Regardless of budget, most system builders want a case that can handle enthusiast hardware while being cool, quiet and hopefully somewhat sexy. If a manufacturer can check those boxes and still be competitively priced then it likely has a winner on its hands.
With hundreds of models available, mid-towers are by far the most popular desktop chassis form factor, supporting most full-sized hardware including the ever abundant ATX motherboards and power supplies while typically costing only $50 to $75.
In most situations, any mid-sized enclosure in that price range will be adequate for a standard build, but Silverstone, Corsair and In Win have launched new contenders that are said to deliver the build quality, design, features and performance of pricier models.
We'll reserve final judgments for now but at first glance it's especially hard to believe that Silverstone's Kublai KL05 is south of $100, much less being in line with In Win's 703 at $65, while Corsair's $50 Carbide 100R seems smart if you're solely after a bargain.
Silverstone Kublai KL05 Design
The Kublai KL05's design straddles a middle ground between the elegant FT05 and the extremely aggressive RV05. It isn't boring to behold but it's also far from being over the top.
The KL05 weighs just 6.9kg which is quite light for a relatively large ATX case that has been built primarily out of steel and plastic. It measures 200mm wide, 494mm deep and 525mm tall, making it much taller than the previous model, while not quite as deep and thankfully not as wide. These changes make it appear far less bulky.
At this point we should note that there are two distinct versions of the KL05: the KL05B-W and KL05B-Q. Both are black but one is a quiet version while the other is a more aggressive windowed model with a mesh front grill.
As far as we can tell both cost the same amount. The KL05B-Q has been upgraded with foam padded side panels and a solid front panel, which helps reduce the amount of noise that escapes from the case, hence being the quiet version.
For review we have the KL05B-W, which is the more eye-catching of the two thanks to its acrylic side window and large dual fan grill at the front which shows off the blue LED fans.
Regardless of which version you choose, the front panel that covers the fans is removable, granting access to the dust filters. Above this panel are two external 5.25" bays and the front I/O panel, which features rather plain power and reset buttons along with the standard audio jacks and two USB 3.0 ports.
Moving to the top of the KL05 we find a large plastic top panel with a ton of ventilation. Both models have the exact same panel which is removable via a pair of thumb screws on the back of the case. Underneath is room for a large water-cooling radiator which technically would be mounted externally.
The right side panel can also be removed by a pair of thumb screws and other than the window it has no other noteworthy features. The opposite side door is much the same but without the window.
Around back, the KL05 is painted black as you would expect. At the bottom is the power supply bracket, followed by eight expansion slots and two circular holes with grommets for routing water-cooling pipes externally. Above all that is a 120mm exhaust fan mount and the motherboards I/O panel slot.
Laying the KL05 on its side reveals four circular feet on the bottom that raise the case 20mm off the ground. There is also a huge removable dust filter that filters air entering the power supply, as well as two optional fans.
With the side door removed we get our first look inside the Kublai KL05B. There is a lot less to talk about than on the outside as the inside is fairly basic. That said, all the important stuff is included such as tool-less drive cages, cable management features, motherboard socket access and plenty of opportunities for cooling upgrades.
Like the previous model, the KL05B's storage capabilities are decent, offering room for half a dozen 3.5" drives along with two 2.5" drives and two 5.25" devices. You can install six 3.5" and two 2.5" drives or eight 2.5" drives. Alternatively, a third 3.5" drive cage can be purchased as an optional extra, taking the 3.5' drive support to nine.
Those wanting to go with a multi-GPU setup are limited to graphics cards that are 280mm or shorter in length, assuming the 3.5" drive cages remain. By removing the drive cage(s) the KL05 can support cards as long as 406mm. Given that most high-end graphics cards are 280mm long or shorter, the KL05 should be able to handle a beefy GPU without having to sacrifie drive bays.
If you want to cram a heap of cards into the KL05 you will no doubt be interested in its cooling features.
Silverstone has thrown just a single 120mm blue LED fan into the package, which can be found mounted in the front of the case. Taking the relatively low price into account, we can't criticize Silverstone too heavily for this move.
Though the setup out of the box leaves a lot to be desire, the KL05 can be well equipped with room for two 120mm or 140mm in-take fans at the front, two 120 or 140mm top mounted fans, two 120mm bottom fans and a single 120mm exhaust fan at the rear.
While we have talked about the GPU length limitations it is also important to note the maximum CPU cooler height as well as the maximum PSU length. Those wanting to go with a heavy SLI or Crossfire setup will be happy to find room for a massive power supply stretching up to 225mm.
When it comes to CPU coolers, the KL05 encourages users to opt for a liquid cooling setup with that external radiator mounting location in the top of the case. That said, with a fairly generous 165mm of headroom, the very best air coolers such as the Prolimatech Megahalems and Noctua NH-D15 will fit.
The motherboard tray features a massive cut-out allowing for rear access to the CPU socket using a wide range of AMD and Intel motherboards. There are also a number of access points for routing cables behind the motherboard tray -- eight in fact. Also found behind the motherboard tray are two 2.5" drive cages which are handy for installing some speedy SSDs.
There is anywhere from 10 to 20mm of clearance behind the motherboard tray for routing cables and we will look into this in greater detail in the installation section coming up.
The KL05 includes the essentials for a case in this price range. You might not get much, but what you do get is of excellent quality. Furthermore although the bundled cooling is pretty weak, the cooling potential is exceptional. It was also nice to see that Silverstone didn't skip on storage, which we have seen a number of case makers do recently, most notably Corsair with their Obsidian 350D which supports just two 3.5" drives out of the box.
Silverstone Kublai KL05 Installation
Given that the Silverstone KL05 is pretty basic/standard inside, the installation process was straightforward. The handful of features that the case does have are included to make the installation process easier, such as the motherboard tray cut-out, cable management and tool-less parts.
First we installed a relatively large Intel X79 motherboard which fit easily enough, we then fitted it with the Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme. Even with this massive heatsink installed there is a surprising amount of room to move around in the KL05. We didn't find this with the FT05.
However, although the Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme is 165mm tall and the KL05 is said to take 165mm coolers, it was a tight squeeze to say the least. The heatsink presses against the case window and does cause the door to bulge out slightly. Therefore, while it is possible to squeeze big heatsinks like the Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme in, you really have to wedge them in.
Next we installed the power supply and this was a pretty straight forward affair. The ATX PSU is simply placed in the bottom of the case and the KL05 can either accommodate the PSU drawing in cool air from outside the case or using the air already inside.
With the power supply installed and hooked up to the motherboard we threw in a GeForce GTX 980 reference card, which fit nicely. There is no reason why you couldn't fit another or perhaps even three more.
Each of the dual 3.5" drive cages are armed with three tool-less drive caddies that make installing 3.5" drives a breeze, though using screws they can also accommodate 2.5" SSDs. The drives are mounted sideways so the power and data cables are accessed via the right hand panel. Silverstone has ensured that there is enough room for the cables to stick out the drives and not hit the case door.
The external 5.25" drive bays also feature a tool-less design that works well and enables users to quickly install devices into these bays.
The single 120mm LED blue fan connects using a standard 3-pin fan header power cable, so we plugged that directly into the motherboard.
Overall the KL05 is extremely easy to work with, supports a wide range of varied hardware and offers exceptional cable management.