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Silverstone Sugo SG05 and SG06: Gaming mini-ITX cases?

Silverstone SG05 and SG06

August 19, 2009 by Mike Chin

Product
Sugo SG05 / SG06

Mini-ITX/DTX Desktop Case
Manufacturer
Market Price
US$90~100 / US$110~120

Silverstone is best known for large, stylish enthusiast cases most often made of aluminum or at least with aluminum bezels. The recently reviewed Fortress FT01, the unusual Raven, and the earlier TJ-07 are typical. Silverstone has also offered a wide range of home theater PC cases, both large and small. Finally, a number of small form factor models have been offered as well. We reviewed the mini-ITX LC12 some 2.5 years ago; its size and shape is similar to the Antec ISK 300-65 reviewed quite recently. There are SFF case models from Silverstone dating back earlier, but the SG05 has been available for a few months, before the release of the aformentioned Antec.

We expressed our interest in reviewing the Sugo SG05 back in February during a visit to the company's Taipei headquarters, but our marketing contact at Silverstone was hesitant about whether the then-new case would fare well under SPCR's intense scrutiny. Eventually, Tony decided it would fare well enough, but by the time a sample was shipped, the SG06 had also become available. Hence this combined SG05/06 review.

Examining both of these models in the same article is not just a matter of expedience; the two cases have many shared characteristics. To be precise, only significant difference between the two is the front panel. The chassis is identical in every other way, as is the included power supply. A key feature in both cases is a large 120x25mm fan on the front panel, a feature that we've never seen before in such a small case. The big fan occupies roughly half of the available space on the front panel, and it should make for very good airflow and cooling of components.

Antec's ISK 300-65 is probably the first mini-ITX case we've seen that sports a good, logical airflow design but optimized for a low power system, as evinced by its 65W power adapter. The Silverstone SG05 and SG06 are much more ambitious, and aim to house mini-ITX systems capable of mid-level gaming. That means enough room, power and cooling capability for a mid-level graphics card. Here's Silverstone's somewhat breathless promotional blurb:

"Designed for use with Mini-DTX and Mini-ITX motherboards, the SG05 is the smallest Sugo yet. Compared with previous iterations at around 23 liters in volume, the SG05 at 10.8 liters is less than half the size! However, in keeping with the spirit of its Sugo name, the case is capable of swallowing many standard components while keeping everything cooled. For the first time in a case of this size class, the SG05 is equipped with a low speed 120mm fan that is mounted to create positive air pressure, ensuring good balance of cooling and quietness. Other notable features include the ability to accept 9 inch long graphics card, room for thicker 2.5 inch hard drives such as Western Digital’s VelociRaptor™, full-height for retail boxed CPU coolers, and an 80 PLUS certified SFX 300W power supply. For building a fast PC in the smallest possible form factor, the SG05 is without peers."

The appearance of the Silverstone SG05 and SG06 at the same time as the Antec ISK 300-65 suggest like-minded awareness of the growing market for mini-ITX. We've been writing for some time now about the resurgence of SFF, the accelerating miniaturization of computing devices, and industry giant Intel's notable mass marketing of Atom processor embedded boards as well as socket 775 mini-ITX boards.

It's high time that more capable case makers embrace mini-ITX. Retail cases for mini-ITX boards have been few in number, and for the quiet seeker, most have been downright poor, with illogical airflow design and small fans that must run at high speed to accomplish any real cooling. Even for noise-unaware users, the poor cooling characterstics of most small cases have been frustrating, in that despite low overall power envelope of systems assembled by most DIY computer users, cooling has often been a challenge in mini-ITX cases thus far.


The SG05 looks akin to breadbox-style SFF systems popularized by Shuttle. A large mesh intake vent with a 120mm fan behind it dominates the front panel. Note large vents on top and side, identical on the SG06 below.





SG06 is a clone of the SG05 with a different facia. The other difference is that it's available in silver or black while the SG05 is only available in black.




Silverstone SG05/06: Key Features

(From the product web pages)
Feature & Brief Our Comment
Ample space for CPU cooling (78mm in height) Hard to call 78mm ample in this era of 160mm tower heatsinks
Elevated standoff for motherboard back side components
The significance of this is unclear.
Unprecedented 120mm fan in mini casing for positive pressure cooling
OK.
Support 2.5” and 3.5” hard drives
Good.
Mini-DTX / Mini-ITX motherboard & SFX PSU compatible Mini-DTX is 200mm wide instead of 170mm for two slots instead of just one. Main advantage: Allows use of 2-slot video cards.
80 Plus certified SFX 300W power supply (made by Fortron Source Power)
Much cheaper than a DC/DC board + external 300W power brick. Let's hope the FSP fan stays under control.
Standard-length expansion cards support (9 inches) Which is the size of some mid-level video cards.
Graphic card length reference:




ATI Radeon HD 4850/4830 - 9”

nVIDIA GeForce 9800GT - 9"

nVIDIA GeForce 9600GT/GSO - 9"

nVIDIA GeForce 8800GS/GT/GTS - 9"

nVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 - 9"
Ostensibly, this information is provided as a guide, but implies without actually coming out and stating it, that the case and PSU will support a system using one of these boards.


Specifications
Model Number
SST-SG05B
SST-SG06B or S
Material
Plastic front panel, SECC body
Aluminum front panel, SECC body
Motherboard
Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX
Drive Bay
external: Slim optical x1

internal: 3.5”x1, 2.5”x1
Cooling System
1 x 120mm intake fan with golf blades, 1200rpm 19dBA

Oversized top and side vents


*CPU cooler cannot exceed 78mm in height
Expansion slot
2
Expansion card
Standard size long cards capable (9”)
Front I/O Port
USB2.0 port x 2, Audio x 1, MIC x 1
Power Supply
SFX 300W with 80 PLUS certification:

Fortron-Source Power FSP300-60GHS
Net weight
n/a
3.72 kg
Dimensions
222(w) x 176(h) x 276(d)mm
220(w) x 177(h) x 286(d) mm

BASICS

Both the SG05 and SG06 ship in plain brown cardboard cartons. Not as useful for retail display, but less ink and industrial processing for glossy full color is definitely more eco-friendly. Unfortunately, the protective end caps used inside for shock damping are made of styrofoam, which is not recycled or reused.



Eco-friendly plain cardboard carton, but eco-unfriendly styrofoam inside. That's a standard business card on the left.



Package contents include the case, the 300W power supply, AC power cord, paper manual, a plastic adhesive-backed cable holder, four small rubber feet with adhesive (already applied to the underside of the case), IDE cable adapter for slim optical drive, and a small bag of mounting screws.





Both SG05 and SG06 have a huge vent on this side, specifically for a mid-high power VGA card. As you saw in the photos on the first page, both have a smaller vent on the other side.





Photo above shows smaller vent on other side and the SFX form factor 300W power supply (made by Fortron Source) on the back panel. There are two PCI slots covers; mini-ITX can only accommodate one card slot, but mini-DTX (of which there are a few, mostly in the industrial/ commerical markets) allows two. Note the small round button near the CPI slot covers; it's a power reset switch, found oddly only on the SG06, not the SG05, which has it on the front panel.





The overall size and shape of the SG05/06 is similar to that of 2004's
Shuttle Zen SSF PC, which was a touch taller. This, despite the Shuttle having a large external power brick instead of an internal PSU as in the Silverstone. In comparison to the Antec ISK 300 on the right, it's about as wide, nearly twice as tall, but a couple of inches shallower (front-to-back). When the Antec is set vertically, it takes up a bit less desktop space.






For the record, our SG06 sample is a black one.

As mentioned before, the only real difference of the SG06 is its front bezel, made mostly of brushed aluminum (instead of plastic in the SG05). This may explain the SG06's small price premium over the SG05. The front panel of the SG06 is closed; the 120mm front fan pulls air through a grid that extends around the sides and bottom of the bezel. Presumably, this is meant to provide a bit more acoustic insulation between the fan and the user, but airflow looks like it would suffer a bit.





Photo above shows SG06 upside down. The vents slots are very small on the bottom edge but a bit more generous along the sides.

THE INTERIOR

The cover is a U-shaped piece that fits over the bottom piece, also U-shaped. The edges are folded to hide sharp edges. The cover doesn't feel exactly substantial, but it's not super flimsy either .



The front intake fan is 120x25mm
in size, with seven blades that have "golf ball pockmarks", ostensibly to reduce noise. The dust filter can be seen above. Getting access to it requires removal of the front bezel, which attaches to the chassis via six plastic tabs. These tabs are not convenient to use, requiring a small thin flat pladed tool of some kind. A periodic vaccuum cleaner swipe from the outside is all we would do, but that's possible only with the SG05. The SG06's filter really needs the bezel removed altogether... which is unfortunate.




The


One internal view...





...and another. This view shows where a standard 3.5" drive can be mounted, under the tray for the slim optical drive on top, and a 2.5" drive bay between the two.





This view shows the 3-tier drive tray again, as well as the 80mm fan of the SFX power supply, which sits directly over the CPU area. Note how the drive bay partly blocks the top portion of the front fan.






The PSU is attached not only with four screws on the back panel (though six holes are provided), but also a back cross brace. Given the low mass of the PSU, this seems unnecessary, but perhaps there are other reasons. At least the brace does not occupy a lot of space.

AIRFLOW DESIGN

The airflow design of the case is apparent even before the cover is removed. The front 120mm fan is responsible for fresh air intake. The air flows through the case and out any/all of the three big vents in the cover, and the power supply, whose fan is drawing in from over the motherboard and exhausting out the perforated back. On the left side, the big vent ensures that at least some of the air drawn in by the front fan will flow right again without going across any of the hot components in the case except many the hard drive. That's assuming no video card is used in the slot. So blocking up some of that vent is useful, as it forces the air from the 120mm fan to at least get to the back half of the case before it slips out, doing some cooling in the process.



Two thirds of the left side vent was blocked up using a piece of trasparent plastic and some tape to prevent air from exiting the case before blowing across some hot components.

When a video card is used, however, the left side vent may be essential. In such a small case, airflow is critical for hot components to be cooled adequately. These days, the 65W TDP of a typical CPU is barely middling for a GPU; high performance video cards have become the hottest PC components in recent years. A mid-level video card is big enough to cover much of the left vent. If the card occupies two slots, then the heatsink/fan will be jammed right up against the vent, which ensures good access to cooler outside air and blocks the vent so the airflow from the front fan does not escape uselessly. The ideal airflow (for the rest of the case) with a video card installed is for the front fan to blow air mainly across the HDD, motherboard and CPU, and for the heated air to exhaust through the top and right side vents.



The side vent is almost entirely taken up by a mid-range video card.

The power supply is also a part of the overall airflow mix. Positioned directly over the back end of the motherboard, its fan is exposed to the heat of components on the board. There are two basic questions about the PSU:

  • Will its fan help cool the CPU?
  • Will the heat from the board cause the thermal sensor in the PSU to speed up its fan and cause additional noise?

TOUGH CHALLENGES FOR A SFF PC

Before we jump into the details of the testing, it's important to understand the very demanding challenges for a quiet small form factor PC.

In the 7+ years of SPCR's existence, desktop PC components have improved acoustically and in energy efficiency to the point where it's relatively easy to assemble a quiet system using mainstream, off-the-shelf products. Placed in the usual position under or beside a desk, usually a meter or so from the user's ears, any system without significant tonality that measures close to ~20 [email protected] in our anechoic chamber will be very quiet indeed. With typical HTPCs, it's even easier, as the distance between users and PC is often across the room, at least 6~8 feet away from the big screen TV (which excludes some people who apparently watch TV and movies on their PC monitor... but we can't please everyone all the time). Distance makes the sound grow fainter.

Things are much tougher for a small PC because it's almost always placed much closer to the user, usually atop the desk, next to the monitor. For most users, that's the point of a small PC, to be able to plop it down anywhere, preferably close at hand for convenient access and reach. The ISO 7779 PC noise test standard reference measurement distance of SPL for a seated user is ~0.6 meter; this is very relevant here. Add to the close proximity the user demand for more or less uncompromised performance (compared to a desktop), with all the thermal / power implications of such performance, and the SFF PC faces a steep uphill battle to achieve quiet. Not only must it cool effectively in a smaller box the same components as in much bigger cases, it must actually emit less noise to be perceived at the same noise level as the bigger box (due to the reduced distance to the user).

Keep all of the above factors in mind as you read through the analysis.

TESTING & SYSTEM INSTALLATION

The best way to test a case to install a system, and check cooling and noise under idle and load conditions. A mini-DTX board is out simply because we have not seen any, although a few appear to be made for industrial/commercial applications. So, which mini-ITX board?

The choice is easy because in the recent Antec ISK 300 case review, we faced the same question and chose the Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi, a full-featured mini-ITX board with good layout and large NB heatsink, equipped with an Intel E7200 C2D processor. This board also happens to be one of the few with a PCIe x16 slot, which will allow testing with a discrete video card as well. Using the same components, it will be possible to make fair comparisons of the Antec ISK 300 and Silverstone SG05/06 cases.



The Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi was also used in the review of the Antec ISK 300.

One of the challenges with the Antec ISK 300 was to find a quiet yet effective low profile cooler. The same challenge exists with the Silverstone SG05/06, though to a lesser degree: The Antec fits coolers up to ~7cm height, while Silverstone cites 7.8cm as the available height. In truth, the 7.8cm height seems conservative. We were able to fit a Arctic Cooling Alpine
7 Pro
, which measured 8.5cm from base to top of fan. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here.

Tony, our PR contact at Silverstone, was generous in providing a number of additional products for the SG05 and SG06 review:

All of these items were very welcome, thank you, Tony. The slim optical drives ensured that the case could be fully kitted out for the review, and the NT06-E heatsink was certainly a useful cooler to try.

As in the Antec ISK 300 review, a solid state drive was used in place of a 2.5" notebook drive. The reasoning was as follows:

  • Small PCs are almost always placed right on the desktop. This is very close to the user.
  • Even a notebook drive is clearly audible from that close. Most SPCR readers already know what to expect from a small desktop PC with a notebook drive; we've reviewed quite a few of them.
  • A low capacity SSD for the operating system and programs is not expensive, and combined with high capacity external storage (with USB, eSATA or Network Attached Storage), it makes a perfectly viable modern PC. This is the type of configuration used for our own current lab PCs.

The SSD on hand was an OCZ Vertex 30GB, the most affordable model from one of the most highly regarded SSD series on the market today.

Test System Components:

Heatsinks tried:

Video Cards tried:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPU-Z
    to monitor CPU frequency and voltage.
  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor temperature and fan speeds.
  • Seasonic
    Power Angel
    for measuring AC power at the wall to ensure that the
    heat output remains consistent.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    the fan speed during the test.
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .
  • Throttlewatch
    2.01
    , used to monitor the throttling feature of the CPU to determine
    when overheating occurs.

Primary Audio Test Tools

SYSTEM ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in this case was relatively straightforward, taking no more than half an hour. A long Philips head screwdriver is recommended. Mounting the heatsink on the board before the board is installed is best. The PSU many need to be removed for better access to the motherboard mounting screws. The drive bay must be removed for proper installation of the drives; this requires removal of the front bezel as well, which is a bit of an annoyance. Shown below is the first minimalist system configuration used for testing.



SilverStone Nitrogon NT06 heatsink mounted atop Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi motherboard. The heatsink mounts securely with through-the-board spring-loaded bolts.



Assembled system without cover. Tidying the PSU output and front panel cables was not too difficult. Before thermal/load testing, the fan-mounting frame on the Nitrogon heatsink was removed to reduce impedance through the fins for airflow originating from the front fan. The cables to the OCZ Vertex 30GB solid state drive are just visible under the optical drive.

TEST RESULTS

Before any testing was done with installed systems, each case was tested on its own with fan and power supply. This procedure is to establish a baseline noise level for the system before any other components are added. It tells us how how quiet the stock system can be; adding components can only make it louder, and at best, keep it at the baseline level.

Stock Fan Measurements

The stock fan is a Silverstone 120x25mm model RL4Z S1202512 LIW-3M rated at 0.26A at 12V, with seven "golf ball pock mark" blades. This type of blades was first seen in the Golf fans made by Globe Fan, which is the actual manufacturer. The dimples on the blades are said to reduce noise by 15%. The geometry is OK: The blades' trailing edges are not parallel to the four struts, which suggests that the noise generated will have modest tonal elements.



Sliverstone RL4Z S1202512 LIW-3M fan

The fan was examined and listen to on its own, but measured while mounted normally in the SG05 and SG06, with the cover in place. (This is not a review of the fans, but of the cases.) The case was placed at the edge of a table in the anechoic chamber. Two sets of SPL measurements were performed, one at 1m as usual, and another at 0.6m, at the ISO 7779 (PC noise measurement standard) seated user position.

Silverstone SG05 Stock Fan Measurements
Fan voltage
RPM
12V
24
26
1100
9V
15
18
850
7V
13
14
680
minimum start voltage: 7V

This is a smooth, fairly quiet low speed fan. One of the two samples had a small degree of chuffing sound, the cause of which was difficult to determine, but it was most afflicted at 12V and the effect became much less audible at lower speeds. 5V is not a usable setting because the fan does not start consistently except at 7V or higher. The usable range is 7~12V (680~1100 rpm) with SPL dropping by 11 dBA between those settings. At 7V, the fan produces roughly half the airflow of the 12V setting, and it is close to inaudible even at 0.6m.

Any noise difference between the two cases falls to the difference between the front bezels. The SG05's more open bezel could be expected to produce lower turbulence noise at higher fan speed while allowing a more direct sound path to the user. The more closed bezel of the SG06 would be expected to block more noise from reaching the user, but perhaps at the expense of higher turbulence noise at higher fan speeds, and possibly reduced airflow due to higher impedance. In other words, on paper, it looks like the contest could be draw.

Empirical measurements and subjective listening contradicted these conjectures, however. The SPL of the SG06 was substantially lower, by 6~8 dBA with the fan at full speed. The noise difference could be easily heard as reduced turbulence noise (whoosh) at all but the lowest speeds. At 12V, very little turbulence noise could be heard from the fan in the SG06; it sounded mostly like a hum. The higher noise in the SG05 is due partly to increased airflow passing against the impedance of the drive cage which blocks much of the top half of the fan. With the much more restricted intake of the SG06, less air seems to be flowing through the case. This could not be measured easily but it could be felt.

Silverstone SG06 Stock Fan Measurements
Fan voltage
RPM
12V
16
19
1100
9V
12
14
850
7V
11
12
680
minimum start voltage: 7V

Baseline Noise

The acoustic differences between the two bezels mostly even out when the included power supply is turned on. The FSP300-60GHS
power supply
starts with a bit of whoosh from the fan, which then settles down to a very quiet 15 dBA at the 0.6m seated user distance (ISO 7779) . However, this initial quiet is misleading, because the PSU fan speeds up gradually so that by the time it stops increasing in speed (with no load on the PSU) some 10-15 minutes later, the SPL with only the PSU measures 22 [email protected] That is enough to make the SPL difference between the front bezels of the SG05 and SG06 moot when the fan is set to 9V or lower.

Silverstone SG05 and SG06 Baseline Noise

(with PSU turned on, no load)
Fan voltage
SG05
SG06
12V
24
27
20
24
9V
19
22
19
22
7V
19
22
19
22

The overall quality of the sound from either case is not wonderfully smooth, but nor is it terribly noisy or annoying. It has some tonal elements, mainly from the 80mm fan in the PSU — which naturally makes a higher pitched sound than the 120mm front fan — and some low level, very high frequency squealing from components inside the PSU, but the overall noise level is still modest enough that it shouldn't be much of a hardship to work next to it for long periods.



With only the front fan going at 9V, the SG06 is very quiet and smooth sounding even at a close 0.6m distance.




Turning on the power supply raises the overall level by 8 dBA @ 0.6m distance. Note the ~1.2 kHz peak caused mostly by the PSU's 80mm fan. The 10 kHz spike is part of the electronic whine from PSU components that may be audible at close proximity by those with good hearing

TEST RESULTS - continued

MINIMALIST CONFIGURATION

This is a minimalist setup using only the onboard video in the Zotac motherboard. Three different heatsinks were tried, with some temperature differences.

A. Results with SilverStone Nitrogon NT06-E heatsink:



The Nitrogon NT06-E was run fanless, with the front fan at different speeds.

With no additional sources of noise in the system, this configuration sounded and measured the same as the baseline noise findings. Temperatures of the CPU and the GPU were good enough under high load in both systems. The 12V fan setting produced little gain in cooling, so a lower fan setting is naturally preferred for lower noise. The SG06 ran very slightly hotter; this difference might be larger with hotter weather or a hotter CPU — something we would not advise in a small case.

SG05: Case Fan + SilverStone NT06-E fanless
Fan
CPU*
GPU
12V
27
62/66°C
68°C
9V
22
63/67°C
67°C
7V
22
64/69°C
67°C
*There are two cores in the CPU, with temps for both reported. Ambient temperature was 24°C.


SG06: Case Fan + SilverStone NT06-E fanless
Fan
CPU*
GPU
12V
24
63/67°C
70°C
9V
22
64/69°C
72°C
7V
22
65/70°C
75°C
*There are two cores in the CPU, with temps for both reported. Ambient temperature was 24°C.

B. Results with Arctic Cooling Alpine
7 Pro
heatsink

This is a quiet, simple all-aluminum cooler with decent but not high performance that does yeoman duty around the SPCR lab. It has an integrated fan, and a total height of neary 8.5 cm. Despite Silverstone's 7.8 cm heatsink height caution, it fit, but just barely, as the second photo below shows.



Arctic Cooling Alpine 7 Pro mounted on the board.





The fan frame of the heatsink cleared by just a mm or two.

This heatsink was only tested with the fan set to ~1200 rpm, which produced a noise level slightly lower than the baseline of the two cases. Overall temperatures were a touch better than with the fanless Silverstone. Again, the SG05 gave slightly lower temps than the SG06.

SG05: Case Fan + Arctic Cooling Alpine 7 Pro, 1200 rpm
Fan
CPU*
GPU
12V
27
60/64°C
64°C
9V
22
61/66°C
66°C
7V
22
63/68°C
71°C
*There are two cores in the CPU, with temps for both reported. Ambient temperature was 24°C.


SG06: Case Fan + Arctic Cooling Alpine 7 Pro, 1200 rpm
Fan
CPU*
GPU
12V
24
62/66°C
68°C
9V
22
63/68°C
73°C
7V
22
65/70°C
76°C
*There are two cores in the CPU, with temps for both reported. Ambient temperature was 24°C.

TEST RESULTS - still continued

MINIMALIST CONFIGURATION

C. Results with Coolermaster GeminII heatsink

The idea of trying the GeminII came directly from Tony at Silverstone, who pointed out a web forum thread in which a user had installed the Coolermaster heatsink on a similar motherboard, and installed it in the SG05. Kudos to Tony for being big-minded enough to point out a competitor's product. The GeminII is a massive heatpipe heatsink with room for two 120mm fans — which would never fit into the SG05/06 with fans. It came without fans, and that's the way it was used here.

The GeminII looks almost custom designed for fanless use in the SG05/06 cases. It fills much of the available space, yet remains just within the physical confines. This model is probably being discontinued; a smaller GeminII S model is now appearing in the online stores.



Coolermaster GeminII mounted on the board.





The fan frame was removed before installation. Good thing this monster uses through-the-board bolts for mounting.





The GeminII clears the power supply by a few mm. Note how far it extends to the front, putting it close to the intake fan.


The GeminII cooled significantly better than the smaller Silverstone Nitrogon NT06-E or Arctic Cooling Alpine 7 Pro.

SG05: Case Fan + Coolermaster GeminII, fanless
Fan
CPU*
GPU
12V
27
56/61°C
62°C
9V
22
59/63°C
66°C
7V
22
60/64°C
69°C
*There are two cores in the CPU, with temps for both reported. Ambient temperature was 24°C.


SG06: Case Fan + Coolermaster GeminII, fanless
Fan
CPU*
GPU
12V
24
59/62°C
65°C
9V
22
60/64°C
68°C
7V
22
62/65°C
72°C
*There are two cores in the CPU, with temps for both reported. Ambient temperature was 24°C.

MORE TEST RESULTS

GAMING CONFIGURATION

With the most effective of the three heatsinks already in place, it was time to see how the cases would handle the addtion of a medium power graphics card. The Asus ENGTS250 DK1G uses a reissue of an older nVidia chip, originally called the G92, seen first in the 8800 chip. Though better performance models with lower power demand are now available, what really matters here for our testing is that its power demand is quite high — just what's needed to push the PSU and the cooling performance of the cases. nVidia rates the G92 as having a TDP of 150W, which is the limit for the 6-pin 12V auxiliary cable used on the card. We measured an estimated 124W power draw under Furmark stress testing for a similar card, the Sparkle GTS250 reviewed a few months ago.



The 9" long Asus ENGTS250 DK1G video card fills almost all the availble space. Any longer, and getting the 6-pin power connector in the front edge would be very tough. There's no photo of the cover on, but rest assured that the entire heatsink on the card is visible through the side vent.

The noise level of the system at idle jumped to 29 dBA @ 0.6m with the addition of the fan on the VGA cooler, regardless of the speed of the front fan. No serious effort was made to try to manage the speed/noise of the VGA fan. The main question here became less about whether the system could be quiet with a higher power video card, but more of a quick check about whether the power supply can handle it.

As it was, the VGA cooler fan was loud enough to drown out the rest of the noises in the system, so there was no point in testing with the front fan at anything lower than 12V; there was no acoustic benefit to slowing that fan down.

SG05 Gaming Configuration:

Case Fan at 12V + Coolermaster GeminII, fanless
Activity
CPU*
GPU
Idle
29
40/45°C
49°C
Max load
41
64/68°C
66°C
*There are two cores in the CPU, with temps for both reported. Ambient temperature was 24°C.


SG06 Gaming Configuration:

Case Fan at 12V + Coolermaster GeminII, fanless
Activity
CPU*
GPU
Idle
29
42/46°C
49°C
Max load
41
67/72°C
66°C
*There are two cores in the CPU, with temps for both reported. Ambient temperature was 24°C.

Both system stayed stable at full load with Furmark and Prime95 combining to stress both GPU and CPU. The AC power of the systems jumped from 64W at idle to 224W when the stress testing began. The power consumption under full load increased steadily over the course of 40 minutes. It stabilized at 229~230W after about 25 minutes. The VGA temperature was no different with the cover on or off, which demonstrates that the wide open vent on the cover is very good for cooling. The SG05 kept CPU slightly cooler again, but it was cool enough in either case. The PSU gave a good account of itself, although it was difficult to hear just how much its fan had ramped up due to the banshee screaming of the VGA card.

This test would have been better served by a quieter video card. An ATI Radeon HD 4770 would have been a better choice in some ways, most models being quieter and of similar performance to the GTS250, but it would have stressed the PSU much less, drawing only around 60W DC. It certainly would be the better choice for energy and noise conscious gamers. Other models of midrange video cards that provide similar performance can surely offer quieter performance out of the box, and aftermarket coolers can also be used to obtain quieter cooling.

In any case, what this test configuration shows is that cooling for the motherboard and CPU is little affected by your choice of discrete video card. The video card you choose will probably have a big impact on overall noise, as it will most likely be the noisiest component, especially under load. A passively cooled graphics card would be worth exploring, but with no forced airflow for the heasink side of the card, one that runs cooler thaa a GTS250 is recommended.

MISC NOTES

• The 3.5" drive bay blocks too much of the front fan. Removing it causes an audible drop in overall turbulence noise, especially when the fan is at 12V. If you;'re using a 2.5" HDDE or SSD (as we were), just remove the 3.5" drive cage.

• The wire grill on the inside of the fan is there presumably to protect wires from being sliced by the blades, but with just a bit of care, you can easily ensure that this does not happen. Removing that grill will help increase overall airflow just a bit, but that little bit could be the difference between "pretty quiet and cool" vs "quiet enough and still cool".

• Cable management is not difficult. Use parts of the internal frame and the optical drive bay to tuck unused power output connectors, and use plastic ties to ensure the front fan is not blocked by cables.

• The edges of a pop-out notebook style optical drive can get jammed against the front bezel opening for it. There's a tiny bit of adjustment available in the way the optical drive bay mounts. Try unloosening the screws, opening the tray, then retightening with the tray open. Or avoid the potential problem altogether with a slot-feed optical drive... but you'll pay a higher price.

POWER DETAILS

The FSP power supply was tested only within the context of the case and not on its own. Specifications from the PSU label are provided, along with a few in-system measurements. Silverstone states that this PSU has been customized in the following ways:

  • Lower acoustics across all loading conditions
  • SilverStone specific cable types and length
  • 6-pin +12V connectors to support medium performance graphics cards

A copy of the efficiency test report is available at 80 Plus. It just squeaks by the 80% mark at 75W (20% load) and 300W.

Silverstone SG05/06 Power Supply Specifications

(FSP300-60GHS)
Input 90 ~ 264 VAC, 4.5~2.5A, 50/60Hz
Outputs

+3.3V: 20A

+5V: 22A

+12V1: 14A

+12V2: 16A

+5Vsb: 2.5A

-12V: 0.5A

Maximum +3.3V & +5V: 125W

Maximum 12V1 & 12V2: 22A

Efficiency More than 80% average efficiency at 20%, 50%, and 100% load at 115/230 VAC
Cooling Internal 8 cm fan
Protection Over Voltage, Over Current, Short Circuit
Temperature Operating range: 0 to +50° C


Silverstone SG05/06 Test System

AC Power Measurements
Activity
Config 1

Minimalist
Config 2

Gaming
Idle
35W

64W

Max load
68W
224~229W*
* When the maximum GPU/CPU load was first applied, the AC power was 224W. As the system heated up, the power consumption gradually increased; this is the effect of heat on power efficiency. 229W was seen some 30 minutes into the test when all the temperatures had remained unchanged for over 5 minutes.

The power supply gave a good account of itself, delivering over 180W DC to the components in the gaming configuration with only a subjectively modest increase in noise. The fact that the GTS250 video card fan was screaming like a banshee obscured just how much more noise it produced, however. We expect it was not quiet, but it was much quieter than the video card. Based on past experience with FSP power supplies, we'd suggest keeping the total system power demand to under 120~150W AC to prevent the PSU fan from being an audible annoyance. The exact power level will vary with external factors such as ambient temperature; hotter means louder at a lower load.

At the high load with the modest system configuration 1, the power supply fan developed a bit of a tonal increase in noise, not really measurable in SPL but audible nonetheless. The increased fan speed was probably in the order of only a couple hundred rpm. At greater than 1m distance, probably not significant, but if you're seated right next to the box, it's audible.

No buzzing or squealing was noted when the unit was turned off (PSU in standby), but as noted previously, some of these sonic effects could be heard from very close up when the system was working.

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 about 6~10 seconds of the ambient in the anechoic chamber (silence), then 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.

Comparable System sound files:

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Silverstone SG05 and SG06 are welcome additions to the slowly expanding range of mini-ITX cases for DIY system builders. This is a sector that was once served by industrial/commercial case suppliers, complete SFF PCs from specialized vendors, or barebones SFF PCs, popularized by Shuttle. There are still very few well designed mini-ITX cases, and these Silverstones are among the best available today.

With most mini-ITX cases, because most of the features are expected to be built right into the motherboard, there is no need for many visible features. Basic I/O for the front panel, perhaps a memory card reader and an optical drive (if you really must have one in this day of flash and portable optical drives) are all that's really needed. What's more important is the cooling design, because it is a key to noise.

The overall airflow design in the SG05 and SG06 is basic: Most of the airflow comes from the front 120x25mm intake fan, a decently quiet fan when undervolted just a bit. The exhaust venting is a bit more complicated because of Silverstone's design goal of allowing a gaming graphics card to be used in the case. When such a card is installed, the airflow works fine, although a fan on the CPU heatsink is probably better than none if you plan to push the system hard over long periods. The overall noise level under high load with a gaming card will depend largely on the video card's cooling scheme; many have fans that get quite noisy when pressed.

When using only onboard video, the large vent on the left side becomes detrimental for cooling, allowing a lot of the air from the front fan to escape before cooling any hot components on the board. The solution of blocking the front portion of that side vent is simple to implement.

The more blocked front bezel makes the SG06 a bit quieter than the SG05, but the difference isn't really that significant due to the noise of the power supply, which is louder at idle than the 120mm case fan — except when when the case fan is run at full speed. The SG06 also tends to run a bit hotter due to the increased airflow impedance of the front facia.

Inside both cases, the 3.5" HDD mounting frame impedes the front fan a bit too much. If you use a 2.5" drive, just remove the 3.5" bay. The steel sheeting used for the case is also a bit too thin to feel sturdy, and the fit of the cover could be improved. One of our sample cases never quite fit well enough, allowing a bit of the blue-gray metal to show above the top portion of the bezel.

The prices of the cases are relatively modest; the SG05 can be found online in the US for ~$90, and the SG06 for ~$120. Considering the inclusion of the 300W 80 Plus efficient power supply, it's a decent deal. The PSU is part of Silvertone's simple but effective strategy for supporting a mid-level gaming system in these little cases. In the SG05 and SG06, Silverstone has created small cases suitable for a gaming system yet also workable for a quiet, general PC.

Silverstone SG06/05 Case Balance Sheet
Likes

- Small

- Good airflow design

- Quiet 300W power supply

- Set up for 2.5" and 3.5" drive

- Quiet stock fan

- Better cooling than other m-ITX cases

- Usable with midrange graphics card

- Decent prices
Quibbles

- Build quality could be higher

- Fan too blocked

- No fan speed controller


- No HDD soft grommets


- SG05 front bezel a bit noisy

- SG06 front bezel a bit airflow impeded

Our thanks to Silverstone Technology for all the various samples, and to Coolermaster for the GeminII sample.



Recommended by SPCR

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POSTSCRIPT: Thoughts for the Über Silencer



The difference in perceived noise between the SG05 and the SG06 is mostly obscured when the power supply is turned on. As usual, a few silent diehards may consider replacing the provided PSU with a silent picoPSU and an external AC/DC power brick. This not only eliminates the noise of the power supply fan, it also frees up the space above the CPU so that one of the huge tower heatsinks could be used (as long as it fits on the motherboard of your choice). Such a heatsink could be fitted with a slow, quiet 120mm to blow in almost any direction, as there are vents on three sides around the motherboard, now that the opening for the PSU exhaust is free. A left to right alignment might be best, assuming the PCI (or PCIe) slot is not filled.



With the stock PSU gone, the SG06's lower noise floor becomes significant again. You might feel the price premium makes the SG06 too costly... in which case there is also the option of going with the cheaper SG05, removing the front fan, and blocking up that opening with a piece of dense foam. After all, if there is a big fan on a big CPU heatsink, the front fan becomes superflous. It would not be difficult with the right components (including an SSD) to obtain an SPL of ~15 dBA half a meter in front of such a system.

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SILVERSTONE Sugo SG05-B Black Computer Case

SILVERSTONE Sugo SG05-B Black Computer Case

With Power Supply: Yes Motherboard Compatibility: Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX Internal 3.5" Drive Bays: 3.5" x 1 , 2.5" x 1 Expansion Slots: 2 Front Ports: USB, Audio 120mm Fans: 1 x 120mm front fan Dimensions: 8.74" x 6.93" x 10.87" Weight: 7.76 lbs.






SILVERSTONE SG06-B Black Computer Case

SILVERSTONE SG06-B Black Computer Case

With Power Supply: Yes Motherboard Compatibility: Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX Internal 3.5" Drive Bays: 1 x 3.5", 1 x 2.5" Expansion Slots: 2 Front Ports: USB, Audio 80mm Fans: No 120mm Fans: 1 x 120mm intake fan with golf blades,1200rpm 19dBA Dimensions: 11.2" x 8.6" x 6.9"






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