The time has come to ditch the Antec Sonata and move to a smaller footprint computer system. I have been reading a number of reviews of the Silverstone FT03, which is a mid tower for Micro-ATX  boards.

Now the interesting thing about this case is the fact that the motherboard is mounted with the rear ports vertical. This means you plug your connections  in at the top of the case rather than  the rear

First up, the components for the build:

Silverstone Fortress FT03

Silverstone Fortress FT03

Asus P8Z77-M Pro

Asus P8Z77-M Pro

4 x Kingston KVR1333D3N9/4gb

4 x Kingston KVR1333D3N9/4gb

Silverstone SS-SOD02

Silverstone SS-SOD02

Intel Core I7-3770

Intel Core I7-3770

Noctua NH-U9B SE2

Noctua NH-U9B SE2

So we have all the ingredients for a build. Let’s get to work.

A look around the case

The front of the case has slot for the itnernal slim line DVD.

Front of Case

Front of Case

The front of the case just pulls off, making it much easier to install all of your components.

Case - Front removed

Case – Front removed

The sides of the Case come off too easily. I say too easily, as I went to pick the case up with one hand on each side panel, and they both popped straight off. What you see here is the right hand side, where there is room to mount 1x 2.5″ HDD, 2 3.5″ HHD’s and also the hot-swappable 3.5″ bay.

Case - Right hand side

Case – Right hand side

First up we’ll prepare the case. The FT-03 comes with 3 fans, and a 4th bracket.

Fans in the FT03

Fans in the FT03 (Labelled)

In the photo above (if you click on the thumbnail) you can see all 4 marked in red. In my experience, even if you are running a high end system all of this cooling is overkill if you have a good heat sink, and are not overclocking. So at this point the obvious answer is to take them out. So I removed 1 and 2, and the bracket for 4.

Fans removed

Fans removed

Now, with the fans removed, all I have left is the top exhaust fan. There are 2 air flow paths, in from the left hand panel, and from underneath the case.

Now, I just slid the DVD drive in. No screws required.

DVD Drive Installed

DVD Drive Installed

 

Motherboard and Noctua Heat sink Installation

As a Micro-ATX board the Motherboard is pretty busy.

P8Z77-M Pro - With CPU

P8Z77-M Pro – With CPU

From a profile perspective you’ll notice the consistent height around the CPU socket.

P8Z77-M Pro - Profile

P8Z77-M Pro – Profile

With the memory and CPU installed, let’s have a look at the Noctua NH-U9B SE2. IT Comes with 2 Fans, Intel and AMD kits, voltage step downs and CPU Goop.

NH-U9B SE2 - Box Contents

NH-U9B SE2 – Box Contents

When compared to the standard Intel Cooler it’s massive. I am firmly of the view that a good quality heat sink is he core to a quiet  system. The better the heat transfer, the less exhaust you need.

NH-U9B SE2 - Versus stock cooler

NH-U9B SE2 – Versus stock cooler

So now we install the Noctua. First we remove the Socket 775 backing rubber.

NH-U9B SE2- BackBoard

NH-U9B SE2- BackBoard

Then we attach the steel risers and stick it on the motherboard. Be careful to light up the two screws on the Socket 1155 back plat with the heatsink backing plate.

NH-U9B SE2 - Installed

NH-U9B SE2 – Installed

Then we install the four plastic standoffs.

NH-U9B SE2 - Standoffs

NH-U9B SE2 – Standoffs

Now we have a choice. As the socket is square, you can choose to orient the heatsink horizontally or vertically. I have chosen to to mount it what would traditionally be called vetically, but because of the way this motherboard is mounted, we end up with the heat sink horizontal. Essentialy the objective is to have the maximum surface area parallel with the exhaust fan. Luckily, the m anual has some good diagrams to help you orient them right.

NH-U9B SE2 - Brackets

NH-U9B SE2 – Brackets

So now I attach screws on top of the standoffs.

NH-U9B SE2 - Screws

NH-U9B SE2 – Screws

There’s plenty of clearance around the heat sink.

NH-U9B SE2 - Clearance

NH-U9B SE2 – Clearance

Ok, we are done with the motherboard, time for some installation

PSU, and Motherboard Installation

The PSU just slides right in, and attaches with 3 screws. You attach it with the fan to the bottom of the case, which has a filter and space for air intake. Then the traditional rear of the PUS exhausts through a grill in the side panel.

Seasonic X500 Installed

Seasonic X500 Installed

Interestingly the filter under the case is magnetic. Quite a good idea I thought.

The motherboard dropped straight in and without all the extra fans the case looks positively spacious. If you click on the thumbnail below you’ll see the location of the exhuast fan relative to the Noctua heat sink.

Motherboard Installed

Motherboard Installed

Next  i have installed a SSD , and 2 HDD’s. Its important to use straight Sata connectors for the SSD, as there is no space for right angled connectors . I also haven’t connected the Hot Swappable bay yet.

HDDS

HDDS

 

After adding in my Radeon 6950 Video card and TV Tuner it’s pretty full. This was taken while writing t his article!

Final Internals

Final Internals

And here are the final external shots, highlighting the poor job of my painting the underside of my desk!

Finished Product

Finished Product

The Top with everything connected (except the TV Cable)

All Connected (on top)

All Connected (on top)

The biggest flaw with the FT03: the  raised On/Off and Reset buttons. They are just too easy to bump

On/off and Reset

On/off and Reset

Lastly. Under Load (Prime 95) the CPU maxes out in the mid 40c temps after an hour 20 mins (ambient 18c)

Load Temps

Load Temps

Interestingly notice  that this is running at 1400mhz. When I run handbrake and encode a video, this is what I get 3700Mhz  and 63c:

handbrake

handbrake

The video card under a Kombustor test maxes out at 55c.  So all around I am pretty happy.  All up it’s a good result, and now I can play with some under-volting to see if I can bring the temps down further.