In and Around the SilverStone FT03 Mini

As I mentioned before, the FT03 Mini looks just like the FT03 except smaller. SilverStone uses thick aluminum panels on all four sides of the enclosure, sturdy plastic for accents like the I/O and buttons on the top of the enclosure and the bottom fan intake, and then steel for the structure of the enclosure itself. The result is that externally, there isn't a whole lot to remark on. It has four flat aluminum sides, and then the motherboard's I/O cluster and power supply are both mounted to the top of the case and accessible by removing the plastic top cover.

SilverStone has largely pioneered using a rotated motherboard mounting system in their enclosures, but it really makes sense with the FT03 Mini. The base of the enclosure is basically square, and right in the bottom center is a 140mm intake fan. The case also sits off of the floor high enough that only the shaggiest of rugs should prevent fresh air from coming in through the bottom of the FT03 Mini. Fresh air blows through the single chamber and out of the top of the case. It's a sound engineering design and you'll see it pays off in spades.

I've often compared SilverStone's cases to puzzle boxes due to the very specific way they come apart and back together, but nowhere has that comparison been more appropriate than with the FT03 Mini. End users ignore the instruction manual at their own peril; we're at the point where you'll need it just to figure out how to get the case open in the first place. I'm not inclined to mark SilverStone down for this, though, because the instructions are clear enough and because there's a definite logic to how the case tears down.

In order, you pop the top off of the case, then the two side panels snap off instead of sliding upwards (a welcome improvement on the FT03, which was easy to accidentally pop the side panels off of when you were moving it), then the back panel snaps off, then the optical drive cage comes out, and attached to that are cages for a 3.5" drive and a 2.5" drive. We have the disassembly sequence in our gallery if you're inclined to check it out.

The interior of the FT03 Mini is built out of black-painted steel, and the whole enclosure is really very sturdy. You're not liable to spend much time looking at the inside of the case, but I can't stress enough how important the logic of the case's assembly is. It comes apart and back together in a very specific order, which is vital for a design this unique. Once you understand SilverStone's logic, you'll find the case is remarkably well thought out.

Introducing the SilverStone FT03 Mini Assembling the SilverStone FT03 Mini
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  • robl - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I liked the review, and I'm quite interested in the case. I also caught the comment and about a GTX 670, as that's what I'd use, and would love a follow-up article.

    It's impossible to review cases in all configurations that anyone would like (HTPC, PC for mom, gaming PC, workstation, etc.) However, with that said, I like the idea of perhaps 2 primary configs for testing cases. (a) sweet & simple, and (b) enthusiast/gamer.

    I'd love to see how this performs as a gaming machine. (and am concerned that if it is desk mounted, that a high end GTX whine/blower out the top may be really unworkable - hair dryer anyone?)
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I like this thing. It's relatively attractive, efficient and quiet. I'd have liked it more though, if they had dropped that 5.25 bay and focused on making more room for 3½ drives. This is not a small ITX case, so I'd sort of expect it to have more (storage) server potential. Reply
  • rm19 - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I was interested in this case the moment it came out and I found out that Maingear makes one called the Potenza that comes in black and looks much less watercoolish. They offer a GTX 680 option with 450w power supply so it seems capable of being a compact beast. Reply
  • chaoticlusts - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    Just had a look at that out of curiousity...that's *hideously* overpriced, though boutique pc's tend to be >_<

    A high end CPU+GTX 680 seems like asking for trouble with a 450w PSU, Nvidia recommends a 550W PSU minimum with the 680, add a high consumption CPU onto it and your asking for trouble with the strain that poor little PSU would be under, hopefully someone will release a higher than 450 watt SFX PSU soonish. Technically all those components consume below 450w under load but spike usage+accessories plugged in etc etc..your not leaving yourself much safe room. Granted I might be wrong, would be great to see some real tests ^_^
    Reply
  • ikjadoon - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    Well, here's somewhat of a real test, but there is a bit of vested interest here, too, haha:

    http://bit.ly/MIHWFq

    So, an i7-3770K @ 4.6GHz + GTX 680 pull 350W from the wall.
    Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Reminds me of the PowerMac G4 Cube, it's basically the same form factor of course the only major difference is the optical drive placement. Plus less cubey. Which of course it self is a throwback to NeXTcube and other odd form factor workstations. Fun to see ideas being developed. They seem to do a pretty good job, for something I have otherwise lost much of my faith in when it comes to often poorly thought out custom cases and self builds. This with a discrete add on graphics-card would be pretty sweet together with a 2.5" SSD for OS/Software and a 2.5" 7200 rpm drive for additional storage. Certainly pretty good where Mini-ITX is concerned and should have the power to drive a half decent mid-end GPU. SFX PSU should be able to drive a decent machine, most mid and low end cpus are enough for almost all work now days, if you don't need dual or quad socket workstations that is. Would love a low voltage/power version for use in builds and space confined machines like this though. Certainly something more possible then the included ATI Rage 16MB that the Mac cube used :) Reply
  • ggathagan - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Just finished building a system for a friend with this case, the AsusS P8H77-I, an i7-3770S, a Corsair H60, a Samsung SSD, a Sony BD combo drive, a 2TB 3.5" hard drive and an EVGA GTX670.
    It all fits, but I ended up putting the SSD in the same tray as the optical drive with double-stick tape.

    Haven't had a chance to stress the system, but after playing 30 minutes or so of Diablo III, the Asus monitoring software indicated a CPU temp of 39c and the system remained quiet.

    I had hoped to put a 120mm fan on top of the H60's radiator, but the drive tray wouldn't allow for it

    The ST45SF PSU works, but it's ill-suited for the MINI; too many SATA and Molex power connections, cabling is too long and the orientation of the SATA connectors make for difficult connections.
    This is what triggered putting the SSD with the optical drive

    I'll be interested to see what Silverstone does with their modular PSU.
    If they're wise, they'll offer a MINI-specific cabling kit, in addition to cabling for a more traditional case.
    Reply
  • chaoticlusts - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    Out of curiosity have you tested how much power that system is drawing under load? I was considering if I got enough money later this year building a transportable system and this case looked appealing, a 670/similar power consuming GPU's would be great (top ends seem unrealistic) but I'm really curious if the wee little 450w PSU struggles trying to drive all that? With the cost of all those components I'd be worried about the PSU dying from being strained too hard

    Very happy to hear the noise/temp results though that's really promising :) (slightly cooler than my 2500K in a full sized tower with a coolermaster hyper 212+!.. Although it's OC'd a little)

    Really hoping the modular PSU the article mentions that's coming, arrives in 500-600w options just that little bit extra would provide some nice peace of mind :)
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    I never paid attention to the draw, as several website reviews showed the GTX670 drawing around 310-330w under load.
    The user has no interest in overclocking, so between those wattage figures and knowledge regarding the power consumption of the chipset and CPU, I wasn't concerned about the capacity of the PSU.

    If there's a free way of checking power consumption, I'm willing do it.

    I guess it depends on how you define "transportable", but this case would not be my 1st choice if you're thinking of a grab-and-carry case to take to LAN parties.
    If you're simply referring to a case that is easy to pack for someone who moves a lot, then you'd be fine.

    It's a solid case, all the internal parts are well anchored and the top latches solidly, but the four side panels are easily removed, so you'd want to wrap the outside with a couple of turns of painter's tape to keep it all together in transport.
    Reply
  • HardwareDufus - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    Do you have any photos with all of the cabling installed? Would like to see how it appears in a typical home installation... Reply

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