Thermaltake Level 10 GT: Monument to Excessby Dustin Sklavos on July 26, 2011 11:50 AM EST
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In and Around the Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Starting this review I find myself experiencing the same issue I had when I started working on the Thermaltake Level 10 GT to begin with: where the hell do you start? But appearances can be deceiving, and once we break it down into what it really is, the whole enclosure becomes a lot easier to grok. What you're going to find is that the Level 10 GT isn't a radically redesigned ATX enclosure so much as just an ATX enclosure with tessellation turned on.
The front of the case sports four 5.25" external bays along with a single 3.5" external bay for either your archaic floppy disk drive or more likely your card reader. Given the way controls are beginning to migrate to the top of cases (a trend I'm actually a fan of), one day I'd like to see a 3.5" bay mounted vertically so the card slots would be at the top next to everything else. The Level 10 GT divides buttons and controls across the front stripe and the top of the enclosure in a way that seems like a strange compromise: the fan control, USB 3.0 ports, and eSATA port are all at the top of the case, while the audio jacks, four USB 2.0 ports, and power and reset buttons are all along the bar on the front. It's a strange orientation decision, only made stranger when you consider that the "show off" side of the Level 10 GT is on the left while these ports are on the right. Depending on where you put your desk and computer, something's going to be awkward.
On any given case, the left side is where the magic happens, and that's doubly true on the Level 10 GT. Its best and brightest user-friendly features are here, with a button that opens the hinged (and removable) side panel, a lever for directing airflow from the side intake, the window, and the five hot-swappable drive bays. The drive bays and side panel are all locked into place on shipment, and you'll need to use one of the keys (which ship attached to the back) to unlock them. There's also a rubber stopper next to the 5.25" bays that can be removed to add a removable headphone rack to the Level 10 GT, a nice convenience feature.
When you get to the back of the Level 10 GT it's business as usual, with a bottom-mounted power supply bay, eight expansion slots, and three rubber-lined grommets for water-cooling tubing.
Opening up the Level 10 GT reveals what I honestly consider the major flaw of the design: it's not actually that easy to work with and it's out of the norm in ways that may not be necessary. The 5.25" drive bays aren't truly cordoned off internally like the exterior of the enclosure would have you believe, but they're basically inaccessible from the left side. Likewise, you're not going to be replacing the front 200mm intake fan any time soon, or really any of the fans except maybe the rear fan. The cabling is wrapped up within the case, and the front fan is borderline inaccessible.
When you get around to behind the motherboard tray, you'll see a cutout for heatsink fan mounts, and all the hotswap drive bays are pre-cabled...sort of. This part is really confusing and was one of my major gripes when I reviewed the CyberPowerPC unit. Thermaltake has a power cable connected to all the bays, but leaves it to the end user to connect the SATA ports, and as a result of the SATA data cable spec's fatal flaw (loose connections), one of the drives didn't register on boot. When In-Win's $100 BUC integrates both the power and data leads and Thermaltake's case costing more than twice as much doesn't, I take issue. And given that it will take some force to replace the back panel (as it does with most cases), I worry that these cables will get knocked loose if they're not properly routed and affixed.
This is also the only side you can secure the 5.25" and 3.5" external bays on, which means they get to float free on the other side. There's a toolless clamp for the 5.25" drives and you can add an additional screw to secure them, but that doesn't make up for the lack of an easy way to secure the drives on both sides. As a result, our test optical drive felt pretty loose.
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Skott - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkPerformance wise it may be good but its not what I would call a sleek case. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though. It looks rugged however. More like something you would take out and carry around every day in a work environment. Not that I would want to carry it around every day. It may look rugged, be rugged, but it would also be very heavy and impractical for that.
jsbiggs - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkNice review, but I have a problem with the graphs. Maybe it's just my eyes, but I absolutely cannot read the white text on the bright yellow bar representing the Level 10 GT. The darker yellow is fine, but when the brightness goes up, I just can't tell what the numbers are. You can easily infer the performance relative to the other offerings, but would be better if you could read the number.
tzhu07 - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkI still prefer the simplicity of something like a R3 Define case or Lian Li. The Level 10 is incredibly tacky.
Tetracycloide - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkI can't say I've ever seen a steel and plastic enclosure that was worth over $200 before reading this article and afterward. Still no.
StickyIcky - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkAm I the only one that thinks this thing looks like a severely mutated Playstation 2?
danjw - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkIf you are going for air cooled, I personally would go for the Silverstone FT02. If liquid cooled, I think the HAF X would be my choice. Personally I don't really like the looks of either the HAF X or Level 10 GT, but from a utility standpoint the HAF X wins in my book. It would be great if you guys would do a review of it.
Kevin G - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkHaving purchased on of these a few months back, I can say that it isn't perfect but pretty good.
First the negatives. Unlike this review, I took advantage of the fact that an EATX motherboard will fit into this case. Fitting such a large motherboard into the chassis isn't easy. I was further hampered by needing to remove some of the standoffs which wasn't that big of a problem. However, I discovered that the paint on the motherboard tray is a bit thin as I scratched a spot near one of the stand offs. Getting the IO panel properly mounted with an such a large motherboard is pain. Similarly, mounting a large PSU is also a pain. Another oddity is that the rear 120 mm fan doesn't match the rest of the fans which color changing LEDs. The feet rotate 90 degrees which is generally a good thing overall but they're very easy to move and feel like they're break if some one stubbed them while walking by. The USB 3.0 ports are nice but to use them on most motherboard you'll need to have them plug into the rear IO panel instead of a header on the motherboard. I wish ThermalTake included a USB2.0 header or USB3.0 header adapter so that keeping the USB 3.0 cable internal was an option (I have such an adapter from elsewhere and it works rather well).
Now for the good news. It is very quiet and it manages to keep my build cool. The ability to adjust the air flow of the side fan is a very, very nice feature to help keep a high end GPU cool. The side panel uses a novel approach to cable management with regards to the side fan: opening up the door turns off the fan due to a series of pins that don't connect when open. Speaking of the side panel, it locks independent of the hard drive bays. There is no actual back plane for the hard drives which for a consumer case works rather well. You can use you own power and data cables to each individual drive if you so choose while retaining removability. The case is large but the face that it has a handle makes moving it relatively easy. Overall I do like the case as it is functional, quiet and good looking in my eyes.
etamin - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkWith that many mesh panels, it looks like a nightmare to dust out. I didn't see anything in regard to filters either.
Call me shallow, but if a case doesn't look good (exemplified by this one), it doesn't matter how user-friendly, upgradable, cool, and efficient it is...it sure as hell isn't going in my room.
mlosee222 - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkI'd be interested to see how these new fangled cases hold up to the classic Antec 900. Often imitated but never duplicated.
Money Loo - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - linkLoved the article, per usual. However the choice of yellow for the bar graphs makes it difficult to read the numbers in them. Sure, I can sort of ascertain what it might be by looking at the other numbers above and below it, or by holding ctrl+mouse wheeling up to make them bigger. Just a small nitpick in an otherwise great write up.