for $109.99 shipped free from Amazon, which we've profiled here, as well as in Black with Red LEDs. If you'd like to build your own PC using the PM01, check out our Do-it-Yourself PC Buyer's Guides for plenty of component options!