For testing full ATX cases, we use the following standardized testbed in stock and overclocked configurations to get a feel for how well the case handles heat and noise.

ATX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K
(95W TDP, tested at stock speed and overclocked to 4.3GHz @ 1.38V)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD4H
Graphics Card ASUS GeForce GTX 560 Ti DCII TOP
(tested at stock speed and overclocked to 1GHz/overvolted to 1.13V)

2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 in SLI
(full fat testing only)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD

Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive

3x HGST DeskStar 3TB 7200-RPM HDD
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Plus 1000W 80 Plus Silver

Each case is tested in a stock configuration and an overclocked configuration that generates substantially more heat (and thus may produce more noise). The system is powered on and left idle for fifteen minutes, the thermal and acoustic results recorded, and then stressed by running seven threads in Prime95 (in-place large FFTs) on the CPU and OC Scanner (maximum load) on the GPU. At the end of fiteen minutes, thermal and acoustic results are recorded. This is done for the stock settings and for the overclock, and if the enclosure has a fan controller, these tests are repeated for each setting. Ambient temperature is also measured after the fifteen idle minutes but before the stress test and used to calculate the final reported results.

For the "full fat" testbed, the GTX 560 Ti is swapped out for a pair of GTX 580s, and three hard disks are added to fill out the case.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our testbed.

Building in the SilverStone Fortress FT04 Noise and Thermal Testing
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  • maximumGPU - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    Great review.
    It doesn't seem to perform a lot better than the AIR 540, not at the same noise levels at least.
    So taking into account all the quirks and the high price wouldn't that make the 540 immediately the better choice?
    Reply
  • meacupla - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    AIR 540 is not without its own set of faults.

    One gripe I would have, if I were to buy it, is that it has no mounting holes for caster wheels, which is kind of essential for a cube case that you can load a ton of hardware into.
    And another is why are the 5.25 bays vertical?

    I wonder why silverstone didn't go for an updated FT02 design? That case was extremely well thought out and only needed minor tweaks for E-ATX, 8x PCI slots and more HDD racks.
    Reply
  • 1Angelreloaded - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    The 540 Air isn't large enough for casters, this isn't a 2x2x2 foot cube like a UFO from MM, and you are right about the 5.25 bays but if you are wiling to do a little leg work and Mod the case you will find it is simply amazing. Start by turning it on it's side, window up, if you need casters attach them to the bottom or what used to be the side panel, well you have a start at least. Reply
  • meacupla - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    You must be thinking of large casters...

    I've fitted 2" plate casters on my fractal define define mini and it doesn't tip over, despite its small footprint.
    Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    It still seems like the FT01 is still their best "regular" case, which I believe was their first positive-pressure case which really made them stand out as a manufacturer. It was basic, and had some flaws (like no back-plate access on the motherboard tray, and no good implementation for SSD/2.5" drives) but it wasn't overengineered like the newer cases...I mean the story with this FT04's door is ridiculous.

    But if you ask me, the FT03-mini is the best computer case ever made. You could pack the most powerful consumer-class CPU, a 550-watt SFX PSU, a GTX 770, optical drive, water cooling and an SSD + 2GB 2.5" + 4GB 3.5" hard drive inside a case less than 2 sq.ft. big.
    Reply
  • kwrzesien - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    It's funny, I have a FT01 (Silver - and I love it) and have recently considered the FT03 and FT03-mini for a small aesthetic build to go in the home study / office sitting on a full-wall built-in cabinet and shelving system. It's not too deep but there is plenty of height which fails most cases. And you're right, you can put everything you need in that little case and it even hides the back (top) cable connections, problem solved! Reply
  • althaz - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    No, the FT02 (with USB 3) is their best case. In fact, it's THE best case. Ever.

    I may be biased because I'm somewhat in love with it (it's the case my current PC resides in), but it's silent, performs superbly, looks good and makes life incredibly easy (the back of the motherboard points to the top of the case, so it's super-convenient to plug/unplug things).
    Reply
  • GokieKS - Thursday, August 29, 2013 - link

    If the FT-02 didn't have the issue with non-blower GPU HSFs and optical drives in top 5.25" bay blocking PCI/e slots, I might agree with you. I also wish it was all aluminum and thus lighter, but that's a more minor quibble. Reply
  • althaz - Friday, August 30, 2013 - link

    I haven't used a non-blower GPU for years. I'd forgotten there was an issue with the top 5 1/4" bay.

    That said, I didn't say it was perfect (it's still my favourite), it needs:
    More space behind the motherboard, more than one hot-swap bay (all the 3.5" bays should be hot-swapable), should be easier to assemble and...actually, that's about all I'd change.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Saturday, August 31, 2013 - link

    it doesn't exactly have an issue with non-blower GPU, it's just that it performs best with blower style.
    My current GPU in an FT02 has a non- blower heatsink, yet temps are great.
    Reply

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