|SilverStone Fortress FT01 Case SST-FT01B-W|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cases|
|Written by Bruce Normann - Editied by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 24 November 2008|
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Closer Look: Exterior
The SilverStone FT01BW is a sleek looking mid-tower case, largely constructed of Aluminum. It is the first mid-tower made by SilverStone with their uni-body construction, which they introduced in September of 2005, with the Temjin TJ07. That model was widely hailed as a pioneer in case design. With all the different models that SilverStone produces, it's difficult to call it the top of their line, but it clearly benefited from a no-holds-barred design approach. There were generally two criticisms laid on the TJ07; the fans were too noisy, with an irritating quality, and some of the larger, thinner panels tended to vibrate. SilverStone has responded with some design changes in the FT01 series that tackle those problems head on.
The ventilation system in the FT01 is all new and follows some industry trends, but with a unique twist. There are three fans included with the FT01, two 180mm intakes and one 120mm exhaust. The idea is to provide a decidedly positive pressure inside the case, in order to keep dust from getting sucked in through all the unfiltered holes, large and small, that are part of most electronics enclosures. The two large fans, in front and on top, are consistent with current practice and really help to reduce noise while still providing serious airflow. In order to keep the width from growing too much, SilverStone used a non-tradition fan size of 180mm. This allowed them to keep a 220mm overall width, which is common with several of their tower type cases. In contrast, Antec went with a standard 200mm size on their Mini P182, and had to increase the case width to 283mm.
The twist on airflow management that SilverStone is promoting, positive case pressure, is a valid one. While the main areas of inward airflow can always be fitted with a filter, all the small gaps and holes remain as entry points for dust if the interior of the case has a lower pressure than ambient. Their website has a good explanation of the subtleties surrounding this design choice: http://www.silverstonetek.com/tech/wh_positive.php?area
I've always been annoyed at the dust that accumulates inside my computers and all the other electronics I have in the house. The computer has by far the largest volume of airflow, so it gets the dirtiest, the fastest. It would be just an annoyance, if it weren't for one thing: overclocking.
While some cases offer a myriad of choices on fan sizes, locations and airflow, the SilverStone FT01 seems to offer little or no choice. Sometimes, too much choice is a bad thing. Some people make good choices, some people make bad choices. At least with the FT01 you know that you are getting a configuration that is tested. The main problem is that there is no way of knowing what kind of thermal load the end user is going to put on it. Will it be a 125W AMD Phenom and a 4870X2 GPU, or a 45nM Intel Penryn and one of the lower power 9800GTX GPUs?
Choose your CPU HSF and mounting method carefully, a horizontal flow unit that can be oriented to direct air toward the rear fan will work best. Some combinations of CPU and HSF are more flexible than others. A recent build with an AMD CPU and a Xigmatek HDT-S1283 limited my choices to straight up or straight down. There was no way to get the airflow horizontal, without buying extra mounting accessories. I don't see either of those options being a good fit for this case, unless you break the rules and reverse the top fan to make it an exhaust. If you want to replace any of the fans with a more powerful unit, the 180mm top and front fans are an odd size, and although the mounting brackets will support 120mm fans, you would have to give up the noise performance of the larger diameter units that are already installed. A higher speed 180mm fan, with speed controls would have enabled more flexibility and increased the overall cooling performance envelope.
SilverStone makes a compelling case for filtered intakes, in order to keep dust out of the system. There are three filters in the FT01: one above the top 180mm fan, one in front of the front 180mm fan and one below the PSU mounting location. They are all plastic mesh screen captured in a rigid plastic frame. The one in front is easily removable from the side, once the windowed side panel is off.
The other two are removable, only in the sense that they are fastened to the case with screws and can be uninstalled. They also require the removal of the fan for the top filter, and the PSU for the bottom filter. Neither of these is a piece of cake in a fully populated system, making it very likely that these two filters will rarely be cleaned. It's a shame, as I think that a simple design modification would allow both of them to be removed from the rear, without compromising the integrity of the unibody frame.