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SilverStone Grandia GD09 & GD10 HTPC Cases

SilverStone Grandia GD09/GD10 HTPC Cases

August 4, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
SilverStone Grandia GD09/GD10

ATX HTPC Case
Manufacturer
Price
US$75/$90

The basic design of the traditional HTPC case comes from a time in the past when people needed a fair degree of computing power to make a media PC in the living room an enjoyable experience. It had to be tall enough to accommodate an optical drive to play DVDs/Blu-rays and multiple hard drives to access/store downloaded/ripped/recorded content. Those who recorded/encoded content on the fly needed a decent CPU and cooling, and a discrete video card for playback was a necessity given the poor state of integrated graphics back then.

Today, the situation has improved so much that media is often streamed over online services and served up on the TV through devices as small as the thumb-sized Chromecast. Pint-sized devices are the rage as well with some being dedicated media extenders like the Roku, while others run Android for some extra versatility. There are even fully functional Windows PCs with a reasonable level of horsepower that can fit in the palm of your hand and use less than 30W. Local content is still big but drive density is so high that most users don't need more than one hard drive, and it's often accessed over a local network from a dedicated home server.



GD09 on the left, GD10 on the right.

Desktop style cases for the living room are still around but they're not as popular as they once were. They've also been getting smaller and slimmer, taking advantage of improvements in PC technology over the last decade. SilverStone has embraced this trend with the Milo series but the aptly named Grandia line has retained much of its size over the years. The latest updates to the family, the GD09 and GD10, are somewhat smaller than the GD07/08, but they're still fairly large, capable of housing a full-sized ATX motherboard and power supply, a 12.2 inch long graphics card, three 120 mm fans, one standard 5.25 inch optical drive, and two 3.5 inch hard drives. With everything in this category seeing substantial downsizing, these cases need to be compelling to justify the bulk.



GD09 on the top, GD10 on the bottom.

As with the last two releases of the Grandia series, there are two nearly identical models available. The GD09 is the plainer of the two, featuring a solid plastic front panel with an exposed 5.25 inch bay, USB and audio ports, and power/reset buttons. The GD10 hides all these behind a lockable brush aluminum door that doesn't take up the entire face. The border between metal and plastic is somewhat jarring and the white lock/unlock indicators are an eyesore, making the plastic model more attractive in my opinion. Both enclosures have a positive pressure airflow system with all the included fans blowing inward; the GD09 has two 120 mm fans included while the GD10 sports three.

The GD10 will be the focus of this review as it is the more capable of the two models, having one extra fan. The two cases are otherwise identical on the inside though, so almost all of my comments will apply to the GD09 as well.



GD10 accessories.

The accessories are packed into a plastic bag tied to the interior of the case. Included are a few zip-ties, a metal bracket for one of the hard drive positions, four rubber isolators for one of the 2.5 inch drive placements, a bag of screws, and an assembly guide. Only the GD10 ships with a key as it's required to secure its front door.

Specifications: SilverStone Grandia GD10 (GD09)

(from the
product web page
)
Model No. SST-GD10B (SST-GD09B)
Material Aluminum door with plastic front panel (Plastic front panel with faux aluminum finish), 0.8 mm steel body
Motherboard SSI-CEB, ATX, Micro-ATX
Drive Bay External 5.25" x 1 (compatible with 3.5” x 1 or 2.5” x 2)
Internal 3.5" x 2 (one compatible with 2.5”), 2.5” x 1
Cooling System Rear 2 x 80 mm fan slot
Side Right: 2 x 120 mm fan (1 x 120 mm fan)

Left: 1 x 120 mm fan
Top Expansion card vent
Expansion Slot 7+1
Front I/O Port USB 3.0 x 2

Audio x 1

MIC x 1
Power Supply Standard PS2(ATX)

220 mm maximum, 180 mm recommended
Expansion Card Support cards up to 12.2 inches, width restriction 5.25”
Limitation of CPU cooler 138 mm
Limitation of PSU 220 mm
Net Weight 4.8 kg (4.2 kg)
Dimension 442 mm (W) x 171mm (H) x 362mm (D), 27.4 liters

(440mm (W) x 170mm (H) x 358mm (D), 26.8 liters)
Extra Support Kensington lock
GD09 differences in bold & parentheses.

EXTERIOR

The GD10 weighs 4.8 kg and measures 44.2 x 17.1 x 36.2 cm or 17.4 x 6.7 x 14.3 inches (W x H x D) for a total volume of just 27.4 Liters. The GD09 is a tad smaller in every dimension and is lighter by 0.6 kg. as it utilizes a plastic front panel with no aluminum door and ships with two fans instead of three.



Hiding behind the GD10's door are the same features of the GD09. The USB/audio ports are on the left side along with the power and reset switches while the external 5.25 inch drive bay resides on the right.



The GD09 has one fan on the left is side and one on the right, with one optional placement left empty, while the GD10 has all three 120 mm fan placements populated. They're all covered with removable dust filters.



The layout at the back is similar to most tower cases, just flipped over on its side. Two optional 80 mm fans can be installed above the I/O shield.



Propping up the chassis are ring-style feet at the front and simple rubber knobs at the back.



Two screws at the rear keep the 0.8 mm thick top panel in place. Rolled edges at the sides and three tabs at the front guide the cover to its proper position. A small damping pad is affixed near the center to press against a beam inside; this helps brace the panel.

INTERIOR

The GD10 has a typical layout for an HTPC style enclosure. A removable 5.25/3.5/2.5 inch drive bay hangs over the front/right side of the case, over a portion of the motherboard. The side fans blow air in, directing all the exhaust through the vent on the top cover and out the back via 80 mm fan mounts and ventilated expansion slots.



The drive cage can hold a full sized 5.25 inch optical drive or two 2.5 inch drives, while a single 3.5/2.5 inch drive can attached to the underside. An additional 2.5 inch drive can be secured to the case floor in the corner near the front control panel and all the cables.



Damping strips line the sides of the 3.5 inch position to help reduce vibration.



Another 3.5 inch drive can be installed on its side in front of the cage.



To limit the noise output, SilverStone has equipped the GD09/GD10 with 3-pin fans that spin at just 900 RPM at full speed.



Rather than one long filter, the left side is serviced by smaller single fan variants for the intake fan and power supply fan.

ASSEMBLY

Assembly is not particularly difficult as the components of the chassis that get in the way during the process, the drive cage and support bar, are both removable. Users need to be picky about choosing a CPU cooler as down-blowing models have height-restrictions well below the specified limit if the drive cage is left in place. Much of the cabling is on the left side of the case and care needs to be taken to ensure they do not impede airflow from the intake fan.



Our test system fully assembled with an Asus GTX 980 and Noctua NH-L12 heatsink. The cooler is 93 mm tall, well within the 138 mm specified height limit, but it's wide enough to interfere with the drive cage, necessitating its removal. With the cage in place, large down-blowing coolers are limited to approximately 65 mm.



Hoops are provided on the case floor to help wrangle loose cables but using the left side fan's mounting holes is a convenient alternative.



To install the 3.5 inch drive in this position, a small metal bracket is used to affix the bottom of the drive to the chassis interior.



There is about 2.4 cm of space next to our 28.8 cm long video card. A longer PCB may bump into the SATA power connector of the front-mounted drive unless a right-angle plug is used.



The heatpipe of our GTX 980 juts outward, exceeding the GPU width slightly. However, the top panel slides on without difficulty and without a visible bump in the middle.



It is possible to use a tower cooler with the drive cage in place but your mileage may vary. Pictured above is the Xigmatek SD-964, an old 51 mm thick heatsink, centered over the CPU socket, and a 17.0 cm long optical drive (the shortest model we have in the lab) positioned flush with the front panel.



As you can see, with our system, you can put the heatsink's 92 mm fan on the back side, but there's absolutely no room for the drive cables. However, keep in mind this is an FM2+ motherboard, so the CPU position is about 2 cm closer to the front of the enclosure than a typical LGA115x model. That's enough extra space to hook up the drive with right-angle cables.



Right angle cables are also required if you have a long graphics card and plan on using a 3.5 inch drive in the cage. There's only 15 mm of separation between the two components.

TESTING

System Configuration:



Test system device listing.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital

    audio interfaces.

  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

Testing Procedures

The system is placed on load using Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility. This puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application. Throughout testing, system temperatures, noise levels, and power consumption are recorded. During the load test, the system and GPU fans speeds are adjusted to various levels in an attempt to find an optimal balance between cooling and noise while maintaining a GPU temperature of 80°C (assuming an ambient temperature of 22°C).

BASELINE NOISE

For our baseline noise tests, the system is left idle, the CPU fan is set to minimum speed under PWM control, and the GPU fans are off by default. The system fans are connected to controllable fan headers at a variety of speeds using SpeedFan. This gives us a good idea of what the stock fans sound like at different speeds with minimal interference from other sources.

Baseline Noise Level

(Idle, CPU fan at 400 RPM, GPU fans off)
Fan Speed Setting
Avg. Fan Speed
SPL @1m
0%
N/A
17 dBA
50%
550 RPM
18 dBA
60%
670 RPM
20 dBA
70%
770 RPM
24 dBA
80%
880 RPM
26 dBA
100%
1070 RPM
32~33 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle to the top/front
of the case.

Ambient noise level: 10~11 [email protected]

The three fans included with the GD10 exhibit very little variance with a speed difference of 60 RPM. All three exceed 1000 RPM at full speed, well over their 900 RPM rating. This gives them a bit more versatility for users who want greater cooling and don't mind the extra noise. On the other end of the spectrum, they don't really contribute to the measurable noise output until 50% speed, staying quiet up to around 60%.

The stock fans have a pleasant acoustic profile, smooth and inconspicuous up to 60% speed. Somewhere in the 65% and 70% range, it starts to emit a strange strong 350~400 Hz tone that is fairly noticeable and annoying within one meter's distance. At higher speeds, this tone is less pronounced, lower in pitch, and drowned out somewhat by the sound of turbulence, but still present. The front mounted hard drive is secured tightly, limiting the effects of drive vibration, though if the system fans are slow enough or turned off, you can hear a faint echo.

TEST RESULTS

System Measurements: CPU + GPU Load,

80°C Target GPU Temp (at 22°C Ambient)
Avg. System

Fan Speed
670 RPM

(60%)
880 RPM

(80%)
980 RPM (90%)
1120 RPM (100%)
CPU Fan Speed
1740 RPM

(100%)
1500 RPM

(80%)
1320 RPM

(70%)
GPU Fan Speed*
1870 RPM

(60%)
1690 RPM

(55%)
1560 RPM

(52%)
CPU Temp
67°C
65°C
63°C
62°C
MB Temp
57°C
57°C
54°C
52°C
SSHD Temp
49°C
49°C
47°C
47°C
System Power (AC)
350W
360W
359W
358W
31~32 dBA
32~33 dBA
30 dBA
33~34 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.

Ambient temperature: 25°C.

For our system configuration, the stock fans running at 90% (980 RPM) produces the quietest result, 30 [email protected] with the GPU fans at 55% speed and CPU fan at 80%. The 60% setting isn't even stable as some CPU throttling occurs (as evidenced by the much lower system power draw) even with the CPU fan going at full blast. At both 60% and 80%, the GPU has to spin at 60% in order to achieve our GPU temperature standard resulting in higher noise levels. The 100% setting allows us to lower the CPU and GPU fan speeds by moderate amounts but the overall result is much louder as the case fans drown out everything out.



Dust filter.

The results are suspiciously poor considering it's equipped with three fans. The main issue is the construction of the dust filters. There's a fine layer of mesh that is fairly open but the plastic grill laid over it is quite thick and restrictive. Removing the filters leads to far superior performance.

System Measurements: CPU + GPU Load,

80°C Target GPU Temp (at 22°C Ambient)
Configuration
Stock
No Filters
Avg. System

Fan Speed
980 RPM

(90%)
770 RPM
(70%)
CPU Fan Speed
1500 RPM

(80%)
1050 RPM

(50%)
GPU Fan Speed*
1690 RPM

(55%)
1360 RPM

(47%)
CPU Temp
63°C
51°C
58°C
MB Temp
54°C
44°C
47°C
SSHD Temp
47°C
40°C
38°C
GPU Temp
83°C
76°C
83°C
System Power (AC)
359W
353W
356W
30 dBA
27 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.

Ambient temperature: 25°C.

The results of the 90% system fan setting without the filters shows remarkable improvement. The CPU and motherboard temperatures lower by double digits, while both the SSHD and GPU receive a 7°C benefit. All the fan speeds can be lowered such that the machine produces 3 dB less noise while still achieving improved temperatures across the board. The CPU fan can be slowed down even further than 1050 RPM, but in this configuration, the GPU fan is the main noise contributor, so it doesn't really matter. Unfortunately, running the system like this would negate the entire point of having positive pressure as the fan vents would all be open allowing dust to accumulate more rapidly

Without the filters, the system can be made quieter, but the quality of the noise is actually worse. The tone produced by the stock fans during the baseline tests is more irritating at 70% than 90% speed, negating much of the benefit. If it were up to me, I would run the system fans faster than necessary just to avoid this effect.

Comparison

Case Comparison: System Measurements

(CPU + GPU Load, Results Adjusted to 80°C GPU Temp at 22°C Ambient)
Case
Fractal Define S
SilverStone KL05B-Q
NZXT S340
SilverStone PS11B-Q
SilverStone GD10
Avg. System Fan Speed
630 RPM

(2 x 80%)
840 RPM

(2* x 60%)
910 RPM

(2 x 60%)
1020 RPM

(2* x 80%)
980 RPM

(3 x 90%)
GPU Fan Speed
1120 RPM
1070 RPM
1170 RPM
1230 RPM
1690 RPM
CPU Temp
60°C
57°C
62°C
68°C
60°C
MB Temp
45°C
43°C
46°C
51°C
51°C
SSHD Temp
35°C
34°C
34°C
34°C
44°C
23 dBA
24 dBA
25 dBA
25~26 dBA
30 dBA
Apx. Volume
46 L
52 L
38 L
44 L
27 L
Street Price (USD)
$75
$70
$70
$50
$85
*one fan added.

It's probably not fair to compare the GD10 to small towers priced at the sub-US$100 level but our readers should have an idea of how much of a performance disparity to expect when using the GD10 to its full potential. A 5~6 dB difference is typical along with much higher internal temperatures. That being said, if the unfiltered result would be surprisingly competitive considering how much smaller the case is in volume.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Considering the overall size of the GD09/GD10 compared to a typical tower enclosure, it performs admirably under hot and heavy conditions, but only if you remove the incredibly restrictive dust filters. That leaves the fans almost entirely exposed, ruining its aesthetics and allowing dust to get sucked in with impunity. The positive pressure setup used is efficient but unfortunately, the filters are equally efficient at choking airflow. The result is high temperatures and high fan speeds to tame the extra heat which leads to considerable additional noise. Although we didn't do it, some simple modifications of the filters to reduce the impedance could be helpful.

In this day and age, full ATX for a HTPC doesn't make really sense unless you plan on multiple add-on cards, particularly video cards, which the cooling system can't handle. If you take gaming out of the equation, you could shrink it further to mini-ITX without sacrificing a thing. Being a bigger case doesn't free it from compatibility issues either. Some of the unusually large video cards may not fit and downblowing CPU coolers are limited in height unless the drive cage is jettisoned, depending partly on motherboard layout. SilverStone could have addressed this issue by outfitting the chassis with a slim optical drive bay. Furthermore, right-angle power and data connectors are required for 3.5 inch drives if a video card of appreciable length is used.

The GD09/10 fill a gap for those who want ATX compatibility but don’t want a typically bigger HTPC case like the GD07/GD08 and other models before it. Their design is versatile and clever to get ATX capability in just 27 liters volume. But there are numerous smaller alternatives and perfectly capable HTPC gear to fit those smaller cases. I do like the internal design, build quality, and ease of assembly, but ATX may be overkill for a modern HTPC.

If you need both optical drive and a full-sized graphics card in a HTPC, GD09 and GD10 are OK choices. There really isn't much serious competition for them in this product category, and all other ATX HTPC cases are bigger. I prefer the GD09 to over the GD10 as it's cheaper and has a cleaner look. The GD10's locked up front panel is useful if you have mischievous children/pets who enjoy poking at ports and buttons.

Our thanks to SilverStone
for the Grandia GD09 & GD10 case samples.

* * *

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* * *

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