SilverStone GD01B-MXR Case Review
By Rafael Coelho on June 1, 2009
SilverStone GD01B-MXR is an HTPC (home Theater PC) computer case that supports ATX motherboards, unlike many other HTPC cases that accept only microATX models. GD01B-MXR comes in black and SilverStone also has this same case in silver, called GD01S-MXR. The "-MXR" means it is equipped with a front media display, and there are models without this display (without the suffix -MXR, obviously).
This device, moreover, turns your computer into a real digital home theater system. It comes with a remote control (see more in the next pages) that lets you to turn your computer on and off, select media functions, control music or DVD player, adjust volume, change media tracks and even use this remote control as mouse and virtual keyboard. With this panel you can actually replace your DVD player with a computer, with no keyboard and mouse, with all functionatilies you would find on a commercial player. If you use your computer as a common workstation, the display software allows you to configure it to show information such as new e-mails, graphic equalizer and even your city wheather forecast.
The case itself is made of steel, with an aluminum front panel, giving it a very nice looks. On the left side there is an air intake for the power supply, while on right side there is room for installing an exhaust 80 mm fan. On the case front side you can see the on/off button, two blue LEDs indicating power on and hard disk drive activity, the multimedia display and two doors, one hiding the disk drive bays and other for accessing the front panel connectors. We will see what's under these doors on next page.
There is no air intake on the bottom of the case. The feet are home theater-style, nice-looking and vibration-absorbing.
In Figure 6 we can see the external bays door open. This door has a "soft" opening system, so you must just touch the door and it drops slowly. There is room for two 5.25” units, and you will probably use them for installing DVD and/or Blu-Ray drives. The removable covers are made of aluminum.
On the bottom part from the front panel there is a door that also opens just as the other: simply press it and it will gently open. So you can see the reset button, audio jacks for earphone and microphone, two USB ports (sadly, very close to each other, so you can not install two "fat" devices such as pen drives and MP3 players the same time), a firewire port (very useful on HTPC computers if you have a digital camcorder that uses this connection) and a card reader for flash memory cards, compatible with almost any standard (according to SilverStone, it is a "52 in 1" card reader).
Looking at the rear panel you can see the case supports ATX motherboards by the seven available expansion slots (microATX cases have only four slots). You can also see the power supply is not in the traditional position (closer to the processor), but on the other side of the motherboard, next to the expansion slots. This is a good solution because it takes cold air from outside to cool down the power supply, and not from inside the case, already heated by other components. So the power supply works cooler. You can also see two 80 mm fans just above the rear panel of the motherboard, which exhaust hot air from around processor and voltage regulator circuit. These fans do not rotate at a high speed (2,050 rpm, according to the manufacturer) and therefore are very quiet. Actually, these fans are almost inaudible.
A problem here is the lack of thumbscrews, which could make user life easier allowing the top cover opening with no tools. However, we must take into account that an HTPC case is not designed to be opened often.
Removing the top cover you have access to the case interior. In Figure 9 you see two removable cages, one for the two external bays, and another one for the hard drives.
You can see the hot air exhaust fans in Figure 10. It is a nice surprise to see that the manufacturer was meticulous enough to include not only outside grills but also inside too, so you don't need to worry about cables being caught by the blades from the fans. We can also see the space for installing another 80 mm fan, with a small grid that acts as a dust filter. You may also notice on Figure 10 that there is no tool-free mechanism for fastening expansion boards, so you must attach them using the old-fashioned way: with screws.
In Figure 11, you can see the connectors for the front panel (power on and hard disk activity LEDs, reset and on/off buttons), identical to those found on almost any case, and on Figure 12 you can see other cables, such as the USB connection for the memory card reader, FireWire port and two audio connectors (to maintain compatibility with both AC'97 and HD audio standards). The USB ports connectors do not appear on these pictures.
In Figure 13, you can see an interesting trick the manufacturer used to connect the multimedia panel to the system. The display comes with a standard USB connector and you can connect it to one of the rear USB ports (and thus routing the cable outside the case) or you can use an adapter that allows you to plug it directly on any USB header from the motherboard. Nice.
SilverStone didn't make it easy for installating components inside GD01B-MXR. Besides not having thumbscrews or screwless devices for securing daughterboards, installation of optical and hard disk drives should also be done with screws. And to complicate things even more, it is necessary to remove the cage in order to install drives.
In Figure 14 we can see the cage with two 5.25” bays. To install an optical unit, you must remove the cage (which is fastened to the case by two screws), remove one of the front aluminum covers (also attached to the cage with screws), install the drive in the cage with four screws and then screw the cage back in place.
The installation of hard drives is even more complicated: to properly install the units, you must remove the metal bar that exists on top of the case, remove the cage (attached to the case with four screws), put the disk drive inside it, fasten four screws to the drive, then put the cage back inside the case, attach four screws that hold it, and then reinstall the bar, which is held by another four screws. Phew!
But the good news is the good number of 3 ½" bays (six) for hard disks, which is enough for almost any user, and very unusual in HTPC cases (which usually have only one or two hard disks bays). Also, these bays have a rubber layer that helps absorbing vibration, helping your computer to be quieter. Moreover, there are rubber washers to be used on the screws that hold the hard drives.
There is also the possibility of installing 80- or 92-mm fans to cool these units directly.
In Figure 16 you can take a look at the interior from this case without its cages.
The accessory set that came with GD01B-MXR is amazing: in addition to the traditional bag of screws, there is the multimedia panel software and a remote control that turns your computer into a DVD player. There is also a power cable you must install between the power supply and the motherboard, which powers the multimedia panel, allowing you to turn on the computer using the remote control. A pity was the lack of included batteries for the remote control, but nothing is perfect.
The user manual denotes it is a high-end product, printed on high quality glossy paper.
On Figures 18 and 19 you can see how the inside from GD01B-MXR looks like after building a PC. Although it isn't a very large case, all parts are well distributed, and it is even possible to install long video cards and big CPU coolers without major problems. The internal cooling is good, even with only two fans. But if you have a hotter system, just install the three optional fans and the internal airflow will improve.
The main features of SilverStone GD01B-MXR case are:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
SilverStone GD01B-MXR case is really a top shelf product. Its main drawback, the difficult installation (with no tool-free or screwless system) should be taken into account only if you open, close, mount and dismount your computer often. But remember this case is aimed to real HTPC computers and not to the typical enthusiast computer, where you replace parts quite often. You can spend more time to install your system, but after that just put it on your living room and enjoy it.
It is a true competitor for Moncaso972 case, which we recently tested, and although it doesn't have an LCD monitor on its front panel and it costs less than half the price from this particular Moneual model.
The product quality leads us to give our "Golden Award" seal to SilverStone GD01B-MXR "Grandia".