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SilverStone Fortress FTZ01 Mini-ITX Case Review

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Building in the FTZ01

Now for the fun part! Building a system in a tiny, unique case like the FTZ01 is sure to be interesting at the very least. Let’s see if we can uncover any potential issues that may not be obvious at first glance.

FTZ01_00010

We’ve already taken the panels off and looked inside so let’s get right to the assembly. First up: the GPU. Wait a second – isn’t that a bit backwards from most builds!? I mean, we haven’t even installed the motherboard yet, why the GPU? While you don’t have to start with the GPU, we might as well get it installed in its bracket right away (when the time comes, the whole thing installs as one piece into the PCI-E x16 slot). The entire thing lifts out, and a small PCI-E spacer installs onto the GPU.

FTZ01_00011

From there, the GPU+spacer slots neatly into the 90-degree riser. Two cross-tip screws secure the graphics card in place. Depending on the design of the graphics card you choose, the included GPU bracket accessory installs along the outside edge of the card to keep it supported in a horizontal orientation (the 970 pictured above is pretty short, and wouldn’t really benefit – it’s a wonderful addition for longer cards to prevent PCBs from warping over time though; SilverStone is one of the few companies that still includes a way to brace GPUs in their cases). With this done, the entire assembly can be set aside for later installation.

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To be fair, the FTZ01 manual starts the system assembly in the same place most (normal) builders would start – the motherboard. In fact, they take it a step further and walk you through removing all of the internal brackets first to free up room. Those are just suggestions, though, right? Well (surprising perhaps no-one), it might be a good idea to read the manual before you dig into a chassis like the FTZ01. Of course, in my infinite wisdom and years of experience stubborn desire to see if I can do it a different way the hard way, I decided to just start cramming components in. The motherboard barely clears the PSU bracket – you may want to take that out…especially since you’ll have to in order to install the power supply anyway.

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Alright, you win SilverStone, but this is the last time! Four screws later the PSU bracket removes easily, and a SFX-L unit gets fastened to the bracket – remember to plug in the 90-degree power cable! Now to reinstall the bracket with the power supply in place and start connecting some cables…and there’s another bracket in the way. Touché. (Fine! I’ll read the manual! I’m sorry!!)

FTZ01_00014

See, that’s a whole lot easier. Granted, you probably wouldn’t have to remove that 2.5″ drive bracket if you didn’t want to or if you were using a non-modular PSU, but it certainly frees up a lot of room. As a side note, you’d want to install a 3.5″ hard drive on top of the PSU bracket before fastening it down (you won’t be able to access two of the HDD mounting points otherwise).  If you’re following along in the manual, now’s a good time to attach any SATA cables or other motherboard connections.

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Routing those cables gives us a quick opportunity to look at the ventilated interior of the FTZ01. Underneath the two sides of that solid one-piece aluminum exterior, the frame is actually quite open. You can’t mount any fans here, but the positive pressure from the included fans should force most of the hot air out of the chassis through these vents anyway. If nothing else, they make quick tie-down points to keep cables out of spinning fans, as that 4-pin CPU cable will need to stretch along the top edge of the motherboard.

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With the GPU bracket re-installed, 2.5″ drives install along the top. You’ll have to find a way to prop up thin SSDs to fasten them down (or just install them with the GPU in an earlier step – no points to those that already saw this mentioned in the manual…speaking of which, you did attach the GPU power cables before installing this bracket, right?), which makes me wish for a tool-less option here. SSDs are light, contain no moving parts, and can be installed virtually anywhere – why can’t a simple retention clip take the place of those four screws?

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Most of the connectors (other than the graphics card) are easily accessible even with everything installed, so it’s a simple matter to hook everything up.

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You’ll have to get a bit creative though to keep cables from getting stuck in any spinning fans. A low-profile aftermarket cooler like SilverStone’s NT06 or AR06 might be a decent option if only to be provide a little more fin surface area to keep cables away from the CPU fan. SilverStone includes a fan splitter to connect the two included slim 120mm fans to the motherboard (necessary for most, as mini-ITX boards commonly have only a single spare fan header aside from the CPU fan). With the Gigabyte Z97N-Wifi board pictured, that fan header was positioned in such a way to make it a little difficult to keep those chassis fan cables out of the Intel stock cooler fan. Carefully replacing the side panel ensured it wasn’t too much of an issue, although some dedicated tie-down points wouldn’t go amiss.

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The completed package’s clean lines belie the advanced interior. I wouldn’t suggest the FTZ01 for a beginning system builder; however, if you read the manual (*ahem*) it’s not as bad as it might look at first glance. The above orientation places the GPU at the bottom in a somewhat-typical ATX format, although I noticed after I took these photos that SilverStone generally depicts the FTZ01 with the GPU section on top…

FTZ01_03

…like so. Flipping the chassis over places the GPU on the left side up top, with the motherboard/CPU occupying the lower right. Interestingly enough, if you were to trace the barriers formed by the top edge, GPU bracket, PCI-E riser and bottom edge it would form a decently-accurate figure of the letter “Z”. Perhaps the model number isn’t so much an accident? Either way, the two “hot zones” formed by the GPU / CPU areas are pretty contained, and the stock photos got me thinking.

FTZ01_01

How much of a difference does orientation make in the FTZ01? Is there a preferred way to use this case? Graphics cards generally pump out between 150-200 watts, so unless you’ve managed to source a mini-ITX AM3+ board that can power an FX-9590 wouldn’t it make sense to keep the warmer component up top? After all, heat rises, right? Sounds like something that should be pretty easy to test…


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3 comments

  1. James

    Excellent and informative! I’ll have this article close by for my first build!
    Silly question (pc building newbie here) – When using the NT06-Pro cooler, does this mean due to cooler clearance that the supplied case fan gets removed in that area?

    1. Tom Jaskulka

      Hey James, glad you found the article helpful! Yes, you’ll have to remove that case fan in order to fit the NT06-Pro cooler (82mm “tall”), as the FTZ01 only has about 83mm from the top of the CPU to the side panel. Relocating that fan to the GPU area should keep everything flowing nicely! If you want to double-check all clearances before starting, SilverStone usually does a really good job of putting all of that information in their manuals (start at page 16 for CPU coolers). Have fun with your build!

  2. James

    Thanks again! I did have a look at the manual in your link. The picture showed that the clearance was covering the fan, but it just didn’t have it in words about the fan! I had to make sure. It will be good for a second gpu fan.
    🙂

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