Here on the Computer Ed Show we define various pieces of hardware based on what they offer and their price. To make it easier we catalog items using the following labels:
- Budget: These are items that tend to be purchased purely for price alone, keep the cost low no matter what type things.
- Value: These are items that are bought based on what they bring to the table but at a very reasonable price point. A balance of price and performance.
- Performance: Items falling into this category tend to be a bit more costly but there are solid gains in what you get.
When you look at the above three imagine a scale with price on one side and features on another. The Budget items tend to tilt the scale to the price side, the Value tend to balance the scale and the Performance tilts the scale to the features side.
This brings us however to our last category, Luxury, which we define as items where cost is not a determining factor in any way. These are the crème of the crème as it where that are more about bragging rights than anything.
So with this in mind let me introduce you to the Level 10 GT case. Thermaltake had wanted to create a new case that was the personification of a luxury case so with this in mind they went to the BMW Design Group. Now despite the car on this box they did not work with BMW the automaker as so many mistakenly report. The BMW Design Group was actually an independent design studio founded 35 years ago and acquired by BMW. They do designs for everything you can imagine from blenders, to corporate jets and yachts.
The Original result of that collaboration was the Thermaltake Level 10. A truly beautiful case that was unique in it’s design in every way, including it’s $700 price tag. Once the design was established Thermaltake wanted to taker that design and make it more affordable. So with this in mind was born the case we are looking at today, the Level 10 GT. Priced at $260 it still falls within what we would define as a luxury case, so it has the pricing and the pedigree but does it live up to a luxury category, lets find out.
The GT is a full tower case, this means it is BIG and thus will sit on the floor beside or under your desk. The case has a solid wall design for the back side that incorporates a carry handle. This handle is fully functional, easily allowing the case to be carried even with a full system build inside. The front panel is along the back wall’s leading edge and has your power and reset, power and HD LEDS as well as 4 USB 2.0 ports and the headphone/mic jacks.
The exterior of the front and left side of the case are designed to give the appearance of compartmentalization, create a sort of automotive theme impression. They hit this design pretty solidly and have created a unique look that is very similar to this cases big brother. There are key locks at the front and side of the case. The front key will unlock the 5 HD bays. These can be accessed without opening the entire case. Once unlocked just press the button for the bay you want to open at the front, grab the handle on the side and pull out.
Also in this front area is a 200mm fan for air intake. The intake area is filtered and actually pretty easy to get to, the entire front panel can be pulled off without opening the case to access the filter..
In the side we see the handle ends for the HD bays as well as a mesh area at the top front where the optical drives go. This is actually mesh so there is additional air flow for the design. A small section has a rubber tab in it. This removes to allow a headphone holder to be mounted.
The bottom rear compartment box holds a 200mm fan for air intake and has a slide lever on the panel in front of it. These control louvers inside the case allowing you to direct the airflow of the side fine to the area that needs it most.This intake is also filtered with an easy to access slide at the rear of the panel to pull out the filter again without opening the case.
The top of the case has another 200mm fan that is used to exhaust hot air from the case as well as a small tray area at the front, 2 USB 3.0 ports and and ESATA port. There is also a switch that allows the 3x 200mm fans to change color. As well as a switch to choose between high and low speeds on those same three fans.
The bottom of the case has 4 feet with rubber inserts that can be turned out for greater stability or left in for size limitations. There is also a filter for a bottom 120mm intake fan as well as for a PSU. This single filter can be easily removed from the rear of the case, again without opening the case.
The back of the case is pretty standard fair with a 140mm exhaust fan that can be replaced with a 120mm fan, expansion slots for a full size motherboard, three water cooling holes pre-made and the bottom mount power supply hole. The expansion slots however attach from the outside rather than the inside. There is a small cover bracket that must be removed and then the slots are held in place with thumb screws. The design is a bit awkward to me as the thumbscrew area for the slots are very narrow and it was difficult for my fat fingers to get in there correctly.
Okay so lets open the side panel and see the inside, wait a second, there are no screws to open the left panel. Instead there is a button under the case on the left side you push and then the panel swings, open, that’s right swings, not slide. A closer looks at the latch system reveals a spring loaded all metal system for securing the door shut. The door is then mounted on a steel hinge and swings open and closed. If you need to remove the door, once it is open you can with a slight lift, take the door from the hinges and set it out of the way. As this was not enough to make this a great side panel, remember that 200mm fan in the side panel? Well it does not drape wires into the case but instead uses a point contact system that Thermaltake has used on other cases. I do not think a side panel every got me excited before.
Inside the main work area we can see there is a large, and I mean large cutout for a CPU cooler back plate, rubber grommet cable management everywhere and a ton of room. The USB3 connector for this version of the case has an internal connector, meaning no cable draping out the back. The 120mm fan at the back of the case connections to a 3 pin header on your motherboard so no cables draping around. The front panel headers for this case are very long and easily can be hidden and brought out where needed. There is a lot of attention to detail on the inside of this case and the quality of the build shows everywhere. The grommets are thick enough to be sturdy but not so thick as to be hard to work with and they fit tight, I had none fall out when I built up a system in the case.
The right panel is more traditional with thumb screws and a slide off panel. The HD bays are designed to be plug and play without opening the case and so there is a set of connectors built in with a special power splitter in place allowing all 5 bays to get power from a single connection. Just plug in SATA connections and you should be set. In the outside of the case each bay is numbered so with some forethought you can easily keep track of which bay connects where. On this side is also the tool less mounting system for the optical bays. These actually work really well and hold the drive in securely. There is plenty of room for cable management and even spring metal clips to help hold everything in place.
Now anyone that knows me is waiting for the first ding on this case to hit and here it comes, my pet peeve, mounting HDs across the axis of the case. The reason I do not like this is that it restricts the airflow from the front intake fan. By only using 5 drives in the HD area Thermaltake has tried to take this into account and minimize the restriction. In this design, based on the look and specific functions they where going for I understand the design decision but I am still not a proponent of this. This was however corrected in some ways by the addition of the large 200 mm side fan. While the front fan may not reach it’s full potential in moving air into the main hardware compartment, the side fan easily makes sure that the air flow is more than adequate.
For my build to actually test the case I used an Intel platform and a Thermaltake Frio cooler along with a Sapphire 6950 video card. In the extras that came with the case is an eight pin power extension for the motherboard, this show the level of detail that went into this cases design. This made it easy to hide all the cabling.
To say this case is roomy is an understatement. Everything fits well in the case and is still easy to work around. The massive cutout in the CPU tray allowed me to easily remove and install the Frio while everything was in the case. To often these cutouts leave a part of the back plate hidden this one is big enough that no motherboard I set in the case had any blockage, Intel or AMD.
With the case fans on low the system does an incredible job of cooling and is very quiet; all but the most serious overclockers will have no need to up the fan speeds. If however you do need the fan speed kicked up the convenient front access makes it easy to fire them up and pull them back as you need. Even on high the 200mm fans did not produce enough noise for me to complain.
Speaking of the fans the ability to change the colors is really cool, plus you can turn off the lights entirely, a great idea. However the implementation needs some work. The fans can be easily switched with a single button at the top front of the case. You get the three primary colors, two different cycle patters and then off. The issue I have with this is the color selection is not persistent. This means if the computer goes into sleep mode or turn off the fans go back to the default blue color. This is purely an aesthetic thing and does not effect the cases performance in any way but it is a gripe I have.
At the end of the day however it is the ONLY gripe I can really find. Doug and I spent more time in our initial examination of this case than of ANY other case we have looked at. The reason for this was we where trying to find something to complain about. I am not joking, after about 90 minutes of examining the case Doug sat down, sighed and said, “This is the first case we have looked at and could not find obvious dings.” This speaks volumes for the attention to detail we have seen with this case. I mean solid steel construction of the hinge latch system, intake filters on every intake and all EASILY accessible without opening the case. Lots of cable management with the near perfect grommet setup on them. From look, to form and function this case hits on every mark dead center. The only gripes are very minor and really not worth mentioning.
With a price tag north of $250 this is not a case that everyone will use. However if you are looking for a case to last for a lot of builds then sometimes cost is less of an issue. The Level 10 GT is feature packed and quality abounds in it’s construction. If you wanted a case with a unique look and a ton of features then you need look no further. This case not only fits our luxury category in price but in features, style and quality.
The Thermaltake Level 10 GT is a a case build on champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
Review as Aired Live on 31 July 2011