In and Around the Thermaltake Level 10 GT

Starting this review I find myself experiencing the same issue I had when I started working on the Thermaltake Level 10 GT to begin with: where the hell do you start? But appearances can be deceiving, and once we break it down into what it really is, the whole enclosure becomes a lot easier to grok. What you're going to find is that the Level 10 GT isn't a radically redesigned ATX enclosure so much as just an ATX enclosure with tessellation turned on.

The front of the case sports four 5.25" external bays along with a single 3.5" external bay for either your archaic floppy disk drive or more likely your card reader. Given the way controls are beginning to migrate to the top of cases (a trend I'm actually a fan of), one day I'd like to see a 3.5" bay mounted vertically so the card slots would be at the top next to everything else. The Level 10 GT divides buttons and controls across the front stripe and the top of the enclosure in a way that seems like a strange compromise: the fan control, USB 3.0 ports, and eSATA port are all at the top of the case, while the audio jacks, four USB 2.0 ports, and power and reset buttons are all along the bar on the front. It's a strange orientation decision, only made stranger when you consider that the "show off" side of the Level 10 GT is on the left while these ports are on the right. Depending on where you put your desk and computer, something's going to be awkward.

On any given case, the left side is where the magic happens, and that's doubly true on the Level 10 GT. Its best and brightest user-friendly features are here, with a button that opens the hinged (and removable) side panel, a lever for directing airflow from the side intake, the window, and the five hot-swappable drive bays. The drive bays and side panel are all locked into place on shipment, and you'll need to use one of the keys (which ship attached to the back) to unlock them. There's also a rubber stopper next to the 5.25" bays that can be removed to add a removable headphone rack to the Level 10 GT, a nice convenience feature.

When you get to the back of the Level 10 GT it's business as usual, with a bottom-mounted power supply bay, eight expansion slots, and three rubber-lined grommets for water-cooling tubing.

Opening up the Level 10 GT reveals what I honestly consider the major flaw of the design: it's not actually that easy to work with and it's out of the norm in ways that may not be necessary. The 5.25" drive bays aren't truly cordoned off internally like the exterior of the enclosure would have you believe, but they're basically inaccessible from the left side. Likewise, you're not going to be replacing the front 200mm intake fan any time soon, or really any of the fans except maybe the rear fan. The cabling is wrapped up within the case, and the front fan is borderline inaccessible.

When you get around to behind the motherboard tray, you'll see a cutout for heatsink fan mounts, and all the hotswap drive bays are pre-cabled...sort of. This part is really confusing and was one of my major gripes when I reviewed the CyberPowerPC unit. Thermaltake has a power cable connected to all the bays, but leaves it to the end user to connect the SATA ports, and as a result of the SATA data cable spec's fatal flaw (loose connections), one of the drives didn't register on boot. When In-Win's $100 BUC integrates both the power and data leads and Thermaltake's case costing more than twice as much doesn't, I take issue. And given that it will take some force to replace the back panel (as it does with most cases), I worry that these cables will get knocked loose if they're not properly routed and affixed.

This is also the only side you can secure the 5.25" and 3.5" external bays on, which means they get to float free on the other side. There's a toolless clamp for the 5.25" drives and you can add an additional screw to secure them, but that doesn't make up for the lack of an easy way to secure the drives on both sides. As a result, our test optical drive felt pretty loose.

Introducing the Thermaltake Level 10 GT Assembling the Thermaltake Level 10 GT
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  • KoolAidMan1 - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - link

    It is inferior in construction and design to Corsair and Silverstone cases, yet it costs more than most of them. Again, I don't see the point.
  • kevith - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - link

    I don´t think it´s all that ugly. And actually, I´m surprised to see how many, that are willing to set looks over anything else when we´re talking an enthusiast case like this.

    To me it´s about cooling and noise, and in those fields this seems like an absolute winner.

    The issue of the securing the drives doesn´t matter to me anyways, I´m am a silence-freak, so I always find a way and a place to hang my drives freely mounted in rubberbands. Every "silencing, rubber mounting grommets" I ever tried were absolutely worthless. And HDD hum is a major noise factor. Eliminated trough SSD´s of course.
    (Frankly, I dont understand why manufacturers haven´t made up a "rubberband munting system long ago, and a caselike this isn´t supposed for lan-parties anyway.)

    And the price: Come on, if you go for this case it´s probably going to last you a very long time, so if you take the price pr. year, it´s not more than a cheaper case, that´s likely to be swapped substantially sooner.

    One thing about the price though: It´s not very nice to read about a poor paint job in this segment!!

    But thumbs up for Kevin G.´s post, the fine review and the interesting case
  • CList - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - link

    So I have a question for other "enthusiasts" out there...

    If you have the means and/or prioritize your PC so much that you're willing to spend $250+ on a case - why on earth do you need that many drive bays? Is it a macho thing to have a large case or do you actually have that many drives that you want to keep?

    I mean drives are so damn cheap these days... How many do you need? If you are willing to buy such an expensive case, then there's really no reason to own a drive that's smaller than maybe 750GB. Give the thing away and buy a larger one.

    If you need 10TB of RAIDed storage isn't it a lot easier to just put it on a little NAS box that you can stick in the closet with your router?

    Similarly for DVD drives - does anyone even have more than one now? What on earth do you use it for? I have one external USB-based BluRay drive that I plug in when I want to watch a movie or install some software, and then it goes back in the drawer for another two months.

    I have a really hard time understanding why anyone would want so many drive bays - unless you're operating on a budget, in which case why would you buy this case or one like it? Is it a "mine is bigger than yours" thing?

    Not trying to be critical, just curious...

  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - link

    NAS boxes still cost money, and even if they're RAIDed you're still looking at a bottleneck over the network interface.

    Honestly, I'd use all the 3.5" drive bays here. I edit video; I keep project files and personal data on a RAID 1, then my scratch disk and gaming drive is on a RAID 0. And then my system drive is on an SSD.

    People out there will definitely use these drive bays.

    As for optical drives, I have a blu-ray reader and then a blu-ray writer, so that's two right there. ODDs are becoming less and less important over time, but they're still relevant.
  • etamin - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Thinking as logically as I can, I think the bays only exist to fill up space, a decision by the manufacturer and not something a typical user looks for. With at least one bay and a hdd rack, the length of the case must become longer. If a full sized tower (sized based on mobo) were to maintain a semi box-like appearance, there would be a lot of empty space in the front end. Using that space for extra fans is less cost effective for manufacturers than simply adding racks to the chassis. Some makers go for hdd racks, and others go for bays.

    Just a thought..
  • just4U - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - link

    I build a fair number of systems and get to test out alot of cases because of that.. I keep thinking that perhaps it's time to go back to some older models since the designers of some of these cases need to be shot. I use 2 Lian-Li PC60 cases. (7 years now) and keep going back to them. Removable motherboard trays, Brushed aluminum, and just overall solid designs. I keep changing fans but that's it.

    I think.. make the case a little fatter to accomadate 120mm fans (front back) Move the Psu to the bottom, add a filter, add 1 140 or 200m fan to the top, add usb 3.0 and microphone/headphone jacks to the front.. you now have the perfect case. Call it a day. Even lian-li won't do it. Ticks me off. How hard can this be???
  • just4U - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - link

    and yes .. I know about the Lian Li PC-60FNW but it doesn't have a removable motherboard tray like the PC60,A,+ etc. Not sure why Lian-Li moved away from them because they were major selling points.
  • etamin - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    good news...what you want exists: Lian Li PC-V2120
    bad's oversized and very expensive
  • corriellan - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - link

    I'm adopting this one.
  • Conscript - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - link

    looks like we have another Stranger in a Strange Land fan...I smiled :)

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