Mid-Tower ATX Chassis Final Thoughts
One of these days I’ll figure out it’s a bad idea to judge a case by it’s…err…panels? I knew the KL04 had a previous reputation of being able to cool a performance build, but it doesn’t look like it. I mean, no side fan, only 120mm fans included stock, and there aren’t any fans in the front!! Until I saw for myself that it managed better CPU temps than a full-tower case (that uses 200mm intake/exhaust fans, by the way) I didn’t expect much from the lone case in the Kublai series. The dust filters are always appreciated, and the materials, workmanship and engineering evident in the KL04 are a testament to SilverStone’s approach to chassis engineering.
Of course, they refuse to give up on their notorious “ease of assembly” – or lack thereof. Given the performance benefit, it’s a trade off many are willing to make – especially if you’re a “set it and forget it” type of builder. There aren’t any glaring issues with assembly, it’s just a case that requires tools (except for the 5.25″ bays) where others have gone completely tool-less. I’m not sure if this is a bad thing…but I know I’d appreciate some more thumbscrews at a minimum. Be prepared if you switch hardware often.
SilverStone Kublai KL04 Conclusion
If I had to sum up my experience with the Kublai KL04 in one phrase, it’d be “…but consider the end result.” If someone were to ask me about the KL04, I’d have an initial moment of hesitation due to some of the quirks I encountered on my initial build…but then I’d tell them to consider the end result. That end result is a surprising (and impressive!) amount of performance in a mid-tower enclosure. While I don’t have nine hard drives on hand to test, I’m willing to bet twin 120mm fans blowing directly on a HDD array would keep temps in check without an issue. Overall, the KL04 delivers typical SilverStone quality and performance and offers a unique approach to cooling and storage.
I have to give SilverStone a lot of credit for the amount of performance they’ve packed in to the mid-tower KL04. With just three 120mm fans (and the 240mm water-cooler), this thing managed to put up impressive CPU temperatures – and that’s compared to a full-tower case that uses 200mm and 140mm fans. There’s obviously some engineering at work here, and the result is impressive.
SilverStone cases have always had their own unique aesthetic. I’m not sure I was a fan of the KL04 when looking at product photos before the case arrived to review, but it grew on me as I worked with it. The design is subtle enough to blend in, but it’s still too “OEM” to me. It’s better in person, I’ll give it that, but the design feels unfinished somehow. The black monolith approach can be really attractive, but I’m not sure the design is all the way there yet. If you’ve seen some of the mock-ups of changes that resulted in the SG09’s facelift to the SG10, you can probably see what I’m referring to. Anyway, there’s always the Temijin TJ04 if you prefer a different aesthetic…
While discussion of appearance changes according to taste, the overall construction is much less subjective. The KL04 is put together well, and hinged panels and sturdy SilverStone steel contribute to a solid chassis. The snap-on dust filters fit securely and clip in with a satisfying click. I didn’t have any problems with paint obstructing screw threads like in some other chassis, and the overall feel reflects a premium product as is typical of most SilverStone cases.
I think the KL04 provides for a large amount of functionality for a mid-tower – it just isn’t as accessible as others. Once you have it configured the way you want it though, you can fit a surprising amount of performance hardware in there. All intakes are filtered, and 2.5″/3.5″/5.25″ devices are all accommodated along with 240mm water coolers and the cables required to connect them all.
As of October 2013, the SST-KL04B-W (windowed version) was selling for 99.99 (Newegg / Amazon), which places it directly in a highly competitive section of the market. SilverStone’s KL04 is a great value for the price, especially considering the overall quality and performance, but there are so many options in this category. I think discussing value for this case is difficult, because it primarily depends on what YOU value in a case. Whatever that is, you can probably find it in this price bracket.
Whether or not you find it in the KL04, well, that’s up to you. If you want to pack as many drives as possible into a fairly traditional ATX mid-tower and keep everything cool; if you don’t mind an enclosure that’s more complex than average and like your cases subtle, you just might be a candidate for the KL04. I can’t recommend it for those enthusiasts that are constantly tearing open their case and switching hardware – unless you really enjoy using a screwdriver as a part of that process. For builds that are designed to just “work” though, I think the KL04 is a compelling choice.
+ SilverStone quality
+ Same features as more expensive Temijin series
+ Excellent air and water cooling performance
+ Lots of hardware capacity in a mid-tower size
+ All intakes covered with removable dust filters
+ Hinged panels
+ Excellent cable management for this size of enclosure
+ Efficient airflow helps keep noise down
– Bring your screwdriver – or don’t plan on tinkering!
– Default location of 2.5″ drive cage might cause problems
– No built-in fan speed controls
– Removing 5.25″ bay covers feels like it ruins aesthetic
Final Score: 8.2 out of 10.
COMMENT QUESTION: What size of computer enclosure to you prefer most?