Thermaltake Armor A90 Review

airman - 2010-05-20 05:16:49 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: May 31, 2010
Price: $89.99

Introduction:

Thermaltake is a brand that has been around in the computer industry for what seems like a century to computer enthusiasts, even if that may only be about ten years. With a plethora of computer cases, power supplies, fans, heatsinks, liquid cooling setups, and hard drive enclosures, Thermaltake is definitely one of the most prolific manufacturers in the computer accessory world. Founded in '99, Thermaltake's ongoing goal is to "formulate the perfect mixture of versatility, efficiency and thermal management", in both the server and home consumer category.

Being the first Thermaltake case I've been able to work with first hand, I don't know what to fully expect with the Armor A90. I remember when I was a lot younger, I saw a few folks with the Xaser IIs and IIIs at LAN parties and I couldn't get over how huge and cool looking those cases were. The Armor A90 is one of Thermaltake's newest additions to their line of cases, and now it's in my hands to throw it on the test bench and provide a full evaluation!

 

Closer Look:

The package of the Armor A90 is a glossy black cardboard box with high quality graphics on the exterior. The front of the box has a picture of the case along with the text, "Armor A90, Created for Combat." The right side of the box has the phrase: "This is a computer Chassis, please refer to our official website for product information". On the left side of the box is only a simple picture of the case with the manufacturer part number. Finally, the rear of the case has a graphical overview of the case with specifications and additional features, such as some pictures of the airflow directions and closeups of individual components with short explanations about them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Armor A90 is packaged just like any other case. Upon opening the box, you'll find the case wrapped in a plastic bag wedged between two blocks of Styrofoam. On top is the instruction manual - safe in a plastic bag. The manual is clear and offers explanations to most, if not all, of the case's features. I had to refer to it a couple of times if I didn't understand something, which I'll talk about over the next two pages.

 

 

With the case out of the box, the next couple of pages will involve a full overview of the case with my thoughts, as well as explain how different mechanisms work and how they perform.

Closer Look:

The Armor A90 is finished with a matte black paint job that feels very durable to the touch. The case has a good amount of weight to it, thanks to the hearty SECC construction. The mesh accents are very attractive the vents in the front of the case look as if they will provide good cooling capabilities to the case. Although inconspicuous, the top half of the front panel is a door that hides the optical drives. The front I/O ports include two USB ports, a headphone port, and a microphone port.  The HDD activity and power LEDs are below those ports, and under these LEDs is the reset switch.

The left side of the case contains a very small, triangle shaped window surrounded by some other shapes "pushed" into the panel, which adds a unique depth to the case. Looking to the rear of the case, it can be seen that the Armor A90 uses a bottom mounted PSU configuration. To the right of the expansion slots is a section of venting, which is becoming very popular in these "enthusiast" cases. Even the expansion slot covers have a small amount of venting in them. At the top of the rear, the external liquid cooling holes can be seen. These must be torn out, and replaced with the provided grommets. The right side of the case is plain, but has a similar pattern pressed into the panel as the left side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the front door will expose the three external 5.25" bays. The covers themselves are mesh plastic with a foam insert inside of it. The foam helps with noise dampening as well as acting as a dust filter. The front bezel is removed by three pop rivets on each side. With a little bit of convincing, it comes off cleanly with no wires attached to it. This adds a little bit of comfort to the user as there are no wires to to pull lose or break apart when removing the bezel. Under the bezel there is the 120mm blue LED fan and a big hole above it, for solid performance with the use of the optional 120mm fan.

 

 

The top of the case has a plastic piece attached to the top, which sits on top of the fan and has two extra USB ports and an eSATA port. I've always liked I/O ports on the tops of cases since a lot of cases sit on the floor in our homes. Ports on the front or the side may require a user to bend over to reach, while ports on the top are much easier to access. Thermaltake has provided some of each. The bottom of the case has four feet that raise the case by about one half of an inch. The four recessed holes in the bottom accommodate a solid state drive. I've seen this become more popular with the huge market in the solid state market. Under the power supply is a large vent complete with a dust filter. This is almost necessary for bottom mount cases since the intake of the power supply is usually on the bottom. Without this vent, the power supply would have additional resistance to airflow on the intake side.

The plastic top of the case is removable - it is removed by unfastening six plastic clips similar to the front bezels of any regular case. Removing this top piece is necessary to access the screws that hold in the top 120mm fan. As an important note, the I/O ports are screwed to the top piece. While removing the top, I lifted from the back and was not watching the front. There was enough slack in the USB cables to come out easily, but not in the eSATA cable. The bare contacts on the eSATA connector pulled out of its housing without giving much resistance, rendering it inoperable. I've never used eSATA, so it didn't bother me. I did want to mention this for those who did, as a reminder to make sure that there is enough slack in the eSATA cable before lifting the top piece off.

 

 

There are two things on this case in a form that I have not seen before. One of these additions is a cable clamp, which is to be for keyboard and mouse cables. A thumbscrew on the inside of the case releases the small clip and the hinge allows it to swing outward. The other addition is a pair of loops that act as a place for a small lock, which prevents the side panel from being removed when the lock is in place. I probably wouldn't use these, but they are definitely not in the way. It's nice to know that Thermaltake thinks and caters to small need, in a subtle fashion.

 

 

After sharing as much as I can with the exterior of the case, it's now time to move onto the insides and working components, as well as assemble the computer.

Closer Look:

The inside of the case is painted with the same finish as the outside - a matte, durable black finish. A relief that I quickly noticed once opening the case is that there is a heatsink access hole in the motherboard tray. I always spend a lot of time on wire management. Sometimes if I use a heatsink that mounts directly to the motherboard, I'm going to be reluctant to have to redo the wire management just to change a heatsink. Removing the motherboard can be necessary to do this if there is no access hole in the tray. As well as the access hole, another good feeling is the loads of space between the hard drive cage and the edge of the case. This makes a great place to tuck wires in the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A close up of the bottom rear of the case shows a clear look at the PSU mounting bracket and intake vent. The metal piece attached at the bottom on top of the vent is used as a stand-off for the PSU, relieving some of the stress on the back plate. It has to be moved for some power supplies, which requires removing two screws underneath the case. The rear left shows the two fans - the 120mm rear exhaust and the 200mm blue LED intake fan on the top. The hard drive cage, capable of housing six 3.5" drives, can be fount bottom front and the three 5.25" external bays can be found at the top front. I will explain the tool-less setup next.

 

 

 

The tool-less mounting system works as a simple hinge with pegs on it that secure the 5.25" devices in place. The hinge clips down and can be unfastened by pulling inward on them. I wanted to provide some extra shots of the large amount of space behind the hard drive cage. This case has some of the most room back here I have seen, and can make wire management much easier.

 

 

 

As you've probably learned, there are three provided fans with this case. The front 120mm clear blue LED front intake and the 120mm rear exhaust fan both run off of 12V and what is labeled to be 0.3A. The rear exhaust uses a 3-pin motherboard header, while the top exhaust uses a 4-pin Molex connector. The 200mm top exhaust fan also has blue LEDs, uses a 4-pin Molex connector, and pulls 12V at a labeled 0.2A. The fans are comfortably quiet and aren't a nuisance.

 

 

 

The headers for the four USB ports, eSATA port, headphone and microphone jack, and the front panel buttons and lights are shown below. The cable length is more than enough by about ten inches.  I just rolled up the excess and stuck it behind the hard drive cages.

 

After getting the computer installed in the Armor A90, I am pleased with the way the case's black color complements the rest of the components. Now that the computer is set up and ready to go, it's almost time to get it tested. The next page will contain manufacturer specifications as well as a compiled list of its features, followed by the test results.

Specifications:

Case Type
Mid Tower
Material
SECC
Front Bezel Material
Plastic
Color
Black Exterior
Black Interior
Motherboard Support
Standard ATX & Micro ATX
5.25" Drive Bays
3
Ext. 3.5" Drive bays
1 x 3.5" with 5.25" converter
Int. 3.5" Drive Bay
6 (with 1 x 2.5" HDD/SDD)
Expansion Slots
7
Front I/O Ports
4 x USB2.0
1 x e-SATA
HD Audio ports
Cooling System
Front (intake) 1 x 120mm Blue LED Fan, 1000RPM, 16dBA (1 x additional optional)
Rear (exhaust) 1 x 120mm fan, 1000RPM, 16dBA
Top (exhaust) 1 x 200mm fan, 800rpm, 15dBA
Side (intake) 1 x 120mm fan (optional)
Dimensions
502 (H) x 210 (W) x 515 (L) mm
19.8 (H) x 8.3 (W) x 20.3 (L) inches
Net Weight
8.2kg
18.1lb
Warranty
3 Years

 

Features:


 

Information provided courtesy of ThermaltakeUSA @ http://thermaltakeusa.com/Product.aspx?S=1122&ID=1957#Tab1

Testing:

To test the Thermaltake Armor A90, temperatures will be recorded for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and the overall system temperature during load and idle phases. Load will be simulated by Prime95 small FFTs and HD tune for one hour with maximum temperatures recorded by RealTemp. The GPU load will be the maximum value recorded by Rivatuner after five loops of 3DMark06’s Canyon Flight test. Each case is tested as is from the factory, including the fan configuration. As stated earlier, the fan configuration for the Armor A90 is front intake, plus a top and rear exhaust.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, the results are a little disappointing the GPU category, but I think that an additional 120mm side intake fan would do wonders for the GPU temperatures. Otherwise, every other test went fairly well. The hard drive temperatures were decent, and could probably still been improved by an additional 120mm fan in the optional mounting area. On the next page, I will wrap up my thoughts and this review in my conclusion.

Conclusion:

I like the way this case looks, feels, and performs. There is plenty of room inside of the Armor A90 even though it is considered a mid tower case. It can fit up to a 11.5" card, as long as there are not hard drives in the way. There is also a nice amount of area behind the hard drive cages for tucking wires. It is quiet, sleek, and is also not too flashy or bright. I like the painted interior, as well as the paint on the outside, because of its smooth and durable finish. At $90, this case is just what you would expect. A lot of thought, careful design, and quality manufacturing practices make the price tag well worth it.

With added front and side intake fans, I think this case could be one of the best performers on my charts. It was a little dissatisfying seeing every other case outperform the Armor A90 in the GPU idle test. The larger size and the good airflow of the case prevented a lot of extra heat building up around the GPU, which may be what allowed the Armor A90 catch up and tie with a couple of other cases. However, the Armor A90 had one of the lowest temperatures in the chipset and hard drive temperatures. With the extra 120mm fan in the front, the hard drive temperatures could possibly be even less. In my opinion, the Armor A90 is a very strong candidate for a case around the $100 mark. While it may not appeal to someone on a budget, a little extra cash can go a long way with this case.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: