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June 21, 2014

Unboxing & Review: Silverstone Fortress Series FT04


SilverStone's PC chassis has a long history in the PC DIY scene and renown for some of their uniquely designed chassis, especially for their Raven series and Fortress series chassis which has been endorsed by many hardcore PC enthusiasts who is into modding to water cooling setup. 

We have the Fortress series FT04 with us here today, huge thanks to SilverStone Technology and Inter-Asia Technology for providing us with the review samples. With no further adieu, let us proceed with the review to see if it is worth to pay a hefty price of RM 829.00 to get this chassis for your build.



Technical Specifications
Dimension
219mm x 546mm x 482mm
Motherboard Support
EATX, ATX, mATX, ITX
Expansion Slots
Type
Mid Tower
Material
Steel, Plastic
Drive Bays
2 x 5.25”
7 x 3.5”
4 x 2.5”
Cooling Option
Front: 2 x 180mm fan ( 2 x SilverStone AP181 included)
Rear: 1 x 120mm fan
Front I/O
2 x USB 3.0
1 x Headphone / Speak
1 x Mic
Power Supply
Not included
Extras
Removable Motherboard Tray
Removable Drive Cage
Adjustable fan speed via the pre-installed fan controller
CPU cooler support mechanism (up to 165mm in height)
Graphics Card support mechanism  (up to 338mm in length)
The SilverStone FT04 comes available in 2 color, black and silver and both color comes with a windowed and non-windowed model.



Overview

The SilverStone FT04 comes in a sleek black packaging, with the brief description of the prominent features of the chassis being listed out, along with a QR-Code that leads you to the product site.


At the back of the packaging is a labeled diagram of the FT04 with each of the features being described.


The included accessories are of course the screws, 2 jumpers for the fans, 3 pairs of fan bracket, few cable ties, graphics card support and a piece of user's manual.


If you're wondering what does the fan bracket does, it allows you to install 3 fans at the front and support for a 360mm radiator for water cooling if you happen to be a water cooling enthusiast.


Protection wise, SilverStone has the FT04 flanked with 2 pieces of thick foam to reduce the chance of damaging the chassis from rough courier handling.



The simple yet elegant SilverStone logo at the aluminum front panel, adding the element of premium to the chassis itself.


Up close view of the SilverStone logo.


Unlike any usual chassis we've been reviewing since the beginning, the FT04 is really something totally different, to begin with. The motherboard is to be installed upside down  and accessing the components will be from the right of the chassis - a total reversed experience from what we've been dealing all the way with the traditional design chassis.


The front IO panel is located on the right side of the front panel with a total of 2 USB 3.0 port and audio jacks.


A view from the other way round, the FT04 looks very simple yet elegant as what we can say.


The Power switch button and the reset button is located on the left side of the front panel.


The front panel has padded foam on it to achieve silencing effect, but opening the front panel also let us noticed some of the design flaws on the chassis itself:

  • The magnet isn't strong enough to hold the front panel's weight
  • The foam is rather soft and will likely tear if not handled properly
  • There's only a hairbreadth between the bottom of the front panel door and the floor, making it very vulnerable to scratch 


Now to the bottom of the chassis, we can see the rubber feet of the chassis which are to absorbs the vibration from the moving parts in the chassis.



A closer look reveals that the front rubber feet almost align with the bottom of the front panel door.



The hairbreadth between the floor and the bottom of the front panel door.



Removal and installation for the 5.25" drive bay cover is a piece of cake.


One thing that we like about the FT04 is that it comes with a pair of knob fan controller for each of the AP181 fans which give better flexibility to adjust fan speed compared to most conventional fan controller that comes with a chassis which only has the option for low (5V), medium (7V) and high (12V).


The fan filter can be removed easily for cleaning.


We really liked the fan filter a lot as it's by far one of the best filters that we came across. The soft and fine filter is very easy to clean compared to most conventional fan filters which have stiffer properties.



There's a pair of AP181 fans included as front intake fans.




The fan cables are sleeved as well for easier cable management.


Another design flaw that we've noticed is that you can't close the front panel door tightly, leaving an unsightly gap on top of the chassis.


There's a power supply fan filter located at the top, which is removable as well for easy cleaning.


It has the same type of filter used at the front intake fan filter.


The top panel can be removed as well by unscrewing both thumb screws securing it, but only after removing both side panels - which is rather frustrating in our opinion.


There's plenty of space on the top that allows you to hide the majority of the cables that is connected to the power supply, but keeping those cables well hidden in place could be a challenge to those who first came across with such chassis.


There's padded foam on the top panel as well to reduce the noise coming from inside of the chassis.



The back of the chassis is a high airflow design which can be identified with all the ventilation holes, especially at the PCI expansion slots


The windowed side panel is very favorable to those who wish to showcase their awesome parts.


The inner part of the windowed side panel where the hard drives are located comes with padded foam as well for noise cancellation purposes. The window panel can be removed as well for customization but the screws that are securing the window panel somewhat raised our concern, as direct contact of the screws with the window might produce potential noise due to vibration. 


The other side panel for the motherboard tray has most of its surface covered with padded foam for noise cancellation purposes as well, but due to that the foam is rather soft and this is the side where the foam will have most direct contact with the cables behind the motherboard tray, reducing the numbers of cables behind the motherboard tray will reduce the risk of damaging the soft padded foams - best if fully modular power supply is used for building a system with this chassis. 


Moving on to the interior of the chassis now, we're seeing a lot of parts which is rather uncommon in most mainstream chassis we've reviewed so far.




Removing the parts inside requires removal of screws from the bottom and removing some screws requires the removal of the front rubber feet as well.


The primary hard drive bay has a CPU cooler support mechanism to reduce the risk of getting your PC bent from the heavy and bulky CPU cooler.


The supporting arm can be adjusted to reach the CPU cooler to support its weight, but we would prefer slit-like mounting instead of holes for better flexibility in adjusting the height.


This is something rather new to us, it functions as an air duct to redirect and focus the airflow through each of the holes to your graphics cards, but we can't really find the necessity of it unless you're having a crossfire/ SLI setup.


Although there's no tool-free hard drive bracket from the FT04, a pretty good job we can see here is that the hard drive cage comes with a layer of foam on both sides to absorb vibration from moving parts on a hard drive, eliminating any potential noise that will be generated at this part of the chassis.


Hot swap bay is a very convenient feature that allows easy hard drive swapping but we find it rather different on the FT04. It's located at the most bottom of the hard drive cage and removing the installed drive is a total pain to us due to its removal direction.


The hot swap bay comes with a strap in which we find it rather annoying and never really liked it, but it can be removed by unscrewing the screw securing the end of the strap.


The bottom of the chassis where 3.5" hard drive bay and hot swap bay is mounted comes with the noise dampening foams to minimize the noise generated by moving parts inside the hard drive.


The front panel I/O connectors:

  • USB 3.0 connector
  • Front Audio Jack connector
  • HDD & Power LED
  • Power & Reset Switch




Another thing that we didn't like is that the expansion slots cover are secured by normal screws instead of a thumbscrew. We've seen many high-end PC chassis that utilizes the benefits of thumbscrews and would suggest SilverStone go for the same approach as it will benefit the users more, making their life easier.


At the back of the chassis, there're screws securing the motherboard tray and by unscrewing these screws, you can remove the motherboard tray from the chassis. Although it might be unnecessary for the majority of enthusiasts build, PC modder might find this as a perk to ease up their modding as usually motherboard trays are secured by rivets and proper tools and method is required to remove the rivets.


After removing the screws, the motherboard tray can be removed easily.


The motherboard tray comes with a total of 6 standoff screws installed for easy motherboard installation, cable routing cutouts for cable management and CPU cooler backplate installation.


At the back of the motherboard tray, we can see that there's a lot cable tie slots which are all located around the cable routing cutout holes, very convenient for cable routing we'd say. Other than that, the cutouts have been flattened for rounded edge to avoid cables getting damaged, very thoughtful of SilverStone.


There's plenty of space available for cable routing, we're very sure that even a non-modular power supply can have its cables well hidden with this amount of spaces available.


The cable management that we've done.


Everything looks clean and tidy from the front, at least that's the best we can do with limited resources.


And here's a photo of the build that we've brought to the ASUS LAN Party a week ago, what do you think?

Performance Test
Test Rig Configuration
CPU Cooler
Noctua NH-D15
CPU
I7 4770K @4.2GH
Graphics Card
ASUS R9 290X Matrix Platinum
Motherboard
ASUS Sabertooth Z87
Memory
Corsair Vengeance Pro 4GB X 2
Primary Hard Drive
Crucial M500 120GB
Power Supply
Corsair AX650 80+ Gold Certified PSU
Chassis
SilverStone Fortress Series FT04
Display Monitor
Dell U2312HM

Moving on to the performance test, we ran a few stress test with the setup that we've prepared as above. The stress test involves the CPU stress test utility Prime95 with the option 'In-place large FFTs' while GPU stress test utility FurMark with its Furry Donut stress test for maximum heat output from both the CPU and GPU. 

The test conducted consists 4 different scenarios:
  • Without side panel
  • With side panel + Maximum fan speed
  • With side panel + Medium fan speed
  • With side panel + Minimum fan speed

Our room temperature throughout the test is 28ÂșC in average and the stress test is repeated for several times in order to get a stable temperature reading. The final result is presented in the graph as below:


As usual, the temperature we're getting is where both CPU/GPU are being stressed to the limit for performance testing purposes and it is unlikely for both components to hit this temperature reading in most of the real world usage (gaming, office work, music, video,etc). 

The temperature is really good we'd say, all thanks to the excellent airflow design of the FT04. The air is blown directly from the AP181 intake fans to the back of the chassis in a straight line, allowing air to move in and out from the chassis very frequent.

Verdict
Picky users might find the design flaw that we've pointed out rather unpleasant,  but as far as we  could tell, it isn't going to affect the performance of any system built in it. Other than that, the SilverStone FT04 has a lot of great features and it is a great option when it comes to air cooling as it is a solidly built chassis that offers great airflow and we will recommend this chassis to those who are looking for a quality chassis for air cooling build and of course, has some extra fund to spend.

Watercooling wise, the existing design allows a 360mm radiator (front) and 120mm radiator (rear) seems pretty sufficient we'd say but the trade off for installing a 360mm radiator is to have both AP181 fans removed.

Pros
  • Great built quality and features
  • Excellent high airflow design
  • Excellent cable management design 
  • Front intake fans can be controlled with the fan controllers included
  • Comes with a lot of padded foams for noise canceling purpose
  • Majority of the parts can be removed for easy cleaning or modding
  • Dust filters are removable and very easy to clean
  • CPU cooler supporting arm to reduce the risk of ending up with a bent motherboard
  • Graphics card supporting arm to reduce the risk of ending up with a bent graphics card


Cons
  • Hefty price tag
  • Bottom of the front panel door has hairbreadth distance to the floor and very easy to scratch against the floor very often
  • The front panel cannot be fully closed
  • Soft padded foams aren't durable and can tear easily if not taken care properly
  • A lot of screws and almost everything is not tool-free
  • Top panel can only be removed after both side panels are removed
  • Graphics card supporting arm doesn't fit well with graphics card with wide shroud - tested on ASUS Radeon R9 290X Matrix Platinum

The SilverStone FT04 in overall scores a Silver Award and Recommended Award from www.tech-critter.com.  

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