SilverStone’s CES 2016 product arrangement illustrated the company’s preference shown toward function. The company’s cases largely consisted of improvements upon existing designs – like the SFF Raven series – with one new mid-tower landing at the ~$60 price-point.
The SilverStone RL-05-B is progressing through final prototyping stages and will enter market availability shortly. SilverStone’s annual cooler showcase had thinner pickings than usually, but still had a set of four CPU coolers that we briefly discussed on camera.
The recent banishment from US markets of Cooler Master's closed-loop liquid coolers has inspired us to research and document major CLC suppliers. In most industries – automotive, technology & computing, bike components – suppliers build a base product, receive input from a manufacturer, and then produce a slightly modified version of their core offering. Liquid coolers are the easiest example and the one about which we are talking today. This topic came about following some readers stating that they'd never seen an “Asetek” or “CoolIT” cooler on sale before.
Corsair, NZXT, SilverStone, Enermax, Fractal, and others sell liquid cooling products. These companies buy the pump, radiator, tubing, and liquid in an AIO (all-in-one) package from suppliers who specialize in the making of such items; the brands we know then provide varying degrees of product input to differentiate amongst themselves. NZXT, for instance, sells the NZXT X41 liquid cooler, a product sourced from Asetek but customized by NZXT. In this case, that customization includes software integration and variable pump speed control, alongside an RGB LED in the pump's faceplate. Even the CLC OEMs will source some of their components from the outside, like radiators.
First, a simple table to reveal suppliers of known liquid coolers in the industry, then we'll talk about how companies differentiate themselves. At the surface, all of this can look like a “sticker operation,” by which I mean it may look as if manufacturers put their “sticker” (logo) on a cooler and then sell it – but most folks do more than that when designing their variant of a product.
Our coverage of last year's best PC enclosures has remained some of our most popular content to date, and as is CES tradition, we're updating the coverage for 2015. The previous years have gone through trends of mini-ITX / SFF boxes (the Steam Box craze, now dying down) and larger, enthusiast-priced boxes. This year's CES trends saw a lull from major case manufacturers like Corsair, Cooler Master (reeling from a lawsuit by Asetek), and NZXT, but welcomed budget-friendly enclosures and high-end works of art. Users seeking more mid-range enclosures will be left waiting a while longer, it seems.
We've routinely been impressed by SilverStone's CES showing. Last year saw the exhibition of the jointly-designed SilverStone / ASUS XG02, an external GPU enclosure that garnered significant attention on our YouTube channel. This year's item of interest is the company's Raven RVZ02, a mini-ITX enclosure built to showcase the CPU cooler and video card heatsink.
With Computex now over, we’ve had a full look at what all the major hardware manufacturers have had up their sleeves. One of the more electrically complex items released by EVGA, Corsair, and Be Quiet! are their newest power supplies.
Rounding-up all the newest power supplies from Computex reveals a cluster of 1600W PSUs, a 600W SFX PSU that we’ve covered before, and a renewed focus on power efficiency.
We briefly mentioned this PSU in a few posts around the web after our CES meeting with SilverStone, where the company showcased an external GPU enclosure. Finally, after a small CEBIT unveiling, we're allowed to post some information about the new SilverStone small form factor power supply.
While at CES, we were told that an SFX PSU following-up the company's 450W unit was in the works, and that "engineering advancements" might have pushed it closer to 600W; we were also told that 80 Plus Gold could be a possibility, but the company asked that we withheld information until a later date.
With thanks to Antec, Cooler Master, and SilverStone, my boredom of closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) has subsided as more innovative designs have emerged. As we've discussed heavily before, a significant portion of the cooler industry goes through a single suppler: Asetek, who have a notoriously-long legal arm. Asetek's designs can be found most heavily used in NZXT and Corsair CLCs, and frankly, they're boring; they're rebadges with software options, in essence.
Antec's Kuhler H2O 1250 CLC blew away all other CLCs when we last tested a cooler, and now we're back to see if SilverStone can perform the same feat with their 240mm Tundra TD02 cooler. In this SilverStone Tundra TD02 benchmark and review, we'll look at the liquid cooler's installation, build quality, and thermal performance. This review will be a bit shorter than our previous CLC round-up and Antec 1250 review, as we've already covered many of the core cooling principles and can now focus purely on the unit.
We first heard about SilverStone’s Thunderbolt-enabled external video card solution last year, but haven’t heard much about it since. The company was demoing the SG Station 2 at CES this year – a collaboration between SilverStone (power, enclosure) and ASUS (PCB, electrical) – and had a functional rig connected to a laptop for external graphics computing.
Our history of working with SilverStone has been relatively limited, but we've always walked away impressed. This first happened with the SG08, then again with the Raven RV02 -- which now sits firmly at the top of our thermal bench for enclosures. In talking with the company, we've found that they feel incredibly confident in their products' performance and—while that's not uncommon in PR—they haven't been wrong yet. I can respect that.
The Argon AR01 cooler is another example of this: Having recently re-benched all our coolers on the 2013 GN Test Bench, SilverStone was eager to assert their dominance among air coolers. There are a few different models of the new Argon cooler, each purpose-built for different socket-types (and thus CPU sizes); the advantage to this is that—rather than ship a "one size fits all" unit, like the Hyper 212 or Respire T40—users can achieve peak thermal dissipation with optimized coldplate positioning.
Let's specifically look at Intel for demonstrative purposes: If you're not aware, the number accompanying LGA sockets is the pin-count for the socket. IB LGA1155 has 1155 pins that connect the socket and the CPU, SB-E LGA2011 has 2011 pins, and so on. As you can imagine, the physical substrate dimensions are dictated by the number of pins; this also tends to trend with more powerful (X-class) CPUs, which occupy their substrate with physically-larger silicon dies.
Enthusiast-class cases have trended toward heavier focus on ease-of-installation features, almost creating the perception that performance features were "maxed-out," so to speak. There's inarguably a place for enthusiast enclosures whose headlining acts are the likes of a 70-color LED strip (like the Phantom 820), but there's an equally-large market contingent that demands nothing but the best performance.
SilverStone originally impressed us with their SG08 mini-ITX SFF case (which we used for an HTPC); they further impressed us at CES 2013, where we were given a pre-production look at the RV04/FT04 enthusiast-class enclosures. SilverStone's recurring message to us has been communicated as a focus on performance. At CES we asked SilverStone for thoughts on the industry's trend toward ease-of-installation and cable management perks, to which they countered: "How many times are you going to install the system? Probably once." They have a solid point.
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