Thermaltake Armor A30 Case Review

NCC10281982B ajmatson - 2011-04-04 05:53:33 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: NCC10281982B   ajmatson   
Reviewed on: June 7, 2011
Price: $109.99

Introduction:

Everyone has heard that size does not matter right? Sometimes that can be true, but normally in the world of computer cases if you want all of the features then you need to opt for a full tower chassis. Well that's not the case any longer, no pun intended. We have seen a number of manufacturers packing in the features we love in full tower cases down into smaller mATX style chassis. Giving us the ability to choose where we want to house our precious components. One manufacturer that takes the case building designs to the limits is Thermaltake. They are well known for some radical designs such as the Level 10 that broke the traditional case style and then took the design even further with the revamped Level 10 GT. While those designs are well thought out for your home build they are too heavy and bulky for LAN party travel.

To give you the portability that is needed when lugging your gaming systems from LAN party to LAN party you need something smaller in size, but not in features. The Armor series from Thermaltake has been around for some years, and have notably been seen as some of the toughest and feature rich cases to build with. When they were looking to make the ultimate small form factor chassis, they built off of that design and in comes the Thermaltake Armor A30 SFF Gaming Chassis.

The Armor A30 packs a wallop in a small design. Some of the standout features include the ability to use full size graphics cards (such as the Radeon HD 6970), front panel USB 3.0, eSATA Support, Motherboard support up to mATX sizes, and more. If you wanted to see a little chassis pack a big punch, then I suggest you strap in and get ready for the feature rich ride of your life!

 

Closer Look:

The Thermaltake Armor A30 comes packaged in a sleek sturdy box to protect the case in transit. On the front of the packaging there is an image of the case along with the both the Armor A30 and USB 3.0 logos. On the rear of the packaging there is tear down image showing the parts of the chassis along with close-ups of some of the important features such as the removable motherboard tray, storage options, and cooling features. On the right side of the box is a list of the features that make the Armor A30 the chassis it is.

 

 

 

 

 

With the case out of the box you can see the amount of detail that went into the design. The chassis is made of SECC and plastic and it is a very heavy case weighing in at almost 15 pounds empty. No doubt the A30 will handle the rough and tough travel to and from your LAN parties. While considered a small form factor case, the size suggests otherwise. The A30 measures 18 inches long, 11.5 inches wide and 10.5 inches tall. It is more like a mid tower case squished into a cube. Included with the chassis is also the guide booklet and hardware.

 

 

Now that we have the Armor A30 out of the package let's start off with a look around the outside of the chassis.

Closer Look:

All around the Armor A30 there are a number of ventilation holes and mesh made up of a mix of steel and plastics. On the front of the chassis there are several drive bays including two 5.25 and one 3.5 inch bays for your optical drives and fan controllers. There are also the controls and front panel ports which we will take a better look at below. On the rear there is the motherboard backplate cutout, a power supply cutout for a full size ATX power supply, a cable pass through for the USB 3.0 cable, and four expansion slot bays. The Armor A30 uses a windowed side panel on both sides of the chassis so you can show off your carefully selected components when attending your next LAN party. There are also more ventilation holes to keep your high end components nice and cool. The case has some weight to it which shows how sturdy the construction is, coming in just shy of 15 pounds. Despite its form factor it is much larger than most traditional small form factor chassis with dimensions of 18 inches long, 11.5 inches wide and 10.5 inches tall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front of the chassis offers a number of options for the needs of any enthusiast. There are two full 5.25 inch bays for your optical drives and even a single 3.5 inch bay for a floppy drive if you still use them, or a fan controller could even be installed for the number of included fans in the Armor A30. On the bottom left of the case there are the ports that the A30 offers. The mix of ports on this case is a blessing as you literally have everything you need including a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, front audio jacks and even an eSATA port for your high speed external devices. To the right of the port are the power button, reset button, and power/HDD LEDs.

 

 

On the back of the chassis you can see the huge amount of ventilation that the A30 offers. At the top of the rear panel is the cutout for the full size ATX power supply and the small cable cutout for the USB 3.0 pass-through cable that provides the USB 3.0 support to the front of the chassis. At the bottom there are two 60mm exhaust fans to pull the warm air out of the case which run at 1500RPM, with a noise level of 18dBA, the back panel I/O shield cutout, and the four expansion card slots. The expansion card slots are covered by an access panel. To change out the cards you need to remove the access panel by the thumb screw, then you can access the expansion card screws to remove them. One thing that would have been nice is for this to be a tool less design since this is designed for LAN parties and who wants to carry screw drivers with them to a party. :)

 

 

 

On the bottom of the chassis there are four rubber feet designed to keep your case in place and from sliding around on those crowded LAN party tables. On the top of the chassis is the main cooling fan. It is an exhaust fan and uses a 230mm blue LED fan that operates at 1800RPM and with a noise level of 15dBA. The top is removed easily with a few thumbscrews and slide right off giving you full access into the inside of the chassis.

 

 

 

Now that we have the top removed we can get into the inside and see what really makes the Armor A30 work.

Closer Look:

With the front cover removed you can get a better look at the external bay cutouts in the chassis. There are the two 5.25 inch and the one 3.5 inch bay for your optical and accessory needs. You can also get a better look at the port and switches. Notice under the reset switch you can see the LEDs better, which are covered by the mesh grill when the cover is installed. In the center of the front of the chassis there is a 90mm intake fan that has the same blue LED glow as the top exhaust fan. This 90mm fan operates at 1200RPM, and has a noise level of 16dBA. On the front cover, the bay slot covers have a mesh filter material in them designed to help keep dust out of the case and keep your components clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bay section of the chassis is removable for ease of installation. Once the four thumbscrews are removed, the bay slides out for drive installation. The external 3.5 inch bay can be used for an additional hard drive if desired. On the top of the bay section there is space for two 2.5 inch hard drives or solid state drives. To install these drives requires little effort as this is a tool less installation. Just snap the locking mechanism into one side of the drive, line up the pegs on the bay section to the other side, snap into place, and you are ready to go! Underneath the bay section there sits two additional 3.5 inch internal drive bays. The section can be removed with a single thumb screw if needed or removed all together if not in use.

 

 

 

 

The true highlight of the Armor A30 design is the removable motherboard tray. With the removal of a handful of thumb screws, the tray slides fully out of the back of the chassis, which makes motherboard installation and maintenance a breeze. The tray supports motherboards from micro ATX to mini ATX form factors. For easy installation, there is a small notch on the tray that lines up with one of the motherboard holes and is designed to keep the motherboard in place while you secure the other screws with more ease, making the install painless. In addition to a variety of motherboard support, the Armor A30 was designed to house full size current graphics cards as well. The card is designed to slide into a narrow space towards the front of the chassis. However, there is one issue I ran into. Depending on the placement of the PCI Express slot on the motherboard, the card may not fit and will be blocked by the drive bay section. This setup will only work if the motherboard's PCI Express x16 slot is the first slot on the board. I tried the setup originally with a Gigabyte GA-MA785GMT-UD2H and could not get the card into the chassis. This is an important issue to consider when choosing a motherboard for this case.

 

 

 

 

To connect the front panel ports, buttons, and LEDs, there are several leads to be attached to the motherboard. For the power switches and LEDs there are four bi-color coded leads. The orange and white are for the HDD LED, the blue and white are for the power LED, the black and red are for the power switch, and the purple and white are for the reset switch. For the ports there is a single USB 3.0 lead, the front panel audio port lead, an eSATA cable, and the USB 3.0 pass through cable, which routes out of the back of the chassis and into the USB 3.0 port on the motherboard.

 

 

 

With everything installed, now we get a good look at the final build.

 

 

With the closer look done, how about we get to testing the Armor A30?

Specifications:

Case Type:
Gaming Cube
Material:
SECC
Front Bezel Material:
Plastic & Steel Mesh
Color:
Black
Side Panel:
Transparent Window
Motherboard Support:
9.6” x 9.6” (Micro ATX), Mini-ITX
Motherboard Tray:
Yes
5.25" Drive Bay:
2
Ext. 3.5" Drive Bay:
1
Int. 3.5" Drive Bay:
2 & 2 x 2.5" SSD / HDD
Expansion Slots:
4
Front I/O Ports:
USB 3.0 x 1
USB 2.0 x 1
eSATA x 1
HD Audio x 1
Cooling System:
Front (intake) :
90 x 90 x 25 mm blue LED fan (1200rpm, 16dBA )
 
Rear (exhaust) :
60 x 60 x 25 mm fan x 2 (1500rpm,18dBA)
 
Top (exhaust) :
230 x 230 x 20 mm blue LED fan (800rpm, 15dBA)
Liquid Cooling Capable:
No
Liquid Cooling Embedded:
No
Power Supply Supported:
Standard PS2 PSU
Power Supply Included:
No
Dimension (H*W*D):
266 x 291 x 456 mm
10.5 x 11.5 x 18.0 inch
Net Weight:
6.7 kg
14.8 lb
Security Lock:
No
Application:
Portable LAN Party System
Warranty:
3 Years

 

Features:

 

All information courtsey of Thermaltake @ http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/Product.aspx?C=1466&ID=1989

Testing:

To test the Thermaltake Armor A30 mATX case I will be taking some temperature readings on the APU and hard drives. These temps will then be compared against two other mATX cases to see how it holds up, and if the design makes the difference it needs. To simulate loads I will be running Prime95, small FFTs for the APU, and HD tune for the hard drive for one hour. I will be using AMD Overdrive for the APU and HD Tune for the hard drive, to monitor temperatures. All of the cases will be using their stock default fan setup that comes in the package. No additional fans will be added, keeping the tests fair. All of the components will also be run using their stock voltages, speeds, and latencies to keep anything from interfering with the scores.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison:

 

 

 

 

Overall it was a close race, but the Thermaltake Armor A30 with the combined large fan and largely mesh design pulled off the lower temperatures by a hair.

Conclusion:

The Thermaltake Armor A30 case should be in a class of its own. The number of features packed into that small of a chassis is amazing. Not only can it accommodate up to a generous mATX motherboard, but you can also squeeze in a full size graphics card as well. Now, how many LAN party attendees do you know will show up with a small form factor system packing that much fire power? The Armor A30 has space for up to three 3.5 inch hard drives, as well as the hidden compartments for up to two 2.5 inch hard drives. You can also place dual optical drives or other accessory controllers in the two 5.25 inch bays, and these are not the slim style you see on most small form factor cases. Cooling on the A30 is quite efficient as well with the included 230mm, 90mm, and dual 60mm fans. When in full operation they run fairly silent so you will not be interrupted on your all night frag fest. The fans on the front and the top have a cool blue glow on them so you can show off your system with the blue haze showing through the clear side panels allowing the crowd to ohhh and ahhhh.

One thing I really liked seeing on the Armor A30 is the USB 3.0 pass-through port. I have become a firm user of USB 3.0 devices including my Seagate FreeAgent Go 500 USB 3.0 drive and my Patriot SuperSonic 64GB USB 3.0 thumb drive so I do not have to reach all the way around to the rear of the case when transferring game files at my LAN parties. The one thing I did have an issue with however; is the problem with a full size graphics card not fitting with some motherboards. If your motherboard has a PCI Express x16 slot that is not the first slot on the board such as with my Gigabyte MA785GMT-UD2H, then you may have a problem getting the card to fit. I tried both the XFX Radeon HD 6970 and NVidia GeForce GTX 260, neither of which would fit, hitting on the front 3.5 inch bay support brackets.

All in all, even with the graphics card issue, this case is a dream to build with. There is plenty of space for some of today’s high-end components and as long as you hand pick the parts that you know will fit. Then you can have a small unstoppable machine for your next all night frag fest at your local LAN party. One thing that I would have liked to have seen included with this chassis is some sort of carrying strap. Being marketed as ideal for LAN parties, it is quite heavy especially with all of the components inside and can make carrying it awkward and back breaking. But even so, if you are looking for a great high end small form factor case, then I would highly recommend taking a look at the Thermaltake Armor A30 chassis for your next build.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: