Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/thermaltake_level_10_gt/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
When the Thermaltake Level 10 was first introduced last year, most saw it as a unique and visionary design that stood apart from all other conventional cases on the market. However, for most consumers it was a case that could only be viewed on showroom floors, or in reviews like ours, thanks to its unusually high retail price. This kept it out of the hands of most consumers, but in the grand scheme of things the Level 10 was resounding success. Whether you hated it or loved it, you knew about, and this had to have drawn attention to Thermaltake as a brand, much in the same way halo products benefit other segments of the PC market.
The question is where you take the product from there. Do you leave it as an exclusive halo product, or do you expand upon the design while lowering the price? Thermaltake has taken the later approach, and today we are looking at the redesigned Level 10 which combines the visual style of the original with the internal design of a more standard chassis. This allows Thermaltake to offer a unique product like before, but with a nearly 75% price reduction compared to the original.
The new case is dubbed the Level 10 GT and continues in the tradition of the original by being a full tower chassis that fits the needs of gamers and enthusiasts alike. It includes enough room to fit even the longest graphics cards, boasts optimal ventilation for the best cooling efficiency and also features easy access for upgradability. All of this means that Theramltake has not only drawn from the original, but expanded upon the design to make it more affordable, convenient and optimized for all types of PC users.
The Level 10 GT is currently available at all major e-tailers and has an MSRP of $269. This is substantially lower than the price of the original Level 10, but it is still places it among some of the more expensive cases on the market.
|Case Type||Full Tower|
||584 x 282 x 590 mm (23 x 11.x 23.2 inches)|
||12.7kg / 28.0 lbs|
||Exterior & Interior: Black|
Accessible: 4 x 5.25", 1 x 3.5"
HDD Easy Swap 5 x 3.5" or 2.5"
|Motherboard||9.6" x 9.6" (Micro ATX), 12" x 9.6" (ATX), 12" x 13" (Extended ATX)|
||USB 3.0 x2, USB 2.0 x4, eSATA x1, HD Audio x1|
|PSU||Standard PS2 PSU|
|LCS Upgradable||Supports 1/2", 3/8", 1/4" water tue. CPU cooler height limitaion: 190mm, Vga lenght limitation 360mm.|
The Level 10 GT is designed exclusively by the Thermaltake, unlike the original which was a collaboration between the manufacturer and the BMW design group. Still, Thermaltake has paid homage to BMW by including the likeness of one of their expensive cars on the Level 10 GT packaging. The box also includes an image of the case and highlights how the new Level 10 GT supports USB 3.0 connectivity.
The accessories that come with the Level 10 GT are found inside of the case packaged in a small black rectangular box. The accessories include all the documentation needed along with screws, cable ties, a power adapter and a headset bracket.
Right off the bat you can see the Level 10 GT maintains as much of the original look as it can, while eliminating the "Open Compartment Architecture" (O.C.A.) design. This results in the case still having the central pillar to distinguish it, but the rest the case in many ways looks more like traditional cases. Unlike the original Level 10 where the power supply, optical drives, hard drives and motherboard were isolated into their own compartments, the GT instead uses an open design where the air can freely travel throughout the entire chassis. Furthermore, the Level 10 GT houses three massive 200m x 200mm x 30mm fans, along with a single 140mm fan.
The front of the Level 10 GT uses the central pillar to house the power/reset buttons, activity LEDs, four USB 2.0 ports and the front audio jacks, while the ODD, HDD and floppy drive bays are connected directly to the front panel of the chassis. On the reverse panel the new Level 10 GT uses the layout of a standard case. This consists of a rear exhaust fan located next to the I/O opening, with the expansion slots and power supply installation area directly below. Additionally, the back panel has three pre-drilled holes at the top. Two of the holes can accommodate a water-cooling loop, while the third is used to run cables out of the chassis.
Both the side panels of the Level 10 GT maintain much of the original look, and even without the O.C.A. design Thermatake has done a good job making each section look like it has its own compartment via a convex design. With the use of a more classic chassis style, Thermaltake was able to add a 200mm side intake fan to the Level 10 GT, as well a clear side window. The opposite side is almost a mirror image of the original, including the handle at the top followed by a slightly convex side panel. The only real difference is that the Level 10 GT does not have the same base.
The front panel on the Level 10 GT has five 5.25" optical drive bays along with a single 3.5" floppy drive bay. Each bay has a removable cover that is detached by pushing inward on the outside latches, allowing the covers to be removed easily without having to first disconnect the front panel. The Level 10 GT has a second control panel along the top that has two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, a e-SATA port and buttons to control the fan speed and LED settings.
The Level 10 GT includes five 3.5" hot-swappable hard drive bays that easily side in out out of the chassis. All five of the bays can support either a single 3.5" or 2.5" SSD/HDD drive and can be locked in place. A key is needed to remove bays; the user first unlocks the drives, which then presses the button next to the appropriate drive number to slide the drive out.
The largest convex panel on the Level 10 GT is located near the bottom left corner and houses a large 200m intake fan. The panel is optimally positioned for graphics card and chipset cooling. The fan also has a large modular mesh cover that can be removed for cleaning, and there is a latch on the side panel that can direct the airflow coming from the fan.
The base of the Level 10 GT includes a large ventilation area along the bottom. This will ensure the bottom mounted power supply will have ample ventilation, but it also has additional room to add even more case fans to the chassis. The ventilation area is covered by a large mesh filter that can be easily removed for cleaning. The feet found at the bottom of the Level 10 GT can be rotated outward for improved stability.
One of the more unique features of the Level 10 GT is the headset mounting kit. To attach the mount to the case, you simply place the plastic piece through the small opening found on the side panel and slightly push it down to secure it in place. This is a great feature for gamers, as it offers an easy and convenient storage option for any headset.
Instead of a standard removable side panel to access the Installation area, Thermaltake has gone with an adjustable door that can easily open and close. This gives quick access to the internal components and can help save time when upgrading individual components such as the graphics cards and memory.
Earlier we mentioned the internal airflow from the 200mm side intake fan could be adjusted to direct the flow at different internal components. As you can see from these photos, this is done via internal flaps that can either be pointed down toward the power supply or up toward the graphics cards and chipsets. This is a unique feature that allows users to customize the cooling in the Level 10 GT.
The motherboard tray on the Level 10 GT is massive and can support Micro-ATX, ATX, and extended ATX form factor boards. Additionally, the motherboard tray has several rubber covered holes to facilitate better cable management, and a rather large rear CPU access cutout. All of these features make installing the motherboard a breeze, and since the stand-offs are pre-installed in the case, all that's needed to do is to put the board into the chassis and screw it into place.
To improve the airflow within the chassis, Thermaltake has included a rear 140mm fan along with a top mounted 200mm fan. Both fans exhaust the hot air from the CPU, but the top mounted fan can be removed to allow for a 240mm radiator. There are also additional fans found in front of the hard drive bays and on the side panel.
Installation of the hard drives is very easy, and the Level 10 GT can accommodate up to five 3.5" or 2.5" storage drives. To secure a drive into the hot-swappable bays, a SSD or HDD is first secured to the bay enclosure and then slid back into the case. When the drive is in place, the SATA data and power headers are locked into their connection points, which are powered via connections on the opposite side.
The back panel of the Level 10 GT includes plenty of cable management options and also has ample room to hide extra cables. Most of the additional room is located near the HDD and ODD drive bays, as there is a slight recess in this area for more room. To power the SATA drives, Thermaltake has used a single interconnected power cable that requires only a single connection to power all the installed hard drives.
The five ODD and single FDD bays are accessible from the front of the case. All that needs to be done to install a drive is to remove one of the covers from the front and then slide the drive into place. After the component is in the right position, there is a latch on the side of the bay that locks the drive into the chassis.
With all the components in the chassis you can see that the Level 10 GT can accommodate virtually any high-end component, including one of the longest graphics cards on the market, the XFX HD 5970 BE. Additionally, with eight available expansion slots the Level 10 GT can potentially support up to 4-way CrossFireX and SLI. The cable management was also excellent, as we were able to easily route the cables of our non-modular power supply behind the side panel. This will not only improve the overall look inside the case, but also increases the internal airflow by reducing obstructions.
To best show the available lighting of the Level 10 GT, we made a video of the different LED configurations. The Level 10 GT can rotate between blue, red and green, but it also has a few multi-color settings. This feature can be a great for anyone fond of LED lights, but for those who don't care much for them, the LED lights can also be turned off completely.
For testing I maintained an ambient room temperature of 70°F and used HWMonitor to monitor each component's internal temperature. The idle temperatures were taken after the computer remained on, but with no operating load for an hour. The load tests were taken after 30 minute tests of Prime95 and Furmark were performed. For HDD testing HDTune was used.
The overall cooling performance of the Level 10 GT was quite good. Out of all of our tested cases, it had the best thermal performance when using the high RPM fan settings, but even at the low RPM settings it still did very well. The acoustic levels of the Level 10 GT were also quite good, but the volume did get noticeable when using the fans at the higher RPM settings.
Thermaltake set the bar pretty high when they first released the Level 10, making it all that much harder for any follow up offering to have the same appeal as the original. However, with the Level 10 GT, Thermaltake has managed to be not just create a worthy successor, but by adding multiple new features such as improved cooling, better cable management and acoustics, the Level 10 GT in many ways manages to actually surpass the Level 10.
Our initial reaction to the Level 10 GT was that it did not have the same awe inspiring design as the original, and this led us to believe the case might ultimately be just a generic version of the Level 10. After we started looking deeper though, we found a product that included more features than most cases currently available on the market. The Level 10 GT includes top-of-the-line features such as six hot-swappable drive bays, support for up to six SSDs, room for even the longest graphics cards, easy installation, and excellent cable management. On top of this, the Level 10 GT was also an exceptionally quiet case that has an overall acoustic level below that of other cases we tested. So, while the aesthetics are not quite at the same level as the original, it includes more than enough features to make up for its slight cosmetic downgrade.
For the most part we found installing components inside the Level 10 GT to be a positive experience, mainly due to the ample internal room and the use of a hinged door. This gave quick access to the installation area and allowed us to easily install even the largest components, including a E-ATX motherboard and an HD 6990. However, we would have liked an easier means to access the SATA data connectors for the hot-swap bays. As it is now, the second side panel has to be removed prior to connecting a new data cable, which in our opinion is more work than necessary just to add a hard drive.
There were also a few other aspects of the case that we would have like to seen improved. Even though we like the idea of the headset stand, we did not like the included mount. It felt cheaply made and since it connects to the case via two small plastic clips it could easily break, rendering one of the case's selling points moot. We were also irked that the user defined LED settings would revert to default each time the system was turned off. We feel Thermaltake could have easily addressed this, even if it is not all that hard to get the LEDs back to your preferred position.
The Thermaltake Level 10 GT manages to surpasses the original in just about every aspect aside from the outward appearance. This actually makes its $269 price tag very reasonable, due to the fact that the Level 10 GT offers practically all the high-end features found in cases such as the Corsair 800D or SILVERSTONE Raven 2.
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