Recently when I reviewed Akasa’s awesome but flawed Galactico case for Skull Canyon, I had a few bones to pick with the design. True it was a wonder to behold in all its Star Wars-y goodness. But it was far too large to be practical, had an overly complex installation process, and didn’t offer a convenient way to access the board for upgrades.
This time around I’m looking at a case that takes the opposite approach: the PT14 case from SilverStone, designed for several older 4X4 NUCs.
SilverStone offers a wide variety of cases, not just for NUCs. They have several models for NUCs, and the PT14 is actually designed to fit multiple NUC boards. It’s important to know which board you have, too, because when you order that determines the port openings on the front and back. The PT14’s variants cover a number of boards, all from discontinued NUC models:
|NUC Board||PT14 Variant|
|DCP847SKE / D33217GKE||SST-PT14B-H2|
|D53427RKE / D53427HYE / D73537KK / DC73537SY||SST-PT14B-H1D2|
|D54250WYB / D34010WYB||SST-PT14B-H1D1|
Older NUCs are prime candidates for a new case, as years of service can lead to everything from dings and scratches to failed or noisy fans.
In my case, I had a D54250WYK (aka ‘Wilson Canyon’) that I wanted to install in a new case.
It’s an i5 model, so I was curious to see how well the case was able to cool it. i3s are easy enough to go fan-less, while i5s are a little tougher. For i7s, you’re probably looking at a much larger case.
Is it Fan-less or Not?
One thing about the PT14 is that it’s not actually fan-less. There’s a decent sized fan in the bottom of the case.
So why bother then, you might ask? Why put the board into another case if you’re still going to deal with fan noise? Well, the fan is only really there for those times when you’re taxing the system, and it doesn’t run under normal conditions. Unlike the stock NUC fan, which runs whenever the system is on, this one sits idle most of the time. Luckily, the fan is quiet…much quieter than the stock fan.
The PT14 is roughly the same size as the stock NUC case, with openings for the ports on the front and back. I like the ‘ribbed’ design very much, and the matte aluminum both looks and feels quite nice. It’s a simple, unassuming design.
There are round punch-outs on the far ends of the rear panel. These are to accommodate external antennas that can be purchased separately here.
If you don’t want to go with the external option, you can re-purpose the existing antenna leads from your stock case, though. That’s what I opted for, as the NUC isn’t going to be too far from my router. Luckily, with so many NUCs and NUC parts laying around my workbench I had a spare antenna cable to use, so I didn’t even need to remove the originals.
I like that the external antennas are optional. If you want them you just punch out the openings. If you don’t, you leave the punch-outs alone and they aren’t noticeable.
Looking at the case, simple is the word that keeps coming to mind for me. It doesn’t add any design elements, instead just making room for the NUC’s ports, power button, and LEDs. Simple works for me!
Simple describes the installation process too. The most time consuming part is removing the board from the stock case, and then cleaning off the original thermal paste. That can take a while. Once you’re down to the bare board, though, putting it in the PT14 is as easy as connecting the fan and antenna leads, peeling away the plastic from the new thermal compound that’s preinstalled, setting the board in place, and putting the case back together. A grand total of eight screws in the whole process.
Here’s a quick video of the installation. Hope you enjoy the music!
See what I mean? Pretty easy.
The thermal compound sits on a raised block of aluminum that’s part of the case. This should transfer the heat from the CPU and GPU through the paste and into the case, providing a good cooling solution.
With the board installed, the LEDs on the top of the case come through well enough, and the case’s power button has a good feel to it. All ports line up correctly and most of them look professional. My only (admittedly minor) complaint is the opening for the headphone jack. It looks a little clunky to me, probably because it’s a round port in a square hole.
I realize I’m nit-picking, but I’d prefer to see something closer to what you get on the stock NUC case. Otherwise the ports look great. I especially like the glossy dome that covers the IR sensor.
Houston, We Have A Problem
I connected the NUC and powered it on. I checked the temperature of the CPUs and found them to be running hot. This was concerning because I wasn’t even using an application at the time, just had Linux Mint sitting at the desktop. The fan case kicked in quickly, too. Before things got too hot to manage, I shut it down and opened the case back up. Upon removing the board from the case, I found what I think was the problem.
The preinstalled thermal paste was plenty thick to bridge the gap between the CPU and GPU and the case, but it didn’t fully cover the CPU. I’m not sure if this was an oversight during assembly, but I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it like that. So I set about cleaning all of the paste off of the chips and the case block. Then I used a dollop of Arctic 5 on both chips and reinstalled the board in the case. Once back together I powered it back on and found the temperatures were now well within the normal range. So, problem solved.
When under load the CPU got as high as 55 degrees Celsius, but it wasn’t enough to cause the fan to kick in. The case exterior does get warm, even hot to the touch. It wasn’t enough to burn me, but I was surprised at just how warm it was. Something to keep in mind when it comes to accessories. I wouldn’t want to set anything made of soft plastic on the case while in use.
You get to keep your mounting options with the SilverStone case. It includes a new mounting bracket, as the original NUC bracket won’t fit. The new bracket functions the same as the stock one.
So, again, you don’t lose any of the features of your NUC.
Apples and Oranges
As much as I’d like to compare the PT14 to Akasa’s Galactico, it really wouldn’t be fair. In nearly every way, this case is the polar opposite of the Galactico. For one thing, the Galactico has to cool an i7 CPU, while the PT14 is only cooling an i5. Where Akasa’s case is enormous, the PT14 is only slightly larger than the NUC’s original case. Where the Galactico’s installation made me want to grow some hair just so I could tear it out, the PT14 can be installed in a matter of minutes. And unlike the Galactico, SilverStone’s case makes it simple to access the board for future upgrades. It’s not going to win any beauty contests, but it also isn’t going to break your bank, going for under $50. It’s also not technically a fan-less case, as it has a fan that’s there as a last resort. But it didn’t seem to need the fan from what I could tell.
SilverStone’s PT14 case is a prime example of function over form. It doesn’t try to look exotic or be anything it isn’t. It’s a solid, ‘mostly’ passively cooled case. It’s easy to install, cools well, and fits nicely. Better yet, it lends itself to future upgrades by making memory, storage, and WiFi slots easily accessible. My only real gripe was that the thermal paste wasn’t properly positioned from the factory. My CPU wasn’t in any real danger, as Intel CPUs shut down when they get too hot. But I still didn’t like having to correct such a needless mistake. That aside, this is a very nice, if utilitarian case. If you’re in need of a new case for your older model NUC, you could do a lot worse than this one. It may not be sexy, but it gets the job done!