In and Around the SilverStone FT03 Mini

As I mentioned before, the FT03 Mini looks just like the FT03 except smaller. SilverStone uses thick aluminum panels on all four sides of the enclosure, sturdy plastic for accents like the I/O and buttons on the top of the enclosure and the bottom fan intake, and then steel for the structure of the enclosure itself. The result is that externally, there isn't a whole lot to remark on. It has four flat aluminum sides, and then the motherboard's I/O cluster and power supply are both mounted to the top of the case and accessible by removing the plastic top cover.

SilverStone has largely pioneered using a rotated motherboard mounting system in their enclosures, but it really makes sense with the FT03 Mini. The base of the enclosure is basically square, and right in the bottom center is a 140mm intake fan. The case also sits off of the floor high enough that only the shaggiest of rugs should prevent fresh air from coming in through the bottom of the FT03 Mini. Fresh air blows through the single chamber and out of the top of the case. It's a sound engineering design and you'll see it pays off in spades.

I've often compared SilverStone's cases to puzzle boxes due to the very specific way they come apart and back together, but nowhere has that comparison been more appropriate than with the FT03 Mini. End users ignore the instruction manual at their own peril; we're at the point where you'll need it just to figure out how to get the case open in the first place. I'm not inclined to mark SilverStone down for this, though, because the instructions are clear enough and because there's a definite logic to how the case tears down.

In order, you pop the top off of the case, then the two side panels snap off instead of sliding upwards (a welcome improvement on the FT03, which was easy to accidentally pop the side panels off of when you were moving it), then the back panel snaps off, then the optical drive cage comes out, and attached to that are cages for a 3.5" drive and a 2.5" drive. We have the disassembly sequence in our gallery if you're inclined to check it out.

The interior of the FT03 Mini is built out of black-painted steel, and the whole enclosure is really very sturdy. You're not liable to spend much time looking at the inside of the case, but I can't stress enough how important the logic of the case's assembly is. It comes apart and back together in a very specific order, which is vital for a design this unique. Once you understand SilverStone's logic, you'll find the case is remarkably well thought out.

Introducing the SilverStone FT03 Mini Assembling 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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