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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maximumGPU - Friday, August 30, 2013 - linkmeant this as a reply to rpg1966
random2 - Friday, August 30, 2013 - linkImages once clicked on are still decidedly not crisp. Once in the expanded image we are given an option to see original size. What a difference that makes in image quality. Can we not just have this original image linked to directly from the images in the article?
RdVi - Friday, August 30, 2013 - linkI built a system using the FT04 around 3 weeks ago and have to agree. Now that it's done, it's marvellous. The building process was a pain though.
The door for me isn't a problem since the case is sitting on a timber floor. It muffles the noise well and feels solid. I hardly ever change the fan speed or use the ODD so the door makes sense more so now than any other case I've had in the past (for example, Antec 1200... you had to open the door to get to the power button(!) and I used ODD drives all the time back then). However, in building the thing on a side surface, the door was annoying. I couldn't open it standing up, but whenever I turned the case onto it's side the door would fling open.
The SSD drives were the worst for me - simply because of the connectors. You can't use a 90 degree sata header, which is all I had... so I had to plug the 90 degree end into the motherboard (blocking off another port) and use the flat side to go into the drive. Even then, it had to bend up to clear the sound deadening foam... the same with the power connector. I unded up stripping the foam back in that area, but both connectors are still being pushed upward slightly. This is because I used a 7mm drive (Sandisk Extreme II). Keep this in mind if you're using a slimmer SSD. The solution would be to make up a spacer and use longer screws. My drive came with a spacer, but it only had DS tape on one side of it and I didn't have longer screws so I couldn't use it. Also, reaching the SSD drive with a power connector was a bit of a stretch for me, I had to use the power connector with 5 sata connectors.... just to connect one drive at the very end of it and no wiggle room to maneuver another connector to connect to the adjacent (in the other bay) 3.5" drive (I ended up using the hot swap cable).
The holes above the expansions slots didn't annoy me at all. I found it far better than my old case that had a protruding support (not so much, though) and no holes, but used thumb screws as the solution. I still felt like I had to get those screws tight. The FT04 was great for installing expansion card.
I took out the larger 3.5" drive bay, as well as the plastic cable routing shroud in front of the top fan. The shroud was odd - I had to remove the fan and then unscrew the tiny screws, one of which was cross threaded and will not be able to be put back in. I just didn't like the idea of restricting and channelling the fan when I have more than enough options to get the cables out of the way already.
All in all I had a few things I had to do twice... I originally wanted to put the SSD at the front, closest to the fans so I could see it and have the bay below the CPU cooler in place so I could use the brace. The brace didn't seem necessary in the end and to have the SSD facing upright so the logo wasn't upside-down (ok, so I'm a bit OCD) meant the connectors would foul on the fan. So I had to swap that around with the 3.5" drive at the front.
Anyway, it's done and works great and is nicely silent. My only gripes?
- I didn't really want a window case... but that's ok, the acrylic seems thick enough to not sacrifice noise and I have put the case on the right side of underneath my desk - the window faces the solid desk side.
- I honestly find the 180mm fans too noisy at anything over 20% of max - so don't ever bother adjusting them. My CPU and exhaust fan are pwm controlled, and in testing, I have to move the speed up a lot before they will spin less. It's moot by that point since they're much louder than the 120mm pwn fans.
- My 3.5" HDD often rattles in the bottom hot swap bay.... There's padding in the big drive bay, but none in the bottom. I'll have to come up with something to stop the vibration which seems tricky since there's not much free space on the sides between the drive and the bay. It's only a 5400rpm 3TB WD green... also.
- With the case on the floor, the PSU fan is fairly exposed compared to the rest. If you have a loud PSU, you might hear it over everything else. I was trying to recycle my 5 year old corsair HX1000 only to find that the fan had a slight tick. I didn't even notice it in my noisy old build, but much of this was because the PSU was at the bottom of the case drawing air from underneath through a fine filter. The filters in the FT04 are very open, which is great for maintenance and cooling, but that along with the PSU fan facing the top, made any noise noticeable to me. I got a Seasonic XP-660 Plat with hybrid fan mode... it's never turned on the fan even with 1hr of Prime95 and furmark simultaneously. Excellent PSU.
I hope someone got something out of this, since I had to basically buy this case blind after waiting months for reviews in english. If anyone looking to buy has any questions, feel free to ask. It's a brilliant case once setup - provided the the door isn't on a soft surface and you have to open it a lot.
maximumGPU - Saturday, August 31, 2013 - linkThat was helpful, thanks!
i was debating whether i should get this as an upgrade from the FT02, and i was waiting for the ATech review. and i agree that silverstone's 180 mm fan have epic cooling but are have a disappointing sound profile. Wish some competitor would produce better similar sized fans.
i think i'll stick with the FT02 for a few more years now.
JDG1980 - Saturday, August 31, 2013 - linkThanks for the information - I'm considering a FT04 and this was really helpful. Just to clarify, in your experience, the front door won't snag if the case is on a hard, level surface?
It's disappointing to hear that the SSD mounts give too little space for cable routing with 7mm-thick drives, considering that most newer SSDs are this thickness. Getting rubber spacers and longer screws shouldn't be too hard, but it really ought to have been included in a case this expensive.
The HDD rattling bothers me more than anything else I've heard so far... most other premium cases in the last 3 to 5 years have proper grommets/damping for HDDs, so this seems like a major step back.
Do you think the cross-threaded screw on the plastic cable shroud was a quality control issue, or intentional?
For my build, I had planned on using one SSD (for a boot drive) and one large HDD, the latter to eventually be removed when I can afford a decent NAS. I intended to remove all the drive cages except the one with the CPU cooler support (since I always get nervous with large tower coolers in a tower case). I wonder if removing the hot-swap backplane and mounting the HDD in a fixed location would remove the vibration.
RdVi - Saturday, August 31, 2013 - linkYes, for me the door has never scrubbed on a flat surface. The outer edges of the middle concave face clear the ground by about 2-3mm at the bottom.
As for the SSD, I think the one they used in this review would have been 9.5mm, thus, no issues. However, opening up my case an having another look I can see that it was mainly the power cable that was the problem. With my HX1000 I found using the second from the end connector on a chain of 5 meant the cables could be bent straight out from the connector easily. With my Seasonic, all cables are are bit less forgiving, and the second last connector wouldn't reach anyway. The last one has a hard down 90 degree angle with no wriggle room. I just had to peel back the foam and wedge it in. It's tilted upward by about 2mm above the sata connector (which looks flat). Hey... it's working for now and let's just hope the power connector on the drive remains ok when I remove it down the road. Really, you definitely should space the drive, I just wanted it done for now.
The 3.5" drive is not fixed properly in the cage using either of the hot swap bays (only one has hot swap capability).... There are no holes to screw it into place, just metal tabs on the sides near the back, but the front is still a little bit free to move. On the hot swap one without the CPU support, there is also a protruding wide metal tab on the top. I put the hot swap belt (used to pull out the drive?) over the top of the drive so this would press down on it and in turn the drive. The front has a latch with a plastic header that comes down in front of the drive to stop it sliding out of the bay, but this doesn't do much. Initially the sound was worse than it is now. I secured that latch by screwing it tight and now the HDD just has that churn/grind sound when loading. On my past case where the drive was suspended by elastic chords, there was no noticeable sound. I'm thinking I might just wedge some thin foam or rubber into the front of the bay between the drives sides and the bay.
The cross threaded screw was an oddity. The hole was actually screwed out to a larger size which I assume is the same size as the fan neighbouring screws. But... within that hole there was a thin ring of remaining metal with the smaller hole drilled out from it. This small hole was the one that seemed to be cross threaded, unsurprisingly since it was within a larger hole. I have no idea how this could happen but I would assume that it's a QC issue and probably won't be on other cases.
There were no instructions in the manual on removing the cable routing plate in front of the top fan or on how to use the hot-swap HDD bays. As for the CPU support, I don't have a large CPU cooler and the wide space and shape of the fins meant that the support just didn't work on my cooler anyway. I am using the GPU support and it does work. My GPU is slightly bent the other way from being in my old case with no support. Now it has the chance to bend back the other way... but not too far thanks to the support.
My build needs were much the same as yours, I definitely did not need the large drive bay and really saw no need to have anything in front of the intake fans. I went with the FT04 because to me the format works a lot better than the FT02. I need maximum desk space and I have a desk which I have removed the side drawers from, so I have a lot of space underneath. Most cases are 550-600+ long, so protrude from under the desk quite a bit due to the centre divider. The FT02 was just too big... hell, before the FT04 came out I considered getting it and turning it on it's back with the top as the new front - since I'd rarely need to use the ODD. The only problem there was cabling not being long enough since it would come out at the bottom of the front.
Sancus - Saturday, August 31, 2013 - linkYou know, it would be really great if you guys would do a re-test review of the FT02. It would be really interesting to see the full fat numbers for it, as that testbed didn't exist in 2011(the last time you guys reviewed it). It would also get the numbers into the Bench for direct comparison with other modern cases.
Given that it still seems to be a highly competitive case, I think it deserves to have its performance revisited in the context of current builds!
maximumGPU - Sunday, September 1, 2013 - linkexcellent idea.