If you read my review of the SilverStone Raven RV04 (and you should go back and do so since it's going to be a fairly regular reference point), everything here is going to be very familiar. Assembly of the FT04 is essentially identical, although "features" turn into oddball hiccups here and there. As I said, there's really a lot of unneeded complication in this internal design that makes it unnecessarily difficult to work with.

It starts with the removable motherboard tray. Ordinarily I'd be gung ho about a removable motherboard tray, but in the FT04 it's essentially unnecessary. You're going to need to remove the primary drive cage to install 3.5" drives into it anyhow, and that's the only internal component that really obscures the motherboard tray itself. I think it's unfair to actively cite the removable motherboard tray as a point against the FT04, but I do think it's also emblematic of the essentially overengineered nature of the case as a whole. With all that said, getting the motherboard in is still pretty easy; SilverStone has six of the motherboard standoffs preinstalled, and the rest is gravy.

The instruction manual suggests you wire up as much of the case as possible before moving on from this point, and I agree. Installing drives really is the stuff of nightmares, though. You have the remove the top panel of the case to install a 5.25" drive and the power supply; that's not the problem. The problem resides with 3.5" and 2.5" drives. 2.5" drives must still be lined up inside the two bottom cages of the case and screwed into the bottom. That means removing the cage surrounding the mounts, which is held in place with five screws. 3.5" drives can be installed in the bottom cages, but it's almost easier to just remove the primary 3.5" cage and install them in there.

Of course that presents its own set of problems. Drives are screwed into the cage, but the cage itself is held in place with three screws, none of which are particularly easy to remove and replace. There's a thumbscrew that goes into the top and has to be removed with either your fingers or pliers as there isn't clearance for a conventional screwdriver. The two screws that go into the bottom plastic lip of the cage are easy enough to remove but require some doing to replace so you don't drop them into that tray. These are minor nuisances but minor nuisances are really the Achilles' heel of the FT04/RV04 assembly. It didn't need to be this complicated.

Finally, while the power supply installs easily enough, expansion card installation is again needlessly complicated. And again, it's a small nitpick that is adding up with the rest of them. If you look on the right side of the photo, you can see that the right-hand lip of the case hooks around and there are holes in it to slot a screwdriver through. That's appreciated, but again, I'm not sure it's entirely necessary. Other case designs have gotten on fine with not having the lip extrude so far you'd need to cut holes in it. Now you're working with both hands around this small but vaguely irritating obstruction when the simpler solution would've been to either cut an indentation into that entire area or just allow the lip to simply be shorter than it is.

If it seems like I'm nitpicking the FT04's assembly to death, it's only because these nitpicks accumulate over the course of assembly. I found myself progressively more annoyed with decisions that made no sense to me, when the interior of the case could've been substantially streamlined without losing thermal functionality. I do want to be clear, though: this is the primary drawback of the FT04.

Introducing the SilverStone Fortress FT04 Testing Methodology
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  • GokieKS - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    As 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 - link

    Yeah, 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 - link

    First 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 - link

    Ease 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 - link

    I 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 - link

    Mine 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 - link

    I 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 - link

    Even 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 - link

    There 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 - link

    Just 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.

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