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:
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.
The front of the case just pulls off, making it much easier to install all of your components.
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.
First up we’ll prepare the case. The FT-03 comes with 3 fans, and a 4th bracket.
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.
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.
Motherboard and Noctua Heat sink Installation
As a Micro-ATX board the Motherboard is pretty busy.
From a profile perspective you’ll notice the consistent height around the CPU socket.
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.
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.
So now we install the Noctua. First we remove the Socket 775 backing rubber.
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.
Then we install the four plastic 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.
So now I attach screws on top of the standoffs.
There’s plenty of clearance around the heat sink.
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.
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.
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.
After adding in my Radeon 6950 Video card and TV Tuner it’s pretty full. This was taken while writing t his article!
And here are the final external shots, highlighting the poor job of my painting the underside of my desk!
The Top with everything connected (except the TV Cable)
The biggest flaw with the FT03: the raised On/Off and Reset buttons. They are just too easy to bump
Lastly. Under Load (Prime 95) the CPU maxes out in the mid 40c temps after an hour 20 mins (ambient 18c)
Interestingly notice that this is running at 1400mhz. When I run handbrake and encode a video, this is what I get 3700Mhz and 63c:
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.