Thermaltake really needs no introduction; their name is already synonymous with personal computing. For the new PC owner, taking his or her first trip to the local mom and pop store, I'm sure there will be Thermaltake offerings on the shelf for him to see. For those of us that have been on the scene a little longer, we have seen just about everything you can think of relating to aftermarket computer parts. Whether you are in the market for a case, power supply, cooler, or just about anything we can imagine, Thermaltake has an offering to fit your needs.
You may have noticed this new chassis shares the series of another chassis that Thermaltake designed a few years ago. The original armor series had "wings" on the sides that would open out, exposing the all ventilated front bezel. The insides were left exposed with no paint, and there was a strange dual window in the door that showed just as much of the drive racks as it did the components. This new submission shares its bases in naming of the series only. While it is from the same manufacturer, don't expect this new submission to be a "revised Armor", as it is more an Element series design with a twist.
Today Thermaltake has sent me the Armor A90 mid tower case to have a look over it. As I mentioned, the twist of the chassis is the armor plating concept that makes it an obvious candidate for the Armor series moniker. Looking inside the chassis however, it is easy to see strong influences from the Element chassis I have showed you earlier this year. I say let's get to the specifications so you have an idea of what is going on, then we can get to the images and see what the Armor A90 from Thermaltake is really all about.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Armor A90 is made mostly of steel, but does use a bit of plastic in the front bezel. The bezel is black to match the body of the chassis as well as the interior. This mid tower chassis does offer a triangular shaped window in the side panel. This triangular shape is what space was left when the design of trapezoidal and triangular shapes got molded into the design. These different shapes are representative of separate armor plates covering the exterior for a bullet proof look, although I don't suggest shooting one.
Outside on both the front and the top of the A90 you will find components of the front I/O. Between both of them, there is connections for four USB 2.0 ports, one e-SATA connection and two 3.5mm jacks for front panel audio. Inside the chassis you will find room for three 5.25" devices that can be exposed through the front via removable covers under the front door. Under those, the cage gets more slender and offers room for up to six 3.5" drives. The main body of the chassis can support full ATX and m-ATX motherboards and has seven expansion slots in the back to allow for many cards to be set in place.
The only thing left is the fans. Thermaltake places one, blue LED, 120mm fan in the front, but supplies screws for an additional 120mm fan there or even a 200mm. At the top, there is a 200mm fan already installed and also has blue LED's. That leaves the rear 120mm TurboFan, which does not light up, and a place in the door for another 120mm if you would like to add it. All three of the supplied fans are low RPM and offer terrific numbers as far as sound levels go.
Looking on Thermaltake's own web site, I saw that they display a MSRP of $99.99. Looking through a plethora of hits via Google shopping, most e-tailers are offering slightly better deals than that. There are places charging as little up front for the A90 as $79.99, but once I incorporated the shipping, it wasn't so great of a deal. Priced right in the middle, the Armor A90 lists at Newegg for $89.99 and is currently getting another $19.99 to ship it. Finding one is easy; let's get down to if it is worth the $110 it's going to take to get one to your door.
There is definitely a rise in dragons and armour as of late. Thermaltake places an image of the chassis over graphics of a dragon, an eerie medieval mask, and what appears to look like Dungeons and Dragons dice rolling in the middle. Either way, as stated, this chassis is "Created for Combat".
The side panel has the more typical look of Thermaltake I am used to. All black panels with bright red accent stripes shows right away who manufactures this chassis from twenty feet away. The text simply states that this is a computer case and if you have issues, to contact them directly via the address listed.
The back of the box highlights all the ins and outs of the Armor A90. Many quality images show what the text is explaining and should leave no doubt what you are getting with this purchase.
The last panel has a powered up image of the A90 with both the top and front fans glowing blue. Near the bottom the part number is listed. As with many of the Thermaltake cases, if a power supply or a revision is added, the last four digits may be different.
This chassis made a pretty long trek to me from overseas and during its travels, it seems the A90 took a pretty good bump. The top Styrofoam cap was broken when I unboxed it. I am pleased to say, that even though it was broken, the chassis arrived in great shape.
The Thermaltake Armor A90 Mid Tower Case
The first glance at the front of this chassis explains what I meant about the odd shaped plates of armor. The top "plate" is actually a door and opens to the left to allow access to your optical drives. To the right of the door you will find most of the front I/O components. The bottom of the chassis is a two part "plate" covered in mesh, and a slotted vent area at the bottom to allow the fans to breathe.
Opening the door shows the three 5.25" drive covers that easily release from behind. On the right side you will find two USB 2.0 ports surrounding the audio jacks and an e-SATA connection just below those. The hard drive activity light and power LED are visible even with the door closed, as is the large, triangular power button and small, rectangular reset button.
The side panel is molded to mimic the plates seen on the front. These separate plates make up most of the design, but the center is cut to house a triangular window. Near the rear of the case, Thermaltake added a ventilated area that will house an optional 120mm fan.
The rear of the A90 has four optional places to run tubing through; two at the top, and two near the power supply at the bottom. In the middle you will find the rear I/O area, the 120mm exhaust venting and seven, ventilated, expansion slots. Just to the right is a ventilated area to aide in removing excess heat from the GPU's and two little tabs on the right side act as a security loop.
The right side panel is a little less fancy than the left, but still carries the idea of the plating with a stamped in design here, too.
The top of the chassis also keeps the plating going. The bottom (as seen here) is ventilated for the 200mm fan screwed in underneath. The top, which is near the front, you can see another e-SATA and two more USB 2.0 connections.
Under the A90 it is supported with two plastic rails, one down each side. Round rubber feet keep the chassis from moving easily and also protect any surface it may come into contact with. There is an area vented for a power supply fan and it includes a plastic dust filter that can be removed for easy cleaning.
Inside The Thermaltake Armor A90 Mid Tower Case
Once you remove the armor from the outside, it exposes the heart of an Element case. All black, a drive assembly very similar to an Element with the spacing behind to hide wires. Again, I get why it's an Armor series, but I see more of the Element in here than the older Armor cases.
The front of the A90's interior consists of the drive bays and tool-less mechanisms for each bay. On this side the locks unlock by sliding the center tab left, the whole assembly is hinged to flip up and out of the way while you slide in the drive, then just reverse the process to lock it in. The gap at the left is entirely open from the 5.25" drives on down to allow wiring to pass here to keep air flow maximized.
The motherboard tray has a large hole for CPU back plate access and is clearly labeled for motherboard installation. There isn't much to be had for holes in the tray for wires, so a bit of creativity is needed to make this a really clean build. On the floor there is a movable support bar for the PSU. Two screws go in from the bottom and allow the bar to go in one of many positions available.
At the top you will find a 200mm, blue LED, clear fan screwed to the inside. This will handle removing anything that the rear 120mm doesn't get to.
There will be no issues getting any of the front I/O wiring where it belongs, as you can see there is quite a bit of length supplied from Thermaltake. From left to right, you will see a 3-pin fan connector for the rear fan, and a 4-pin Molex connection to power the 200mm up top. Then we see the HA and AC'97 audio and one of the USB 2.0 connections. The last group has all the LED and switch wiring, the other USB 2.0 connection and the a-SATA connector.
Around the back side of the motherboard tray, you will find there isn't a lot of room to run wiring behind the motherboard, but there sure is a deep pocket near the front that will hide quite a bit of wiring. For those without modular power supplies, this is where you want to go with your excess connections.
The front bezel pulls off with a tug at the bottom, as do most of them. In the chassis you can see the 120mm, blue LED fan that is supplied, and the area above that will accept another 120mm fan. If you choose to, this fan can be removed and a 200mm fan be placed here for the ultimate in intake. Behind the bezel aside from the tabs that allow the bay covers to come off, there is a removable dust filter here, too.
Accessories and Documentation
Thermaltake has you covered when it comes to hardware. On the left are four black plastic spacers for the front of the chassis. You will need these to make the install a snap. The bags contain motherboard screws and drive screws just below. Then there are long screws for the fans up front and two grommets for the water tubing holes. Then the last bag contains a few risers and screws for the power supply and expansion slots. You even get a motherboard speaker.
The instruction book has great images and well written text to aid you through the build process. If you do run into an issue, or are unsure of something, a quick glance should straighten it out for you. Also included is the literature on the three year warranty.
The Build and Finished Product
I installed the hard drive and optical drive and then snapped the front bezel back into place. I like that the wiring is contained to the chassis and the front is free from them once removed.
There were no clearance issues inside; you can see the ATX motherboard and full length graphics card fit with room to spare. Keeping things neat and tidy to maximize the fans potential was really easy. Just had to tuck some wires here, zip tie them there, and this is what you can end up with.
Not really too much going on back here. The holes are now all filled, nothing unusual to speak of, and no issues with lining up the components during the installation.
Creative placement of the wiring helps, but like I said before, there is just a ton of room next to the drive bays. Granted, I didn't hide everything here, but you can see I still had quite a bit of room to hide more if I had needed to. I was able to pass the 8-pin lead behind the tray, but that is about it, anything thicker and the panel would have had real issues closing.
I know this isn't the best image in the world, but I wanted to give you an idea of what is actually visible when you peak into the window.
When powered on, the A90 floods the table with a blue glow from the LED fan. The hard drive activity and power LED are seriously bright, so if this case is going in a bedroom, keep this in mind. Even from eight to ten feet away, they are still blindingly bright if you look directly at them.
Moving even further back, the glow from the top LED fan becomes visible as well. With the lights turned down, the inside of the case looks blue as well when you look through the window. For an oddly shaped case, I really do like it for some reason.
To tell you the truth, I am not much into medieval things, dragons, or even getting off my lazy butt to go to a LAN. IF you are into all of these things, you are in luck, as Thermaltake offers a way for you to be armored up and take on the competition and vanquish your enemies. If you are not into all of that, like me, I still think Thermaltake made a very nice mid tower chassis. I am more of a simple and sleek case lover, and even though the A90 is shaped and molded like armor plating, it still has an appeal to the masses.
I can't really pick on anything Thermaltake did wrong in or out of the Armor A90. So I will just point out the things I did like. Painting a chassis inside and out is a must on my list, one check in the plus column. It needs to be unique, and something not everyone else on the planet has, check two for Thermaltake. Tool-less drive bays, dust filters for the power supply and the intake, different fan options, the list just goes on and on, and I didn't even touch on the cable management, which is really good in the A90 by the way.
It is sad, but $100 will barely get you a night out on the town with a friend or spouse these days. I mean let's be honest; the all mighty dollar isn't what it used to be. With that in mind, I feel what is offered inside and out of the A90 is worth what the MSRP is set at. While it isn't setting the bar for best bang for the buck, it is definitely a contender for those with a bit of extra money to spend to get it right the first time when buying. Finding one for sale is easy, getting the best deal takes a bit of work. Right in the middle of all of them you will find the Armor A90 from Thermaltake listing at Newegg for $89.99 plus shipping, bringing the total to just under $110 currently. I would suggest, if you like the exterior that is, you take a long hard look at the A90 when building or re-housing your mid tower build.
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