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
Okay so we have our base components all setup now lets turn to some fine tuning. We will begin with keeping our system cool.
The stock Node 304 (the case for our build) comes with some pretty solid cooling out of the box. It has dual 92mm fans for intake and a 140mm fan for exhaust. Add to this the fact that with a stock Intel cooler we can get our overclock of 3.9 GHz on our 3450, we should be all set right? Well doing good is okay for most but I hate mediocrity so I want to push this a little.
Lets being by addressing our CPU cooler, I HATE stock coolers and am not a huge fan of after market tower coolers. So that leaves me with my cooler of choice, the all in one liquid cooling solutions.
Now because of the size of our case and the fan layouts our choices are limited to a standard 120mm cooler, a 140mm cooler or a double width 120mm cooler. For our build I wanted some decent cooling power but I wanted to keep things small as well so I chose a standard 120mm cooler.
For this build our friends over at Thermaltake sent me a Water 2.0 Performer, a cooler we reviewed in August of last year. This is a very good water cooling solution for anyone not wanting to deal with a full customer water cooling rig. It comes stock with dual 120mm fans for a push/pull configuration meaning at it’s price point it is the best at keep a CPU with an all in one unit. However I was concerned about how thick we move out from the back of the case. As you can see the radiator is direct connected to the case, a fan in between would have pushed the radiator back quite a bit over the board and potentially hindering the air flow on the rest of the motherboard.
With this in mind I elected to go with a single cooling fan in a push configuration, the most efficient setup for a single fan. The stock fans from Thermaltake can get the fan done an using the stock fan generated some good cooling numbers but I wanted something a bit more. To kick things up a notched I turn to the fine folks at Noctua, a company known for making some of the best fans in the world for your PC.
The Noctua fan we chose was the NF-F12 PWM. This fan has a very high static pressure which is a must for work with a radiator. The fan also has a very low operating noise and has PWM control. PWM means the fan is able to receive instructions from the motherboard and control it’s speed based on the temperature of the CPU across a very broad range of speeds.
The result was exactly what I hoped, under gaming loads the overclocked CPU is usually around 55C topping at about 60C, under super stress testing we lock down at 70C and do not move. At low usage and even gaming the system is practically silent and under heavy load the noise is so low as not to matter. Using a second fan or a double width radiator solution we could have gotten the numbers even lower but in the end lower CPU temps would not make any difference in our system and the other solutions would have been louder under load.
Now as I said from the start the Node comes with three good cooling fans and it has in the back a small switch to let you set the fans at low, medium or high speed. I have found the medium setting gave the best balance of noise to cooling. However I HATE switch fan controllers. The computer has a solid, built in, method of telling a fan to speed up or slow down and we should make use of that. So lets look at the front fans.
As we showed in our review of the Node 304, the case comes stock with dual 92mm fans. These fans are great, very quiet and move a good amount of air. However they are speed locked and must use the switch controller on the back of the case to change their speed. YUCK. So again I have turned to Noctua for a solution and found the solution with the NF-B9 PWM. There are actually two Noctua fans that could work, the second is the NF-A9x14 PWM which is a thinner 90mm fan. The low profile design of the A9 really intrigued me but in the end the B9 has the better air flow and so was the fan of choice.
The dual Noctua will allow for complete control of the cases airflow to be handled based on the system needs, no fan in the case will just be always blasting at a set speed. However to do this we need a way to make two of the B9 fans work off a single motherboard fan header. The fan for the CPU cooler has the CPU header and the Z77N only has one additional header. The solution is actually very simple, a PWM splitter. The header can handle two fans easily so we just need to split the power. You can buy these for about $5 easily enough but the good news is the Noctua fans come with the splitter we need.
So with all our little tweaking done what did we gain? The CPU with a stock cooler at stock speeds under gaming conditions and stock case fans set to medium. we saw the CPU hover around 70C to 75C and at idle around 40C. With the new cooling system in place the CPU is overclocked to 3.9GHz. At idle the CPU hovers around 30C under gaming conditions around 55C. Now in fairness the majority of that cooling comes from the water cooling unit but the 92mm change works in other areas. For example at idle with the stock setup the computer room was measuring around 33db and under load around 44db. The new cooler setup drops that idle noise level to 31db and under load to 39db.
The fan replacements and cooler upgrade did a lot to make our system quieter and cooler. Now let me be clear, the system is a gaming brute at stock and the stock cooling setup will easily keep your system running through your marathon gaming sessions. However if you want to up things a notch making a few changes to the cooling setup can give you lower temps and quieter operation.
Thank you to the folks at Thermaltake for providing us the Water 2.0 Performer used in our build and to the folks at Noctua for sending us a number of different fans to look at for this build.
Show segment from show airing the weekend of April 27th, 2013
Thermaltake is not a name we associate with bashful, simple or plain, so the Level 10 Mouse came as no surprise. Take something as simple as a mouse, mix in Thermaltake and the folks at BMW Design Works and the Level 0 Mouse is what you get.
The box is actually kind of bare in design but it shows a nice side shot of the mouse and immediately makes it clear you are getting something different. Inside the box, we have the mouse, a nice carrying bag as well as the adjustment tool for the mouse. (more on this in a minute) The bag is, as with all the Thermaltake travel bags, a felt like material and is super high quality. The quick start guide has some information in it, but no actual software. You get the software from the Thermaltake site, this means when you load up your mouse you always have the latest software. Not putting the software in the box has an appeal to me as it forces you to be up to date but at the same time if you have internet issues and want to do a quick install it could be a pain. Considering the target audience of this mouse I think it is a safe assumption that they will have internet access.
The mouse itself is without a doubt a very unique design. The model we received for review is White, but the mouse can also be gotten in a military Green and a nice hotrod red. The cable on the mouse has a really well done braided material over it making it very strong and ends in a large USB connection. For travel, as added protection, there is a cap for the USB end.
The mouse is constructed around an aluminum base with some high quality plastic as well, all done in an excellent finish. The top of the mouse as two large buttons as well as the scroll wheel. The left button has a lit square, sort of a power light and the right button has lights to show which of up to 4 profiles is active. The LED colors can be altered to make it easy to notice what profile is in use at a glance. Behind the buttons is a honeycomb cutout area that is fed air by open frame design to allow ventilation to your hand. This is supposed to keep your hand cool and dry over long gaming sessions.
The right and left side of the mouse each sport two thumb buttons with the left side also having a hat-style controller. All of these buttons are mapable to give you a lot of flexibility in the use of various macro options. The on the fly DPI levels are adjusted using the hat switch by default. The downloadable software is what you use to map the various buttons as well as make color changes to the lighting to fit your own preferences.
While the first thing to catch your eye might be the way the mouse looks, it will not take long for the way it feels to be what you are obsessing over. The mouse has very very sleek and elongated shape that creates a very distinctive feel to this mouse. When I first started using this mouse it felt awkward and uncomfortable to me. Even after extended use the shape was not something I could get used to, I felt like my hand was being stretched out. My fingers did not hit the two main buttons at an angle I was comfortable with and the side buttons were a nightmare for me, even more so the hat button. In fact it’s position was so out of place for my grip that I was constantly switching sensitivity in daily use.
After further testing however I found the issue was not with the mouse design but the grip. You see when using a mouse there are actually three different recognized grips. first there is the palm grip which is were the user rests the whole and on the mouse, palming it and in essence making it an extension of their arm. This is the grip I sue and have used for as long as I have used a mouse, it feels natural to me. However what is natural to me might not be to you. The second grip is known as the claw grip, the user has the back of the mouse resting right against the back of the hand but the fingers are curled and the hand does not rest on the mouse. The third grip is the finger tip grip, in this grip only the fingers actually touch the mouse, the hand sits back off the mouse and the fingers do all the work.
Once I stopped using the Level 10 and gave it to Jason, our show engineer, it came alive under his fingertip grip. Thermaltake has never been bashful about designing a product for a set target audience and it appears they did this with the Level 10 M. In the hands of a fingertip mouse user the level 10 has amazing feel and the button placement is almost perfect, according to Jason. His assessment must be spot on because when I used the mouse I could not wait to get back to my old mouse, he on the other hand cannot stand the feel of his old mouse now.
If the fit is close for you but still a bit off the mouse comes with the ability to adjust the tail of the mouse to the left or right a few degrees as well as raise or lower the tail. This is useful for letting you tweak in the feel of the mouse as well as making adjustments to allow the mouse fit better for left handed users. The adjustment is done using a tool, included with the mouse on two different access points. The adjust system is tight and holds it’s adjustment once done. While not as adjustable as some on the market the subtle adjustment it does allow can make a difference in the way the mouse feels in your grip.
The open frame design might sound like a gimmick but I have to tell you that I did notice a small difference. I presumed it was a small fan like the Challenger pro but it is not, this is pure natural airflow achieved by the design. While it might not seem to make a difference at first you will notice it if you stop using it after prolonged use. It is a very subtle effect that you get used to without realizing you have noticed it.
From a pure look point of view this mouse is amazing, it is arguably the best looking mouse I have ever seen. The construction is outstanding, from the solid body construction, to the braided cable and the adjustment system that is tight and holds well. If I had any complaint I wish the software would have been up to the quality of the mouse. Were the mouse is almost a work of art not just in design but quality, the software feels like an after thought that was thrown together in 10 minutes. It is functional but really does so with no style and considering the effort that went into making the mouse have a distinct style, this is disappointing.
Available on NewEgg for around $80, this is an expensive mouse but that is the cost for high style, price seems to vary based on the color you choose and can be as high as $100. If you want a mouse that is specifically designed for a fingertip grip and has a style that is nothing short of beautiful then this is the mouse for you. This is an amazing mouse no doubt and worthy of the Level 10 name. This is a mouse that like the Level 10 GT case we reviewed a while back, is made for gamers with champaign wishes and caviar dreams!
Back in the day we did not have the internet to get together easily and play games. instead we all meet on a set day or weekend at a rented conference hall and link all of our PCs together and game for a day or two. This was called a LAN Party. Today LAN parties are now less common than back in the day, but the ones that are still out there draw a pretty good crowd. This was computer socialization in it’s original form.
In those days we saw all sorts of ways to lug around your PC. Probably the most common was a milk crate on a dolly held on my tie-downs. I mean you had to take the computer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, headset and so on. Also remember that back then we did not have a lot of cases with handles or thin monitors. We had monster computer cases and even bigger CRT monitors to move.
Today we have compact monitors and easy to move cases but attending a LAN event, while easier, can still be a chore. Thermaltake however wants to ease the process and so has introduced the Battle Dragon Bag.
The Battle Dragon is a large, padded back that can be used to carry pretty much everything except your actual tower. To say this bag is huge is an understatement, The top zippers open to reveal the massive amount of space inside. The compartments are all very well padded and the area is broken up to make it easy to keep your computer stuff sorted and protected.
The larger compartment is big enough to easily fit up to a 22” monitor in it, I am serious it will fit a 22” monitor. The other compartments are great for things like your keyboard, mouse, headset and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Outside the main compartment are a number of smaller compartments that can be used for things such as an e-reader, tablet, software, you can pretty much name it.
The bag is not just versatile in what it can hold but how you carry it. The bag comes with an amazing sturdy carry handle as well as a strap so you can sling this over a shoulder. This alone would be enough options for most, however Thermaltake is aiming to cover all it’s bases so it has a surprise. The back side of the bag can unzipped to reveal a full backpack harness system, already in place.
This means that this bag can take everything but the tower and still allow you to be hands free to carry the tower as well when you go out to a LAN Party. All of the carrying surfaces are padded for comfort, carrying stuff with this bag is a breeze.
This bag however does not need to be limited to LAN use. The bags padding makes it great for a Laptop bag, especially if you need a weekend bag as well. The size will fit the laptop with ease and still leave room for clothes and other essentials.
Priced at $60 this bag is a LAN party goers dream come true. It has all the space you could need, is very well made, has great padding, is water resistant for rainy days and offers versatile choices for how you carry it. LAN parties might be a less common occurrence today than in the old days but if you are going to LAN parties then this is a MUST HAVE item.
You will have to excuse me now, I need to go break up a fight with the kids about who gets to keep the bag. The choice is simple, I DO!!!
Segment as heard live 8 September 2012
You know we spend a lot of time talking about headsets on the show but actually very little time discussing headphones. A headset is usually a headphone and microphone combination and is used for listening but also for voice communication. These are more commonly used with computers since they are useful for games as well as some business apps and family usage for programs like Skype. Headphones on the other hand are purely for listening, this makes them useful in games when you are solo or listening to music and movies.
Thermaltake has decided to enter the headphone world with the Chao Dracco series. These come in two models, the standard model and then up scaling a bit we have the Signature model. Our friends at Thermaltake sent us one of each to examine you our listeners. If the basic Dracco model we received looks familiar, it should, this is the same headset we saw at CES and I was photographed wearing.
This model is the bare minimum coming literally with just the headset. There is no need for drivers or fancy manuals these just plug in and work like any other headsets. The Dracco line comes in three color options with this one, we call it Playschool styling, for the first option. It also comes in White with Green and Silver trim as well as Pink with Black.
Over the years we have comment that one of the things we like about Thermaltake is their styling in cases is very aggressive and loud. You either like them or you don’t, there is no in between. They have taken this same approach with the Dracco headphones. The style is in your face and loud with a lot of bright colors. From a distance the Dracco might look like a toy and cheaply made but once you wear them you realize that a lot of work went into this design.
The headband has a stitch padding on the top and is actually very comfortable. While these use a clamp style system for holding on your head. The clamp pressure is really nice and there not is feeling of your head being in a vice. The ear cuffs do swivel for that popular DJ style listening and the headset will fold up in itself for easy portability. Additionally the headphones come with a felt bag to carry the headset in.
When it comes to sound these headphones take their toyish appearance and throw it in the trash. I can tell you these are the BEST headphones I have listened to in a long time. The Dracco comes with a nice 50mm driver that has been tuned toward a slightly bass rich sound envelope. The music I played came through clear and strong as did gaming and movie watching. They may look wild on your head but they sound awesome in your ears.
The Dracco Signature line takes the main line and steps things up a notch. The construction is very similar and in fact uses the same base design. For the styling they have changed the color palette to something a bit more classic. Each of the three color choices of the Signature series is trimmed in Gold with the choices being the Red and Black, Black and Gold and finally White and Yellow. All of them have this classic design that looks a lot more serious than the base model.
It is not just the looks that Thermaltake changed, they also added more to the package. The Signature comes with a removable cord. The package gives you two cords as an option. The first is a professional grade coiled cord that also comes with a 1/8” to 1/4” jack adapter. The second cord is a straight and they also provide an adapter for us in private planes.
The detachable cord is nice for portability and these like the base line fold and come with a nice felt bag for carrying them around. The method of detachment however is very nice, this not a simple plug it in system, that can work loose easily. Instead the plug is put in and then twisted slightly to lock it into place. This means when the plug is in it is not coming out unless you purposely take it out. This feature is further enhanced with the 1/4” adapter which is not the normal plug model, this one actually screws onto the cord, meaning it will not get lost easily by falling off when traveling.
The comfort and sound of the Signature series matches the base Dracco line. This is because, as I stated earlier, the base design is the same. The extra cost of the Signature line is from the cable options and nicer styling.
Now when Doug and started looking at these we both had the same thought, how do these compare to Dr. Dre’s. I mean these have a styling that stands out like the Dre headphone do so we decided to find out. We compared the Dr. Dre and chose three models to look at, the Studio On Ear, Solo HD and the Pro on Ear. Now for our test we decided to go with the base model, the sound dynamic of both headphones is identical so the results should be the same. This means we are comparing the Dracco, at $80 to Beats headphones ranging from $150 to $400.
The first thing we noticed was the Dracco was softer than the Beats. It seems this is the nature of this kind of headphone. The Beats are able to produce higher volumes of sound than the Dracco. However in turn the Dracco was able to produce better volume that other headsets and headphones we listened to. When it came to the actual sound quality however the Dracco was equal to the task of taking on the Dr Dre’s. The sound quality was so close it was really hard to tell the difference, not bad for about half the price. In fact we can go a littler further by mention the Studio On Ear actually had some sound issues when compared to the Dracco, the base on the Beats headphones would distort at high volume while the Dracco was clean.
When we asked Thermaltake about this lineup we were told this is a life style headphone. Now I will be fair and admit to not truly getting what that means. What I do know is that the Dracco really impresses me with the sound quality and when you realize the two models sell for $80 and $100 respectfully and they equal or beat out much more expensive headsets, to me this is a no brainer.
The base Dracco has amazing sound and is well made. The style is not going to be for everyone but personally I think they are kind of fun. At 80$ considering the level you have to reach to get comparable sound these seem a solid value. The Signature series takes that great sound and comfort and then adds a more traditional styling along with a lot of connection options. If the colors of the Dracco are too much for you the Signature is a great choice.
Want to know how much we like these headphones? Watch our live stream video of the show this week and from now on. We will be sporting these fine headphones.
Show segment as aired live 1 September 2012
In May of 2010 I took my first look at a self contained liquid cooling system and declared then that they would soon be replacing the traditional air coolers for the DIY crowd. Since then we have seen a steady growth of sales in this market and also a steady growth of companies entering this market. Today most major CPU cooler makers have now brought a model to the market and even Intel and AMD have jumped on the bandwagon, both have branded their own models. So it only made sense that Thermaltake would also jump on the bandwagon.
In the world of these self contained systems there is essentially three levels, the basic model, a double width radiator model and the 240mm single width radiator model. The reason for these basic models can be found in design limitation put on these by the current case designs and the fact that everyone is using the same actual cooler manufacturers. You see these companies are not actually making these coolers they are buying them made for them from one of two companies, Asetek or Coolit. Thermaltake decided that for it’s LCS system it was going to work with Asetek to bring us their Water 2.0 lineup.
At CES, Doug and I got to see the two basic models, the Pro and the Performer. The Performer is the lowest cost model and uses what appears to be the traditional Asetek design with the slim radiator and the Pro is looks like the base design with the double width radiator. I commented that it was cool to see Thermaltake using the base Asetek designs that work so well. Ramsom however was quick to inform me that these we not the base designed, Thermaltake had worked with Asetek to have these tweaked so they had better performance.
Well we could not let a claim like that go without verifying it for our listeners so for the purposes of this review I put the Pro and the Performer in a head to head comparison with Antec’s H2O 620 and 920, both Asetek designed coolers.
- Intel i7 3820 @ 4.0 GHz
- Sapphire Pure Black X79N
- Kingston HyperX 1600 RAM
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240 Gig SSD
- Thermaltake Level 10 GT Case
- Thermaltake Toughpower 850
- Sapphire HD 7950
Since this is a CPU test we did our temperature testing on the CPU after running Prime 95 for 30 minutes. The case fans were all set for low in every test and the room temperature was controlled at 75F. Many places spend time looking at the idle temps cooler deliver, these are meaningless as all but complete junk should be able to keep a system cool at idle, we are looking for how these coolers perform under load and so put on some load to see what we got. For temperature readings I used the Core Temp program. For sound testing I used my own hearing as well as a sound meter app on my Droid X2 with the phone position right in front of my face at the position I sit at when using the computer.
Now you might have noticed that above I have given a lot more testing info than we normally give. The reason is I have had many question what we use for testing methods in some of the reviews we have done so this time I wanted to show our methodology.
Looking first at the Performer model we see the basic Asetek design but out of the box there is a twist, the cooler comes with two fans for a push pull design instead of the single fan everyone else uses. Now people get caught up in fans by how much air they move, as we discussed last week. In the case of a cooler like this the second fan is not about the air volume but rather the air pressure., The second fan basically helps to overcome the resistance the radiator has to airflow. True this increases the air volume that moves but the key here is the pressure it creates to overcome the resistance.
The kits has a splitter for the PWM fans to allow both of them to be connected to the CPU fan header. First let me say thank you to Thermaltake for doing this. A lot of the Thermaltake coolers I have seen of late have those in the case speed controllers that I loathe. The simple splitter to the header approach is something I have been begging them to do with their traditional designs, nice to see it finally appearing. I also like this better than the design on the 620 (the cooler we are comparing to) which has the fan connecting to the pump and being controlled not by the CPU temp but rather the fluid temps within the cooler.
This is not the only tweak however we see in this model. The Antec cooler had a small annoyance with it in that it would occasionally give off a gurgling sound. This was not really a problem, it was just the system working some air out of the lines. It was not all the time and would disappear after a little bit. Thermaltake however wanted it gone so they worked with Asetek and found that simple increase in the pump speed, about 8% was enough to remove this issue. I can say that in all my testing I never once heard a gurgle from the Water 2.0 systems were I did in the Antec models. The added benefit of this tweak is the fluid is moving a little quicker within the loop and we see a small drop in load temps because of it.
The result of these tweaks was clear once we put down the numbers from testing. The Water 2.0 Performer delivered temps about 4C lower than the 620 every time. Now this might not seem like a large drop but considering these are both at the same price point any drop is a great thing. Under load neither system was audible to my ear when ramping up in a quiet room and my sound meter showed only a 1 decibel difference at my normal seated position with the second fan on the Pro adding a little noise.
Next we come to the Pro, which is using the double width radiator design that we also see in the 920 from Antec. The same two fans are included with this model and again include a splitter for use on the CPU header. This time the only tweak that seems to exist is the extra speed in the pump.
The results of our test runs show the Water 2.0 Pro out performing the 920 by 1.5C on average. This is a much tighter comparison that the Performer but then we are using the same number of fans and this time the only tweak for Thermaltake to show is the pump. The sound dynamic of of the Pro was right in line with that of the 920 with no difference found. Again however we are talking about a cooler within the same price point, so even that small difference in temperature performance is worth noting.
Something else I observed during testing of these two models is the fact the fan speed ramped quicker than the Antec models. What I mean is as the CPU heated up the fans on the Water 2.0 responded faster in increasing speed and as it cooled they slowed quicker. The reason for this is the fact the fan speeds are based on the temp of the CPU and not the liquid in the cooler. You see as the CPU heats up in the Thermaltake design the fans respond to the CPU temp. However the liquid in the system does not heat up as fast, there is a lag as it were. This is simple physics, go to a pond after a cold winter and one week of hot summer, the water temp just does not move as fast as everything around it. I really like this design better than basing the temp off the fluid system.
Finally we come to the Extreme, this model makes use of a single width radiator that is 240mm long. Again we see our two fans however this time Thermaltake has returned to the traditional method of allowing the cooler itself to control the fan speeds. However this time it makes sense since the pump also attaches to a USB header and allows you control of the pump and fan through software. This model is really a hardware enthusiast model and this extra control is something that segment wants.
This is the first 240mm solution I have seen from an Asetek design, the only other 240mm cooler we have seen is based off a design by Coolit so the direct comparison for me does not work as well. As with the other two models this design has the increase in pump speed and delivered a solid performance. When compared to the Corsair H100, the other 240 cooler we have seen it performed in pretty much a dead tie. Bother coolers offered excellent results and either would make an enthusiast happy.
Both however offer different feature sets so the key is to find the feature set you want. The H100 has direct connect support for up to 4 fans, the Water 2.0 Extreme has only for two. The H100 has a hardware speed setting that is limited to three choices and must be done in the case. The Water 2.0 uses a software solution that can be changed via software at any time and offers presets as well as the ability to create a custom ramping of the performance. The key is to decide which feature set is what you want.
In comparison of these three models again each other I got pretty much what we and Thermaltake expected. The Extreme was best in cooling with numbers around 5C lower than the Performer. The Pro delivered better numbers as well but only about 1.5C on average lower than that of the Performer. Now the good news is that even the Performer was able to keep the CPU cool, under the torture testing we did the highest CPU temp recorded for the Pro was 70C. This is actually a very safe temp for the chip being overclocked and under a pressure testing.
Of the three models the one that impressed me the most I have to say is the Performer. While the other models are great I am just a fan of finding bang for the buck. The double width radiator does a solid job of cooling no doubt and if you are going to push your overclock a bit is a worthy buy however for the price difference I think the Performer is just a better deal for most of us. If you are uber overclocker then the Extreme is for you but again for the majority of us that level of cooling is not needed.
With the Water 2.0 lineup Thermaltake has entered the world of the self contained liquid coolers very strong this round. While they were there before with their Bigwater system it never took off. It is good to see a more budget minded and easier to install offering from them. The Water 2.0 system brings the excellent Asetek design that others are using but tweaks it in a way that puts it a step above others using the same design. The Water 2.0 is a great cooling system and offers three levels for the level of cooling you will need. For me however the big winner here is the Water 2.0 Pro, with a solid entry price point and an extra fan for a push pull configuration out of the box this is a deal that is hard to beat.
Review segment as aired live 11 August 2012
By Edward Crisler
When we look at hardware we all tend to get caught up in CPUs and GPUs, these are were we place our focus. However there is a truth the enthusiast industry does not like to admit, there is really not that much choice anymore in these two areas. We are down to two companies for each area when it comes to gaming components and really only a few choices in each component worth looking at, in other words the building a great gaming PC from the actual PC point of view is easy when it comes to picking parts.
However we tend to overlook the other parts of the PC that can truly make a great or dismal gaming experience, the keyboard, mouse and headset. While these might not be as sexy to many enthusiasts they are none the less a vital part of the true gaming PC experience and can make or break a great gaming PC building. In fact in many ways they are as important and even somewhat more important than other parts of a gaming PC because they will vary from person to person as to the right choice. You will use them, I mean really have hands on use of them every day and moment you are on your PC and they have a real impact on the experience.
So with this in mind Doug and I began looking at various gaming peripherals we had reviewed and realized we could actually put together full sets from the same companies from a lot of the material we had in house. This symmetry of having all of these components from the same manufacturer might not seem like I big deal but you would be surprised at all the people out there that this appeals to. It is like making sure your case LEDs match or you use the same brand case and PSU. So while to gain the true best of the best you would like mix and match the desire for symmetry drove us to look at sets as a whole.
We approached a number of companies with this idea and only three of them wanted to take it on. First up we have Thermaltake that will be represented by the TTe Sports Meka G1 Keyboard, the Black Element Mouse and the Shock One USB Headset.
The Meka G1 is an outstanding mechanical keyboard making use of Cherry black key switches. The keyboard is very well made with a cable so thick the keyboard could seriously be used as a weapon. Using a basic keyboard layout with no back lighting, it does have other advanced features such as a full powered set of USB 2.0 ports as well as a headphone and microphone jack.
The Black Element mouse has a nice large feel to it with a solid set of basic switches to give some customization with macros. The mouse’s lighting can be adjust to near infinite shades making it easy to match the bling on your system. The rubbery coating of the mouse means this mouse is not slick and is well shaped, sitting well in pretty much everyone’s hands.
The Shock One headset is a full USB headset which is foldable and comes with a nice carrying bag. The sound and microphone quality are solid and with a bit of tweaking using the included software the sound could be quite good.
The 7G keyboard is the top of the line from Steelseries and is worth of it’s position. One of the heaviest keyboards we have looked at the 7G comes with some awesome quality in it’s build and the heavy construct means the keyboard feels nearly indestructible. This shows in every aspect of using this keyboard including that it had the least key lettering wear of any keyboard in this shoot out over long term use.
The Sensei has dubbed itself the worlds most customizable mouse and from a pure functionality point of view it is deserving of this title. The mouse itself uses a very simple design that works perfect in the left or right hand with a steel slick looking finish that is anything but slick. The mouse’s simple design lets it fit well in most hands and the grip is very sure. The software for this mouse is however were it truly shines with the ability to adjust pretty much every aspect if the mouse’s performance to fit your personal choices.
The Siberia USB headset we are judging with is specifically is the Diablo II headset, however I have been told by the folks at Steelseries that it should give the same results in use as a Siberia USB headset that would cost a little less. When we compared it to the Siberia v2 headset we were able to confirm this and so feel confident with using this headset for our shootout.
The Siberia line is known for their light weight design and the old fashioned tension strap system. The result is a very comfortable headset, in fact the most comfortable headset we have ever tested. The sound quality of the USB system is very good and with tweaking can approach that of a good discrete soundcard, add to this a well done microphone that has a nifty design for hiding when not in use and you have a great headset.
The 60 series Keyboard and Mouse is the FPS lineup from Corsair and offers a feature set very similar to our other contestants. The K60 is a basic keyboard like the other two but throws out the traditional looks for a style that is unique. Making use of a solid aluminum base the keyboard uses Cherry red switches in the primary keys and then uses membrane keyboards in the less often used keys. This helps keep cost down and in our testing did not effect the experience of using the keyboard. The unique design that has the keys actually set above the base means that it is easy to clean out and gives they keyboard it’s unique appearance. This is also the only keyboard to have multimedia keys and we love the volume knob Corsair has used.
The M60 mouse is designed in style to match the K60 keyboard and does it very well. With it’s aluminum base structure and textured top surface the mouse has a rugged feel and look to it. The mouse is purely for right handed use with the 2 extra buttons only on the right as well as a special sniper button. The scroll wheel is very broad and the design just feels right when you use it.
The Vengeance 1500 USB Headset is the only headset we looked at with 7.1. simulated sound. This sound is outstanding and can be easily adjusted through the software that comes with the headset. The microphone is on a hard boom but folds up out the way, of special note is the fact that is the best microphone we have tested to date. The headphones can be turned flat for easy carrying and the aluminum used in the construction means the styling of the K60 and M60 continue to the headset.
In case you have not seen an underlying current here let me be clear, there are no losers in this shootout. Doug and I would be happy using ANY of these components in our everyday use. They all excelled in different areas but delivered an outstanding gaming experience with every test we threw at them. From a pure experience point of view there were stand out individual components but the entire packages were just so close it was hard to call a clear winner.
Next we moved to cost, a great experience is awesome but can we afford it. None of these sets are cheap and all are of such quality that the asking prices for the individual parts is really worth it. However in this category we began to see one competitor inch ahead.
Looking at build quality we again saw outstanding products in all other contestants and the choice was hard but when we looked at warranties we again saw one competitor stand above the pack.
In the end we did promise to name a winner and will during our live broadcast. I will be updating this post after our show with the winner named here in the blog entry along with a link to listen to the shootout segment in the show. Tune in though to hear it live.
UPDATE: As promised we announced our winner live first on the air and will now announce it here, the winner is the Corsair Vengeance set. While all three setups are outstanding and will give a great gaming experience to anyone seeking such a set the Vengeance products stood out to us in a few areas.
First the the set actually shares a common design theme. While this might not effect the gaming experience we did this shootout because of a desire for a symmetry of gaming components and the styling being the same across the three products added to that effect. The second reason was the price, the Corsair set actually comes in around $35 less than the other two combinations. With the actually gaming experience from all three sets being so very close the lower price was a real determining factor. Finally the Corsair set comes with a full 2 year warranty, a full year better than the other sets.
Let me be clear there were NO losers in these three sets, all three gave a great gaming experience. However the three factors mentioned have allowed Corsair to win this by a nose, congratulations to Corsair and the Vengeance team!
The entire show segment of this shootout as aired 23 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
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
Computer Ed (Edward Crisler) takes at look that the Chaser Mk I case.
While the movie industry has had their Summer of Heroes, here at the Computer Ed Show our test area looks like we are experiencing the Summer of Computer Cases. Our most recent subject on the bench is the Thermaltake Chaser Mk I. With a tag line of “Pursuit without Fear” and a sticker on the front of the big stating that this is an “Extra Big ATX Tower”, it is obvious the pursuit they are thinking of is the pursuit of room to build a PC. This is a large full tower case, just a bit smaller than a Level 10 GT.
Opening the box we find a case with very aggressive styling. While the box art made me think of mages, the actual case design to me has a much more Transformer look to it. I kept waiting for it to turn into a nasty little robot and demand I give it the Allspark.
The front has 4 bay openings and the covers are all easily removed from outside the case. The clips that hold them in place are highlighted with a pale blue coloring. In fact that highlight can be found in many places on this case. Remember that blue I said I hated so much that so many Gigabyte boards used, now I think it could be useful as it is almost a perfect match. You can see the aggressive styling of the case is on the right side panel, with raised areas.
The aggressive styling continues to the top with the angular lines and the blue trim. The center of this area is dominated by the power button and LED. We we first looked at this we though perhaps the button was broke because it had some play to it. A look at the mechanism revealed that in fact it was floating on top of the switch. Despite it’s slight wobble when touched it was actually securely mounted.
Directly behind the power button we have a 3.5” / 2.5” hot swap drive mount. While I am not typically a big fan of hot swap bays, I just do not see people making a lot of use with them every day. This one is s step up from what most offer since it can easily handle both drive sizes.
The left side of the top is has buttons to control the fan speed low/high of the two factory installed 200 mm fans as well as a light switch. These fans use the same tri-color fans we have seen before in other Thermaltake products and in our included video you can see the various lighting options. Just behind the fan speed buttons we have the reset button as well as our headset jacks. I have to tell you I hate the reset button being there. In the dark reaching down to turn up the fan speed I can easily image someone pressing the reset by mistake. Now I usually do not hook up reset buttons but on this case I would say it is nearly a MUST to not hook up the reset. The last thing you want is during heavy gaming needing to kick up the fans and suddenly mid game you are rebooting.
On the right side we have our I/O access with dual USB 2 and USB 3 as well as an ESATA connection. With the hot swap bay I have to ask WHY did we put an ESATA port in the front of this case? I mean come on, they barely get used anyway and with this case the odds of it being used are further reduced by a very simple to use hot swap.
Moving back from the front we come to a two tiered grilled top area. The upper tier, back most, houses the factory installed 200mm fan the front area however has the mounts for a second 200mm fan. These of course can be removed and a 240mm or 360mm radiator can be mounted.
Looking at the bottom of the case we see large fold out feet for stability as well a filter that covers the PSU air intake and an options bottom air intake fan mount. Now it is rough to tell from these pictures but the design of the feet BEG for them to be turned out. Their angular cut is done in a manner that when folded just look way wrong. The fleet have a blue highlighted trim and provide almost a full 1.5” lift to the case. This gives a lot of room under the case for the intake fan and PSU to pull in cool air.
The left side panel has of the the aggressive styling added to it along with a good sized window and a mount for a 200mm fan. The fan area is filtered, which is good. However the filter is attached to the case and that means a fan will cover it meaning easy removal is gone, that is bad. You will also notice that the headphone clip we saw on the Level 10 GT is not permanently attached to the side of the Chaser. I am torn about if I like this solution better. On the plus side it means the clip cannot be lost and is not going to fall off if you grab your headset to fast. On the down side it means that if it is out and get slammed against it will break instead of just fall off.
As we open the case to look inside lets begin at the top and front. Both the top cover and front bevel are easily removed with no tools needed. The top opens up to reveal the mounting area for the 200mm fans. The front opens to reveal the 200mm intake fan and it’s filter.
Opening up the case we are greeted with more of the blue highlights and a nice all black interior. The optical drive bays use a tool less design that worked okay. I would have liked it to be a bit more secure but it is adequate as well as 6 pull out HD bays. Now I know and you know my ugly little soapbox is about to come out, well not really this time. While the cross mounting does block the air flow, Thermaltake has cut the number of drives being held down and opened up the space between them. The result is actually a fairly open area to reduce the restrictions this style usually creates. While it is still not as good for air flow as a more open design it is better than this mounting method traditionally does.
The motherboard tray has a generous number of rubber grommeted cutouts to allow for some great cable management options. The case can easily be described as roomy and from an easy of build point of view it rivals the Level 10 GT. If you feel cramped in this case I suggest you quite trying to sleep in it and just use it for your computer.
This is OBVIOUSLY a case aimed at the geeky/gamer audience. The aggressive styling is something that will either appeal to you or turn you off, there is no middle ground. The stock air flow of this case with it’s dual 200mm fans and 140mm exhaust fan at the rear provides really good cooling and air flow. The ability to add a 200 mm on the side and a second 200 mm to the top pushes that air flow to great and beyond. While the case has some nice liquid cooling options, the air flow design of the case begs for a big air cooler to be used. In fact the cases blue highlights practically scream for the Frio OCK, it’s like they where design for each other.
Speaking of the fan, I love that Thermaltake is trying to give us choices with the fan colors. I said this with the Element G and the Level 10 GT, the option to change the color is just something very cool. However as with both of those cases the color is not persistent and when the system goes into sleep mode or shuts down the colors revert to the native blue. In the case of the Chaser this is not a bad thing. The blue highlights on the case make the native blue LED colors a natural choice, I honestly am not sure why they even offered the tri-color. Below you can see a video we did of the lighting options in the Chaser Mk I if you want to see the various color options.
Still on the fans I want to talk about the hi/low option that Thermaltake has now shown us on two cases. I am not a big fan of manually controlled fans. Personally I would prefer we fix even the case fans to adjust their speed based on the component temps. I mean when your PC is not working hard, like me working on this blog, there is no need for fans jacked to take off speeds for cooling, even on an overclocked system. The fans only need the speed when the system is getting warm. Now that said I do like the compromise that Thermaltake has done with the Chaser and Level 10 GT. When I am not gaming I reach down and the system is instantly in near silent operation. As I get ready to game I reach down and move the fans to high to ensure the best cooling, easy to do and access. By the way even on high these fans are not even close to what you would call loud.
Still on the fans the controller that allows the two fans to have their LEDs and speeds controlled together does not have any openings for additional fans so this means that even if you get the same fans as are used stock for your optional fans, they cannot be added to the controller. While I understand the reason for this this, barely, I think Thermaltake missed a serious opportunity here to raise the bar. I mean seriously how cool would it be to be able to order two 200 mm fans from Thermaltake and then plug them into the controller to give this case it’s max air flow and the look and speeds stay consistent.
The construction quality of the case is outstanding and the design well thought out for someone that likes to tinker in their PC. The CPU cooler back plate opening is HUGE and makes it easy to swap out coolers. The case has excellent cable management options and the nice little extras like grommeting is well done. Building in this case was a painless and fun operation.
On the topic of building, this is one of those cases that you build as much for looks as for performance. Yeah I know I am just silly like that. With that in mind this case is a near perfect fit for any of Gigabytes middle range motherboards. Their light blue coloring is a great match to the blue highlights. Add this to the blue LEDs and you can actually make that baby blue I have commented on hating so much look good.
Priced at around $160 this calls falls into the upper levels of what we would dub a performance product. As a full tower case it is not meant for travel of LAN parties, the case is large and heavy when fully loaded. I actually say two different reviews of this case online that said it was meant for LAN parties, I guess the reviews are built like Arnold. The full tower in my option is a stay at home build my monster PC case and this case fits that bill. While it’s aggressive looks may not be acceptable in the living room, they would be awesome for the geek room or man cave if these are the looks you like in your PC case.
Feature packed, excellent build quality, great stocking cooling with cooling potential the goes to amazing, aggressive styling and great cable management, what more can you for out of a case? The Chaser Mk I is chasing nobody, it is leading the pack for great computer cases.
If you would like to see more pictures of our look at the Chaser Mk I case visit our Facebook page for the Computer Ed Radio Show and check out the Chaser Mk I Album.
Review as aired live 21 August 2011