We’ve looked at a great deal of mini-ITX kit recently, and for us here at bit-tech it’s looking like one of the most exciting sides of the industry right now, with the promise of squeezing full ATX features into the smallest of form factors – who wouldn’t want a full gaming PC in a box a fraction of the size of a conventional case after all?
Impressive Mini-ITX motherboards like J&W Minix 780G and more recently Zotac’s GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi have now brought support for AM2 and LGA 775 processors to the platform, along with PCI-Express x16 slot, blowing the door wide open for mini-ITX to become a more mainstream motherboard format in much the same way as micro ATX has done.
However, while these boards have been on sale for a while now, compatible cases to house your pint sized gaming system have been less forthcoming, with very few, if any mini-ITX cases able to accommodate the full size PCI-E graphics card and decent sized CPU cooler of high specification mini-ITX motherboards. Allow us then to introduce then the SilverStone SG05 – the first mini-ITX case made specifically for this task.
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As you can imagine for a solely mini-ITX case, the SG05 is extremely small, measuring just 222 mm (W) x 176 mm (H) x 276 mm (D). That’s comfortably smaller than the latest generation of Shuttle SFF barebones systems, especially in terms of depth. The diminutive black box of the SG05 is also pretty stylish into the bargain, with the smooth clean lines that’s come typify SilverStone’s chassis.
However, there is a large area of pre-cut ventilation holes on every side of the SG05, which somewhat spoils the overall appearance a little, especially as the side panel and roof ventilation holes are so wide, easily allowing you to peer into the SG05’s grey metal innards. While we fully appreciate that putting lots of hardware with high thermal demands into such a confined space demands plenty of ventilation (just look at the Akasa Enigma for how not to cool a mini-ITX system), it does detract from the SG05’s otherwise clean design.
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The flat front fascia, made of plastic, is dominated by a large central 120mm ventilation grill for the appropriately sized dust filter equipped to the intake fan beneath. This delivers plenty of airflow to the compact components directly behind, while remaining relatively quiet to boot. However, due to the case’s low height, this size choice has meant that there’s no room for a full size 5.25” or exterior facing 3.5” drive bay, and the SG05 sports just a single external slimline optical drive slot, adding an extra £30 cost for a compatible slimline DVD-RW drive. The front fascia is also home to the SG05’s power and reset buttons, along with headphone and microphone ports and a pair of USB ports sleekly included along the size – a perfectly acceptable array of front panel connectivity, considering its micro dimensions.
The rest of the SG05’s exterior is made of black painted steel, with the sides and roof all part of a single length of bent steel that slides off to the rear. Sadly though the steel isn’t of the highest quality and bows easily, even when just picking up or taking a firm finger to the meshed sections it certainly doesn't seem as strong as a Shuttle casing. Ideally we’d have liked the whole case to be wrapped in the same awesome aluminium SilverStone uses for its high end ATX cases like the TJ07 or FT01, which is both solid and gorgeous to the touch, but the SG05’s steel and quite tacky plastic construction, while ultimately sound for the job, is disappointing in comparison.