Introducing the SilverStone FT03 Mini

One of the first cases we reviewed back when we initially established our case testing methodology last year was SilverStone's FT03, a very unique Micro-ATX design guaranteed to be both an eye catcher and a solid performer. It lived up to both of those claims. DigitalStorm even proved the FT03 was capable of handling a tremendous amount of power when they outfitted one with an overclocked i7-2600K and a pair of GeForce GTX 580s. The FT03 was successful enough that it was only a matter of time until SilverStone experimented with it a bit.

Today we have the results of that experiment. The FT03 Mini is the FT03 condensed further still, swapping out Micro-ATX for Mini-ITX and requiring an SFX form factor power supply in the process. Users who didn't care for the look of the FT03 aren't going to find anything new here, but people who dug on the FT03 are bound to find a lot to like.

That SilverStone took the FT03 and shrunk it further borders on being downright adorable, but in the process they've made a few changes to the internal design based on both feedback on the FT03 and the practical concerns with shrinking the design down to Mini-ITX. The result is an enclosure that looks functionally quite similar to its predecessor, but features a radically redesigned interior that in many ways encompasses lessons learned from the FT03 but also from the FT03's surprise competition, the TJ08-E.

SilverStone FT03 Mini Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX
Drive Bays External 1x 5.25" (slim-line, slot-loading optical drive required)
Internal 1x 3.5", 2x 2.5"
Cooling Front -
Rear -
Top -
Side -
Bottom 1x 140mm intake fan
Expansion Slots 2
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size SFX
Clearances HSF 78mm
PSU SFX
GPU 10" / 254mm
Weight 10.3 lbs.
4.7 kg
Dimensions 7.4" x 15.6" x 9.3"
189mm x 397mm x 235mm
Special Features USB 3.0 via internal header
Price MSRP $129

Like its predecessor, the FT03 Mini also comes in either black or silver, depending on what you're into. If you didn't like the whole icebox aesthetic before, the FT03 Mini isn't liable to change your mind, but SilverStone's design at least makes a good case (no pun intended) for aluminum as a construction material as the side panels are very thick and remarkably sturdy compared to the cases we've tested from Cubitek and to a lesser extent Lian Li. Let's get to the meat of the review now and see how it all comes together.

In and Around the SilverStone FT03 Mini
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  • harshw - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Given the way onboard GPUs are headed, wouldn't it be better for a HTPC to have a Thin Mini-ITX, SO-DIMM, mSATA and HD4000 graphics ? I built a HTPC using the EMC-800b Habey case, with the DH61AG motherboard, a 120GB mSATA SSD and a slim 1U heatsink. The case is incredibly neat, has excellent thermals and very little noise. I keep seeing all these supposedly 'bleeding edge' cases and in 22 years of building computers, have yet to see vendors do anything remotely constructive about cables and power supplies.

    I think Silverstone should come up with more cases for the Thin Mini-ITX standard and be more creative about cables and power supplies.

    Especially now that there's Thunderbolt, I dont think system vendors can use 'expandability' as an excuse for much longer. External video card ? Use Thunderbolt. External link to high speed storage ? Use Thunderbolt.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    In that case, this isn't for you. :)

    For me, I'd look at this as a design challenge - to see how much hardware I could fit into so small of a case with as little noise output as possible. An experiment in passive cooling for the CPU, GPU and PSU, relying on the 140mm fan to provide airflow. Something like that.

    Also, WRT Thunderbolt, it's not great for external graphics and you then have to deal with the issue of powering and finding space for multiple boxes. Add in the issues of matching the devices aesthetically and it's not necessarily a superior option.

    So, while I see what you say, I'm still glad to see Silverstone taking care of this end of the market.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    Based on the Anandtech reviews (what else would we read!) the HD4000 is a massive advance on earlier Intel designs (correct frame rate is a good start which AMD had for ages). Latest AMD chips are very good but Intel beats them on media encoding so a case of pay more but get more power, pay less (AMD) and get a great HTPC but maybe a little slow on ripping all your Blu-rays (legally of course).

    For a HTPC a slim line 1U case is fine, for me an i7-3770T plus Mini ITX board. So this case is a complete waste for an HTPC

    This Silverstone case is really for a decent but lightweight desktop - not top of the line in power but still powerful enough for most. Personally I prefer the Lian li designs or even the SG05, but then again I would watercool the CPU and GPU and reduce noise down to minimum
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Apple Cube anyone?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_Mac_G4_Cube
    Reply
  • Wardrop - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I've always thought designing cases would be a really enjoyable job. Sometimes though it seems a lot of these cases suffer from design by committee, where a lot of people put in their ideas and requirements which always seems to produce an awkward case that doesn't perfectly fit anyone's needs. Not directing this at the FT03 at all, but rather just a general observation.

    On a slightly unrelated topic, I think Lian Li's discontinuation of the A17 was very surprising. Lian Li have put quite a lot of effort in building up their portfolio of case accessories that integrate into their product range, like optical drive bezels, hot-swap drive cages, etc, and the A17 combined with these accessories was really an enthusiasts dream. I may never understand why they canned it. I'm typing this with an A17 sitting right next to me actually - probably bought the last one in Australia a year or two ago. I've got two Lian Li hot-swap drive cages in it, and have 2 of the other 3 5.25" slots populated with optical drives using Lian Li's bezels. The quality of the case and accessories make this machine look as well designed as an Apple, but with difference being complete configuration flexibility. I'm sure that's got to appeal to more than just myself. It's unlikely a case will have the exact number of internal 3.5" bays, external 3.5" bays and external 5.25" bays that you desire, and the A17 combined with Lian Li's accessories just seems like such a perfect solution.
    Reply
  • lemonadesoda - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    The front should have a power switch, a usb slot, and a card reader. Optical drives are so yesterday. If you really want one for legacy reasons, put it on the back or at the side. Everyday we use a SD card or USB device. Once a month we might use optical media. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    "We"? ;) Reply
  • teakwood54 - Thursday, January 30, 2014 - link

    They're at the top. As for the optical drive, just turn the system around. Reply
  • ectoplasmosis - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    "I wish we'd had a GeForce GTX 670 or 680 on hand to really give the SilverStone FT03 Mini a proper thrashing"...

    So why not wait until you did before rushing a cobbled-together review out?

    Honestly, the last few articles on Anandtech have been very sloppy. Definite decline towards just another toy hardware site.
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I find that it's a good idea to check who the author is right away. Anand himself is by far the best reviewer here. The other guys may or may not be to your liking. Reply

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