When you're outfitting a new computer, it can be tempting to just buy the cheapest no-name case you can find, slap your new parts into it, and call it a day. While that might have been a valid choice in ye olde beige days—heck, early Dream Machine builds didn't even list the case—it's not one we'd recommend today. This month, we round up eight cases, from the budget to the extreme, to see how they measure up to the task of holding your precious modern components.
Thermaltake’s original Level 10 chassis was a remarkable collaboration with BMW DesignWorks in which the companies fundamentally restructured the PC chassis into a series of isolated compartments suspended from a central load-bearing wall. It was stunning, cost $800, and wasn’t actually that practical to use. With the Level 10 GT, Thermaltake has taken the basic look of the Level 10, slapped it onto a more standard full-tower frame, and slashed $500 from the asking price. The end result isn’t quite as sleek as its progenitor from an aesthetic perspective, but far outstrips the original in ease of use and practicality, and is not without a certain sci-fi flair of its own.
What’s the most important part of your PC? Is it the processor? The videocard? The motherboard? How about the keyboard?
Don’t scoff—your keyboard is the part of your computer that you get up close and personal with. It’s the conduit between you and the PC, and having the right one can make you faster, more comfortable, and give you an edge in games.
Is Micro-ATX the next big thing in desktop computing? Case vendors certainly think so. We recently took a look at a Digital Storm in a teapot—actually, a Silverstone Fortress FT03 micro-ATX chassis. Fractal Designs is introducing micro-ATX versions of every case in their lineup. And Thermaltake just sent over their Armor A30, a “modular” micro-ATX case with slide-out everything. Join me for a quick look at the Armor A30, in preparation for an actual review later.
The Challenger (ThermalTake’s entry into the gaming keyboard market) is the kind of keyboard that’s looking to set itself apart. It does this most noticeably with a tiny fan that can be plugged in on either side of the keyboard to blow cool air across your hard-working hands and a set of custom, red keycaps that can be swapped in for the WASD and arrow keys. Do either of those features sound like something you can’t live without?
We’ll admit it: When the Thermaltake V9 BlacX Edition mid-tower chassis showed up on our doorstep, we thought it was a joke. “Surely,” we said, “Thermaltake didn’t just slap one of its dual-bay BlacX hard drive docks onto a cheap mid-tower chassis and call it a day.” Well, Thermaltake did, and in a really confusing way. The V9 BlacX Edition is virtually identical to the plain ol’ V9, true, except the BlacX Edition has more features, better build quality, and a $60 dual-SATA dock slapped on the top. And it’s $30 cheaper than the plain ol’ V9. Er, what?
zThe Thermaltake Frio is a hefty cooler in the dual-fan skyscraper tradition. With both fans attached, it’s a staggering 4.75x5.37x6.5 inches and clocks in at two pounds, 10.6 ounces. It’s not the biggest we’ve ever tested—Noctua’s NH-D14 and Scythe’s Mugen 2 share that dubious distinction—but it’s among the heaviest. Its plastic fan mounts and trim add unnecessary weight, though most of the heft comes from the five meaty heat pipes and stack of heat-dissipating fins.
The two 1,200–2,500rpm 12cm fans that ship with the Frio attach to its preinstalled plastic casing via rubber mounting posts, which add bulk but are easier to use than wire clips. Unlike most skyscraper coolers, which screw down from the top (and thus require removing the fans to get to the mounting screws), the Frio’s mounting system uses screw-on nuts that mount behind the motherboard backplate, so you can leave the fans on during installation. This does mean you have to have hands on both sides of the motherboard during install so the cooler doesn’t fall off, but that’s what motherboard tray cutouts are for, right?
Kudos to Thermaltake for pitching its new Azurues gaming mouse for what it is -- a "no frills" optical rodent with a handful of features that separate it from your standard rodent.
Among them are three different DPI settings (400/800/1600) changeable via a switch on the Azurues' underbelly, three removable 4.5g weights (also on the underbelly), a rubber coated finish, Teflon feat, a braided cable to avoid tangled tails, and a "pause-break" lighting system (the logo lights up).
No frills indeed, though Thermaltake wasn't all humble, calling the Azurues the "most ideal weapon for first-person shooting games." Where then does that leave Thermaltake's higher end "Black Gaming Mouse" with a 4000 DPI?
I have a custom-built gaming computer made by Magic Micro housed in a Thermaltake Soprano case. It has 4GB of RAM, a 3GHz Core 2 Duo (model unknown), a 500-watt Antec power supply, two 1TB Seagate hard drives, and a Sapphire Radeon HD 4870. Things are fun and fast here. The desktop sits right under the air-conditioning vent in my library. Using SpeedFan, I recorded the max temps to be 158 degrees in the Core 0-1 areas and 124 degrees at the CPU. Am I in trouble? Normally it runs around 98 degrees combined, but it was a hot night. I turned the AC on and it all cooled down quickly back to 98 F. Is my desktop OK or do I need to do something?
Read the Doctor's advice for Chris after the jump.
When the wimpy-looking Cooler Master Hyper 212+ (reviewed Holiday 2009) came along and matched performance with the best air coolers on the market, we wondered if its direct-contact heat pipes were responsible, and if so, how soon we’d start seeing imitators. It didn’t take long. Thermaltake’s Contac 29 is a near–carbon copy of that little wonder, with a few subtle refinements and one colossal pain.
Like the Hyper 212+, the Contac 29 features three heat pipes that run from a heat exchanger up through a stack of thin aluminum fins, paired with a single 12cm fan (as well as room for another, if you want to push/pull air). Differing from most skyscraper-type coolers, the heat pipes on the Hyper and Contac contact the CPU heat spreader directly, instead of being embedded in a blocky heat-exchanger. The direct-contact method seems effective; in our tests, the Contac 29 matched the Hyper 212+’s performance to within one degree Celsius at full burn, and performed identically when idling.