It was a little over two years ago that we took a look at the Fractal Design Arc series of cases, at that time we looked at the Arc Midi and Mini. Well two years later Fractal is back with an upgrade of the Arc Midi and giving us a look at a new member of the Arc lineup, the XL.
The Midi R2 has taken the great Arc Midi design and tweaked it to make it better. The top now sports two USB3 connections, the USB 2 are gone. Also the fan controller has been moved from the rear plate to the top front of the case.
As you can see they have heard the cries of the tech enthusiast community and put a window in the side panel. The windows is like all things from Fractal, very well done without being over done and is very subdued in it’s appearance. I love the fact it is large enough to give a good view of the components while not so large as to show the mess. I also like that instead of a clear window they have actually smoked it, the effect is very sexy.
Another nice upgrade is the front panel comes out giving easy access to the filter for the front intake fans. This system is super easy to use and goes back in as easily as it removes.
Internally the case is pretty much the same with the moveable drive bays. In fact looking closely I think it is exactly the same as even the extra back panel mount for the fan controller is still there. The only real addition internally I see is the ability to mount two SSDs to the back of the motherboard tray. This is a GREAT idea but the implementation failed in the fact that this has to be done BEFORE to mount the motherboard. This means upgrading or swamping these drives is a major undertaking.
The Arc Midi is a mid tower case that will fit a full ATX motherboard but even for a mid tower the case has a large feel to it. The R2 however is a nice upgraded of the original Midi.
The new case in the Arc lineup is the Arc XL, this is a full tower brute of a case. Externally the case looks like they took the Midi design and stretched it, that assumption is pretty much spot on. The had bay area is very similar to Midi and even offers the same flexible configuration options. Speaking of flexible HD options, the XL also offers a way to mount two SSD behind the motherboard tray but this time they decided to all small removable trays. This means you can remove the SSDs and replace them without the need to remove the motherboard. I hope we see this added to the Midi R2 in a revision soon.
As I said the XL is basically a stretched out Midi with two more optical bays and the ability to use a 360mm radiator at the top instead of the 240 on the Midi. In all other aspects the design is practically the same except for size. There are two additional USB2 ports added to the USB3 at the top front as well.
During my testing of both cases I found that for me the best cooling solutions for the entire case where to make use of the great intake options. Using dual 140mm fans at the front and a 140 at the bottom I was able to achieve a great positive airflow that kept all of the system cool. This setup can be used in conjunction with pretty much any CPU cooling option. The temperature differences between the two cases where to close to call so the size made little difference other than the fact you can mount a larger liquid cooling option in the XL if you choose.
The filtering used in these cases is a foam material and that gave me some concern. I have been doing a lot of research into case filtering of late and all of my information shows that foam can be restrictive of airflow. I also saw a number of forum threads from Fractal case owners saying they got better temperature by removing the filtering. I tried this with the Midi and the results where more than I expected. I saw almost a 4c drop across the board by taking out the filters. Depending on your needs this might not be that big of deal, however this does raise the point that with these filters you can go a little cooler at the risk of needing to clean more often.
The Arc Midi R2 can be found right now for around $100. The R2 took the great features of the original Arc Mini and built on them.
Arc Midi R2
- Classic Fractal Design with a sexy subdued look.
- Great air flow and cooling options
- Easy to access front and bottom filter
- Smoked window is sexy!
- SSD mounts on back require removal of motherboard
- Filters used are air flow restrictive.
The Arc XL is a great addition to the Arc lineup, giving DIYers the options of a full, mid or mini tower case with the same styling the feature set. Currently price at around $100 it is one of the best values in a full tower case you can find. In fact it is one of the best full tower cases you can find period so that with a great price makes this case a win if you need this kind of size
- Classic Fractal Design with a sexy subdued look.
- Great air flow and cooling options
- Easy to access front and bottom filter
- Smoked window is sexy!
- SSD mounts behind motherboard are easy to use
- Filters used are air flow restrictive.
Thank you to the folks at Fractal Design for providing these cases for our review.
As we continue our quest to look at SFF cases we had an opportunity to speak to the folks at Silverstone and they asked us to look at the TJ08-E. This is an mATX case but still very compact, measuring only 14.5” tall and 8.25” wide, it case easily fit on many desk shelves. What got us excited was this case was a none traditional, design at least none traditional for everyone except Silverstone.
You see over the years Silverstone has bucked many of the traditional case design trends. They are one of the strongest proponents of positive airflow design, even going to the point of designing an entire fan series just to assist with that. They also use a reversed motherboard design that moves the CPU from the top of the case where it gains the warm air as the fans pull air up and out, to the bottom of the case and usually in a direct line for air flow. This is the design we are looking at today.
On the outside of the case you will see we have the option to mount two 5.25” external devices as well as a 3.5” device at the bottom. We have the standard dual USB 3.0 slots, headphone and mic jack and of course the power off and on switch. Behind the large grill area ta the front we have a 180mm Air Penetrator fan that is the sole intake source of air for the entire case.
When we remove the side panel we see a HD bay and then the motherboard tray with a space set aside for a 120mm fan if you decide to use it. Look at the placement and you can see why we said this is a wind tunnel design. The Penetrator fan in the front is known for it ability to direct the air flow from the fan into a solid spacing. While most other fan designs spread the air as it leaves the Penetrator will keep the air in a nicely confined column when it first leaves the fan. This means in this design the air is moving in a very forceful manner from the fan and straight to the back of the case. The majority of that air is passing over the CPU and power areas of the motherboard and then right toward the exhaust port.
Now our listeners know me and I use only SSDs, so do I need to leave the HD bay in front of that fan, no. The design allows for me to remove the 3.5” drive bay and give that 180mm brute a clear shot for maximum air flow.
The PSU fits at the top of this case and has a magnetic filter at the top covering the PSU intake. The rest of the top area is closed with the exception of a small grilled section at the top rear of the motherboard tray. This leads behind the tray to and slightly indented area that then exhausts out the rear of the case through another grilled area. This is added so the positive air flow design of the case has a way to dray some of that positive pressure out the upper areas of the case.
Now a case of this type of design practically begs for a tower cooler and Silverstone thought of this, adding a neat little feature to help out. At the bottom of the case this this small adjustable platform. It can be positioned so it’s lifted platform can be against the bottom of a large tower cooler and provide support. This helps reduce some of the strain these coolers can put on a motherboard. The design is super simple and really very ingenious.
Speaking of well thought out features, remember that 180 brute of a fan at the front of the case? Well obviously it needs to be filters. Silverstone designed the filter for easy removal without opening the case. A gap between the grilled front and the fan, a small slot is used to allow the filter to be easily removed. The slot is open on both sides of the case so you can remove it in the direction best suited for your layout. The key to removing this filter is to push it in one side and have it start coming out the other.
Now you might have noticed I am not diving as deep into various features as I have in other case reviews, well that’s because the major feature of this case is it’s cooling design. To find out how well that held up I moved my Haswell 4770K build into this case. To help with this Silverstone sent their Strider Plus 750 watt modular PSU. When I say modular I mean modular, every cable on this PUS can be removed allowing for a maximum choice in cabling used. With 80Plus Silver certification and a large fan for cooling this PSU is overkill for our build, but a nice overkill. To make this work even better with our SFF case, Silverstone has developed for their entire Strider lineup a short cabling kit. This kit has all the cables you will need in a build but has greatly reduced the length of those cables. This means there is less excess cable running around and cable management is easier.
Now I can tell you as I started the build that what I said back in the early looks we took at SFF building still holds true, be aware of the motherboard layout and your build design in advance. For this build I was using the Z87N from Gigabyte, a board I might add I love to work with, well at least in mITX builds. As I have mentioned in a few reviews the Gigabyte mITX layout can be a pain because all the connections, except the front audio is on one side and close together. This layout created an issue for me during my build. The USB3 header is positioned so that I would not be able to to use the Water 3.0 Performer cooler I was trying to put in, I was forced to used the included USB 3.0 to 2.0 adapter that Silverstone includes with the cased.
Also, I noted that we got the shorter cabling kit from Silverstone for it’s usefulness in SFF builds. Well because this case supports mATX boards it can have a few reaches that are a bit longer, however the modular design of the Strider PSU shows it’s value and I was able to move and match long and short cabling to create the perfect cable set for my build.
Looking at the finished build you can see how the wind tunnel design should come into play, the 180mm Penetrator fan will be providing solid air flow unimpeded. Enough with the theory, does it deliver? Now I will begin by saying that the test results I am about to compare this to will seem unfair. I had planned to move this same build to another case and then compare but my results in the TJ08-E where such that I saw no need.
The setup I will be comparing too had the same components except the cooler was a Water 2.0 Extreme and the case used had used dual Noctua 120 for intake. In theory this base should provide much better cooling. Well the theory got blown away in the wind tunnel of the TJ080-E. CPU temperatures under load where only 2C warmer in the TJ08 than with the baseline system. Now some of this of course could be credited to the upgrades made to the Water 3.0 but shifting from a 240mm radiator to a 120 the difference should have been bigger. Especially when you realize that the 240mm radiator had been using the fan as intakes and where providing cooler outside air while this case test was using the fan as an exhaust. All these factors taken into account and the only reason we can have for the increased efficiency of the CPU cooling is the case design.
This is further displayed by the system temperature reported by the motherboard. The TJ08 was able to deliver almost 8C cooler temps for the system than the other setup. Before someone argues that this was because the radiator was exhausting heat into the case as I mentioned above, when I did the first build I tested with the radiator as exhaust and intake and saw zero difference in system temp. The amount of positive air flow seemed to counter act the setup and no system temp increase was found. So now we see the positive airflow and wind tunnel design of the TJ08 clearly show it’s power.
Looking at the finished build however a few of you might have the same concerns I had at first, what about the GPU? It has no outside air access and it’s fans face away from the wind tunnel made by the Penetrator fan. Well our testing only showed an increase of 3C on the GPU under load. It would seem the front intake is so overpowering the exhaust capabilities that a lot of that fresh air is still getting up to the GPU fans to help there as well.
The design of this case and the power of the Penetrators fans have proven themselves in our testing. The Penetrator came with options for low and high on fan speed and even at low the performance was outstanding. Any concerns about the fans noise level need to be taken from a view of perspective. If I sat in a silent room and listened, at low the fan noise could be heard but was not bad, at high it was much more noticeable but still nothing awful. However if I turned on one house fan or the kid was up running around, or the TV was on, or I was gaming in headsets or any of the many other constant noises a typical house has where active, the noise of the case fan all but vanished even at high.
I have always read about Silverstone’s efforts at positive air flow design and their commitment to SFF building before others took an active interest. Now, seeing those efforts in action I can tell you they are not hype, they are real. Priced at $100 the TJ08-E is a great mATX case for any build, the Strider series PSUs begin at $75 for 500 watts are fully modular and adding the short cabling kit is $20 more. This PSU is a perfect fit along with their SFX PSU designs for the SFF builder.
- Compact Size: smaller than some Super ITX cases
- Lots of options: the mATX design gives you a wider range of motherboard and add-on card options than a pure ITX build
- Amazing cooling: the Penetrator fan and the wind tunnel design means this case can deliver a lot more cooling that you would expect from a single intake fan design.
- Easy Filter access: with only two intakes from the outside and both filtered plus no case opening to clean, this system should stay very clean
- Removable HD Tray: removing the 3.5” tray really opens up the front intake to give maximum air flow. Plus the bottom 3.5” area can hold an HD and SSD if you like without impeding the intake
- Only a single designed SSD mount: This case must be of an older design because the only SSD mount designed into the case is a bottom screw hole system.
- Top Panel needs lots of screws to remove: hard to call this a con but you have to remove 6 screws to take off the top panel.
As you can tell I had to stretch for some cons for this case. The TJ08-E should be on everyone’s short list for an mATX build that is compact and powerful. Be sure to include the Stride PSU with the short cable kit to get the most out of the build potential.
We would like to thank Silverstone for provide this case and PSU for our review.
As aired the weekend of September 21st
By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
With my running obsession with SFF system building I was drawn to a few of the boutique or limited availability case designs. The folks at CaseLabs were kind enough to respond to my inquiries and so I soon found the Mercury S3 case sitting at my front door.
Just a quick bit of history for folks, CaseLabs has been around since 1971. They have done custom enclosures for various electronics and in 2010 turned their attention toe the enthusiast PC world.
The Mercury S3 is their mini ITX case, or as we have come to call these types of cases here, a Super ITX design. Measuring 10.5” wide, 15” tall and 15” deep this case might be mini in some aspects but is more like a Dwarf than a pixie. Small but burly, the S3 is actually bigger than the Prodigy.
When you order an S3 case you are met with a WEALTH of options ranging from choosing colors for specific parts to choosing to go with solid parts, grills parts for air flow and even windows for various sections. The only way to truly get a feel for the options offered is to go to the site and look for yourself. http://www.caselabs-store.com/mercury-s3-case/
With this in mind and my preference for airflow I went with an all grilled setup and the ability to mount dual 120mm fans in the top and front. The grill work is not a bunch of small holes but an actual open grill that allows a LOT of air flow. This grill work is present in all the openings on the case, so this means front, top, both sides and back as well as bottom for the PSU. Obviously nothing is going to starve for air.
I asked for the case to come with the USB 3.0 ports installed, also on the front are a set of large buttons, the Power button has a blue LED circle to show the power is on and the reset button has a red LED in the middle of it for an HD indicator light. It is not often I will comment on something as mundane as a button the the level of build detail CaseLabs puts into their cases shows with the fact these are nice industrial grade buttons.
All four of the cases panels; top, sides and front, are removable by just grabbing and pulling. They are held in place by a nub and clip system that is very secure but allows for a pure tool-less design. If you look closely that the picture I have posted you will notice that the case frame and the clip system is attacked together using screws. That right folks screws, there is not a pop rivet in sight, the entire case can be broken down, including the frame with just a screw driver. Modders everywhere rejoice. The case is constructed 100% from aluminum and the material used is not thin. The case is super light weight but also very strong.
In the front we see the setup I requested, for dual 120 mm fans The setup will work with just dual fans or if you wanted to mount a 240mm radiator as well. As you can see I have the option to install an external drive, the mounts for all of this is modular and you can move the drive opening to the top or bottom with this setup.
Speaking of the optical bay mount, the system CaseLabs uses is innovative and something I would like to see others do. Instead of a static bay place in the case they have opted for a unique rail system that can be used as needed. Basically they include a set of strip aluminum that is the length of a typical optical drive with screw holes in it. You attach the strips to the sides of your drive and then the strips attach directly to the case frame. The result is a strong and stable mount that is not in the way if you do not want it.
Moving inside the case we see a LOT of open space which opens up a wealth of building options. The motherboard tray has a large open cutout for backplates and can be removed from the case completely with just 4 screws. With this much room in the case I did not find this necessary but it is nice to have the option. Below the motherboard is your area to mount your PSU, no need to worry about a 140mm size here, pick the PSU you want to use and it will likely fit.
The large open area at the bottom front is a great place to put cables out of the way of the main airflow area. However it is also an excellent location for other uses such as water cooling loop components. There is a plate here covering a 140mm opening that could be used for an intake fan but is there primarily for use with a pedestal that cane be bought for this case to offer even more water cooling options.
The flip side of the case has trays for holding HDs as well as shows the large three slot section for expansion cards. I really like this as it allows for oversized coolers to work within this case with ease. I would like to note that when I moved to mounting the HDs I hit the only real complaint I had during my time building in this case. The HD trays are held in place by four nuts that can be a bit hard to reach so I had to find a socket to fit my tools and handles these. After removing the nuts the HD can be mounted in the tray and then is put back. Considering the other methods used this one seemed a bit out of place.
The back of the case is fairly standard with fan mounting for exhaust and the top panel pops off to reveal a mount for dual 120mm fans or for a 240mm radiator. You do have a neat option for the top from CaseLabs, they have drop in mount that allows you to mount the radiator and then drop the assembled setup into a top opening that is then attached to the frame. Again this is a massive boon for those doing custom cooling loops.
Now with all these cooling options and the mazing openness of the case I was surprised to find no filtering system. We have become spoilt by so many cases coming with filtering and this case is meant for those that want to dive into their build and do it themselves in the truest sense of the DIY movement. I spoke with our friends over at Demciflex and had a set of filters made for the case. This was a bit of an issue since the case is aluminum and magnets will not stick to it. Demciflex has a solution for that however, using a thing magnet with two sided tape to attack to the case and then the filter grabs that magnet.
So with all this information how was the case to build in? A pure joy! This case is designed for the serious hardware enthusiast that wants options open in every direction to build that one system that is 100% his creation. As you can see I went a bit Noctua happy but the air flow is amazing and the noise level none existent. Now to be fair this was before any cable cleaning up so please be kind commenting on the picture.
The setup you see before you is a Haswell i7 4770K overclocked to 4.3Ghz with a Sapphire Vapor-X 7970, all on a Gigabyte Z87N-Wifi. For cooling I am using a Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme with dual Noctua fans pulling air into the case and dual Noctua fans for front intake and then a Noctua 140mm fan for exhaust. For comparison purposes I had this same build in a Prodigy case. In the Prodigy the 7970’s slightly oversized cooler would just touch the side panel and result in a lot of noise as the fans spun up. The extra space in the S3 paid off by keeping the 7970 silent under even heavy load. As for cooling the S3 achieves temps much lower than the Prodigy. Under gaming load the i7 is not cresting 50C where with the Prodigy the same setup was hitting closer to 60C and with higher motherboard temps as well.
With a base price of $200 and the cost going up as you add options and color choices the S3 is far from a value oriented case. Add to this the need to put more money in to have a filtering system as well as buying your own fans ( the S3 comes with none) this is not a low cost way to build. However that is not the target of this case. This case I meant for the tech enthusiast, the hardware tinkering that does not ask how much, they want to do what they want to do and buy what they need to do it.
The styling of the case is basic, very industrial and with no real effort at styling the case. However there is an elegance in simplicity and this basic design has some appeal. Add in some nice color options and there is definitely room here to place your personal stamp on the cases style. The simple design and easy disassembly of the entire case makes this a modders dream as well.
With the higher price I am not able to recommend this case to the general public, it is just not something most people will be able to appreciate. However if you are one of those people that loves to tinker, to tweak everything and want options in every aspect of your build the S3 shines. If you want to do a custom water cooling loop with an ITX base for the build the S3 is the most versatile choice you can make, it is literally designed with this in mind. This really is an amazing case that is very well built and has some great features for the builder, however the target for who will benefit is laser accurate and thin. If you are looking for a true BUILDERS case then this is an awesome choice.
- Excellent construction quality
- Wealth of choices when ordering from color to feature set.
- Easy to access and build in design
- Amazing air flow potential
- Options, Options, Options!
- Cost to build will be high for most
- very large case for an ITX build
- no built in filtering
It is not often we get a chance to look at the more tinker oriented components when building a PC for the show. Our focus tends to be more regular user and beginning DIYers. However when the chance to look at this level of parts comes around my geek flag flies and I am in hardware geek heaven. The Mercury S3 is not for everyone but that is okay. This case is aimed right at the uber hardware tinkering geek and hits the target dead center. It is a pure geeky joy to work with and the tinkering in me is in love. If you are exploring custom water cooling or just love the idea of all the options and the DIY attitude to the extreme then this case is a must buy!
Thank you to the folks at Caselabs for giving us the chance to play with this case, also to the folks at Demciflex for getting us the custom filters so quickly.
Review as aired the weekend of 14 September 2013
Review by Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
As you all know we have developed a serious love affair here with SFF computer building. I love the compact design and way it changes how you think about building a computer. No longer is it about how much money can I throw at it, but rather thought into how components will fit and work together. In our IOTX gaming build I had a listener point out that while we built in an ITX case the concept of ITX was not what we showed but rather the concept of Small Form Factor. With this in mind I did a lot of looking at computer parts and to expand my vision. It was during this expansion that I stumbled across the N200 case.
The N200 is a mATX case, this means it will work with either mITX or mATX motherboards. The case is actually very small but the still large enough to accommodate a larger motherboard layout, this means you have more options for your build. To give a sense of size I took this shot of it next to a Prodigy case. Now in fairness the handles on the Prodigy make it taller than the case itself but as Bitfenix has pointed out to anyone that asks the handles are what make it a prodigy. As you can see standing next to an “ITX” case, the N200 is actually quite small.
The front of the N200 is a grilled plastic to allow for good air flow. The area is broken by a plastic bar that has your power, USB/USB3 and headset jacks. The look is interesting with a kind of retro feel to it, I feel a bit like I am looking at an older IBM design. The case has a 5.25” and 3.5” bay opening, using the 5.25” bay will disrupt the design of the front look. When I first saw this I had an urge to get some white vinyl and cover the bar and then extend the white strip across the top as a racing strip.
The top of the case is bare and very basic with an opening for a 120mm or 140mm fan. The top has a filter in place, held by pins in the 140mm fan holes, other than this, as I said the top is bare. The bottom of the case has large feet to give the case good lift and a filter for a PSU. The both side panels have a raised area to give a bit more room inside and the working panel has a hole for a 120mm fan while the back is plain.
Opening the side panel we see a nice work area, large compared to what we have been working with. The 3.5” bays for external and HDs are removable. In fact the HD bay can actually be shifted back to give more room for fans in the case front it you want. The cable routing has a small space in the back of the case with access point at the front of the case but not the top. During my build testing I found that you can run the 4/8 pin for the motherboard through the CPU cutout if you plan ahead but that is the only way to hide that cable.
The front of the case will support dual 120mm fans and can be used with an AiO unit like the Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme. The front panel holds the air filter and once removed reveals that there is space to mount the fans between the front panel and the case. This means you can easily put two fans on the outside of the case frame and then the radiator and two more fans on the inside. To do this you must move the HD back or remove it as well as the external 3.5” bay.
Even with the HD and 3.5” bay removed you still have decent drive storage as the back plate has holes for 2.5” drive placement. To use these you mount rubber feet to the bottom of your drives and they slip into the holes on the back. In my working with this case I found that using just two of the holes provide a very secure mount for an SSD. This means you can alternate the feet placement on up to 4 SSDs and mount two inside the case and two on the back.
The case come stock with two fans, a 120 in the front and the rear. For our testing however I wanted to see this case used in the manner Coolermaster shows on it’s site. For this I used a Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme in the front and then moved the stock front fan to the top of the case. I used the Water 2.0 cooler with just two fans at the front of the case and as intake. I was a bit concerned of how this would effect the temperature dynamics of the case. For this build I used an AMD A10 6800K on an mATX motherboard and overclocked it to 4.6GHz. I did notice a rise in the internal case temp as opposed to what you would normally see if the heat was exhausted but it was mild. The nice side effect was a drop of the CPU temp, a nice drop of about 4C compared to pulling from warmer inside air. Because of the filter at the top I also tested with the top fan as exhaust and intake. As intake the internal temps where a little better and the positive airflow means dust has a harder time getting past unfiltered areas.
This is a solid little case but not without it’s flaws. The upper fan area is in my experience to close to the motherboard. While it is workable with a regular case fan I would personally look for a slim model. When I moved from an mATX board to an mITX board the upper fan created more problems. The mITX board I am using has a lot of the connectors at the top side of the board. This is not true of all mITX boards but enough of them that I suggest being sure what board you will use before choosing this case. With the board I tested with you could not use the upper fan with a full size fan.
Also the rear fan to me is perplexing, I mean what were they thinking? The fan supports 120mm, a standard. But then it also support 92mm and 80mm? I am not sure I know ANYONE that would want to trade a 120mm fan for a 92 or 80. To make this even more perplexing they only gave the air flow the area of a 92mm fan, cutting the potential of a 120 partially. Considering they came with a 120mm fan stock in this case the design just makes no sense.
Priced at $50 the N200 is a budget case and actually very feature packed for the price. The smaller size than a prodigy with more versatility make it an interesting choice for an SFF build. Overall for the money this is a solid case.
- Value Priced
- Small Size
- Drive Mounting Options
- Large AiO Support
- Top Fan Placement
- Limited Cable Routing
- Rear Fan Not Fully Open
The case provided for this review was purchased by Computer Ed Radio
Segment aired the weekend of July 20th, 2013
By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
This year, as our listeners know, I moved from larger cases to SFF designs on my personal PCs. So we have not spent much time looking at larger cases. When Thermaltake asked us to look at the Chaser A31 however I was intrigued. The original Chaser design was a full tower case with a very aggressive, “transformers” styling to it. The A31 is listed as a mid tower with amore subdued styling so I wanted to see what Thermaltake had done.
Looking back at our original Chaser Mk I review from 2011 we can see the changes pretty quick. Even the box art has been toned down from the original cases art work. You still see the black case with the baby blue trim but the style represented on the box is very subdued compared to the original model.
Opening the box we see a case that has very simple lines in basic construction. The blue highlights going down the front of the case offer some nice highlighting but are done in a way that it does not slap you in the case. Looking at the front of this case I was very pleased. Thermatake is known for aggressive and in your face styling but from the front the Chaser A31 has a very simple design with subtle but well placed highlights.
From appearance you would think the entire front are is designed for optical or other external devices. While each of the sections can be removed, only the top three are actually used for 5.25” bays. Each section is fully filtered and the bottom six cover mounts for up to two 120mm fans, one is included with the case.
As we look at the top we see the area is designed for dual fans, it supports the use of dual 140mm or dual 120mm fans. Also we have a large and recessed tray for things like your keys, Flash Drives, cell phones and so on. Doug and I have always been huge fans of a tray like this and it is nice to see the now common external HDD access removed and a more functional for daily use tray replacing it.
It seems that the engineers at Thermaltake have been listening to our show because not only do we see a large tray, something we have advocated a long time, but the front access area has been put at about a 30 degree angle, making the USB 3 ports as well as the audio jacks super easy to access if this case is on the floor next to you. These two features to most tech enthusiast might seem minor but in our experience these features are HUGE when it comes to making the case more useful in day to day functions.
Looking at the side of the case we see the case has a large section of the side panel pushed out and a big window put into place. The “bump” in the side panel is also on the panel for the back and this is a good thing. The A31 has some pretty decent room for cable management in the back of the case but the bump gives you a little more room to work with for hiding the cabling. Again, a great every day functionality style feature.
Opening the case we see that this mid tower case has a good amount of room to work in. There are a fair amount of cutouts for cable routing. I do however wish they had added a few cutouts at the top of the case. The only hole that could be used for the 4/8 pin power cable was very small and meant you had to route the cable fore you would put in the motherboard. This means if you need to swap PSUs you will need to remove the motherboard for proper routing. Overall the inside is well constructed and gives you enough room to not feel cramped when working inside this case.
The six HD trays are all toolless for 3,5 inch HDs as are the three 5.25 inch bays. Speaking of the larger bays, the case does come with a 3.5 inch adapter if you want to use a small device there or a floppy drive as well as the needed faceplate. The top HD bracket is removable to give you room for longer video cards or just to increase air flow, the bottom one is riveted into place. The removal and even the ability to remove these brackets has become standard fair for case design today. I wish they had made the bottom one removable as well but in the end this system works.
As you can see the front fans are attached on the outside of the cases frame and so you need to remove the front panel to put in a new fan. The top fans can also be mounted in this manner by removing the top of the case. By doing this you can just fit a 240 liquid cooling solution in the case. Also it is easier to mount the the fans from the outside even without a radiator due to the design of the case. A design that I have to say I do not like.
If you look closely at the case with the top off you can see the mounting holes for the 120/140mm fans. You should notice something is wrong as soon at you look at the picture. The holes for mounting the fan are small, to small for traditional fan mounting screws. Thermaltake supplied a number of long screws specifically for mounting these fans. They duplicated this design BTW with the front fan mounts as well. (The 120 fan at the case rear uses traditional screws) This design is made awkward as in our case we only got 8 screws of the type needed to mount. This means you either need to use less screws than a full mount if you want a second intake on the front and the dual top exhaust or limit your extra fans to just two. (I have not been able to reach my contact at Thermaltake on this and will edit this article once I get more info). There one more fan mount at the bottom of the case for a 120mm fan and it uses traditional mounting screws.
In build testing I found the stock cooling options, a single 102 for intake and exhaust were able to get the job done. However this case shines when you bring it’s full cooling potential to bear. Using dual 120 in the front along with 140 on the top the cooling of this case was amazing. This would normally mean a noisy case, however the air flow as so good I was able to use low speed fans and still keep some incredible cooling.
Priced at around $80 the A31 is a good mid tower case and measures up well against it’s competition. The subdued look is something new fro Thermaltake but I think they pulled it off well. The case is available in the black, that we looked at as well as white and blue. All have the same blue trim and the white case looks down right sexy. The bottom and front intakes are filtered a must have for any modern case and the build quality is really good. The only real gripe I have with this case is the fan mounting system for the top and front and that is more a quirk than a real issue.
With the gaming and enthusiast rigs moving steadily away from full sized towers to smaller solutions the Mid Tower has become the big case for many people. The Chaser A31 is a great choice if you looking for a mid tower rig. Capable of some amazing cooling options at a reasonable price this a case that should be anyone’s mid tower short list.
Okay I did a follow up today with Shannon Robb at Thermaltake. Looking at the top area there is an offset for the 120mm fans and for a 240mm radiator. I missed this in my initial review as I was doing my testing with 140mm fans at the top. So you can mount the top 120 fans using standard screws in an offset. The 140mm however still need the special screws. I spoke with Shannon about the number of screws added and he explained that if someone needed more they could ask and Thermaltake would take care of them.
- Great cooling potential and options
- Nice subdued styling
- Tray and front panel designed for real world use
- Great value
- None standard fan mounting for front and 140mm top fans
- 4/8 pin power routing can be a bit of an issue.
Thank you to the folks at Thermaltake for providing us the A31 for review.
Segment aired the weekend of June 22nd, 2013
As we have discussed we are going to do a build series this year and we are starting today with why we made the choice of doing an ITX system. When most people think of a computer they thing of a large box sitting next to or under their desk. I look at my wife’s desk right now and see a full tower case sitting under it and I myself had a full tower system sitting on a table next to my desk for the last year. Doug has a full tower sitting on a table next to his desk and both of his boys have mid towers setting next to and under their desks respectively. The tower case is the typical DIYer go do design.
The reasons for that are many but the primary ones are well known to us all. Larger cases are easier to work in. You do not need to squeeze components in, there is a lot of room. This also prevents bumping of knuckles and gives more room for air flow. Larger cases also give us more component options. You can fit in more in the way of multiple video cards, large cooling setups, tons of hard drives and so on. Bigger just means more room to spread out.
However bigger also means more space taken from your work or play area. A quick look under Lisa’s desk shows that she has lost almost 30% of her foot space under the desk. The tower will typically not fit on a desk shelf or the desk itself except in the case of the largest desks. This means losing some of the floor space around the desk and if that is limited can create some interesting issues. The worst is having the computer under the desk and it get inadvertently kicked. Also bigger cases are harder to fit into the rooms décor. Yeah I know some of the hardcore geeks out there are laughing but if you are married and your wife is not a tech head she is not going to want a large computer case with a ton of LEDs setup in any public room.
There are smaller ATX styles (ATX is the basic computer style/size) and you can actually get down to a pretty small system but still bigger than can be easily put anyplace you would like, some thought would have to go into putting the system in, such as a really large shelf, or even again a loot at floor space.
ITX has been around for a while and is actually used more often than people realize. The problem with ITX was that we had to give up a lot for the reduction in size. Well not anymore, there is an ITX build movement working through the enthusiast and DIY crowds and manufacturers are starting to take notice. We now have access to ITX cases ranging from tiny, just a motherboard and hard drive, to being large enough for water cooling. (Still smaller than a typical case) We have motherboards that allow us to make use of high powered gaming video cards, RAIDs and even overclocking.
ITX however also gives us a lot of flexibility, we can now use ITX builds for anything from a basic web browser / work machine to a file server or even a full gamers rig. The small cases allow us a wealth of options on where we can put these computers. They are small enough in most cases to fit on a shelf or even on a desk next to your PC, no more using up floor space or needing to add a table just for the PC. Also many of these cases come with a very subdued look, they look good on that shelf, desk or even in the living room setup in the entertainment center.
It is this flexibility in the space requirements and ability to make use of it in any room environment that drew me to this build style. For purposes of our build we will be focusing on building a full gaming rig. When we are done we will have built a system that can play most games at 1080 resolutions at very high detail levels. This means you will able to enjoy your gaming experience on your computer monitor or your large screen TV and the computers small size will make it fit where ever you need it.
While our build goal is a gaming rig we understand not everyone wants that kind of system. This means we will be talking about other build options as we work through your choices for each component. So even if you are not looking for a gaming rig, there will be something for every level of PC builder. With that in mind we will dive right in next week and begin by taking a look at three ITX cases and talking about picking an ITX case in general.
When it comes to a gaming computer case the rest of the world, the none gamers, just do not get it. They see the strange angles, array of lights and loads of fans. The cases are loud and obviously geeky in design. The reasoning for this is simple. You see people like things that make them feel inspired when they engage in an activity. Take a look at a football fans man-cave. There will be large pictures of his favorite player on the wall, maybe a clock that looks like his favorite teams scoreboard. There will be glasses, coaster and even pillows all with the team logo on it. The reason he does that is that when he enters this room he is put into a football frame of mind.
Well gamers that build PCs do the same thing. Around my desk I have starship miniatures from EVE Online, my Kingston Rex head pen holder, my computer has a blue LED light show going that is matched by my keyboard and mouse. I have built a small part of my home that puts me in my computer gamer frame of mind. However just like there is no one team for every football fan, there is no one style for every gamer, they want something that reflects their favorite game, style of game or just the fact they are geeky.
Corsair has a solid line of cases but they wanted something for their Vengeance gaming lineup and so we today take a look at the first of the Vengeance case lineup, the C70. Corsair understands what I was talking about above and so they decided to make a case that had a style to entice certain gamers, the target was the military FPFS, and strategy gaming crowd. The C70 is available in three colors; White, Black and Military Green. When we saw this case for the first time we HAD to see it in green so Corsair sent us a green case.
As you can see the case looks like someone took an ammo box and put a computer inside, this was the intention. The case is all steel and so have a very military feel to it. The side window is a tinted Plexiglas with mounts for two 120/140mm fans. The front of the case has plastic inserts for the drive bays but it otherwise steel.
The front can support three optical drive bays but the real draw is the front control panel. Keeping with the military style Corsair has made the buttons look like something on a military device. The power button is large and red, easy to find when needed. The reset button is done in a yellow warning style and is under a spring loaded cover so it cannot be accidentally pressed. You also have your microphone and headphone jacks as well as the HD LED.
Looking into the future Corsair has forgone the use of USB2 pots on the front of the case, giving you two USB 3 ports and nothing else. However this forward look did not come without the common sense military approach of prepare for the future but deal with the now. With this in mind Corsair included an adapter that will take the internal USB3 connection and convert it to a USB2 connection for the motherboard header if needed.
Moving to the inside we were first struck by the latch system used for the side panels. Corsair already impressed us with the 600GT and the latching system it used. It was super easy to use and just made getting into the case better. Well this time around they did the same thing but with military style. The latch system is like that found on a lot of military equipment containers, basically a steel latch that is held in place by a bump in the metal around it. The system is super simple and super easy to use.
While we are looking at this part of the case, note the carry handles attached to the top of the case. This are not an added but a designed handle mount into the metal with metal, spring loaded handles. These can EASILY handle the weight of a loaded PC and make this easy to move around for LAN Parties.
Opening the case we find a bottom mount PSU system with filter as well as a large cutout for the CPU back plate. The 6 HD drive bays are of tool less design except for the use to 2.5” drives but they are properly supported. Each bay of three can be removed to increase air flow. Removing the bottom bay and the mount for the bay will open up space for a 240mm radiator is desired. As you can see this has it’s own filter accessed from the front of the case.
Speaking of those bays, corsair has included with the case two 120mm fans mounted at the back side of these bays to pull air over the HDs and through the front. The Front panel can be removed to access a filter and add an addition two 120mm fans for extra air intake. This along with the ability to add a 240mm radiator to the top of the case or two fans either 120mm or 140mm and the 120mm rear fan means you get some great airflow options to fit just about any build.
Opening the back of the case we find a large area for cable management and the mounting clip designed Corsair has included has a much neater look to it that using the various tie system other cases have used. This case is designed with versatility and build friendliness in mind.
We have seen a lot of case companies over the years try to hit on a look to create that feel we want from the aesthetics of our PC. Corsair has taken a very simple design and used very basic elements plus a coat of paint to create a near perfect military styling for this case.
The only flaw we found with the case in fact is with the bottom filters. The filters themselves are designed too thin for the mounting rails they use and this means it is super easy for them to slide out. In fact so easy that even using a can of compressed air we could make them fly off the case. The good news is there is a SIMPLE solution, take soma black electrical tape and fold it over each edge of the filter. This creates the tighter fit desired without making the filters hard to remove. In our testing this result in the filters not moving without you purposefully taking them out. We have passed this along to Corsair and they are looking at how to fix this for future builds.
This is quite simply a great case and if you a military buff or a military style gamer then this case will peg your geek meter. Priced at $140 this case is a decent buy from a cost perspective. However cost is harder to judge on a case like this. If this is the style you want in your computer room then the cost is reasonable and actually a great value. THAT at the end of the day is the big determining factor. There are a lot of great cases today and the key is now less about features and more about style. It is easy to find a case today with great cooling and the features we want, but the key is to find the style we want. Corsair has, as an expert marksman should, hit the target of style for this case dead center. If you love military gaming, or just are the military itself this is the case to buy to create the feel you will want in your PC.
I could not of course end this review without making an appropriate remark that fits this case’s style. Also be sure to visit our Facebook page were I will post more pictures shortly.
Show segment as aired live 30 June 2012
By Edward Crisler
When Thermaltake first came on my radar they were well known for their Armor computer cases. This case was a full tower that provided excellent cooling and was also known for it’s distinctive front doors or shields. That case today is consider a classic among tech enthusiasts.
The Armor Revo is an attempt to pay homage to the classic Armor case while at the same time bringing the case to a more modern design. This is most obvious as we look at the front of the case. Looking at the case head on you can see the two shields that the classic Armor case was known for. There are brushed aluminum panels that have the ability to be opened a small degree for purely aesthetic purposes, these are not doors in any manner and do not interfere with the use of optical bays even when fully closed.
Looking past these two shields however we see a design that is similar to designs we have seen before from Thermaltake, there is a reason for that. Thermaltake has, for it’s full tower cases, hit upon a solid design for the interior of the case. This design is well made, efficient and has some great features. So instead of inventing the wheel as it were with each case that have started using the same base and then modifying the outside to create the style they are shooting for.
Now this is not theory, I have been able to confirm this with our contacts at Thermaltake and personally I think this is great. By using a common base for the cases we can see a reduction of costs since only a single basic interior tooling of the case is required. This will also give the various case styles a unifying form that will allow them to be different but recognizable as a Thermaltake case at the same time. This of course could only work if you had a great base to start from and Thermaltake does.
Looking at the front panel of the case we can see this unifying design in action. If that panel design looks familiar it should. We have seen this basic design on the Overseer and the Chaser. You have dual USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, an ESATA as well as the headphone and microphone jacks. There is also an SATA drive docking station that works with 3.5 or 2.5 inch drives. On the right we have the power and reset buttons as well as the HD activity light and on the left we have a high and low fan speed switch as well as a fan light control switch. The logo on the front also serves as the power light for the PC.
Turning to the side we see a side panel that looks a lot like the side on the Chaser with a nice side window and a 200mm side intake fan. The fan gets its power from a power connector built into the side panel and mainframe. This design is something I love about Thermaltake cases and really makes them stand out. No need to worry about the side fans power cable when you take the door off to work or put it back on. The side fan is filtered but you cannot remove it without taking off the fan.
Opening the case we see an interior look that we have seen before. The motherboard tray has a nice large cutout for making access to the CPU back plate easy as well as having a lot of room behind the tray for cable routing. The PSU mounts at the bottom of the case and has a movable bracket to allow the case to easily accommodate larger PSUs. There is also a mount to add a 120mm fan to the bottom of the case for intake, both it and the PUS intake area are filtered and this can be easily removed from the rear.
The optical bays can hold up to four different 5.25” devices and have a tool free design. There are six drive bays for 3.5” or 2.5” drives. These are easy to remove and lock back in real tight. You also get an adapter and face plate for the ability to mount a floppy or other 3.5” devices in the 5.25” bays.
With the 200mm fans at the side and front a third fan is at the top of the case and a 140mm fan at the rears. The chimney area will also allow for a 120mm or 140mm fan to be added or the 200mm fan can be removed and a 240mm radiator can be used instead. The cooling solutions are very versatile and the space very open. When I built my wives system in this case after testing I was able to easily mount AMD’s dual fan liquid cooling solution in the top area using the second fan option. There is a surprising amount of room in the case.
The quality and options offered by this case are things we have come to expect from Thermaltake in their full tower cases. The fans that come stock offer the same cooling as the other cases with this design but do not have the color change options, only offer a choice of blue or off. On the side panel we find the headset holder that Thermaltake has started including in case designs, this is much handier than you would first think. Once you start using it, you have a hard time being without it. This holder is however mounted to the case and if this will sit under a desk be sure your legs are not going to bump into or you might break it, or at the very least hurt your leg.
The cooling in this case is awesome with the test rig (I5 2500K (stock Intel cooler), Sapphire HD 7850, Kingston Hyper X SSD, 8 Gig Kingston Hyper X DDR3) running for 4 hours under gaming level load in a room with a temp of 85F. At no time did the system come close to throttling temps.
The use of an aggressive style is something we have come to expect from Thermaltake, this means some people will love this cases looks and others will hate it. My wife adores the case and hence it now houses her system. Personally I do not think it is bad but it is not a design that gets me excited. However the quality of the build and the features offered do get me excited. The Armor Revo has a tough road to hoe as it must live up to the name created by a case that is legendary. With a nod in the style to the classic case Thermaltake moves this design fully into their new full tower style and has managed to blend the old and the new together nicely. The case is available in White or Black giving you more options in choosing a style that fits you.
This case is definitely worth a look and if you like the style you will love the case. The Armor Revo is a great case that is worth any enthusiast’s attention.
Review as aired 9 June 2012
This show is first and foremost about what you, our listeners want to hear. With this in mind when we get a request for a segment idea, or questions about a specific piece of hardware or software we do our best to try and put together the information you asked for. So when we had a listener ask about the Fractal Design Define XL we took the request to our contact at Fractal and they said sure, let’s give you one to play with.
The XL is the big brother of the Define R3, a full size tower that is designed around the concept of quiet computing. Quiet computing is an elusive quest that often forces tradeoffs between performance and noise. The reason for this in the end is heat. You see high performance parts generate heat, however to remove that heat we need fans to move the air through the case. Moving the air results in noise and thus as more heat is generated, so is more noise. To counter this the Define and other quiet designs use a sound dampening foam in the case to reduce to the noise that gets out. The problem is that same foam also acts as an insulation that keeps the heat in. Do you see the vicious circle we are creating here?
First look at the outside of the case reveals what we have come to expect from Fractal Designs, a simple, subdued design that shows elegance in its simplicity. Fractal cases do not have any bold lines or broad aesthetic strokes but there is a beauty in that simple appearance. The side panel has an opening to mount a 120mm or 140mm fan but the case comes stock with this covered internally by a large sound dampening pad. The rest is very plain and smooth, that subdued look we mentioned.
The front of the case sports a very solid door, again lined with sound dampening foam. The door is surrounded by opening to allow the front intake fans to pull air in. There are four large bays at the top of the case front for external drives and then the bottom half is a single door that opens to show the filtering for two 140mm fans, one is included stock. The filtering is easy to access but not easy to remove, it will have to be cleaned while mounted. You can also use three of the 4 drive openings at the top and mount a 120mm fan there as well. This will of course only leave you a single drive bay then for your optical drive; also this fan will not be filtered.
This is the kind of thinking we have come to expect from fractal, they have designed the case for near silent operation in stock mode but left you with options for some serious air flow upgrades should you choose to go with a more powerful component set.
The front control panel is 4 USB ports, headset jacks and ESATA as well as the power and reset. Now the model we got is purely USB 2 however a USB 3 equipped version is on the market. The rest of the top panel is solid and smooth, we do not see the optional chimney exhaust we have seen on all other fractal cases.
The rear of the case is again pretty typical of what you would expect of a case, your I/O area, the various expansion slots as well as grommeted holes for liquid cooling. There is an additional slot opening that can be used for the included fan controller that comes with the case. This is a simple, single knob controller that allows the three stock fans to hook to. There is however an atypical section in the back, above the rear fan and IO area is a grilled opening, interesting.
Opening the case we see that fractal has gone for a complete compartmentalization of the case. The shelf between the PSU/HD lower bay and the main upper bay is solid. An opening can be created with a panel that can be opened however with ample room behind the tray area for cable routing there is no reason to do this.
The lower compartment has some really large rubber feet along with a rubber liner to ensure the PSU is vibration dampened to reduce noise. These large pads also mean that there is a good amount of clearance between the bottom opening in the case and the PSU. This bottom opening by the way is fully filtered and the filter can be easily, removed and cleaned from the rear of the case.
Additionally in the bottom chamber we find 6 HD trays for mounting a lot of storage. Each tray is white metal with rubber mounts for 3.5” drives and are ready for 2.5” drives as well.
The upper bay is very large and open, this makes working this case super easy. The HD bay in the upper chamber can be rotated or even removed to allow for better air flow and longer video cards, though the case is large enough this is not a real issue. This bay adds 4 more HD mounts and an included 3.5” adapter for one of the 5″.25” bays means you can mount up to eleven 3.5” or ten 2.5” drives using the included mounting material. That is a lot of potential storage.
The motherboard tray has amble cable management holes. One of our complaints in other Fractal cases has been that these grommets were flimsy and did not fit well, that is not the situation with the XL. These grommets are made of good sturdy material and have a very tight fit. The tray also has a large back plate cutout that is covered by a door, access able form the back of the case. Now I can honestly say we are not sure why there is a door here, personally I would just take it off.
That big angular thing at the top of the case is not a support structure, that is a 180 mm exhaust fan. The fan is mounted at an angle and exhausts through the port we mentioned in the back of the case. This is an interesting design as it allows the fan to not just pull up warm air from within the case but actual help pull air from the front of the case more effectively than a traditional chimney fan. There is a tradeoff however; the placement of this fan will make it all but impossible to mount an enclosed liquid cooling solution without modifications to the case.
I did a search online and this case is hard to find in the US, pricing seems to be around $150 which is about what you would expect for a full size case designed for silent operations. To be honest I am not quite sure where I would put this case for a target audience. Its silent operation would make it a great case for in a home, used in the say the bedroom or living room where quiet operation is highly valued. I can see it used as a multimedia PC for its massive storage capability and silent operation. I mean thing about it, you could realistically get around 18 TB of storage in this case easy and have no issues using stock cooling. You could actually max out at 33 TB but that would have all the bays full and not allow much air movement around the drives. However the large size of this case, even with the subdued appearance might make it a rough sell for the wife in the living room.
Full towers generally make me think higher end PC, as you want room for all the components and to get a lot of air flow. However the effort to make the case silent also makes it have potential issues with heat and this is a big deal when working with high performance components.
Overall case quality was outstanding with the only exception being with the water cooling holes in the back. The grommets are obviously the wrong size for the holes and easily fall out with any amount of pressure. This is an easy fix with just suing a larger diameter grommet; hopefully Fractal will correct this on the next production run. The rest of the grommets in the case where excellent, thick enough to be sturdy yet flexible and fit very tight in their holes.
Build options are a mix bag, as the rotatable drive bay gives you options to enhance airflow or use more storage; however the exhaust fan setup limits your CPU cooler choices when it comes to enclosed liquid cooling. The cable routing is easy to do and the storage options and capacity is wide open.
When it comes to silent operation this case is the bomb, okay maybe the whisper would be more appropriate. The acoustical dampening does its job perfectly and the fans Fractal uses have good air flow with little noise further enhancing the silent operation. This however is done with only minor detriment to the cooling. Stock cooling is actually about what you would expect from the stock fan selection. I would not rush to building an overclocking monster in this case but you can build a solid system and keep it cool enough to not have issues. The optional fans will enhance the cooling further but even then I just cannot see building an overclocked, multi-high end card brute system in this case due to heat.
When it comes to the looks of this case it is spot on as all the cases from Fractal we have seen. Fractal has a very definite design philosophy it seems in case aesthetics and that is keeping it simple and clean. The XL has a very subdued appearance that will allow it blend in well in any environment.
While I like this case, the features and the looks as well as the overall construction, I am a bit confused at how define this cases target market. I can see this being used as a primary PC case but see some issues with doing it as well. I would personally use this case as a media server since I can have massive amounts of storage and silent operation meaning it can even be near the TV if I like.
If you are looking for a full size tower that is next to silent then this is without a doubt a top choice.
If you want to see more, check out our Facebook page, http://facebook.com/ComputerEd and check out our Define XL album.
Fractal Design Define XL Case review segment as aired live 23 October 2011
The Summer of Cases has been a blast but as with all good things it needs to come to an end as we move on to other projects. I was really torn about doing this review because part of me wants to do the full write up like we did in our original review of the Level 10 GT but at the same time this is really the same case with different paint job so I felt that would not be something we needed to rehash. However this case demands attention so instead we will take a quick look at the appearance of the Snow Edition.
Thermaltake it seems could not let other companies show us a white case without strutting out one of their own and strutting is the appropriate word. The Level 10 GT Snow Edition takes everything that is great about the Level 10 GT and gives it a Hollywood makeover.
Now it would be easy to get into a full review of this case and talk about it’s great features, impressive build quality and overall exceptional design, but we already did that with our original Level 10 GT review. So I made sure you get the link to that review and instead we are going to talk about this case purely on it’s looks.
Thermaltake has taken a case that looked great to start with and spruced it up, think of it as having a beautiful woman and then giving her a professional makeover.
Gone is the base black for the body and in it’s place a very pleasing tone of white. The red inserts found on the original case have been replaced with blue. This with the keeping of the black highlights just makes this cases color pop. The front ports panel, as well as the 5.25” bay covers have stayed black as has the grill work in the front. This really makes the various lines in the front of the case stand out and gives a more 3D appearance from a distance to the case design.
As our case slowly turned its working side to us the black and white styling that we thought looked great on the front really came to life on the side and the top. We see all the same basic features we saw in the original Level 10 GT so we will not go into those.
Of interesting note is the fact that Thermaltake decided to keep the base of the left side panel black and then paint the box areas white. At close inspection that seemed odd to me but when you pull back it is easy to see why this was done. This coloring means that the box sections appear to step off the case more, adding more of that depth feel to the design.
The interior of the case is identical to the original Level 10 GT, the same great cable management options and designs. Of interesting note is the grill work and the way it looks at the top of the side, by the optical drive bays. While it looks different from the original GT it is in fact the same. The different appearance is due to the white paint on the body underneath showing against the black grill work.
The Snow Edition sells for about $30 more than the original level 10 GT and the only real change is the paint job. Now a lot of people will question if this is worth the cost difference and I think I would have to say yes.
The original case is a very attractive case, anyone would be happy owning one but the white coloring of the Snow takes a case that people would desire and turns it into a case that they will lust for. Black is done by everyone and is everywhere, white is the color that grabs attention right now and the Level 10 GT Snow Edition definitely grabs attention.
At the price point these cases sell at the extra $30 is not that big of a deal and for me, I personally like the white looks enough to pay the extra money. Now this is a purely cosmetic change so the truth is either version of the Level 10 GT will get you a great case.
The original Level 10 GT as we have said repeatedly here and in our review is a GREAT case, it has everything anyone could want in a luxury level case and looks great to boot. But let’s take that beautiful case and give it a professional make over, put it in a slinky dress and high heels, who would not love that!? It may be called the Snow Edition but the looks of this case are pure HOT!
I posted a few more shots of the Level 10 GT Snow Edition in our Level 10 GT album on our Facebook page. Head over to http://facebook.com/computered to check them out.
Discussion of the Thermaltake Level 10 GT Snow Edition recorded 2 October 2011