Like Bill’s Hanzo sword, Luke’s lightsaber, and Gordon Freeman’s crowbar, Thermaltake’s newest chassis appears unconvincingly plain—until you take it out for a spin. The SwordM dices through our typical chassis frustrations like a chain saw through a burrito. This is truly a next-generation case.
The SwordM’s side panel is split into two halves: A section covering the front bays swings freely, while the grated chunk covering the motherboard area pops open with a pleasant whoosh—because it’s attached to the case with two hydraulic arms. This is an improved version of what Thermaltake used in its Tai-Chi case (Holiday 2005), and we’re glad the design isn’t a simple vanity accessory. The Terminator-style appendage is an elegant solution to flimsy side panels and their oft-stupid connection mechanisms.
Unlike in a typical case, the SwordM’s motherboard rear connectors are surrounded by absolutely nothing—goodbye, trusty I/O shield. We love the free-hanging look created by the motherboard and its various PCI cards, which are themselves protected and concealed by the rounded back half of the case. You string your cables through two holes in the case’s rear, although dual-monitor, USB-filling, surround-sound-rocking, water-cooling users will find this to be quite a tight fit.
For all the awesome construction, we were a bit miffed to see such a lame, screw-filled hard-drive bay. And the SwordM comes with room for only three drives. That’s a bit strange given the case’s pronounced size and awesome connectors. We’re nitpicking, but we also don’t like slapping hard drives into 5.25-inch bays.
The SwordM remains vivid and clutter-free, even accounting for all of its great features—including superlong front-panel connection wires, room for 12 12-centimenter fans, and a front-panel storage container. Thermaltake didn’t just toss in the kitchen sink with the SwordM. No, it took out its styling brush and painted up an elegant representation of just how much this company gets case design. A few minor blotches (such as the finicky cabling situation in the rear) sully the detail work, but we remain quite impressed with the big picture.