Conclusion: A Classic That Needs a Little Love

The real grudge match here winds up being between the SilverStone Fortress FT02 and the Thermaltake Level 10 GT. In most metrics the Level 10 GT is a slightly better performer, but it's also a newer case, and depending on your perspective, it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing enclosure you can buy. The FT02 is, at least in my opinion, something I'd be much happier having under my desk and indeed I made exactly that choice.

What makes the FT02 so interesting is the same thing that makes all of SilverStone's cases interesting: it really isn't for just a random smattering of high performance parts, a one-size-fits-all jack-of-all-trades like many more standard ATX cases (which admittedly the Level 10 GT is a gussied up version of) are. I moved my main system from the Corsair Graphite 600T to the FT02 and saw a massive improvement in thermal performance at a very minor cost of acoustics, but my system has the benefit of a Cooler Master Hyper 212+ with a push/pull fan configuration installed on the 130-watt processor. What the graphs also don't show is just how slowly graphics card temperatures climb under stress in the FT02: the limiting factor with a GPU cooler, assuming you use the recommended blower-style ones, is going to be just how fast the cooler can pull heat off of the GPU itself. Airflow is not an issue here. If you choose your components and cooling with the FT02's design in mind, odds are good it's going to perform exceptionally well.

That said, SilverStone's design is already a little long in the tooth by technology standards, and there are some rough edges that a revision could do a lot to fix. The FT02 is in dire need of an eighth expansion slot as well as increased clearance between the expansion slots and the 5.25" bays, and what they may want to do is attempt side-mounted optical drive bays similar to some of Lian-Li's designs. I'd like to see more ports available in the top port cluster, too: SilverStone cases tend to be too spartan with connectivity, and right now my only USB 2.0 port that isn't covered by the top panel is connected to a janky card reader. More space behind the motherboard tray could never hurt, and in the process better mounts for 2.5" SSDs would be appreciated. Finally, a slightly better support system for the power supply other than a strap and a chintzy plastic foot would be steps forward. There are ways to refine this case, even if they mean making it a bit bigger.

And then there's the pricetag. At $250 we're hanging out squarely in the middle of Premiumville, and I'll be candid: you can get close to this level of performance for much cheaper. What you'll have more trouble getting are the aesthetic, the overall level of quality in the design and build, and the combination of silence and performance. I'm a big enough fan of the FT02 that I'd still recommend it over SilverStone's own RV03 as well as the Thermaltake Level 10 GT, so long as the end user is willing to work with the design to get the best results. This is not a water-cooling case by any stretch of the imagination, but while it's not the best air-cooling case either, it's awful close and remains one of the best-looking and most functional.

Noise and Thermal Testing, Overclocked
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  • brett.bdy - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    Definitely has its issues, but still better than the FT03. Still unsure about which case I'm going with my next build. The Fractal Design ones are stellar for a company I only just learned about.

    PS
    Fitting review for my birthday!
    Reply
  • headbox - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    $250 for a case that is still junk compared to a Mac Pro. Seriously JUNK! People wonder why Macs cost more? It's because they don't just round 2 edges of a cheap ATX case and have a jungle of cables inside. WHEN WILL WE SEE A PC CASE THAT ISN'T OVER PRICED CRAP??? Reply
  • truthbeacon - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    " WHEN WILL WE SEE A PC CASE THAT ISN'T OVER PRICED CRAP??? "

    You see them all the time in (for instance) the Level 10 GT.

    When will we see anything from Jobsland that isn't overpriced crap? Never.
    When will we see anything that hints at creative diversity from Jobsland? Never.
    When will we see anything terribly original from Jobsland? Those days ended a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

    Damned crApple troll.
    Reply
  • DallasWits - Monday, August 29, 2011 - link

    Second this.

    I thought the apple trolls stayed over at Engadget and Arstechnica.....
    Reply
  • IAMTHEPROCESSOR - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    ANYMOO take off the steal grill at the top of the case improves airflow a lot i mean unless you know you have a wire that would fall in there if so do some cable tying on top of you case with your cables and just leave the top panel off for better temperatures you won't have to put fans on high! Put a noctua nhd14 then you never put those fans on high ANYMOO did you forget that not all the fans need to be put on high at the same time to get better temperatures! Now if you really want good temperatures change those fans on the bottom to 180mm fans without grill that are faster but make less noise then actually do some cable tying and don't complain like a noob about how lazy you are that you need to shovel your wires in the back of you case!!!! Also takoff psu fan grill!

    My PC specs

    GTX 590 700MHZ!

    2600K 5.0 GHZ!

    COUGH CABLE TYING COUCH!!!! NEAT LIKE A PRO!
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    What the heck is with the CAPS and ANYMOO comments? It almost reads like a spam comment with the additions of random comments. "COUGH CABLE TYING COUCH!!!" Thanks for that -- very useful. I'm not even sure it's worth responding, but at the risk of stating the obvious:

    This is a review of a case, and as such it looks at how the case ships. Given this is a $250 case, it should include everything you need for optimal performance. Do the filters restrict airflow? Yes, a bit, but they also keep out dust. Does the top cable cover do the same? Sure, and it also makes the top of your PC not look like a mess of wires.

    As the review points out, there's plenty that can be done to improve the case, but a lot of what can be done requires extra investments into an already expensive case. Different fans? $20 a pop for good quality options. USB 3.0 top ports? Probably another $20-$40. The FT02 is still a very good case, and the review is very positive overall, but that doesn't mean the case is perfect. Your suggestions amount to taking several of the key features of the FT02 and removing them, so why even bother in the first place?
    Reply
  • mtoma - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    You're right, the above comments are unusual, to say the least! It implies a lack of basic english. However, I have to pretty-please ask Dustin to put some extra photos in his future Silverstone cases reviews. Those extra-photos should present the case attached to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. I hope I don't ask for much, but I am concerned about the external cable routing (because of the I/O ports located on top of the case), and how neat it is.

    Maybe this would convince me about SIlverstone's original motherboard assembly, because, altough it's efficient, I want to see some esthetics to it.

    To date, my reference case-design is Antec P183 and future Antec P280.
    Thanks a bunch!
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    That's a little more tricky to do, but for what it's worth the cable bundle spewing out of my tower through the routing hole in the back:

    3x DVI, one HDMI, 4x USB, Ethernet, FireWire, optical audio, eSATA, and a power cable.

    It's not the most attractive thing in the world, but I leave the top cover on and my GTX 580 barely hits 70C under load. I'd say aesthetically it's probably fine. Actually more than fine, because having to route all the cables through the back winds up bundling them together quite nicely. :)
    Reply
  • Samus - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    FT01 owner here, and I'll say for sure it has its problems (low quality, odd sized 180mm stock fans, expensive additional SATA backplanes, top fan filter that is irremovable without partial case disassembly)

    ...but it's still the best case I've ever owned.
    Reply
  • sweetca - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    Thank you so much! I laughed so hard and ended up choking on the M&M I was eating. Reply

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