There are extremes to everything in life, and products are certainly not an exception - especially technology products. Earlier, we looked at one of the ends of the extremes in computer cases with Dynapowers' super-affordable E68 in addition to two more moderately-priced cases in a price-point comparing shootout, but this time, we're going to examine two cases at the other end of the spectrum. Barring solutions such as Zalman's TNN-500A, which attempts to handle all cooling needs for a computer on its own in complete silence, the Tai Chi by Thermaltake and Stacker 830 that we'll be looking at here represent some of the very finest in case design - and have a price to match.

We've looked at products from both of these companies for several years now, and it's apparent that they both know what they're doing. The last several models of Thermaltake's have had exceptional capacity for drives, but don't have quite the same "quality of construction" feel that cases from others like Lian Li tend to have. With their latest, that's all about to change. The Tai Chi sets a new standard for case construction and "modability", and provides the lucky few who can afford such a unit a tremendous wealth of configuration choices including wide support for multiple water cooling loops.

Cooler Master's last several cases, on the other hand, seem to be focused more on the realm of exuberant venting for the sake of cooling performance, and their latest simply takes this idea and stretches it to a new level as we're about to see. The Stacker 830 gets rid of all the difficulties of installing hardware with a vengeance - offering effective tool-less solutions and a multi-part design that are more numerous than what we've ever seen before.

For a quick overview of what each case offers, we've made up a feature chart for the two products:

(TL: Tool-less, TS: Thumbscrews, SS: Standard Screws)

With the obvious features out of the way, let's go ahead and examine the older of the two - the Tai Chi - in more detail.

Thermaltake Tai Chi
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  • Tamale - Friday, February 24, 2006 - link

    I made the most prominent mention of it right before the sound chart:

    "With the finding that the Tai Chi cools just as well as the Stacker 830 with half as many fans, one has to wonder if that means that the Thermaltake fans are making substantially more noise. To see if that's the case, we used our sound pressure level (SPL) meter and rated the system's noise subjectively on a scale from 1 to 10."

    Even without taking the fans into consideration, the two cases' temperatures were very, very close. Look at the HTPC roundup to see how much they've different in the past.
  • JoshuaBuss - Friday, February 24, 2006 - link

    1) It's ok for different people to have different definitions of 'high-end'. For me, a great case for a decent price is higher-end than a case that costs twice as much and doesn't offer as much.
    2) I mention the passive radiative design of the Tai Chi as a benefit, but perhaps didn't stress enough that the design is for the most part a waste unless one attaches additional cooling equipment to the sides so that conduction of heat to the fins would actually take place. What is true is that the case cools exceptionally well with only two fans. Is it the fins helping? While certainly I agree with you that they're not helping that much, I would still say that they're helping a little.
    3) The cage itself lacks any active defense against vibrations unfortunately. Its design is of thinner material that has more bends to it, so inherantely it will aborb a little bit of the vibrations, but not much. We really preferred CM's cage in this regard, for this and the 4 drive capacity. That being said, seagate barracuda drives are still very, very quiet in the Tai Chi.
  • fsardis - Friday, February 24, 2006 - link

    making the case out of alu does help dissipate heat from inside. the hot air does make the alu hotter and the fins increase the contact area with the ambient air.
    the only proper argument against the heat sink design is that although it has fins to dissipate heat outside, it doesnt have a large contact area inside so the hot air of the interior wont transfer heat to the alu as fast. then again all this applies only in cases of passive cooling. with active cooling the whole heatsink design is wasted since the hot air gets thrown out and fresh air comes in.

    i am the owner of a stacker 830 and i am disapointed to say the least. there is not a single spot in the case to mount even a single water cooling rad. having read so many reviews on the net about how this case is good for water cooling, i seriously question the validity of other reviewers and not of the anandtech reviewer.
  • ATWindsor - Friday, February 24, 2006 - link

    I doubt the difrence between fins and no fins when the side only has contact with air is within uncertanties int he measurments, i see it as little more than a gimmick. And aluminum in itself also have little improvment in heat (over steel).

  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, February 23, 2006 - link

    can be a pain already, but the dual-doors like on the Tai Chi are worse than a single one, IMO. It can make it really hard to put a case under a desk, or in a small area, and I would get really tired of having to open two doors every time I wanted access to one of my drives (which is why I got an Antec P-160, which stealths the optical/floppy drives quite nicely without needing doors).

    I like the CoolerMaster's design. Still not a fan of a door on a case, but it seems cleaner than Thermaltake, whose cases have always come off as somewhat gimmicky to me.

    Good review, guys.
  • JoshuaBuss - Thursday, February 23, 2006 - link

    The dual-doors aren't really as bad as you'd might think, but yes, it will definitely be a problem unless you have a large open space to the left of the tower... that is of course only if you care about opening it at all.. heh
  • kalaap - Thursday, February 23, 2006 - link

    I don't think this case is made for small spaces.
  • latino666 - Thursday, February 23, 2006 - link

    Uhh I can't see the pictures anyone know reason why?

    Also I did use Firefox and IE
  • ATWindsor - Thursday, February 23, 2006 - link

    For some odd reason i don't get up pictures on anand anymore if i disable referer-logging, could that be the case for you?
  • TallCoolOne - Thursday, February 23, 2006 - link

    I also cannot see the pics, and also tried both Firefox and IE.

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