When NVIDIA released the GeForce GTX 580 graphics card they sent along another review item from Digital Storm Online, a boutique system builder with a taste for the extreme. The reason NVIDIA was interested in the review: inside was a pair of GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards running in SLI. The reason we were interested in the review: it was going to be wicked fast.
The Black Ops Assassin is built around a version of the Raven RV02 chassis from Silverstone and features air movement that is entirely from bottom to top with a twisted interior. You'll understand when you see the inside images.
The side of the case that usually opens up to the system components is actually reversed here and you can see that the all metal finish on the case is matte black, a positive sign for those of us that despise fingerprints.
Here you can start to see the goods that make up this high-performance system as well as the front panel that includes a Blu-ray drive and a dual-5.25-in bay combination water cooling reservoir and pump system for the CPU cooler. The window on the side is a nice touch as well; after all if you are spending this much bank on your hardware you might as well show it off.
Well well, what do we have here? The back of the case holds an external triple-120mm radiator and fan combo that permits some pretty extreme water cooling options. Unfortunately, the fans weren't as quite as we would have liked in their default settings but that could be adjusted if the user desires.
Up on top of the case we find the power/reset buttons and LEDs as well as a pair of USB 2.0 ports and audio input/output connections.
Removing the panel behind it reveals the connections we are used to seeing at the back of the case for keyboards, monitors, power supply, etc.
The Silverstone chassis design rotates the motherboard, and all other attached components, 90 degrees clockwise. This complicates things a bit with your usual USB accessories, but the cooling benefits are worth it.
I only had a single major complaint with this design and that comes into play here: the water cooling tubing that extends from inside the case and out the back to the reservoir is very thick and that takes up a good portion of the space where you would normally run your monitor cables, mouse/keyboard cables and power cable. Getting the power cable in to be plugged in to the rear-mounted power supply was particularly troublesome and if you were planning on connecting 3-4 displays to this system you might have to do more cable management than you are used to.
Removing the door on the side shows us that all the headaches of setup are probably worth it - everything from the power supply to the graphics cards are top notch.
One of the most important things to me with cases recently is that all of the air intake is properly filtered; and the Digital Storm Black Ops Assassin does a good job there with three large filters below the bottom intake fans. The only issue I have here is that you have to remove the top panel and take of a side door in order to access them.
And these fans are indeed huge! The take up essentially the entire bottom of this expansive case and run at a low enough speed to keep air moving but noise levels down to manageable levels.
The storage capacity of the case is limited 5 internal drives that are in nice little bays though they are not hot swappable - standard cables are connecting them to the system on the other side. And while 5 3.5-in bays should be enough for most users I would have liked to see a bit more expansion capability.
This high-flow Swiftech CPU water block is doing a bang up job of keeping the overclocked Intel Core i7-980X and its 6 processing cores cool even with the increased clock speed of 4.4 GHz.
The 6GB of Corsair XMS memory runs at 1600 MHz without a hiccup and looks good while doing it on the ASUS Rampage III Extreme motherboard.
Of course, let's not forget the pair of GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards running in SLI that give this system among the fastest graphics platforms available.
Also notice how dominate the water cooling tubing is - this thicker option gives the system higher flow for more cooling capability but it definitely hides some of the other components more than we'd like.