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Review: SilverStone Raven RV03

by Parm Mann on 26 September 2011, 09:00 4.0

Tags: SilverstoneTek

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It's hard to believe that SilverStone's "revolutionary" Raven chassis has been kicking about for the best part of three years.

The unorthodox design, which entails a 90-degree-rotated motherboard mount, has been promising to redefine the perfect enthusiast tower since its arrival in 2008, but hasn't quite managed to deliver.

Sure, there's a lot of merit to the stack-effect design, and the concept always has us intrigued, but the Raven has developed a habit of leaving us just a tad disappointed. The first iteration, RV01, was the size of a small tank, and its successor - the RV02 - remained unusually long in depth. Both had the misfortune of looking like traditional towers on their sides, and a splattering of sharp plastic accents did little to help their overall look and feel.

The Ravens of yesteryear have been far from perfect, but SilverStone's adamant the lop-sided design is the right way forward, and it's giving it another run in this year's Raven RV03.

The RV03 is more evolution than revolution, and SilverStone's attempting to fine-tune a fundamentally-sound idea. Seems the right thing to do, and the fine-tuning starts with the price tag - whereas the original RV01 and RV02 hit retail priced at around £170 and £130, respectively, the RV03 is attractively priced at £95.

And price isn't the only attraction. Now measuring 235mm x 522mm x 570mm, the third-edition Raven is considerably shorter than its predecessors, and the streamlined profile makes it look more like a traditional tower.

The reduced size is aesthetically pleasing, but those sharp plastic accents that have plagued the Raven series since 2008 still remain, and if anything, they've increased in numbers. As a consequence, there's a chance you'll either love or hate the RV03's exterior. We fall into the latter category, and perhaps we've been spoiled by some of the elegant enclosures we've looked at in recent months, but we're not not at all attracted to the RV03.

It's very much a gamer-orientated design, but those jagged edges, the tacked-on side window and the large amounts of jagged plastic aren't doing anything for us. And that's a shame, as the RV03 has plenty of appeal beneath its brash exterior skin.

On the inside, the Raven RV03 can accommodate up to ten 3.5in hard disks, seven 5.25in optical drives and two 2.5in solid-state drives. That's more than double the number of hard-disk bays available to the RV02, and there's greater motherboard support, too. While the RV02 will happily accept Micro ATX and ATX boards, the RV03 can also accommodate elongated Extended ATX boards. Factor in the eight expansion slots, and it's shaping up to be an ideal base for an extreme gaming rig.

This is clearly a more efficient use of space, and the added room can be largely attributed to a relocated power supply. Unlike the RV02, which opted to mount a PSU in the top-rear corner, the RV03 goes the opposite way and relocates the PSU to the front of the chassis below the optical drive bays. The re-jigged layout helps explain the protruding vents located in the bottom-front corner of each side panel - they're not necessarily for air-flow, but rather to allow PSU cables to squeeze in a little easier.

By making the RV03 slightly taller and fractionally wider than its predecessor, SilverStone has managed to do more with the Raven form factor, and that fact is best realised by the chassis' ability to accommodate up to ten 120mm fans. That, again, is more than double the capacity of the RV02.

Out the box, the RV03 is configured with three default fans; a 120mm top exhaust and two bottom-mounted 180mm Air Penetrator intakes. That gives the chassis its upward airflow, but there's plenty of room to adjust and reconfigure.

The two bottom-mounted 180mm intakes can be swapped for three 120mm fans, and if you fancy a change in direction, there's an option to add four 120mm fans to the front optical bays, a 120mm rear exhaust, and a 120mm side fan. We don't imagine anyone buying a Raven chassis switching to front-to-back airflow, but the extra fan mounts provide room for more elaborate liquid-cooled setups.

Rounding off the exterior, there's a strip of power and hard-disk LEDs along the front edge, power and reset buttons, and a somewhat-flimsy, flip-up panel that reveals a limited selection of I/O ports.

SilverStone has opted to include only two USB ports (though they are of the SuperSpeed 3.0 variety) and a pair of a audio and microphone jacks. Cause for complaint? Not quite, as the upward-facing motherboard results in a wider range of I/O ports being available further along the chassis' top side.

We're clearly not enamoured by the RV03's looks, but the functional internal changes suggest that the third-generation enclosure will be easier to work with and better to use. Let's find out if it is.