As the trend has taken us to smaller and smaller chassis designs, Thermaltake (a company that needs no real introduction) has taken an older design back to the drawing board to revolutionize it and bring it up to snuff for today's buyers. It has been almost two years since the last inception of this design hit our labs. Back then, Thermaltake delivered us the A30 chassis for testing, and since then the market has moved leaps and bounds from what was incorporated into that older design.
The funny thing about this is that while we are dealing with a new color scheme, there is very little that has changed in this design since that time. It has similar aesthetics (well spot on to the older design actually), offers the same modularity and features, and it keeps the same hardware. It's almost as if they just changed the name to try to take on the market again now that SFF chassis are more of a rage than when the original A30 was released.
Today, we will be looking at the Armor A30i Speed Edition Gaming Cube from Thermaltake to see if there are in fact some changes made that at a glance aren't so apparent. We will also see if the new A30i is more worthy of your attention today than it was in the original form two years ago when it took our Editor's Choice award.
Right up front, the color is much bolder, and may hit the hearts of a lot of theme builders out there. The original black was sort of plain, and did not attract attention on the table at a LAN event, but this bright red version you are about to gaze upon will definitely stick out amongst most other cases that show up at a LAN event.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Following the chart, we can see that the A30i is denoted as a mini case. It is only 266mm tall, 291mm wide, 456mm in length, and this steel and plastic chassis weighs in at 5.7 kilograms. The exterior of this chassis is bright red, but modular pieces, and the removable motherboard tray, are all painted black. There are windows in this design; not just one, but one window on each side of the chassis to look inside of it.
Inside of the chassis, you are given two 90mm LED fans in the front, two 60mm LED fans in the back, and a 200mm LED fan in the roof of the chassis, to keep things as cool as possible inside. There is a modular cage for storage drives, a modular cage for the single 3.5" bay and two 5.25" bays that are visible through the front bezel. Even the PSU has a removable bracket to make life easier when building inside of this chassis.
The A30i also offers four expansion slots for cards up to 330mm in length, and it offers USB 3.0 and HD Audio. The last thing to cover is that since the PSU sits over the motherboard, there is only 90mm of room for CPU coolers to fit.
There are a few locations that stock this chassis, and it seems the MSRP is the exact same as the original, which is set at $119 U.S. dollars. However, I was a bit shocked to see was an Amazon listing for this chassis at $95.24, marked down from $109.99. Amazon also shows that they have 26 others of that chassis in stock for as low at $90.
Considering we are now looking at $30 off MSRP pricing, I do feel that this chassis may very well be worthy of your time.
Packaging is what we typically get from Thermaltake: a black box, red accents, and a blue medieval backdrop to the A30i shown on the left.
As the red stripe continues around the side, we see features like its bulletproof design (although I would not test that), the oversized fan, internal USB 3.0, LED lighting, and that it supports high-end video cards. This is then repeated to cover the many markets that Thermaltake is in.
The back of the packaging is identical to the front, except for the fact that this side has the tab to allow the top of the box to be opened to access the chassis inside of it.
This last side of the packaging offers the shipping label, and we can see by the green sticker that we got the Other Color version of the VM700; the A3W2N version, not the all black A1W2N.
Of course I realize the chassis is on its side in this image, but the point is to show the plastic inner liner, and the Styrofoam end caps that support and protect the chassis during transit. As for what is used here, it proves the KISS mantra; the A30i inside arrived in tip-top condition.
Thermaltake Armor A30i Speed Edition Gaming Cube
The front bezel of this A30i offers a 3.5" bay to the left, some mesh next to it, and the pair of 5.25" bays to the right. The lower section offers USB 3.0 ports, 3.5mm jacks for audio, a mesh area for intake with the name and logo on it, and the power and reset buttons to the far right.
The top of the chassis has angular lines that start at the front, and work back to the 200mm fan at the back. This fan is covered in that same mesh that is found at the front of the chassis.
The left side of the chassis offers a large window in comparison to the size of the panel, which is held in place with plastic push-pins. Near the front are large hexagonal shaped holes that allow air to flow right into the side with little to stop it, not even a dust filter.
At the back of the chassis, there are eleven thumb screws to remove the various sections. Inside of the red frame, there is room for the PSU next to a section of venting, two 60mm fans above the rear I/O, and four expansion slots at the bottom right to finish things out.
The right side of the chassis is a mirror image of what we saw at the left. The window is the same, as is the venting at the front, and again, there is no dust filter to clean the intake of air.
Under the chassis there are four round plastic feet with rubber pads to support the A30i and make sure it stays in one place. There are cutaways for the motherboard tray supports, the tray stop point, and the HDD rack that sits on the floor.
Inside the Armor A30i Speed Edition Gaming Cube
You access the interior through the top of the chassis. After removing two thumbscrews, the top slides back a bit, then lifts off of the chassis to expose the guts. You can now also see the 200mm clear fan in the top, which is powered with a 4-pin Molex connection.
After removing a lot more screws, the rear of the chassis slides out with the motherboard tray, and allows more access inside of the chassis, which makes life easier when installing the motherboard. Both of the 60mm fans in the back are also found to use 4-pin Molex connection to power them.
Removing six screws from the top edges of the sides, the PSU support rack comes off the top of the chassis. Putting the PSU into the frame is easier, and it also gives access to the motherboard tray when completing the build.
At the front is another cage for the ODD bays, and a 3.5" bay that sits on its side. On the top (which is the bottom in this image) there are also spots for two 2.5" drives to mount.
The last thing that is easily removed is the dual bay HDD rack. There are rubber grommets to allow mounting from the bottoms of the drives. The sides do not touch, and the vibrations are isolated when you send the screws through the grommets.
With everything now out of the chassis, we can finally get a look at the inside of the front of this A30i. Tabs hold the bezel in place, and it does need to be removed to get the bay covers off. It is easy to see that the 90mm fan in the front has no dust filter either.
The wiring from the front I/O panel runs all the way past the end of the chassis. This allows plenty of length to get all of them connected, and also allows you to slide the tray out a bit to disconnect them after, rather than having to pull the PSU for access.
Accessories and Documentation
Part of the hardware is the motherboard speaker, small adjustable wire ties, two larger adjustable wire ties, two plastic clips to help mount 2.5" drives, and a plastic plug of some sort; the last of which we have found no use for.
The screws all come in separate bags. There are eight HDD screws, ten ODD and SSD screws, an extra thumbscrew, four fan screws, and a handful of PSU, motherboard, and expansion slot screws.
Found outside of the chassis (but inside of the plastic liner) there was another bag containing the paperwork. There you will locate the A30i user manual, and the warranty information regarding the two-year warranty that Thermaltake provides this chassis with.
In case you missed this earlier, one of the first things covered in the manual are the restrictions. Again, it shows that the CPU cooler cannot be taller than 90mm, and any VGA you plan to use needs to be no longer than 330mm.
As for the rest of the manual, you see steps such as this, where how to remove parts is explained. If the images are not enough, there are step-by-step instructions given. And, just like on the box, this is done in many languages to cover their markets.
The Build and Finished Product
The first thing we did for the build was to put our Micro-ATX motherboard on the tray, and it will also house a Mini-ITX board. There was a bit of flex that needed to be overcome to sink the screws, but we got it in there. Also, we have the CPU fan installed in reverse since the PSU intake sits right above this.
We also took our standard Silverstone PSU, and added it into the PSU frame. Here, the screws line up well, and there are no issues to speak of.
We also dropped a 3.5" hard drive into the rack that slides into the floor. For this review we will not be using an ODD, or fan controller, so we can leave the front rack sitting in the box for now, and add it later if there is the need for it.
Adding things back into the chassis should be done in stages to simplify the build. Here we have the motherboard in the case, the VGA installed, the wiring is done, and we even got the HDD rack back in with the SATA cable connected.
Since our PSU is modular and offered a short cable kit, it was perfect for this chassis, and I highly recommend a modular PSU in this chassis. So, we wired everything to the board, card, and the drive, but have yet to tend to the fan power connections.
We found it very easy to drop in the PSU and support frame, and then connect all of the cables. With the short cable kit, there is little leftover wiring, and it does not disturb the air flow all that much.
The Build and Finished Product Continued
After closing up shop, we take another spin around the A30i. I thought the front looked too good to break it all up with an optical drive, and since the fans are Molex connected, a fan controller is pointless unless you are swapping out all of the fans in the chassis.
From the left, we can now see the HD7950 very easily through the side window. You can also see there is plenty of room left for longer cards, as the longer than stock card I use is still not visible through the mesh near the front.
The back of the chassis goes together well, and there were not any issues with the chassis warping when the tray is pulled out or slid back in. When it came time to replace all the thumbscrews, the holes were all lined up.
The right side of the chassis offers a view of the CPU cooler from this angle, but as you move around, you can also see the memory, the motherboard, and even the top of the VGA installed on the other side of the chassis.
Once the chassis is powered, there is an audible level of noise that gave a 38dB reading on our meter. As for the 200mm fan, when it is powered it will flood the interior with a bright blue glow.
From the front of the chassis, you can see the top fan through the mesh in the ODD bays. The 90mm fan in the front is also illuminated blue. I did miss the red HDD activity LED, but the power indicator light matches the fans with the blue LED under the reset button.
Up front, the A30i Speed Edition is a great looking chassis that will stick out in the crowd. While not much has changed in two years, the frame is rigid when the components are removed, the simplicity in the way the modular sections are installed and removed makes it a pleasure to install in, and even with some tiny fans at play in this design, the noise level is tolerable for a gaming rig. However, I would not suggest using this for an HTPC setup; it is just too loud for that environment. The play of black trim on the bright red color of this chassis also makes this an easy choice for themed builds, especially with all of the black and red products that are flooding the market.
The things I did not care for are pretty straight forward. The lack of dust filters in a chassis these days is pretty lame. I mean, even the cheapest of the cheap $40 cases try to offer these for intakes. Although this does promote better air flow than cases that offer them, you also have to deal with the aftermath, of tearing everything apart to clean, rather than simply pulling a filter and running it under the sink. As for the design and features, it is still relevant to today's market, but I would have expected more changes to give a reason for the "i" at the end of the name. In reality, this is more of a rerelease of the same product with a bit of extra flair to it.
I feel that if you can locate this chassis in the realm of $90 U.S. dollars (like the listings I had found); the Armor A30i Speed Edition Gaming Cube is an original looking design that will definitely get you noticed at a LAN event. As for those who plan to use this day in and day out, keep in mind that you will need to address the dust in some fashion, and you may even want to swap out the blue LED fans all together. Not only would red fans look better, but I do also think you could get this chassis near silent with the right choice of fans to place in here.
In the end, I do like this chassis, but I think Thermaltake could have done better with two years of time between chassis and the Armor A30 we saw then.
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