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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  • Rick83 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Actually, it's 140€
    Which is still as much as STC cost, and much less case, but - it looks sexy, runs on 120mm fans and allows a very clean build.
    Some people pay more for a certain piece of furniture, others for a certain car...For me, it's something desirable, mixed with a use, and thus I see no reason not to pay a price that the market bares - the first batch of these was sold out pretty quickly, so the price obviously isn't too high.
    Reply
  • RagingDragon - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I like Silverstone's rotated motherboard designs. I like the tall and shallow design. If I were looking for a micro-ATX case this one would be contender. A case with full or extended ATX support and similar tall and shallow rotated motherboard design would definetly make the shortlist for my next case. At the moment this is my favourite:

    http://www.lian-li.com.tw/v2/en/product/product06....

    Though to get *exactly* what I want I'll probably have to build my own case.
    Reply
  • Jonathan Dum - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Give me this case in an e-ATX size and we'd have an absolute winner. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I think this pretty much says it about Silverstone, from the article:

    "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. "

    Man-up, Silverstone, don't whine and cry when someone says your case design is loud, and say it's the fault of the end user for not using a fan controller and turning down the fan speed. What if the components used NEED more fan speed? Idiot.

    I have 3 Silverstone products. One is a PSU bought back when they were making their name and made some outstanding units, the thing is still powering a relative's machine today. The second is a high-end 1200W beast that has worked well enough, but had to be sent in for warranty because of a defect when I received it.

    I had bought that particular PSU by reputation alone, and it's how I learned to never buy one by reputation - after sending it back I began to read articles about it. Turned out the issue I sent it back for had been documented in reviews many months before I bought my unit!! On top of that, instead of the unit performing at the top of the tests, it barely squeaked by some of them; it just wasn't up to the standards I expected from Silverstone.

    The warranty service department snow-jobbed me very well. After being told that they were aware of the problem and had fixed it on their assembly lines, I requested a unit from that batch, What I got back was the same unit. When I called them, the word was "Oh, well, we don't have any of those." Okay, so, you've fixed the problem but you don't have any of the units with the problem fixed? Why didn't you tell me that when I requested a new PSU?

    The other product I have is a case. It's a nice enough case, and has some features I like, and some I don't. Remember the brief flirtation with BTX? It's a BTX case One of the things it came with was a plastic shroud to help air move from the front of the case across the CPU to the back. Unfortunately, the shroud wouldn't work with any CPU that needed enough cooling that the shroud would be a benefit to, because it wouldn't fit around anything but a small stock cooler. It was essentially useless, and very fragile. The worst part though is that the case has started to corrode on the inside, on some of the steel edges. Not badly, but I have an Antec case twice as old that shows no sign of corrosion at all.

    So, Silverstone is 1/3 for me, and the time I really needed them they failed. Well, I didn't believe they failed so bad that I refused to use the PSU, and it hasn't given me any trouble in 2 1/2 years, to be fair, but I'm not likely to buy anything else from them either. They are going to have to do something marvelous for me to change my mind.

    This case certainly isn't it for me.

    ;)
    Reply
  • DaveSimmons - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    SPCR reviewed this case too recently if you're looking for a second opinion Unfortunately they did NOT give it high marks for noise or cooling, apparently making the case this small meant using awkward fan placements that hurt the cooling and added noise.

    If you have the space for them, the regular ATX Raven RV02 / Fortress FT02 from SiverStone do offer excellent cooling with very low noise, and are about the best you can do for quiet air cooling of a gaming system.
    Reply
  • Slayeristight - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Or is it just me? Reply
  • SquattingDog - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    That is the EXACT thoughts I had when I saw it at a reseller evening at the end of last year. This is a great little case, and I am looking to build a gaming machine around it using my two 5870's and either Bulldozer or a 2600K (depending on what is better once bulldozer comes out, and what motherboards are available). The Asus P8P67M-Pro has the perfect PCI-e slot placement for this case, however...:D Reply
  • darkfoon - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I don't know if I am typical of the readership here at Anandtech, but I have been consistently reading reviews here since 2003.

    I like the new case reviewing process. I sort of wish there were more pictures of the system at various stages of being built, but that's what the video is for, I suppose. The testing methodology with the uATX/MiniITX and full ATX systems is also very welcome. I am curious about the shape of the room the acoustics are measured in, and the placement of the case in that room. Maybe this is nit-picking, but for example: my computer isn't terribly loud (I don't have any numbers to back this up) but depending on where I place it and my desk it can sound much louder or quieter. Right now, I have a corner desk and the case sits along one wall, with exhaust fans blowing back into the corner (with about 4 feet of space between the fans and the wall). This arrangement makes it sound louder than other places I've had it because the sound is reverberating off the corner and toward one ear specifically.
    Since the acoustic readings for reviews are taken from one foot in front of the computer, I am curious if it is near a corner, or if the room is carpeted, etc.

    I liked this review and it helped me to decide that this case is not the case for me. When I first saw the picture I thought, "Ooh! Pretty!" and continued to read on. The more I read, the more I learned that this case just doesn't meet my needs. Aesthetically, it does, but the size restrictions and the optical drive requirements have made it a no-go for me. I decide whether to read a case review based on the "Ooh! Pretty" response. If I get it, I read on. If not, I pass.

    Keep up the good work with the new reviewing process!
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Thank you for the kind words. I love this case, too, but it just doesn't suit my needs either. Mercifully there's a Raven RV03 in my living room awaiting review...

    ;)
    Reply
  • james007 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    If we're going to put together a system around this case, what about that optical drive? You say it has to be a slot-loading slim drive, but.. which ones fit this? You list in your setting simply "Slimline DVD+/-RW Drive" - which one is that?
    I'm also curious to know - are these micro-ATX mobos as overclockable as the full ATX mobos (I was thinking for example of the Asrock Extreme4 for a full-size ATX board, but I like the idea of a smaller package). Otherwise, thanks for creating this excellent review. James Hurst (New Orleans)
    Reply

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