Thermaltake System Cases: 5 Models Reviewed

Thermaltake is one of the oldest case makers, who is still highly active in the market. The company is offering products for every budget; from entry-level up to the most advanced and sophisticated. Today we are going to talk about the products from different price categories: affordable Commander MS-I, MS-II and MS-III, mainstream Level 10 GTS and a high-end Armor Revo.

by Dmitry Vasiliev
02/15/2013 | 02:56 AM

We’re going to review five computer cases from Thermaltake today. Three of them represent the new entry-level MS Commander series, the fourth model is a mainstream version of the conceptual Level 10, and the last one is a successor to the Armor which used to be highly popular in the top-end category.

 

The Level 10 GTS is almost twice as expensive as the Commander series models (MS-I, MS-II and MS-II) but considerably cheaper than the Armor Revo.

The price difference shouldn’t prevent us from comparing these products since we want to know the difference in capabilities offered by entry-level, mainstream and high-end computer cases.

Testing Participants

Thermaltake Commander MS-I

Despite the similar name, the MS-I is designed differently from the other two models in the Commander series.

 

This model can be identified by the side window (not a typical feature for entry-level products, by the way) and the asymmetric configuration of its front panel.

There are very few accessories included with this computer case. Besides a user manual and mounting screws (the four long ones are used to fasten a front fan), you can only find a PC speaker here.

As any regular computer case, the MS-I offers Power and Reset buttons as well as Power and Disk indicators. The Reset button can be easily pressed with a finger, but you can hardly hit it accidentally as it is placed apart from the Power one and is protected from above by a protrusion in the intricately shaped front panel.

The indicator LEDs are moderately bright and cause no discomfort.

The selection of I/O connectors is typical of entry-level products: two USB 2.0 ports, headphone and microphone sockets.

 

The interior is designed in the modern fashion with a cable compartment behind the mainboard's mounting plate, quick fasteners for peripherals, and even a removable dust filter in the PSU bay.

The PSU dust filter is placed inside the chassis in a removable plastic frame, which means you have to uninstall the PSU in order to clean the filter.

The filter itself is blameless, though. The fine mesh doesn’t resist the air flow much and keeps dust out efficiently enough.

Notwithstanding the modern design, the MS-I betrays signs of cost-cutting here and there. The metallic panels of the chassis are thin. Even though the chassis is rigid, the thin steel doesn't help suppress noises from the components of the working computer.

The top and bottom back-panel brackets are reusable whereas the remaining five are not.

All of the back-panel brackets are additionally covered with a special plate fastened with a screw. We don’t think it helps improve the fastening of expansion cards while its downsides are obvious: you have to deal with yet another screw and it makes the cheap computer case a little bit more expensive.

The covers of the openings for the pipes of a liquid cooling system are not reusable, either. They lack any rubber edging, just like the openings in the mainboard’s mounting bracket.

The solid plastic feet are not as hard as in ordinary computer cases of this category, but composite feet with a soft vibration-absorbing base would anyway be much better than any type of solid feet.

Typical of inexpensive products, the dust filter for the optional front fan is implemented as a sheet of foam rubber which unavoidably weakens the air flow.

The front panel fasteners are designed as metallic “petals” in the entry-level Thermaltake cases (we mean the MS-II and MS-III too) and work well. It is easy to take the front panel off and put it back, and there was no wobbliness after that operation.

The quick fasteners are designed in a primitive way and are yet another example of the manufacturer's cost-cutting drive: although the MS-I is meant for five internal 3.5-inch drives, there are only three quick fasteners for them.

There is a place for one internal 2.5-inch drive, too. You can install it on the bottom panel beneath the rack with 3.5-inch drives.

 

We didn’t experience any serious problems assembling our test configuration in this computer case. We’d only recommend you to use good old screws instead of the unreliable quick fasteners if you are not going to change your drives often.

The photo above shows that the MS-I can accommodate up to seven internal 3.5-inch drives. Besides the five 3.5-inch bays (the three bottom ones are empty in the photo), they can be installed in the two bays for external drives (using the quick fasteners, if you want). Considering that the front panel is only designed for one external 3.5-inch device, you can easily put as many as six HDDs in (plus a 2.5-inch SSD below them) without sacrificing anything in terms of functionality.

The MS-I supports expansion cards up to 25 cm long right opposite installed and connected HDDs. If there’s no HDD opposite the card, the allowable length increases to 32 centimeters. In other words, this computer case can accommodate any modern graphics card, let alone smaller cards of other types.

It is easy to lay the cables out neatly thanks to the dedicated cable compartment.

The side panels are easy to install as they don’t have a lot of fixing points you have to align at the top and bottom.

The cable compartment isn’t deep, though. That’s why the corresponding side panel bulges under the pressure of the cables.

The CPU cooler cutout in the mainboard’s mounting plate may turn out to be not large enough in some situations.

There’s a small cutout for the CPU power cable to hide the latter behind the mainboard. It is easier to lay that cable out prior to fastening the mainboard. Otherwise, you won't be able to put its 8-pin connector through that opening.

The MS-I is cooled by a single default 120mm fan with blue highlighting. It is on the back panel. When our mainboard was switched to Silent mode, the speed of the fan was only 630 RPM. That's silent indeed, but not efficient in terms of ventilation.

You can additionally put half a dozen 120mm fans into the MS-I, though: two on the top panel (but a large CPU cooler may conflict with them), two on the front panel (the top part of the upper fan is going to be covered by the I/O connector panel), one on the bottom and one on the side panel.

The assembled MS-I looks attractive.

Highs:

Low:

Thermaltake Commander MS-II

 

The MS-II doesn’t look much different from the above-discussed MS-I. We can only spot some minor variations such as an extra external 5.25-inch bay and the differently shaped side window.

But the two models are actually much more dissimilar than you can guess at first sight.

 

You can see a different kind of quick fasteners and a new chassis. We’ll discuss it in more detail below.

The I/O connectors include not only a USB 2.0 port but also a USB 3.0 one. The latter is to be connected to a mainboard header. We haven’t seen USB 3.0-compatible computer products in the affordable category before (the Antec One is somewhat more expensive).

The front-panel connectors are placed appropriately: two USB ports are separated by headphone and microphone sockets, so you can easily plug two large USB devices into them simultaneously. It must be noted that each of the cables for connecting the computer case’s USB ports requires two mainboard headers.

The Power and Disk indicators are rather too bright.

The front panel is similar to the MS-I’s with its plastic carcass, foam-rubber protection and metallic exterior mesh. It is fastened by means of six metallic "flowers", each composed of four "petals".

Unlike regular affordable products, the MS-II has reusable back-panel brackets with thumbscrews.

The openings for the pipes of a liquid cooling system are sealed with rubber stoppers now. The stoppers are very stiff and it's hard to bend their "petals".

Compared to the MS-I, the accessories now include a few cable straps and a power adapter from a 3-pin fan connector to a 4-pin PATA power connector.

In the MS-I the mainboard is installed onto protrusions in the mounting plate. In the MS-II, it is secured on threaded support pins. To insert the latter, there is a special tip for a cross-point screwdriver among the accessories included with the computer case, but it's not easy to screw in the pins near the top and back panel, anyway.

The vibration-absorbing pads turn out to be under the PSU fan’s grid rather than under the PSU case when the PSU is installed with its fan facing down. That’s not good.

You don’t have to take out your PSU or even open the computer case to clean the filter since the latter is located below the bottom panel. Besides the PSU, it protects the optional bottom fan.

The filter itself is worse than in the MS-I. The perforated sheet of flexible plastic resists the air flow more than a mesh.

The MS-II lacks a dedicated cable compartment, so you can’t but leave all cables in the main volume of the chassis. The interior design of the MS-II seems to be outdated by some five or more years.

Like in the MS-I, there is a place for a 2.5-inch SSD below the main disk rack which is designed for five 3.5-inch devices (plus another one if you don’t use the external 3.5-inch bay).

And like in the MS-I too, the quick fasteners do not fix HDDs properly. The fasteners are actually the same, even though shaped differently. So, as with the MS-I, you may want to prefer good old screws.

The same goes for the 5.25-inch device fasteners.

The side panel has a lot of fixing points as is typical of inexpensive computer cases. The window is the only unusual feature for this price category.

As there are no cables behind the mainboard to press against the side panel, the latter is easy to put into its place.

The CPU cooler cutout is larger than in the Commander MS-I, letting you remove your CPU cooler without taking the mainboard out of the chassis irrespective of the exact position of the CPU socket. The CPU power cable cannot be hidden behind the mainboard’s mounting plate.

 

The MS-II is somewhat less convenient than the MS-I when it comes to assembling your system, and the result is less neat and tidy since the cables cannot be hidden. On the other hand, you can tie the cables into orderly bunches using the included straps which were missing among the accessories to the MS-I.

The MS-II shows fewer signs of cost-cutting. It has quick fasteners for every bay. The openings for a liquid cooling system on the back panel are rubberized. The expansion-slot brackets are reusable.

So, the MS-I and the MS-II both have their particular highs and lows, but we’ll see in our practical tests which is preferable in practice.

The ventilation system is the same as in the MS-I except that there is only one fan seat on the front panel. The default fan works at a higher speed, though. It was 700 RPM in our mainboard’s Silent mode. Coupled with the larger interior (due to the lack of a cable compartment), this should have a positive effect on ventilation.

Every fan seat, except for the side panel, is equipped with a dust filter. The top filter is a perforated sheet of plastic that weakens the fan’s air flow. But even such not-very-efficient dust protection is not typical of entry-level computer cases.

The assembled Commander MS-II looks good but its LED indicators are too bright.

Highs:

Lows:

Thermaltake Commander MS-III

 

This computer case differs from the MS-II in its front panel but both are based on the same chassis. The removable façade has got a fourth 5.25-inch bay, which is supported by the chassis design, and is overall structured differently, but that’s the only difference between the two models.

 

The interior is the same as in the MS-II with the addition of a fourth quick fastener for an open 5.25-inch bay. The chassis design is identical.

So, the MS-III is only different in its front part which is larger, making the whole computer case larger than the MS-II. Just like in the MS-II, the front panel has a plastic frame, a foam-rubber dust filter, and a metallic exterior mesh. It is secured on metallic “petals” as well.

The MS-III wouldn’t be any different from the MS-II in terms of ventilation, so we decided to test it with an additional fan set in its front part to cool the disk rack. We used a Thermalright TR-FDB-12-1300 for that.

The accessories are the same as you get with the Commander MS-II except for the different product name on the user manual.

The I/O connectors have moved into the middle of the front panel but still include headphone & microphone sockets in between one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port.

The Power and Disk indicators have changed their shape but, like in the MS-II, are too bright. Their holes in the front panel are smaller, however, so they are only distracting when you’re looking straight at them.

 

Everything we’ve said above about assembling a computer in the MS-II applies to the MS-III, too. There is only one unpleasant nuance. The cables of the front-panel I/O ports get in the way of the HDD in the top bay. You can install an HDD there but the quick fastener may snap under pressure.

By the way, it is rather confusing that the quick fastener has to be turned clockwise to unlock and counterclockwise to lock (this refers to all the three Commander MS series products and to the external bays of the Level 10 GTS). Fastening something is usually associated with a clockwise movement.

The ventilation system is identical to the MS-II’s: a preinstalled highlighted 120mm fan on the back panel (rotating at 690 RPM in the mainboard’s Silent mode), one fan seat on the front, side and bottom panel each, and two places for 120mm fans at the top of the chassis. Every fan seat, except for the side and back-panel ones, is equipped with a dust filter.

The additional fan we installed opposite the HDD rack was rotating at 790 RPM in the mainboard’s Silent mode.

The MS-III looks less aggressive than the MS-II but we guess that the main difference between the two models is not about design but about component layout. The MS-III is supposed to stand on a desk with its I/O connectors in the middle of the front panel whereas the MS-II, with its I/O connectors at the top, is meant to stand on the floor.

Highs:

Lows:

Thermaltake Level 10 GTS

The Level 10 GTS is a simplified version of the Level 10 model we reviewed earlier.

 

The key concept of the Level 10 (isolated compartments with individual ventilation) is not implemented here. The Level 10 GTS is quite ordinary in terms of its interior design. The only reference to the unconventional Level 10 is the disk rack which can be accessed from the outside.

 

As opposed to the original Level 10, the HDD bays have no individual ventilation. The front-panel 200mm fan services them all.

We can note that the back panel, mainboard’s mounting plate and 5.25-inch bays are shaped in such a way as to improve the overall rigidity of the chassis.

Coupled with thicker panels compared to the Commander MS series, the Level 10 GTS is quite a robust thing indeed.

There’s a cover plate above the expansion-slot brackets, just like in the Commander MS-I. There are three rubberized openings for the pipes of a liquid cooling system at the top of the case.

The top panel has a dust filter (a perforated sheet of plastic) under which you can install different sets of fans or a radiator of a liquid cooling system.

The accessories are the same as you get with the Commander MS-II and MS-III except for mounting screws and a key for the HDD bays. There’s only one key here, so you should take care not to lose it.

The I/O panel offers twice the number of USB ports available with the Commander MS series: two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports which connect to mainboard headers. Microphone and headphone sockets are placed in between the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 interfaces.

Below them, there are Power and Reset buttons. The latter is smaller but you can easily press it with your finger. Lower yet, there are small Power and Disk indicators. They are not very bright and won’t distract you. By the way, the placement of the connectors, controls and indicators along the right edge of the front panel is yet another reference to the original Level 10.

The front panel is secured by means of six plastic holders which ensure tighter fastening than the metallic “petals” of the Commander MS series, but the plastic itself is less reliable than metal, of course.

You can only reach the front fan’s dust filter by removing the front panel, so you can’t avoid performing this procedure and running the risk of breaking the plastic holders.

Although not an entry-level product, the Level 10 GTS betrays some cost-cutting measures in its design.

The hard plastic feet are one example of that. We expected something better from a $100 computer case.

The cheap quick fasteners of the external 5.25-inch bays are identical, except in color, to those of the Commander MS-II and MS-III. The manufacturer might of course claim that he uses elements of the mainstream product in its entry-level products, but the quality of the fasteners is not up to the mainstream class.

By the way, the manufacturer’s website shows a different and better type of quick fasteners such as used in the Armor Revo. We’ll discuss them below.

That’s about all our criticism concerning the cost-cutting measures but there is one functionality-related problem, too.

Ventilation wasn’t in the focus of the designers of the disk bays, so each HDD is totally enveloped from every side. It can only get some air flow from above. We really doubt that the preinstalled 200mm front-panel fan can ensure proper cooling for HDDs under such conditions.

Otherwise, the disk bays are handy. They are compatible with 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch devices and the side mounting points even have rubber pads to absorb vibrations. It is easy to grip the bay while taking it out. To do this, you need to open the front-panel lock, press an appropriate button on the front panel and pull at a bay. That doesn't sound simple, but the good side is that the disk bays cannot slip out accidentally.

We wouldn’t call it full-featured hot swapping, though. You have to work with your screwdriver to replace an HDD by unfastening (and then fastening again) four nonstandard screws.

It is much easier than usual to connect the installed HDD, however. All of the HDDs' power cables are connected via an adapter to a single SATA power connector of the PSU. So, you only have to plug in SATA interface cables.

Of course, there are simplifications compared to the original Level 10. The bays are plastic rather than metallic (and do not support individual cooling) whereas the SATA interface cables are not pre-attached to the HDDs so that you only had to plug them into the mainboard’s connectors. On the other hand, the Level 10 GTS is still superior to any comparably priced computer case when it comes to connecting HDDs.

Besides the four disk bays described above, there is one bay inside the chassis. Located between the main disk rack and the external 3.5-inch bay, it is cooled by the front fan but not easy to take out.

The mounting holes suggest that this bay is compatible with both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch devices, too.

It lacks the connection convenience of the four main HDD bays but is cooled much better.

The unconventional HDD bays require a nonstandard side panel which has a cutout for them. The side panels have multiple fixing points at the top and bottom, as is typical of inexpensive computer cases. We've seen the same solution in the Commander MS-II and MS-III discussed above.

 

There is a flip-down headset holder on the side panel. We don't think it's useful even if you don't mind its fragility. You just won't be able to reach the holder if the computer case stands in a desk niche. And it wouldn't be convenient, either, if the case stood on the floor.

 

The side panels are easy to install, though. The Level GTS 10 has a deep cable compartment and the respective panel is additionally protruded, increasing the available room. As a result, the cables do not press against it, letting you close it with little effort.

The CPU cooler cutout is large and you can use it to route the CPU power cable behind the mainboard (prior to fastening the mainboard in the chassis, of course).

 

It was rather easy to assemble our configuration in this computer case (some minor inconveniences have been noted above).

There is 315 mm of space for expansion cards, just a little less than the maximum space offered by the Commander MS series. However, this number doesn’t depend on where you’ve installed your HDDs and you won’t have problems installing a long graphics card along with putting HDDs into every available bay.

The default ventilation system consists of two fans: an intake front-panel 200mm fan with blue highlighting and a 120mm exhaust fan on the back panel. In the mainboard’s Silent mode, the 120mm fan was working at 850 RPM and the 200mm fan, at 550 RPM.

Like the above-discussed entry-level products, the Level 10 GTS allows installing more fans. It supports larger fan formats and has dust filters in each location (except for the preinstalled back-panel fan).

One 120mm and one 120/140mm fan can be installed under the top panel of the chassis. Or you can use this place for a single 200mm fan or a radiator of a liquid cooling system.

A 120mm, 140mm or 200mm fan can be placed on the side panel. There are vibration-absorbing rubber pads available for the latter two formats. Like the fan seats under the roof, this place is protected with a perforated dust filter.

And finally, one more 120mm fan can be placed on the bottom of the chassis (together with the PSU fan, it is protected against dust by a large removable mesh filter in a plastic frame below the bottom panel).

The assembled Level 10 GTS is a rather unusual view due to the unconventional configuration of the HDD rack with access from the outside.

Highs:

Lows:

Thermaltake Armor Revo

This computer case has come to replace Thermaltake's old-time bestseller Armor. Judging by the new name, we're up to a revolution of some kind. Let's see if Thermaltake can surprise us.

  

The aluminum wings on the sides of the front panel were a distinguishing feature of the old Armor, too. Their functional value is questionable, however, as is the aesthetic one.

This color scheme matches external devices not only with a white or black but also with a silvery front panel thanks to the wings. On the other hand, the wings themselves do not match the rest of the case, which is a questionable solution, especially as the old Armor (and the black version of the Armor Revo) has those wings painted the color of the body. Yes, white-painted aluminum doesn't impress, but why didn't they choose silver instead of white as the color of the whole case?

The wings can be removed easily. Each is held by just a couple of plastic holders.

The exterior seems somewhat incomplete without them, though.

The sculpted side panel covering the mainboard's mounting plate improves the appearance as well as robustness of the chassis but the Armor Revo would be robust enough even without such solutions because it has thick metallic panels.

The bottom view reveals huge feet and a large dust filter.

The feet can be turned around their axis and fixed with a click in intermediate positions with a step of 45 degrees. They are hard and cannot suppress vibrations but follow the style of the classic Armor.

The PSU bay filter is a mesh that doesn’t weaken the air flow much (compared to other types of dust filters) and additionally covers the optional bottom 120mm fan.

The buttons and I/O connectors are located on the protrusion in the top panel of the case, so you can only access them easily when the Armor Revo stands on the floor. Compared to the Level 10 GTS we've discussed above, there is additionally a dock station for 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch disks, an eSATA port (its purpose is unclear considering the availability of the dock station), and a couple of buttons (to regulate the speed and highlighting of the fans).

The Power indicator is designed as a highlighted emblem on the front panel while the Disk indicator is placed in between the Power and Reset buttons, so it can hardly be read at all if the case stands on a desk.

So again, the buttons and connectors suggest that the Armor Revo is meant to stand somewhere beneath the user.

The accessories are gorgeous, including mounting screws, manuals, cable straps (single-use as well as reusable ones), a PC speaker, a silicone vibration-absorbing pad for the PSU bay, adapters to transform external 5.25-inch bays into 3.5-inch ones, and an extension cord for a CPU power cable.

Each type of fasteners is supplied in an individual pack, so you don’t have to pick up the screw you need out of a heap of fasteners of different types.

We must confess we couldn’t install the PSU together with the silicone pad. It just wouldn’t fit into its bay.

It is easy to take the front panel off as its fasteners are shaped differently than those of the Level 10 GTS. They are secured with a couple of screws each, so you can find a replacement if they get broken (the manufacturer might have included spare fasteners into the box, though).

 

It is necessary to take the front panel off often. Although the front fan’s filter is not fixed on the detachable façade, as in the Level 10 GTS, but is installed on the chassis opposite the fan, it is impossible to access it without removing the front panel.

 

The interior is roomy compared to the above-discussed products because it is a full tower case. It has six HDD bays with large enough gaps in between. Up to 330 mm of space is guaranteed for expansion cards. There are eight expansion slots on the back panel, which is important if you want to build a multi-GPU configuration out of three top-end graphics cards.

There is a 3-pin connector at the bottom of the chassis.

It is responsible for powering the side-panel fan. It’s a handy solution that protects the fan’s connector or cable against any damage when the user takes the side panel off.

By the way, we’ve seen this type of side fan connection in Thermaltake’s more affordable Element G.

The side panel itself is very easy to close.

The disk bays are compatible with both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch devices.

But, unlike the disk bays of the mentioned computer case, the Armor Revo’s are cooled properly. The bottom of each bay is exposed while the sides only cover about half the height of a 3.5-inch drive.

The quick fasteners of 5.25-inch devices in the open bays are somewhat more efficient and much more reliable than those of the above-discussed products.

If you want to fasten your device as tight as you can, you may use screws from both sides of it. You don't even need to remove the quick fasteners for that.

The PSU can be fixed with a metallic plate located on the bottom of the case.

The dedicated cable compartment is deep. The side panel can be easily closed above the heap of cables.

The CPU cooler cutout is the largest among the computer cases we’ve discussed today. It is surely going to be large enough irrespective of the exact position of the mainboard’s CPU socket.

The opening for a CPU power cable is large but the cable itself may get stuck in the blades of the top fan.

 

It is very easy to assemble a PC configuration in the Armor Revo except for the above-mentioned opening for a CPU power cable.

Its out-of-box ventilation is the most advanced among the products included into this review. It consists of three 200mm fans (an exhaust one on the roof, and intake ones on the front and side panels) and one exhaust 140mm fan on the back panel. The front and top fans have blue highlighting which can be disabled.

The 200mm fans are connected into a single system whose speed and highlighting is regulated by the front-panel buttons. In the Low mode the 200mm fans were rotating at 580 to 640 RPM. Their High speed was 770 to 840 RPM, depending on the particular fan.

Connected to the mainboard in Silent mode, the 140mm fan was working at 800 RPM.

The Armor Revo is silent at the low speed of its fans, but the latter become audible at high speeds. The fans do not remember the last position of the speed controller you used and always start up at the low speed.

The default ventilation system is advanced enough, but it can be enhanced further by installing an additional 120mm fan on the bottom of the chassis and a 140mm fan at the top. You can also put a radiator of a liquid cooling system at the top, instead of fans.

The assembled Armor Revo looks imposing, but the silvery wings don’t seem to match the whiteness of the body well enough. The black version of this product, in which the wings are the color of the body, is perhaps more harmonic.

Highs:

Lows:

Testbed and Testing Methodology

We test assembled system cases at a constant ambient temperature of 23°C maintained by an air conditioner. As we assume that most users prefer low-noise computers, we set the speed of the CPU and system fans (connected via the mainboard’s 3-pin connectors) at the Silent mode (the quietest mode in the mainboard’s BIOS). If a system case has its own speed controller, we switch it to its minimum speed, too. We do not change the default configuration of air flows determined by system case design.

The following components are installed into each system case:

We test system cases with their bundled PSUs if they have one. If not stated otherwise, the HDDs are listed in the order of their placement from the top HDD bay downwards without any gaps.

The temperature of the CPU is measured with Core Temp 0.99.8. HDD, GPU and mainboard temperatures are measured with CPUID Hardware Monitor. The speed of the fans is measured with an optical tachometer Velleman DTO2234. There are the following test modes:

Every temperature is read after the system has worked for half an hour in the current test mode. The following table shows the temperatures of the components if the system is assembled without an enclosure (“open testbed”).

The noise level is evaluated subjectively.

Test Results

We didn't deviate from our standard testing method for this test session (except for our installing an additional fan into the Commander MS-III which is identical in design to the Commander MS-II we tested in its default configuration), so we can move on to test results right away.

We’ll discuss the computer cases in the same order as we described them.

Thermaltake MS-I

The Commander MS-I isn’t exceptional in terms of ventilation. The CPU, GPU and mainboard's chipset seem to be somewhat hotter than usual, yet the numbers are far from alarming.

It is the temperature of the HDDs that’s a real disaster. There is only one out of four HDDs that is colder than 50°C in idle mode! At high load each HDD (except for the bottommost one) is over 60°C hot! Even though we've got hot-tempered WD Raptor drives in four bays without gaps, the numbers are bad. We wouldn't recommend using this computer case without installing at least an additional front-panel fan.

Thermaltake MS-II

Supposedly similar to the MS-I, the Commander MS-II is unexpectedly much better in terms of ventilation. It is superior to the MS-I by a few degrees centigrade in each temperature. Only two HDDs are over 50°C hot in idle mode and none of them is hotter than 60°C at high load.

There are two factors contributing to this: the somewhat higher speed of the fan (700 against 630 RPM) and the larger interior of the chassis due to the lack of a dedicated cable compartment.

Anyway, the HDDs are still too hot as regular computer cases go, although the rest of the components are cooled properly.

Thermaltake MS-III

The Commander MS-III is similar to the MS-II but we’ve installed an additional fan opposite the HDD rack. These two products only differ in the design of the decorative face panel, so they are identical in terms of ventilation.

Our installing the front fan didn’t affect the temperatures much, save for the HDDs. Some temperatures have even got higher, probably due to the stronger flow of hot air from the HDDs (the mainboard’s chipset is right in its way).

The poor foam-rubber filter weakens the air flow anyway, so the front fan only lowers the temperature of the HDDs by 5 to 7°C, depending on the position and load of the particular drive. So, all of our HDDs are 40°C hot and the hottest of them even reached 50°C under load.

Of course, more economical drives (which can also be placed far from each other) are going to have safer temperatures, hardly above 40°C even under heavy load, but we’ve seen other inexpensive computer cases do better in terms of cooling their HDD bays.

Thermaltake Level 10 GTS

We used the four Easy Swap bays in the Level 10 GTS, leaving the inconvenient internal bay intact.

This computer is comparable to the Commander MS-III with additional fan: the CPU and the HDDs are somewhat colder (and might be much colder if the HDD bays were designed better) while the GPU and chipset are somewhat hotter.

Thus, the Level 10 GTS isn’t exceptional in terms of cooling, so its appeal lies elsewhere, in the area of design and usability.

Thermaltake Armor Revo (low fan speed)

The Armor Revo was tested at both speeds of its large fans.

The components feel much better than in the previous computer cases even at the low speed of the 200mm fans. Although there's the same fan in front of the HDD bays as in the Level 10 GPS, the HDDs are no hotter than 41°C and two of our Raptors are even colder than 40°C under load!

Thermaltake Armor Revo (high fan speed)

Switching the fans into the High mode lowers the temperatures by 1 to 3°C, but the fans become audible already. That's why we'd recommend the Low speed as its ensures excellent cooling, too.

The diagrams below help you compare the tested computer cases with the open testbed in terms of cooling:

 

Conclusion

The affordable Commander MS series products are well-made computer cases that offer excellent functionality for their price. Particularly, the MS-II and MS-III support USB 3.0, have reusable back-panel brackets and ensure better out-of-box ventilation than the MS-I. The latter sports a more up-to-date component layout with a dedicated cable compartment, so it's going to look neater when assembled, but the MS-II and MS-III are superior in other parameters and comparable to the MS-I in the ease of assembly. These models are very attractive in their price category, but we'd recommend installing an additional fan to cool the disk rack.

The Level 10 GTS features an unconventional but nice-looking exterior. It is easy to assemble a computer in, offers good protection against dust and allows accessing disk bays from the outside. Its cooling capabilities are far from impressive, however, especially when it comes to HDDs. But if you don’t have special requirements in terms of cooling (if you’re not into overclocking, for example), the Level 10 GTS may suit you just fine. And its price is reasonable enough for its functionality.

The Armor Revo is a real masterpiece. It is handy, provides good out-of-box cooling with full protection against dust, offers a docking station for HDDs. Coupled with the old Armor design, this model would make a perfect case for a top-end gaming station. We recommend the more aesthetically pleasing black version.