We present an effective approach to evaluate the performance of multi-channel silicon (Si) photonic systems. The system is composed of strip Si photonic waveguides (Si-PhWs) with uniform cross-section or photonic-crystal (PhC) Si waveguides (Si-PhCWs), combined with a set of direct-detection receivers. Moreover, the optical field in each channel is the superposition of a continuous-wave nonreturn-to-zero ON-OFF keying modulated signal and a white Gaussian noise. In order to characterize the optical signal propagation in the waveguides, an accurate mathematical model describing all relevant linear and nonlinear optical effects and its linearized version is employed. In addition, two semi-analytical methods, time- and frequency-domain Karhunen-Loève series expansion, are used to assess the system bit-error-rate (BER). Our analysis reveals that Si-PhCWs provide similar performance as Si-PhWs, but for 100× shorter length. Importantly, much worse BER is achieved in Si-PhCWs when one operates in slow-light regime, due to the enhanced linear and nonlinear effects.