Thermaltake Level 10 GTS Snow Edition Review

formerstaff - 2012-03-17 19:39:01 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: formerstaff   
Reviewed on: May 15, 2012
Price: $114.99

Introduction:

I did not know that this case was headed my way so of course it caught me by surprise when I opened my door. The first thing to catch my eye was 'Level 10' and that it was snow white. I got excited for a second, thinking I had a new tricked-out version of one of the most original and iconic cases in recent memory that is the result of a group effort by Thermaltake and BMW Design Group. When I quickly realized that it wasn't even the GT version of this case, but rather the Level 10 GTS version, I watched the box shrink in size considerably. While the Thermaltake Level 10 GT version is a Level 10 designed to get a good part of the design concept in the hands of the masses, the GTS Version is based on a box cabinet and seemingly aimed at a different market entirely.  Loosely based on the original Level 10 that is massive in both stature and weight, the GTS is a highly stylized and compartmentalized affair. The original Level 10 has a lot of architectural depth as it wraps its sections around the various components seemingly cantilevered to a common vertical side. Truly an enclosure that, in silhouette, looks more at home in a Frank Lloyd Wright coffee table book than on a shelf in Micro-Center. I was curious how much of the Level 10 flavor made it into, or could be worked into this stripped down, box-based GTS version.

Closer Look:

The Level 10 GTS arrives in a very high-gloss box with nice, full case shots on both front and back sides and little else in the way of information. An internal USB 3.0 badge and a statement telling us it is the 'Snow Edition' are all the specifications that can be gleaned. The sides of the box do not tell us much more. One side has a few scant features listed in thirteen languages, and the opposite has a smaller version of the image on the front. The top gives nothing in the way of new information either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slicing through the clear tape atop, the heavy gauge box springs open revealing that it is capped with thick Styrofoam. Once slid out of the box, you see a thin cloth black bag protecting the entire unit. The bag is stout enough that you may get quite a few uses out of it as transport to and from LAN parties to protect the very nice blindingly white, textured finished. The Level 10 GTS is one of those cases that is a sequel to a classic case, and I kept needing to remind myself to keep an open mind until I have run it through the ringer. Let's have a look at how 'Level tenny' the GTS version is.

 

Closer Look:

Unlike its much more expensive brothers, the GTS is based on a box design. One of the first things I noticed is how nicely the painted metal and molded plastic components match in color. On the front of the case we have four filtered, black metal mesh removable covers over the 5.25" bays. Thermaltake has done a nice clean job of wrapping the black knockout mesh around the substrate. Below the 5.25" bays there is a lone 3.5" bay that gets the same cover treatment. To the left is the steel keyed lock for the four 'Pit Stop 4'  Easy-Swap HDD trays below. The lower part of the front panel is a combination of more black mesh with a dentil mould effect of about 3/4" separating the easy swap bays. Like the other members of the Level 10 family, the USB and audio ports are arranged in vertical fashion down the upper half of the right side - a look I really like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a look at the sides of the GTS, we have mesh patterns on the left for either a 140mm fan or a 200mm fan for side intake. This opening, like all intake openings on the GTS, is covered with a fine filter that should catch the vast majority of debris trying to get into the case, especially when the static of the fan is added. This panel is an irregular shape and is cutout around the HDD array. It is finished with a wide molding that lends some finish and bulk to that highlighted area of the case. It is a nice touch by Thermaltake to give the case a bit of depth. Another nice feature for LAN party fans is a sturdy fold-out headset holder/hanger. The right side panel has a large beveled, raised area that will help with wire management and those power connectors that don't want to lay flat.

 

 

 

The top of the GTS is also filtered and set up for a single 200mm fan, or a pair of 120mm fans. For this review I exercised another option and mounted a 240mm radiator of the H-100 in push/pull fashion and had no clearance issues whatsoever. The bottom of the Level 10 GTS is again filtered for both the optional bottom fan and the bottom-mounted power supply.

 

 

 

The back of the GTS offers us seven expansion slots with a bit of a unique feature. The seven slots have a single master plate that can ostensibly be taken off to facilitate the removal and tightening of the thumbscrews for those of us with larger hands. Up on top are three grommeted holes for use with a water-cooling system. Also make note that around that metal loop on the top left is where they placed the keys for the locking easy swap trays.

 

 

 

 

Inside 'Pit Stop 4' drawer number four we find a hard drive sized box with the accessories for the GTS. The accessory kit for the Level 10 GTS is standard fare. You get a generous allotment of standoffs, HDD screws, and washers along with a Molex to 3-pin adapter and a motherboard speaker. The manual is brief but comprehensive on the basics of motherboard installations as well as graphics card and HDD installation.

 

 

 

Onward and inward, let's see what's inside the aptly-named Snow Edition.

Closer Look:

The GTS is a mid-tower leaning toward the small side. It accepts only Micro ATX and standard ATX motherboards. There is adequate space to work in, and I ran into no conflicts or shortage of cable management options. There are four large, grommeted wire management holes to the right of the board that provide good options for routing the wires. One of my pet peeves is grommets that do a zip-line back down to your hand whenever you pull a wire through, and that is not a concern here. Thermaltake has done a nice job with the finishing of the inside as I could not find a sharp edge anywhere inside the case. Thermaltake has provided a large CPU cutout for heatsink installation that should be compatible with most heatsinks on the market. The Level 10 GTS will handle the tallest of heatsinks with a CPU cooler height limit of 175mm . Behind the motherboard is about 7/8" of space to work with around the outer perimeter, and even more with the raise in the side panel such that a bulging side on your GTS will not be a concern. Front panel connections are a standard grouping: you get the featured USB 3.0 internal, audio, USB 2.0, as well as the power switches and activity lights. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GTS employs Thermaltake's spin on the now almost exclusively used tool-less mounting system for 5.25" bays. Thermaltake uses a 'twist-lock' type tool-less mechanism with a cam-like action that exerts pressure on the side of the component to lock it in place. It works very well and is among my favorite of the countless takes on tool-less mounting.

 

 

 

It is important to note that the GTS only comes with the compulsory front 200mm intake and rear 120mm exhaust. The side, top, and bottom fans are optional and are not included. In order to take advantage of the full cooling capability of the GTS, you will have to purchase fans separately. The rear exhaust fan is a black 120mm 'prop hub' style fan mounted in the standard top, rear position. The inside of the roof is filtered and will accept the fan options mentioned earlier. From the inside, we get a look at the 'Hidden' HDD tray that also gets a portion of the 200mm front fan airflow, but is not part of the easy swap array. The bottom floor of the GTS will allow for the installation of a 120mm intake fan along side all but the very longest PSUs.

 

 

 

 

The front panel is held on firmly by expanding pressure pins, but comes off with a firm pull. Once off, we can see the large blue LED 200mm fan. At the top of the fan we can peer into what Thermaltake calls the 'Hidden' tray situated behind and just below the 3.5" panel. We can also see the PCB for the USB 2.0/3.0 and audio front panel connectors. These are not mounted like 95% of the cases out there so a bit more care is needed since they are more susceptible to injurious torque while working without the front cover. Looking at the inside of the front cover we can see the locking mechanism for the main feature and signature item that the GTS is really built around: the Easy Swap HDD array.

 

 

 

 

Taking a look at the inside of the side covers, we get a look at the filter for the side fan and cutout around the protruding Easy Swap HDD array on the left side cover. On the right you can see the beveled, raised area affording additional room for wire management.

 

 

 

Next we'll take a look at the GTS hard drive system.

Closer Look:

The HDD system on the Level 10 Series is unique and is the main feature of this case. There are four hard drives in the GTS Easy Swap array that Thermaltake has dubbed the 'Pit Stop 4' system. All four use what Thermaltake calls S.S.S. or  'Smartlock Security System'.  This system uses a key-lockable, push-button system for opening and securing the HDD trays. In the back of the unit you can see that the power connectors are already installed in series, and just need to be attached to a single molex connector from the PSU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trays themselves are not the usual framed type, but rather solid plastic using spring steel for both the side latch mechanism and the delicate spring in the finger-pull that gives it a very fluid feel. The hard drives are mounted to vibration dampening rubber grommets with a screw in the center. This tray mount is perhaps the smoothest system I have used thus far.  I actually could not feel when the power and data headers were pushed into the back of the hard drive - very nice.

 

 

 

Installation with the Level 10 GTS went smoothly. Everything lined up and fit without issues, and everything that I disassembled went back into place without a fight, with the exception of the left side panel. The tabs around the frame lined up nicely, however cutting out the lower corner for the Easy Swap array seems to have made the panel a bit concave. This asymmetrical shape made it necessary to apply pressure downward in three places to get everything to catch. Not a major issue, but a little persuasion to the middle of the panel made it a two-handed job again. Wire management proved to be adequate and would handle another graphics card or two without getting too awkward. The tool-less mechanisms worked without flaw and hold the optical drive down tight. The extra space provided by the raised, beveled area on the right panel is a very nice touch. If you can keep any unused power connectors 1-1/2" from the edge of the case, you will not have to zip tie everything and will not have a bulge problem

 

 

Well there you have it - the Level 10 GTS all wired up and ready to go. Thermaltake made a nice choice with the front fan. The blue LED is not a retina burner like many blue LED's are, it just emits a nice glow.

 

 

Detail & Texture:

I like to add this section to my case reviews in recognition that most cases are purchased online from photos depicted in the best light and from flattering angles. Not everyone has a Micro Center down the road to go "kick the tires" before laying down hard earned money; details can make or break a case. Here I hope to give you a better feel for the details of the case and a better idea of what to expect emerging from that box. I hope you enjoy it.

Clockwise: Front panel, lower front detail, tool-less close-up, HDD push button.

 

 

 

 

Power array, logo close-up, lock rail ribs, HDD lock:

 

 

 

Bay cover close-up, front 200mm fan, Easy Swap Array, front fan hub

 

 

 

There is not a lot of 'embedded' detail on the GTS, but the detail that exists is nicely done and very clean. Let's wire up some components, see how the install goes, and experience what it's like to work with as a whole. On the next page you can have a quick look at the GTS specifications, and then we'll see how it handles the heat.

Specifications:

Case Type   
Mid Tower
Material   
SECC
Front Bezel Material   
Plastic
Color   
White and Black
Side Panel   
Solid
Motherboard Support
Micro ATX
Standard ATX
Motherboard Tray   
N/A
5.25" Drive Bay                
4
Ext. 3.5" Drive Bay   
1
Int. 3.5" Drive Bay
1x internal (also fit 2.5")
4x Easy Swap Bays (Also fit 2.5")
Expansion Slots
7
Front I/O Ports
USB3.0 X 2
USB2.0 X 2
Audio port
Cooling System
Top (Exhaust): 200 x 200 x 30 mm fan x1 or 120 x 120 x 25 mm fan x2 (Optional)
Rear (Exhaust): 120 x 120 x 25 mm Blue LED Fan
Front (Intake): 200 x 200 x 20 mm blue LED fan
Bottom (Intake): 120 x 120 x 25 mm fan (Optional)
Side (Intake): 200 x 200 x 30 mm fan x 1 or 140 x 140 x 25 mm fan x 1 (Optional)
Liquid Cooling Capable   
Yes
Liquid Cooling Embedded   
N/A
Power Supply Supported   
Standard PS2
Power Supply Included   
N/A
Dimension (H*W*D)   
462 x 233 x 510 mm - 18.2 x 9.2 x 20.1 inch
Net Weight   
6.8 kg / 15.1 lb

 

 

Features:

 

 

 

 

 

 

All information provided courtesy of Thermaltake Technology Co @ http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/Product.aspx?C=1477&ID=2103#Tab1

Testing:

I will be testing the idle and load temperatures of the system CPU, GPU, and chipset using Prime 95 after running the small FFT test for 30 minutes. The idle temperature will be taken after 30 minutes of idle activity. The GPU temperatures will be tested by running 3DMark Vantage for 30 minutes and then a return to idle activity after 30 minutes. The room temperature during testing was maintained at 72F (22.2C), and all cases were running only the fans with which they shipped.

Test Setup:

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results are good for the Thermaltake GTS. It runs almost a dead heat with the 650D, a case that I have been very happy with in its cooling prowess. Keep in mind that while the NZXT turns in much cooler numbers, it is in this review mostly for comparison and contrast to illustrate the difference between a mid-tower and a full-tower with directional core fans. As I covered earlier, the GTS only comes with the front 200mm and rear exhaust 120mm fans. I have to believe that there are at least a few degrees to be had by loading up the GTS with a bottom intake and/or a side fan. Turn the page for what may be a  surprising conclusion for this case.

Conclusion:

Well shame on me, and so much for forming preconceived notions. I somewhat discounted this case at first because it is so far removed from the ideals of the original case. What I should have done was look at this case for what it is. Frankly, it is a successful run at designing a case that is 1/7th the price of the original but still a very fluid and nicely finished mid-tower with one of the best hot swap systems in the industry. The GTS does all these things while managing to retain a wee bit of the Level 10 'cool' factor. The interior is nicely finished and makes for a good working space while installing components with grommets that actually stay in place. It is too bad that Thermaltake could not find a way to semi-seamlessly bolt, mold, or integrate a small handle into this case. It would have gone a long way to breaking up the 'box' effect and lending more 'Level 10'-ness to it. Being as light as this case is, it would be a candidate for my imaginary ' LAN case of the year' award. As an added bonus, you get a nifty place to hang your headgear when you are elbow-to-elbow with your frag-friends at the next FPS nerd Olympics. The only complaint I have of any consequence is that at this price point, I think it would be fair to include at least one of the optional fans. At $115 bucks, I don't think most people are going to be very persnickety about specific fans and will probably appreciate the side fan being there out of the box. 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: