Here we are almost five months since CES has passed, and I finally get to get up close and personal with one of about eight to ten new cases hitting the market. Today we are going to be speaking about the Chaser series of cases. I do recall writing up a Chaser chassis previous to this, but that chassis is like 18 months old now, and was a full-tower when seen in the Chaser MK1 form. Even then, the Chaser series was well laid out with the features like a fan controller and a HDD dock, loads of mesh and angled plastic for some aggressive styling, and the chassis had mostly tool-free mounting and was set on duck feet that would spin out to allow for a much more stable chassis sitting on the desk.
In this evolution you are now dealing with a mid-tower chassis, but there are a bunch of styling cues that hark back to the original design. The fan controller and HDD dock are lost in the shrink, but you still get a lot of mesh, aggressive styling, a large side window to view the build, and Thermaltake also kept the duck feet. Another cross over from the original is the light blue accents found on the front of the chassis and in a stripe on the feet. One of the cool features that not many companies are even attempting to deal with was not lost on the newest release either, and while trivial to some, I can really appreciate the headset hanger offered on the left side of this chassis. While there may be some features removed that the Chaser series was known for, I really think the overall design is much better, and should serve a much wider market this time around.
In case you missed the title of this review, we will be getting in-depth with the Thermaltake Chaser A41 mid-tower chassis today. Even with samples out in the wild, these are very fresh to the market, and I may even be one of the first to have this chassis. With it setting for a couple of days while I caught up, I wanted to act fast to bring this chassis to light and show what Thermaltake is offering in mid-tower cases this year.
Of course we also have the Urban series to look forward to as well, but for now the Chaser series is what I was presented, and I am here to give you my take on just how well the Chaser A41 will do in the market.
So, get yourself comfortable and follow me on the journey that is the Thermaltake Chaser A41 review and chassis build.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The near 18 pound, mostly steel chassis that is the Chaser A41 came with black paint inside and out. Both in the plastic bezel and the large plastic feet, you will find light blue striping used to accent this black chassis, and Thermaltake also offers a white version. Inside the plastic trim of the front bezel, the Chaser offers a lot of steel mesh. There are four 5.25" bay covers and a 3.5" bay cover at the top that are removable from the outside of the chassis, while the bottom half is all mesh with a large Tt logo and the Thermaltake name. The left side of the chassis is bumped out to allow a few more millimeters of room inside, works as a great place to put in a large window, and just in front of the bum, near the top of the chassis, there is a hanger for a set of headphones. The top of the chassis offers the I/O panel, a storage tray, and then the rest of the top is opened with mesh to allow for various types of fans or cooling solutions.
Along with being able to install an ATX or Micro-ATX motherboard, you also have room for 175mm of CPU cooler clearance and 315mm of video card. Inside the chassis you will find room for a total of five 3.5" bays, plus another for a card reader. Both the optical bays and four of the HDD bays are tool-free with clips on the ODD bays and removable trays for the HDDs. Cooling the Chaser out of the box, you are given three fans. One 120mm is in the front and the bezel offers a removable filter for it. There is a 200mm fan in the roof of the chassis, but you can also use a pair of 120mm fans as well as a pair of 140mm fans. The rear of the chassis holds the final fan and it is also a 120mm fan. All three of these fans are blue LED lit when powered to add some ambience to the inside of the chassis and your view of it when it is powered on.
Even though this chassis is so new to the market, I am seeing quite a few listings of it for sale already. What I am seeing is that Thermaltake has set the MSRP of the Chaser A41, both on the Snow White or the Black version we received, at $99.99. As I look around at the time of writing, you can get close to that pricing at NextWarehouse.com for $102.48, and Newegg has it listed for $114.98 with shipping included. If you keep looking you will see the pricing even exceeds $150 if you don't shop carefully when looking for this chassis, so as with any other purchase, buyer beware, as you can save quite a bit of money if you shop correctly and cautiously.
The $100 mid-tower is something everyone is doing these days, so why not another from Thermaltake? Hopefully by the time we finish, we can get a better idea of how the Chaser A41 will stack up against the shear mass of competition.
With most chassis in this price range, there is more of a plain wrapper. With the Chaser A41, you get a high gloss black box, and on the front offers a view of the chassis with some artsy blue curves around it, the name of the chassis and the manufacturer, and that this chassis has native USB 3.0 inside.
On this side of the box you are dealing with the specifications list that got put here. All of the information we saw on the last page is included here, and they also added the model name to this specs chart.
I'm not sure, maybe this is the front of the box, but the only thing that changes from both of the larger panels is that on this side you can see a black and red box at the top right corner that aren't on the other side.
Under a thick red stripe that runs across the top, there is some information displayed in 11 languages other than English. Here they discuss the native USB 3.0, the ventilation and dust filters, expansion bays and video card maximum length, and that it offers great cable management and LCS support (water cooling support).
Inside of the box you will find the Chaser A41 wrapped in a plastic liner, and has an additional layer of plastic on the window to help protect it a bit more. Outside of that, Thermaltake chose to use Styrofoam to center and support this chassis during travels to the buyer's house. Considering mine came from overseas, the tiny dent in the right side panel is not all that bad considering the distance this traveled.
Thermaltake Chaser A41 Mid-Tower Chassis
The front of the Chaser is mainly black as the plastic outer edges sticks forward the most and cuts back behind all of the mesh panels. At the top of the chassis there are four 5.25" covers with light blue edges, a 3.5" bay cover, and a very large intake at the bottom made of mesh as well.
Moving up to the top, you immediately run into the front I/O panel offering a pair of USB 3.0 ports, HD Audio jacks, a slim reset button, a large power button in the middle, and the HDD activity light to match the reset button off to the right. You also get a large storage tray for keeping whatever you need handy.
Behind the storage tray, the remainder of the steel top is opened up to allow all sorts of fans. You can use a pair of 120mm, 140mm, and even a 200mm fan with this design, and you even have room on the underside for a slim radiator and fan without intruding on the motherboard.
The left of the Chaser offers the large clear window that shows only the hardware and not the bays, where the bump out of this panel goes completely side to side. At the top right corner of this bump, you can see the headphone hanger mounted to the chassis to offer some place other than the desktop for them.
Around the back the top of the chassis offers a cable retention clip and three water cooling holes with grommets that can accept tubing up to and including 1/2" ID tubing. You then have the rear exhaust next to the rear I/O above seven vented expansion slots, leaving room at the bottom for the PSU.
On the right side of the chassis you can see the door panel is a mirror image of the opposing side, as far as the steel is concerned. Of course, they didn't add the window or the hanger, but behind this panel you will have 30mm of room for wiring.
Under the chassis you are going to notice the large plastic feet first. You can leave them tucked under the chassis, or you can twist them outward. Between the feet you will find a long dust filter for both the PSU and the optional fan that can be mounted near the middle.
As I went to remove the panels, I really like this handy little addition of making it so that the thumbscrews don't come out of the panel. This way when you go to replace it, or need to work in a tight spot, you don't lose or drop these and frustrate yourself.
Inside the Chaser A41
Once the panels were removed and stowed until I completed the build, you can see inside of the Chaser A41 now. For now we will cover the fact that the wires are all tied up and secured, and that you get a small bag of hardware tied to the drive bays.
Behind the removable covers on the bezel you will find four 5.25" bays on the inside and each has the option to use the tool-free clips that are in place or via the holes in them, you can also screw the drives in. The back side will require screws, however.
Here, the top bay is 3.5" wide and allows for a storage drive to be placed there. The bottom 3.5" tray allows users to add a card reader or similar device, and have access to it through the bezel.
The clip in plastic trays that hold either 3.5" drives with screws through the sides of the tray, or you can install a 2.5" drive through holes in the bottom of each tray. In total there are four of them, and this rack is here for the duration, and is not removable.
Inside the roof of the chassis you have this clear 200mm fan that also offers a flood of blue LED lighting when powered. I covered all of the fan options already, but since the motherboard tray is so close, only thin radiators will fit well in the top.
The motherboard tray is labeled well for both ATX and Micro-ATX motherboards, and comes with all the risers in place for an ATX installation. There are three holes on the right for management along with a few slots at the top to hide the wiring from the fans and to the motherboard.
The floor of the chassis offers sections of steel that is raised to support the PSU on the left. Just to the right of it is where you will find four other bumps to set a 120mm fan on top of them and screw it into the chassis as an option, cables allowing of course.
The rear of the chassis offers the same 120mm black fan that we will soon see in the front of the chassis, and both have blue LEDs. You will also notice that the expansion slot covers are flush with the rear of the chassis and have a cover to help clean up the hole that is there to get the thumbscrews in and out.
Behind the motherboard try, you have a minimum of 25mm near the grommets and structural shapes in the tray. Off to the left there is plenty of room for additional wiring, and with the door covering these, you have a minimum of 30mm of room for any management you need to accomplish.
I like that Thermaltake took the time to sleeve everything in black braid that doesn't come with the rubberized coating already. The front panel wiring is all contained on a ribbon cable, the HD audio and native USB 3.0 connections are the rubberized black cables, and you can see two of the three fan leads that are sleeved to match the rest of the kit.
Accessories and Documentation
The hardware that we saw in the bag tied to the HDD rack is what is shown here. You get a bag with motherboard, SDD and ODD screws. A second bag contains 3.5" HDD screws for the trays, and the last bag offers a socket for the risers, fan screws and the PSU screws. You also will get an extra riser, washers for AI/O installations, a motherboard speaker, and five adjustable straps to work in the small holes for wire management.
Shipped in a bag under the Styrofoam cap on the top of the case, you can find the User Manual and the warranty information for all Thermaltake products.
The manual starts off offering buyers a parts list right out of the gate. This way you can be sure you have everything, and will be able to complete the build you want to put in here.
The next thing that gets covered is the maximum sizes for both the CPU cooler and the video card. Make sure to take some time and check these things out, it would really suck to get all ready to go and find out things are too large for the chassis, but with 175mm for the cooler and 315mm for the cards, you are going to fit most offerings with ease.
After that you start to get into how to get into the chassis on the left page. The right page shows how you should lay down the chassis and install the motherboard with the cooler already installed to make life easier. There is an access hole for the cooler, so if wiring it tight for you on the 8-pin and the screws may be blocked by the cooler, you can install the cooler after with little issue.
As the manual continues, it then goes into the PSU mounting, how to remove the bay covers, how to slide in an ODD, and how the tool-free clips will work. What I didn't show was how the manual continues to show the HDD and SSD installations, but that is pretty easy to wrap your head around.
The Build and Finished Product
To complete the build, you shouldn't need to have reason to remove the front bezel with the external access to remove the bay covers, but I pulled it off for two other reasons. The first is that you can now see the 120mm fan installed in the front of the chassis and the second reason is that there is also a dust filter on the back of the bezel that clips in and out for easy cleaning.
I liked the blue accents at the top, so I installed the DVD drive at the bottom to try to make it look more natural. Since all you need to do is squeeze the blue tabs inward to pull out the cover, and the tool-free clips will secure drives well enough, even if you travel, not to require screws.
Inside the chassis things are close and compact, I cannot deny that. The thing is though, even with a large PSU, an ATX build, and a full length video card installed, I had no issues getting any of it into the chassis.
Out back, the rear I/O shield snaps right in, the expansion slot cover comes out with a thumbscrew, and the thumbscrews used in the slots are very secure. At the bottom, the PSU also goes right into place and lines up well.
Behind the motherboard tray I tried to exceed the limits of the room offered. I found I fell short, even with the adapter clips back here, using their straps and the holes in the tray, I seemed to manage everything well enough that nothing even touches the door panel.
Since I was buttoning everything up to get one last image of it prior to adding some power to test things, I figured I would hang a set of cans on the hanger to show how it will work for keeping your headset within reach, but out of the way when not in use.
When the Chaser A41 is powered, the front fan glows with blue LEDs. The thing about it is, no matter what angle you are looking from, this is about the best you can see those LEDs from the front of the chassis.
The 200mm fan, however, is much brighter, and floods both the inside as well as anything above or near the mesh.
The last part of the Chaser in which you will notice any lighting going on is the front I/O panel. Here the power button will glow along the front edge with a blue LED, and the HDD activity light to the right will glow with an amber light when the drive is accessed.
The Chaser does have some aggressive styling with bold blue accents, and while it definitely isn't the sleek and sexy case that many want, I think the design isn't that over the top to alienate itself, like some other cases we seen over the years. The lines, amount of mesh, and the bold accents all seemed to work some magic on me. Typically I don't care for cases with specific colors on them, when I don't own anything that color to match it. The way the blue is distributed, and then backed up with the glow of blue LED fans just works for the Chaser A41. The chassis also offering the duck feet for better stability, water cooling options internally and externally, and of course that handy headphone hanger on the door, the chassis looks better and better as the build sits at the desk and also help keep it cleaned up with a way to tend to your cans.
Structurally the chassis is great. There is no flex to discuss, plenty of room in front of and behind the tray, all the drive options most gamers are going to require, the design is really well thought out. With all of the mesh down the front, the large open top, and the ventilated bottom and rear of the chassis, the three fans included with the chassis offer ample air flow, with minimal noise. While I did see a 38dB rating on the meter while the Chaser A41 was powered on, the temperatures of the components were lower than average for a mid-tower chassis. With most cases in this price range, you will get one or two fans, and very rare is it ever that a third is included - it is a 200mm monster to force the chimney effect in the chassis to blow all of the residual heat right on out the top of the chassis.
I also know that for $100 you can get quite a few cases that offer a somewhat better feature set, but to me it is a tradeoff for what you need. While a HDD dock might be cool on paper, I never use them. You could also complain that this chassis does not have fan controls, but to be honest, with all the fans running full speed, the noise is too minimal to really need adjusting anyway. What is important to me, outside of what you can or can't put into the chassis, and here Thermaltake does really well, I look for features I can really use. I like that the fans are LED lit and the top fan adds a ton of glow to the chassis, it really makes things in the chassis much more visible through the window, without the need to buy extra lights. I am also one of those guys who have a headset around all the time and no proper way to store it, so the hanger on the side is worth it, over a fan controller or HDD dock.
As it sits, and based on things that I would need personally, the Chaser A41 hits all the major points and successfully passes all my main check points. For $100 or so the Thermaltake Chaser should be a very strong contender in the flooded segment of mid-tower cases.
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