SilverStone Fortress FT04 Case Reviewby Dustin Sklavos on August 29, 2013 10:00 AM EST
- Posted in
SilverStone's Raven RV04 and Fortress FT04 have had a very storied history making the transition from the CES show floor to the retail floor. We've already reviewed the Raven RV04 and found it to be a fantastic performer in practice but hung up on a couple of poor engineering decisions; since the Fortress FT04 shares the same basic internal framework, it's going to inherit those issues by default. There are differences in the outer framework worth mentioning, though.
The RV04's biggest problem was its front door. The unusual curve wound up being incredibly problematic in practice; the hinge wasn't going to snap, but the natural flexibility of the material meant it was difficult to actually line the closed door up properly. Switching to an aluminum fascia (and doing aluminum the right way) and giving the side vented lips instead of leaving them open improves the problem tremendously, but doesn't actually solve it. SilverStone has apparently had a difficult time getting this door machined properly, and honestly it should've been considered a lost cause, scrapped on the table, and radically redesigned. We just don't need the door. No matter what surface the case sits on, the bottom of the door will lightly scrape against it. It catches on short carpet, it catches on the white fabric used for the photography backdrop, it catches.
The rest of the exterior matches that attractive aluminum face, but the interior is, for better or worse, nigh identical to the Raven RV04. There are boatloads of features: a plastic rack (with included struts) for supporting graphics cards, an adjustable support for the CPU cooler in the bottom of the case, straps for better securing drives in the bottom bays, and one bay even has a plastic hotswap clamp and SATA backplane. And we still get the removable motherboard tray, and all the drive cages are removable.
So what's the problem? The problem is that all these features turn the interior of the FT04 into a mess, and they all require varying degrees of effort to employ. SilverStone cases are typically engineered differently than other vendors' designs; that's part of their appeal, and when a SilverStone design works, it works well. But the interior of the FT04 is haphazard; you could make a case for the graphic card and CPU cooler supports, but the lack of symmetry with the drive cages isn't just visually unappealing, it's work.
|SilverStone Fortress FT04 Specifications|
|Motherboard Form Factor||Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX, E-ATX, SSI-EEB, SSI-CEB|
|Drive Bays||External||2x 5.25"|
|Internal||7x 3.5", 4x 2.5"|
|Cooling||Front||2x 180mm intake fan|
|Rear||1x 120mm fan mount|
|I/O Port||2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic|
|Power Supply Size||ATX|
|PSU||~200mm with optical drive|
8.62" x 21.5" x 18.98"
219mm x 546mm x 482mm
USB 3.0 via internal header
Removable drive cages
Analog adjustable speed intake fans
Support struts for CPU fan and graphics cards
Window or windowless models
Component support remains essentially the same, and although two of the 3.5" drive bays are listed as "hotswap" on SilverStone's site, only one actually has the SATA backplane. The analog adjustable speed fans are, in my opinion, this case's killer feature beyond the thermal design. While the interior of the case is disorderly to a fault, we've already demonstrated that it's incredibly thermally efficient.
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GokieKS - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - linkAs someone whose primary desktop workstation is housed in an FT-03 Mini and whose gaming PC is in an FT-01, I sort of agree with you. I love both of them to death, but there are way too many quirks to building a system with the FT-03 Mini for it to be the best case ever made. All those components you listed? You *might* be able to stuff all of them into the case, but you will have to choose the components very carefully, and more likely than not make some slight modifications to the case to get it all to fit, and all the while probably cursing somebody (either SilverStone or yourself) because there is next to no chance you will get everything installed properly on the first try. Even my fairly simple (no dGPU, no ODD, H60i CLC, 1 SSD and 1 3.5" HDD) build required way more time, effort, and fiddling than any other computer I've ever built - and I've been doing it for 15 years.
But will all that said, I wouldn't trade it for anything else - unless they update the mATX FT-03 to remove the plastic air vent which mars the otherwise beautiful design.
kkwst2 - Friday, August 30, 2013 - linkYeah, I looked at the FT-03 and the Mini, but decided there were too many compromises. I settled on the tj08-e and have been extremely pleased. Took a bit more time and planning than a large case, but was able to get an SSD and 2 3.5 HDD in easily. Certainly not as distinctive as the FT03, but that's not really my thing. But I do appreciate the compact tj08.
JDG1980 - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - linkFirst of all, thanks for doing this review - it was incredibly frustrating to have nothing written in English on the FT04 even a month after its public release.
You mentioned the bottom of the front door snagging on carpets and your photo backdrop. Does this still take place if the case is on a smooth surface like a desk? Like many other users, I run my PC on a desk, so if it works OK there this isn't a deal-breaker.
I said this before on the RV04 review, but I think your mediocre performance on the single-GPU test was due to using an inappropriate graphics card. I understand you need a consistent test bed system, but the ASUS GeForce GTX 560 Ti DirectCU II TOP is about the worst card design possible for a direct airflow case: it has fins running perpendicular to the flow direction. Many newer DirectCU cards have the fins parallel to the long side of the card, and I suspect this would give substantially lower temperatures. An even better choice might be the Arctic Accelero S1 Plus aftermarket cooler; it has widely spaced fins which run the right way for direct airflow, and can be run fanless. I strongly suspect a FT04 or RV04 could handle a card with up to 150W TDP, maybe even more, using just the Accelero S1 Plus and the intake fans, with no dedicated GPU fan. I'll post again if I get a chance to test this. It's important to remember you are building a system, not just throwing together a collection of miscellaneous parts. There should be some synergy in your build.
Regarding the difficulty of assembly - I have a hard time really caring too much. I suspect this looms larger for testers than for actual enthusiasts, because testers have to build and unbuild all the time! If I get excellent thermals and acoustics, and the fit/finish/appearance is satisfactory, then I don't really care if I scrape a few knuckles during the build.
DanNeely - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - linkEase of assembly is probably a lot more of a spectrum than an either or. While it's not a major concern for a box that I'll probably only swap GPUs and possibly SSDs over its 4 year life; given the choice between two cases with similar performance, pricing, and acceptable aesthetics I'll probably go for the one I don't swear at.
For systems I build for friends/family not swearing at it while I'm working is a more important consideration. Boutique system builders probably put ease of assembly high on their list of criteria for picking a case.
And lastly, especially for higher end cases, there's an element of "if they screwed up one thing (ease of build), what other surprises am I going to run into later". For $200+ I expect the manufacturer to get everything right; when spending that much there really shouldn't be any compromises. Cheaper cases get more slack since on a budget system something has to give.
JDG1980 - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - linkI agree that such things are less forgivable at a $230 price point than at $110, but it seems to me that *all* cases involve compromises. I'm not sure there is such a thing as a perfect case on the market at *any* price. A case that's excellent for air-cooling (the FT02, for instance) will be only mediocre on water, and sometimes vice-versa. A massive full tower won't appeal to someone trying to build a compact system.
RdVi - Friday, August 30, 2013 - linkMine does not scrub the door on a flat surface.
I agree that ease of assembly doesn't bother me a lot. Yes, it soured the process a little, but while I have a fair amount of experience, I have to concede that I'm just not good with fiddly things so most others interested in this case will probably find it easier than me. However, on the other end of the spectrum, I reworked the cabling once the build was complete due to buying a new PSU, turning the case on its side and then upright was somewhat of a challenge - it's heavy. Not that I struggled too much, but I did worry about not doing it right. And you had to hold the damn door shut every time you did.
As for the fit and finish, on my black model the only disappointment was the colour difference between the door and the top. I have to say that I don't really notice it so much now, and if you have the case on a desk, you won't see it when you're sitting anyway. It's not that bad, but I didn't expect there to be any difference between those two pieces. The plastic vents I expected to be different and luckily they actually look a bit better than I was bracing myself for, they don't stand out as being too different to the door or side panel to me.
arthur449 - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - linkI feel like, in the past, SilverStone has gone from a adapting a larger case to smaller cases (FT02 -> FT03), but in this situation they started with a smaller case (TJ08 / PS07) and tried to stretch it to a larger one.
Ubercake - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - linkEven though I like a lot of things Silverstone does with their case designs, this seems to be a step back. An exhaust fan at the bottom? If not, the only exhaust appears to be through the top-mounted PSU hovering just above GPU2.
I like the reverse design only when there are fans blowing up from the bottom like in other Silverstone cases.
JDG1980 - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - linkThere is no bottom-mounted fan. I think the idea is that since the front fans have high static pressure, the hot air will be expelled out the vents in the back without needing an additional active cooler. But you could mount a 120mm fan on the back vent if you didn't trust that. Silverstone claims on their FAQ for this case that adding a 120mm fan increases CPU cooling performance, but actually makes the GPU run hotter. We don't know what they tested with, though.
pdjblum - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - linkJust do not get why you refuse to list the materials in the specification table? It is nice to know if it is all aluminium, all steel, steel and aluminium, steel and plastic, and so on. It is not fun hunting around the prose trying to sort it out. I just don't get how the material is not a critical specification.