Beyond Atom: Exploring Performance ITX Solutions
Silverstone has had a line of small form factor cases for a number of years now in their SG series. Starting with the venerable SG01, which remains a popular case today, and more recently with the revamped SG02 and the all-new SG03/SG04. However these have all been mATX cases. While Silverstone has had ITX options for some time, they are from the HTPC-centric Lascala series, which are of the typical low-profile design. The Lascala cases are very nice looking, but don't quite offer the same performance features of the SG series. Silverstone put an end to this recently with the introduction of the SG05.
The SG05 is in many ways a bit of an innovation in ITX cases. It is the first computer case designed specifically for the ITX form factor that incorporates performance features like a large cooling system and enough space under the hood for a full size expansion card. In fact, the SG05 was designed with high-end, dual-slot graphics card support in mind.
Like most of the rest of the SG lineup, the SG05 has a cube-ish design. It sports a very simple aesthetic with a single color and no accents. The SG05 is made of SECC steel with a plastic front panel. The case is so small, using aluminum to reduce weight would have unnecessarily increased costs. The SG05's most prominent feature is its large mesh fan grill which houses a 120mm intake fan. This fan has direct access to the interior of the case, and is protected from dust bunny assault by a removable dust filter located between the mesh and the fan.
Also visible on the front of the SG05 is the slim optical drive slot, and the front inputs. There are two USB ports, a headphone port and a microphone port located above the power and reset buttons.
Silverstone took an interesting approach with cooling the SG05. The 120mm fan at the front of the case is the only fan and provides all of the case cooling. Air is sucked into the case from the front and then circulates through the case and exits via any one of three huge vented regions on the top, left and right sides.
Although the ITX form factor only has a single expansion slot, the SG05 offers space for two expansion cards. This is to provide support for dual-slot cards. The left side of the case is especially well vented, and a very large section of the side is aerated. The large patch of venting on the left side is perfectly positioned to allow a typical dual-slot video card direct access to the cool, fresh air from outside the case.
The right side seems to be well vented to allow similar access to the CPU cooler, however, the position of the power supply directly above the CPU socket could restrict your options.
The SG05 has a one-piece cover which slides off after a few screws are removed. The SG05 does not come with thumbscrews and is therefore not a tool-less design. The SG05 comes with a SFX form factor 300 watt power supply. This is a high efficiency unit with an 80 PLUS rating. The power supply has a single 80mm cooling fan rated for 19dba. Overall, the included power supply should be sufficient for any build you can fit inside the case. While 300 watts doesn't seem like it would be enough for a gaming build, you should be able to power a high-end graphics card without issue since the power supply is feeding so few components total.
As you might expect, there isn't much room inside the SG05 for drives. There is just enough space to fit a single 3.5" drive, a 2.5" drive and a slim optical drive. Storage options aren't exactly plentiful, but for most builds this shouldn't be an issue. The use of a slim optical drive is a bit inconvenient since they are relatively hard to find and cost quite a bit more than a typical 5.25" optical drive.
It might be in your best interest to invest in an external optical drive, or share an optical drive with another computer through the network. However, if you don't mind shelling out a bit extra for a more refined build, Silverstone offers a slick slot-loading DVD burner as well as a tray loading Blu-ray combo drive, both color matched to the SG05.