Testing & Results
Small cases generally require some due diligence in selecting components. While larger cases have the volume and airflow to accommodate practically anything, ITX cases usually won’t have that luxury. An i3 or i5 seem to be a shoe-in for a processor, and even with an i5 overclocking is probably out of the picture as there just isn’t room for massive cooling (APUs, while getting better over time, still have a 100W thermal budget to work with. A Haswell i3 will cut that in half or more, keeping heat and noise in check even on a stock cooler).
Similarly, blower-style GPUs take the responsibility of cooling on themselves rather than leaving that to the chassis. This makes them a good fit for space-constrained enclosures (we’ll uhh…forget about the R9 290 reference cooler…), as the surrounding components won’t have to deal with the 150W+ of heat that is shed from a typical GPU. If someone were to ask me what type of system to build in the SilverStone FTZ01, that’s what I’d recommend.
Are you handicapping yourself if you don’t follow that advice? Just what can you get away with in a chassis as small as the FTZ01? While I didn’t have time to test all possible iterations out there, I at least wanted to see how an open-air, twin fan Nvidia GTX970 made by Zotac would perform in this Fortress – and if it mattered if it was up or down!
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z97N-Wifi
System Memory: 2x4GB Samsung DDR3
Processor: Intel Core i5-4790K @ 4.0 GHz / Stock cooler
Video: Zotac GTX 970, no overclock, custom fan curve
Disk Drive 1: Samsung EVO 250GB
Enclosure: SilverStone FTZ01
PSU: SilverStone 500W SFX-L
Monitor: 1920×1080 27″ LCD
Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
So – does the orientation in which the FTZ01 is used really make a difference? Should users put the hot GPU up top, or keep the CPU in its usual spot above the graphics card? After idling for a while to normalize temperatures inside the case, a few benchmarks should heat things up a bit.
|“CPU Top” Orientation||CPU Temp||GPU Temp|
|Unigine Heaven||~52C (max spike 57C)||72C|
|Unigine Valley||~53C (max spike 59C)||72C|
With the FTZ01 in a fairly normal vertical orientation shown above (motherboard/CPU above the GPU) and a custom fan curve to limit any throttling, a 3DMark demo/benchmark run left the CPU running to a peak of 70C (it would vary depending on the portion of the benchmark – the combo test at the end was the most taxing). The GPU wasn’t much cooler – in fact, even being below and essentially separated from the rest of the components, the Zotac 970 reached a temp of 71C. The graphics-heavy Unigine benchmarks saw similar temps but were easier on the CPU (max spikes hit 59C, but generally hovered around 52C across all cores).
|“GPU Top” Orientation||CPU Temp||GPU Temp|
|Unigine Heaven||~52C (max spike 60C)||72C|
|Unigine Valley||~53C (max spike 62C)||73C|
After letting everything settle, the FTZ01 was flipped upside down and the same tests were run again. I expected the above orientation to have better temps across the board – after all, heat rises right? The CPU wasn’t putting out as much heat overall as the GTX970, so theoretically chassis temps should be better?
Well, that’s what I thought. Turns out, every temperature was higher. “Well of course,” you say, “the chassis was already warmed up from the previous tests! No WONDER it’s warmer!” That’s just it – I performed this sequence of testing first! Even in a pre-warmed case, placing the hotter GPU on the bottom resulted in cooler temperatures.
Didn’t see that one coming. To be fair, the temperatures are close enough to really be a wash, but the slight trend was undeniable. I’d bet extensive testing would probably have the two orientations within a degree or two of each other though – the two compartments inside seem to be thermally isolated from each other enough to render the orientation essentially irrelevant. In the end, a blower style cooler (like the NVTTM reference cooler pictured above) is still a better fit for the FTZ01 in my opinion (if only for the quieter overall operation), but it’s nice to know this Fortress can handle some heat as well.