Computer Ed Radio

Turning Geek speak into street speak

Summer of Cases: Thermaltake Level 10 GT Snow Edition

001The 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.003

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.

009Of 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 025coloring 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


October 2, 2011 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Summer of Cases: Fractal Arc Midi and Mini

Fractcal 037Fractal does something with their case line up that I really like, they have a clearly defined group of two cases with two very different missions. The Define, which is available in a Full Tower, Mid Tower and Mini Tower is geared toward silent computing. The Arc series, which we are looking at in this article, is available in the Midi ( a mid size tower) and the Mini, geared toward gaming builds. Now the Core 3000 we reviewed a couple of weeks ago also falls into the gaming line up but with a more budget cost point.

Both cases come in a matt black finish that is very well done, we could find no blemishes on close examination. The plastic bevel is done in the same color but with some extra work put in the give the impression of brushed aluminum. From a distance it actually likes like an aluminum piece, awesome work on the finish.092

The front of both cases have two 5/25” bays at the top and then a large grill area at the bottom that houses front intake fans. The bevels easily pull off and house the fans within a clip system in the bevel. The Midi comes stock with a 140mm fan and has the mount for a second. The Mini come stock with a 120mm fan with the mount for second one as well. Both have a foal filter in the front bevel to reduce dust in the case. The filters will do a solid job at stopping dust but they are not easily removable meaning that the best way to clean them is with a vacuum from the front or forcing a lot of air through from the back.

062The top of both cases make use of the same control panel which includes standard headphone and mic jacks, the power button, reset button and dual USB 2.0 Ports along with a single USB 3.0 port. Both cases use an internal USB header, gone are the silly cables running out of the back of the case so many early USB enabled cases used.

Fractcal 014Both cases also share a similar style to the top of the case, with a large grilled and filtered  vent covering the entire top. The Midi allows for dual 140mm fans and a third fan that is 120mm, the Mini allows for dual 140mm fans. Both have mounting holes for using up to 240mm radiators. To help with this the cases offset the top fans from center on the case, meaning a radiator will have more clearance over the motherboard. This is a nice bit of engineering that shows a real attention to detail and a sharp focus on the target market for these cases.

Both cases have cutouts on the side panel for an additional intake fan, the Midi can mount a 140mm or 180mm fan and the Mini can use a 120mm or 140mm fan. The option to use a larger fan means lower speeds to move the same amount of air and thus lower noise, nice feature. The side panel does lack a filter and this seems of, especially in light of the fact that the top exhaust area has a filter.

On the bottom both cases have a large, easy to remove filter, that covers a PSU intake area and a place to mount an optional 120mm intake fan. The feet provide a good amount of 081clearance and have a soft bottom to reduce vibration.

Opening the side panel you find two cases that are twins, both have a rotatable or removable upper HD bay. This is a GREAT feature as it means you have options to mount more HDs, fit longer video cards or open the area to increase airflow. I wish more companies would use a design like this. The side mounted HD system might be nice if you swap drives a lot but they restrict the intake fans air flow. Having options to open that air flow up is a huge plus in my opinion.

Fractcal 023Both cases make use of the same white tray mounting system. While this is not a tool less design, it is fairly easy to use. The drives are bottom mounted with the trays supporting 2.5” and 3.5” drives. The 3.5” drive mounts have rubber grommets to reduce vibration. The Midi has the ability to mount up to 8 drives and the mini can mount up to 6 drives.

Both cases share a very open design and feel with a good number of rubber grommeted openings for cable management and plenty of room on the back side for cable management. The CPU back plate opening is well sized and placed, making it easy to use pretty much any cooler you would like to use.

While the work area is well designed and open it has the same issue in both cases that we saw in the Define, the rubber grommets are very thin and not very tight in their mounting. This means these can easily tear or be pushed out of their holes. This is a VERY minor ding but could be Fractcal 025frustrating during the build process.

We chose to put both these cases into a review together because they are so similar in design. The mini is a near perfect reduction of the big brother Midi case.

I really like the fact that fractal has put these cases out in this manner. I like knowing that if I like a design I can have it in two different sizes based on what my needs are. Some people might pass on the Mini over the Midi but I think they should stop and take a second look. A lot of people do not have the room for a larger case, so a smaller case is actually an advantage for them. The fact that you get essentially the same case in the smaller form factor is really nice.

Both cases continue a pattern we have seen in every Fractal case we have looked at, an effort to give the case a subdued appearance. With all the cases coming out with lights and bling all over them this is a nice change of pace. The simple design gives the case a classic look and the lack of LED fans means that the case will almost disappear under your desk. While the look is subdued the appearance is not bad, with a great paint job and the extra effort to give the bevel an aluminum look from a distance is a nice touch.

From a builders point of view there is everything you need to a good build that is easy to work with. There is excellent cable management options as well as a roomy work area when compared to other cases of these sizes. The ability to rotate or even remove the top HD bay gives a builder a lot of options for cooling and component selection. The extra effort of moving the top cooler mounts to give extra clearance over the motherboard is a really well thought out feature. Both cases can mount an H100 cooler if you wanted to.

There are only two areas in this case that I am not happy with. First the grommets, they are to thin and to easy to remove. They really need to use a thicker material and a tighter fit. The other is the filtering, the bottom filter is great, covers both intake areas and is easy to remove and clean. The front filter by comparison is not easily removable and the side panel does not have a filter at all.

Both cases are priced at $100 currently on Newegg. The fact that the Mini costs as much as the Midi seems a little odd to me but looking at similar style cases and quality I see that this price is in the ball park. Both cases are feature packed and offer a wealth of options for building a great PC. The subdued look makes these case standout in the market right now and offer the extra benefit of being a perfect blank slate for modders.

If you are looking to build a gaming PC and do not want to have all the bling then the Fractal Arc line is a great choice.

If you want to see more pictures of the Fractal Arc cases then visit our Facebook page and check out the Arc album.

Arc Series review segment, aired live 18 Sept 2011


September 18, 2011 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thermaltake Level 10 GT: Opulence in a Computer Case

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 002the 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.

005The 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.008

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..

049In 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 ComputerCaseGTColorshiftpanel 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 078correctly.

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 030reveals 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.

087The 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 027you 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.

Thermaltake Level 10 Lighting In Action

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


July 31, 2011 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

   

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