Introducing the SilverStone FT03

Case testing is back at AnandTech with fresher, stricter, and much more thorough testing, and we're kicking it off with a doozy. We had a chance to meet with SilverStone back at CES, and their reps generously allowed us to "call dibs" on what was easily one of the most interesting enclosure designs at the show, the FT03. Since then it's been sitting cheerfully in my living room awaiting assembly and testing while we put together our testbed and settled on proper testing methodologies, and now the wait is over. The mad scientists over at SilverStone have produced a number of unique and memorable enclosures, but the FT03 may be their craziest one yet.

It's only fitting that we kick off our new slate of case reviews with an enclosure from the same manufacturer who produced the subject of our last review. The SilverStone GD04 HTPC enclosure review was the subject of some consternation from you, the readership, as well as our rep at SilverStone. This was a case I chose for my own personal use (and continue to use to this day) based largely on its recommendation from SilentPC Review, and my primary issue with it was noise.

My conversation with Tony Ou, the SilverStone rep I met at CES, was like a high tech rendition of "who's on first." He was upset because he felt like I gave the GD04 short shrift for griping about the noise levels, citing that once a fan controller is installed the case has exceptional thermal characteristics while being remarkably quiet. I agreed, but pointed out that I felt it shouldn't need the fan controller to begin with. But we left the conversation appreciating one another's points, and I took to heart just how impressive SilverStone's engineering really is. (If you had any idea how many different fan configurations they tested in the GD04 before settling on one capable of cooling a pair of Radeon HD 4870X2s and a 140-watt AMD Phenom, blood would shoot out of your noise.)

Today that conversation bears fruit. I've consistently felt that SilverStone was like the ASRock of the enclosure market, off in their own world engineering all kinds of crazy hardware, utterly unfettered by conventional design logic. The results are always exciting, and the FT03 is one of their most impressive designs yet.

SilverStone FT03 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Drive Bays External 1x Slimline Slot-loading Optical Bay
Internal 2x 3.5” or 2.5", 1x 2.5", 1x 3.5" hot-swappable
Cooling Front -
Rear -
Top 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Side Removable vent
Bottom 2x 120mm intake fans
Expansion Slots 5 (4 main, 1 accessory)
Front I/O Port -
Top I/O Port 2x USB 3.0 (routing cable), headphone and mic jacks
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearance 180mm (PSU), 13.77" (Expansion Cards), 167mm (CPU HSF)
Weight 14.77 lbs.
Dimensions 11.18" x 9.25" x 19.17"
Price $169.99

Just to give you a preview of coming attractions, I'll point out that I have a boutique build in-house that uses a Corsair H70 to cool the CPU and two GeForce GTX 580s...all in this enclosure.

In and Around the SilverStone 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
  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

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

    no, check the gallery, third picture
  • softdrinkviking - Monday, May 2, 2011 - link

    oh man. i didn't see that.

    that is really strange; not my cup of coffee.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • bman212121 - Monday, May 2, 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.
  • tbutler - Wednesday, May 4, 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.)
  • softdrinkviking - Monday, May 2, 2011 - link

    no he doesn't. check the third pic, like spoelie says
  • 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.

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