Silverstone FT-03 Mini Overview or Mini Review

With the massive increase in how useful mini-ITX boards are has come a corresponding increase in chassis to fit them, all of which are challenged by dissipating a full-sized-desktop CPU worth of heat in a small space. Add in a GPU and other components and you have quite a difficult proposition – getting the right balance of size, aesthetics, noise, cooling and price. One of the more recent contenders is Silverstone’s FT-03 Mini:
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At 19cm wide, 40cm high and 23.5cm deep it’s an unusual shape for a computer case – a tiny tower with one slot for a CD/DVD. The motherboard inside is rotated 90 degrees, so that what’s normally the rear with the I/O is facing upwards; it also means that the airflow is drawn in from underneath and exhausted out the top, hence the sides unmarred by fan holes.  
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 Given that the case may be sitting on carpet Silverstone have thoughtfully provided reasonably deep cutouts on each of the four sides at the base for air to flow in. As for the exhaust, the top is a plastic clip-on plate with many holes;   The white is tasteful and matches up with the silver nicely. There’s a power and reset button in the center:   …along with two USB 3.0 ports and the usual two audio ports on top.     The top plastic piece is held in with clips and lifts off without too much difficulty. The sides are also held in with clips:   They’re particularly solid sides – though they do scratch easily. The aluminium is several mm thick:  
  There’s enough room in the  chassis for a SFX PSU and even a self-contained watercooling unit if you’re feeling adventurous – it’s a reasonably flexible chassis, too, so if you don’t need a CD/DVD/Bluray drive you can leave that mounting bracket out, which gives you a little more leeway in installing other components.
  We haven’t built one that isn’t cooled with a Corsair H80 yet and we’ve also avoided using SFX PSUs in exchange for smaller units to give more internal space. There’s a dust filter on the base, too, which is handy as it catches a reasonable amount of dust being so close to the floor.  
If we do a more “standard” build with one of these we’ll write up a full review – as it stands, though, the mini-workstation builds are quite popular and perform well while keeping within a fairly small power envelope, so there’s not much temptation to go with a SFX PSU and air cooling! All of our customers have been very happy with the case’s performance, and the understated aesthetic is almost Apple-esque, which is in no way a bad thing. It’s hard not to draw some comparisons there when Apple is using so much unbroken aluminium in it’s products these days. If you’re after a specific answer regarding this chassis drop us a line and we’ll be happy to answer with measurements etc. 🙂

Fractal Design Define R4 Review – Part Two

As promised, here’s part two of our review! We’re building one of our standard test systems using this chassis and the following components:  
Asus P8Z77-V Deluxe motherboard Intel i7-3770K CPU @ 4.5GHz 8GB G-skill Ares 2133MHz RAM (2x4GB) Corsair H100 self-contained liquid cooling Crucial M4 SSDs Seasonic X-560 PSU AMD HD6450
  Click through to see how the build went!   Continue reading “Fractal Design Define R4 Review – Part Two”

Fractal Design Define R4 Review – Part One

    If you’re in the market for an understated, quiet case that performs well and leaves plenty of room for expansion the Fractal Design Define series is quite likely to be on your list of cases to investigate. The latest revision of the case is R4, which draws upon user feedback on the R3 and features a host of minor changes. So how does it fare?   Continue reading “Fractal Design Define R4 Review – Part One”

Fractal Design Define R4: Does a Corsair H100 cooler fit in the front?

    With the release of the Fractal Design Define R4 we have been asked a few times about whether Corsair’s self-contained liquid cooling system will fit in the front. Placement here has a few advantages over placing it in the top of the chassis; noise is reduced, for a start, and if you use the top as an intake you lose the inbuild dust filters. You could use the H100 in an exhaust configuration in the top position but temperatures will not be as good as you will be drawing in warm air from inside the chassis to cool the CPU rather than the cooler, outside air.   That leaves the front as an ideal position from the perspective of noise and cooling; the Define R3 did not allow this placement without drilling out the front drive bays. Since the R4 allows you to remove the front drive trays without permanently modifying the chassis, how does the H100 fare in terms of fit?   As it turns out, it fits beautifully:  
Given that the front has been upgraded to allow the placement of 140mm fans as well as 120mm fans there’s a little bit of space below the cooler; this hasn’t proven to be an issue in our testing though you could easily put a baffle in (foam, tape etc.) if it bothered you. You can see the coolant tube placement here:  
There’s a reasonable amount of slack there – it’s definitely not applying an undue amount of pressure on the tubes.   From the front we can see:  
You can see the gap at the bottom (and a slight one at the sides) more clearly here. For those concerned about aesthetics, you can’t see anything when the filters are back in place:  
Comparing the top to the front mounting in practice the front is notably quieter – and temperatures are a few degrees better, which may be important if you’re pushing the boundaries with the all-in-one units and don’t want to go to a full-blown watercooling setup. It’s well worth the effort to install it in the front rather than top if you don’t need the 3.5″ bays!

Fractal Design Define R4: Removing all of the front drive trays

    Someone asked how we removed the hard drive bays in the Fractal Design R4 builds we’re doing at the moment, so we wrote up a quick post for those who are wondering. If you want to install a radiator to the front of the R4 or are simply using a handful of SSDs and have no need for the 3.5″ drive bays you may wish to remove them; unlike the R3, where they’re riveted in place, the R4 features entirely removable drive bays.  
Remove the thumbscrews on the front and the topmost tray will just slide out:  
This will leave you with plenty of room to install almost any graphics card you might care to; it also improves airflow from the front uppermost fan as there’s nothing blocking the airflow. The second set of drive trays is a little trickier; have a look under the case for the first set of screws attaching it:  
There are four in total here, two of which are clear in the photo. Once they’re removed, unclip the front panel by pressing out the plastic pins that hold it in and you’ll see the front screws holding in the drive tray:
There are only the two you see in the photo here. Once they’re removed, the drive tray lifts right out.  
…and the top one:  
They’re quite sturdy little units themselves and could certainly be re-purposed elsewhere should you have a need for drive trays!   Now we have a front chassis that’s empty – until you install a radiator, that is… here’s a view of the newfound free space:  
Happy disassembling!

Fractal Design Define R4 vs. R3: Size Matters

Here is a comparison of the Define R3 and R4, side by side – the R4 is the larger, black case and the R3 is in white.   When the front panels are lined up like so…   The rears meet like so:       Same length! As for the width:   As you can see the R4 is substantially wider – it also replaces the grille and twin rubber grommets for water cooling with a  vertical PCI expansion slot, which is arguably more useful. The rear exhaust fan mounting has gone from a 120mm-mount to a 140mm mount – 120mm fans can also fit, mind. The front intake and top intake/exhaust fan mounting points are also 140mm-compatible now as well on the R4 (again, 120mm still fits).   As you can see the R4 is slightly higher, too.   More comparisons to come as well as a full write-up of the R4 🙂