Assembling the SilverStone FT03 Mini

As I stressed over and over again in the previous section, assembly of the SilverStone FT03 Mini is a very specific process and you really do have to follow the instruction manual to the letter. With that said, however, I was surprised at just how easily the build came together. There were places I struggled with the FT03, but the Mini was a remarkably simple affair for a Mini-ITC case, all things considered.

When you get started, you want to tear down the case completely per the instructions, because you'll be putting it right back together the same way. The motherboard tray includes the standoffs needed for Mini-ITX, and the board itself goes in easily enough. I also cabled the motherboard at this juncture, but wasn't able to pre-install power cables; our test PSU wasn't modular, although SilverStone is actually going to make a modular SFX power supply available in the near future that should be ideal for cases like this one.

The next step is installing the power supply, which suspends from the top of the case. Since it's an SFX power supply the weight isn't a major issue (and the frame of the case can definitely handle it), but SilverStone seems to have been a bit miserly in the number of screws they included with the FT03 Mini. There are five points to screw in the PSU, but there were only enough screws available to do the four corners. You can see the specific way the power cables are supposed to tuck into the enclosure, though, and this was a good time to get them connected where possible.

Where things do get tricky is the optical drive tray and associated 3.5" and 2.5" cages. There's an additional 2.5" cage mounted to the motherboard tray that can be removed but we opted not to use it, instead employing the "stacked" trays for the 3.5" and 2.5" drives that sit under the optical drive tray. The problem is that it's never 100% clear how these trays come together, but the key is to look for the three notches that the 3.5" tray uses to slide into the bottom of the 2.5" tray. Once you've installed a slimline drive (or not), you can replace the optical drive tray. Mount the 2.5" tray to the bottom of the optical drive tray, then mount the 3.5" tray to the bottom of the 2.5" drive tray using the notches. Everything screws into place. Take care to orient the drives properly to make cabling as easy as possible.

Finally, installing expansion cards is actually one of the easiest parts. The case is designed to accept the expansion cards last, and I was able to squeeze our Zotac GeForce GTS 450 Eco into the FT03 Mini without too much trouble. I will say that I'm still not a fan of having to remove a cover from the expansion slots before removing the slats from the slots themselves to install the card, but I'm also not sure if there's any other way to really handle it, especially with a case like this one.

With all the doors snapped back on in the proper order, the FT03 Mini is ready to go. There's even a small notch under the case's I/O for routing the power cable out the top of the case. It might seem a little sloppy to have all of the cabling spilling out from a single point in the top of the case, but that's how the original FT03 worked and as I mentioned before, you'll already know if the FT03 Mini interests you just by looking at it. That it comes together pretty easily is almost secondary to that fact.

In and Around the SilverStone FT03 Mini Testing Methodology
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  • harshw - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Given the way onboard GPUs are headed, wouldn't it be better for a HTPC to have a Thin Mini-ITX, SO-DIMM, mSATA and HD4000 graphics ? I built a HTPC using the EMC-800b Habey case, with the DH61AG motherboard, a 120GB mSATA SSD and a slim 1U heatsink. The case is incredibly neat, has excellent thermals and very little noise. I keep seeing all these supposedly 'bleeding edge' cases and in 22 years of building computers, have yet to see vendors do anything remotely constructive about cables and power supplies.

    I think Silverstone should come up with more cases for the Thin Mini-ITX standard and be more creative about cables and power supplies.

    Especially now that there's Thunderbolt, I dont think system vendors can use 'expandability' as an excuse for much longer. External video card ? Use Thunderbolt. External link to high speed storage ? Use Thunderbolt.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    In that case, this isn't for you. :)

    For me, I'd look at this as a design challenge - to see how much hardware I could fit into so small of a case with as little noise output as possible. An experiment in passive cooling for the CPU, GPU and PSU, relying on the 140mm fan to provide airflow. Something like that.

    Also, WRT Thunderbolt, it's not great for external graphics and you then have to deal with the issue of powering and finding space for multiple boxes. Add in the issues of matching the devices aesthetically and it's not necessarily a superior option.

    So, while I see what you say, I'm still glad to see Silverstone taking care of this end of the market.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    Based on the Anandtech reviews (what else would we read!) the HD4000 is a massive advance on earlier Intel designs (correct frame rate is a good start which AMD had for ages). Latest AMD chips are very good but Intel beats them on media encoding so a case of pay more but get more power, pay less (AMD) and get a great HTPC but maybe a little slow on ripping all your Blu-rays (legally of course).

    For a HTPC a slim line 1U case is fine, for me an i7-3770T plus Mini ITX board. So this case is a complete waste for an HTPC

    This Silverstone case is really for a decent but lightweight desktop - not top of the line in power but still powerful enough for most. Personally I prefer the Lian li designs or even the SG05, but then again I would watercool the CPU and GPU and reduce noise down to minimum
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Apple Cube anyone?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_Mac_G4_Cube
    Reply
  • Wardrop - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I've always thought designing cases would be a really enjoyable job. Sometimes though it seems a lot of these cases suffer from design by committee, where a lot of people put in their ideas and requirements which always seems to produce an awkward case that doesn't perfectly fit anyone's needs. Not directing this at the FT03 at all, but rather just a general observation.

    On a slightly unrelated topic, I think Lian Li's discontinuation of the A17 was very surprising. Lian Li have put quite a lot of effort in building up their portfolio of case accessories that integrate into their product range, like optical drive bezels, hot-swap drive cages, etc, and the A17 combined with these accessories was really an enthusiasts dream. I may never understand why they canned it. I'm typing this with an A17 sitting right next to me actually - probably bought the last one in Australia a year or two ago. I've got two Lian Li hot-swap drive cages in it, and have 2 of the other 3 5.25" slots populated with optical drives using Lian Li's bezels. The quality of the case and accessories make this machine look as well designed as an Apple, but with difference being complete configuration flexibility. I'm sure that's got to appeal to more than just myself. It's unlikely a case will have the exact number of internal 3.5" bays, external 3.5" bays and external 5.25" bays that you desire, and the A17 combined with Lian Li's accessories just seems like such a perfect solution.
    Reply
  • lemonadesoda - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    The front should have a power switch, a usb slot, and a card reader. Optical drives are so yesterday. If you really want one for legacy reasons, put it on the back or at the side. Everyday we use a SD card or USB device. Once a month we might use optical media. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    "We"? ;) Reply
  • teakwood54 - Thursday, January 30, 2014 - link

    They're at the top. As for the optical drive, just turn the system around. Reply
  • ectoplasmosis - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    "I wish we'd had a GeForce GTX 670 or 680 on hand to really give the SilverStone FT03 Mini a proper thrashing"...

    So why not wait until you did before rushing a cobbled-together review out?

    Honestly, the last few articles on Anandtech have been very sloppy. Definite decline towards just another toy hardware site.
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I find that it's a good idea to check who the author is right away. Anand himself is by far the best reviewer here. The other guys may or may not be to your liking. Reply

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