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Silverstone Fortress FT02 USB3.0 Review

Discussion in 'Case Central' started by cactusweasel, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. cactusweasel

    Gangster

    Joined: Jun 25, 2009

    Posts: 426

    Location: Inverness

    Introduction

    Having recently acquired a Silverstone Fortress FT02 case, I thought I would do another quick review and compare it to my old case, the BitFenix Colossus, which I reviewed on here a while back. The FT02 is not a new case by any means, the latest model has been updated with the drive bays and air penetrator fans from the Raven RV02 Evo and USB ports on the front are now 3.0, but it is still an interesting design that remains highly rated for air cooling performance.

    My Colossus has done a fine job up until now. I love the fact that it is incredibly quiet, however it has never been a performer when it came to cooling. With no side fans and a door on the front, it was difficult to shift a decent amount of air and my SLI set-up was howling after a bit of anything intensive like FarCry 3. This is certainly not helped by the fact both my GTX 670 cards are the 3rd party cooler type which exhaust inside the case rather than out the back, turning the inside of my case into an oven.

    On the graphics card issue, many people (and indeed the manual for the case itself) state that with the FT02, rear exhaust fans are the best type to use. Many discussions on forums also question the effectiveness of heat pipe based coolers when positioned vertically. I will talk about temperatures later, but the long and short of it was that orientation of the cards didn’t make much difference in my set-up.


    The build

    Anyway, to business, the case itself.... this case looks great. The pictures on the net just don’t do it any justice.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    The FT02 is a different beast compared to the huge Colossus case, narrower, shorter, but deeper.

    The big feature of this case is its air cooling ability, which is down to the three 180mm air penetrator fans at the bottom. These fans supposedly have a more focused air flow compared to regular fans which help force air up through the case. The fans come with switches for low and high speed which are on the top and they use 3 pin connectors. There is a Molex to 3x 3 pin adaptor supplied in the box as well as a couple of brackets which allow the mounting of a water cooling radiator on top of these fans. The fans also have filters underneath which slide out for cleaning, but you need to open the case to remove them.

    As you can see the inside of the case is fairly compact compared to some of the larger cases on the market. Silverstone state that this case can handle CPU coolers with a maximum height of 16.5cm and graphics cards of 12.2 inches. Wasn't a problem for me, although the CPU cooler was incredibly close.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Here we see the first potential issue – the rear of the CPU cooler doesn’t align with the slot. That will be a major pain in the bum if I ever need to change it! I’m not sure how that would affect other motherboards, but the slot was in the right place with the Colossus.

    One thing that was obvious from the start was how narrow a space there is behind the motherboard for running cables. Unlike the Colossus with big heavy steel sides, you can't just squash all the cables flat with the side panel of the FT02 as it is much lighter in weight and will bulge out quite easily.

    This is also where I ran into another problem. With the PSU at the back of the case and the hard drives right at the front, the SATA power cables were barely long enough. I ended up whipping out the soldering iron and extending one of the cables to reach the DVD drive.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    The lack of space inside the FT02 was also evident at the front - with my SLI setup, there isn't much room between the 5.25" bays and the motherboard/graphics card. My DVD drive is one of the shorter types, I don’t think I would have got an older longer one in here without it getting in the way of the seconds graphics card.

    The 5.25" bays are a pretty standard affair, there are quick release handles on one side or you can just screw in the drives as normal.

    On to the hard drive bays/caddies. There are 5 of them, one of which has a hot swap adaptor on the back with a pass through Molex adaptor for power (which I decided to remove to keep cables to a minimum). The caddies clip into place securely enough but they still have a slight bit of movement in them which I suspect is going to cause vibration noise with my exceptionally noisy 7200rpm Seagate drive.

    The caddies have mountings for 2.5" drives as you would expect, and there is also an option to mount an additional 2.5" SSD/hard drive hidden away on the side of the 5.25" bays using a plastic tray thing that comes in the box.

    Now for a bit of a rant. What really irritates me with a few of the cases I have used in recent years, the FT02 and Colossus included, is why case manufacturers seem to think that hard, microscopic bits of rubber between the hard drive and the case/caddy/whatever is enough to dampen vibrations. It just isn't. I’m very fussy when it comes to unnecessary noise from my PC and hard drives are one of the worst culprits.

    All ready to go. A bit of faffing around getting the other side on without the cables trying to escape and we're done.

    [​IMG][​IMG]


    Up and running

    One thing I like about the Fortress case over the Raven models is the base. Where the Raven cases use 4 feet to prop up the case allowing the fans to suck in air, the Fortress goes for a solid metal base instead and leaves a gap between the base and the floor of the case. For anyone who has their PC sitting on carpet (like me) this seems like the better option and should help reduce the amount of dust/hairs/fluff/creatures that tend to go along with carpets.

    Powering on for the first time confirmed my suspicions about the rubber hard drive mounts, my 7200rpm Seagate drive was humming away and there was a loud vibrating noise coming from the case too. A bit of poking and prodding seemed to confirm it was coming from one of the caddies. Looks like I will have to use the tried and tested “suspend the hard drive in a 5.25” bay using elastic cord” method again. To be fair, this hard drive was a noisy bugger in the Colossus as well, and my other 5400rpm WD Green is quite happy in one of the caddies and is quiet enough.


    Temperatures/Noise

    Ok let's get to the point. This case is all about superior air cooling, and doing it without sounding like a jet engine. First of all, a few specs so you know what I’m running (everything at stock speeds):

    CPU: Intel Sandybridge i7-2600K
    Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth P67
    GPU1 (in top PCI-E slot): Gigabyte Windforce GTX 670 2GB
    GPU2 (in bottom PCI-E slot): KFA2 Geforce GTX 670 2GB

    The Colossus was tested with the 2x 230mm Spectre fans (at 600rpm), plus an additional 2x 140mm Noiseblockers (at 800rpm)

    The Fortress FT02 was tested with the stock fans, 3x stock 180mm air penetrators (on low) and 1x 120mm exhaust.

    How do they compare? I’ll just leave these graphs here…

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The FT02 as you can see is significantly cooler than the Colossus. The only thing that looked a bit strange was the temperatures of GPU2 in most of the tests, they didn’t drop as much as GPU1. I would probably put this down to the fact the card is closer to the front of the case where there is less ventilation on top for the heat rising to escape. Still an improvement however.

    One of the biggest benefits of the temperature drops was the corresponding drop in noise from the GPU coolers – around 80°C was when the cooler on the Gigabyte card in particular would really pick up the pace, so the noise output while gaming is now significantly lower.

    I’m sure with the case fans on high there would be further improvements, but for me it would defeat the whole point of this exercise which was to improve my systems temperatures without a massive increase in noise.


    Summary

    No case I've ever used has been perfect, and the Silverstone Fortress FT02 is no exception. A few tweaks sorting out the hard drives though and there’s not a huge amount to complain about. It looks great, cooling is great, and with the fans on low it’s pretty quiet too. Not as quiet as the Colossus, but considering the difference in cooling, that comes as no surprise.

    Something in particular I love about this case is having all the connectors on the top of the case rather than the rear, it makes them so much more accessible. Watch out for cable lengths though, you might need a bit of extra length.

    Space inside the case was definitely a bit tight for my liking, plus there were a few niggles such as the hole not aligning with the CPU cooler and the long cable run from PSU to hard drives. Hard drive mountings are decent but are no match for noisy 7200rpm drives. Prepare to improvise or put up with the noise.

    I can understand why Silverstone decided to change from the layout used in the FT02/RV02 to the new layout used in the Raven RV03. From what I’ve read, it does come at the expense of a few degrees of cooling for that more spacious design, but whether that trade-off is a good or a bad thing is entirely subjective.

    Overall, not bad - and that's high praise coming from me!

    Cheers
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2013
  2. OptimaLnrg

    Mobster

    Joined: Mar 9, 2009

    Posts: 2,888

    Location: Oxfordshire

    Tip: route the pci-e power cables around the fans underneath the case window to help with cable management in the side panel.
     
  3. cactusweasel

    Gangster

    Joined: Jun 25, 2009

    Posts: 426

    Location: Inverness

    Good idea, I managed to get the side back on without it bulging but if I end up adding anything else I might just have to do that!

    Cheers
     
  4. R5GTT

    Hitman

    Joined: Sep 19, 2005

    Posts: 907

    I still love mine, my rear panel doesn't bulge but its a real tight fit. Shame they didn't leave just an extra 5mm gap as that would have sorted it.

    Overall an awesome case and the filters really do keep it nice and clean inside. Just remember to keep them clean as they will clog up and restrict flow fairly quick due to the amount of air the fans move.

    This was a build with mine some time ago and like OptimaLnrg said you can get the pci cables around the front of the fans and the side panel will then hide them Picture
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013
  5. Errol

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jan 7, 2005

    Posts: 2,178

    Imo this is the best case currently available, and probably one of the finest cases ever made. It just screams quality and looks good as well.
     
  6. Somnambulist

    Sgarrista

    Joined: Jun 17, 2010

    Posts: 8,601

    Location: London

    I still need to get round to building my gaming rig and this case, after a couple of years is still my favourite, which is both a testament to it's quality (performance, aesthetics) and the fact case manufacturers aren't putting out anything as unfy lately.
     
  7. ChrisD.

    Capodecina

    Joined: Sep 20, 2006

    Posts: 20,016

    Still loving mine. Good review.
     
  8. RogerMesenseless

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jul 2, 2012

    Posts: 1,116

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Its sure is a great case, but I think it would look a bit silly with my V Gene in it :D
     
  9. C64

    Capodecina

    Joined: Mar 16, 2007

    Posts: 12,128

    Location: London

    Good case but i wish they'd make one with the raven 3 internal layout.
     
  10. Baron C

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jul 10, 2012

    Posts: 1,248

    Location: So where?

    I have my Gene V in it, it sits very nicely and isn't engulfed.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  11. Jfan

    Hitman

    Joined: Aug 22, 2005

    Posts: 516

    Ordered 3 of the new sst-ap182 fans to replace the original ones in my ft02

    Has a few little niggles but is the best case I've had
     
  12. GoogalyMoogaly

    Soldato

    Joined: Aug 29, 2010

    Posts: 6,136

    Location: Cornwall

    Are those sst-ap182 fans the ones with a speed adjuster on (rather than just high/low switches)?

    Might get a couple for my TJ11, see if I can get it to be a bit less noisy.
    My TJ11 has been a major disappointment (much like my CM 690 II). Big, loud, doesn't cool particularly well and seems quite limited when it comes to watercooling options.

    I do like the look of the FT02 and would be tempted if I just wanted an air cooled case, if it wasn't for the recommendation of using reference cooler graphics cards (got 2 670 FTWs in my TJ11 and they don't help the noise one little bit).
     
  13. Andi-C

    Hitman

    Joined: Sep 14, 2012

    Posts: 516

    Location: Plymouth

    I love this case but I've read that the Gigabyte WF3 were no good in this case & was put off buying one due to the cooling of the GPU (ie the fans blow down on to the HS & the air is past out the side & not upward) ? I take it you have no problem & if this is the case I'd look to get one as the it's a fine PC case !
     
  14. The_Baron

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Nov 11, 2011

    Posts: 1,200

    Location: Northern Ireland

    I love mine. Best case I have had.
     


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