Silverstone branches out

Written by Brett Thomas

January 9, 2008 // 2:30 p.m.

Tags: #analog-audio #ces-2008 #dac #events #microsoft #nvidia #sideshow #silverstone #speakers

Those of you who are familiar with my case decisions know that Silverstone is probably my favourite case designer of all time. The sleek look and clean frames are attractive on their own or easy to mod if you choose. But, try as I might, it's often hard to think of the company outside of cases except for the excellent NT-06 cooler.

At least, until today. Silverstone showed me three very interesting devies that it's been working on that branch very far out from cases. I was quite impressed with a couple of them, and I think that you might be as well.

First up was a set of audio accessories for the PC. The EB01 (retailing in a few weeks) is a USB driven DAC, or Digital to Analog Converter. The EB01 pulls digital sound information from the USB port and translates it to an analog equivalent. Then, the EB02 unit (sold separately) takes the feed and ports it out to the speaker connections on the back - which are designed for proper speakers, as in RCA and wire jacks like you connect to your stereo.

The combined units will retail for around $250 US (no EU pricing yet) and should be available in the next couple weeks in the States and by mid-February in the EU. Silverstone designed the product in order to fill what the company considers to be a horrible deficiency in PC audio - the speakers. It seems that no matter what high end sound product you have, you still have to port out to tinny little speakers or expensive, high-end head units with digital inputs. Needless to say, we'll tell you more about it as soon as we have them in our eager hands.

Next up was a mouse that Silverstone has been working on - it contains more bells and whistles than you can imagine, including a thumb wheel that is designed for the Vista alt-tab replacement. Button placement is really not like much that you've seen before, including two spare buttons down the right edge as well as the wheel and extra buttons on the left. The "palm" spot of the mouse is made of carbon fibre, which is actually a bit of a hint of what's to come from the company case-wise.

Though the general idea is pretty nice, it overall feels a bit too big to use and could be hard to justify for those who like a light, fast mouse. As a gaming feature, the mouse actually has five different "program modes" (for different button functions) and can control the resolution of each axis independently. However, I go back to the fact that it is so big (though comfortable) that I could hardly imagine someone that doesn't have quite a bear paw for a hand thinking it's fast enough to game with.

Next, the company is releasing a bay-insert that is a Microsoft Sideshow device. The insert is actually removable (it's technically a mini-USB connection) and able to be taken around as a Bluetooth remote for the computer. It also has 1GB of memory on-board to carry MP3s, pictures, or videos, should you like. It's not a lot, but it's plenty to tool around the house with for a little while while you're away from your desk. The unit even has a little easel so that it can be stood up like a picture frame.

Finally, for all of you ESA nuts, Silverstone is hearing the call. The TJ-10 is undergoing the addition of an ESA board for fan control and will be sold as a special model (the five large green-LED case fans are included). As well, Silverstone has received the nod from Nvidia and the ESA group to sell an ESA commander bay insert to control fans on cases that were purchased before ESA was created. The commander will not be certified (as there is no knowledge of what case you could put it in), but it will allow people to get the benefits of ESA in a case that they already own.

So, it looks like we'll be seeing quite a bit from Silverstone in 2008. Personally, I'm quite excited about the audio product, but does any of this grab your attention? Let us know in the forums.

The audio units EB01 and EB02 stack to form a nice little controller on your desk, sending sound from USB to proper stereo speakers.

The Sideshow double-bay screen can be completely removed from the case to function as a remote or portable media player.

The TJ-10 now comes in an NVIDIA-branded ESA version. For cases that aren't already ESA compatible, Silverstone will release an ESA commander bay insert.