Silverstone FT03 Review

Discussion in 'Overclocking & Hardware' started by orby, Jun 22, 2011.

  1. orby

    orby Member

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    Hey guys, first time reviewer here.

    Today, I'll be briefly looking at the FT03 and going through specifics that I feel reviewers seem to miss so that it's worth a read, rather than most of you thinking: "bleh, it's been reviewed before, moving on".
    I am unsure of the exact release date in Aus, but I think it was around January of this year.

    [​IMG]

    The FT03 looks unsuspecting with a simple exterior design. It is devoid of any discerning features which ultimately makes it its strongest feature. While this appeals to me, some will be disappointed that there is no version with a window. If you are ambitious (unlike me), you might feel confident enough to be able to install a window yourself, as I have seen on other forums.
    Another gripe that some might not like is that there are no external 5.25" bays and only space for a slim slot loading optical drive.

    The outer panels are made of anodised aluminium, which makes an already light case even lighter. 3 of the panels are removable, as well as the plastic top grille. The front panel pops straight off and is held in place by 4 clips which I would have liked to see on the other 2 sides of the case. The 2 side panels slide up and out, and, as you are about to find out, is actually a better mechanism for securing on to the chassis.
    Unfortunately, I received the case with one of the clips broken on the front panel:
    [​IMG]
    I then changed my mind about wanting these clips for all of the side panels. This problem will never occur on the side panels, as the aluminium will not be prone to breaking as easily.
    I have contacted Silverstone, who have been most helpful by informing me they will be sending a replacement clip for the front panel and will alert me when it is sent.

    Note the mechanism for the side panels pictured:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    The left panel is the main motherboard access panel and the other is the rear motherboard access, main panel and cable panel as I like to call them, respectively.
    The main panel features a removable dust filter, only half of which has filter material because the other half is the PSU exhaust.
    Dust filter is inserted into top 2 holes first then pushed inwards (with a little more force than a computer nerd should be expected/feel comfortable to use) for the rest of the perimeter, and finally latched in at the bottom, as shown:
    [​IMG]
    Sorry, some people like to know this (like me :))​

    The cable panel features an aluminium heatsink for the hot swappable HDD. I have not done any testing for hard drive temperatures with this heatsink as I don't really see the benefit of it when the other hard drives, and where you will most likely place your permanent HDD, will be disadvantaged by not having their own heatsinks. I use an SSD for my OS drive and temperatures are of no issue or concern. There is no ventilation for the HDD/cable compartment, as you will see in the pictures later on.

    An excellent feature of all of the panels is that they are completely tool-less/screw-less and there is little effort required to remove and replace them.

    Moving on to the interior:
    [​IMG]

    The interior is where I feel the FT03 really shines, it has such a unique design which leads me to believe the designers were after the smallest footprint they could manage (occupying a tiny real estate of 235mmx284mm) while maintaining good airflow through the case. It uses the same principle as the Silverstone Raven, with a 90 degree rotated motherboard so that the I/O shield is at the top of the case.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    3 fans are included in the package and they are not the air penetrators - which I would have liked to have seen. There is an 80mm fan bracket (and I think also supports 90mm) in the top left corner of the case to allow for installation of a 3rd party fan to further cool your GPU, the heatsink on my 5870 protruded too far to allow for the installation of a fan in this position.
    I think this extra bracket is especially handy if you have a passively cooled card, but I do see the direction of the fan interfering with the natural upward flow of the design.
    The photo on the right shows the 3 fan brackets removed to allow for installation of the motherboard. There is also the option to install two 80mm intake fans at the bottom of the case, instead of having the 120mm angled fan.
    There are rubber 2 rubber strips at the top of the case where the side panel makes contact to dampen any vibration (also on the other side of the case), I think they should have incorporated these strips at the bottom too.

    [​IMG]

    Behind the motherboard tray, there is enough room for three 3.5" HDDs and one SSD. Except for the hot swappable bay, the rails must first be removed (2 screws per rail, shown) and attached to the hard drives before securing them in to their respective places. It seems like a hard task to have to hold the hard drive in place while securing onto the tray, but is made easy because the rails easily slot into their correct position so that there is no guess work involved in trying to find the holes for the screws.

    Hot swap in action:
    [​IMG]
    probably would have paid for me to have a drive in there to demonstrate.​

    Top of the case:
    [​IMG]
    The top of the case features external USB3 adaptors (perfect for my Rampage III Gene), headphone and microphone jacks, power (larger) and reset switches, exhaust fan outlet, hot-swappable bay access.
    There is also a guard, held by 2 screws, which must be removed before being able to undo the PCI brackets.

    Bottom of case:
    [​IMG]
    The bottom of the case features rubber feet and a removable filter for the PSU and bottom fan intake. This nifty filter is held on by magnets, which, while they are fairly weak, is extremely hand because you don't have to flip the case over and fiddle around, or undo any screws to remove it.
    [​IMG]

    Time to get some gear to install:
    [​IMG]
    i7 930, Noctua NH-U12P, Asus Rampage 3 Gene, 3x2 G.Skill Tridents. All pulled from another ATX case in one go (i.e. did not split up).

    [​IMG]
    I managed to install the aforementioned components in one piece because there is plenty of room to work around the case. Usually, I have to remove the heatsink in order to screw the motherboard onto the standoffs.
    I did have a fail moment where I didn't check that all the standoffs were in place, turns out there was one missing and I had to unscrew the motherboard off to install it. So, check the standoffs are all in place first, people!

    [​IMG]
    As can be seen in the above pic, the motherboard tray is highly accessible due to the removable front panel. It was easy to connect the 8-pin power to the motherboard and the heatsink fans were installed without problems.
    Another reason for the removable front panel is to install the slim slot loading drive. I took the opportunity to upgrade to a bluray player because of this case.

    [​IMG]
    Plenty of clearance between the noctua and the side panel.​

    Finished product:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Unfortunately, I was unable to reinstate the angled fan that sits atop the PSU due to the noctua taking up too much space. I would have liked to route the thick black PSU cord (included with the case) through that hole at the bottom left on the fan bracket, but the cut-out in the motherboard tray was, honestly, 1mm shy of allowing the plug to squeeze through.
    I had trouble plugging in the power cord for the sound card and the fan connector near the big red button on the motherboard tray because I had already installed the GPU. It is a tight squeeze in that area to the left of the graphics card and access to the buttons on the R3G would be completely cut off if I had a crossfire set up. Having said that, I am not one who benches or requires regular access to the motherboard.

    [​IMG]
    Special mention goes to my favourite compartment, pictured above. This section is in the front of the case where the excess lengths of the cable were able to be pulled into for extra cable management.

    Temperatures:

    Ambient temperatre: 21°C
    CPU Idle: 37°C (Core Temp) (2x Noctua NF-P12 120mm Fans push/pull approx 1350rpm each)
    CPU load: untested
    GPU Idle: 42°C (CCC) (Did not record fan usage from CCC, I think was around 30%)
    GPU load: 62°C (CCC, 15 minutes of Crysis 2)
    System Idle: 21°C (SpeedFan - I highly sense a false reading though, considering it is the same as the room temperature :o)
    Case fans:
    1200rpm top exhaust
    1200rpm bottom intake

    UPDATE on TEMPERATURE (23/06/2011:
    I have since figured out how to quieten the case fans down to a respectable level through the bios and have also removed one of the fans on the HSF, so no more pull fan on the cpu. The noctua is running at 1400rpm they are rated at 1300, I think, with about 20dB. and I got the case fans down to 950rpm for intake and 870rpm for exhaust.
    New idle temps
    CPU: 42°C (Core Temp) (1x Noctua NF-P12 120mm Fan 1400rpm)
    GPU: 49°C (CCC) (36% fan usage in CCC)
    Case fans:
    870rpm top exhaust
    950rpm bottom intake

    Conclusion:
    What I look for in a case is ease of installation of the components, interior/exterior design and the ability to keep the components cool.
    The case really does look like a fortress, the panels are well constructed and fairly flush. I would have liked to have seen all 4 panels removable, for even easier installation of components onto the motherboard. The user is especially restricted to accessing, what is conventionally, the bottom row of the motherboard.
    Inevitably, if you use a wireless adapter like me, it sticks out and looks a bit unsightly, but is something that cannot be avoided. Alternatively, you can bend the antenna down so that it sits under the plastic grille, but I suffered significant signal strength loss from 94% down to 76%:
    [​IMG]
    Another noteworthy drawback of the case was the plastic top grille is flimsy and doesn't clip in very securely, this means that I had to bend the dvi cable a lot so that it wouldn't pop the plastic grille off.

    I was surprised by the ease of installation of the components and there is ample space for cable management behind the motherboard tray. The hot swappable HDD bay is a nice addition as well as the external USB3 ports (although, I had to hook them up to USB2.0 because I was having trouble installing the device drivers for 3.0).
    Some may quibble at the limited space for only 3 hard drives and 1 solid state, however, this is acceptable to me because I came from an RV02 which was a mid tower case with the same storage options.

    Although my build would not allow for installation of one of the included fans, it still runs at a respectable temperate and I doubt that it would have made much of a difference if it did fit. To my ears, the case fans are fairly loud, I would compare the noise levels of the FT03 to being just quieter than the Antec 1200 on low speed and a bit noisier than the Silverstone RV02 on low speed. A fan speed controller would have been a nice touch, I tried to change the fan speeds through the bios of the R3G, as I hooked all the fans up to the motherboard, but I didn't notice a change in rpm :)confused:). Another great addition in the package was an adapter for the 3 included case fans that went from 3-pin to molex - Something I did not receive with the RV02.

    All in all I recommend this case to anyone looking to reclaim some of their desk space, or someone who is sick of elaborate cases. Its simplistic design would also suit a living room, and there are no annoying lights, except for the activity indicators on the top panel and one blue light for the hot swappable drive activity.
    If you are looking to completely watercool your pc, perhaps this is not the right case for you, I have seen an example of a watercooled FT03 on another forum and, quite frankly, it's hideous because of the mods that the builder had to make to the case. If someone can completely watercool this baby internally, I would commend you (Creekin, if you are reading this, get to work and let me know how I can do it)!

    The case was purchased from IT Estate in North Rocks for $178 in May, which is an acceptable price to me. I question the manufacturing process of this case, as the one I received had two problems with it, one being the aforementioned broken clip and the other, which I made a separate post about, being a poorly aligned screw pictured below, where the screw was crooked and protruding (when it should have been flush) and scratching the side panel upon removal or replacement (since been fixed through RMA).
    [​IMG]

    Pros
    Extremely small footprint
    Innovative design
    Ample space for cable management
    Ample space to install motherboard and components
    Ample space for longer graphics cards (up to 349mm)
    Light

    Cons
    Noisy fans
    No space for WCing
    Only fits slim slot loading optical drives
    Only in my case - was received with manufacturer's damage - I hope this is not a common problem!

    Thank you for reading, hope you enjoyed the pics.
    Neg/pos feedback is more than welcome and I'm sorry if I missed anything.
    If I think any more pros and cons I will include them.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2011
  2. Creekin

    Creekin (Taking a Break)

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    :wired:

    i'll give it a shot

    Click to view full size!



    excellent review
    would read again :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:

    great looking case
    reminds me of my "Tower of Power™"

    Click to view full size!


    might get one for that :D
     
  3. OP
    OP
    orby

    orby Member

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    Thanks creeks, I somehow think that this case only appeals to me, looking at the feedback I'm (not) getting :lol:.

    oh wow it might actually work out perfect as a little tower of power for you, what does it actually power? lol is it some kind of light control box?
     
  4. Creekin

    Creekin (Taking a Break)

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    yeah basically

    at the bottom is an aquacomputer multiswitch (8 channels of 12v)
    5x ccfl inverters above that for 6 ccfls
    then 5x pcbs for control of the rgb led arrays..
    and then the pc psu on top... :D
     
  5. shane41

    shane41 Member

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    Well I think it's a very interesting case. Top marks for a very good review.
    Although I did struggle to see the wife/girlfriend in the background. :)
     
  6. OP
    OP
    orby

    orby Member

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    haha, cheers mate, it is my girlfriend. I guess it can be there as a teaser now that you've mentioned it.

    I have since figured out how to quieten the case fans down to a respectable level through the bios and have also removed one of the fans on the HSF, so no more pull fan on the cpu. The noctua is running at 1400rpm they are rated at 1300, I think, with about 20dB. and I got the case fans down to 950rpm for intake and 870rpm for exhaust.
    New idle temps
    CPU: 42°C (Core Temp)
    GPU: 49°C (CCC)

    I'll update the OP with this info, been running these temps all day, I would still like a reduction in the noctua's rpm as I think that's where most of the noise is coming from. Might stick a new fan on there in the future.
    Anyhow, case is much quieter now and idle temps are acceptable.
     
  7. koma_white

    koma_white Member

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    I've been rather tempted by the FT03 for a few months now but haven't had the funds to pull the trigger on what would probably end up being as ambitious a project as my previous SG06 mITX build... '10 pounds of holy in a 5 pound bag'.

    Does it look as much like a rubbish bin as some photo's make it appear?
    I personally really like both the concept and the implementation, but every so often you see a photo of it that just makes it look awkward!

    One thing you didn't mention are your clockspeeds for those temperatures.
    I'm assuming your mildly overclocked as otherwise that's quite warm!
     
  8. fatman350

    fatman350 Member

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    Interesting reading as I currently use a R2G with a gtx580 in a coolermaster 341 case and would like to go even smaller.

    Seeing this review using a very similar board and p/supply (seasonic) I could easily achieve what I want and a small foot print.

    Very tempting except the cash flow is non-existent atm :(

    Will keep this case in mind just on the off chance I start rolling in cash again !!
     
  9. Rabe

    Rabe Member

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    Had this case for a couple months. Best case ever had, small and a massive amount of airflow (using 2x80mms at the bottom as I have a long graphics) keeping everything massively cooler than my other cases (except my benchtop, obviously).

    I found that the magnetic filter on the bottom falls off incredibly easy, just a small move of the case can knock it free. Also found the hot swap bay to be a bit "sticky" not as smooth as I thought it would be. Other than that...

    i5-2500K at 4.6Ghz is idling at 26-28 on the coolest core with a Antec Kuhler
    GTX470 SOC 750/1500/1750 is idling at 48
    Ambient is about 13 at the moment
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  10. kandrews

    kandrews Member

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    Brilliant review....

    I liked your review........very honest and focused on the important issues like quality and design details.

    Please do more reviews like this in the future, I would be very pleased to see more.
     
  11. OP
    OP
    orby

    orby Member

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    Sorry for the late replies guys, been busy at work and have had a terribly stiff neck which has made for a miserable week :(

    Haha, it certainly is a dust bin, or a block of flats, now that you've mentioned it, but I'm into that sort of thing, no lights, inconspicuously sitting on your desk and out of the way.

    I'll upload a photo of it on my desk in its current position to give you a better idea of it in context. I realise, now, that my photos are just of it on its own.

    I don't have an overclock, just running it with all the automatic settings of the R3G, the x58 is a hot motherboard and one thing to remember is that I don't have the side intake fan (the angled one near the grille side door grille), just the one that sits under the GPU, so I do have a bit of heat from the north bridge pretty much sitting there. I have since upgraded the fans to air penetrators on their 7v setting and CPU temp has gone up to 42 degrees on idle. I have sacrificed low temps for absolute quiet. It's now terribly silent, which is what I aimed for.

    I'm not familiar with the 341 but thanks for reading and don't worry about the expense, it's well worth every penny to invest in a good case.
    Sell something and put the money towards a new case ;)

    Hey, good to see some love out there for this case!
    While I don't move the case around (at all lol) I do agree with your comments and I'm hoping that the hot swap bay eases up over time. Nonetheless, the hot swap bay they've included is incredibly handy!
    EDIT: just remembered to comment on your temps, they look really good! looks like the sandy bridge is a lot cooler running than the x58s out there! Were you able to fit the other angled fan that sits atop the PSU? I was off by 5mm or so because of my CPU cooler

    Thanks for your support matey, what I only wanted to be a brief review turned into a bit of a read.
    I'm not overly technical but I do know what people want to see in a case review and I love a good case.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  12. jnicoll

    jnicoll Member

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    Great review thanks Orby. I also have been eyeing off these cases for some months now and finally bit the bullet ordering one yesterday (silver). I'm putting a Llano set-up in it and will let you know how I go.
     
  13. OP
    OP
    orby

    orby Member

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    Cheers mate, let me know what you think of the white grilles!
     
  14. Rabe

    Rabe Member

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    Yeah the angular fan fit in perfect, miles away from anything important. Only the angular fan at the bottom didn't fit, but two 80mm fans fixed that :)
     
  15. Urbansprawl

    Urbansprawl Member

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    Could you fit two full size graphics cards in there?
     
  16. Rabe

    Rabe Member

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    Easily, i have a GTX470 SOC which has quite a large cooler, and there is miles of space left over.
     
  17. OP
    OP
    orby

    orby Member

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    Yo guys sorry for the late update, I been super dooper busy with uni this sem and I finally finished yesterday (yay).
    Here is a pic of my setup so you get an idea of the sort of deskspace it takes (no dslr for this sorry):
    [​IMG]
    Desk is 120cm wide and 60cm deep, Monitor is 24".
    EDIT: damn I didn't push the lid down so the case looks a bit off!
     

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