Thermaltake Urban S21 Review

hornybluecow - 2013-04-29 21:57:39 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: hornybluecow   
Reviewed on: May 8, 2013
Price: $69.99

Thermaltake Urban S21 Introduction:

Thermaltake has always been in the business of cooling. I first heard of the company around 2003 after buying a large clunky aftermarket cooler (remember those?). After reading a bit, I found out I was scammed because I bought a cheap brand while Thermaltake had the good ones. Anyways even though they were around a few years before that, this was when Thermaltake became a well-known company for adequate cooling products. This time around they have released a new Case product line called the Urban Series, ranging from the lowest number S21 (Mid-Tower) to S71 (Full-Tower). Each case has features distinguishing itself from the others.

Today I will be looking at the Thermaltake Urban S21 mainstream mid-tower. At the time of writing this review, the case has yet to be released, but both Newegg and Thermaltake's own website have it listed for next week. At $69.99, this case is looking to fit right in the middle of the group. You will find other quality big name brand computer cases like the Cooler Master HAF 912, NZXT Tempest 410, and Corsair Carbide 200R all within a $10 difference. That group is a large competitive market, and OCC has not reviewed many of them. Let's see how Thermaltake's new Urban case stands up to the competition.

Thermaltake Urban S21 Closer Look:

Did I ever tell you about the mysterious UPS man? No? Well let me make this brief. It seems my door is haunted or something because I constantly find a note on my door left from UPS claiming to have stopped by to deliver a package. Mind you, my computer desk and I are right next to the window. They even list times that defy time itself. I call them the "UPS Time Traveling Squad" or UPSTTS for short. They leave a note saying "Stop by 7-9am" with the note being placed on my door between 1 and 2pm. This time when someone knocked on my door, I was surprised to find a man holding a box for me. Maybe my note saying, "Please knock UPS man" had an impact , or it could be a new guy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enough stories, lets get to the box! Coming from a graphic design background I can honestly say I appreciate the simple, yet informative box. On both sides it says the name "Thermaltake Urban S21 - Simple, Yet Elegant" and below that "Internal USB 3.0". Personally I care more about what inside the box and how it's packaged than big letters on the side. However, to some the presentation matters just as much. If this was sitting on a store shelf I would know exactly what I'm buying with even more helpful information listed on the sides describing dimensions.

 

 

After opening the box, it seems to be packaged using the standard method, or maybe even a bit of extra material. Being a very snug fit, it took a bit of work to pull it out of the box. I consider this a win in my book. Most stores slap a shipping label on the side and off it goes, so knowing that nothing is going to move in this box is a relief. The Styrofoam gives enough space so the case is not right against the box. This is a very good sign of care being put into the product.

Thermaltake Urban S21 Closer Look:

It's unwrapped! After some careful tugging, the Styrofoam came off, and the case looks about the same as the picture on the box. No, that is not your eyes playing tricks, the case is black. Call it what you want, but it does match the box so no one is pulling a fast one over you. When Thermaltake said "Simple yet Elegant" on the box, they really meant it.  This case is slender with rounded edges on the front and back to keep your eyes moving. Pertaining to the sides, I can't help but wonder if the case is using the golden ratio or perfect rectangle in which the Greeks perfected this idea. Look it up; it's a good read even if maybe I’m going a little far. The case holds a simple clean shape, and I don't think you can find anyone who will argue that fact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The factory made an oops! The top thumb screws to the door panel was on so tight that it bent the metal and I had to use clamps to get it off, as a screwdriver would have stripped the screw. It happens though, and after getting the screw out, I did a few bends and the case was fixed.

 

Getting back on track, the top portion has two USB 3.0 ports as well as microphone and headphone jacks. I'm glad to see companies putting USB 3.0 ports on things, but the issue ultimately reminds me that most motherboard companies are still only offering one USB 3.0 port. As a consumer, you must choose wisely on how to use it. Personally, I use my monitor as it's the closest thing to me, but all other times it's straight into whatever port on the front is offered. Instead of going to the back on the motherboard it's very hardy to have high-speed ports on the front. Continuing on, a blue bar lights up indicating the computer is on just in case you didn't notice sound coming from the box. I must note that this blue light has been given great care not to blind you. In the day time you can see it as well as night, but neither times does it burn your eyes like many others with power lights. In fact, I have taped over LED lights in the past for that very reason. Lastly, looking at the top from left to right, you have the hard drive light that blinks red when being used, the big power button, and the reset rectangle. Pressing the power button was smooth and not likely to get jammed with round corners.

 

 

Sometimes a picture can be misleading. In this example, looking at the case I honestly thought it had no external bays, reading the specs on the side of the box I realized it must have a very nice door to fit the aesthetics of the case. You simply grab the lip on the button and pull. It doesn't fall back because the door has a little bit of weight and is held on by magnets strong enough to keep the door snugly in place. I like this design choice because all too often does a latch break after opening and closing it too many times. At that point, I usually rip the door off if I can't find the screws. You don't have to worry about that with this case. Secondly, you have a fan filter attached. It was a simple affair to get it off and just as easy to clean.

 

 

Lastly, the top of the case has a 140mm vent with a mesh to stop dust. It does not have holes to screw a fan on nor can the mesh be removed.  I went to the website to double check and found nice pictures showing a top-mounted fan. I then checked the manual and didn't see it listed. When I inspected it up close, that mesh isn't meant to be removed. If you did somehow manage to remove it, the fan will hit the motherboard. I guess when they say, "*The product picture(s) is only for your reference, it may differ from the actual product" it is true.

Thermaltake Urban S21 Closer Look:

Removing the side panels only required taking off two thumb screws on each side. Other than the mishap of the screw that I explained earlier, these come out without much effort but firmly enough to not fall out or leave the door loose.  This case is a mid-tower, and the motherboard tray seems standard. I will note that they tray does not come out like some cases offer. I wasn't expecting it to nor do I ever use the feature, but it's worth mentioning.  Looking at the bare bones here you only have three 5.25" bays available as the top one is occupied by USB ports, sound, and buttons. Below that, one slot is reserved for a floppy (err 3.5" exposed) bay. Nowadays, exposed bays are often used for multi-card readers. Moving down some more, you get five 3.5" bays for your hard drives. With that being said, the whole case is set up to be tool-less, which has become the standard . Thermaltake didn't rock the boat on this one, and they came out easy enough. A big feature in this case design is space for 12" graphic cards. Considering I haven't ever seen anything over 11" , it is safe to say the case is future proof in that aspect. In the end, you may have to make a trade-off between a long card and 3.5" bays. Once you put in a HDD and all the wires, the gap between the two is very little.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a close up of the tool-less design; you have five 3.5" bays and a sixth exposed. The right picture shows the assortment of cables you get: audio, USB 3.0, power, reset, and hard drive pins. Down below, you have a space for a 120mm fan that will sit right next to your power supply if it is small enough. I will also note once again that there is mesh as a dust filter, but it cannot be removed.

 

 

Here is a close-up of what I was talking about when I said you lose the top 5.25" bay. I will also note that those cables cannot be routed around the back, they must hang down over the DVD drive.  Cable management is something I will be talking about in more detail here shortly.

 

The case comes with two 120mm fans. The back one is snug with little room to spare; if you are thinking about using one of those closed-loop coolers, the tight space might be a problem. In my original attempt, neither the Corsair H60 and Antec 620 that I had on hand cleared it. Since the radiator is just a tad larger than the fan it sits on, it hit the top metal to which the side panel connects. I was nearly convinced, but I jumped on to Thermaltake website, and sure enough a picture of a liquid closed loop cooler clearing the top. Then I went back and tried different methods until I found that installing the inside screws first pushed the cooler against the fan so it wasn't hanging off which gave the clearance needed.  If the case had 1 cm more width it would have cleared easily, but It will fit with patience. This conundrum also had me thinking about whether or not an aftermarket air cooler would fit. My past experience by just looking at it says no, but do not take my word for it because I didn't have the means to test it. I did measure 16.5cm from the board to the side panel. Take away 1-2cm to account for the CPU socket being raised, and you have 15.24cm clearance. Interestingly enough, Thermaltake's official number is 155mm or 15.5cm so my math was fairly accurate. The Noctua NH-D14 has a height of 158mm. In short, not all aftermarket coolers will fit; you will want to count before you buy.

 

 

This case is not meant to hide wires or run them behind the tray and is in fact completely closed. You have a little bit of clearance for the 3.5" bays, and I was able to shove (*cough hide cough*) the motherboard 24-pin connector, but doing so took up all the space.

 

Inside the case tied to the side you will find a manual, a bag of screws containing zip ties, a speaker, and an assortment of screws. These pieces are standard in any computer case.

 

The computer is assembled! Here is where I have major issues with this case. As you can see in the picture. the jumble of wires creates a distracting mess that takes away from the aesthetics of the case. I tried to hide them, and believe me, it was worse the first time. I took everything out and tried again. Because there is zero space behind the motherboard tray, I could not run the 8-pin power connector like I normally do and instead had to wrap it around a 10.5" video card. Another large issue is that the PSU fits so snugly to the fan grill that I could not get it flipped; it now draws or blows it owns air outside the case. In a previous picture, you can see a metal bar that holds the PSU in as well as little pads to stop vibration. Unfortunately, the problem is that the fan grill presses against the pads lifting it just enough so it cannot slide into place. I have more gripes but you get the idea. It's more of my personal letdown because of the amazing potential this case has, only to be held back by wires. It is worth mentioning that I did not get cut once while installing this box, and that is rare. I could not find one sharp thing made by Thermaltake.

Thermaltake Urban S21 Specifications:

Case Type
Mid Tower
Dimension
438 x 185 x 497 mm (17.2 x 7.3 x 19.6 inch)
Side Panel
Transparent Window
Color
Exterior & Interior : Black
Cooling System
Front (intake) :
120 x 120 x 25 mm Turbo fan (1000rpm,16dBA)
Rear (exhaust) :
120 x 120 x 25 mm Turbo fan (1000rpm,16dBA)
Top (exhaust) :(optional)
120 x 120 x 25 mm
Side (intake) : (optional)
120 x 120 x 25 mm
Bottom (intake) : (optional)
120 x 120 x 25 mm
Material
SECC
Drive Bays
Accessible : 3 x 5.25", 1 x 3.5"
Hidden : 5 x 3.5" , 1 x 2.5"
Expansion Slots
7
Motherboards
9.6" x 9.6" (Micro ATX), 12” x 9.6” (ATX)
I/O Ports
USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio x 1
PSU
Standard PS2 PSU (optional)
LCS Upgradable
Supports 1/2"?3/8"?1/4" water tube
Other
CPU cooler height limitation: 155mm
VGA length limitation: 320mm

 

Thermaltake Urban S21 Features:

Thermaltake Urban S21 Cooling;

 

 

 


 

All information is courtesy of: http://www.thermaltake.com/products-model_Specification.aspx?id=C_00001978

Thermaltake Urban S21 Testing:

Testing a chassis requires the computer to stay at idle and load for one hour. Doing so will give you an idea of what your computer may be like under stress. Normally your computer will not be running this hot, but we do not all live in cold weather or do similar things. Therefore, a full stress test can give people the idea of what it can handle and whether or not heat gets trapped over time. The case is left with stock features to give you an idea of the temperatures without the need for extra fans. It's almost guaranteed to have a slight drop in temperature when more fans are added, but that will not be covered.

I will be using Prime95 "small FFTs" for the CPU load and 3Dmark Vantage "Extreme preset" for GPU. I would like to note that for this review I am using an AMD FX 8350 with a sensor that is reporting false numbers. My solution was to offset it by 10c and allow the full stress to take place. If you look up normal temps with an AMD stock cooler you will find it to be near what I have if they ran Prime95 also. For this reason, a 10c offset seemed enough. The goal of this test is to show a comparison between cases on how much the temps vary and that is just what I have done.

 

Setup:

 

 

 

 

 

If you look at the CPU temperature charts, the issue here is hot air becoming trapped at the top corner between the rear fan and the vent causing the metal to heat up rapidly. Without the possibility of adding a top fan, an aftermarket liquid closed loop cooler might be the only measure to really decrease dissipated heat getting caught. Any traditional air heatsink is going to run into this sort of problem.

The GPU temperature chart may be the least important chart because the graphic card varies in every computer. Without the addition of a side fan (optional) you are once again stuck with open vents for dissipation of hot air. A push or pull fan setup on the side panel would have a greater impact on load temps. A fan can be added if you choose to, and the chart represents a truly stock case.

Once again, temps will vary on the chipset because each motherboard has different cooling solutions on the chipset. Generally the standard these days is to have the Northbridge and VRMs attached to a large heatsink that wraps around the CPU socket. As you can see, the temps in Thermaltake case are much higher than RaidMax. This variation is contributed to either A) the CPU heatsink pumping hot air directly onto the chipset or B) the lack of a top mounted fan to move air faster rather than the back fan doing all the work.

The Thermaltake S21 did not preform very well under high load, and I think it mostly has to do with the lack of cable management. Yes, in a smaller case you are going to see an increase in temperatures, but the enemy is often just cables blocking air flow, and this appears to be what happened here. The lack of support for a top mounted fan didn't help either. Even so, I like to test my cases out as stock, but having the option would lead me to try an extra fan that could potentially lower temperatures.  Even though I haven't found a way to properly measure how long it takes temps to drop from load to normal idle, my observation simply concludes that it would take a very long time. Air was getting trapped in the top corner, and I could feel the warmth. Are the temps really out of the realm of normal? No, and I've used cases that are far worse.
 

Thermaltake Urban S21 Conclusion:

Let me recap for the people who were not able to read the whole review and skipped to the end. Those of you who could contain the overwhelming urge to read this conclusion first, congrats! Did anyone ever tell you that patience is a virtue? Anyways, let me explain my reasoning and scoring method. First I look at what the company is saying they offer. For example, the company states the case supports large / long graphic cards or ten quiet fans. In any example, I examine what is advertised versus what is actually offered. Most of this becomes uncovered as I take pictures to document the product. If the company does not stay true to its word than it loses points because no one ever wants to be sold on false advertisement. Next I look at what the product is marketed for and put it into perspective. An example of this could be trying to overclock a CPU in a Mini-ITX case and expecting a low temperature. This would contradict its target market and something I try to catch so it does not affect the score. The last bit is my own interjection. What could the case offer in its price range, and what do other companies offer. This category may include an extra fan, cable management, different color paint, or support for larger video cards. This list is endless so let's move on to the conclusion.

Now let me run though the Pros and than the Cons I have listed. The Pros include a few highlights which give the case its unique offering including a clean and sleek design with rounded edges. This case is far from ugly. It also offers quiet fans through observation (no data) and a dim power light that is easy on the eyes. Far too often is the power light so intensely bright that you can't help but look away and wish it wasn't lit. The last two features  support for long graphic cards and tool-less design  are becoming more standard at the $70 price point. 

Interestingly enough, every one of my objections has to do with the interior layout of the case. I think lacking the ability to run cables behind the tray is something Thermaltake could have solved. Adding even a little bit of space would have its uses; for example, being able to run the 8/4 -pin behind the tray and wrapping internal connectors behind the bays. The rest are minor issues and most notably is the phantom top fan. Neither the box nor the manual state the ability to mount a top fan, but the website shows it clearly. I can't really hold Thermaltake accountable for this because its website states the product may vary, and nothing false about this claim. Nonetheless, I think the case would have benefited from the additional fan option. Finally, when I took into account what the case is made for, I think the intended market may not be interested in aftermarket coolers. If you are then I suggest you find the measurement of the heatsink before buying.

When I received the case in the mail I was very excited because I have liked many of Thermaltake products in the past. As I took pictures and started to noticed potential flaws that in the end came to be true, I felt let down. This case, with a little tweaking, can offer so much more, but and yet stay within dollars of a few better cases and offer something different. The question really comes down to what is better vs what is offered. My Cons my not even be on your radar but are my biggest concerns. Therefore if you are trying to get a computer that looks clean with a sleek design and runs very quiet, than you could do a lot worse. For the rest of us, the smallest changes could have made a world of difference. With this case, Thermaltake didn't reinvent the wheel, nor did they keep it rolling. It is just a wheel.

Pros:

Cons: