Introducing the SilverStone FT03 Mini

One of the first cases we reviewed back when we initially established our case testing methodology last year was SilverStone's FT03, a very unique Micro-ATX design guaranteed to be both an eye catcher and a solid performer. It lived up to both of those claims. DigitalStorm even proved the FT03 was capable of handling a tremendous amount of power when they outfitted one with an overclocked i7-2600K and a pair of GeForce GTX 580s. The FT03 was successful enough that it was only a matter of time until SilverStone experimented with it a bit.

Today we have the results of that experiment. The FT03 Mini is the FT03 condensed further still, swapping out Micro-ATX for Mini-ITX and requiring an SFX form factor power supply in the process. Users who didn't care for the look of the FT03 aren't going to find anything new here, but people who dug on the FT03 are bound to find a lot to like.

That SilverStone took the FT03 and shrunk it further borders on being downright adorable, but in the process they've made a few changes to the internal design based on both feedback on the FT03 and the practical concerns with shrinking the design down to Mini-ITX. The result is an enclosure that looks functionally quite similar to its predecessor, but features a radically redesigned interior that in many ways encompasses lessons learned from the FT03 but also from the FT03's surprise competition, the TJ08-E.

SilverStone FT03 Mini Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX
Drive Bays External 1x 5.25" (slim-line, slot-loading optical drive required)
Internal 1x 3.5", 2x 2.5"
Cooling Front -
Rear -
Top -
Side -
Bottom 1x 140mm intake fan
Expansion Slots 2
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size SFX
Clearances HSF 78mm
PSU SFX
GPU 10" / 254mm
Weight 10.3 lbs.
4.7 kg
Dimensions 7.4" x 15.6" x 9.3"
189mm x 397mm x 235mm
Special Features USB 3.0 via internal header
Price MSRP $129

Like its predecessor, the FT03 Mini also comes in either black or silver, depending on what you're into. If you didn't like the whole icebox aesthetic before, the FT03 Mini isn't liable to change your mind, but SilverStone's design at least makes a good case (no pun intended) for aluminum as a construction material as the side panels are very thick and remarkably sturdy compared to the cases we've tested from Cubitek and to a lesser extent Lian Li. Let's get to the meat of the review now and see how it all comes together.

In and Around the SilverStone FT03 Mini
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  • EnzoFX - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I am all for the shift to smaller form factors. ATX is just so unnecessary for 99% of people. mATX still has it's merits of course, but ITX is a solid option for anyone but those seeking to be on the bleeding edge.

    I too like this case. I like the standing look, as opposed to the typical, more horizontal stuff hah. I think it makes a lot of sense, cases use up less space when standing up right? I mean there's a reason we don't use those server rack cases for desktops =P.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I agree completely with the conclusion. You already know if you want it or not. I do, even though the exhaust area doesn't make complete sense to me. It looks as if it can be reduced greatly, the space between the exterior and the rear of the frame/psu/etc. Maybe the air can be exhausted towards the sides more to accomplish this. Or.. the alternative is to use that space more wisely, allowing for longer graphics cards ;-). Reply
  • Conficio - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Why not move the buttons next to the slot loading drive and the USB cables as well.

    Then put on top a subwoofer and add some wireless speakers for the stereo. That would peak my interest. I could imagine some good co-branding going with speaker manufacturers.
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    is it too much to ask for to have a case similar to G4 Cube? this knock off is a start but damn is it ugly.
    i don't normally care about Apple product, but their aesthetic is light years ahead of any PC case manufacture.
    Reply
  • RandomUsername3245 - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Troll much?

    Are you complaining about the lack of an apple logo, the Silverstone's aluminum construction vs. the G4 Cube's plastic, or perhaps the rectangular vs. square sides?

    If you look at the assembly pictures, it would be pretty hard to shrink the longer dimension to make the case a cube shape and still fit all the hardware. Perhaps you should go look at Shuttle barebones systems -- they're probably more your style.
    Reply
  • HernanTech - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I fully support what "the troll" said. It seems that no one across the Pacific ever gets it right stealing from Apple G4 Cube design. How hard can it be? Just make it look semi-decent and small for Christ's sakes.

    You go down to an ITX board because of the diminutive advantage, not because you want a Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor special. And Silverstone, being Taiwanese, should understand that Asians have a penchant for shrinking everything down rather than to blow everything up.

    This is why I couldn't bring myself to look at their SG05 and SG06. Because they're just too huge and too awkward looking. In the end I settled for something else, Apex's MI-800. That happened last year. If I were any smarter, (or should I say, psychic) I'd have waited a few months for Apple to release their 2011 Mac Mini, which came with all the firepower I needed, even for gaming. Incidentally, that thing is even smaller than a PS2 console! Talk about midget. It's like those guys up in Cupertino want to turn into Japanese, or something.

    What's wrong with you, Apple? You should make your ITX class computer big and unwieldy, if for nothing else, then to preserve your big, fat, hulking American image.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Your racial profiling aside, you seem to be arguing on an enthusiast site reviewing an enthusiast case that the manufacturer should make it more like an OEM computer. I'd like to see someone try to fit GTX 680 class hardware into the perpetually-overheating G4 Cube case, let alone a Mac Mini sized machine.

    The point I'm getting at here is while I agree with the sentiment that this is not as nice looking as Apple hardware, your criticisms regarding the form factor are misguided.
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Point well taken.

    There is a HUGE difference between an OEM lowcost/proprietary built system and what we have seen in this review. The whole reason for this site we (maybe not all...HernanTech?) come here. We are a group of individuals who are NOT easily content with what OEM's slap together for the unaware masses.

    If you are a fan of Apple Cube...then get one. I couldn't care less about a system that has zero ability to be tweaked and upgraded to MY specific needs/requirements.

    HermanTech: Do all of us a favor and just please drink the cool-aid.
    Reply
  • xenol - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    The G4 cube had horrible ventilation. Yes, today's parts aren't as hot, but ventilation is still a good thing. Reply
  • HernanTech - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I guess you never had a G4 Cube. There is great ventilation, just not for the graphics card. Then again they never thought anyone would upgrade their Rage 128 to an ATI Radeon, or 3Dfx Voodoo 3, or hell, even Geforce 5500 PCI. (The last 2 are PC cards with BIOS flashed into Mac.) G4 Cube had a mother of a heatsink, and is fucking efficient (emphasize "fucking") in dissipating heat, as any Cube owner would attest. As such you don't need a fan.

    But should you upgrade that 450Mhz Power PC G4 processor to 1GHz, *then and only then* it's advisable to install a fan under the heatsink. Can imagine a CPU heatsink without a fan on a PC clone back in the day? It would get so hot...! You'd just go, DAMN. It's hot! But evidently not so on the G4 Cube.
    Reply

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