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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.
The SilverStone Fortress FT03 is one of the most interesting cases we've seen in quite some time, but it isn't particularly quiet nor cool. The angled fans don't give it any advantage; they appear to be oriented that way simply to make use of the space available. The fans are fairly good acoustically, but the center fan is not properly supported, causing vibration and additional noise. The case lacks direct airflow over the hard drives as they mount behind the motherboard tray. The rotated motherboard layout could be advantageous if you have a graphics card with a heatsink blowing air out the back but otherwise a case that supports two exhaust fans is better equipped to deal with the heat.
Like many aluminum cases, the FT03 has problems with hard drive vibration. Hard drives are mounted using plastic rails with rubber grommets, but they are positioned vertically and secured with four screws, lacking a proper hard drive cage for structural support. In addition, the side panels don't fit well enough, forming significant gaps at the corners of the case, making them vulnerable to vibration. The hum of the Samsung F3 hard drive we used during testing was significantly dampened after we slipped some material between the chassis and panels to brace them, but this didn't eliminate the problem entirely.
The hotswap hard drive bay is a useful bonus, but wasn't very well thought out. The latch feels weak, is difficult to open, and having a drive slide vertically down toward the internal connectors is dangerous. The need to exercise extreme caution diminishes the hotswap drive bay's convenience. The position of the optical drive bay is poor. We're also not fans of the white plastic cover and filter, nor the power and reset buttons that jut out and beg to be pressed accidentally.
With so many problems, it would be easy for us to dismiss the FT03. The biggest selling point is that it will fit in some areas that cannot accommodate a traditional tower. The FT03 has a footprint of less than one square foot, yet can house a very powerful system given its CPU heatsink and graphics card clearance. However, with a street price of US$160, it is not exactly a compelling bargain.
Still, we predict some people will pay willingly for the unique shape, size and look of the SilverStone FT03. We applaud SilverStone's continued exploration of unique and innovative forms for computer cases. The FT03 is not quite all that we had hoped for, given the performance of its predecessors. A second version just around the corner could correct the problems and transform it. Time will tell.
Our thanks to SilverStone for the Fortress FT03 case sample.
UPDATE: After some time and consideration, we decided to retest the FT03 using a tower CPU heatsink, the Noctua NH-U12P, to take full advantage of the case's capabilities. The results can be found here: Silverstone Fortress FT03 mATX Tower: Redux.
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Articles of Related Interest
NZXT H2 Classic Silent Midtower Chassis
Antec ISK 100 Mini-ITX Case
Zalman Z9 Plus ATX Tower Case
HDPLEX H10.ODD Fanless microATX Case
Lian Li PC-V354 MicroATX Mini Tower Case
Lian Li PC-B25S Mid-tower Aluminum Case
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this article in the SPCR Forums.
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