SilverStone Kublai Series KL03 Case Review
By Gabriel Torres on February 6, 2008
Launched under SilverStone Kublai series, KL03 is the latest case from this manufacturer, targeted to users that want a big case with high-end thermal performance but don’t want to buy a very expensive all-aluminum product, like the cases from Temjin series also from SilverStone. In fact KL03 is a hybrid product: its body is made of zinc-coated steel, but its frontal panel is made of aluminum.
We have to categorize KL03 as a four-bay case just to keep using the same standard we used for all our reviews, even though you can install up to seven 5.25” devices if you remove the hard disk drive cage and use that space to install three more 5.25” devices (more about this later).
KL03 is available in black or silver and with or without a transparent side window. We reviewed the silver model with solid side panel. Its upper part glows blue when the computer is turned on.
This case is so big that we couldn’t find a position on our bench to take good pictures of it, so we had to take pictures of it on the floor. Sorry about that!
As we mentioned this is a hybrid case, with steel body, aluminum frontal panel and aluminum frontal cover/door.
In Figure 3, you can see the frontal panel with the frontal door opened. This case has four 5.25” bays, two external 3.5” bays for floppy disk drives, one internal 3.5” bay for hard disk drives (not shown in Figure 3) and four 3.5” bays for hard disk drives behind the frontal 120 mm fan that comes with the product. Of course we will talk about them in more details shortly.
One interesting feature of this case is that you can remove the frontal door by pressing its upper hinge, as shown on Figures 4 and 5. Not only that, you can remove the hinges and install them on the other side of the door, so if you don’t want the default configuration of the door – opening right to left – you can change it to open from left to right. This is a really good option to have.
The frontal panel is entirely made of aluminum and you can see it in Figure 6 with the frontal door removed.
To remove the covers to install drives you first need to open the two lateral latches (which are black on the silver model), as shown in Figure 7. With these latches opened you can remove the covers to add/remove drives.
If you pay attention to the pictures above you can clearly see the four external 5.25” bays, the two external 3.5” bays for floppy disk drives and a 120 mm fan. Removing this fan you will find four 3.5” bays for hard disk drives.
This fan is different from all other frontal fans we’ve seen to date. Instead of using regular wires for its electrical connection to the power supply it uses three metallic contacts (see Figure 9), making it extremely easy to remove this fan from the case, step that is necessary for installing hard disk drives.
In Figure 10, you can see the hard disk drive bays. Each one contains a plastic drawer that not only makes hard disk drive installation very easy, but also allows hot swapping, if your motherboard also supports this feature, of course (hot swapping allows you to replace your hard disk drive with the computer turned on). This case comes with only one hot swap connector, which is installed on the first bay (we will show this connector when we talk about the inside of this case), but you can buy additional connectors from SilverStone and install them on the other three bays in order to have a RAID solution with hot swapping.
These bays are available inside a cage, which can be removed, allowing you to install three 5.25” external devices there. The case still has one more internal 3.5” bay for hard disk drives.
Removing each drawer is very simple, just press the right latch, pull the front part of the drawer to an angle of 45° to release the drawer and them just pull the drawer towards you.
In Figure 15, you can see the switches and connectors available on KL03: two USB ports, one FireWire port, heaphones output, microphone input, power switch and reset switch. The location of these connectors and switches is perfect: on top of the unit. As you can see, this part of the case is also in aluminum. Here we missed an eSATA port. We think that a case from this level should have at least one eSATA port on this panel.
In Figure 16, you can see the rear of KL03. As you can see this is a traditional seven-slot case, coming with a 120 mm fan on its rear. As happens with the majority of high-end cases, this case doesn’t come with a power supply. What is interesting about this case is that you can remove the frame that holds the power supply in place, allowing you to install a redundant power supply, which is bigger and doesn’t fit regular ATX cases.
If you play close attention in Figure 16 you can see that this case use regular screws. We think a case from this level deserved thumbscrews.
Another feature of this case is its feet. You can leave them on their default position (Figure 17), you can rotate them 90° so they become apparent (Figure 18) or you can simply remove them with a Phillips screwdriver, if you don’t like them.
The side panels of this case open as traditional ATX cases, i.e., by pulling them to the rear side of the case. In Figure 19 you have an overall look of its interior.
The first thing that catches the eye is the panel for install two 120 mm side fans on the lower section of the case to cool down peripheral cards, especially video cards. These fans, however, don’t come with the case.
This panel has two hinges, opening like a door after you have removed the screw that fastens it to the rear end of the case.
Between the two fans there is a plastic piece containing six plastic fingers. These fingers are used to hold peripheral cards in place, as during transportation big cards can become lose and even lift out of the slot, even if they are properly screwed to the case. The case comes with a spoon-shaped tool for adjusting the height of these fingers (see it in Figure 19), and what you need to do is, after your PC is assembled, to push each one of these fingers down until they firmly reach the peripheral card right below them.
Talking about fans, in Figure 22 you can see the rear part of the case from inside, showing the seven slots and the rear 120 mm fan that comes with the case.
In Figure 23 you have a close-up from the rear side of the hard disk drive bays. As you can see, hot swap power and data connectors are available on the upper bay and if you want to enable hot swapping on the other bays you will need to buy extra connectors from SilverStone. As we mentioned before, the four external hard disk drive bays are inside a cage that can be removed if you want to install up to three more optical drives on the case (as if four bays weren’t enough already). Right above the hard disk drive cage you can see the internal hard disk drive bay. So you can install up to five hard disk drives in this computer case.
Right above the internal 3.5” hard disk drive bay are the two external 3.5” bays for floppy disk drives. This case doesn’t allow you to remove the floppy disk drive cage, what would allow you to install at least one more 5.25” drive. Since nowadays floppies are completely obsolete we don’t see why SilverStone kept two fixed bays for floppy disk drives.
Optical drives, floppy disk drives and the internal hard disk drive are installed to the case through a screwless sliding mechanism. The case comes with three different kinds of rails for that: the metallic ones are for optical drives, the black ones are for hard disk drives and the blue ones are for floppy disk drives.
Even though several other manufacturers are also using sliding mechanisms for disk drive installation, the one used on KL03 doesn’t require screws: the rails are installed on the drives by pressure.
Below we will show how an optical drive is installed in this case. First pay attention on the metallic rails, as they have “R” and “L” (right and left) marked on them, and you should use an “R” rail on the unit right side and an “L” rail the unit left side (enlarge Figure 24 to see this).
If you want to install a hard disk drive on the internal 3.5” bay or a floppy disk drive you should follow the same procedure, but using the appropriate rails.
Kublai KL03 case main specs include:
* Researched at Froogle.com on the day we published this review.
This is a case that will definitely please the user that is looking for a case big enough to accommodate long video cards and big power supplies – including redundant units, if you’d like to have one. Not only that: bigger cases provide better thermal dissipation compared to smaller cases, where there is no available space for the correct airflow, especially if you have a lot of stuff inside your PC.
This case is really targeted to users with long peripheral cards (video cards in particular), as it comes with six adjustable fingers to hold peripheral cards in place. When you have long (and heavy) cards it is somewhat common for them to lift a little bit out of their slots during transportation, even if they are correctly screwed to the case.
Besides the traditional frontal and rear 120 mm fans that all high-end cases have you can install two side 120 mm fans to cool down the video cards.
Another highlight of this case are its SATA hot swap connectors available in one of the hard disk drive bays. All bays could have come with these connectors but we think SilverStone was smart here. First, putting connectors in all bays would have increased the price of this case. Second, with the case coming with only one set of hot swap connectors you can test whether hot swapping will work or not on your system, for then ordering the extra connectors if you are building a RAID array. Not knowing for sure that your system is compatible with hot swap or if you aren’t going to build a RAID system you would have spent extra money for nothing.
Installing drives on this case is a piece of cake with its screwless rails system.
The number of hard disk drive bays – five – is enough for almost everybody, including people building big RAID arrays, but the ultra mega enthusiast will probably be more comfortable with a case with at least six hard disk drive bays.
Even though it isn’t the cheapest case around – costing around USD 165 in the US and not coming with a power supply – its hybrid steel/aluminum design provides a far better cost/benefit ratio than all-aluminum cases, which cost over USD 300.
Even though we liked this case, we could spot some flaws: the absence of thumbscrews for opening the case, especially for a case on this price range; the floppy disk drive cage isn’t removable and since just a few people are still using floppies these days if the cage was removable we could either install more hard disk drives or more optical drives; and we think SilverStone should have added an eSATA port on the top with this case along the traditional connectors (USB, FireWire, etc).
If you are worried about your computer inner temperature, this case is one of the good options you have around if you can afford it.