SilverStone Fortress FT02 Case Review
By Gabriel Torres on January 13, 2010
SilverStone changed the case industry when they released their Raven series, where the motherboard is installed rotated 90°, making the rear panel from the computer to be on top of the case, improving thermal dissipation. Now they are bringing this concept to their Fortress series, with the release of FT02. Let’s take an in-depth look at this new case.
Fortress FT02 is available in four versions: FT02B (black, solid side panel), FT02S (silver, solid side panel), FT02B-W (black, transparent side window) and FT02S-W (silver, transparent side window). We reviewed the FT02B-W version.
FT02 is a hybrid case: its internal body is manufactured in steel, while its external panels are constructed in aluminum (4.5-mm thick). It is worth mentioning that the front, bottom and rear panels from FT02 are built using a single bent aluminum sheet, a technique called Unibody by SilverStone, also used on Fortress FT01. In fact this is the only thing where FT02 shares something with FT01, because the two cases are completely different.
Pay attention on Figures 1 and 2 and you will notice that on FT02 the motherboard goes on the “wrong” side, i.e., it is attached to the left side of the case instead of being on its right side. The only other case we’ve seen using a similar design was Raven RV02 (on RV01 the motherboard goes on the right side).
Also notice the space between the motherboard compartment and the bottom panel, which is used as an air intake. This is a terrific design.
The front panel doesn’t have a door and it has a very conservative looks, with its five 5.25” bays. The covers from these bays are built in aluminum, matching the material used on the front panel.
The rear panel is pretty simple, with a huge air intake featuring an air filter and a hole for you to pass the cables coming from the top panel to the rear of the computer (power cord, keyboard, video monitor, etc). This panel is clearly inspired on RV02’s.
Since the motherboard is rotated, its connectors are available on the top panel, and on FT02 the power supply is also installed on the top panel. FT02 comes with a meshed door on its top panel, which is great, because when you have your PC assembled you can simply close the top panel and you won’t be seeing all the cables and connectors. The cables that come out from the top panel (power cord, video monitor, keyboard, etc) can be routed to the rear panel, so you can close the top panel.
The top panel is identical to the one used on Raven RV02. It features seven expansion slots, all using vented covers, which is great to improve airflow. The area above the expansion cards has several holes, also improving airflow. There are no holes for passing hoses from liquid cooling solutions. A 120 mm fan is available here (1,200 rpm, 19 dBA, small three-pin connector). There is also a small space for you to install SilverStone’s SST-CLEARCMOS product.
There are three speed switches available on the top panel, which control the speed of the three bottom 180 mm fans available. Each switch has only two positions: “high” and “low.”
The buttons and connectors are available on the top panel, and FT02 comes only with two USB ports (far away from each other, thus allowing you to install two “fat” USB devices at the same time), not coming with eSATA or FireWire ports.
Now let’s take a look inside SilverStone Fortress FT02.
Both panels are fastened to the case using thumbscrews, which are available on the top panel. When the top panel is closed you can see these screws, improving the aesthetics of the case. Opening the case we could see that Fortress FT02 uses the same basic design as Raven RV02 – but improved. For example, SilverStone added gray foam everywhere they could (including the side panels), in order to reduce the noise level produced by the computer.
The interior from FT02 is completely painted black, as one would expect on a case from this class. It comes with a big hole on the motherboard tray for you to have access to the backplate from the CPU cooler, allowing you to replace it without having to remove the motherboard, and four big holes for routing cables behind the motherboard tray. The motherboard tray also features several clips for holding zip-lock ties.
Expansion cards are installed using regular silver screws. We think a case with this quality deserved black thumbscrews here.
Like RV02, FT02 has three 180 mm fans on the bottom of the case. As shown in Figure 7, this case has individual high/low controllers for these fans, so you can select between 1,000 rpm/27 dBA and 700 rpm/18 dBA. All fans use small three-pin connectors, with the case coming with an adapter for you to connect these fans directly on the power supply in case your motherboard doesn’t have enough fan power connectors. Since this case has more fans pushing air inside the PC than fans pulling air out, it is said to have a positive pressure design. Each fan has an individual air filter that can be easily removed, as you can see in Figure 12.
Here you can understand better the benefits of having the motherboard rotated. The bottom fans push air to the top of the case, cooling down all components and exiting the case through the top panel. This design helps particularly video cards that blow hot air outside the case, because in this case all the airflow will be flowing on the same direction (bottom to top, which is the natural direction hot air flows).
This case allows the installation of video cards up to 12” (30.5 cm) long. If you remove the grill from the middle fan then you can install video cards up to 12 ¼” (31 cm) long.Fortress FT02 also supports the installation of radiators from certain liquid cooling solutions on this bottom part, and it comes with two brackets to allow you to install this radiator on top on the middle and rear fans.
Fortress FT02 comes with four 5.25” bays featuring a very easy to use screwless retention mechanism, where all you need to do to install an optical drive is to push a big button.
The main improvement from Fortress FT02 compared to Raven RV02 is on the hard drive bays. Fortress FT02 features five little drawers for you to install hard drives, with the first one (from the left to right) featuring hot-swap connectors. The hard disk drive installation does not require any screw or tool, but you can attach screws if you prefer. The holes for adding these screws are protected with rubber rings, which prevents the vibration produced by the hard drive from being propagated to the chassis.
Fortress FT02 comes with a support for installing a 2.5” device (SSDs) on the opposite side of the 5.25” bays.
No support for external 3.5” devices is provided.
We built a PC inside FT02 so you can have an overall idea of how a PC would look like inside this case. The video card used was a Radeon 5770, which is 8 ¾” (22 cm) long.
SilverStone Fortress FT02 case main specs include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
We were absolutely amazed with SilverStone Fortress FT02. It has only one flaw: it is too expensive for the average user. But for the user that can afford it, it is worth every penny, due to its superior quality and improved airflow design. In fact, from the three cases offered by SilverStone with the motherboard rotated 90° (RV01, RV02 and FT02), this one is the one we liked best. We usually don’t recommend cases above USD 200 because we don’t see value on cases above this mark, but today we have to open an exception.