If you read my review of the SilverStone Raven RV04 (and you should go back and do so since it's going to be a fairly regular reference point), everything here is going to be very familiar. Assembly of the FT04 is essentially identical, although "features" turn into oddball hiccups here and there. As I said, there's really a lot of unneeded complication in this internal design that makes it unnecessarily difficult to work with.

It starts with the removable motherboard tray. Ordinarily I'd be gung ho about a removable motherboard tray, but in the FT04 it's essentially unnecessary. You're going to need to remove the primary drive cage to install 3.5" drives into it anyhow, and that's the only internal component that really obscures the motherboard tray itself. I think it's unfair to actively cite the removable motherboard tray as a point against the FT04, but I do think it's also emblematic of the essentially overengineered nature of the case as a whole. With all that said, getting the motherboard in is still pretty easy; SilverStone has six of the motherboard standoffs preinstalled, and the rest is gravy.

The instruction manual suggests you wire up as much of the case as possible before moving on from this point, and I agree. Installing drives really is the stuff of nightmares, though. You have the remove the top panel of the case to install a 5.25" drive and the power supply; that's not the problem. The problem resides with 3.5" and 2.5" drives. 2.5" drives must still be lined up inside the two bottom cages of the case and screwed into the bottom. That means removing the cage surrounding the mounts, which is held in place with five screws. 3.5" drives can be installed in the bottom cages, but it's almost easier to just remove the primary 3.5" cage and install them in there.

Of course that presents its own set of problems. Drives are screwed into the cage, but the cage itself is held in place with three screws, none of which are particularly easy to remove and replace. There's a thumbscrew that goes into the top and has to be removed with either your fingers or pliers as there isn't clearance for a conventional screwdriver. The two screws that go into the bottom plastic lip of the cage are easy enough to remove but require some doing to replace so you don't drop them into that tray. These are minor nuisances but minor nuisances are really the Achilles' heel of the FT04/RV04 assembly. It didn't need to be this complicated.

Finally, while the power supply installs easily enough, expansion card installation is again needlessly complicated. And again, it's a small nitpick that is adding up with the rest of them. If you look on the right side of the photo, you can see that the right-hand lip of the case hooks around and there are holes in it to slot a screwdriver through. That's appreciated, but again, I'm not sure it's entirely necessary. Other case designs have gotten on fine with not having the lip extrude so far you'd need to cut holes in it. Now you're working with both hands around this small but vaguely irritating obstruction when the simpler solution would've been to either cut an indentation into that entire area or just allow the lip to simply be shorter than it is.

If it seems like I'm nitpicking the FT04's assembly to death, it's only because these nitpicks accumulate over the course of assembly. I found myself progressively more annoyed with decisions that made no sense to me, when the interior of the case could've been substantially streamlined without losing thermal functionality. I do want to be clear, though: this is the primary drawback of the FT04.

Introducing the SilverStone Fortress FT04 Testing Methodology
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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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