The list of case names from Cooler Master reads like an honour role. We all know of the practiacally legendary Cosmos, the CM690, the HAF and of course the new darlings in the form of the Storm and Stryker. What perhaps isn't so well known is that with the Silencio series Cooler Master also bring us a range of 4 sleek elegant "silent" cases.
We reviewed the smaller 550 back in May 2011 and found that although a good case it was lacking in several areas, most noticeably the cable management. The Silencio 650 is the flagship of the range and like the smaller 500 is in style terms about as far away as it is perhaps possible to get from it's better known, more "shouty" Brethren
But silence it would appear is not the 650's only claim to fame. A host of handy and well thought out features appear to spatter the product specification, from selectable booting, to fast charging for portable devices he Silencio does look like it has quite a deal to offer. For more of a taste lets take a look at the full Specification and features.
Full Midnight Black
Aluminum Alloy, Synthetics, Steel
Dimension (W / H / D)
207 x 479 x 525.6mm / 8.1 x 18.8 x 20.7 inch
13.0 kg / 28.6 lb M/B Type Micro-ATX, ATX
5.25" Drive Bay
3 (w/o the use of exposed 3.5" drive bay)
3.5" Drive Bay
7 (hidden) + 1 (for X-Dock bay)
2.5" SATA HDD Drive Bay
2 (hidden) +1 (for X-Dock bay)
USB 3.0 x 2 (int.), USB 2.0 x 2, Mic x 1, Audio x 1 (supports AC97/HD Audio), SD card reader x 1
Front: 120mm fan x 2, 1200 RPM, 17 dBA / 140mm fan x 1 (optional)
Standard ATX PS2 / EPS 12V Maximum Compatibility
VGA card length
268.0 mm / 10.5 inch (with HDD cage)
CPU cooler height
168.0 mm / 6.6 inch
Up Close Exterior: Overview and Roof
As with the majority of Cooler Master products the Silencio 650 comes packaged in a white box with what I'm starting to think of as "Cooler Master Purple" highlights. The box gives a representation of the case inside as well as details of key features and specifications. Once open we find the case securely packed in a polythene bag and held tightly between expanded polystyrene end caps. This case had done a fair few miles to get here and arrived perfectly intact, indicating the packaging had done it's job.
As alluded to in the introduction, and as we might expect from the name, the Silencio 650 is not one of Cooler Masters more extrovert offerings. Far from it in fact. The Silencio's styling is very much minimalistic class and refinement. You won't be finding any case windows here, or even vented side panels for that matter. The point of this case is, as a submariner might put it "Silent running". To eliminate as much noise as possible and provide the owner with a working environment free from the humm and whine usually associated with a working PC. Of course if that's the aim, the fewer holes in the enclosure the better. As a result, what we see of the case initially is a sleek black exterior with just the odd hint that there's more under the skin. There are no external drive bays on show, with a thick Aluminium door closing magnetically providing both visual and accoustic cover for what lies behind.
So we don't get a window and we don't get any side vents, but don't go assuming that just because we can't see features on the exterior of the case that there aren't any. In fact, as you'll see from the detail below thare's actually quite a lot going on here. First up then has to be the front I/O panel. Hidden by a sliding panel at the front edge of the roof of the case, inside we find not just the usual array of Audio and USB (2xUSB2 and 2xUSB3 as well as support for AC97 and HD Audio). We also find a fan controller and a SD card reader. That's not all though. Cooler Master have also rather thoughtfully included a slider which permits the user to switch between two HDDs at boot up, essentially permitting a hardware switchable dual boot system to be installed and easily operated.
As you'll have noticed from the above images, the rear of the roof also sports it's own sliding panel. This time covering an additional area of venting, should you wish to exhaust a little more air from the case. Although this is a vent, there's no fan on the other side of it. I'm inclined to think this is less of a money saving measure and more of a technique for minimising the total noise output of the case.
Up Close Exterior: Front, Rear and Sides
With the front door removed (We'll come back to it later) we get a better view of the front bay and ventilation area. Starting at the top Cooler Master have provided two traditional 5.25" bays, with the 3rd given over to a hot swap bay with a flip up door enabling the insertion of both 3.5" and 2.5" drives. Moving down the front we come to the main air intake area. Two 120mm non LED fans (LEDs in this case, I don't think so) are vertically stacked outboard of the internal 3.5" bay area.
The fans themselves are filtered by means of a removable dust filter panel. This can be either brushed or washed at appropriate intervals. The filter panel is shown below removed from the bay area.
The rear of the case is a pretty standard fare, Starting at the top and working our way down we find two grommeted holes for watercooling tubing, the rear I/O area and a mesh covered 120mm fan grill. Further down we find 7 unvented expansion bay slots with an additional vertical slot off to the right for devices that do not require to be attached to the motherboard. At the very base of the case lies the cut out for the PSU.
So before we turn our attention to the interior lets take a look at the base of the case, along with some of the methods Cooler Master have employed to keep sound to a minimum with the Silencio 650. Perhaps the least sexy part of any case, the base does have a critical role to play with regards to performance characteristics. With the Silencio Cooler Master have gone for two very long sturdy linear feet along each edge, their rubber coating giving good stability and vibration dampening. A long channel with a removable air filter provides ample ventilation for any size of PSU and an optional base mounted fan if your're that way inclined. The image on the top right image of those below is vying for the position of "least sexy image" in this review, that said, the two below it are giving it a run for it's money. In fact all three are perhaps the most important images in the review, because taken as a whole they depict the sound dampening foam that Cooler mater have employed to keep down the din of a fully functional PC. The foam is high density of the sort you might find employed in the auto industry, with the addition of egg-boxing on the left side panel door to further enhance the effect. A cut out in the foam has been left to the rear of the CPU area, presumably to aid heat dissipation. Returning to door (didn't think I'd forgotten did you), the two small circles you can see are magnets that hold the door in the closed position. Noticed that they're on both sides? That's because the door is reversible. Clever eh.
Up Close Interior: Overview and Drive bays
The interior of the Silencio 650 although compact is not cramped. Able to accept GPUs up to268mm (10.6")in length without removing any drive racks, or up to 434mm (17.1") with the removal of the upper rack it certainly has the potential to house pretty much any of today's large GPUs.
A large CPU cut out dominates the interior of the case, down the right of the motherboard area there are two large grommeted cable management holes, with a third even larger along the base. Although large the holes aren't particularly well spaced, falling awkwardly for many motherboards which will have the 24pin socket approximately half way along the side of the board. The lower cut out, again large is also positioned slightly too far towards the rear of the case, leading to a portion of it being covered when using larger PSUs. Even if your PSU doesn't occlude this hole there's still going to be one hell of a 90 degree bend to get your cables through as they exit to the rear. As there's no other cut out, it's also necessary to bring all the front I/O cables back through this aperture, making for some very crowded cable management up front and at the rear.
We know from the exterior that Cooler Master have provided us with a total of 3x5.25" bays, with the lowest one being given over to accepting hot swap 3.5" and 2.5" Drives, something Cooler Master refer to as X-Dock. From the inside we get a better view of the supporting mechanism along with the tool-less device for the upper bays. It is however something of a shame that Cooler Master have chosen to go for a green PCB as opposed to a black one. It's little details like these that can make all the difference with regards to presentation.
Should you have a penchant for rotating your 3.5" drive bays through 90 degrees be assured that with the Silencio 650 this desire is catered for. Releasing the same 4 screws that enable the rack to be removed also enable it to be rotated and re inserted. The lower dive bay can be removed only by drilling out the rivets. I guess if you wanted, you could get a 240mm Rad in the front here, but it would take a fair bit of modding and most likely you'd have to sacrifice the lower 5.25" bay, and of course all your 3.5" bays. As it is, the 2 very quiet 120mm fans are separated from the drive bays by metal stand offs, which presumably improve their cooling characteristics. It's also worth noting that should wish to add a bit more umph to the air after it has passed through the 3.5" drives it is possible to mount a 120mm fan on the inboard aspect of the upper drive bay rack.
We can remove em, we can rotate em, but how do we insert em? Well you simply screw them old school style into the black sleds that then slide neatly into the racks. Alternatively, and possibly more old school is the method of attaching runners to either side of the HDD and sliding it in. Don't get me wrong, I like old school, simple engineering is good engineering, and usually a site more robust. What is strange however is that very little concession is made towards vibration dampening. Strange in a case that sets it's sights firmly silence.
Up Close Interior: Roof, Rear, Base and Reverse
As with the front door and the side panels, the roof has been sound proofed with the addition of low profile, high density egg box foam. A cut out area to the rear allows us to obtain an alternate view of the roof vent. The vent has mountings for 120mm and 140mm fans but none is provided. There's also has a mesh filter which seems odd as I can only ever think of it being used as an extract (why would we want to stop dust leaving the case?). Turning the corner and making our way down the inside rear of the case we see that Cooler Master have provided a 120mm extract fan. Like the intakes at the front this is a low RPM, low noise fan, designed to get the air out with the minimum of fuss.
Sliding silently down the back of the interior we reach the PCI slots, seven of them in fact, with an additional vertical bracket should you need to find a hone for a device that does not require attaching to the motherboard. The very base of the case will prove a comfortable home for your PSU. With ample anti vibration strips it's able to accommodate the largest PSUs on the market. A vented and filtered air intake below the PSU mount also ensures a plentiful supply of clean air to your hot and hard working PSU. Anterior to the PSU mount there's an additional vented and filtered intake area resplendant with holes for a 120mm fan, should you wish to commit the heinous crime of adding a fan to the floor of your case.
And so to what to make of what many think of as the least interesting part of a case. For us though the rear area is of critical importance. The quality of the cable management and wiring job you're able to do relies so heavily on this area and if you're looking to produce a tidy job round the front you should really be spending more time round the back. There are two numbers that are of importance to us here. The number of cable tie points, and the amount of space available. Unfortunately the Silencio disappoints us slightly on both counts, just 15mm of space means it's going to be tight, and crossing wires over or under the 24 pin ATX will bring us very close to having a bulge in the side panel. Add into that the 3-4mm of sound dampening foam on the inside of the side panel and things start to look really bleak. The cable tie points themselves are actually large, which although on the face of it could be seen as generous and helpful is really unnecessary, and with only 10 of them to work with a tidy cable job is going to be so much harder.
By now you've probably noticed the green PCB sitting towards the bottom left hand corner of the rear of the case. You may also have worked out that this is indeed the PCB that enables the lower HDD drives to also be used as hot swap bays for both 3.5" and 2.5" drives. What you might not have realised is that it's this bit of circuitry that permits two HDDs to be independently selected by the switch on the front I/O, essentially enabling a dual boot system at the flick of a switch. Now all this is grand, it really is, but why in the name of holy circuit boards didn't they make it from a black PCB. Yes I know it won't be seen, and yes I know in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter, but as Elvis once famously said "It sticks out like a Turd in a Punch bowl".
Before we crack on with the build lets first take a little look at the instructions and accessories. If you're the sort that reverts to reading instructions (i.e. not a real man) then having a nice clear set to go by is always a plus. The instructions with the Silencio come in the form of a booklet, and although the images are small they are plentiful and informative, taking you through each step of the assembly and options. Accessories wise you get the usual bags of screws and stand offs, along with 12 cable ties, a buzzer, intrusion lock bracket and a large amount of HDD mount brackets. OK, not a great deal of accessories, but it's all you really need.
Although the inside of the Silencio is not cavernous, it's by no means restrictive even for those with joints of ham for hands. Things are pretty tight up at the top of the case, and with just 35mm of space between the roof and the motherboard edge, you're not going to be putting a rad up there any time soon, but then that's not really the point of this case.
We were a little concerned with regards to the spacing of the cable management holes as they appeared to straddle the point on a motherboard at which most 24pin ATX sockets are located. Although we did have to flex our cable down quite a bit to make it from the aperture to the socket it wasn't exactly a disaster. None the less, three holes down the vertical edge as opposed to two would have been a much better lay out.
Things do get a little tight down at the bottom of the case. With the single bottom edge management hole located quite far back in the case you don't have to to have a massive PSU before you're starting to cover some of it up. Here we've used the 180mm long Cooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid 850, which as you can see covers up about a 1/5th of the hole. Ok, that's not a lot, but there's going to be a lot of cabling passing through it. Not just your cables leaving the PSU, but also your data cables coming back through from the front I?O. So when it's your only hole it needs to be as big as it can be. as you've got a lot to stuff into it. (We'll stop there as we're in danger of slipping into the land of "double entendre").
Although a slim case at 207mm the Silencio 650 is still able to accomodate coolers up to 168mm in height. For demonstration we've used the Havik 120, which at 160mm fit's with a few mm spare at the top. We have to remember that this isn't a balls out gaming case, and as such it's not designed to take massive tower coolers.
With the upper HDD cage left in the Silencio is still able to accept GPUs up to 269mm (10.5") in length. Should you want to slot in a monster then removing the upper HDD rack extends the depth available to 434mm (17.1"). if you can get by with 3 HDDs then the removal of the upper rack is probably the better option as it will also improve through case air flow.
Performance, Testing and Conclusion
If you've read the rest of the review you'll already have a good idea about what we're going to be saying here. If you haven't, then shame on you for skipping to the conclusion page. First then is to agree that this case is not out there to compete with the balls out gaming cases with massive ventilation and options for water cooling. No, it's designed to sit on you desk, looking cool and quietly going about it's business. That's not to say it doesn't have the capability to house a top end system and large GPUs, it can, and it does. The 650 is perhaps the case for the more mature gamer, or maybe the chap (or chapess) who out of necessity has to home their PC in their lounge or dining room where having something sleek and elegant won't make it stand out like a turd in a punch bowl.
Aesthetics wise then, we can pretty much agree that this is a mature sleek unit. Even the front I/O panel and rear vent have simple and elegant sliding covers to keep the contents from offending us. The lines of the side panel and front of the case are not be-spoiled by the intrusion of windows or fan mounts, and not a glimpse of hex mesh is to be seen. Quality is good as we've come to expect with Cooler Master products, with no rough edges or imperfections of any sort. The thick Aluminium front door closes with a reassuring magnetic click, and should you want to swap things about, it can even be hinged on the alternate side. Behind the front door lies a comprehensive fan filtering system nestled beneath three 5.25" bays one of which offers hot swap capabilities for 3.5" and 2.5" drives. Inside the case, things aren't quite so rosy, with a less than ideal layout of the cable management holes, and a bit of a sparsity of cable tie points around back. That said, you will be able to lob in a decent cooler (up to 168mm in height), and should have no trouble housing a large GPU should you so desire. Ample storage is provided by 7 HDD bays, 2 of which benefit from hot swap functionality. The upper rack, holding a maximum of 4 HDDs can be rotated 90 degrees, or removed completely, upping the max GPU length available from 10.5" to 17.1". Down in the rear corner we find the home of the PSU Ample rubber isolation pads mean that you will be able to slot in the largest of PSUs, but beware covering up the bottom cable management holes as they're your only way in and out for a great many of your cables. Seven expansion bays and an additional vertical bay for those devices not requiring motherboard connection should be plenty for most users and a brace of tubing routing holes enable external water cooling set ups to be used if you absolutely have to ruin the looks of the case.
The build itself was a simple enough affair, but we were left a little wanting for cable tie mounts and were more than a little perplexed by the layout of the routing holes, albeit with some of the best quality grommets we've seen. The absence of a lower hole along the vertical edge of the motherboard, and the location of the only hole along the base of the motherboard being quite posterior relative to the PSU meant that that lower hole became very crowded indeed. Not only would all the power cables leave through it, but all the front I/O cables would have to enter through it also.
In use the Silencio 650 is a delight, and it's here that it really comes into it's own. The extensive use of high density foam sound proofing combined with a high build quality throughout and the use of very quiet fans (17dB-A at 1200rpm) means that what we have on our desk top is as close as we've heard to a silent PC. It even manages to pretty much muffle the noise of the fan on our test GPU.
The Silencio 650 is far from perfect but it does come close. Aside from the issues we have mentioned above there are a few thorns in its side in the form of the Corsair 550 and the Fractal define R4. Both the Cooler Master and the Corsair can be had for similar money, with the R4 offering it's silence for in the region of £30 less. The R4 is a good case in it's own right and with regards value for money perhaps has the two more expensive cases beaten. That said, the Corsair and the Cooler Master do offer more for your money with additional features and arguably higher build quality. Whether you go for the R4, the Cooler Master or the Corsair will depend a great deal on personal preference and finances. They are all sleek, they are sexy, and are very well build and they are all very quiet. They have about the same amount of storage and can accommodate the same size coolers and GPUs. The Corsair has better cable management and more cable tie mounts with more management holes in more sensible places, but then the the Cooler Master has more features. It offers hot swap and dual boot, it has a fan controller where the 550 doesn't.
We're not going to tell you which of these to buy, that's not our role. What we will say is that if you get the Silencio 650 you won't be disappointed. It's sleek, it's elegant, it's well made, it's quiet and it can house a decent gaming rig without getting so hot the paint melts off the outside. Subjectively we would award this case a gold as we like it a lot however objectively, and as Cooler Master have not entirely addressed all the weaknessess of the Silencio 550 the main one of which was the cable management we can really only offer a silver. Close, damn close. It does however receive the Silence award for what is undeniably fantastic sonic performance.
Thanks to Coolermaster for the Silencio 650 on test here today, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.