Introduction, Design Features
Shhhh, don’t tell anyone! Building a quiet PC isn’t quite as difficult as it once was.
Part of that is down to advances in PC components—they are just a more sedate bunch these days. Solid-state drives (SSDs) provide a silent, no-spin alternative to hard drives, for one thing. And chances are pretty good that you won’t even bother installing an optical drive, which was another major source of whirring and clicking sounds. And selecting cooler-running core components can require fewer fans, or slower-spinning ones. But even modern PCs still benefit from noise-dampening foam, which is where SilverStone’s Kublai Series KL07 case comes in. Sometimes the right chassis can make up for a lot. Think of it as a muffler for your PC.
The Kublai KL07 is the physical embodiment of silence. Every inch of the case’s exterior has a black finish, making it one of the more subdued aftermarket cases we’ve reviewed in some time. It’s stealth-fighter dark, if lacking the angular menace of that military jet. This is just a black box: SilverStone opted for the typical rectangular case style and did little in the way of exterior flourishes. The case even lacks a side-panel window, though that makes sense when you are lining a chassis with foam.
Despite its super-sober personality, the KL07 is not a budget PC chassis. It was selling for between $85 and $95 at this writing from the key e-sellers online. PC cases in this price range typically have more exterior flair, but we understand that SilverStone is going for quiet—both acoustically and aesthetically—here. In contrast, we recently reviewed the Mean:It 4PM, a cube-style PC case with three tempered-glass panels and LED fans, which was going for just a little more money. When it comes to price, the Kublai KL07 is a little closer to the Redline RL06Primera PM01-RGB. The case is 8.7 inches wide, which is reasonable for a standard PC tower.
The interior of the KL07 is roomy, with a capacity of nearly 53 liters. Before you add components, the case weighs in at 17 pounds. That’s not too heavy, considering that the case is mostly steel (not aluminum), with a plastic front panel.
As we mentioned earlier, the KL07’s front panel doesn’t support an optical drive; no 5.25-inch drive bays here. The front is a single, smooth expanse with only power and reset buttons, a couple of status LEDs, and some shallow grooves to break up the otherwise plain face. The KL07’s design simplicity lends itself well to formal settings, including offices, but we wouldn’t have minded just a little more (indeed, any) personality.
We like the angled fan vents that line the sides and top of the case to let air into the system. We popped off the front panel to uncover a full-length dust filter that sits in front of the case’s two 140mm intake fans. SilverStone uses magnets to make removing and replacing the filter a piece of cake. The fan filter was our first indication that the KL07 might be earning its price tag.
The “front panel” ports sit at the top of the case, which isn’t unusual among SilverStone chassis. The KL07 has a typical mix of them (two audio jacks, two USB 3.0 ports), plus the USB 3.0 Type-C port, which is a nice touch…
On-chassis Type-C connectors are uncommon on aftermarket chassis, so far to date. This one is a straight-up USB 3.0 port, though. Even less common are USB Type-C ports on chassis that support USB 3.1 Gen 2, which has higher potential top bandwidth with compatible peripherals, but makes use of a new-fangled header connector between the case and the motherboard. The Kublai KL07 doesn’t use that new connector for the USB Type-C port, but instead an ordinary 20-pin USB 3.0 header cable, like these…
The only issue here is that to hook up all three of the chassis’ USB 3.0 ports, you will need two USB 3.0 header connections on your PC’s motherboard, and not all boards will have two of them. (It’s a lot more common to find two such headers on full-size ATX boards versus smaller ones.) So check carefully; you might otherwise need to get and use a USB 3.0-to-USB 2.0 header adapter, which would relegate either the Type-C port or the two USB 3.0 Type-A ports to USB 2.0 speeds.
The top of the chassis also comes off, in the same fashion that the front face does. Pop the top off, and you’re looking at another fan filter. This one doesn’t have the plastic frame around it that the front filter does, but it attaches with magnets over the top panel’s fan-mount area for a sure fit. You’ll need to remove the filter to attach a radiator or fans inside the top of the KL07. By default, there are no fans up here.
The inside of the plastic top panel and the inner face of the front panel are lined with thick, egg-carton-style acoustic-foam padding from end to end. By the way, we had no trouble popping the top and front panels back into place, which is good news for DIY-ers who like to tinker with their PCs.
A final fan filter sits at the bottom of the case, below the grille for your power supply’s intake fan. The Kublai KL07’s feet are large enough to allow for plenty of breathing room below the external filter, which is held in place by several steel clips. You can remove the filter for cleaning without turning the case over, thanks to a big tab/lever that extends toward the back of the case. Push the tab downward gently, then pull, and the filter slides free.
The back of the KL07 has a honey-comb grille for the case’s included 140mm exhaust fan, typical of cases of its kind. Below the fan grille, a removable steel plate adds extra support for your graphics card and any other expansion cards that you put in your system’s PCI Express slots. (You screw down this plate over the screw-bracket portion of the video card; it adds a step to card installs/removals, but adds stability, too.) One thing was odd, though: Some of the metal dividers between the expansion slots on our case sample were bent, despite the case arriving in an undamaged, unopened box. We were able to bend the plates back into shape—no big deal. But we wouldn’t expect to see that sort of an issue in a chassis in this price range.
The Kublai KL07 has typical steel side panels, which are held in place by thumbscrews. Inside, both of the panels have the same variety of acoustic/noise-reduction padding that we saw at the top and front of the case. The panel that covers the case’s right side is completely covered by the padding; the one on the left is fully covered, too, barring a thin strip along the edge closest to the case’s rear.
The interior of the KL07 will be familiar to anyone who has built a system in SilverStone’s Primera Series cases. The lower quarter or so of the chassis is blocked off by a large housing that creates a separate compartment for the power supply, isolating it thermally and hiding it from view. The motherboard tray has a large cutout/window to provide access to the back of the motherboard, which is useful when you’re installing certain CPU coolers that need a backplate. It’s large enough to accommodate the slight variances in position that CPU mounts tend to have from platform to platform.
The tray also has two long, rubber-lined pass-throughs for your cables. Pass-throughs like these are common-enough fare, but the rubber seals are a nice touch, as they add a little aesthetic polish to the case and offer some protection to the cables passing through. Polish like this might not be necessary in a windowless case, but we’re glad to see the sharp edges in the metal covered up.
SilverStone’s inclusion of a power-supply compartment across the chassis bottom means that your motherboard will be closer to the effective “floor” of the case (the top of the PSU compartment) than it would be in most PC chassis. That’s not a problem if your motherboard’s headers jut out of the board vertically, but if any of them face sideways off the bottom of the motherboard, and it’s an ATX board that extends to the case’s bottom, you could see a blockage issue. SilverStone put a cable pass-through on the PSU compartment near the motherboard, but it’s not likely to provide access to any horizontal headers there.
The PSU compartment’s panel has a cutout near the front of the case to accommodate additional front-intake fans or a long radiator. SilverStone went in a different direction with the cutout in the Kublai KL07 than it did with the Primera Series by screwing a flat panel over the hole, rather than adding a retractable panel. The KL07’s panel is not as sophisticated; you’ll need to remove four screws to take it out. That said, if you need to do it, at least it’s a task that you need to perform just once.
The KL07 has solid support for fans and radiators. The top supports up to two 120mm or 140mm fans, or a radiator up to 280mm. The front of the system can accept up to three 120mm or 140mm fans, or radiators to 360mm. The back of the case supports a single 120mm or 140mm fan, or a 120mm/140mm radiator. If air cooling is more your thing, you can easily rely on just the 140mm fans that ship with the KL07, which include two up front and one at the back. The front-panel fans are attached to a tray that screws to the front of the case with thumbscrews.
The interior is roomy and should have no trouble handling most PC hardware. Its maximum cooler height is 163mm (6.4 inches) to 172mm (6.8 inches), the high end of the range depending on whether you’re willing to cut out some of the side-panel padding for a max-height CPU cooler. The maximum supported video-card length is 15.3 inches. No card that we know of will come close to that, even if you install a big radiator up front.
Remove the panel from the KL07’s right side, and you’ll expose the power-supply compartment, along with the storage-drive bays…
Because SilverStone devoted a good chunk of space to the hard drive cage (and left some extra space near the front for an extra fan or a large radiator), the power-supply area is a little tight. That’s not to say that it can’t handle large power supplies; it offers up to 7.87 inches (200mm) of space, but you may find that you don’t have as much room between the hard drive cage and the back of the PSU as you’d like when it comes to plugging in cables. (Assuming, of course, that your PSU uses modular cables.)
The easiest way to handle a modular PSU in a compartment like this is to slide the power supply in at an angle, connect all of the cables you’ll need and route them to their components, and then gently push the PSU back into place so that you can secure it to the case’s back plate. Trying to connect the modular cables after the fact would be an ordeal.
The hard drive cage includes three sleds for 3.5-inch drives (or 2.5-inch drives). The sleds allow for tool-free drive installations from start to finish. You squeeze a sled’s tabs to slide it free from the cage, and then snap your 3.5-inch drive into place. Each sled has rubber grommets, which is a nice touch. SilverStone put extra screw holes into the floor of the KL07 so you can move or remove the drive cage, if necessary.
The KL07 also has individual drive sleds for three 2.5-inch storage drives. These run up the back side of the motherboard tray, making them easy to reach. And, like the 3.5-inch sleds, these trays are tool-free. They are attached to hinges so they can swing outward slightly after you press the release tabs. Slide the drive in, press the tray back into place, and you’re done.
We think SilverStone made good use of the limited space on this side of the chassis, but squeezing cables between the side panel and the motherboard tray isn’t easy. With less than an inch between the motherboard tray and the side panel, and the panel’s foam lining, cable management will require some care. SilverStone helped out, in that regard, by putting rungs in multiple places on the motherboard tray. (They’re meant for running a cable tie through.) The result is that you can easily find ways to attach your cable ties to route individual cables, or use these metal hoops keep your cable bundles in place so they don’t overlap each other. Spreading out those bundles can ease putting the side panel back on. Indeed, SilverStone makes use of those rungs with a couple of its own cable straps to keep its front-panel cables under control.
It’s worth noting that the outside surfaces of the case remained surprisingly clean, despite our casual handling. Any case that has a black exterior is likely to be a smudge and fingerprint magnet. But the KL07 showed up surprisingly few greasy marks during our testing, and we didn’t resort to gloves or any special care as we handled it and built inside it.