In and Around the SilverStone FT03

For scale, the FT03 is about the size of a small dustbin or a couple of shoeboxes stacked up. The Corsair Graphite 600T that now houses my personal machine honestly looks kind of silly and needlessly large compared to the FT03 at nearly twice the depth.

SilverStone offers the FT03 in both silver and black finishes; our review unit has the silver and white finish while the black unit will be seen in our upcoming system review. Externally there isn't a whole lot going on; SilverStone keeps the finish attractive, simple, and resilient. The front of the tower has a tasteful embedded SilverStone logo and a slot for the internal slot-loading optical drive, while the left side has a removable vent for one of the bottom-mounted intake fans. The bottom has a removable fan filter that attaches magnetically; the power cable for the FT03 also routes under here. Finally, the top of the case has a removable white plastic grate that fits well with the overall styling, and this covers the I/O shield, four expansion bays, hot-swap bay, and exhaust fan. There are indentations on the side panels to allow for cabling to route between the grate and the case itself, and there's a small panel at the tippy-top that has the power and reset buttons along with the bridged USB 3.0 ports (sorry, no motherboard header support yet) and headphone and microphone jacks. Overall it's a very clean and slick looking design, at least externally.

There are admittedly a couple of hitches, though. If you have to use any kind of video port adapter, like DVI-to-VGA or Mini-HDMI-to-HDMI, you'll want to use a flexible dongle or an adapter cable; the hard physical adapters wind up rising above where the grate would be and thus prevent you from using it. I also found myself frequently accidentally hitting the power and reset buttons when moving the case, which isn't a huge problem but isn't ideal either. Plugging in the system can also be a little difficult because the plug on the bottom is recessed, and the magnetically attached filter feels pretty loose. To wit: the review unit from the boutique builder I have doesn't even include that filter. I'll also go ahead and spare you the wait: I would've liked to have seen a fan controller included in the top panel. If wishes were fishes, etc. etc., but it would be a welcome addition.

When you get to the internals is when things start getting really interesting. The two side panels slide up and off easily (maybe a little too easily), while the face snaps on and off easily and securely. SilverStone engineered the guts of the FT03 in a very slick way that actually winds up maximizing the space inside. While we use a Mini-ITX board for testing, there's space in here for a Micro-ATX board and two large video cards. The power supply cubby also works remarkably well, and cable routing is smart.

If there's one area of concern, it's the side of the case designed to house storage. There's space here for two 3.5" (or 2.5" with adapters) drives and a 2.5" drive, as well as an additional 3.5" hot-swap bay complete with connecting cables. The essential problem is that there's virtually no airflow here. That's mitigated somewhat by the aluminum side panels which are good at radiating the heat off of the drives and allowing them to be passively-cooled, and the hot-swap bay in particular is cooled by a large chunk of aluminum affixed to the side panel itself. The design here is as smart as it could conceivably be, as the drive mounts are designed specifically to put the drives themselves in contact with the side panel. Later on you'll see drive temperatures measured were more or less in line with what hard drives in notebooks hit, and are well within drive tolerances, but if the FT03 has an Achilles' Heel it's here. To be fair, though, I don't think I could armchair engineer a better solution than what SilverStone has done.

Introducing the SilverStone FT03 Assembling the FT03
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  • IlllI - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    why in the world would they decide to stick that ugly, plastic thing on the side?

    other than that it looks decent. i'd be willing to forgive the ugly plastic lid, but the thing on the side completely ruins the aesthetics
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    what're you talking about? the silverstone snowflake? Reply
  • Spoelie - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    no, check the gallery, third picture Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Monday, May 02, 2011 - link

    oh man. i didn't see that.

    that is really strange; not my cup of coffee.
    Reply
  • heffeque - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    He means the top grill.

    The tittle is "Nothing else like it", but seriously, the idea is extremely similar to this other casing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0NbGbZBPL0&t=4...

    :-)
    Reply
  • headbox - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    I thought I was going to get RickRolled for a second there...

    Yes, even the best PC cases have NOTHING on Apple designs from more than a decade ago. The PowerMac G3 and G4 cases are still miles ahead of the "high-end" from Lian Li or others. And the PowerMac G5 and Mac Pro cases are just amazing. Hate on Apple all you want, but no one designs enclosures like they do.

    Oh, unless you like alien eyes on the front.
    Reply
  • bman212121 - Monday, May 02, 2011 - link

    The G3 was interesting but I don't know if I would use that setup for a full sized build. It would probably work well for this scenario though using a mini ITX. (The mainboard is mounted to the side panel and when you open up the case you lay the board down and out of the case) With a smaller size having the board basically come out of the case to mount and work on makes it so much easier to add memory, an expansion card, or work on something else in the case. The outside of the G3 is all plastic and does still look good with it.

    The G5 is definitely one of the nicest looking cases, but I find it hard to work inside of. (it's a fairly large case too) The thermals are covered nicely in the PowerMac but it's a real pain to insert drives. The Intel Mac Pro has a better layout but I'd still change the inside around some. If anything the solid aluminum side panel is a blessing compared to most other cases.
    Reply
  • tbutler - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    Yeah, from a easy-to-work-on standpoint, the G3/G4 design is probably the best I've ever seen. Unfortunately, towards the end of its run it started having cooling issues (remember the "Windtunnel" nickname?)

    The G5/MacPro case does much better on cooling; it's not as easy to work on as the G3/G4 case, but it's not bad. One thing that makes it gadget porn for me is the complete lack of cabling in the interior work area, and the near total lack of cabling at all; the only time I've ever had to mess with cabling at all was when I installed a second optical drive, and had to run a SATA cable down to the motherboard. That cable was a bit tricky to run and required disassembling more of the case than I'd like, but after that it wasn't bad. (I also had to hook up the second power lead to the optical bay, but that was pretty trivial.)
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Monday, May 02, 2011 - link

    no he doesn't. check the third pic, like spoelie says Reply
  • Rasterman - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I agree, for $170 bucks, plastic is not allowed, it should be aluminum, or glass would be very cool. Reply

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