titleWhen it comes to interesting or creative designs for PC cases, Silverstone is one of only a few manufactures that come to mind. They are known for making stylish cases but they have also gone off the beaten path with designs like their Raven and Fortress cases where they have designed the motherboards rear I/O panel to vent out of the top of the case for improved airflow. When they introduced their Fortress FT03, they weren't replacing the previous model, instead bringing out a smaller model to sell along with it. It’s been out for some time but when Silverstone asked us what we wanted to take a look at it, it was still at the top of our list. Of course with all of this time waiting, we have high expectations. Let’s find out where it stands.


Product Name: Silverstone Fortress FT03

Review Sample Provided By: Silverstone

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes



Specifications

Model No.

SST-FT03B (black)
SST-FT03S (silver)
SST-FT03T (titanium)

Material

Aluminum outer shell, steel body

Motherboard

Micro-ATX, DTX, Mini-ITX

Drive Bay

External
Slot loading slim optical drive x 1

Internal
3.5" x 3 * , 2.5" x1

Cooling System

Top
1 x 120mm exhaust fan, 1200rpm, 22dBA
1 x 92/80mm optional fan

Bottom
2 x 120mm intake fans, 1200rpm 22dBA
2 x 80mm optional fan slots

Expansion Slot

4

Front I/O Port

USB 3.0 x 2 (backwards compatible with USB 2.0)
audio x 1
MIC x 1

Power Supply

Standard PS2(ATX)

Expansion Card

Compatible up to 13.77” long, width restriction-6.77"

Limitation of CPU cooler

167mm

Limitation of PSU

up to 180mm deep

Net Weight

6.7kg

Dimension

235mm(W)x487mm(H)x284mm(D), 32.5 liters

 


 

Packaging

As soon as the package came in for the Fortress FT03 came in I knew we were looking at something completely different. The shape of the box is nothing like what we have seen in the past, it has a small footprint but the height of a normal mid tower case. The front of the box has pictures of both the silver and black versions of the FT03, there is a third color available, but it isn’t pictured.

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Around on the back of the package there is a more detailed photo of the FT03 with the side and top panel taken off to give a better view of what you could be working with. Here they have short explanations of different features with red lines drawn to their locations.

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Inside the case was wrapped up in a plastic bag and held secure with foam on the top and bottom. This made it a little more difficult than normal to get out, we normally see the foam on the sides.

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Outside

With the FT03 out, it’s clear why the packaging was such an interesting shape. This design is a world apart from the first two Fortress models. The FT03 has a very small footprint but the height that you would expect to see from a normal mid tower case. The case shares the same smooth black styling that we love about the Fortress line as well as the rounded corners. All of the side panels are finished in brushed aluminum. There is very little branding other than a Silverstone logo machined into the front of the case. There is a small slot on the front of the case that when paired up with a proper slot loading disc drive is very slick.

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On one side there is a plastic panel with ventilation that gives a little ventilation for the case, specifically for the power supply to vent its hot air out.

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Up under the case there is a double fan filter that filters the intake from the power supply and the intake just to the side of it. The filter itself is removable and held in place only by magnets. This makes cleaning it extremely easy; something that someone like me with cats will especially appreciate. For feet the FT03 has four inch plus height feet that give the two intakes plenty of room to breathe. The side panels also come down to cover the extra height of the feet while leaving gaps in between the feet to bring in air. There is also a small hole on the bottom that houses the power supply plug, not only is it a little hard to get to being on the bottom, but being up in the hole makes it an interesting choice to say the least.

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The top of the FT03 is especially interesting. As I’m sure you have already noticed, there wasn’t a back panel to be found. Silverstone packed both the rear I/O panel and front I/O panel all up on the top of the FT03. With the case together there is a ventilated plastic top panel that doesn’t affect air flow but keeps the FT03 looking clean, even when you have your cables hooked up. You also have the front panel with a power and reset button, hard drive and power LED’s, headphone and microphone ports, and two USB 3.0 ports.

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Although it borderlines on covering the interior, with the top plastic panel taken off you can finally see that this is actually a computer case. We have four PCI slot covers with vents cut out of them. They are silver in color, I’m not sure why they didn’t color these black to go with the rest of the case though. Above/next to the rear I/O panel we have an exhaust fan blowing directly up. Much like the PCI slot covers, they went with chrome for a finish on the fan guard rather than a color that would blend into the black case, I can only assume they did this because it is covered by the plastic top panel that I mentioned before. Also packed into this area is a spring loaded hot swappable hard drive bay just below the I/O Panel cutout. Flipping the switch will swing the bay open so you can slide your 3.5 inch hard drive in and out quickly, without having to take your whole case apart.

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Inside

Diving into the inside of the FT03 requires pulling the case apart, more than your typical case. We had already taken off the top panel, but to get all the way in I removed three of the 4 side panels as well. The fourth panel isn’t removable. The removable panels all pull right off with a little tug and are held in place by the clips as seen below.

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Peaking in from the side, we can finally see where Silverstone packed in the motherboard on the FT03. This case supports a Micro ATX motherboard, a bit larger than what we normally see in small footprint cases. There is more than enough room for two full length video cards if you need them as well on the left side. For cooling in this interesting case, there is a fan mounted over the motherboard area that is angled to blow over top of the motherboard and push the warm air up to the top exhaust fan. This isn’t a typical setup, but it’s nice to see they  did what they could to provide the motherboard as much cooling as possible. If you look closely just under the motherboard fan you will also see a small area where you can mount a slot loaded disc drive if you need one. This is the cases only option as there aren’t any 5.25 drive bays for drive use because of the cases size. There is a small issue with the slot loader that there isn’t an eject button on the outside of the case, so if you are trying to swap out disc outside of windows for example, you will have to take the front off of the case to do this. Personally I prefer to run USB DVD drives anyhow, there isn’t any reason to carry the drive with me everywhere I go after installing windows.

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I mentioned earlier the 3.5 inch hot swap that is mounted on the top of the case. With the side panels off we can see the guys of the hotswap as well as two more hard drive mounting locations. Both mounts have rubber vibration dampening mounting points for the hard drives. I like that one is facing down and the other sideways towards the same area, this puts them close enough together to be able to share a SATA power connection for example, while not being packed too closely together. There is support for CPU coolers up to 167mm’s tall; we will see how it all fits when we get to the installation though.

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I’m sure you are wondering where they tucked away the power supply in the FT03. All the way down at the bottom you have a hole for the power supply that has up to 180mm’s of depth. This means if you are buying an FT03 you need to double check the length of your power supply as well as if you are ordering one. We had to put our normal test power supply aside for a smaller 850 watt PSU, still more power than you should ever need in this configuration. Next to the power supply is a 120mm fan that is angled to fit into the space of a double wide 80mm fan mount. This gets the airflow needed without compromising noise output. You can also see the power supply power cable. As mentioned before, the power plug for the FT03 is on the bottom, this cable plugs into your power supply and runs down to that plug.

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Installation/Performance

Installing our Micro ATX motherboard into the FT03 required moving things around as I was dropping it in along with removing the fan that blows over the motherboard temporarily With our Noctua heatsink on top I was a little worried we wouldn't have the clearance needed to fit it all. As it turns out, it fit fine other than the fan that we removed wouldn’t fit back in. Ideally running a small sealed water cooling loop would give the best clearance here but people have been able to fit almost all of the largest heatsinks on the market into the FT03 as long as you plan on removing that fan. How many small form factor cases can say that?

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Our GTX 580 fit right into place with plenty of room to spare for even longer GPU’s like the HD 6990 for example. I love that there is room for a second card for Crossfire or SLI if you want. I would recommend going with a card that vents out of the PCI slots, internal venting cards might push the thermal limits of the FT03 with its unique cooling layout. Above the GPU there is another fan mount that will blow down right onto the GPU to keep things cool, this will help keep today’s high end gpu’s running cool and is a nice touch for Silverstone to include.

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I was a little skeptical about the mounting location for the power supply packed in down at the bottom. With our smaller power supply, I had no issues at all fitting it all in. The small footprint of this case also meant that there was room to run all of our cables properly for good wire management. I would still highly recommend going with a modular power supply, simply because you don’t have a lot of room to fit the extra cables without jamming them back behind the motherboard.

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With everything together I was curious about three things, noise levels, cooling, and portability. Right away I was happy with the noise levels of the case. Our power supply actually put out more noise than anything else under use. Silverstone’s decision to pack that 120mm fan in place of two 80mm fans was a good choice and helped considerably with the noise levels.

Cooling performance of the FT03 was actually much better than expected. This paired with our PCI slot venting GPU, and great performing CPU cooler and we had no issues with temperatures while testing. Running a CPU cooler than blows down over the motherboard also helped replace the fan that Silverstone had originally installed that we had to remove to fit everything.

My last concern with the Fortress FT03 was with how easy it would be to carry around to LANs. Its small footprint and capacity for a larger motherboard is perfect for LAN use. But the unique design used had me a little concerned. I ran into one issue when moving the case around that did concern me. There really isn’t a great way to hold the case. Two of the side panels lift up and come off and the third pops off if pulled on. On top of all of that (literally) is a plastic top piece. Although the case looks amazing, it was a little bit nerve racking when moving it around. I would love to see a similar model but with a carrying handle right on top or a carrying case. The best option for this is to go with Silverstone’s Sugo carrying case that also supports the FT03. This basically packs the FT03 into a duffle bag and gives you room for cables and whatnot. I wouldn’t recommend LAN use of the FT03 without it.

 



Overall and FV

One thing's for sure, Silverstone has created something completely new with the Fortress FT03. They managed to pack a big gaming rig into a small footprint, perfect for anyone who wants to run their PC on their desk without it taking up half of the desk, or for a LAN environment. Having said that, there are small issues here and there that you have to keep in mind if you plan on getting one. First, you are limited to only three 3.5 inch bays and one 2.5 inch bay, for most this won’t be an issue though. I found the unique cooling layout to perform well in our testing, but I am concerned that there isn’t room to improve the cooling much if you need it. I also found the case to be really hard to pick up and carry around; luckily Silverstone sells a carrying bag that supports this case.


On the good side, I love the styling of the FT03. It has that elegant Silverstone look that almost no other manufacturer can come close to. This is mostly because of its use of brushed aluminum and curved corners. I mentioned it before, but its small footprint is impressive, especially with support for multiple video cards and Micro ATX motherboards. Normally with this sized footprint we are limited to one card with a Mini ITX motherboard, those looking for a little more will love this. Of course at just under $170 the Fortress FT03 isn’t cheap. But if you want a little style, something completely unique, and room for SLI and Micro ATX, it’s one of only a few options on the market. And I can promise you, its one of the most unique.

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Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #28669 20 Dec 2012 03:50
I'm sure Skyler will have thoughts to add to this one considering he had this same case for a while. Check out our review of the FT03 from Silverstone

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