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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  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Good micro-ATX boards will have the same kinds of overclocking goodies as their full ATX kin.

    Slimline optical drives are fairly standardized, so in this instance you just have to find one that slot-loads. SilverStone sells one on their site.
  • dalenchm0b - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I can answer some of your questions, since I am actually burning in one of these cases right now. The optical drive this case uses is the same type of drive found in those more expensive laptops where the drive sucks in the disc as opposed to a tray popping out. It's the same mechanism for the Wii and PS3 optical drives. There aren't too many models available, but you can readily find them on eBay. Just search for "slot load dvd" and "slot load blu-ray". Personally, I don't think I will buy one anyway because USB flash drives are cheap and I can just use that since we are moving towards digital distribution anyway.

    As for the motherboard, I am currently running stability tests on an overclocked i7-920 @ 3.8 GHz using the Asus Rampage III Gene. The RIIIG is a 1366 mATX mobo that supports SLI and CF, so I am definitely going to take advantage of that one day when I upgrade my old GTX 260 to some HD 6000 or GTX 500 series goodness. I am using a Corsair H60 with medium speed Yate Loons in push-pull. In fact, I replaced all the fans with Yate Loons since I have had good results with them and they are nice and cheap. I replaced the GPU fan at the bottom of the case with 2 80mm Yates, because the 120mm fan uses a bracket that directs air at an angle instead of directly upwards. I didn't bother going with an SSD, instead I am using two WD 640 GB black drives in RAID 0 for the OS and apps, while a 2 TB Samsung F4 provides storage. The reviewer isn't kidding about the side panels passively cooling the drives, because I can touch the side of the case and feel exactly where the drives are from the heat these bad boys are giving off. Powering this little bastard is a fully modular Seasonic X750. It should provide enough power for dual gpu goodness as long as I stick with mainstream level cards.

    Anyway, I'm currently benching at 3.8 GHz and its been stable for a few hours now but the 4 cores with hyperthreading enabled and all 8 threads active is making the CPU just a tad too warm for my taste at 72 C. I'll probably give the silverstone fans a test run and see if they can cool it down some more, but otherwise its doing pretty damn good I think.

    I am satisfied with the case and would recommend it to someone looking to maximize desk space while looking simple yet elegant. Thanks for reading!
  • coldcase - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Sorry but I'm not finding that design appealing at all. Looks like a mini fridge.
  • 7Enigma - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Hi guys,

    Read your article yesterday and then this morning saw this deal on a slimline DVD/CD burner ($23). Hope this helps some of you reading this and wanting to get the FT03 (not me):
  • 7Enigma - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Scratch my last comment, too early in the morning. This was for a slimline but not slot-loading it appears.
  • james007 - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    I appreciate the in-depth article. However - what about that optical-drive, which has to be "slot-loading"??? Exactly which models are going to fit this thing? The "setup" table doesn't say what he put into this. I would think, since our whole purpose in reading this article is to gleen the benefit of the author's experience in order to ascertain whether to use this in our own build - and to help as a guide in building it -- that this is one of the primary items he'd cover.

    I see precious few slot-loading optical drives available from online retailers, and zero information on which to get. Any helpful thoughts on this?
  • araczynski - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    i guess to each their own, but to me, it looks like a silver paper shredder trashcan.
  • EnzoFX - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    I just don't think these reviews do any cases justice. SPCR does it best, a case is about cooling, how well it can run at given tdp/overall power usage/and how quiet. Saying it has decent noise levels isn't very helpful. I remember an old review saying that noise was below the ambient 30+ dB's which then prompted me to ignore the entire thing.
  • cordis - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    "To be fair, though, I don't think I could armchair engineer a better solution than what SilverStone has done."

    Really? I came up with a couple variations:
    smaller wooden box -
    larger brass box -

    The easiest way they could have done this would be to just put one big fan at the bottom of the box, put the optical slot in vertically, maybe put the psu near the top of the case, and just keep the air paths open all the way up. If the fan at the bottom overlaps both chambers, you can easily get enough cooling that way. In my homemade cases, I put separate fans on each side, but I'm thinking about another one with a single fan at the bottom. I'm not thrilled with this case, it's not nearly as elegant as the other rotated motherboard cases they have. I appreciate that they're still being creative, though.
  • shyrix - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    I love this case. i put in dual 6870's, asus p8p67-m pro, i2500k,h70, corsair vengeance sticks, ocz vertex ssd raid0

    fit it all, documented my build via facebook. lots of photos...just click through to facebook album.

    has strider psu, with short cable kit.

    i can answer any questions about this case/build

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