Silverstone Grandia GD02-MT Case Page: 1
Introduction
 
Silverstone Grandia GD02-MT HTPC CaseHome Theatre PC's were going to be the next big thing a few years ago, if Microsoft were to be believed. When they released XP Media Centre Edition, a new breed of PC's appeared, which aimed to bring the PC into the lounge, and to unify the whole PC / home media experience from one central PC. Sales of these systems were very slow, partly due to the initially high prices, and partly because the consumer was slow to pick up on the new technology.
 
With the growth of home built PC's, the HTPC has seen a resurgance in popularity amongst enthusiasts. Also responsible was the falling prices in the required hardware. Most major PC case manufacturers offer some HTPC cases within their product range. Some are no more than a reduced sized enclosure, whilst others offer true HTPC friendly features. Today we are reviewing Silverstone's latest offering, the Grandia GD02-MT,  and we aim to see which catagory it falls into. But first, a little information on Silverstone.
 
About Silverstone
Silverstone Technology Ltd. was founded in 2003, and since then have consistantly brought to market attractive PC cases, both in terms of design, functionality and aesthetics. They have also generated some innovative solutions and gained a respectable reputation amongst PC enthusiasts. The SilverStone Technology’s philosophy is based on their recognition that merely having innovative expertise within the industry is not enough. Their objective is to ensure that their expertise is delivered to all products with consistency, in response to user’s needs, and with maximum user satisfaction.
 
So let's now move onto the subject of our review, the Grandia GD02-MT, which is classified as a Micro-ATX HTPC case. It features some welcome additions, which are ideal for HTPC use and we will be putting the case through it's paces. Firstly, let's take a look at the case's specifications, which we obtained directly from the Sliverstone website's product page.
 
Model:
SST-GD02B-MT (Black w/ multimedia + 4.3” touchscreen)
SST-GD02S-MT (Silver w/ multimedia + 4.3” touchscreen)
Material:Aluminum front panel & corners, SECC body
Motherboard Size:Micro ATX, DTX, Mini-ITX
Multimedia:4.3” touchscreen, IR, remote control with on/off function iMON media center software
Resolution:
Native resolution: 480 x 272
Supported resolution: 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768
Drive Bay:
External: Slim optical drive x 1, 3.5” x 1
Internal: 3.5” x 2 (vibration dampening)
Cooling System:2 x 80mm exhaust fan, 2050rpm
Expansion Slots:4
Front I/O Port:
USB2.0 x 2
IEEE1394 x 1
Audio x 1
MIC x 1
Power Supply:Optional Standard PS2(ATX)
Expansion Card:Compatible with expansion card up to 11.5 inch
Net Weight:7.86kg
Dimensions430mm(W)x155mm(H)x360mm(D)
 
Let's see what Silverstone have to say about their new offering on their product page:
 
Grandia represents brilliance, and SilverStone’s Grandia GD02 is certainly a brilliant chassis that seamlessly integrates innovation and aesthetics. For the first time, a unique optional 4.3 inch touchscreen makes a debut in a home theater PC enclosure along with a brand new multimedia interface. Its friendly interface allows users to easily control onscreen actions while also providing a dedicated media player right on the front panel. An HTPC enclosure also has never been so powerful yet so compact like the GD02. With a depth of only 360mm, it will comfortably fit inside home theater cabinets but still accommodate a regular sized power supply, Micro-ATX motherboard, and even high end graphics cards up to 11.5 inches. With exquisitely finished hair-brushed aluminum front panel and organic spherical appearance, GD02 is not only designed brilliantly but also looks brilliant.
 
So there are some big claims there, and we aim to see if they hold true or not.
 
Moving swiftly on to the next page, we shall discuss the packaging and contents of the product.


Silverstone Grandia GD02-MT Case Page: 2
Packaging & Contents
 
The case comes in a sturdy cardboard box, which is adorned with images of the case contained within. There is quite a bit of information printed on the box with all the major selling points being covered. On the top of the box is a picture of the case both in the black and aluminium finish, with some text highlighting the major features. The sides of the boxes give the specifications and and some short intro text. 
 
Grandia GD02-M2 Box Top Grandia GD02-MT Box Side
 
Upon opening the box, we found the contents to be well secured with foam and cardboard inserts. Under the top layer of card was the case, which I thought was wrapped in some black material. 
 
Grandia GD02-MT Box Inner 1 Grandia GD02-MT Box Inner 2
 
Once I removed the case from the box I realised that the material was in fact a drawstring bag. I'm not sure what use it could have after the case has been used, but it keeps the case in tip top condition during transit. Silverstone have also protected the front panel and LCD screen with a moulded plastic cover.
 
Grandia GD02-MT Case in Bag Grandia GD02-MT
 
Within the outer box was two smaller boxes. In one there was the accessories, and within the other was the remote control. We shall discuss the remote control further into the review. The accessories were as follows:
  • Driver CD ROM with iMon Software
  • Installation guide
  • Motherboard, PSU, HD, and CD/DVD screws
  • Motherboard stand offs
  • Allen key for top panel bolts
  • Slim Optical drive adapter & screws
  • 3pin to molex power adapter
  • 2 cable ties 
Grandia GD02-MT accessories Grandia GD02-MT Remote Control
 
All in all, the packaging was more than adequate and the box would have to be thrown around alot for the contents to be damaged. As LCD screens can be quite easily damaged, it was good to see that Silverstone had taken some consideration into protecting it during transit.
 
On the next page, we take a look at the case externals.


Silverstone Grandia GD02-MT Case Page: 3
External Impressions
 
The Grandia GD02-MT is designed for one purpose, to be a home theatre PC. It is available in two finishes, black and natural brushed aluminium. The sample we have for reviewing has the black finish. So let's take a closer look at the case externally, starting with the front panel. Dominating the front panel is the 4.5" LCD screen, which can be used as a controller for the PC as it is touch sensitive. Also on the front panel are the power switch and hard drive activity LED. There is a single DVD/CD bezel, with an aluminium slot cover just above the LCD screen.
  
GD02-MT Case Front GD02-MT Case Front with panel dropped
 
Located at the bottom of the front panel is a drop down cover, which is opened by pressing on it at the bottom right. It opens smoothly to reveal the front I/O sockets and a single 3.25" drive bay. The available sockets are:
  • 2x USB2.0
  • 1x IEEE1394
  • 1x Audio in
  • 1x microphone 
GD02-MT Case Front I/O Panel GD02-MT Case FDD Bay
 
Moving around the case, we will now take a look at the sides. Each side is finished in the same colour as the top panel and metal corners. Next, the top panel, which is the access point for the case innards, and is secured in place by four hex nuts in each corner. Considering the likely placement of the built system is going to be under your display on a stand, there was no need for the bling factor on the top and sides, and the finish of these does tie in well with the rest of the case. The side panels are vented, using a square cutout pattern, which should help with air flow within the built up PC.
 
GD02-MT Case Side GD02-MT Case Side 1
GD02-MT Case top GD02-MT Top Panel Fastening Nut
 
Lastly, we come to the rear panel, the business end. As the case is of the micro-ATX flavour, we weren't expecting PCI slots and fan mounts galore. There are 4x full sized PCI slots available, and 2x 80mm fan mounts. The fan mounts are utilised by the 80mm fans provided, and there are no more available mounts within the chassis. We shall discuss the cooling performance later in the review. The VGA lead for the front panel passes out from within the case to the rear panel and the slack can be adjusted with a plastic grommet attached to the cable.
 
 GD02-MT Rear Panel
 
Overall, the case looks very good and should easily be able to blend with your other AV equipment. The addition of the touch screen LCD makes what would be a plain looking case into something more visually pleasing. The finish applied to all exterior surfaces was excellent. 
 
So now we move on to the case interior, on the next page.


Silverstone Grandia GD02-MT Case Page: 4
Internal Impressions & Building The Rig
 
Looking at the interior of the GD02-MT, I knew from the outset that fitting all the components into it would be a tight squeeze. The case is around the same size as most AV components, so space is limited within. This limited space brings with it a few niggles when it comes to assembling the PC, and we shall discuss this more in detail later. First let's take a look at the interior of the case.
 
Upon removal of the lid, we can see that there is a large object spanning the case from front to rear. This is the DVD/CD drive caddy and it also acts as a strengthening support for the lid. Four screws hold this in place, and when removed the mass of cables for the front panel were exposed. There is quite an assortment within the case, with the usual fan, I/O, reset and power cables. In addition there are the power, USB and VGA cables for the LCD screen. Looking at the amount of cables is initially quite daunting.
 
GD02-MT Interior GD02-MT Interior 2
 
Cooling within the case is quite limited, with just two 80mm fans acting as exhausts, which are located in-line with the CPU on the rear panel. There are no other fan mounts within the case so the option to add more fans is non-existent, unless you are prepared to butcher the case. Although limited this shouldn't be a problem, considering the cases intended function. You can read our findings on how well the GD02-MT cools further on in this review.
 
GD02-MT Fans
 
The DVD/CD caddy holds a single slimline optical drive only, you cannot use a standard drive in this case. This is a bit of a bugbear, as Silverstone would have only had to raise the overall height of the case by around 15mm to be able to accomodate a full sized drive. For someone who is building their HTPC using parts already owned, having to buy a slimline drive would be an unexpected extra expense. I don't understand Silverstone's logic regarding the design and factoring out using a full sized optical drive. The caddy itself has the relevant mounting screw holes for a full sized drive, so maybe they did consider it?
 
To mount the optical drive, you need to remove the caddy and then remove the tray within the caddy. You attach the drive to the tray and fix the tray to the caddy. Unfortunately, we did not have a slimline optical drive to hand when reviewing the case, so we cannot show the drive fixed to the caddy.
 
 GD02-MT DVD/CD Drive Caddy GD02-MT Slimline DVD/CD tray
 
The hard drive cage can hold two 3.5" hard drives and Silverstone have provided anti-vibration rubber grommets on all mounting screw holes. The cage is located at the front of the case, in front of the PSU. This is where another problem cropped up, as the space between the PSU and the rear of the HD cage is very small. When attaching the molex connector to the HD, the molex plug only just managed to fit between the HD and the PSU.
 
GD02-MT Hard Drive Cage GD02-MT Hard Drive Cage with Hard Drive Fitted
 
The PSU tray has rubber standoffs to aid in reducing vibration noise, and the bottom is vented so you can use a PSU with a bottom fan either way up. The relevant mounting screw holes are there for either orientation. Due to the limited space available, only a standard sized ATX PSU, or smaller, can be used. As previously mentioned, when using a standard sized PSU, the space between the HD and PSU is incredibly limited.
 
GD02-MT PSU Tray GD02-MT PSU/HD Problem 
 
Now we have the task of putting our rig together. We have covered fitting the PSU and drives, let's now move on to the motherboard. Fitting the board was straight forward, and there were no unwelcome surprises. Once the board was fitted, I went about sorting out the mass of cables from the front panel. Considering that the case will only accommodate a micro-ATX motherboard, the lengths of the cables was more than enough.
 
There are the usual set of front panel cables to connect to the motherboard, and then there are the LCD screen cables. The screen draws power from the 24 pin motherboard PSU connector, and uses a splitter. One end slots into the motherboard's 24 pin connector and the other slots into the PSU 24 pin motherboard cable. Then there is a USB lead, and you can either use a standard USB socket or a motherboard USB header to connect it. The final cable to worry about from the LCD screen is the VGA cable which runs along the top edge of the case and is passed outside to be able to connect to the Graphics card.
 
GD02-MT Motherboard Fitted GD02-MT PSU & Motherboard Fitted
 
The only tasks left now in the build are to fit the graphics card, replace the optical drive caddy and put the lid on. It should be mentioned that cable management options within the case are very limited. The only way to tidy the mass of cables is to bunch them up as tidily as possible. Other than the already mentioned problems, the build was easy enough and the result was OK. If we had more time, and the case didn't have to be returned to the supplier, I would have considered shortening over-long cables and braiding them for a much tidier finish. Another thing worthy of mention is the fact that the case, although Micro-ATX and very limited in internal space, will fit a full sized modern graphics card in. I test installed my GTX280 and it fitted with no problems.
 
GD02-MT PSU,Motherboard, Optical & Hard Drives Fitted GD02-MT Build Complete
 
So now we have a completed PC, let's now put it through it's paces on the next page.


Silverstone Grandia GD02-MT Case Page: 5
The Media Centre Functions
 
As the GD02-MT is classified as a HTPC (Home Theatre PC), it's important that we discuss the case's Media Centre abilities. The most obvious starting point would be to discuss the 4.3" LCD touchscreen, which is located on the front panel. The screen has a native resolution of 800x600 and can be used to directly control media playback, as well as display media information and system settings. In addition, it can also display news feeds, weather amongst other things.
 
Using the screen requires a graphics card with two VGA or DVI outputs, and you connect the main monitor to the primary output and the case screen to the secondary. You then need to set the graphics card to dual monitor output. Once this is done. you install the supplied iMON software, and select which monitor the iMON software will run on. To be able to use the screen as a controller, you then need to calibrate the screen by touching points displayed on it. Set up was easy, and it worked well on Vista 64, which has had some problems with previous versions of the iMON software.
 
GD02-MT LCD Screen Setup Screenshot GD02-MT LCD Screen Calibration Screenshot
 
The iMON software is easy to navigate and alter to your preferences. The display has various background colours available, and you can alter the font type too. It's worth spending five or so minutes messing around with settings that best suit your preferences. Once the software is installed and configured, the screen is ready to use. The touch functions can be used to open and control shortcuts, media and settings. It really does work well and is a welcome addition to the case.
 
As mentioned, the screen also displays system properties and media information when in normal mode. For someone who is nearing middle age like myself, the displayed information would be too small in a lounge environment to be abe to read, unless you were sat a couple of feet away. That's the only gripe I would have for the display as it works flawlessly and lifts the case from being a vanilla PC enclosure to a true HTPC capable case.
 
GD02-MT LCD Normal Display mode GD02-MT LCD screen at work, whilst playing an audio track
  
Not content with just providing just a LCD screen, Sliverstone have also provided a remote control with the GD02-MT. You can use the remote to fully control your HTPC, and it has such features as: 
  • Virtual keyboard, with onscreen character/command selection
  • Mouse emulation, using a joypad and button on remote
  • Configurable Application shortcuts, hotkeys and macros
  • Full media playing control
  • Live TV control (channel changing, recording and playback) 
  • Power system On/Off
GD02-MT Remote Control GD02-MT Remote Control Picture2
 
It really has everything you would need to take control of your HTPC, and you should not need a keyboard and mouse. Inputting text can be a slow process witht the virtual keyboard, but I was surprised at how well the mouse emulation works.
 
GD02-MT Mouse emulation joypad close-up GD02-MT Remote shortcut buttons
 
Using the remote is simple and prety foolproof. I tested it out using Vista's in built Media Centre with my Hauppage TV card, and it worked extremely well. I have the Microsoft MCE remote controller and found the supplied Silverstone one to be more intuitive and pleasurable to use. For those who wish to use a HTPC without having to store a keyboard and mouse, the remote can be used to replace both, but it does take more time to perform functions such as web browsing etc.
 
iMedian HD Software
Bundled with the latest version of the iMon software is the iMedian HD application, which is basically a poor man's relative of the Windows Media Centre. From here you can view live and recorded TV, view or listen to media, view pictures and listen to the radio. For those without Vista Home Premium , Ultimate or XP MCE, it gives you a convenient way to mange all your media. If you do have the afore mentioned versions of Windows, the in built Media Centre is a much beter alternative.
 
If the PC you build using this case is to be used as a HTPC, then all of the above provide a great way to control and manipulate your media. I found everything above to be really simple to set up and use.
 
So now let's move on to testing the case...


Silverstone Grandia GD02-MT Case Page: 6
Testing the Case
  
We tested the case for it's cooling ability and for the levels of noise generated by the supplied cooling solution. To measure temperatures, I used Sisoft Sandra Engineer's Edition, and without any proper noise metering gadgets I had to rely on my ears to gauge noise levels. I recorded the CPU, motherboard and auxillary temperatures, and set fan speeds using the QFan feature within the motherboard's BIOS. I also noted the noise output at the different speeds too.
 
The range of fan speeds available with QFan were as follows:
  • Silent
  • Optimal
  • Performance
The components used to build the PC were as follows:
  • Asus P57NA-VM Socket 775 - Nvidia nForce 730i Chipset
  • Intel Pentium Dual Core E2200 with stock air cooler run at default clock of 2.2GHz
  • Geil Ultra DDR2-800 2x1GB at stock settings
  • Hitachi SATA II 150Gb HD
  • Powercolor ATI HD4850 with stock air cooler, run at stock speeds
  • Thermaltake Toughpower 750w Modular PSU
  • Windows Vista 64 SP1
GD02-MT Case cooling results at idle
 
GD02-MT Case cooling results under load
 
The results were taken from Sisioft Sandra Engineers Edtion. As you can see from the results, the cooling supplied by Silverstone is adequate, but there would be little room for overclocking. 
 
 
Noise output of the case fans
 
The noise generated by the two 80mm fans was not as bad as I originally feared. As one of the important neccessities of a HTPC is quiet operation,a noisy HTPC can ruin the experience of watching a movie or the TV. I did have some concerns over Silverstone's choice of fan size. Larger fans generate less noise and 80mm fans can be quite whiny sometimes.
 
The noise generated with the fan speed set to silent within the BIOS made the noise generated difficult to distinguish from the hard drive and CPU fan noise, so it would be very acceptable when the PC is in use within the lounge.
 
With the fan speeds set to optimal, the noise was barely any different from when they were set to silent.
 
At performance speed setting, the fans were very noticeable. At this level they would definitely prove a distraction when the PC was being used for media purposes.
 
All in all, the cooling abilty and noise output were acceptable. A HTPC doesn't have to have very powerful (and hot running) components to be able to function well, and in that respect the case will be more than adequate for cooling and noise levels.
 
Let's now move on to our final conclusions, on the next page.


Silverstone Grandia GD02-MT Case Page: 7
Final Conclusions
 
After spending a few days using the case, I still have mixed emotions with it. The media centre aspect of the case works well and is a pleasure to use. But the niggles I had with building the PC inside the case are still fresh in my mind. I feel that Silverstone could have resolved some of the issues at the design stage quite easily and without having to compromise on other aspects.
 
Take, for example, the very limited space between the PSU and the hard drive when installed. I cannot understand why Sliverstone did not pick up on this when the case was still in the design stage. The other bugbear is their choice to limit the DVD options to using only a slimline drive. As I mentioned, all that would have been needed was probably another 15mm raise in overall height to enable full sized drive useage. These points may seem quite petty, but when you consider the price point that this case is at, I find it to be more serious. If you are paying a premium for a case, you don't expect things like this.
 
That said, there are more positive points than negative regards the case. One of the biggest attractions for me was the LCD screen, which worked flawlessly. Although in real world useage, I could imagine it to become less useful as due to the screen size, you have to be pretty close to be able to read the display. It's definitely a talking point though. The remote control is another part of the bundle which works effortlessly and works well. In no time at all, I was changing channels on live TV, flipping between applications and I even managed some web browsing using the remote. The size of the case is also a bonus regarding aesthetics, as it could easily blend into a lounge environment and doesn't stand out like a sore thumb, which is always a good thing for the HTPC aficionados.
 
All in all, I was impressed with the overall package offered. When building, I did run into a few problems. Once built though, the case performed admirably, and I would recommend it to those considering bulding a HTPC. Pricing will be an issue to some, but when you consider that to buy the components seperately that are within this bundle, the price doesn't seem out of the way.
 
 
The Good  
+ Visually attractive & stylish
+ Great finish
+ Excellent HTPC functions
+ Compact and ideal for lounge environment
 
The Mediocre
* All steel construction (apart from front panel)
* Very limited cooling options
 
The Bad
- Poor cable management
- A couple of design flaws
 
 
 
 
Our thanks go out to Silverstone for providing us with the Grandia GD02-MT for review. Discuss this review in our forums.