Articles: Cases/PSU
 

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The quality of the dust filters is rather low. They are but thin flexible sheets of plastic with perforation. The mesh size is too large for them to be really effective as dust filters.

The open 5.25-inch bays share a single compartment for three devices although they might have been implemented as individual compartments. On the other hand, few users utilize all of the 5.25-inch bays of their computers and 5.25-inch devices do not need as much cooling as other components, so I can understand the developer’s reasoning. It would make the design of the system case more complex and make it even larger than it is without bringing about any tangible benefits.

5.25-inch devices are fastened in their bays with screws, like elsewhere in this system case. The top bay is meant for an optical drive and has a spring-loaded faceplate that can be adjusted to the position of the drive’s eject button. It is impossible to remove the faceplate to leave the drive’s own front panel visible because the metallic fastening frame of the faceplate is going to get in the way of the optical drive.

As opposed to the mainboard and power supply compartments, the cover of the 5.25-inch compartment doesn’t open up by 90 degrees. If you try to throw it open, like the covers of the other bays, you may scratch the metal and even bend it.

I should also note that there is quite a long distance from the mainboard to the optical drive bay, so you may even need to look for long SATA cables (this depends on the position of the SATA ports on your mainboard).

 

The biggest “drawer” accommodates a mainboard with expansion cards and CPU cooler. There is no technical way to put these components apart as yet.

Like with the PSU bay, there are limitations regarding the size of components you may use. Particularly, the maximum height of the CPU cooler is limited to 150 millimeters whereas the maximum length of the expansion cards is limited to 310 millimeters. This is going to be enough for the majority of coolers and graphics cards but there are exceptions that will not fit in. Unfortunately, most of the exceptions, like the Level 10 itself, are enthusiast-targeted products. For example, the Level 10 will not be able to accommodate tower-design CPU coolers with 140mm fans or dual-processor Radeon HD 5970 graphics cards (the rest of graphics cards, including the newest dual-processor Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590, are going to fit in nicely).

If necessary, you can get beyond the size limitations by removing the 140mm intake fan from the mainboard compartment.

The mainboard mounting plate is removable. It is fastened with four long thumbscrews. I personally think it easier to assemble everything right in the system case, but someone may prefer otherwise.

There is an additional expansion-slot bracket in the back panel of the system case for a total of eight rather than seven such brackets. This is meant for dual-slot graphics cards in the first place, but if you do want to build a CrossFireX or SLI configuration in this system case, you should be aware that you will need long power cables for your graphics cards. For example, my power supply has a 60-centimeter PCIe power cable, which is longer than average and sufficient for any conventional system case irrespective of the position of the PSU bay. In the Level 10, however, it could but barely reach to the graphics card in the top PCIe x16 slot. So, you are going to need a power supply with long graphics card cables or use power adapters in order to power up your multi-GPU configuration.

When it comes to cooling, the Level 10 doesn’t differ much from conventional system cases. It has a 140mm intake fan (1000 RPM at a specified 16 dBA of noise) and a 120mm exhaust fan (1300 RPM at a specified 17 dBA of noise). The fans are manufactured by Thermaltake’s traditional supplier Hong Sheng. The only difference from conventional products is that the cables from the power supply, hard disks and optical drives are put outside and do not interfere with your assembling the system and with the air flows. Frankly speaking, such a conservative cooling system looks rather odd in an extravagant system case like this one. Even affordable products for about $100 can boast 20cm and larger fans nowadays. Here, the exhaust fan is optimal because a larger fan just wouldn’t fit (a 14cm fan might be installed there if the compartment were a little wider). The front-panel fan occupies some space that may be required by the graphics card and is not secured properly in its place (its retention frame can easily be turned around with your fingers). Its efficiency can hardly be higher than that of a side-panel fan that would be free from such drawbacks. As opposed to conventional system cases, the intake fan doesn’t have to cool hard disks in the Level 10.

Level 10 developers have also neglected the time-tested solution in which an exhaust fan is installed in the top panel above the CPU cooler. With the Level 10’s layout, such a fan would bring the hot air from the mainboard compartment to the power supply fan, but I guess that would be a justifiable sacrifice in order to cool the CPU more effectively. The power supply would be cooler anyway than in a conventional system case with a top PSU bay.

Dust protection of the mainboard compartment is rather poor. The dust filters (one is in front of the 140mm intake fan and another is opposite the CPU cooler) have the same dubious design as the filter in the PSU compartment. Moreover, the cover of the compartment has gaps which have no filters at all (you can see them in the photo of the cover).

The compartment cover is padded with a layer of foam rubber but I doubt the efficiency of this solution in terms of noise reduction.

There are separate bays for up to six hard disk drives. Each bay is cooled individually. A couple of 60x60x15cm fans (2500 RPM, 19 dBA, manufactured by Hong Sheng) are installed for the two topmost bays. The rest of fans have to be purchased and installed separately.

Installing additional fans is quite a difficult process, by the way. You have to remove each bay by unfastening four screws, one of which is located most inappropriately for a screwdriver (the head of the screw is partially covered by the edge of the system case, and the wires from the front-panel indicators and outputs get in the way). Then you install your fan and mount the disk bay back in its place. You can make it easier to access the four screws by taking off some more elements of the system case, but that means you have to deal with a dozen screws more in order to reach those four. I guess Thermaltake should have installed fans into all the bays back at the factory. Considering the sky-high price of the product, this wouldn’t make any difference in terms of the price tag but the user would be spared the trouble of installing the fans himself.

Perhaps the developers have decided not to install those fans in order to reduce noise (subjectively, these fans are noisier than the two larger system fans or than my CPU and graphics card coolers in idle mode) but the fans might have been turned on only if a hard disk is installed into the appropriate bay, just as with the highlighting. Alas, the 60mm fans in the Level 10’s HDD bays are working constantly irrespective of whether the HDDs are present or not.

Interestingly, the user manual says that the HDD bays are equipped with intake 60x60x15mm fans. However, the fans are actually set to exhaust the air out of the bays. They cannot be set to take air in because of the recess for the fasteners’ heads in the fan frame: the fastening screws go deeper when the fan has the intake orientation and prevent you from installing a 3.5-inch HDD into the bay. Thermaltake must have thought it too much of a trouble to correct the user manual or replace the fastening screws with shorter ones.

The two top HDD bays have SATA power and SATA data connectors. To connect them, you just push the bay with HDD backward. This allows to hot-swap HDDs. The bottom four bays do not have this feature, though. You have to use data and power cables with them, which requires your taking the side panel off.

  

The disk bays have an aluminum “fairing” which is visible when the bay is installed and a steel plate for mounting the hard disk. A piece of transparent film is glued to the steel plate, which is meant to reduce vibrations from the HDD. Every bay is compatible with 2.5-inch devices: you only have to use the bottom mounting holes of your HDD (3.5-inch HDDs are fastened by means of the side mounting holes). It is impossible to install PATA disks into any of the bays because the cutouts for power and data cables are not compatible with them. This can hardly be regarded as a drawback, though. PATA drives have become really obsolete already.

The SATA cables from the front eSATA connector and the two disk bays with hot swap feature look identical, so it is rather hard to make out which one goes where.

The last but not least feature in the Level 10 design is the compartment for cables which in fact connects the numerous individual compartments into a single whole. The mainboard mounting plate has a cutout opposite the CPU socket that may allow you to replace a CPU cooler with back-plate without taking the mainboard out of the system case.

The compartment isn’t wide but sufficient for all the cables. You only have to make sure that cables do not get in the way of the side panel locks (one lock closes the HDD bays and the cover of the 5.25-inch compartment; the other lock closes the mainboard and power supply compartments). Even if cables make the panel bulge in some places, closing the lock will instantly flatten the panel.

The covers of the HDD bays and compartments do not fit tight but I didn’t hear any noise from vibrations or anything. On the other hand, the loose covers may eventually become noisy after one or two years of daily work. After all, the Level 10 is obviously meant for a long period of use.

 
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