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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  • Rick83 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Well, that's why I recently removed all mechanical disks from my tower and into the network. One SSD is all a system really needs, and I don't want spinning disks in my proximity. Of course, I was running ancient 80G and 200G disks which were proper noisy, so that may have been traumatizing. But in general, I don't want storage on my local machine, there's just no point, and to get where I'd want, I'd need a huuuuuge tower. This way, my disks reside in a nice Stacker, well cooled and as much out of earshot as possible, and my desktop system is reduced to a single 2.5" SSD that makes zero noise and has no trouble with getting a bit warmed up, as there are no mechanical tolerances that are impacted. I strongly recommend that approach for anyone who has more than one hard disk that they use...
    Also, with 3HDDs, why bother paying extra for less and getting a micro-ATX board? Most cases that fit 3 HDDs are so big, that they don't really take advantage of the micro-ATX form factor. (There are some, like the bigger of the Lian-Li cubes, and your P182, but these are already quite "big" cases...Going to a midi-tower is only about 3 cms of height away...
  • Spoelie - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Most NAS solutions have less than ideal performance (when moving >10GB files around) and less than ideal noise characteristics (high pitched 40mm fans, really??). My current flat is not that big so there is no out-of-earshot location ;). But to be honest, haven't explored that option very well.

    Instead I have one main, relatively silent desktop as the gaming/htpc/file/printer server, and smartphone/tablet/notebook "clients" for leisure computing. All 3 drives are 1TB WD Caviar Greens (EADS) though, and are a hell of a lot quieter than my older 250-500GB drives. In the current mounting mechanism, inaudible.

    mATX boards provide everything+kitchen sink nowadays, ATX form factor is really relegated to multigpu and some htpc configurations with specialized addin boards. The premium is not that much IMO, just a tad over a $100 is what I paid.

    I don't really have a genuine need for another case, but am always looking for improvement - and I have to say, something less heavy and less bulky with top mounted connections sounds mighty appealing. The P182 is a real back breaker to tug along. I just don't want to give up too much silence/cooling/mounting capacity.
  • Rasterman - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I did that too with my latest build, SSD only, NAS for storage. It works fine, but anytime I need to move large files its slow 15-25MB/s. I have been reading the green drives are very quiet and am considering one, but desktop is about as silent as it can get though (3 nexus fans at 500rpm), and ANY noise would be audible. The other thought I had was using a usb3 netbook for a NAS, that should provide much better performance than my synology and be: expandable, easily configurable, can host anything, while not using hardly any power, plus it has built in battery backup.
  • rabidsquirrel - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I think I just threw up a little in my mouth...

    Seriously, that thing is hidious. Hopefully its thermal properties make up for that for some users.
  • kevith - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Ehm, do You seriously mean, that 45 dB of noise in an enclosure without a discrete GFX is "not obnoxious" or "dealbreaking.

    I´m a musician, 45 dB is LOUD, man!
  • Spivonious - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Thanks for including more useful noise info. 45dBA is loud.

    Was there any explanation for the odd tilted fan mounts? You allude to Silverstone's exhaustive airflow engineering but never go into details.
  • Rick83 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    45 db at one foot. Sound diminishes by the second power with distance.
    Commonly such things are measured at one meter distance. One foot is pretty close, much too close in most desktop scenarios, unless you have the box sitting right on the edge of the desk, and are bent forwards. Tripling distance leads to about a factor 1/9 for the sound attenuation, which results in a decrease of almost 10 decibel. (unless my physics are rustier than I thought they were)
    Additionally, no mention was made whether certain directions are noisier than others. I'd expect most of the noise to come out of the top, due to this case's design.
  • Spivonious - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure of the rules for distance and attenuation, but it would mean that at 3 feet the noise level would be 40dBA (8/9 of 45dBA). Still pretty loud.

    I would love to see what Antec would do with this design. They could probably get it down to 35dBA with no impact on cooling.
  • Spivonious - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Looked it up

    You were right that the attenuation would be around 10dBA (taking it to 35dBA). Much quieter and easily acceptable with a noise floor of 32dBA.
  • Voldenuit - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Sound intensity decreases proportional to 1/r^2, but sound *pressure* (which our ears are directly sensitive to) decrease proportionally to 1/r. Most sound level meters measure sound pressure level (SPL) and it is the most common way of reporting sound loudness on tech sites.

    I've owned several Silverstone cases - a TJ08 and a KL01, and neither have been particularly silent or even quiet. Even swapping out the crappy stock Silverstone fans for 800 rpm Scythe Slipstreams didn't help much with the TJ08 - the KL01 unfortunately used a proprietary connector for its front panel fan, so I was stuck with its obnoxious sound volume and characteristics.

    If you want *quiet*, Antec P183s and Fractal Design R3s can be made to hover around 14-20dB at 1m, and Puget Systems' custom builds live around 11-14 dB.

    I love Silverstone's design and build (for the most part - the FT03 looks like a trashcan to me), but outside of a few exceptions like the FT02 and RV02, they are not exactly silent cases out of the box.

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