Introducing the SilverStone FT03

Case testing is back at AnandTech with fresher, stricter, and much more thorough testing, and we're kicking it off with a doozy. We had a chance to meet with SilverStone back at CES, and their reps generously allowed us to "call dibs" on what was easily one of the most interesting enclosure designs at the show, the FT03. Since then it's been sitting cheerfully in my living room awaiting assembly and testing while we put together our testbed and settled on proper testing methodologies, and now the wait is over. The mad scientists over at SilverStone have produced a number of unique and memorable enclosures, but the FT03 may be their craziest one yet.

It's only fitting that we kick off our new slate of case reviews with an enclosure from the same manufacturer who produced the subject of our last review. The SilverStone GD04 HTPC enclosure review was the subject of some consternation from you, the readership, as well as our rep at SilverStone. This was a case I chose for my own personal use (and continue to use to this day) based largely on its recommendation from SilentPC Review, and my primary issue with it was noise.

My conversation with Tony Ou, the SilverStone rep I met at CES, was like a high tech rendition of "who's on first." He was upset because he felt like I gave the GD04 short shrift for griping about the noise levels, citing that once a fan controller is installed the case has exceptional thermal characteristics while being remarkably quiet. I agreed, but pointed out that I felt it shouldn't need the fan controller to begin with. But we left the conversation appreciating one another's points, and I took to heart just how impressive SilverStone's engineering really is. (If you had any idea how many different fan configurations they tested in the GD04 before settling on one capable of cooling a pair of Radeon HD 4870X2s and a 140-watt AMD Phenom, blood would shoot out of your noise.)

Today that conversation bears fruit. I've consistently felt that SilverStone was like the ASRock of the enclosure market, off in their own world engineering all kinds of crazy hardware, utterly unfettered by conventional design logic. The results are always exciting, and the FT03 is one of their most impressive designs yet.

SilverStone FT03 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Drive Bays External 1x Slimline Slot-loading Optical Bay
Internal 2x 3.5” or 2.5", 1x 2.5", 1x 3.5" hot-swappable
Cooling Front -
Rear -
Top 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Side Removable vent
Bottom 2x 120mm intake fans
Expansion Slots 5 (4 main, 1 accessory)
Front I/O Port -
Top I/O Port 2x USB 3.0 (routing cable), headphone and mic jacks
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearance 180mm (PSU), 13.77" (Expansion Cards), 167mm (CPU HSF)
Weight 14.77 lbs.
Dimensions 11.18" x 9.25" x 19.17"
Price $169.99

Just to give you a preview of coming attractions, I'll point out that I have a boutique build in-house that uses a Corsair H70 to cool the CPU and two GeForce GTX 580s...all in this enclosure.

In and Around the SilverStone FT03
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  • geniekid - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I disagree with the people who said it looks hideous. Surely their comments are hyperbole? I'm not saying it's beautiful, but with such a simple, unadorned, rectangular enclosure, the worst thing I could say about it is that it's boring. Not a deal breaker for me, ESPECIALLY for a well cooled, microATX case where the options are severely limited to begin with.

    It's clear they're aiming for quiet by keeping temperatures low rather than any acoustic dampening. In that respect, I wouldn't use this case for my primary gaming desktop, because the graphics card will always be loud. However, this would make a great HTPC case, where the slot-in aesthetic works well and you're likely to use passively cooled components that don't generate noise to begin with.

    Also, good job on the review and I'm glad to see the revamped testing methodology. Good case reviews are hard to find, but they're so vital for system builders, professional and amateur.
    Reply
  • etamin - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I agree, it is definitely not hideous. However, I honestly would not want my pc looking like that. As much as I admire the internal engineering, the design is more suited for a refrigerator (it even has the snowflake...) Reply
  • InvertMe - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I put this case in my cart on Amazon last night and was debating pulling the trigger. I really like the looks of the silver model. I think I am going to buy it right now. Reply
  • InvertMe - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I already see my first mod. I will replace the plastic vent at the bottom with an acrylic window with a few holes for ventilation. Mmmmm case moding gets me excited. Reply
  • poeticjustic - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    At first i thought this would be like an upgrade of the already awesome FT02 case, but this (FT03) is a totally new category (mini,micro), completely different than FT02.
    Pretty weird changing the fortress line to another category.
    By the way does that mean there won't be any upgrade to the good old FT02?
    The idea of having the whole backpanel as a top panel is just awesome, it really helps a lot, and also moving cool-hot air from bottom to top is pretty good following the natural flow of cool-hot air.
    I have the FT02 and i believe it's the best case of all i've tried so far (even better than my beloved p182),
    i hope the FT03 is as good, though too limited/restricted for my needs.
    All in all, good review for what seems to be a nice case for its class.
    Reply
  • dcianf - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I would love to see what it looks like with a slew of cabling coming out of the top. I feel like it would be pretty congested up there with USB, DVI, networking etc. Reply
  • Aengex - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Great review, i was really curious for an in-depth one, when i saw the video at CES2011.
    Can't really be sure about the materials used though, as other users mentioned, plastic parts don't justify the price.
    I got a minor complaint and not just from this review, but from all the media that are reviewing hardware.
    This is a piece of hardware with half (at most) the aluminum of a normal ATX case. Yet, it's priced @170$ and in Europe will be @170€. And it's editor's choice, meaning that you are "promoting" it indirectly. So 170$ is ok? Do you also encourage, that a normal aluminum case should cost, what, 300$? I think not, but, being a media you can direct the prices for manufacturers, yet you don't do anything about it.
    All you are saying to the public is ok, it's a great one. But i doubt if anyone has e-mailed to a manufacturer about it's pricing politics.
    400$ Graphics card, 170$ a case, 300$ Cpu, 300$ MoBo, do the maths. 4 years ago the same (proportionally) PC would cost about half as much, wonder why?
    You are a part of it, you should.

    Reply
  • MilwaukeeMike - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Why does a large fries cost more than a medium?
    Why does a large t-shirt cost the same as a small?
    Why does a pack of 25 blank DvDs less than a single movie?

    You're paying $170 for a case, if you want to buy raw aluminium and make your own to save some $$$, go right ahead. If you think it should cost less because it's smaller, then please direct your anger toward those price-gouging tablet PCs.
    Reply
  • Aengex - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Great arguments there, but they do not apply to what i'm saying.
    In short, i would like to see consumers and media ( who play a major role) boycotting products that do not worth the money.
    Hopefully, many companies will then change pricing policies (not politics as i wrongly mentioned above).
    Sure i do like i.e. Apple, but as a consumer, don't agree with their prices. And i don't want other companies to follow that path.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    "Worth" is all relative. Saying we should "boycott products that aren't worth the money" is the same as saying, "only buy products that you feel are worthwhile." Everyone already does (or at least should do) exactly that, but where you're going astray is in thinking that what you like or dislike is the only metric. I think MacBook Pros are well-built laptops, but I would never buy one. Millions of people disagree with me. Dustin feels this is a well-built micro-ATX case that has some interesting features and that certain people will like it a lot; others disagree.

    A thin aluminum case is cheaper to manufacture than a thick aluminum case. R&D also costs a lot of money, so doing testing to make sure your mATX case is capable of supporting up to two GTX 580 cards in SLI isn't "free", and that carries over to the price. Making an ATX case that can accommodate two high-end GPUs is practically a no-brainer by comparison. I haven't handled this case in person, but in the past SilverStone has typically used much thicker aluminum panels than the competition, and the reason you're paying $170 for this case is for the R&D, the four 120mm fans, and the overall build quality and aesthetic.

    For the record, a Bronze means a product is "very good". Silver would be "great", and Gold would be "exceptional". Giving this product a Bronze is our way of saying, "this is a very good micro-ATX case that will appeal to many users in the targeted market; however, it has flaws and will not please everyone."
    Reply

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