Silverstone cases are often praised by enthusiasts and HTPC builders alike, and with good reason. Last time we checked one out it was the Fortress FT03, the direct predecessor of the case we are reviewing today. The FT03 was unlike anything we had seen before, receiving TechSpot's Outstanding award as it was able to accommodate full length graphics cards and offered superior cooling performance on a small footprint.
It was interesting that the FT03 was different than previous Fortress models, and despite the steep asking price, the chassis did well as Silverstone followed up with the FT03-Mini, a Mini-ITX version that was even smaller.
Two years later, the much anticipated Fortress FT04 has made it to market. Upon first glance this latest version looks a lot like the FT01 that was released back in 2008. The FT04 shares similar dimensions to the FT01, with a slight increase in size that we assume simply means it can fit drives and longer graphics cards more comfortably.
The Fortress FT04 has been designed to maximize cooling while generating as little noise as possible and it sets out to do it in style. Included in the package is a pair of massive 180mm Air Penetrator AP182 adjustable fans which are kept dust free using a new HiFlow fan filter that improves flow rate by nearly 40% compared to its predecessor.
To contain unwanted noise Silverstone has lined much of the interior with foam pads, a method retained from previous designs, while new rear-angled front vents guide potential leaked noise away from the user.
Other features in the FT04 include CPU and graphics card supporters, a removable motherboard tray, and an externally accessible fan filter assembly. Capping off the design is a one piece-like extruded aluminum front door and top panel, giving the FT04 a similar feel to that of the premium Temjin series.
Still, not everyone feels the FT04 is a premium product, with many complaining about the excessive use of plastic, steel body, limited top ventilation and no 90-degree motherboard tray. That said, most of those complaining havent actually seen the FT04 in the flesh, though we see where they are coming from.
The FT01 was an all aluminum job and as a result tipped the scales at just 8.66kg, while the FT02 featured aluminum front and panels with a steel body allowing for a weight of 15.3kg, though this was a massive 64.9 litre case. Fast forward and we have the FT04 which only features an aluminum door with a steel body for a weight of 11.5kg.
Yet the real issue is the use of plastic. Finding plastic on the FT01 and FT02 bodies was near impossible while the FT04 is covered in the stuff. Heaps of cases use plastic these days, it can be durable, easily moulded, and above all, cheap.
So is this a big deal and does it spoil the FT04? Read on to find out...
FT04 External Design
From the front, the Silverstone Fortress FT04 certainly looks like a full-tower measuring just 546mm tall.
Although the design is rather bland compared to many of the high-end cases that we've reviewed recently, bland is not necessarily bad, and in this case makes for a clean and tasteful looking computer case in our opinion.
The FT04 features similar curves to that of the original FT01 and we really like the look of the front aluminum panel.
Actually it is more of a door, as it opens to the left exposing a pair of 5.25 drive bays along with a pair of fan speed controllers which are used to adjust the speed of those massive Air Penetrator AP182 fans. The small knobs allow the user to adjust the speed of each fan individually, allowing for anything from 500 RPM to 2000 RPM.
The fans are coloured white and sit behind a large HiFlow fan filter which is easily removed using a pair of press clips.
Both sides of the front door feature the rear-angled front vents which are designed to allow the Air Penetrator AP182 fans to draw air in while deflecting noise away from the user. The vents on the left side of the door are attached and house the hinge system while at the top the power and reset buttons can be found.
The opposite side vents are fixed to the case body and therefore remain attached to the body when the door is opened. This allows for easier access to the 5.25 drive bays as well as the removable dust filter. Additionally it has allowed Silverstone to install a small I/O panel at the top of the vents. This panel includes a pair of USB 3.0 ports along with two audio jacks.
On the inside of the aluminum door is a foam pad which lines most of the door to absorb noise and vibration, the pad itself is 4mm thick and black in colour.
The right hand side of the case is covered by a steel removable door which features a rather large acrylic plastic window. As we just mentioned the front panel connectivity is also found on the right side of the case, though it is part of the front panel.
Spinning the FT04 around reveals the left side door which is just a flat steel panel which has been painted black. The panel measures 400mm long and 500mm tall and is lined on the inside with more 4mm thick sound absorbing foam. Both the right and left doors share the same dimensions and are secured using a pair of thumb screws.
At the top of the FT04 we find another aluminum panel which features a similar design to that of the front door. Towards the back of the top panel is a 160mm x 165mm removable plastic fan grill complete with dust filter. This fan grill is designed to allow cool air into the case which will be sucked in by the power supply.
Around the back we have a rather unusual design. Like in the old days the power supply is mounted in the top of the case. However whats unique is the upside down motherboard tray which sees the I/O panel at the bottom of the case with the expansion slots above. In total there are 8 expansion slots (many full towers include 11) while there are no holes for routing external water-cooler hoses.
There is room to mount an optional 120mm fan which is covered by a honeycomb grill, though there is no dust filter, this would typically be set as an exhaust fan so a filter shouldnt be required.
Finally, underneath the FT04 are four feet which raise the case 20mm off the ground. The front feet are moulded to copy the design of the front door while the rear feet stand alone. There are also round screws under the case which fix the internal drive cages into place. However it is possible to unscrew them allowing the cages to be removed, which we'll show you on the following page.