It seems a lot of the times that I do run across some sort of HTPC chassis, they seem to be as tiny as possible to not be an intrusion on your home theaters design or layout. The benefit of these smaller units is that they can offer you all of the ability of a desktop PC, but most won't allow for graphics cards or even an add-on sound card to deliver the top end performance we expect out of our HTPCs. For my own HTPC needs, if I am on the couch for the day, taking root into the fabric, I don't want to get up for anything really. Whether I am streaming a movie from my desktop, or when that gets old, playing a game, or if I get the burst of energy, I may want to use it to stream music to the surround sound receiver as I tinker around the house checking things off the "honey-do" list. The smaller units will allow me to surf and potentially watch 1080p movies, but my Zotac Mini-ITX setup has a piss poor onboard VGA that leaves my viewing somewhat "chunky".
To solve this dilemma, you need to increase the size of the chassis to allow for more components to be added, improving both the audio and video output options. There is a delicate balance here, though. I know I wouldn't get away with a standard tower sitting in my living room, as my better half won't stand for that. So the only real solution is to look into larger HTPC chassis' that have a similar feel to the receiver, Bl-ray player, EQ and other home theater components already in the rack or spread across your HDTV stand you already have in the room. There are quite a few of these types of cases on the market, some with room inside, some with good ventilation, and even some that will hold an expansion card. It is very rare to find a HTPC solution that offers all of those features, adds a few things you don't think you need until you see it in action, and delivers it all in a very sleek and attractive looking structure.
Today we have the pleasure of going over another chassis from SilverStone with a fine tooth comb. There have been previous models in the Grandia chassis segment, all designed to deliver an attractive solution to add to your living room or home theater. Over time SilverStone has seen what works and what doesn't, and in this example, being the current top dog in the lineup, the GD06 has a little bit of everything while doing away with things like a tiny LCD you couldn't see across the room anyways. Stepping up the cooling inside of the chassis, SilverStone allows for more powerful systems to be properly cooled when we do decide to play our favorite game title on the big screen. Without giving too much of it away up front, I say we move from this right into the specifications so you can wrap your mind around everything found inside and outside of the latest Grandia Series in the GD 06 HTPC chassis.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The SST-GD06 only comes in black and is constructed mainly of steel that receives a textured black paint coating on the exterior only. The front of the chassis is a combination of plastic used in the bulk of the bezel with a thick aluminum door and a lock that drops down to gain access to the panel behind it once unlocked. The drives I am about to mention are both external in my book even though the listings are set up differently. Once the door is lowered you have access to the pair of 3.5" hard drive doors that allow you to "plug and play" with storage drives.
On the right half you find the 5.25" optical drive bay that comes with a cover shipped in the hole in case you don't need an optical drive for your HTPC needs. Below the optical bay you will find the front I/O containing two USB 3.0 ports, microphone and headphone jacks, and a reset button. The power button can be found below the door on the outside of the chassis.
On the inside the chassis is left with the SECC primer finish seen in a lot of chassis' sold today. To manage the airflow inside the chassis there is ventilation cut in the top for passive air flow and a hole in the floor for the PSU to use. On both sides of the unit there are fans as well. The right side of the chassis has a pair of 120mm fans installed and they even come with grills installed to keep wiring and fingers safe. The left side of the chassis only has one 120mm fan, again with a grill installed, and all three fans are installed to blow into the chassis. There is room above the rear I/O to install a pair of 80mm fans if you wish; this panel also contains a 4+1 expansion slot configuration. Along with seven places to mount wiring to the floor, there is room to house motherboards from Mini-ITX, DTX and Micro ATX form factors to take advantage of the space inside the GD06.
So what will it take to get this appealing HTPC chassis solution to your door? Well, from what I can see via Google shopping, the pricing is very reasonable. Over the ten locations I saw listings for the GD06, pricing is sort of all over the place. On the lower end of the scale there is a listing for $109 before shipping and climbing to near $170 once you incorporate shipping on the other end of things. Going back to our usual e-tailer, I was able to locate the Grandia GD06 at Newegg.com for $129.99. It is going to require an additional $20 to ship this chassis, but even for near the $150 price point, I believe SilverStone offers quite a bit of bang for that dollar.
SilverStone's Grandia GD06 ships in black and grey packaging and on this side there is a clear image of the chassis included within. Both in the listed features and in the line under the name, you can see this positive pressure chassis will support most needs.
In nine languages, the special features contained in the GD06 get listed on this side along with an image of the rear of the chassis at the bottom.
This side matches the first image we looked at, but here I will address the blue hexagon that shows this is a SilverStone SFF chassis and that it seems there is a sticker missing from where the white outline would infer one is supposed to be placed.
If FedEx hadn't blocked this side with shipping labels you would be able to read the introduction form SilverStone about the GD06 and see the specifications list below it. The sticker I thought was missing is oddly placed on this side and is blocking most of the image of the front of the GD06 pictured on this last panel.
A plastic liner keeps vibrations and light abrasions in transit from marring the paint finish or the aluminum face. To keep the GD06 centered in the box, the use of thick Styrofoam end caps support the chassis and in combination, the GD06 I received is in perfect condition.
The SilverStone Grandia Series GD06 HTPC Chassis
The front of the GD06 has a large aluminum door that covers most of the bezel, while the outside is molded plastic to round the corners as it transitions to the sides. Most notably, the lock, the SilverStone name and logo, the "u" shaped light at the bottom surrounding the power button and the arrow at the right showing how to open the door is what stands out here.
Unlocking and lowering the door, you get a bit of a peek behind the scenes. On the left is a pair of doors covering hot swap storage bays for 3.5" HDDs. The right side has an optical bay with a cover installed at the top leaving room for the front I/O below it.
Moving in a little closer, I opened the bays for the hot swap hard drive access. This allows for 3.5" drives of any density to be "plug and play" so you can just click right into media here versus through the network to your home theater.
The front I/O is basic, but still offers USB 3.0 connectivity next to the 3.5mm HD Audio jacks, leaving the reset button on the right by itself.
The right side of the GD06 has two mesh areas backed with a pair of 120mm fans blowing air into the chassis. You can also see that the top of the unit is separate and this will allow access inside in a few more images.
The rear of the chassis offers room for a pair of 80mm fans to be installed above the rear I/O. Moving right, there are four expansion slots with a +1 slot at the top right corner above where the PSU installs.
The left side of the GD06 offers a bit of ventilation near the +1 slot at the top, while the front of the panel offers room for the 120mm fan that is already installed, or you can replace that fan with an 80mm fan of your choice.
Under the chassis the front feet are large round plastic pucks with natural aluminum on the sides and rubber discs on the bottom to keep it from sliding around. The rear and center of the chassis receives rubber bumps for support. Over the mesh area for the PSU, there is a dust filter screwed into place.
Inside the SilverStone Grandia Series GD06 HTPC Chassis
Removing the three screws from the back of the chassis that hold the top panel in place allows you to slide it back an inch or so and then lift it out of the way. Inside of the chassis you find that some of the framing and the drive racks are blocking the way to get on with the installation.
A screw needs to be removed from both ends of the support rail to remove it from the chassis. The same is true for the optical drive rack, as it is held into the chassis with two screws into the support bar as well as a pair in the side of the bays found on the side of the chassis in the track the top panel rides in.
Removing the hard drive rack assembly was a bit trickier. Once I had the four screws that hold it into place removed; I still couldn't get this out of the chassis. That was until I realized that the latches on the bay cover doors were holding it attached to the front bezel.
Now we can actually see down into the chassis and look at the wiring from the fans and front I/O as well as the places around the floor to tie wiring to as you attempt to tidy things up to be sure everything fits back into the GD06.
The pair of 120mm fans on the right side of the chassis both ship with fan grills in place to keep wiring from getting eaten by the fans. Above the fans you can also see the two oval holes on bumps in the top of the chassis; this is where the optical drive bay screws need removed to get it out of the chassis.
Inside the rear of the chassis the expansion card slot covers are held in with small head screws, and are ventilated well if they stay in place to allow more places for the positive pressure inside the chassis to escape.
The left side of the chassis offers a fan to blow air into the chassis in front of the PSU. While I appreciate the thought to add the fan here, in my installation I blocked most of it with loose wiring. This is why the tie downs are offered on the floor to limit the intrusion on the airflow path through the chassis.
Accessories and Documentation
A bag containing the hardware and paperwork are shipped outside of the case to float free around the packaging. In the bag you find five straps that work with the tabs on the floor to contain case wiring. There is also a USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 converter, a set of four rubber supports to add to the PSU, a bag of screws and risers, a 4-pin Molex to three 3-pin fan connection and of course a set of keys to unlock the front of the GD06.
The manual is thick and one would assume everything you need to know is covered in here. Sorry to say, this just isn't so. While I did refer to the manual exclusively to remove the components from inside the chassis, there was no mention of opening the doors of the hard drive rack. I know when something binds you stop pulling and find out why. I can honestly see these doors being broken by a novice builder, and tricks like this should really be addressed in the manual. Aside from that, the manual covered things well enough for someone like me to get the general idea, realize I am going in the right direction, and I just need to keep looking for the answer to the smaller questions that arise.
Due to the 150mm limitation of the PSU to allow it and the fan to both be in the left side of the GD06, SilverStone made sure I had a unit that would both fit the size of the chassis but still deliver the power my 2600K and GTX 460 combination needs power wise as well. The SST-ST40F-ES is an 80PLUS unit that offers silence while delivering its efficient power output.-The 400W model is shown to have a 25A 12V rail delivering 300W of power to the board and CPU, while the other components draw from the lower voltage rails. This should be sufficient to run my build at stock without a problem.
The SST-ST40F-Es comes with literature, mounting screws and the power cord. The PSU has leads for a 20+4-pin and a 4+4 EPS power line to power the motherboard. There is a single lead for GPUs with one 6-pin piggy backed off the other 6-pin to power your card. The last two leads contain four SATA power connections or Molex connections, but the Molex lead terminates in a floppy drive plug. For the needs of my specific build, this PSU is just what I need to get underway.
The Build and Finished Product
Installing the motherboard, card and power supply was relatively easy. With the front I/O all wired to the motherboard and the 4-pin EPS (this board doesn't use an 8-pin) and 24-pin connected, I tried to group and stack the wiring neatly. From here we just need to install the drive racks and the support bar.
It is best to make a dry run installing the drive into the chassis before mounting any screws to make sure everything is out of the way, and that the drive lines up with the bezel correctly. All of the tray mounting holes are oblong and do allow for a little bit of adjustment to tweak the final fit.
I also slid a pair of storage drives into the hot swap bays. There work with just the drive, there is not sliders or caddies that need to be installed to the drives first. They slide all the way in with the doors open. Once closed, you re-open the door and the drives move forward releasing from the simple back planes.
Flipping the assembly over you can see there is room for a 2.5" drive as shown, or using the yellow grommets, mount a 3.5" drive here. The rubber baffle is said to divert air in the chassis, and the instructions say it's fine to poke holes and pass cables through to make connections easier.
Once the support bar, Optical drive rack, and the hard drive rack are back in the chassis you can see why there is a 700mm height restriction for the CPU cooler. It does say in the manual that if the optical bays are left out, there is room for 120mm of cooler in the GD06.
Once assembled, the nice thing about the GD06 is that if the door is closed you don't have to look at anything that may attract unwanted attention, nor is it loaded with flashy LEDs to distract you from enjoying the movie playing.
Opening the door, the only thing to change is the addition of my DVD drive that now inhabits the space to the right. With the doors closed on the left, there is no visible signs of the drives even being in there, at least until we power up the system that is.
In the back everything fits nicely and there isn't anything I can complain about. The I/O plate fits easily, the card went in fine (although the screws could be bigger) and with the rubber supports in place on the PSU, it installs very simply.
Under the door you have the power button dead center of the bezel. With the power applied and the front closed, this is all you will see for LEDs when the GD06 is powered. The light is angled down as not to deliver blinding light into the room and the intensity of the LED isn't that bright.
If you have drives in the hot swap bays, once the door is opened you could definitely be blinded by the light. These blue LEDs indicating there are drives powered in the bay are much better kept behind closed doors during use in a home theater environment.
The Grandia series GD06 has been a pleasure to work with; it is near silent while in use even with 12V applied to the 120mm fans all the time, and it looks really good sitting on a shelf! - I want to start out addressing the LED lighting. It's few and far between in cases that I actually see a manufacturer angle the lighting that is exposed on their HTPC chassis. This allowed for a subtle glow that can be seen across the room to verify it is on, but as you sit on the couch, the LED isn't going to burn right into your brain as you try to ignore it watching a movie or playing a game. SilverStone put the finer materials where it needed to be and the natural aluminum on the exposed feet is a nice contrast against the black aluminum front door. The curves around the to the sides just make it that much more streamlined for any HTPC user to have the GD06 blend right in seamlessly to the home theater setup.
As I worked with and tested the chassis, there isn't really anything that went wrong at the fault of SilverStone. I kept dropping the smaller screws as I don't typically use a magnetic screwdriver, which I would highly recommend having with this chassis. The wiring inside the chassis is plentiful, so much so that I ended up with it folded on itself five or six times to bunch up the excess. Even with the PSU shipped from them, wiring the drives is a challenge. The leads on the HDD caddy for the hot swap bays are too short and make you have to hold it in an odd angle with one hand while you attempt to connect power with the other hand, and that wasn't too fun. The other thing to consider with a PSU like this one is how to power both your optical drive and the HDD in the back with the same power lead. In my build I had to run it over the GPU to make it reach to the DVD drive and back to the HDD.
While the GD06 was a challenge, once I had it all together and running I was very pleased with the aesthetics and the incorporated positive pressure air flow. While it was running I could feel the card blowing out heat of course, but through the top of the chassis the air was blowing out as well as in the back over the rear I/O. This design not only kept temperatures in this smaller enclosure near what I see in many mid tower cases, the positive pressure should keep dust out as well. In the end I feel that for what SilverStone delivers with the Grandia Series GD06 HTPC chassis, the Newegg.com pricing of $129.99 is very reasonable. Those in search of an attractive yet subdued HTPC chassis to add to their home theater, I strongly recommend you look to SilverStone and the GD06 to fill that void.
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