Silverstone Fortress FT04 Review
Published: 3rd February 2014 | Source: Silverstone | Price: £174 |
We never really intended this review to run to eleven pages, but it seems there must have been quite a bit to get through. An indication if nothing else that the FT04 has a lot to say for itself. Taking the case out of the box you're immediately reassured that what you have in your hands is a real chunk of quality. The smooth curves of the single piece aluminium door mating seamlessly with the removable aluminium roof section whisper hints of Art Deco styling, and the stealthy placement of the low profile switches and front I/O connections do nothing to mar the silky lines of Silverstone's latest Fortress case. The case we have for review is the black windowed version, but if that's not your bag then be assured that non windowed and white versions are also available.
Releasing the thumb bolts on the side panels enables them to be easily slipped away, revealing what a first view appears quite a cluttered interior. There's a lot going on in here and with the inverted motherboard layout all is not initially as you might be used to. Storage is provided in the first instance by a pair of hot swap 3.5" bays in the base of the case, each having lanyards to enable the drive to be quickly extracted. Sitting atop the anterior most of the floor mounted drive bays there's also a drive cage able to hold an additional five 3.5" drives. If you don' really need or want all this storage, then thankfully all of it can be removed. Granted you are going to need to get busy with a screw driver, but it could be worse, it could be riveted in. Removal of the floor mounted 3.5" drives reveals a sound dampening foam covered floor with indentations and fittings for up to our 2.5" drives. Removal of just one of these bays enables a simple SSD/HDD set up to be assembled with a minimalist visual footprint.
For a case that externally looks very swept and stylish there are more than a few features within the interior that make us think that the chap who designed it had been smuggled out of a Dell factory some 20 years ago and kept on ice until he was required for the FT04. The large plastic anterior expansion card location bracket and air duct assembly for starters. Anyone out there got a GPU or PCI card with the extension fittings for rack support? No? No us neither. The other strange feature is the inclusion in the accessory box of yet another expansion card support mechanism, this time a series of plastic brackets that enable support to be offered for up to three cards by means of attaching them to a rail that runs along the underside of the PSU chamber. Third and finally we come to the scissor jack style CPU cooler support. We've never had a CPU cooler, even a large heavy one warp or damage a motherboard, and our PCs aren't always handles with kid gloves around here. We're honestly not convinced by the need for this or any of the other "features" that Silverstone have decided to disfigure the interior of this case with. Thankfully the machinations of the Dell server case designer who appears to have been let loose on the interior can be easily undone with the aid of a screwdriver and a bin, leaving us with what we feel is a wonderfully clean and uncluttered interior befitting of the clean lines of the exterior.
All is not bad though, far from it in fact. With the detritus out of the way what we're left with is a clean case offering excellent airflow thanks to the pair of AP182s sitting in the front. A quick look at the majority of the large panels will remind you that in covering them with high density foam Silverstone are hoping to keep the sonic footprint of the FT04 as low as possible. Large ventilation slats on either side of the full length door mean that this can be done without sacrificing too much in the way of cooling. Even he PSU has its own compartment up in the roof, with full length rubber strips providing yet more sound and vibration dampening.
A maximum GPU card length of 13.3" is nothing to be sniffed at, and cleaning out the interior does nothing to diminish it. In a bizarre twist of logic removing the GPU card support bracket at the front of the case actually makes it easier to fit and wire in the longer GPUs on the market today.
The real ace up the sleeve of the FT04 though is its native water cooling support. The removal of the front fans and the fitting of step down brackets enables 120mm fan based rads to be fitted into the front of the case. As Tom demonstrated in his review of the RV04, which shares much of the same interior of the Fortress it's actually possible to get a 360 rad in the front. The rad Tom opted for was the RX360 from XSPC which if you watch his video you will see if it had been painted twice wouldn't have fitted. If your rad-de-jour is shorter then you'll have no problems. If it's longer then best you get Mr Dremel out.
What we have then is a good looking case with excellent build quality and crisp shut lines. The feature count is high with twin variable speed fan controllers, eight expansion bays, four SSDs and 7 HDDs, two with hot swap functionality. A home for long GPUs, tall coolers and the larger EATX motherboards. Plenty of cable tie points, well distributed and spacious cable management holes, although lacking in rubber grommets and of course a good going over with the high density foam sheets to reduce noise and vibration. Ok so there are a few eccentric inclusions as we've mentioned above but these can either be ignored or removed. Fact is should you want them (and we can't think why you would), they are there for you.
If you've watched Tom's video review of the RV04, a case which shares a great deal with the FT04 you'll be aware that he awarded it a gold, you'll also be aware that much of this gold status was claimed as a result of the surprising low price of £109. In reviewing the FT04 we thought then that a Gold would also be a given, that was until we saw that it was price was up nearer the £180 mark, with some retailers having it priced close to £200. By any measure that's a lot more than the £109 needed for the RV04 and to be honest we're hard pushed to see where it's been spent. Certainly not on rubber grommets or a rear fan as both of these are absent, leaving the only real differences between the two cases as being the varying designs of their outer shells and the inclusion of sound dampening on the Fortress. The only real thing we can think of is the use of Aluminium for the Door and Roof panels on the Fortress as opposed to plastic on the Raven.
Don't go thinking the FT04 is a bad case, sure it has some flaws, but so do most cases we look at. The problem is an awful lot of other good cases can be had for the same money or less. If you love the looks of the FT04, need a case with the window on the left and are perhaps thinking of water cooling the FT04 is a good option. Just make sure your pockets are deep enough.
In awarding the scores it's the price that lets it down, pushing it down from Gold, with only it's high Performance and Presentation scores enabling it to hang onto a Silver.