When we first saw prototypes of Thermaltake’s Level 10 concept chassis back in May, we were intrigued by its unique design but skeptical as to whether Thermaltake would ever actually produce it—and if it did, whether it would be any good. The answer to the first question is yes—it should be shipping by the time you read this. But is the most inventive chassis we’ve laid hands on since the Antec Skeleton actually a good case?
The Level 10, which Thermaltake designed with BMW, is not your standard ATX full-tower. Instead of a simple box shape, the Level 10 hangs its components from a central wall—basically a reinforced version of a standard case’s right side and frame. From this central wall protrude individual hinged covers: one each for PSU, optical drives, and the main motherboard compartment, as well as six SATA drive bays connected to a vertical aluminum heatsink. All cables between compartments are routed through the central pillar, behind the motherboard and drive trays, just like a standard case, resulting in an incredibly clean look—at least when the covers are closed. Red LEDs light a strip running from the front panel (with its four USB ports, one eSATA port, and audio ports), along the top to the rear. The case is huge, too, weighing 47 pounds and measuring 12.5 inches wide by 2 feet deep by 26 inches high.
The Thermaltake Level 10 is one of the most gorgeously designed cases we've ever tested.
Building in the Level 10 is a bit involved. First, you unlock two barrel locks on the rear panel, which keep the compartments securely shut when the case is in use. Only then can you remove the rear panel and open the compartment bays. The motherboard tray and its attendant rear expansion slots/backplane are removable, making the install process much easier. The motherboard and PSU compartments open 90 degrees—the optical bay opens only around 45 degrees, but the cover is removable.
Though you won’t get the typhoon-like airflow of other cases, the Level 10 still offers respectable cooling. The motherboard compartment contains a 14cm front intake fan and a 12cm exhaust fan, both with red LED lighting. The side of the bay door has filtered vents for additional airflow. Unfortunately, unless you have a self-contained water-cooling apparatus like the Corsair H50 or Cool-it Domino, water-cooling is not an option, as there’s no room for a reservoir, nor passages for the tubes.
The PSU compartment has mesh vents on the bottom to accommodate PSUs with downward-facing fans. And as previously mentioned, the six hard drive bays are attached to a tall aluminum heatsink, which has two 6cm fans blowing air through the middle of it.
Clockwise from upper left: PSU compartment, optical drive compartment, hard drive bays, and motherboard compartment.
The design is absolutely fantastic. But for a $700 case, the Level 10 is strangely lacking in some departments. The six SATA bays each accommodate either a 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drive, and each has an LED that lights when the bay is in use, but only the top two bays ship with SATA backports. For $700, we expected all six to be usable off the bat. And although the top optical bay has a front fascia to stealth your drive, the bottom two bezels are inexcusably cheap-looking.
The barrel locks on the case are a bit janky and can make the back panel difficult to put back on. And the matte finish, though preferable to the glossy finish that initial renders of this case were shown with, is a dust collector. Finally, and perhaps inevitably, the compartment doors tend to sag slightly on their hinges when open, due to their weight.
The Level 10 is an excellent and inspired work of design, and a slightly less inspired work of engineering. For $700, we like a bit more solidity to a case, weight be damned. If you’re looking for the best performance you can wring out of your rig, your $700 may be better spent elsewhere. But if you’re looking to get a good case that makes an unmistakable statement, the Level 10 certainly fits the bill.