Date: October 15, 2014
Author(s): Ryan Perry
After having gone 3 years without looking at a SilverStone chassis, we’re back with a look at the company’s latest, the mid-tower Fortress FT05. Can it deliver on the promises of big cooling and big flexibility while retaining as small a footprint as possible? It’s time to man the fort and find out.
While it’s true that all of us here at Techgage have a job to do, we just can’t help ourselves when we see something that really piques our interests. For me it’s chassis, but more specifically smaller chassis with a unique interior layout. It just so happens that the brand new Fortress FT05 from SilverStone fits the bill, but there’s another reason why I’m excited to get my hands on it.
The very first chassis that I reviewed when I started this gig back in 2010 was the Fortress FT03, so when I saw that SilverStone was prepping a new version I jumped at the chance to be one of the first in North America to reveiw one. I’m not going to let SilverStone off easy just because of nostalgia, so let’s get started.
The top to bottom layout with the motherboard rotated 90 degrees returns in the FT05, and is also shared by the latest in SilverStone’s Raven series, the RV05. Where the black or silver aluminum-shelled FT05 differs from its siblings is that it still supports full-sized ATX motherboards, but the footprint isn’t much larger than some micro-ATX chassis at only 22.1cm wide, 48.3cm high, and 42.7cm deep. For those who don’t want to check, that’s pretty small for a mid-tower chassis, so how did SilverStone manage this?
Typical chassis are bulkier due to the somewhat antiquated 5.25″ drive bays, but SilverStone has done away with these opting instead for a single, vertically mounted slim optical drive found at the lower right of the solid front panel. Not only does this keep the front clean and simple, but also redcuces the height and depth, while keeping the width to a minimum. The remainder of the front panel is made up of a reflective accent near the bottom that holds the light up SilverStone name and snowflake logo and doubles as the drive activity LED.
Our review sample came with a windowed side panel, but a solid panel is available in both colours as well. The shiny accent from the front continues around the side and sits just above the open intake area. Rather than four feet, the FT05 sits on more of a stand that wraps under the entire chassis, similar to the FT02. Since everything has been moved to the top panel, the rear is kept very clean with only a large opening to route cables and a vent around the power supply intake area.
Tucked into the bottom intake area is a magnetic dust cover to help keep any foreign bits out of the system. The inside of the stand has also been covered in foam to help trap sound that escapes from the intake area rather than allow it to bounce off of what would otherwise be bare metal.
We’ll head up to the top panel since the right side is completely solid. Here we find a large plastic grill that hides the cables, but also allows warm air to vent up and out of the system. At the very front are the power and reset buttons located on either end of a flip up cover.
Under the cover are the microphone and headphone ports flanked on either end by a USB 3.0 port. Also just to the right of the port cluster are two, three-speed fan control switches to run the included fans at either high, medium, or low speeds.
There’s not a lot to look at with the FT05 flipped upside down other than a rubber pad in each corner to protect whatever surface the chassis might be sitting on and to absorb vibration.
As we remove the panels to take a look at the interior, we’ll do so in a different order than usual, starting with the top grill. This shows off what’s usually found at the rear of a standard chassis such as room for an optional 120mm fan, and the seven expansion slots complete with a screw down cover to ensure that your gear remains your gear. There are two plastic handles that also add some stability to the top grill, but it’s what you may not have seen that’s really cool.
Hidden by the grill and tucked under the top edges of the side panels are the stealthed release latches. Squeezing the latch allows for the panel to be lifted straight up and removed.
Before we get down and dirty, here’s a quick shot of the side panels and more sound absorbing foam that has been applied in order to help trap noise within the system.
The interior layout of the FT05 is anything but typical with the central area used for the rotated motherboard. A large section of the motherboard tray has been left open in order to install the slim optical drive mentioned earlier, and to help with the installation of CPU coolers. With the smaller dimensions of the FT05 come a few restrictions such as a maximum length of 312mm for GPUs and CPU coolers measuring 162mm tall.
Secured to the bottom with rubber dampeners are two 180mm AP181 Air Penetrator fans capable of moving 130 CFM while spinning at 1200 RPM at 34dBA. These can be swapped out in favour of three 120mm or two 140mm fans, which just so happens to be the configurations that the FT05 can handle for some serious water cooling. In the upper rear corner is the power supply area and below that is a removable 2-bay 3.5″ drive cage. Both the rear and front panels have been given the foam treatment as well to further help with sound absorbtion.
Smaller 2.5″ drives can be mounted out of sight on the rear of the motherboard tray thanks to a pair of raised brackets.
For bits and pieces we have the manual, a magnetic dust filter to cover the power supply intake area, and the usual assortment of screws tossed in with a handful of zip ties as well as a small socket to help with the installation of the motherboard standoffs.
Clean lines, an innovative design, and lot of features and flexibility sure makes the FT05 look attractive, but smaller chassis can be tough to build in. Let’s see how the latest Fortress fares.
SilverStone also sent along an SOD02 slim optical drive so that we can test out every facet of the FT05. After removing the thin rubber strip that keeps dust from entering through the drive slot when not in use, it’s just a matter of removing three screws to free the plastic drive tray, securing the drive, then securing the assembled unit back in the system.
The only issue that we ran into during the build was when the heat shrink tubing pulling away from the wire leaving gaps between the connector and the sleeving. It could be that an insufficient amount of heat was applied to shrink the tubing enough to secure it in place, but whatever the reason it was the same story on multiple cables. This doesn’t affect the functionality of the chassis, but it means that the build doesn’t look as clean as it could due to the exposed wires.
I wouldn’t say that the FT05 is an advanced chassis, but building a system in it does require some extra time. While the installation was pretty straight forward despite the unique layout, the amount of space in the main compartment and behind the motherboard tray is likely less than what most are used to. Systems with more drives or multiple GPUs would mean even less room to work in as well as more cables that need to be tucked away. Our build took less than an hour with an extra 30 minutes after to properly route cables so the side panel could be secured, but with some extra planning, here’s the result.
All of our testing is performed in a near steady 20°C ambient environment with readings taken before and after with a standard room thermometer. AIDA64 Extreme Engineer is used for monitoring and recording all system temperatures throughout the testing process.
Windows is allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes after startup to ensure all services are loaded before recording the idle CPU and GPU temperatures. CPU load temperatures are generated by performing a 20 minute run of OCCT LINPACK using 90% of the available memory, while GPU load temperatures are generated by OCCT’s built in test, also for 20 minutes.
Stock CPU settings were obtained by setting the AI Tweaker option with the BIOS to Auto and the maximum stable overclock frequency of 4.0GHz was obtained after extensive testing to ensure stability. The final clocks for the GPU are 760MHz on the core and 1000MHz QDR (4000MHz relative) for the memory with the voltage increased to 1.087V using MSI’s Afterburner overclocking utility. As with the CPU overclock, testing was done prior to ensure full stability.
|Techgage Chassis Testing System|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-661 – Dual-Core (3.33GHz)|
|Motherboard||ASUS P7H55D-M EVO mATX – H55-based|
|Memory||1x4GB DDR3 1600MHz Kingston ValueRAM|
|Graphics||EVGA GeForce GTX 470|
|Storage||Western Digital 2TB Green|
|Power Supply||Antec TP-750 Blue|
|Chassis||Corsair Carbide Air 240|
|CPU Cooling||Noctua NH-C14|
|Et cetera||Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit|
|Graphics Card (OC)||34||92|
All that I can say is “Wow!”
Well, that’s not all that I can say, but hopefully you understand why we’re left so impressed. Not only did the FT05 manage to keep the CPU temperatures below any other chassis since switching to the Thermaltake Jing as our test cooler, it also kept it neck-and-neck with the much larger and much more expensive Thermaltake Level 10GT that we tested with a Corsair H60 all-in-one liquid cooler. In our testing these liquid coolers have been superior to air coolers, but after seeing these results it’s safe to say that air cooling is still a viable option with the right chassis.
The FT05 also kept our extremely picky GTX470 locked at 92 degrees, which is normal, but it did so with the fan spinning at only 82%. Normally the fan spins up above 90%, and while this might not seem like much of an improvement, the additional noise generated is nothing short of ridiculous.
The FT05 itself isn’t what I would call quiet when the fans are spinning at 100%, but it’s not loud either. Having never seen the AP181 fans in action until now, I was hoping for a little less noise, but once they were toned down using the included fan controllers, they really began to shine. With the fans running at the lowest speed the system became nearly inaudible while still managing to keep the CPU at only 57 degrees and the GPU at 92 degrees with the fan spinning at 85% while overclocked under full load.
What started off as a bit of a shaky build has turned itself around with some incredible thermal performance. There’s a few points to ponder however as we wrap things up.
The Fortress FT05 is a quality chassis in every sense of the word. From the perfect paint finish, to the outstanding build quality, to the amazing thermal performance, to the low level of noise generated, the FT05 has every base covered. It even ships in a cloth bag, which may not mean much, but it’s nice to see small touches such as this. The fact that the heat shrink tubing pulled away from the front panel wires has me a little concerned about final quality control though.
Aside from the heat shrink tubing problem, if I had to nitpick about anything I would say that SilverStone could have included a Y-splitter cable for the fans, and maybe even a USB3.0 to USB2.0 converter. We can’t fault SilverStone for not including either of these though as most newer systems should be fine without them.
So far we haven’t been able to find the FT05 for sale at any of the major online retailers. In fact we only found it listed as out of stock at one of the smaller retailers for $185 US. That’s a lot of money to justify, but as long as you’re willing to put the extra time into planning out your build before hand and then give the chassis some TLC while you install components, you’ll get one of best performing chassis that we’ve ever seen. That should hopefully offset the high initial investment.
SilverStone has always been one of those companies that isn’t afraid to try out new designs, which is evident with the Fortress series. No two Fortress chassis are the same and even though the FT05 just came out, I can’t wait to see what the SilverStone will do with the FT06 down the road.
SilverStone Fortress FT05 Mid-Tower Chassis
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