ProsTheoretical capacity for high-end components is fantastic given the compact dimensions; attractive front fascia
ConsMultiple design flaws make it perform sub-optimally; clearly designed to push sales of other Silverstone components; over-priced
When we first laid eyes on the specifications of the SG08B-Lite, it seemed like love at first sight. Could this be the ideal high-performance mini-ITX chassis? Nothing could stop us from trying our hand at building the ultimate ITX machine using this case. You can read more about how that went in our Project ITX article; here we'll focus on the many strengths and equally many weaknesses of the SG08B. Alas, every rose has its thorn, and the SG08B is full of them.
Description and Features
Silverstone ticks off so many boxes with the SG08B-Lite that you wonder how it couldn't be a smashing success. Incredibly-compact dimensions of 8.7" wide, 13.8" long, and just 7.5" tall make it the smallest case to offer compatibility with ATX power supplies and video cards over 10" long. It simply has no competition in this regard. Then there's the big vented power supply intake and CPU fan intake, both equipped with high-quality mesh to keep out dust. And of course, it's got a thick brushed aluminum front fascia to give it a serious, sublime appearance that few cases can match. Part of the attraction is the slilm slot-loading optical drive bay, which certainly looks great, but practically requires you to buy one of Silverstone's expensive slot-loading drives, as few other manufacturers offer one. We chose instead to use an inexpensive external drive for our build.
The old saying goes "be careful what you wish for," and that really hits home with this case. Check boxes on a specification sheet don't mean squat until tested in the real world, and somewhere along the way, Silverstone ran off the road. We have a feeling that translating the older SG08B into its "Lite" configuration by removing the proprietary 180mm case fan and 140mm non-modular short-cabled power supply (both included in the price of the standard SG08B) are what caused problems for Silverstone. The design is simply too heavily optimized around those components, meaning that at the end of the day, it's actually too small to allow builders to configure it with third-party components.
The first hint of the problems in the design is a little fine print shown at the bottom of Silverstone's spec sheet for the SG08B-Lite: "To support graphics card longer than 7.25”, a non-modular PSU with maximum 140mm length is required."
Wait, what? You mean to use anything other than a low-end or ITX-specific video card, you can't use a modular power supply? Doesn't that mean that to use a large video card, you have to fill the entire remaining volume of the case with excess cabling, thereby severly compromising airflow? Why, yes it does! Unfortunately, things get worse from here, because what Silverstone doesn't mention is that many popular power supplies, including the 140mm-long Corsair CX500M model we used for our build, simply do not fit in the SG08B-Lite due to interference from the case's front panel connectors. The PSU cannot be secured in the mounting bracket due to inadequate room for the power connector, as highlighted below.
We were able to get around this critical flaw by jettisoning Silverstone's mounting appartus entirely and flipping the PSU up on its side, as detailed in our Project ITX article. That doesn't mean it's not a fatal flaw from our perspective, however, as Corsair likely outsells Silverstone in the power supply market 100 to 1. That's going to translate to a lot of disappointed customers.
The serious compromises do not end here, either. Take a look at the venting provided in the rear of the case, as shown in the photograph to the right. Yes, as you can see, there is none. Silverstone has made a niche for itself in the realm of "positive-pressure" cases, but with the SG08B-Lite, it took this concept one step too far. There simply isn't enough venting provided in this case to allow positive pressure to work. Even if you mounted Silverstone's proprietary 180mm fan in the case's sole fan slot, you'd still risk overheating your components due to air being trapped between the power supply, video card, and rear of the case. The only exhaust for hot air is in the rear quarter of the right-hand side of the case (shown in the photograph above), and it's simply too small. Because we've found Silverstone's 180mm fan to be too loud in previous builds, we used a 140mm Rosewill Hyperborea fan and mounted it as an exhaust blowing up and out of the case. We found that load temperatures dropped dramatically versus using it as an intake, especially with regard to the video card and hard drive. Yes, the positive pressure design works for the CPU, but it causes the rest of the components to bake. Temperature graphs are available in our Project ITX article.
The venting design flaw also means that tower-style CPU coolers cannot be used, despite Silverstone's claim that coolers up to 147mm tall will fit. Such coolers will not be able to exhaust properly if mounted in this case. We instead chose a Cooler Master GeminII heatsink, though Silverstone no doubt would like you to use its NT06-Pro, which is one of the very few other high-performance coolers that will work in this case. We recommend, however, that if you choose to use this case, go for a 120mm liquid cooler, as the case is a much better match for such devices.
In the end, we were able to build up the SG08B-Lite into a tremendous gaming and home theater PC using an ultra-high-end GeForce GTX 780 Ti, and did so in a footprint no other PC case would have allowed. In that sense, the SG08B-Lite is unique and praise-worthy.
Ultimately, though, the SG08B-Lite is a flawed gem. It had the potential to shine so brightly, but some mis-steps, and perhaps even a little bit of outright greediness, got in the way of Silverstone having another unrivaled design win on its hands. Frankly, unless you're willing to purchase one of Silverstone's non-modular 140mm-long power supplies, we wouldn't bother with the SG08B-Lite. And the fact that the standard SG08 includes a 600W PSU in the price, along with a 180mm case fan, is the final nail in the SG08B-Lite's coffin. It's just a stripped-down, over-priced version of the SG08B, which was itself expensive to start with, and because the SG08B was designed around Silverstone's own proprietary 180mm fan and 140mm PSU, the SG08B-Lite fails at its mission of opening up the platform to custom builds.
Our advice: skip the SG08B-Lite, and either go for the SG08B, or pick up one of the many other ITX cases on the market that are bit better designed overall, including the larger Cooler Master Elite 130, which truly can fit ATX power supplies, including modular models, along with any video card on the market, or the smaller Silverstone SG05, which requires the use of an SFX power supply and video cards under 10" long. In our opinion, the SG08B-Lite occupies a space between these two cases that simply wasn't ready to be filled with modern-day components. [Update: The Silverstone SG13, released in April of 2015, fills the gap between the SG05 and SG08, allowing the use of full-size gear despite proportions just slightly larger than the SG05, without the PSU compatibility problems of the SG08.]
The Silverstone SG08B-Lite is available for $100 shipped from Amazon, as of our publication date.