I have seen a few of the Armor series cases that Thermaltake made over the past year. I liked the use of awkward angles and irregular shapes to represent armor plating and it gave the series the look of an impenetrable bunker for your hardware. The largest, the A90, had plenty of room for all of your goods, a window to see inside of the chassis and had a very unique exterior. The A60, while being a touch smaller, holds on to all the features of the A90, but takes on its own personality with the exterior design. There was even a red and black "AMD Leo Edition" that has a red window and red LEDs. With the trend of bringing the size down and offering really good feature sets, good pricing, and a unique looking chassis, what is next?
Well, you can always add an entry to the Small Form Factor or SFF segment of chassis design. Now, when most people think SFF, they immediately gravitate to Lian Li or Silverstone, but dreams of building a portable gamer on a budget usually get dashed by the cost of a full aluminum chassis, or maybe the configuration and airflow aren't up to par to handle the powerhouse you plan to put in the smallest package possible to impress your friends and foes at the next LAN event. Thermaltake jumped in with both feet and threw the A60 in the dryer for a while until it was just the right size. Not in reality, just conceptually!
Today we are going to be looking at the Armor A30 Gaming Cube from Thermaltake. As the series would suggest, the A30 keeps the odd angles and bunker-like exterior of the much larger cases that preceded this on. There are some changes in the feature set, the A30 now offers USB 3.0 and what I think are the largest windows of all three cases in this series. Odd as it is that the smallest chassis offers the best view, at a glance of the exterior of the chassis, and from what I saw on the box, I am already impressed and eager to dive in and get this build underway, so let's get right to it!
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
For such a small chassis measuring in at eleven and a half inches wide, eighteen inches deep, and only ten and a half inches tall, this fifteen pound chassis has a lot to offer. On the outside there is a large plastic bezel with access to two 5.25" drives and a floppy drive once the appropriate bay covers are removed. At the bottom of the front you will find a mesh area backed by fans with the power, reset button, and activity LEDs at the bottom. Flanking both sides are large ventilated areas to allow for a better intake of cold air passively, while at the back there is a large window in both sides of the A30. This chassis also features a removable top, and a motherboard tray that slides out to give you access to the hard drive rack, the PSU rack, and the optical drive rack. Not only will the optical drive rack hold the three drives I covered, it also offers additional space for two 2.5" drives as well.
Cooling this Gaming Cube wasn't an afterthought, Thermaltake had this planned out from the start. In the front acting as the intake to cool the drives and front of the motherboard Thermaltake uses 90mm fans with blue LEDs. The removable top has a 230mm fan installed in it and acts as an exhaust for all the heat from large GPUs and overclocked processors. The rear of the chassis sports a pair of 60mm fans to help exhaust the heat from the phase area and draw the air out from the CPU cooler. All five of these fans are rated for 18 dBA or less, so along with the pretty lighting, the A30 should be pretty silent during operation.
Picking up on some of the key features around the Exterior, we can't forget the front I/O. This chassis offers easy connectivity on the left side of the front of the A30. You not only get the typical USB 2.0 and audio connectivity, but Thermaltake also includes a USB 3.0 port with a cable that reaches out the rear of the chassis so it can be powered via the rear I/O. while I am now at the rear of the chassis, I might as well cover the fact that the A30 also offers room for up to four expansion cards. So you have room for a serious graphics card with a dual slot cooler, and still have room for a wireless adapter and a soundcard. While this chassis might not blend in with the living room decor, the silence of operation and connectivity and expansion options make it a great HTPC candidate as well.
Thermaltake has made this chassis widely available since the time of its release. As I look this chassis up via Google, I see that Thermaltake has set the MSRP at $119.99, and that in itself is a great deal for what all gets packed into this small space. There are only a few places asking the full MSRP, and it just so happens that Newegg.com is asking $119.99 and there is still an additional $10 to ship the chassis. If you are a bit more frugal in your purchases you can find it for better deals. For instance, ExcaliburPC has the chassis for $104 delivered, so you can save a few dollars if you do a bit of homework first. With forty-two retail hits, I have to say you should have no trouble finding the A30 Gaming Cube.
In the front of the box you get an image of a knight riding out of a medieval castle with the A30 case image under the castle and the naming and USB 3.0 notification covering the horse's chest. At the top you can see this also official hardware of the WCG.
Had USPS not blocked most of it, you would have seen all twelve versions of the features list in various languages. You can also see if this is a PSU included version just above the weight information.
The back of the A30 packaging highlights all the major features with very nice images. They cover the uniqueness, both inside and out, the cooling system, and the modularity.
On this side Thermaltake lists the five key features found on the other side, this time in English. There is one last look at the chassis and the product number before you get back to more of the same information at the bottom.
With the smaller size of the A30, with the Styrofoam on both sides, it almost fully encloses the chassis in foam for shipping. What isn't protected from the foam is covered with the plastic liner. Sitting open on the top of the chassis is where I found my instruction manual and three year warranty information.
The Thermaltake Armor A30 Gaming Cube / SFF Chassis
This is what I mean about odd angles. The top half goes in to the left where the optical drives and floppy drive goes. The bottom half containing the I/O, intake, and the power and reset buttons go in on the right side.
The top of the chassis is removable. The front half of it slopes up to match the height of the fan thickness, and under the mesh at the back is a 230mm fan with blue LEDs. While the venting around the fan is functional, the large triangles at the front half are just for show.
On top of the Styrofoam and plastic that was already covering the A30; both windows also have a layer of plastic clinging to the inside and outside of the windows.
With the outer plastic removed it is much easier to see the bevel around the edge of the window and the six black caps used to hold the window to the side structure. Notice I didn't say side panel; this isn't removable.
In the rear of the chassis there are of course the 60mm fans and the four expansion slots, but this is where you gain access to everything. Thumbscrews around all of the edges allow the top, motherboard tray, and PSU frame to come free.
The right side of the A30 is a mirror image of the left side. The large vented holes at the front and the large window to peek in at your hardware once this chassis is assembled offer both ventilation and something to show off!
Inside The Thermaltake Armor A30 Gaming Cube / SFF Chassis
Removing three thumbscrews, the top will slide to the rear of the chassis for removal. Under it you can see the thirteen clear blades of this 230mm exhaust fan with blue LED lights and a 4-pin Molex connector for power.
With six other thumbscrews removed the motherboard tray can be pulled out of the rear of the chassis as well. This gives you great access to begin the assembly outside of the cramped confines.
Once the motherboard tray and the top are off, you can start removing the power supply support at the bottom via removal of six small screws. To remove the optical drive rack, simply remove two thumbscrews, and then slide the whole unit back and out.
The optical drive rack will hold five devices by design. As it sits in this image, with adapters you can place two 2.5" drives on the top. Under those you can place two 5.25" drives on the left, and on the right you can install a floppy drive on its side.
The power supply support bracket is pretty self explanatory, the PSU goes on the left, and the area on the right allows for room for expansion cards.
This is the rack that holds the 3.5" hard drives. I focused in on the far side so you could see the grommets more clearly. The drives mount at the top and the bottom via holes in the bottom of the drives, rather than using the holes in the side of the drives.
Once all that is out we can finally see inside the A30! What you are left with is the front, with its long wiring, and 90mm fan, the side walls, and the floor. This makes assembly in stages very handy.
The front bezel is completely wire-less. The top has tabs holding in the removable bay covers, while the bottom intake filter needs a screwdriver to remove it for cleaning.
Accessories and Documentation
The included hardware can be found in a bag under the optical drive bay assembly, and is quite the full package. You get all the typical risers and screws you would expect to see along with a motherboard speaker. What is nice is this kit includes multi-use wire management. This comes in handy to be able to tidy the wires when you assemble the chassis, and easily undo them when you need to get back in the chassis later. The two black pieces of plastic near the middle are used to mount the 2.5" drives on top of the optical drive assembly, and the whitish plastic plug is a motherboard spacer plug for the bottom right corner of a m-ATX motherboard as there isn't a riser for that location.
The user manual for the A30 is very, very handy and I am glad it wasn't shipped on the inside of the chassis. For me I had to refer to it to see what the plug in the hardware kit was of course, but it did help to see the step by step breakdown of the chassis before I dove in. The manual will take you through all the removal of what I have shown with clear and easy to follow text. With the images they provided to go along with the written words, I found the images are clear enough to get through any issue, but in case it is still unclear you can always refer back to that text.
The Build and Finished Product
Now we get into the sub-assemblies. The motherboard tray takes everything before you need to slide this into the A30. One thing to watch out for is that there is only 90mm of CPU cooler clearance.
I used the bottom hard drive install option, while the top slot would be cooled better by the intake fan; this image would look funny with the drive hanging upside down from the top of the rack.
For my testing needs, I just installed the DVD drive to the optical rack. I did play around with the 2.5" mounting system, and it seemed to fit well, but I removed it as I didn't need it for testing.
Last of the assemblies is as simple as screwing in four screws. Now that we have all the key players ready, let's start putting them all together.
Sliding the motherboard tray and hard drive rack back in gets things underway! At this time you are going to want to wire the motherboard from the I/O and get all the SATA cabling ready.
Then install the PSU assembly and the optical drive rack. The PSU rack took a bit of time to keep the wiring clean, but still both units went back into place with no issues.
All assembled and ready for power, nothing much in the front changes with this build except the addition of my rather beat up looking DVD drive.
The left side of the chassis gives you a very nice view of any graphics card or possibly even a look at you soundcard or network card depending on your specific needs.
One thing worth a mention in the back is the length of the USB 3.0 cable. While I had no issues getting it to connect, when you wire it cleanly as not to be seen in the window, it comes up a bit short.
Looking in through the window on this side you can get a peek at your air cooling and motherboard, all the way down to your first expansion card. If you plan a build with onboard solutions, you can see clean through this chassis once built.
Under power the A30 comes to life with an almost inaudible hum from the fans, but splashes around quite a bit of blue LED lighting from the front and top. I for one am very impressed!
In the end, whether you are on a mission to find a small chassis for your next LAN event, or a mid-tower takes up too much valuable space on your desk, give the Thermaltake Armor A30 a real good "once over". I think you will be pleasantly shocked at the amount of hardware you can pack into this Gaming Cube chassis and still end up with a very attractive end result. I know my build didn't max out the capacity of what this chassis can handle, but I will say even with what I did install I would have no issues occupying and wiring power to all the bays. There is enough room to get all the parts in and if done carefully, you don't even see any of the wiring through the windows.
The only downfall of the case to me was the length of the USB 3.0 cable. While I could have easily wired it another way, I feel it took from the finished look to have to drape the cable across the graphics card and motherboard to allow it to connect. The chassis has a nice "trench" for the wiring to pass below the motherboard, under the window on the left of the chassis. To me the wiring almost routed itself there, and when it came up a bit short, it left me with one word in my head. Seriously?!
Once I turned on the A30, I soon forgot about my wiring issue as I was lulled into happiness with the lack of noise emanating from the chassis. With the hardware I ran in the build, the stock cooler left the CPU a bit warm, but nothing a Samuel17 or similar cooler couldn't resolve. The GTS450 ran right where it always does, so the passive mesh on the sides and the included fans offer this small chassis very sufficient airflow for this type of chassis. Now, had I used a larger GPU, and they do fit, as this chassis can hold up to thirteen inches of graphics awesomeness! I will say if you plan to add a new dual GPU solution or plan to run SLI or Crossfire, I saw that this chassis is plenty capable of keeping temperatures well within specs. Don't let its small size fool you; this is a very capable little gaming cube.
For right around $100 what more could you want in this chassis? Capabilities of housing a serious gaming rig with all the latest hardware, windows on both sides to make others jealous, and the cooling glow of blue LEDs. I for one like the odd looking angles and the unique exterior designs. The fact that this chassis can hold so much and still be compact and portable, while not falsely representing an Easy Bake oven won me over. I've got to hand it to Thermaltake with this one; they really did a fine job with the A30. I mentioned our friends over at Newegg.com are getting the full MSRP of $119.99 plus $9.99 in shipping. With a bit of homework, this chassis can be had for $25 less, making this a very attractive product for the pricing.