Thermaltake Armor A30: Can you armor a sports car?
When Thermaltake decided to redo the Armor lineup I must say I was impressed. We have reviewed the A90 and the A60, both of which are solid case choices. Recently however another Thermaltake box showed at my door, the Armor A30.
The Armor A30 differs from the other two cases we have looked at by going from the mid tower design to the micro ATX form factor. This smaller size is usually reserved for budget cases, but in the case of the A30 Thermaltake is trying to make a full gaming case.
When you think gaming case you tend to think of fans and an ability to remove a lot of heat from the system. Gaming systems typically generate more heat so this is an important consideration. In the A30 Thermaltake has put a single 92mm fan for the intake but added dual 60mm fans for rear exhaust and a single 230mm fan at the top to pull out the heat. Add to this the generous placement of vents on both sides of the case and you get some serious air flow potential.
The front of the case looks pretty plain with two 5.25” bays and a single 3.5” external bay. We also see a USB 2, USB 3 and ESATA ports besides the power and typical LEDS as well as the headset and mic jacks. The lower front area is where the 90mm intake fan is housed. The blue LEDs in the fan add a bit of style to this front area.
The front and the top of the case have the angular lines we have seen in the A60 and A90, keeping the new Armor look. The top area is dominated by the 230mm exhaust fan, also with a blue LED. The middle of the top is slightly indented allowing it to function as a tray area.
The top panel is removable for installing parts instead of the typical side panel access. This could be a problem considering the small size of the case however the people at Thermaltake thought of this and made the motherboard tray area fully removable.
Not just the motherboard tray area either. They also made a 5.25” bay bracket that includes the brackets for dual 2.5” HDs as well as the single 3.5” drive. This is all with thumbscrews meaning no tools needed. Under the mounting bracket is a 3.5” HD mounting bracket as well, again removable. The result is the case basically disassembles for very easy building.
The PSU sits in a bracket that is located right above the typical CPU area of a motherboard , limiting the size of the heat sinks you can use. This placement works well for cabling but creates a different issue, it blocks a good portion of the 230mm cooling fans area.
We put a PSU in the case and then fired off an LED behind at. As you can see 25% to 30% of the area of the fan is blocked. If you are using a PSU that has a large cooling fan this can be partially mitigated by the PSU fan helping to pull air from the case. However it still means that a good portion of the chimney fans potential is removed by design.
For purposes of this build I decided to build a solid gaming machine, so we used an AM3 motherboard with a 975 processor and a 6850 for video. We used the stock AMD heatsink and put in an SSD drive.
Firing the case up the first thing I noticed was how quiet the case is. I really expected the dual rear 60mm fans to be noisy but Thermaltake has found a nice balance between fan speed and noise level. My testing showed that the processor was running higher than in the typical case but considering the compact conditions I was not surprised. However as I looked at the setup I noticed something. The stock heatsink shoots air down into the heatsink for cooling. However it is working against 2x 60mm fans exhausting as well as a PSU and 230mm fan pulling air away as well. On a whim I reversed the fan on the heatsink, my plan worked and I got a 4c drop in CPU temps.
The last none budget case in this form factor that I looked at was the P180 mini. It is a great case but is more conservative in it’s looks, more like a compact luxury car. Taking this analogy forward with the A30, I see this case as a sports car among the compacts. It has some nice lines that scream gaming and offers a step above cooling performance than other cases in it’s form factor.
Something that truly impressed both Doug and myself was the construction. Not a single inch of wasted spaces exists within this case. Every place you look is a bracket or mounting system that can be removed if not needed and designed for easy installation. The construction is solid, the case feels solid and the finish matches everything else in the Armor lineup.
To get an idea of the compact size of the A30 we see it here in a picture next to an Antec One Hundred. This small size makes this case perfect for someone with limited space but still needing a full power computer.
The cases style and the lighting are subtle enough to impress without being overpowering. Thermaltake claims the Armor case design is meant to give gamers the feeling of have armored their PC and the style works.
This case is actually fun to build in despite the small size and the result is a solid PC case. The easy disassembly and well done internal design speaks volumes to the thought put into this case. That is why it bothers me so much that such a glaring design issue exists with placement of the PSU.
At the end of the day this is a worthy case for anyone looking to build a full gaming system in a small form factor.
Review as aired live 8 May 2011