• Home
  • blog
  • Silverstone Fortress FT02 Revisited

Silverstone Fortress FT02 Revisited

The latest version of the SilverStone Fortress FT02 only adds USB 3.0 support and improved 18cm fans, but its innovative cooling design still gives it an edge against today’s best quiet, high performance cases. A complete revisit of this big, beautiful case.

Silverstone Fortress FT02 Revisited

March 25, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
SilverStone Fortress FT02
SST-FT02S-USB3.0
EATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price

Three years ago, SilverStone released the Raven, an enormous EATX tower with an innovative rotated motherboard layout that blew us away. Traditional tower cases have one or two small intake fans located at the front where they are closer — and therefore louder — to the average user, and where they are impeded by case doors, hard drives and external drive bays. SilverStone’s clever design featured massive fans drawing air from the bottom panel to blow it in a straight line out the top, enhancing the cooling of tower CPU heatsinks and graphics cards with fans.

The original Raven had an unusual appearance and build composition for a SilverStone. The external design took cues from a stealth bomber, with a black plastic shell and sharp angles, a departure from SilverStone’s usual understated elegant aesthetics. The Raven RV02 still had a plastic exterior but was toned down considerably. The Fortress FT02 reviewed two years ago sported the same internal design but was dressed in a more Silverstone-esque aluminum exterior.


The box.

Recently, SilverStone sent us another version of the Fortress FT02, a slightly updated model with USB 3.0 capability and improved 18cm bottom fans. As the RV02/FT02 is still popular among our readers, we felt it would be appropriate to examine this newer FT02 and see how it stacks up to more recent towers like the Antec P280, the gargantuan Cooler Master Cosmos II, and the latest iteration of Silverstone’s Raven, the RV03.


The Fortress FT02.

Though obviously not the first time we’ve encountered the FT02, we still can’t get over how great it looks. It is Applesque, bringing to mind the Mac Pro and other Mac tower PCs of the past. This is not a flashy gamer case with multiple LED fans on every side or decals plastered on the side panels. It’s a distinctively clean-looking case with an aluminum shell, rounded corners, and solid build quality. The exterior is not bushed, which would result in visible hairlines. The FT02’s smooth matte finish on its aluminum unibody frame is achieved by sand-blasting, followed by anodizing. This is what Apple also uses for their Mac Pro, Macbook Pro, etc. There are few external clues to how different the innards are from a typical tower (though there are versions with a side window).


Accessories.

The current FT02 includes water cooling radiator brackets, a 2.5" drive frame, a three-headed 3-pin to 4-pin molex fan adapter for the three 18 cm intake fans, a USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 header adapter, reusable strap-ties, screws, and a manual. The velcro strap and small rectangular metal piece help secure the power supply — more on that later.

SilverStone Fortress FT02: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Model No. SST-FT02B (black), SST-FT02B-USB3.0 (black)
SST-FT02S (silver), SST-FT02S-USB3.0 (silver)
SST-FT02B-W (black + window), SST-FT02B-W-USB3.0 (black + window)
SST-FT02S-W (silver + window), SST-FT02S-W-USB3.0 (silver + window)
Material 4.5mm aluminum unibody frame, 0.8mm steel body
Motherboard SSI-CEB, ATX (maximum 12” x 11”), Micro-ATX
Drive Bay External: 5.25" x 5
Internal: 3.5" x 5 , 2.5” x1
Cooling System Front: N/A
Rear: N/A
Side: N/A
Top 1 x 120mm exhaust, 1200rpm, 19dBA
Bottom: 3 x 180mm intake fan 700/1000rpm, 18/27dBA
Internal: N/A
Expansion Slot 7
Front I/O Port USB 2.0 x 2 (SST-FT02B, SST-FT02S, SST-FT02B-W, SST-FT02S-W only)
USB 3.0 x 2 (SST-FT02B-USB3.0, SST-FT02S-USB3.0, SST-FT02B-W-USB3.0, SST-FT02S-W-USB3.0 only)
Audio x 1
MIC x 1
Power Supply 1 x Optional standard PS2(ATX)
Expansion Card Support 12” or 12.2” (with fan grill removed)
Limitation of CPU cooler 165mm
Limitation of PSU Unlimited
Net Weight 15kg
Dimension 212mm (W) x 497mm (H) x 616mm (D)
Extra One CP05 included for single hot-swappable SATA hard drive, additional CP05 can be purchased separately

EXTERIOR

The FT02’s total volume is just under 65 liters. Surprisingly this is 5 liters less than the RV03 which sports two 18 cm fans rather than three. The FT02 is also substantially heavier, weighing 15 kg (33 lb) to the RV03’s 11.4 kg (25 lb).


The FT02 epitomizes SilverStone’s minimalist philosophy. It’s a sandblasted, anodized aluminum tower with smooth lines, rounded corners, and nothing to spoil those smooth lines except a name plate.


Though solidly built, we noticed one manufacturing defect: The gap between the front bezel and the rest of the chassis was larger on one side. It’s not completely secure, either, as it can be pried open somewhat.


At the top are recessed power and reset buttons, power and hard drive activity LEDs, and a pair of USB 3.0 and audio ports concealed by a sliding cover. Further back is the handhold for removing the top cover.


The top is well ventilated as the system’s exhaust is expelled through it. The layout is a bit like that of a classic ATX tower, but flipped 90 degrees so that it rests on its "face". Next to the 12 cm exhaust fan are individual two-speed switches for 18 cm fans inside the case.


At the top rear is a hole for running cables. Below it is an intake vent for the power supply with a detachable exterior dust filter.


The front and back bottom corners are reinforced.


Lining the side panels are sheets of noise dampening foam, about 4 mm thick (compressible to 1~2 mm).

INTERIOR

While the exterior is mostly aluminum, the internal frame is steel, and it feels solid.. There are five 5.25" drive bays, five 3.5"/2.5" drive mounts, and a metal frame for a 2.5" drive can be used on the left side of the optical drive cage. Cooling is provided by three 18 cm fans on the bottom and a single 12 cm model at the top.


The right side provides primary access to the interior. Gigantic intake fans blow across the entire case interior, through the GPU and CPU heatsinks. The entire case helps to block the big fans’ noise from the user.


The big fans are wired to controllers located next to the dimpled 12 cm exhaust fan.


The power supply mounts vertically with the fan drawing air from the back. Underneath the fan vent is an additional square of foam.


The big fans are equipped with dust filters that slide out with ease.


Plastic caddies provide some vibration damping for hard drives. A swinging release mechanism makes removal and installation a snap.


Cable routing holes and tie-down points are strategically placed behind the motherboard tray.


A single SATA backplane is provided for easy drive installation, but the other four bays look noticeably barren by comparison.

ASSEMBLY

Our test system consists of an Asus 790GX motherboard, a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD Caviar hard drive and a Cooler Master 700W modular power supply.


The plastic drive caddy wraps around a 3.5" drive, with screws going through the sides.


2.5" drives can be mounted in the 3.5" bays but there’s also a 2.5" drive frame that can be attached to the left side of the 5.25" drive cage.


Four screws secure the PSU from the top. A velcro strap and plastic wedge increase support.


Fully assembled, the FT02 still seems spacious. By our measurements video card clearance is 30.7 cm (12.1 inches) but this can be extended by removing the center fan. CPU heatsink clearance is 17.0 (6.7 inches), not accounting for the thickness of the side panel foam which can be compressed to take up an extra 1~2 mm.


The case doesn’t lack for cable tie-down points, but there are a few extra wires, as each fan has a cable to the controller at the top.


Clearance behind the motherboard tray is only 14 mm, not including the side panel foam. This is tight. Fortunately, the side panel mounts by inserting the bottom edge in first then swinging the top edge end inward, making it easy to squish unruly cables together.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

BASELINE NOISE


Top and bottom mounted fans.

The top fan was mostly smooth but had an occasional ticking sound that was hard to make out, akin to a wire being pushed slightly into the path of the fan blades every 5~6 seconds. The bottom fans had a more consistent clicking character, like other Air Penetrators we’ve seen before.

Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan Voltage
SPL @1m (dBA)
Top 12cm
12V
9V
7V
23~24
18~19
14~15
3 x 18cm (high)
12V
9V
8V
7V
37
32
28~29
25~26
3 x 18cm (low)
12V
11V
10V
24
20
15~16
Measuring mic positioned 1m at left/front
of case.

Ideally, all the fans in a case should have similar acoustics. The only time this true in the FT02 is when all the fans are driven at 12V and the bottom fans are switched to low. At 9V, the top fan becomes noisier than the bottom ones. When the bottom fans switched to high, at 7V and above, they overpower the noise of exhaust fan top fan, even if it’s spinning at top speed.

Combined Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Top 12cm
3 x 18cm
7V
10V (low)
17 dBA
9V
11V (low)
22 dBA
12V
12V (low)
26~27 dBA
12V
8V (high)
30 dBA
12V
12V (high)
38 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

The combined baseline noise level covers an unusually wide range. Manual control (of voltage) is required to balance the noise generated the top fan and the bottom three fans. The combination of the top fan at 7V and the bottom fans at 10V on the low setting is a good starting point. This combination results in a total SPL of just 17 dBA@1m. All four fans running at full tilt results in an SPL of 38 dBA@1m — very loud by SPCR standards.

None of the fans are perfect, but together, muffled by the side panels with a system assembled inside, their negative characteristics become muted, especially at higher fan speeds when the random noise of air turbulence dominates. At lower speeds, some clicking is audible from a meter away, but it’s fairly soft and innocuous. The combined noise is a low-pitched rumble, not becoming offensive until approximately 30 dBA@1m SPL.


With 12 cm fan at 9V and 18 cm fans at 11V (low), the SPL is 22 dBA@1m.

TEST RESULTS: RADEON HD 4870

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
Fan Speeds,
Top / Bottom
7V / 10V (low)
9V / 11V (low)
CPU
29°C
43°C
41°C
SB
43°C
53°C
49°C
HD
31°C
31°C
30°C
GPU
65°C
86°C
85°C
GPU Fan
890 RPM
1600 RPM
SPL@1m
21 dBA
24 dBA
25~26 dBA
System Power
112 W
305W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

At idle, the HD 4870 configuration produced a very low 21 dBA@1m with the stock fans set to 7V/10V (low). The system was well cooled. No noticeable vibration passed from the hard drive to the case.

On load, the GPU fan speed peaked at 1600 RPM, causing a 3 dB increase, which is excellent for this test system. While not quiet, the HD 4870 stock cooler is among the better sounding blower fan models, so the acoustic profile consisted mostly of a soft, hissing sound, and much of the clicking emitted by the system fans was muted. Temperature increases were modest, 14°C for the CPU, 21°C for the GPU, and 10°C for the Southbridge chip directly beside the graphics card. Increasing the fan speed to 9V/11V (low) helped somewhat, at a modest noise cost.


Our HD 4870 test system measured 21 dBA@1m at idle and 25~26 dBA@1m at full load.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
SilverStone Fortress FT02
SilverStone Raven RV03
Antec P280
Antec Solo II
System Fan Speeds
top at 9V, bottoms @11V/low
top, bottoms @9V/low
top, rear, front @low
rear, front @12V*
CPU
41°C
39°C
45°C
45°C
SB
49°C
51°C
52°C
47°C
HD
30°C
36°C
28°C
34°C
GPU
85°C
83°C
85°C
82°C
GPU
1600 RPM
1680 RPM
1950 RPM
1880 RPM
SPL@1m
25~26 dBA
25~26 dBA
27 dBA
27~28 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.
*Nexus 120 mm fan added as bottom intake.

In our single graphics card configuration, the FT02 produced the same amount of noise as the Raven RV03, but the system components were slightly cooler, the hard drive in particular. Recent offerings from Antec, the P280 and Solo II, couldn’t compete with either of the SilverStone cases.

A Note on Thermal/Acoustic Testing of Cases

For readers concerned that using a many-generations old video card makes our testing inadequate, let us assure you: A case does not "know" or "care" whether the components installed in it are old or new. The things that matter are thermal and noise characteristics. The TDP (Thermal Design Power) of the HD 4870 is 160W. This is fairly comparable with current high performance video cards. To put it in context, a current HD 7870 is rated at 175W, and a HD 7850 is rated at 130W. A GeForce GTX 560 is rated at 150W, and a 560 Ti at 170W.

Long time readers are aware that this video card (and almost all the components used for this case review) is the same one used at SPCR for high end cases for several years. This is one of the key operating principals of SPCR: Keep test components as consistent as possible so that the results of a new case review can be compared fairly with one that’s even several years old. It ensures that our test database has a long usable life.

TEST RESULTS: TWO RADEON HD 4870 (CrossFireX)

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
Fan Speeds,
Top / Bottom
7V / 10V (low)
9V / 11V (low)
12V / 12V (low)
CPU Temp
29°C
43°C
41°C
39°C
SB Temp
49°C
64°C
64°C
60°C
HD Temp
30°C
29°C
29°C
28°C
GPU #1
70°C
87°C
86°C
85°C
GPU #1 Fan
880 RPM
1890 RPM
1830 RPM
1780 RPM
GPU #2
57°C
83°C
84 °C
82°C
GPU #2 Fan
1000 RPM
1690 RPM
1650 RPM
1640 RPM
SPL @1m
(right side)
21 dBA (22~23 dBA)
28 dBA (28~29 dBA)
28 dBA (28~29 dBA)
30 dBA
(30 dBA)
System Power
182W
499W
497W
497W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Cooling in the FT02 is effective enough that the addition of a second HD 4870 had no measurable acoustic effect at idle, and system temperatures remained the same except for the GPU, which rose by 5°C. With the fans set to 7V/10V (low), the noise peaked at 28 dBA@1m. Bumping up the system fans to 9V/11V (low) dropped temperatures a bit without affecting the noise level because the improved airflow reduced the speed of the GPU fans. Slightly better cooling was recorded with the fan speeds at 12V/12V (low), but at 30 dBA@1m, the system was noticeably louder.

We took noise measurements from from the front right, in addition to the ones taken normally from the front left. From the right side, the SPL was 1~2 dB higher at idle but about the same at full load. The motherboard and the supporting tray appear to block some of the noise generated by the components when the user is seated to the left of the case.


Our HD 4870 CrossFireX test system measured 21 dBA@1m at idle and 28 dBA@1m at load.

CrossFireX Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
SilverStone Fortress FT02
SilverStone Raven RV03
Cooler Master Cosmos II
In Win Dragon Rider
Fans Speeds
top at 9V, bottoms @11V/low
top @12V, bottoms @9V/low
top, rear, front @med
top, rear, sides @9V, front @5V
CPU Temp
41°C
41°C
46°C
35°C
SB Temp
64°C
66°C
65°C
46°C
HD Temp
29°C
34°C
29°C
31°C
GPU #1
86°C
87°C
89°C
85°C
GPU #1 Fan
1830 RPM
2140 RPM
2280 RPM
1890 RPM
GPU #2
84°C
81°C
84°C
82°C
GPU #2 Fan
1650 RPM
1820 RPM
1880 RPM
1680 RPM
SPL @1m
28 dBA (right side: 28~29 dBA)
31~32 dBA
31~32 dBA
32 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

In our CrossFire test system, the FT02’s lead over the RV03 widened considerably. It produced lower temperatures, and the overall noise level was 3~4 dB lower, a huge margin. Even when we measured the Fortress from its bad side (on the right where the motherboard tray doesn’t block any noise), it still beat the Raven.

The In Win Dragon Rider has been our noise/cooling champ for the last year but it looks to have been dethroned by the FT02, at least for noise. The Dragon Rider’s side fans achieve seemingly unbeatable CPU and Southbridge cooling, but the wide open side panel leaks a lot of noise emitted by its smaller, less efficient system fans. (It is possible that the Dragon Rider may be as quiet as the new FT02 on its ‘better’ side… but we never measured it from the right.)

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.

  • SilverStone Fortress FT02 – Baseline – stock fans at 1m
    — top fan at 7V, bottom fans at 10V/low (17 dBA@1m)
    — top fan at 9V, bottom fans at 11V/low (22 dBA@1m)
    — top fan at 12V, bottom fans at 12V/low (26~27 dBA@1m)
    — top fan at 12V, bottom fans at 8V/high (30 dBA@1m)
    — top fan at 12V, bottom fans at 12V/high (38 dBA@1m)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Though it sports the same design as it did two years ago, today’s SilverStone Fortress FT02 remains one of the best performing towers we’ve tested, and it is almost certainly the quietest for housing a high power system. It’s a very deep case due to the rotation of the motherboard but the three 18 cm fans make the extra depth worthwile. Drawing air from the bottom, the 18cm fan vents point away from the user, limiting the audible noise. Thankfully, the latest version doesn’t mess with the original’s design, just adding USB 3.0 support and a minor improvement in the fans themselves.

The case has a refreshingly clean exterior compared to much of the competition, with smooth classy lines in its unibody aluminum shell. Build quality is good and system assembly is easy, particularly the 3.5" drives with the easily removable caddies, though five drives can be accomodated. Dust haters will enjoy the filtered intake fans, which outnumber and outsize the exhaust fans, creating a positive pressure environment.

For a premium case, the FT02 is a little short on extras. The location of the fan controller — under the top cover near the back — is inconvenient, and it has only two speeds; a front-mounted variable controller would be preferable. The SATA backplane module is a nice bonus but only one is provided. (Additional units sold separately). Finally, the ancillary power supply mounting system, consisting of a velcro strap around the body and a plastic wedge held on by two screws, seems like a stopgap measure rather than a real solution.

The Fortress FT02 is a compelling product, a nice balancing act that delivers excellent performance at low noise, wrapped in an elegant form. The street price of US$230 doesn’t seem bad considering the construction, features, and performance, and the fact that there isn’t anything comparable available except for other SilverStone offerings. If you don’t mind a plastic and slightly angular exterior, the Raven series is a suitable alternative. The US$160 RV02 in an especially good value as its innards are identical to that of the FT02. The US$140 RV03 is less so, performing a bit worse as its smaller footprint forced SilverStone to equip it with only two 18 cm fans, though it does offer five additional hard drive placements.

Our thanks to SilverStone for the Fortress FT02 case sample.


Silverstone Fortress FT02 receives the SPCR Editor’s Choice Award

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
SilverStone Raven RV03
Cooler Master Silencio 450: Silence on a Budget?
Cooler Master Cosmos II: Ultra Tower Case
Raidmax Viper: A Modern Budget Tower
Fractal Design Define Mini MicroATX Tower
Antec P280: Performance One Refresh

* * *

Discuss
this article in the SPCR Forums.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *