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
Top -
Side -
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 8
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 165mm
PSU ~200mm with optical drive
GPU 338mm
Dimensions 8.62" x 21.5" x 18.98"
219mm x 546mm x 482mm
Special Features 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
Price $229

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.

Building in the SilverStone Fortress FT04
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  • maximumGPU - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    Great review.
    It doesn't seem to perform a lot better than the AIR 540, not at the same noise levels at least.
    So taking into account all the quirks and the high price wouldn't that make the 540 immediately the better choice?
    Reply
  • meacupla - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    AIR 540 is not without its own set of faults.

    One gripe I would have, if I were to buy it, is that it has no mounting holes for caster wheels, which is kind of essential for a cube case that you can load a ton of hardware into.
    And another is why are the 5.25 bays vertical?

    I wonder why silverstone didn't go for an updated FT02 design? That case was extremely well thought out and only needed minor tweaks for E-ATX, 8x PCI slots and more HDD racks.
    Reply
  • 1Angelreloaded - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    The 540 Air isn't large enough for casters, this isn't a 2x2x2 foot cube like a UFO from MM, and you are right about the 5.25 bays but if you are wiling to do a little leg work and Mod the case you will find it is simply amazing. Start by turning it on it's side, window up, if you need casters attach them to the bottom or what used to be the side panel, well you have a start at least. Reply
  • meacupla - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    You must be thinking of large casters...

    I've fitted 2" plate casters on my fractal define define mini and it doesn't tip over, despite its small footprint.
    Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    It still seems like the FT01 is still their best "regular" case, which I believe was their first positive-pressure case which really made them stand out as a manufacturer. It was basic, and had some flaws (like no back-plate access on the motherboard tray, and no good implementation for SSD/2.5" drives) but it wasn't overengineered like the newer cases...I mean the story with this FT04's door is ridiculous.

    But if you ask me, the FT03-mini is the best computer case ever made. You could pack the most powerful consumer-class CPU, a 550-watt SFX PSU, a GTX 770, optical drive, water cooling and an SSD + 2GB 2.5" + 4GB 3.5" hard drive inside a case less than 2 sq.ft. big.
    Reply
  • kwrzesien - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    It's funny, I have a FT01 (Silver - and I love it) and have recently considered the FT03 and FT03-mini for a small aesthetic build to go in the home study / office sitting on a full-wall built-in cabinet and shelving system. It's not too deep but there is plenty of height which fails most cases. And you're right, you can put everything you need in that little case and it even hides the back (top) cable connections, problem solved! Reply
  • althaz - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    No, the FT02 (with USB 3) is their best case. In fact, it's THE best case. Ever.

    I may be biased because I'm somewhat in love with it (it's the case my current PC resides in), but it's silent, performs superbly, looks good and makes life incredibly easy (the back of the motherboard points to the top of the case, so it's super-convenient to plug/unplug things).
    Reply
  • GokieKS - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    If the FT-02 didn't have the issue with non-blower GPU HSFs and optical drives in top 5.25" bay blocking PCI/e slots, I might agree with you. I also wish it was all aluminum and thus lighter, but that's a more minor quibble. Reply
  • althaz - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    I haven't used a non-blower GPU for years. I'd forgotten there was an issue with the top 5 1/4" bay.

    That said, I didn't say it was perfect (it's still my favourite), it needs:
    More space behind the motherboard, more than one hot-swap bay (all the 3.5" bays should be hot-swapable), should be easier to assemble and...actually, that's about all I'd change.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Saturday, August 31, 2013 - link

    it doesn't exactly have an issue with non-blower GPU, it's just that it performs best with blower style.
    My current GPU in an FT02 has a non- blower heatsink, yet temps are great.
    Reply

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