Assembling the SilverStone FT03 Mini

As I stressed over and over again in the previous section, assembly of the SilverStone FT03 Mini is a very specific process and you really do have to follow the instruction manual to the letter. With that said, however, I was surprised at just how easily the build came together. There were places I struggled with the FT03, but the Mini was a remarkably simple affair for a Mini-ITC case, all things considered.

When you get started, you want to tear down the case completely per the instructions, because you'll be putting it right back together the same way. The motherboard tray includes the standoffs needed for Mini-ITX, and the board itself goes in easily enough. I also cabled the motherboard at this juncture, but wasn't able to pre-install power cables; our test PSU wasn't modular, although SilverStone is actually going to make a modular SFX power supply available in the near future that should be ideal for cases like this one.

The next step is installing the power supply, which suspends from the top of the case. Since it's an SFX power supply the weight isn't a major issue (and the frame of the case can definitely handle it), but SilverStone seems to have been a bit miserly in the number of screws they included with the FT03 Mini. There are five points to screw in the PSU, but there were only enough screws available to do the four corners. You can see the specific way the power cables are supposed to tuck into the enclosure, though, and this was a good time to get them connected where possible.

Where things do get tricky is the optical drive tray and associated 3.5" and 2.5" cages. There's an additional 2.5" cage mounted to the motherboard tray that can be removed but we opted not to use it, instead employing the "stacked" trays for the 3.5" and 2.5" drives that sit under the optical drive tray. The problem is that it's never 100% clear how these trays come together, but the key is to look for the three notches that the 3.5" tray uses to slide into the bottom of the 2.5" tray. Once you've installed a slimline drive (or not), you can replace the optical drive tray. Mount the 2.5" tray to the bottom of the optical drive tray, then mount the 3.5" tray to the bottom of the 2.5" drive tray using the notches. Everything screws into place. Take care to orient the drives properly to make cabling as easy as possible.

Finally, installing expansion cards is actually one of the easiest parts. The case is designed to accept the expansion cards last, and I was able to squeeze our Zotac GeForce GTS 450 Eco into the FT03 Mini without too much trouble. I will say that I'm still not a fan of having to remove a cover from the expansion slots before removing the slats from the slots themselves to install the card, but I'm also not sure if there's any other way to really handle it, especially with a case like this one.

With all the doors snapped back on in the proper order, the FT03 Mini is ready to go. There's even a small notch under the case's I/O for routing the power cable out the top of the case. It might seem a little sloppy to have all of the cabling spilling out from a single point in the top of the case, but that's how the original FT03 worked and as I mentioned before, you'll already know if the FT03 Mini interests you just by looking at it. That it comes together pretty easily is almost secondary to that fact.

In and Around the SilverStone FT03 Mini Testing Methodology
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  • EnzoFX - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I am all for the shift to smaller form factors. ATX is just so unnecessary for 99% of people. mATX still has it's merits of course, but ITX is a solid option for anyone but those seeking to be on the bleeding edge.

    I too like this case. I like the standing look, as opposed to the typical, more horizontal stuff hah. I think it makes a lot of sense, cases use up less space when standing up right? I mean there's a reason we don't use those server rack cases for desktops =P.
  • EnzoFX - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I agree completely with the conclusion. You already know if you want it or not. I do, even though the exhaust area doesn't make complete sense to me. It looks as if it can be reduced greatly, the space between the exterior and the rear of the frame/psu/etc. Maybe the air can be exhausted towards the sides more to accomplish this. Or.. the alternative is to use that space more wisely, allowing for longer graphics cards ;-).
  • Conficio - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Why not move the buttons next to the slot loading drive and the USB cables as well.

    Then put on top a subwoofer and add some wireless speakers for the stereo. That would peak my interest. I could imagine some good co-branding going with speaker manufacturers.
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    is it too much to ask for to have a case similar to G4 Cube? this knock off is a start but damn is it ugly.
    i don't normally care about Apple product, but their aesthetic is light years ahead of any PC case manufacture.
  • RandomUsername3245 - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Troll much?

    Are you complaining about the lack of an apple logo, the Silverstone's aluminum construction vs. the G4 Cube's plastic, or perhaps the rectangular vs. square sides?

    If you look at the assembly pictures, it would be pretty hard to shrink the longer dimension to make the case a cube shape and still fit all the hardware. Perhaps you should go look at Shuttle barebones systems -- they're probably more your style.
  • HernanTech - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I fully support what "the troll" said. It seems that no one across the Pacific ever gets it right stealing from Apple G4 Cube design. How hard can it be? Just make it look semi-decent and small for Christ's sakes.

    You go down to an ITX board because of the diminutive advantage, not because you want a Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor special. And Silverstone, being Taiwanese, should understand that Asians have a penchant for shrinking everything down rather than to blow everything up.

    This is why I couldn't bring myself to look at their SG05 and SG06. Because they're just too huge and too awkward looking. In the end I settled for something else, Apex's MI-800. That happened last year. If I were any smarter, (or should I say, psychic) I'd have waited a few months for Apple to release their 2011 Mac Mini, which came with all the firepower I needed, even for gaming. Incidentally, that thing is even smaller than a PS2 console! Talk about midget. It's like those guys up in Cupertino want to turn into Japanese, or something.

    What's wrong with you, Apple? You should make your ITX class computer big and unwieldy, if for nothing else, then to preserve your big, fat, hulking American image.
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Your racial profiling aside, you seem to be arguing on an enthusiast site reviewing an enthusiast case that the manufacturer should make it more like an OEM computer. I'd like to see someone try to fit GTX 680 class hardware into the perpetually-overheating G4 Cube case, let alone a Mac Mini sized machine.

    The point I'm getting at here is while I agree with the sentiment that this is not as nice looking as Apple hardware, your criticisms regarding the form factor are misguided.
  • GotThumbs - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Point well taken.

    There is a HUGE difference between an OEM lowcost/proprietary built system and what we have seen in this review. The whole reason for this site we (maybe not all...HernanTech?) come here. We are a group of individuals who are NOT easily content with what OEM's slap together for the unaware masses.

    If you are a fan of Apple Cube...then get one. I couldn't care less about a system that has zero ability to be tweaked and upgraded to MY specific needs/requirements.

    HermanTech: Do all of us a favor and just please drink the cool-aid.
  • xenol - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    The G4 cube had horrible ventilation. Yes, today's parts aren't as hot, but ventilation is still a good thing.
  • HernanTech - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    I guess you never had a G4 Cube. There is great ventilation, just not for the graphics card. Then again they never thought anyone would upgrade their Rage 128 to an ATI Radeon, or 3Dfx Voodoo 3, or hell, even Geforce 5500 PCI. (The last 2 are PC cards with BIOS flashed into Mac.) G4 Cube had a mother of a heatsink, and is fucking efficient (emphasize "fucking") in dissipating heat, as any Cube owner would attest. As such you don't need a fan.

    But should you upgrade that 450Mhz Power PC G4 processor to 1GHz, *then and only then* it's advisable to install a fan under the heatsink. Can imagine a CPU heatsink without a fan on a PC clone back in the day? It would get so hot...! You'd just go, DAMN. It's hot! But evidently not so on the G4 Cube.

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