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The SilverStone Fortress 3 (FT03) is the newest model from the company’s Fortress series of enclosures and is quite a departure from the mid-tower cases that made the Fortress series popular. With so many different styles of cases to choose from these days it’s hard to innovate without coming across as gimmicky, but SilverStone has a purpose behind it’s design. Engineers designed this latest case for “elegant integration” by building up instead of out so that the final product will have a smaller footprint. This design allows the FT03 to be placed prominently on a desk or tucked away in a corner of the room.

In order to make the smaller enclosure, SilverStone had to limit the motherboard compatibility to Micro ATX, Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX models. This isn’t necessarily a drawback as there are plenty of boards in these form factors that can be used for a pretty extreme system if desired. There is even room to install graphics cards that are up to 13.77″ in length. Buyers can choose between silver or black case models to fit their taste, but we are testing the black model (SST-FT03B) today.

Specifications

 

Model No. SST-FT03B (black)
SST-FT03S (silver)
Material Aluminum outer shell, steel body
Motherboard Micro ATX, Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX
Multimedia
Drive Bay External Slot loading slim optical drive x 1
Internal 3.5″ x 3 * , 2.5″ x1
Cooling System Front
Rear
Side
Top 1 x 120mm exhaust fan, 1200rpm, 22dBA
1 x 92/80mm optional fan
Bottom 2 x 120mm intake fans, 1200rpm 22dBA
2 x 80mm optional fan slots
Internal
Hard Drive Aluminum side panel heat conduction
Expansion Slot 4
Front I/O Port USB 3.0 x 2 (backwards compatible with USB 2.0)audio x 1

MIC x 1

Power Supply Standard PS2 (ATX)
Operating system support
Expansion Card Compatible up to 13.77” long
Limitation of CPU cooler 167mm
Limitation of PSU up to 180mm deep
Net Weight 6.7kg
Dimension 235mm(W)x487mm(H)x284mm(D)
Extra


Packaging

The FT03 comes in premium packaging that is meant to be noticed sitting on a store shelf. The artwork shows both color options available. The case is packaged securely and arrived in perfect condition.

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Accessories

The FT03 comes with the required bag of screws and standoffs, a three fan power adapter, a couple of wire ties, a SSD mounting bracket and the user manual.

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Exterior

It is immediately apparent upon opening the box that SilverStone means business with the Fortress 3. The smooth finish on the aluminum panels gives it a look of sophistication and urges a closer look. The top of the case is the business end as the FT03 follows their 90 degree motherboard mounting and stack effect cooling design. Using the hot air’s natural tendency to rise, the cool air enters from the bottom intake fans, blows over the components and exhausts through the top. This design has proven successful in the past and continues with SilverStone’s implementation for the FT03.

All of the I/O ports are located up top as well as the power and reset buttons, LED’s, two USB 3.0, mic and audio ports. There are four expansion slot covers which can accommodate up to two dual slot video cards if desired. The top of the case is also where you access the hard drive hot-swap bay. This is a very useful feature for swapping our storage drives while keeping the main hard drive installed in a regular drive bracket. We couldn’t wait to get the side panels off to peek inside. Three of the panels are removable giving the builder unhindered access to all areas to install the components. The front panel pulls straight off while the sides need to be lifted up before pulling forward to release them.

The left panel has a removable plastic cover that doubles as an intake filter for one of the case fans and an exhaust port for the PSU. There is some mesh material covering the intake section of this cover to help keep dust out of the case. The bottom includes the power plug and a magnetic fan filter that removes easily for cleaning.

 

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Interior

The inside of the FT03 is treated with a nice black finish to match the exterior color. Even though this is a compact enclosure, there is plenty of room to pack in some high end parts. The FT03 is able to hold video cards up to 13.77″ in length if necessary which is made possible by the vertical design. There is room for three 3.5″ hard drives (one is hot swappable) and one 2.5″ drive. The case comes with three 120mm fans with room to install up to three optional 80mm fans if necessary.

The hard drive mounts include rubber sound dampening grommets to help isolate drive vibration noise. The small form factor limitations require the use of a slim slot load optical drive if one is needed. The PSU is also limited to one that is less than 180mm in depth. This will still allow for high powered PSU’s to be used as SilverStone’s own Strider Gold models up to 1200W fit just fine in this case.

Motherboards that are Micro ATX, Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX are all supported. Tower style CPU coolers can also be installed as long as they are shorter than 167mm. There is a lot of room for cable routing behind the motherboard area and the cable openings are all in the right spots for a clean wiring job. SilverStone sent us their new Strider Gold ST75F-G PSU along with their PP05 modular PSU short cable kit for this review. We highly recommend the cable kit for small system builds like this one.

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The Build

Parts Used:

  • Asus M4A785-M Motherboard
  • AMD Athlon II X4 620 CPU
  • ATI Radeon 5670 GPU
  • 4GB Corsair DDR2 800 memory
  • Western Digital WD3200AAJS 320GB Hard drive
  • SilverStone FT03 case
  • SilverStone ST75F-G 750W PSU
  • SilverStone SOD02 Slim DVD drive
  • Stock AMD CPU fan

Building a system in the Fortress 3 is incredibly easy in spite of the small size of the case. The unobstructed access to the parts with the panels removed is a welcomed change from the typical small form factor enclosures. The top 80mm fan bracket and the 120mm fan by the CPU are should be removed before installing the motherboard. This is not a tool-less design, by the way, and you will need a couple different sizes of screwdrivers to complete the build. We installed SilverStone’s SOD02 slim optical drive for this build and have to say that it’s really cool loading a disc into the FT03. There is no access to the eject button due to the front panel, so a disc will need to be ejected using the computer’s software command. We wired up the hot-swap bay to be used for a large storage drive down the road. This system contains the parts that used to be in our main rig but are now being re-purposed for this media PC build. These parts will easily provide a nice platform for streaming video to our HDTV while being able to run cool and quiet in the FT03.

The cable routing in this case is pretty straight forward, with obvious locations to run the wires and multiple places to tie down cables for a nice wiring job. We didn’t spend a lot of time on the cable job, but feel that our build came out pretty neat. We tested the hot-swap bay and were pleased with the smooth action of the drive mechanism. This is definitely a feature of this case that will come in handy for a large number of people. The ST75F-G PSU fit perfectly inside the FT03 and proved to be very quiet during operation. For the CPU fan, we stuck with the stock AMD model. The FT03 will support large size coolers up to 167mm, so there are a lot of choices if choosing an aftermarket cooling solution. We did not have any issues installing our parts into the FT03.

 

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Hot-swap HDD bay

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Sound dampening grommets on the HDD mounting brackets

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SSD bracket installed

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ST75F-G PSU and SOD02 slim optical drive

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Front of the case

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You can fit a lot of hardware in here

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Cables tied up and ready to go

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USB cables plugged into the board

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The FT03 looks good from all angles

 


Testing

Thermal tests were run using CPUID Hardware Monitor ver. 1.17. Four instances of Prime 95 were used to max out each CPU core for max load. Furmark 1.9 was used to stress the GPU for testing. Ambient room temperature was 80 Degrees Fahrenheit. GPU tests were run after manually setting the fan speed to 100%. We ran tests using the stock case fans for the FT03. The temps were good across the board, only being slightly beat in CPU idle temps. These temps were tested on different days, so there is an acceptable variance of a few degrees plus or minus. These readings are intended to give an overview of the cooling capability of the case more than an exact number. The fans remained quiet during testing except for the GPU which was running at max speed for testing. Under normal circumstances it would not ramp up that high. The FT03 isn’t a silent case, but during our testing remained well under tolerable levels. That experience will vary depending on the GPU installed.

 

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Conclusion

The Fortress 3 was an absolute pleasure to build in. The forced cable routing made for a really clean wiring job with only a little effort. The system we built today is primarily to be used as a living room PC and didn’t really need a huge graphics card installed, but the FT03 has plenty of room for one if it is ever called for. The attention to detail in the design and construction is on par for SilverStone with no issues encountered during our build.

We would love to see some rubber cable routing grommets in the higher end case models from SilverStone and the option to have a USB 3.0 motherboard header connection would be really nice to have. The plastic power and rest buttons kind of stand out compared to the refined look the rest of the case has. They function just fine, but it takes a little away from the overall look. Of course we are being very picky here, and that is about all we could come up with to improve on this awesome case. Our experience with the Fortress 3 was an excellent one. This case deserves our highest score due to the innovation and execution. The FT03 retails for $159.99 which is a good value for a case of this quality and usefulness.