Let’s forget about the motherboard form factor for a minute. What I really need in the end is a PC housed in a small chassis. It doesn’t really matter if the motherboard is an ATX one as long as the volume and the weight of the PC is small.
The obvious choice is a mini-ITX chassis. But there are some micro-ATX cases that fit the occasion as well. The Sugo line of cases from Silverstone is a prime example. Especially the two higher-end models - the SG09 and the SG10. They are quite unique in their internal organization like many of the mini-ITX cases. They kind of follow the design philosophies of the Raven RV03 that I currently own and am quite eager to get rid of because of the overwhelming size of it. Except for the 90 degrees rotated motherboard tray and the actual direction of the movement of air, the design decisions applied to the Sugo SG09/SG10 and Raven RV03 are pretty similar. Power supply in the front, storage area behind the motherboard tray and targeted at air cooling with a lot of positive pressure using the "air penetrator" fans.
What's amazing is, you can pack a lot of components in it and still manage to keep the small footprint. They take up only 23 litres of real-estate in space. Being compatible with micro-ATX motherboards means you can build an extremely high-end PC in it. Something like the Core i7 4960x, 32GB RAM, dual GTX 780Ti's etc. would fit just fine. The only issue would be that you cannot for a 240mm radiator in there so you are limited to 120mm all-in-one water coolers like the H80i with them. You are probably better off going with an air cooler after all. In fact, you can sneak in a dual tower cooler like the Noctua NH-D14 in there if your other components permit. But Silverstone has a cooler designed for this case alone - the HE01 dual tower cooler with the high-static-pressure generating fan in the middle. You won't have any problems with RAM clearance with that cooler. But I haven't done enough research to say anything about the clearance with VRM heatsinks. Since micro-ATX boards don't require those fancy daughter boards all over the place, I believe we won't have a clearance issue. Yet, it is too early to come into a conclusion about cooler best fits the case. It requires more analysis.
But there is one thing that's bad about these cases. This is more applicable to the old SG09 model than the newer SG10 model but it is still present to in the SG10 as well. The looks! The front of the case is horrible looking. Like an old train engine from the 18th century. One thing Silverstone doesn't get right is the aesthetic aspect. This could be a deal breaker for a lot of people. It has completely ruined the case. The SG10 is a bit better, but still way off from what you would consider as a beautiful design.
The front face of the SG09 is on the left and the SG10 is on the right.
Funny thing is, a guy has managed to design a better “face” for the case, using CAD. I wish Silverstone would incorporate that into the SG11 case – if such case is in the making. The following is that design and it is indeed “shut up and take my money” material. Visit this link to see the entire design blueprints.
But I don’t care much about the looks. As long as it does the job, I’m happy. In fact, people say that the looks aren’t that bad in person. So it is not the end of the world. The SG10 is better looking, but the price difference between the two cases is substantial. It is about $30. That’s a steep premium to pay for slightly better looking front face and an improved fan on the roof. But, before I buy either of the cases, I first have to sell my Raven RV03 case. Nobody has bid for the case so far though. I’m wondering if I should lower the price a little bit more now or wait for the Devil’s Canyon chips to come out first. I shall wait a bit. I’ve actually more pressing matters to take care, these days.