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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  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    It's hard to say someone is wrong when you're citing what I think are largely opinions and my own personal experiences with the FT02.

    An eighth expansion slot would be appreciated because as an X58 board owner, I personally did make use of the eighth slot in my 600T by spacing my second video card down to the bottom PCI x16 slot to improve airflow between cards. YOU may not have run into this issue, but I sure did.

    Placing the optical drives from the bottom up instead of the top down is frankly asinine. This case is under my desk, I want the ODD as close to the top as possible to be more easily accessible, and frankly to me it DOES look weird to have them at the bottom instead of the top. This is a problem with the design.

    Popping the top panel off of the case to access ports also defeats the purpose of even having the panel there to begin with. And I don't know about you, but the one on my FT02 actually does take a little force to remove. PLUS, those ports are recessed, making it hard to see them (at least from where I'm sitting) to even access them.

    I didn't use the PSU strap when I installed the PSU in the FT02 in testing and in my personal system; I use the screwed in "support ledge" which is honestly a bit wonky. But the PSU strap seems awfully clunky to begin with. Also keep in mind that while the screws are doing the work to keep the PSU in place, they're also having more stress placed on them than they would in a traditional case.

    And it's true the case does feel like a premium, $250 case. That doesn't really negate the fact that it's $250, which is NOT a mild amount of money to spend on an enclosure.
    Reply
  • Bobben49 - Sunday, August 24, 2014 - link

    I have owned my original FT02 for 3 1/2 years and have not once missed crawling around on my hands and knees to plug in a new external device. My initial thought and my firm opinion now is that why in the heck did it take case manufactures 30 years to figure out that a vertical orientation is both thermodynamically and ergonomically vastly superior to the horizontal orientation of the motherboard in a tower case. What I wonder is why in heck would any manufacturer make a horizontally oriented tower case? Reply
  • rpg1966 - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    SilverStone sent it to me. Let me get in touch with my contact and see if he can give me a link to where you can order it, but failing that I'm sure if you get in touch with their customer service they'll make it available to you. I know Antec's really good about that having dealt with them personally and off the record before; if SilverStone doesn't help you out, come back here and let us know. ;) Reply
  • justaviking - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    "undoubtedly cable of pulling more"

    Undoubtedly you meant to say "capable of pulling more". :)
    Reply
  • Stotty01 - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    Great review however the overclocked results simply don't seem to make sense. Unless I am reading it completely wrong, which I doubt, you are suggesting that a stock Antec Sonata IV results in a cooler CPU temperature than a Silverstone Fortress FT02? Other reviews also seem to contradict this result.

    What is your control over your ambient temperature?

    Apart from sponsorship agreements, is there any justification for using the Zalman CNPS9900 MAX? Because it seems odd for testing thermals and noise ratios that one of the loudest and least efficient coolers would be chosen. Wouldn't it make a little more sense if on next revision, a quiet and efficient cooler was chosen?

    What was the fan settings set to and has there been any software or bios updates allowed that could have affected the aggressiveness of fan response?

    Personally, for testing cases I think it would be great if a fairly mainstream, efficient cooler was selected that was set to say 9 volt or equal to the PSU noise to completely eliminate such issues and provide a more useful comparison between cases. That being an isolated one based on their included fans and configuration.

    Also if there was a test for each with the GPU fan speed set to say 70% or 90%, we could also get an accurate idea as to how well the air is circulated to the video card without having to worry about the dynamic fan speed adjustments compensating for lower or higher temperatures which depending on model works off ranges and not necessarily absolute ratios?

    Your feedback would be appreciated.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    The HSF wasn't used because of sponsorship agreements; it was selected as a reasonable cooler that quite a few people use. All of the components are basically there for the same reason -- they represent a reasonable setup. Since we're doing apples-to-apples case testing, we have to use the same components in each case. Would a different CPU HSF change the results? Undoubtedly, but it would change the results on every case we've reviewed. You also need to factor in the noise levels with the performance, so even if a case doesn't run as cool, if it runs quiet that's a bonus.

    If you're going to buy the FT02, you might as well splurge on a good HSF, make sure to get blower-style GPUs (so not the HD 6990 or GTX 590), and perhaps even look into alternative 180mm fans that aren't as loud.

    Personally, I'm not as concerned with 5-10C extra on the CPU when it's still running at less than 70C as I am with 10-20C extra on the GPUs. Right now, I have a couple HD 5870 cards in my gaming system, spaced too close together, and under load the things get LOUD. A different motherboard and case would help, but for now I'm using what I have.
    Reply
  • radium69 - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    Hey don,
    Just bought the Xigmatek Elysium from casekings.de incl shipping for 173 euro.
    It is a BEAST. Look at the size of that thing. I find it a real big black beauty.

    Maybe interesting for AT review aswell.
    It costs 160 Euro's normally in Germany, US might see good prices aswell.
    Hard to resist so I bought it just a moment ago. I fell in love :')

    Dustin,
    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&la...

    When are you going to review this baby!?
    Johnnyguru did a review but I know you guys can do way better :)
    Reply
  • Gascogne - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    I love my FT02 case. =D

    The only things I wish for is a smaller version of the FT02 since I only use one 5 1/4" and two 3.5".
    We will see what Silverstone brings us in the future. ^^
    Reply
  • Zoeff - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    I've got the RV02-E, which is basically the same case but with a slight amount of raven styling. The only practical difference that I can see would be the screwless design on the 5.25" bays which as the reviewer mentioned is a bit odd considering the left side needs screws anyway.

    I agree with all of the downsides but I've managed to work my way around all of them. If you have a tower CPU cooler and a GPU that blows air out the top but you're put off by the price of the FT02 then I recommend getting the RV02-E instead (Make sure it's the E model). It's about 50 to 80 euros cheaper where I live, depending on the store. This made it an obvious choice for me.
    Reply

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