Silverstone Kublai 3 Tower

Posted by on Thursday, July 2, 2009 - 2:47am

overviewToday I'm reviewing the Silverstone SST-KL03B-w. Will it make the grade? Silverstone is well-known for making quality enclosures, particularly for its high end cases, in both the full-tower and home theatre pc format. Given this pedigree, I expect this case will be no different.

 

 

kublai

Introduction

The world is cluttered with the dead and dying remains of poorly designed, mass-produced OEM pc cases, but you won’t find one at my place. As a hardware enthusiast I expect more from my cases. There has to be plenty of space inside them. They have to be well-made.  Cutting edge innovation isn't necessary, but I do prefer to see some thought going into the making of a case. To be honest, I'm quite tired of the cookie cutter cases some of the industry has been churning out over the last few years.

Today I'm reviewing the Silverstone SST-KL03B-w. Will it make the grade? Silverstone is well-known for making quality enclosures, particularly for its high end cases, in both the full-tower and home theatre pc format. Given this pedigree, I expect this case will be no different.


Packaging and Contents

Did I mention that cases must have plenty of space inside them to impress me? I was in shock upon seeing the Kublai 3 for the first time. Packed tightly inside a mammoth retail box, it seemed twice the size of most Mid-tower cases.  Silverstone knows when it comes to cases, size does matters and the Kublai 3 shows it. I've had full tower case packages that were smaller than the one this case sported.  Taking the Kublai 3 out of its packaging was a chore. This is easily one of the heaviest cases I've ever lifted, tipping the scales around 30lb's. The mostly steel case comes with all the necessary accoutrements (Ed: Bits!) to give your PC a permanent home and a well-illustrated user's manual.  

front of box

side of box

Specifications

 Model No.

 SST-KL03B (black)

 SST-KL03S (silver)

 SST-KL03B-W (black, with window)

 SST-KL03S-W (silver, with window)

 Material

 2.5mm aluminum front door, 0.8mm SECC body

 Motherboard

 SSI, Extended ATX, ATX, Micro ATX

 Multimedia

--

 Resolution

--

 Driver Bay

 External

 5.25" x 4 or 7 without HD cage

 3.5" x 2

 Internal

 3.5" x 4 (vibration dampening)

 Cooling System

 Front

 1 x 120mm intake fan, 1200rpm,

 Rear

 1 x 120mm exhaust fan, 1200rpm,

 Side

 2 x 120mm fan(optional for graphics card cooling)

 Top

 --

 Bottom

 --

 Internal

 --

 Expansion Slot

 7

 Front I/O Port

USB2.0 x 2
IEEE1394 x 1
audio jack x 1
MIC x 1

 Power Supply

 1 x Optional standard PS2 (ATX)

 Graphics Card

 Full size long cards capable

 Net Weight

 14.0kg

 Dimension

 220 mm (W) x 524 (H) x 594 mm (D)

 Extra

 One CP05 included for single hot-swappable SATA hard drive

 

 

Special Feature

 

Longer mid-size tower chassis design for all around integration
Temjin quality aluminum front door finish and construction
Dual 120mm fans included for excellent cooling
Perforated expansion slot cover for improved graphics card cooling
Optional 120mm side fans for graphics card cooling
Front door and panel with vents for better cooling performance
Hot-swappable hard drive cage
Tool-less design


 

Closer Look Outside
 
With dimensions like 220 mm (W) x 524 (H) x 594 mm (D), The Kublai 3 has a commanding presence for a mid-tower case. The front panel door design is elegant, but also gives the Kublai 3 KL03B-W a stalwart appearance. Being made of thick 2.5mm aluminum it is just that. More than attractive, the door is built for cooling and sports vents to aid in airflow. I would like to point out that this is a very sturdy door. If you were to hit this thing, you are just as likely to hurt yourself as damage the door. As you can see here, there are four external 5.25" bays and 2 external 3.5" bays. More than enough room for a fan controller, some nice optical drives, and a card reader of some kind.

front of case

front top

The vents themselves continue to the front panel of the case. In fact, you can nearly see-through the entire case from the front. However, the true shining star in the front panel design is the removable 120mm fan and grill. No cord, no mess. Just pop it off for access to the hard drive cage within. The fan power connection can be disconnected. I really like this innovative approach to cable routing. The hard drive cage is a tool less design. All you have to do is unclip the latch and pull the hard drive mounting out. This drive bay features vibration dampening measures to decrease the amount of noise inside the case. Reducing vibration also purportedly increases the lifetime of hard drives.

top half open

lower half open

Above the fan grill, we can also remove the floppy drive/HDDs cover. Again, this is a tool less design. To prevent accidental removal, both corners of the front panel have thick, curved aluminum latches that go the entire length of the case. These have to be snapped back to gain access to the fan grill/harddrive bay, 5.25 and 3.5 drive bays. Everything in this case is sturdy and surprisingly heavy. These features alone make me salivate (Ed: eeeew). The Kublai 3 is definitely not just a cookie cutter case.

front open

drive bays

More and more cases come with the front I/O ports and power/reset switches on the top of the case. This is a great idea for people who put their computers underneath their desks. I personally have my computer on top of my desk, but it's just as convenient accessing the ports. However, I love Silverstone’s implementation here. The ports aren't only well-constructed but aesthetically pleasing. Note that there are 2 USB 2.0 ports, IEEE1394 (Firewire), 3.5 audio jack and mic port.  On the top panel, I noticed the paint job had small paint bubbles here and there, but nothing to keep me from recommending this case, as it most likely will be ironed out in the manufacturing process.

input ports

input ports clear

The left side of the case sports a chunky window held in place with what appears to be mirrored rivets. The construction is superb and this window is lovely, but it's what's inside the case that I'm most interested in.  To protect the window, the case shipped with static wrap on the window, both inside and out. To aid airflow, the window has diagonal slits. Another plus for this case and a great example of its superior design is how thick the window is. No flimsy, half-baked acrylic to be seen.

side window

The rear of cases is seldom eye-catching or noteworthy. I have felt descriptions of the back of many of the cases I've reviewed could have been left out altogether. However the Kublai 3 managed to catch my eye. The section of this case above where the extension cards sit is perforated for increased air flow. The expansion slot covers themselves are also perforated. Silverstone calls these Aero Slots.  Again, I have to say the construction is top quality. Silverstone managed to take an industry standard and turn it on its head. Im not sure exactly what the difference in real world temperatures would be between a traditional expansion slot cover and the Aero Slots, but I’m sure it wont hurt.

rear

rear fan

pci slots

Attention to detail is often given to the front and left side of a case, while the rest of the case is pretty much sparse. This isn't much of an issue for who would really want to see the underside of the motherboard tray? Still I would love to see something more creative on future cases perhaps a laser-etched logo or design. To be fair, the Kublai 3 is beautifully finished on the right side of the case, and does what it's supposed to do, protect the components inside from external interference, human or otherwise.

right side

External Impressions

The Kublai 3 is well-constructed and sturdy. Everything fits snugly where it's supposed to go and there aren't any glaring build structural problems.


 

Closer look Inside

Opening the side, one of my favorite pieces of engineering in the Kublai 3 greets us. The Dual 120mm fan attachment isn't built into the side panel, but to the case infrastructure. Oh, how long have I waited for something like this... In the default position it will keep you from getting to the inside of the case, but take out one screw and you can swing it over to the right to get it out of the way.  Looking at the motherboard tray, my respect for Silverstone grew. This case will fit nearly all standard motherboard formats and has the pre-drilled holes to prove it. The motherboard tray itself was free from defect and felt very sturdy. I pressed my hand in the center of it and put about 60lb's of pressure on it and it didn't give. Yet the most outstanding feature of this case is the sheer amount of empty space. This is the roomiest mid-tower case I've reviewed, except for perhaps the Ultra m998.

inside

fan protect

motherboard tray

Here we see the 120mm fan with chrome grill, the aero slots and the PSU area. Again, all seem to be sturdy and well made. I forgot to take a picture of this with nothing installed on it, but here you can see a wire clip for help in routing all the wires inside your case. I love this addition. It is a much needed, simple piece of innovation.

rea fan again

The hard drive cage features vibration reducing, removable drive cages. The top-most can be used to turn a SATA hdd into a hot-swappable device. A word of warning, your motherboard must support this feature for it to work.  Also note that while this case has some tool less feature, you will need screwdriver to install the HDDs here. You can see all the wires necessary to make the enclosure a PC, including HD audio, USB, ac97 and firewire connections.

front of case

The 4 external 5.25" and 3 3.5" driver bays are designed for tool less installation of peripherals and again are high-quality. I could find no sharp edges and by the end of the review, I was running my hand over nearly everything recklessly, pretty much daring the case to bite me. You may or may not be happy to know I wasn't able to get this beast to bite, not even a nip. Not only is this not a cookie cutter case, but you wouldn’t be able to cut cookies with it either.

cabling

I'd like to take a moment to comment on the tool less design features in this case. These sorts of designs are becoming more and more common and to be honest, I can't give kudos for the inclusion of such, anymore. Now the implementation of this feature can catch my eye and the Kublai 3 does just that. Unlike other cases, the Kublai 3 isn't engineered for everything to be tool less. Some things just don't need to be. PCI slots don't. I put way to much money into my video and sound cards to trust them to a piece of plastic. Thankfully, Silverstone leaves the tool less features to the external drives.

fan guard open

pci slot guards

This little attachment is where the magic happens. It will make a SATA HDD hot-swappable. I look forward to seeing how well this slides into place.

sata drive bay

mobile docks

 


 

Installation and performance

I fell in love with the Kublai 3 the second I took it out of the retail packaging. From the start, I knew it was destined to house my main rig. Instead of using one of my test rigs for pictures, I decided without much forethought to pack my main machine down and reassemble it inside of the Kublai 3.

First, I installed my Ultra X3 1000 watt power supply. This is a monster of a PSU and requires a lot of space. To install it, I had to remove the bar going across the top of the case and put it back on. It didn't want to fit quite right, but after some adjusting, I was able to screw the Ultra into place. The rest of the installation was a breeze.

psu install

psu bar removed

I've never had so much room to work with installing a motherboard. It was almost like walking across a field and screwing in a motherboard mount, as I prepped the case to receive my computer. Shortly after, I slid my motherboard easily into place and secured it in. I'll sing Silverstone's praises here. The Kublai 3 is perfect case in so many ways, but room to work in is the Holy Grail for me. That's why I normally look negatively upon cases without removable motherboard trays. This case doesn't need one.

motherboard installed

After installing the motherboard, I installed my eVGA Geforce 8800 GTX and it actually had room to spare! This is nearly unheard of in midtower cases and Silverstone needs to keep cases like this coming.

Getting the main peripherals squared away, I turned my attention to the drive bays. This step can take longer than some other cases, but it is well worth it.  First, I had to unsnap the two security latches on the front of the case. Then I removed the top drive bay cover. Installing the drive rails onto my DVD-Rom, I slid it into place easily and it snapped into place tightly. Before I continue, I would like to mention that the 5.25" rails are metal, but the 3.5 are plastic and much smaller.  Now, let's move onto the internal HDD bays. I have three SATA drives and one of them was destined for hot-swappability. I pulled out the three vibration dampening rails and screwed the hard drives into them. This can be a little tricky but after the first, the rest went by quickly. Installing the hard drives is as simple as sliding them into place and then latching them tight. The hot-swappable drive didn't slide all the way home, so I was forced to back out the screws for the attachment and then re-tighten them after the drive was latched down. Afterward, I was able to verify that the sata hard drive made firm contact with the attachment. If you don't want to use the vibration dampening drive bay, you can actually remove it, opening up 4 more external 5.25" bays. Wow, now that's nice.

hdd installed

cdrom installed

hdd connected

Next, I drafted two spare 120mm fans for use in the Kublai 3. Installing them was a rather simple affair, though it was a little tricky. Instead of removing the drive tray, which would have made it easier, I installed the fans with the tray pointing down and holding the fans into place.  After a quick check of all of the cables and plugs, I powered on the beast and was greeted with a pleasant surprise: the top I/O panel has a blue ring around it. I love this. You must simply see this in person to truly appreciate it. It's a nice touch of flair for an otherwise no-nonsense case. About 3 hours after installation, I'm proud to say this case is running cooler than any before it. My CPU is measuring 29c and that's a remarkable difference compared to the average 33c most cases seem to keep it at. It's no wonder, after turning on the case, the front panel turned colder quickly and the amount of airflow from front to back seems considerable.

fans installed

full install

case closed


 

Conclusion

Wow. I have never been this surprised by a case before. Until it arrived on my doorstep, I had never heard of the Kublai 3 SST-KL03B-w. Less than 24 hours later, it's adorning my computer desk. If you're in the market for a case that does everything right, get this enclosure. You will not be disappointed. However, you will be disappointed to learn it's not available on the market yet. I give the Kublai 3 our highest award and a place on my desk.

 

Pros

* all of them.
* Okay, okay, we’ll go into more detail:
* the front panel design,
* the hotswappable SATA bay,
* the sweet cable-routing features,
* the cooling,
* the extra room compared to other mid-towers,
* the sturdy construction
* No Sharp Edges!!

cons

* paint on top of the case
* PSU was a little tricky getting into place.

 

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