In and Around the Thermaltake Armor A30

I actually put off testing the A30 for a day because when I'd removed it from the box I was genuinely somewhat mystified by how it was supposed to come apart and back together. A Corsair case this is not, Thermaltake's A30 design is able to fit a decent amount of capacity and cooling into relatively svelte dimensions but somewhere along the line usability took a major backseat. This is not an intuitive case.

The basic aesthetic is undoubtedly going to be the subject of some debate, but I personally don't find it too outlandish. It definitely falls into the gamer-targeted market, but it's primarily an interesting use of angles and ventilated mesh. I actually quite like the way the front looks; the indented angle is stylized without being aggressively gaudy. It's also nice to see an external 3.5" bay, as I get a tremendous amount of mileage out of the card reader I use in my desktop.

When you get to the top, you'll see the beefy 230mm exhaust fan, and I suspect this monster is the reason why the A30's cooling performance is as strong as it is (you'll see later on). There's healthy ventilation in the top panel, too, as well as the sides in front of the windows. These are actually intriguing places to put vents, and if I had to hazard a guess I'd say they're in exactly the right place to work with the 230mm fan to produce healthy airflow through the case.

It's the rear of the case that's really the intimidating part, and taking one look at this was enough to make me procrastinate for one night. There are eleven thumbscrews in total back here, with no apparent rhyme or reason to their placement. As it turns out there actually is a reason why the back looks the way it does, and we'll get to that in a second. Another point of concern was the pair of 60mm exhaust fans, though, as small fans tend to produce quite a bit of noise.

Where everything goes haywire is the assembly of the case. Like one of SilverStone's more exotic designs, there's a very specific way the A30 comes apart. Unlike SilverStone's more exotic designs, it doesn't make much sense. The first part that needs to be removed is the entire top panel, fan and all, and that's done by removing three thumbscrews near the top rear of the case. Note that the motherboard tray is also removable, but for the first time in my entire life I'm actually going to call this out as a poor design choice.

With the top panel off, you get your first glimpse of the interior of the A30, but you'll also notice the external drive cage and power supply cage are both using the side panels as a brace. That leads to the A30's absolute biggest design flaw: the side panels aren't removable. Almost everything but the side panels is removable, but it makes taking the A30 apart needlessly involved. To wit: removing the external drive cage involves two thumbscrews, removing the power supply cage involves three thumbscrews and six regular screws, and removing the motherboard tray involves six thumbscrews (two shared with the power supply cage). The internal 3.5" drive cage beneath the external drive cage is held in place by a single thumbscrew but has to slide into place, and the front fascia of the case uses a series of plastic snaps. And just to seal the deal, there's also a bracket used to cover the mounts for the expansion slots that uses yet another thumbscrew.

For those of you who haven't been keeping score, all of that means getting the A30 ready for assembly involves removing a cumulative twenty screws and separating it into six parts, which is honestly insane. All of the fans use 4-pin molex connectors (and that's it), and while they're designed to be daisy-chained together they also can't take advantage of any of the motherboard's fan headers. Thermaltake's site advertises the chassis as being "fully modular," but really the problem is that there's just too much going on and it's going to play hell with assembly.

Introducing the Thermaltake Armor A30 Assembling the Thermaltake Armor A30
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  • Dadofamunky - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I tried a couple of microATX build with cases to match and finally gave up. It's always been too complicated and too high-maintenance for long-term use. In my experience with SFF (which ended some three years ago) the motherboards also tend to require too many compromises, including indifferently updated BIOSes, limited overclocking options compared to normal ATX boards and fewer SATA and USB ports. For me, though, the biggest headache always proved to be working with the cases and the hardware.
  • Icehawk - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Maybe a few years ago? I built a mATX machine for the first time last month with an i7 and GTX670 using the (much larger but clearly MUCH nicer) Fractal Design Mini Define and while the mobo doesn't have a ton of options as you said, it has enough to run a simple O/C and XMP which is all I need.
  • Zap - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    You're doing it wrong. :P Well, it is easier these days too.

    First thing is to choose the right motherboard. They are available, and have as many SATA/USB ports as full ATX boards and can overclock as well as an ATX board of similar price point.

    Second thing is to use a micro ATX mini tower, and NOT a "cube" style case. The computer still ends up a lot smaller than an ATX tower, and are just as easy to build.
  • Fuzz1111 - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    While I'm interested cases of this style, I can't say I would recommend the sff cases that require the use of half-height cards, or any that don't allow alternative power supplies.

    Until recently my media centre was a build that used an Antec Minuet 350, an intel E2200 and cheap gigabyte board (had an intel chipset though). The board and cpu were fine, and with a zalman 8700 I even got a decent overclock. Unfortunately half-height turned out to be more limiting than I'd have thought - vidcard choices were rubbish (still aren't great), and I had to make my own half-height bracket for my TV tuner.

    The worst problem by far was the power supply - it was a complete piece of crap and it got worse over time (in the end I was running without tuner card, and with DVD drive disconnected).
  • Death666Angel - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Can't say that I agree. Unless one specifically needs more than 2 GPUs, mATX is plenty enough. I've had my Gigabyte mATX P55 mainboard with an overclocked i7 860 since a month after the i7 came about (roughly). At first I had it in a cube case from Lian Li (V351B) with an HD5770. I had an optical drive, a 3.5" drive and a 2.5" SSD for my system in there. Had I wanted, I could have fitted more drives, the mainboard certainly provided all I needed. While it was a bit hard to assemble and maintain, it was pretty small, light, powerful and quiet. It also did not cost any more than a regular ATX with similar quality components. Last Christmas I decided to get the Silverstone TJ08-E because I wanted to get water cooling. That is also a mATX enclosure, much smaller than most ATX ones of that performance. The CPU now runs at 3.8GHz (up from 3.3 in the cube), my mainboard is still fully functional and has all the connections and abilities one can expect from a ~130€ board of the time.
    Unless you are doing LN2 OC'ing, it is stimply not true that ATX offers greater performance than mATX. Most often, they don't even offer more ports or better quality.
  • just4U - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I have to agree with other's on this.. Nothing wrong with Matx setups.. and you don't have real compromises with the MB either. Look at Asus's Gene line, Or Gigabytes M3.
  • NA1NSXR - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    My X58M was offered new BIOSes periodically to support the entire lifespan of 1366. It was also capable of overclocking as well as any full ATX board in its price range, well encompassing any OC on air cooling anyone would be doing. Fewer SATA ports are moot, as my mobo had way more ports than pretty much any matx enclosure could support anyway, and I had 8 USB ports. So I don't know what you are talking about. It sounds like you just did not do the planning, which is the funnest part anyway. There is no reason to use full atx on air cooled, single GPU computers anymore, unless the extra PCIe slots are absolutely needed.

    Quite frankly when I see a massive "gamer tower" these days I just roll my eyes.
  • Operandi - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Looks like a fairly decent case aside from the 60mm fans but holy crap does it eve stop with the taken to “11” overly designed boxes that constantly try to convey the image of just about anything but a PC case?

    That and the price is a joke when I can get a Lian LI PC-Q08B for the same price.
  • Lucian2244 - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I second that, it looks like a travel bag !
    And if it was hard for you to assemble it, i can't imagine how it would be for me as I only assembled ATX cases so far.
  • Mr Perfect - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Yeah, that's way to busy for a SFF case. Angles here, windows there, extra vents, raised lines, additional bevels and a pop-up roof. To be fair, it looks like they took a full ATX design(that probably looked fine) and scaled it down until everything got jammed together.

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