In and Around the SilverStone FT03 Mini

As I mentioned before, the FT03 Mini looks just like the FT03 except smaller. SilverStone uses thick aluminum panels on all four sides of the enclosure, sturdy plastic for accents like the I/O and buttons on the top of the enclosure and the bottom fan intake, and then steel for the structure of the enclosure itself. The result is that externally, there isn't a whole lot to remark on. It has four flat aluminum sides, and then the motherboard's I/O cluster and power supply are both mounted to the top of the case and accessible by removing the plastic top cover.

SilverStone has largely pioneered using a rotated motherboard mounting system in their enclosures, but it really makes sense with the FT03 Mini. The base of the enclosure is basically square, and right in the bottom center is a 140mm intake fan. The case also sits off of the floor high enough that only the shaggiest of rugs should prevent fresh air from coming in through the bottom of the FT03 Mini. Fresh air blows through the single chamber and out of the top of the case. It's a sound engineering design and you'll see it pays off in spades.

I've often compared SilverStone's cases to puzzle boxes due to the very specific way they come apart and back together, but nowhere has that comparison been more appropriate than with the FT03 Mini. End users ignore the instruction manual at their own peril; we're at the point where you'll need it just to figure out how to get the case open in the first place. I'm not inclined to mark SilverStone down for this, though, because the instructions are clear enough and because there's a definite logic to how the case tears down.

In order, you pop the top off of the case, then the two side panels snap off instead of sliding upwards (a welcome improvement on the FT03, which was easy to accidentally pop the side panels off of when you were moving it), then the back panel snaps off, then the optical drive cage comes out, and attached to that are cages for a 3.5" drive and a 2.5" drive. We have the disassembly sequence in our gallery if you're inclined to check it out.

The interior of the FT03 Mini is built out of black-painted steel, and the whole enclosure is really very sturdy. You're not liable to spend much time looking at the inside of the case, but I can't stress enough how important the logic of the case's assembly is. It comes apart and back together in a very specific order, which is vital for a design this unique. Once you understand SilverStone's logic, you'll find the case is remarkably well thought out.

Introducing the SilverStone FT03 Mini Assembling the SilverStone FT03 Mini
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  • harshw - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Given the way onboard GPUs are headed, wouldn't it be better for a HTPC to have a Thin Mini-ITX, SO-DIMM, mSATA and HD4000 graphics ? I built a HTPC using the EMC-800b Habey case, with the DH61AG motherboard, a 120GB mSATA SSD and a slim 1U heatsink. The case is incredibly neat, has excellent thermals and very little noise. I keep seeing all these supposedly 'bleeding edge' cases and in 22 years of building computers, have yet to see vendors do anything remotely constructive about cables and power supplies.

    I think Silverstone should come up with more cases for the Thin Mini-ITX standard and be more creative about cables and power supplies.

    Especially now that there's Thunderbolt, I dont think system vendors can use 'expandability' as an excuse for much longer. External video card ? Use Thunderbolt. External link to high speed storage ? Use Thunderbolt.
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    In that case, this isn't for you. :)

    For me, I'd look at this as a design challenge - to see how much hardware I could fit into so small of a case with as little noise output as possible. An experiment in passive cooling for the CPU, GPU and PSU, relying on the 140mm fan to provide airflow. Something like that.

    Also, WRT Thunderbolt, it's not great for external graphics and you then have to deal with the issue of powering and finding space for multiple boxes. Add in the issues of matching the devices aesthetically and it's not necessarily a superior option.

    So, while I see what you say, I'm still glad to see Silverstone taking care of this end of the market.
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    Based on the Anandtech reviews (what else would we read!) the HD4000 is a massive advance on earlier Intel designs (correct frame rate is a good start which AMD had for ages). Latest AMD chips are very good but Intel beats them on media encoding so a case of pay more but get more power, pay less (AMD) and get a great HTPC but maybe a little slow on ripping all your Blu-rays (legally of course).

    For a HTPC a slim line 1U case is fine, for me an i7-3770T plus Mini ITX board. So this case is a complete waste for an HTPC

    This Silverstone case is really for a decent but lightweight desktop - not top of the line in power but still powerful enough for most. Personally I prefer the Lian li designs or even the SG05, but then again I would watercool the CPU and GPU and reduce noise down to minimum
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Apple Cube anyone?
  • Wardrop - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I've always thought designing cases would be a really enjoyable job. Sometimes though it seems a lot of these cases suffer from design by committee, where a lot of people put in their ideas and requirements which always seems to produce an awkward case that doesn't perfectly fit anyone's needs. Not directing this at the FT03 at all, but rather just a general observation.

    On a slightly unrelated topic, I think Lian Li's discontinuation of the A17 was very surprising. Lian Li have put quite a lot of effort in building up their portfolio of case accessories that integrate into their product range, like optical drive bezels, hot-swap drive cages, etc, and the A17 combined with these accessories was really an enthusiasts dream. I may never understand why they canned it. I'm typing this with an A17 sitting right next to me actually - probably bought the last one in Australia a year or two ago. I've got two Lian Li hot-swap drive cages in it, and have 2 of the other 3 5.25" slots populated with optical drives using Lian Li's bezels. The quality of the case and accessories make this machine look as well designed as an Apple, but with difference being complete configuration flexibility. I'm sure that's got to appeal to more than just myself. It's unlikely a case will have the exact number of internal 3.5" bays, external 3.5" bays and external 5.25" bays that you desire, and the A17 combined with Lian Li's accessories just seems like such a perfect solution.
  • lemonadesoda - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    The front should have a power switch, a usb slot, and a card reader. Optical drives are so yesterday. If you really want one for legacy reasons, put it on the back or at the side. Everyday we use a SD card or USB device. Once a month we might use optical media.
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    "We"? ;)
  • teakwood54 - Thursday, January 30, 2014 - link

    They're at the top. As for the optical drive, just turn the system around.
  • ectoplasmosis - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    "I wish we'd had a GeForce GTX 670 or 680 on hand to really give the SilverStone FT03 Mini a proper thrashing"...

    So why not wait until you did before rushing a cobbled-together review out?

    Honestly, the last few articles on Anandtech have been very sloppy. Definite decline towards just another toy hardware site.
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I find that it's a good idea to check who the author is right away. Anand himself is by far the best reviewer here. The other guys may or may not be to your liking.

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