A Proper MITX Case: SilverStone RVZ03 Mini-ITX Review

By Published June 25, 2018 at 7:51 pm
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SilverStone’s RVZ03 isn’t new, but after years of ATX case reviews we have quite a backlog of promising small form factor cases. The RVZ03 is part of the Raven line, a loosely related group of “extreme enthusiasts chassis” that could also be called “the ones that have a V-shape on them.” We recently revisited the RV02, one of the best-performing full size cases we’ve reviewed.

It’s a thin, console-like enclosure, typically shown standing vertically, but also capable of being laid on its side Taku-style. The ubiquitous Vs on the front are clear plastic backlit with RGB LEDs hooked up to a controller; the controller can accept input from a standard 4-pin RGB header and includes adapters to control normal LED strips as well.

 

SilverStone Raven RVZ03 Specs

Model No.

SST-RVZ03B (black)

SST-RVZ03W (white)

Material

Reinforced plastic outer shell, steel body

Motherboard

Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX

Drive bay

2.5" x 4*

Cooling system

Top: 1 x 120mm (1 x 1500rpm 18dBA included)

Bottom: 2 x 120mm (1 x 1500rpm 18dBA included)

Expansion slot

2

Front I/O port

USB 3.0 x 2

Audio x 1

Mic x 1

Power supply

Optional PS2(ATX)

Expansion card

Compatible up to 13" (330mm) long, width restriction-5.88" (149mm)

Limitation of CPU cooler

83mm

Limitation of PSU

150mm**

Net weight

4.05 kg

Dimension

382mm (W) x 105mm (H) x 350mm (D), 14 Liters

15.04" (W) x 4.13" (H) x 13.78" (D), 14 Liters

Extra

Support Kensington lock

PCI Express riser card set x 1

RGB light strip control box x 1

* 2.5" drive on center bracket may be difficult or impossible to install due to power supply cable interference, we recommend using 140mm deep or shorter modular power supply with flat cables

** Maximum length for power supply is 150mm but we recommend 140mm deep power supply due to varying connector locations and the unique structure of RVZ03.Due to the use of internal power cord extension, we recommend not to exceed 800W when powering off a 110V outlet (no limit for 220V)

The RVZ03 is billed as a “further evolution” of the RVZ01-E (specifically -E), which we haven’t reviewed. We did see the RVZ02 at CES 2015, and we approve of the updates that have been made. Eliminating the optical drive support does make it less versatile as an HTPC, but it allows the GPU frame to be lifted away from the backplate just a little for some breathing room. Trading the big perforated acrylic panel for fan mounts and some preinstalled fans makes for far better case cooling for both the CPU and GPU.

SilverStone RVZ03 Mini-ITX Case Build Quality

Assembly wasn’t too demanding overall, but installing the graphics card was the most elaborate part of the process. As with the RVZ02, SilverStone provides a plastic shell that houses the SSDs, GPU, and a rigid PCIe riser. Part of this shell is an adjustable plastic clamp to hold the GPU firmly in place, but we had difficulty finding a spot where it wouldn’t interfere with the fan on our card. Every GPU cooler is different, and it’s hard to account for every possible variation. The clamp isn’t strictly necessary, but it seems like a good idea in a case with such tight tolerances, so we jury rigged it into place with a scrap of plastic. Once the whole frame was assembled, it actually made installation easier--just plug in the power cables and slot the whole thing down onto the motherboard without having to reach inside the case with a screwdriver.

There is technically space for an ATX PSU, but given the limited space for cable management, SFF is a better choice. The maximum supported PSU depth is 150mm, but SilverStone recommends a modular PSU that’s 140mm or less. Our Enermax supply is only 100mm long and that was definitely a good thing. Choosing a small graphics card also allows some extra space, but it’s separated from the PSU and is hard to take advantage of.

silverstone rvz03 3

Two 120mm fans with space for a third is lavish for an ITX case this size, and the stock fans are placed directly over the CPU and GPU for maximum effectiveness (or they would be, if our GPU was longer). Airflow is entirely positive pressure--even the vents that don’t contain fans are over GPU and PSU intakes. All exhaust is vented out the back of the case through some holes beside the I/O.

There are three filters shipped with the case, one for each 120mm fan mount. The filter material is an extremely breathable fine mesh, closer to a fabric. The frames are magnetic, and they’re intended for use on the outside of the case. If they’re placed inside the case between the fan and the side panel, the fabric scrapes against the fan blades.

silverstone rvz03 2

As mentioned in the introduction, the case can be stood on any face except the back or front, but the traditional vertical orientation offers the best airflow. Different rubber feet are included for either choice.

Mini-ITX Case Testing Methodology

Our hardware was chosen for maximum compatibility with a wide range of mini-ITX cases: we’re using a low-profile cooler, small PSU, short GPU, and an APU for any cases where a discrete GPU doesn’t fit at all. The 2400G is configured to a fixed 3.7GHz in order to ensure consistent frequency performance under benchmarks.

Mini-ITX reviews are the least scientific of any case reviews. They’re difficult to do, and it’s a challenge to look at huge lists of thermal benchmarks to determine an obvious “best.” With ITX cases, the subjective enters play to an extreme that we can’t just “review” -- a lot of that will be up to viewers. For examples of this, Case A might be half the size of Case B (in volume), and while both are still significantly smaller than even Micro-ATX boxes, Case B might be “too big” for some users. ITX cases range between true-to-form shuttle boxes and cases that are functionally mid-towers, with some oddballs in the set-top box category (read: no dGPU support at all). While something like the SG13 (11.5 liters) might seem the incarnation of a perfect ITX box, it does suffer from reduced ease-of-installation and cable management -- that’s the nature of such a small box; then again, another user might see the Thermaltake Core V1 -- still a verifiably small case -- and think that 22.7 liters is simply too large.

Component compatibility is also a large question mark with ITX case reviews: When considering GPU lengths, for instance, many modern ITX cases can fit full-length reference cards, but that doesn’t mean they should be outfitted with those cards. Thermal considerations would sometimes dictate that a half-length/mini card is a better choice. Other boxes simply won’t support full-length cards, and thus would be incompatible with a test bench that standardizes full-length GPUs.

Then you have instances of cooling support: Unlike ATX cases, where we’re 90% guaranteed that all cases will support at least a 150mm tower or at least a 240mm CLC, ITX cases are all over the place. Some demand a less-than 50mm-tall heatsink, others can support mini-towers up to 92mm, some have 0 CLC support, some specialize in CLC support. In order to standardize for the least common denominator and support the most cases, we opted for a 50mm cooler height; unfortunately, cases that can legitimately support larger coolers will appear marginally ‘gimped’ in these tests, comparatively, as we’re restricting them to a smaller standard.

The point is, despite all efforts to control for the test environment, sometimes science isn’t the only proper approach to a benchmark. In these instances of ITX reviews, we’ll provide standardized thermal tests, then also ask that you consider more subjective factors. We’ll lay those out in the text sections in each review.

Here’s the parts listing:

Mini-ITX Case Test Bench, Sponsored by Gigabyte & Enermax

  Part Name Provided by 
CPU  AMD R5 2400G @ 3.7GHz, 1.225V @ LLC5 GamersNexus
RAM  GSkill Trident Z 3200MHz CL14 GSkill
Motherboard Gigabyte AB350N ITX Gigabyte
PSU Enermax Revolution SFX 650W Enermax
GPU Gigabyte GTX 1070 Mini Gigabyte
Cooler  Cryorig C7 Cryorig
SSD Samsung 850 Evo GamersNexus

Noise testing is still being refined, as we’re somewhat bound by the CPU cooler right now (more than the cases). Anything involving noise -- which will primarily be focused on in future reviews, not this one -- is measured at the usual 20” distance range for our testing. The noise floor is ~26dB.

Thermal testing is where it gets more detailed: We’ve added frequency over time charts for GPU core clocks, useful for determining the impact of poor cooling, and we’ve also added VRM thermal measurements by placing thermocouples on the MOSFETs. This will mostly help to identify weak spots in case cooling capabilities. As always, all tests are conducted for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Thermals & Noise - SilverStone RVZ03 Raven

In addition to the usual tests, we did a pass with filters applied (but only two of them, over the intake fans) and one with the GPU intake fan moved directly over the GPU. The stock configuration assumes a normal-sized GPU, but since we use an extra-short one for mini ITX reviews it wasn’t fully covered.

CPU Torture

CPU dT was 49.1C under torture load, which remained the same within margin of error (48.5C dT with the GPU intake fan shifted over. Because of the configuration of the case and the PCIe riser, the CPU and GPU are completely segregated, and the airflow pattern of one doesn’t affect the other. Putting the external filters on didn’t have any significant effect on temperature either, which is good news for anyone planning to use the case horizontally with fans close to a dusty desk.

CPU Torture (Comparative)

silverstone rvz03 torture cpu all

49.1C is definitively the lowest CPU dT we’ve measured during an mITX torture test thanks to the active cooling from the case fans. The RVZ03 is specifically designed for short, flat coolers like the Cryorig C7 we use for testing, so its airflow pattern suits our build much better than cases like the Thermaltake Core V1 that are designed around tower coolers.

GPU Torture

silverstone rvz03 torture gpu all

With all fans in stock positions, GPU dT was 58.1C, and again this didn’t change meaningfully with the addition of filters. With a case fan shifted over the GPU, though, there was a huge drop in temperatures down to 42.3C dT average. The stock fan configuration is more suited to long graphics cards, and shifting the case fan over to supply air directly to the GPU makes sense for cards with fewer than two fans. In past tests, we’ve often seen a slight increase in CPU temperatures as we push heat out of the GPU more effectively, but that isn’t an issue here because of the separation between chambers in the case.

GPU Torture (Comparative)

The stock fan configuration still resulted in better GPU temps than the Cryorig Taku, but 58.1C dT is still relatively warm. The fan pulls air in towards the front of the GPU, but the fan on the GPU cooler is forced to fend for itself and pull air in from the side panel vent. Shifting the fan to this vent lets the GPU fan and the case fan work together and vent air out of the back of the case, or even out of the empty fan slot--the pattern doesn’t really matter, because it’s isolated from the rest of the components. 42.3C is by far the best GPU dT we’ve seen in an mITX torture test so far.

3DMark

silverstone rvz03 3dmark all

GPU dT in 3DMark was exactly the same as it was in the torture test, 58.1C. Again, that’s better than the Taku, but not good--and again, if we moved the fan over it would cool much better, so this isn’t really a mark against the Raven.

Blender - SilverStone Raven RVZ03 Benchmark

silverstone rvz03 blender cpu all

CPU dT during the CPU render was 39.8C, outstripping the previous best average of 45.7C dT for the 280X by a comfortable margin. Thanks to the internal separation of the case, the GPU idled barely above ambient during this test at an average of 7.4C dT.

silverstone rvz03 torture gpu all

We always do these tests with fans in the stock configuration, so average GPU dT during the GPU render was a bit higher than it needed to be at 35.9C. That makes it, yet again, better than the Taku and worse than everything else. With the fan moved over, it could reasonably be expected to beat every other case on the chart. The separation benefitted the CPU in this test just like it did the GPU in the previous one, and it averaged just 16.9C dT during the render.

Noise Normalized Temperatures for Mini-ITX Cases

silverstone rvz03 noise normalized

Since our CPU cooler is invariably the loudest part of our mini ITX test bench, we turn it down to 90% for noise normalized testing. In the RVZ03, that alone was enough to reach our desired threshold. Moreover, because the CPU benefits so much from the case fan pushing air into it, there was hardly any difference in temperatures even with this reduction in speed--49.9C dT versus 49.1C dT.

SilverStone RVZ03 VRM Temperatures

silverstone rvz03 vrm

In the standard torture test, VRM temperatures averaged 34.1C dT under load and VSOC averaged 34C. That’s lower even than the open-air test we did with the Cryorig Taku’s drawer open, and it shows the benefit of a side intake fan pointed at the motherboard. We measure VRM temperatures just as a way to compare cases--there’s little chance of ever getting to a dangerous level.

Conclusion: One of the Best Mini-ITX Cases

silverstone rvz03 1

The RVZ03 is a tiny case with disproportionately good cooling, which makes it a great success as a small form factor enclosure. Tolerances are tight, and measurements should be checked and rechecked before buying any SFF case, but it’s impressive how efficiently SilverStone has used space without hurting performance. Drive support is limited, and neither 3.5” or optical drives are supported, so it’s probably more suited to a living room gaming or streaming PC than it is an HTPC. It’s currently about $100 on Newegg and Amazon, which is a bit steep compared to typical mITX “cubes” like the Core V1 and SG13 we reviewed, but it also performs better and includes two fans rather than one. It may also be more expensive than the RVZ01-E that it’s based on, but it’s hard to find the -E model for sale. It is cheaper than SilverStone’s own similarly-shaped FTZ01, though, which we’ll be reviewing and comparing shortly.

Editorial, Testing: Patrick Lathan
Test Lead: Steve Burke
Video: Andrew Coleman

Last modified on June 25, 2018 at 7:51 pm

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