Mini-ITX Case Final Thoughts
I enjoyed my time with the FTZ01. I was originally excited to see manufacturers branch out in mini-ITX case design by utilizing a PCI-E riser like SilverStone did with the RVZ01. Just think about the possible case designs one could enable by using a flexible PCI-E ribbon… maybe that’s a few Ravens down the line yet. Still, there are very few cases on the market this small that allow for full-size GPUs in such a small overall form factor. Add the premium Fortress treatment and it’s easy to be impressed with the FTZ01.
It has that typical SilverStone quality and tenacious distaste for anything tool-less, although somehow it wouldn’t be quite the same if you didn’t have to pull out your screwdriver to put it together. (Just in case, some tool-less 2.5″ drive mounts would be incredible!) You may not like the minimalist design at first (there’s always the RVZ01), but you can’t deny that unibody exterior is well put together. It’s clear this Fortress is a notch above other chassis of its type. Other than restricted water-cooling options (which SilverStone has apparently thought of) and my preference for tool-less SSD trays, I’m not sure if I could come up with any negatives that can’t be explained by its diminutive size and purpose (a dual GPU monster case this is not). I think it’s perfectly capable of housing a typical gaming system in a compact form factor with finesse.
SilverStone Fortress FTZ01 Conclusion
I was pretty impressed with the Fortress FTZ01’s performance. I couldn’t fit high-end coolers in it to really unlock the potential of the i5-4790K like some other (larger) mini-ITX cases, but even with the stock cooler things stayed relatively quiet and cool. The GPU I used performed the same as in other small cases, and while I ran out of time I bet swapping the included fan from the CPU area down to the GPU intake would keep things even more manageable. Blower-style graphics cards would still be the ideal match, but the FTZ01 handled a non-optimized build surprisingly well.
Appearance has always been a strong point of the Fortress series – that is, if you like the monolith/minimalist aesthetic. I’m one of those people that leans more towards the Raven side of design, although I have to admit this Fortress is an eye catcher. It admittedly took a little while to grow on me (I thought it looked a bit too much like a VCR at first), but when you actually work with the chassis you begin to really appreciate the fine details that showcase what the Fortress series is known for. Just stare at that unbroken front/side panel for a while, and realize how rare that really is…
Speaking of one-piece panels, the construction of the FTZ01 is top-notch (as one would expect from SilverStone). While some of the internals still use some plastic, I never really got the impression of anything being flimsy. There’s a reason why Fortress FT02’s are still expensive if you can find them – SilverStone is known for their craftsmanship, and I don’t think the FTZ01 is a detriment to that reputation at all.
All things considered, the FTZ01 has a good amount of functionality. There’s only so much you can expect from a small form factor case, but even so this Fortress still accommodates 3×2.5″ drives, a 3.5″ HDD, optical (even if it’s only the slim slot-load type), any GPU on the market and quite a few aftermarket C-type heatsinks. You could even cram in some of SilverStone’s new thin AIO coolers if you were so inclined. All wrapped up in a sturdy, one-piece aluminum exterior in a chassis that can be used in both vertical and horizontal orientations. Not bad for something 14L in volume. I still would like to see those 2.5″ drive mounts go tool-less though…
The Fortress series always carried a premium over their Raven counterparts. The refined style and extensive use of metals have a cost, and they usually run at least 20% more than the Raven series. As of Fall 2015, the Fortress FTZ01 could be found online for $119.99 (Amazon | NewEgg). It’ll require a few sacrifices (SFX power supplies only, water cooling dubious, blower-style GPUs ideal), but chassis this small have always had compromises. The functionality, appearance and overall build quality of the FTZ01 is worth the price of admission if you require something with a bit more sophistication. The Raven version is of course a better value, but it comes with an entirely different aesthetic – I’d say the Fortress is priced well for a unique case in a still-somewhat-niche category.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with the FTZ01, and I ended up pleasantly surprised. There’s a lot contained within the tiny frame of this Fortress. If you’re looking to build a typical one-GPU ITX gaming system in as small of a case as you can, the Fortress FTZ01 is a very compelling option with a premium touch. Knowing SilverStone, even a case as refined as the FTZ01 won’t go untouched for long; something tells me they aren’t done yet…
+ Premium-feel throughout
+ Unique interior layout
+ Hot components seem thermally separated
+ Lots of aluminum!
+ Fits full-size GPUs
+ Decent performance
+ Sophisticated looks
+ Two included slim fans, fan splitter
– Needs some tool-less 2.5″ drive trays…
– Could use some more tie-downs or cable routing channels around the motherboard
– SFX PSU required; only a few currently on the market
– Somebody needs to make some aluminum feet / an aluminum stand for this case!