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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  • GeorgeH - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    When I want compact I almost always also want quiet, and 45dB is far from extraordinary.

    If they had used the unique design to facilitate more noise reduction this would have gone on my list. As it is I'm not impressed at all, especially when you consider that the extra costs this case will entail put it within spitting distance of the FT02.
  • slacr - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    First off, the slimline DVD, I didn't get myself one as they are expensive. For the most part you can make do without it though, OS installs are readily available through USB and most drivers can be found online. It can be a bit of a chore when you REALLY need something of a disc but I figure that happens to me at max once a year.

    The stock fans are not very good though, there seems to be some unnecessary turbulence around the angled intake fan near the graphics-card too when using a mid-high flow fan. The noise is really bothering me too, still working on that (with i5 2500k, p8p67m-pro and asus GTX560).

    As for cable routing, it mostly works fine although some of the holes are a bit too small, when using an mATX board accessing the headers for sound/usb is not very neat. Fixing it would require added case depth though.

    Over all im quite pleased with the diminutive stature, fitting snugly on a tiny desk with 2 monitors, the plasticky side vent facing away from me, it sticks out a tad less in black too.
  • archer75 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Saw this same case in my PC Gamer magazine for a computer digital storm is selling. It's certainly not new.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Not that long, this case has only been available for a couple months, and I actually have that DigitalStorm unit in house right now. That review'll be going up soon.
  • Rick83 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    You didn't adress it :(

    Was hoping to see some GPU cooler recommendations, as down-pointing heat-pipes don't work well and down-blowing fans blow right into the lower fan. On the other hand, the radial, exhausting designs are often noisy under load (see the GTX580 in this case).

    I'm thinking about getting a HD 6950 with this case, but can't really decide on a cooling solution (and there hasn't been a VGA-round-up recently either...)
    Any pointers? I was eventually thinking about getting a dual fan solution, like a twin frozr III or a directCU, but then stock isn't too bad at load....but not optimal either.
  • slacr - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Ah, the heatpipe issue passed me by until you pointed it out.

    I first used this with a OEM cooler XFX 6950, it was LOUD at load, with the fan reving up to over 35% it was too much for me. I think the DirectCU2 should be the least noisy one, however you will orient the pipes down, I now use a DirectCU2 GTX560, which is only 2 slots with much slimmer fans, pipes pointing down. With a custom fan curve and less vcore (0.95) its quite silent (don't hear it over the case fans in the games i play). If the 6950 DirectCU were available when i bought it i'd have gotten that instead, it will end up veery close to the fan on the bottom though.
  • Rick83 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the info. Guess stock cooler is out of the question then.
    Next challenge is finding the right cooler, there's a lot of designs out there that have not been properly reviewed, from one to three fans...Still hoping for a sapphire Vapor-X to join the fray as well.
    Oh well, probably going to wait for Z68 to happen anyway, so I can get a third DVI output, without having to pay for the sapphire flex or an miniDP to dvi active adapter.. Just got DCS:A10, and I see a triple screen setup becoming a possibility. Thanks to spanning window mode now working, I won't even have to limit myself to eyefinity and whatnot..
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I'm interested in some more specifics of how bad this issue really is. I've honestly never heard of it before. Are we talking for extreme overclocking or in general they are not very efficient?

    I've always hated the idea of having heavy cards "hanging" with tower systems and thought this method of vertical hanging would be great for alleviating that stress, but this heatpipe issue is new to me.

    Thanks for bringing it up and hopefully the author of the article can chime in.
  • Rick83 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Well, the heatpipe works by evaporating a liquid which gathers at the bottom of the heatpipe and then rises to the top where it condenses. This doesn't work as well if the heat source is above the lower end of the heatpipe. The exact impact though, I've not seen it examined. It can't be that bad, as many heatpipe designs for VGA coolers double back on themselves, which has a similar aspect.

    Still, would be awesome if such obvious compatibility challenges would be addressed by even a single reviewer...
  • Spoelie - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Still working through the review, but thought I'd already chime in. The design is interesting for certain, I don't buy anything other than mATX boards lately, but would never consider this case because of the storage system.

    * 4 is really the bare minimum for me (currently have 3 3.5" and 1 SSD)
    * mounting system, took most of the timelapse video...
    * no airflow
    * direct contact with sidepanels/metal???

    Especially that last point surprises me, that truly is a worst case scenario for transferring vibration noise. Personally think suspension + airflow is a far superior alternative to "heatsink" type cooling for drives. Seems like I'll be sticking to my P182 for a while yet.

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