SilverStone Fortress FT04 Tower

Cases|Damping
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AUDIO RECORDINGS

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Following its predecessors from the Raven and Fortress series, the SilverStone FT04 boasts excellent cooling/acoustic performance against more conventional competitors. It's not up to snuff with the FT02, ostensibly because it lacks the third 18 cm intake fan, but this combined with the switch to front intakes results in a smaller footprint. The new version is taller but not nearly as deep. The fans also sound less clicky, presumably due to their horizontal orientation, and the fan controller is a big improvement over the FT02's two speed switches located inconveniently at the rear of the chassis. The FT04 also adds a couple of extra hard drive bays and a bracing system to keep the graphics cards level.

While a Fortress in name, what SilverStone really did was make a larger Temjin TJ08-E and transplant it into a Fortress body, presumably to make a more user-friendly high-end tower. Borrowing the innovative modular design of the TJ08-E was well-intentioned but also introduced some problems. The removable hard drive cage is designed for convenience rather than stability or noise reduction. It's held on with just three screws and there is no support structure above or to the side to brace it. The side-to-side motion generated by mechanical hard drives shake the cage, and some of the vibration is passed on to the rest of the case. It's ironic that the HDD cage is lined with dampening material as the two extra drive bays on the bottom of the case, which have bare metal on metal contact, offer quieter operation. The removable motherboard tray is a nice but unnecessary addition as the interior is spacious and once the drive cage is removed there's nothing in the way.

The most disappointing aspect of the FT04 is a combination of small annoyances. The door doesn't close soundly, whether it's because the magnets are too weak, the door is too heavy or parts assembled just a touch askew. If the case is on its side, gravity alone will pop it open, as well as just casually brushing up against it. The short case feet are a bigger oversight. The door sits so low that it scrapes against the floor. The top panel is also noticeably out of alignment with the contours of the door. Even the side panels are imperfect, flush against the rest of the chassis at the top but bulging out at the bottom. We could forgive one or two of these issues but all together, in a SilverStone case no less, they are disappointing. Many SilverStone fans were disappointed when the FT04 was unveiled due to high plastic content, which they felt cheapened the premium look and feel of the Fortress series. It's a trivial complaint compared to the surprising lack of overall attention to detail.

Most retailers carrying the FT04 have it priced at about US$230 which is close to the lowest price you'll find for the FT02. One site, Antares Pro, a subsidiary of AVADirect, is currently selling it for US$200 though this is probably sale pricing. Even with a $30 discount, we'd skip the FT04 in favor of the older model unless case depth is an issue. The FT02 offers superior performance, better build quality, and is leagues ahead in terms of fit and finish. The latest Fortress introduces a couple of minor improvements but these are unfortunately overshadowed by newly acquired undesirable qualities.

Our thanks to SilverStone for the Fortress FT04 case sample.

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Articles of Related Interest
Nanoxia Deep Silence 1
BitFenix Ghost: Quiet ATX Chassis
SilverStone Temjin TJ04-E Evolution Case
SilverStone Precision PS07: Budget MicroATX Tower
Silverstone Fortress FT02 Revisited
SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E: MicroATX Evolved

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