For a great many years, ATX computer cases have stuck to a few key guiding principles. The motherboard sits upright with the CPU socket at the top. Drive bays are located at the front of the case, and the power supply sits at the back, either below the motherboard or above it. Most seem to favor a bottom-mounted power supply emplacement these days. That, coupled with the appearance of cut-outs in the motherboard tray for cable routing and CPU socket access, about sums up the adventurousness of today's crop of enclosures.
Silverstone's Raven RV03 is different. If it were in high school, it might be the goth kid sitting behind the bleachers at lunchtime, listening to Marilyn Manson on his iPod. While the Raven looks almost normal from the outside, its insides are all weird—and, frankly, a little scary at first glance.
Silverstone has seen fit to rotate the motherboard 90 degrees clockwise, so the CPU socket faces the front of the case and the expansion slots point upward. Some of the hard-drive bays are located behind the motherboard tray. The PSU compartment is at the bottom, but not exactly the way you'd expect: it's rotated 90 degrees and tucked under the front drive bays, so the on-off switch faces the Raven's left panel.
Wearing black eyeshadow and listening to Marilyn Manson is a little out there, but there's some sound thinking behind the Raven RV03's odd internal configuration. Hot air rises, so placing the CPU and GPU toward the top with a pair of humongous 180-mm fans at the bottom would seem to encourage lower internal temps. The power supply placement also saves the trouble of pushing cables under the motherboard tray only to route them back out—instead, power cables start off behind all the key components (and away from airflow), ready to be routed.
The Raven's design means external I/O connectors plug in at the top, with all external device cables routed through a small gap between the roof of the case and its top shroud. That shroud pops on and off with ease—a concession for which you'll be thankful, because you'll have to pry the shroud off and snap it back on any time you need to plug in a display, a set of surround speakers, an Ethernet cable, or any device that can't be served by the Raven's front-panel USB 3.0 and audio ports.
The upside is that the Raven RV03 looks rather tidy from any angle. (Yeah, I guess this is where the goth-kid analogy breaks down.) The two gold strips that line the front and top shrouds ruin the cleanliness of the look somewhat, though. Silverstone's website provides instructions for ditching the gold trim, but that apparently involves a fair amount of work.
We'll go in for a closer look and compare the Raven's cooling performance to that of a more conventional enthusiast case in a moment. First, though, we'd be remiss not to examine this oddball enclosure's feature loadout in greater detail. Note that this is the third enclosure of its name—Silverstone also produced Raven RV01 and RV02 enclosures with slightly different designs.
The Raven RV03 accommodates microATX and ATX motherboards, of course, but it also supports Extended ATX workstation mobos. With a cavernous interior, the RV03 even has sufficient space for graphics cards as long as 13.58". There's a total of seven drive bays at the front; all can accommodate 5.25" optical drives, but six of them are fitted with removable 3.5" hard-drive trays. Five additional hard-drive trays are located on the right side behind the motherboard tray; three of those auxiliary trays are of the 3.5" variety, while one of them is designed to hold a couple of 2.5" drives.
On the cooling front, the Raven RV03 comes out of the box with two 180-mm intake fans at the bottom and one 120-mm exhaust fan located at the top (just above the CPU socket). Tucked away behind the front-panel connectors, a pair of switches lets users choose between low and high speeds for bottom fans. Silverstone provides room for an extra six 120-mm fans: four at the front, one at the rear, and one on the side. That's probably overkill, unless you really pack the Raven to the gills with high-end gear and fast hard drives.
All told, the Raven measures 9.3" x 20.6" x 22.4" and weighs in at 25 lbs. Despite such capacious innards, it's not an intimidating heavyweight like Corsair's Obsidian Series 800D or Thermaltake's Level 10 GT. The Raven is also fairly affordable at $139.99, although some e-tailers like Newegg charge a little more for it. How does it compare in ease of use, cooling capabilities, and noise levels?