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Thermaltake Urban SD1 Micro SFF Chassis Review

Thermaltake Urban SD1 Micro SFF Chassis Review

The Urban Series gets a small addition. Thermaltake has sent over the Urban SD1 Micro-Chassis so that we can see an SFF chassis done right.

@chad_sebring
Chad Sebring
Published Thu, May 1 2014 9:03 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Thermaltake

Introduction, Specifications and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 35 IMAGES

There are all sorts of Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX chassis designs on the market designed to take up the least amount of space as possible. Thermaltake is about to change your perception a bit. Where most of these designs are all about the overall size, trying to get smaller and smaller, there are inherent issues with doing such a thing. Most importantly are the thermal results of packing in a bunch of high tech gear inside such a confined space. Taking that a step further, most of these have the PSU over the CPU cooler, and in general, most low-profile coolers do not perform well enough for high-end systems. The last thing to consider in a fair amount of these cases is the VGA planned for the build. A few companies have made efforts for ITX sized cards, but in the current generation of video cards, that leaves you with only four or five options to choose from.

This is where Thermaltake saw a hole in the market and decided they had a solid remedy to these issues. While the height is similar to most of the SFF chassis we have seen before, the width has been increased to allow for Micro-ATX motherboards and Mini-ITX. The case offers plenty of room for full length VGAs and even comes somewhat ready to add an AIO with no fuss at all. While the overall size is larger than those bragging about having the smallest footprint or the least space inside of the chassis, Thermaltake took the approach that sometimes bigger is better, even when discussing SFF chassis designs.

So, what separates this from all the rest? Well for starters, this is from the Urban Series, which means clean exterior lines and plenty of aluminum touches to dress up the design. They also looked into optional parts as well as making every bit of the interior components removable so that the user can completely customize this chassis to their specific needs and not have a bunch of empty racks taking up space and complicating things. On the flip side, Thermaltake also offers all of the amenities one would expect in any chassis, like plenty of room in the 5.25-inch bays for an ODD as well as a fan controller while still also offering users a 3.5-inch exposed bay. While storage drive placements are more limited due to the design, even here there are options, even when the main drive rack is removed. From what we saw, and after a quick conversation about something with the engineers of this design, we find that thoughts went much deeper in this design than we initially thought.

With that in mind, we need to cruise through the specifications, pricing, and packaging, but the wait is really worth it to get to see what the Urban SD1 Micro Chassis has in store.

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The provided chart is very thorough and offers up most of the information needed to make an educated decision about this design. It starts out with the Urban SD1 and part number below it, and then jumps right into the 9.4-inch height, 11-inch width, and 17.9-inch depth. Empty, this chassis weighs in at 12.8 pounds. It states there are no windows, but those sections are ventilated to allow the most passive airflow possible in this design. They also state that this chassis is black inside and out, and is comprised mostly of steel, has aluminum used on the front bezel, but there is no mention of the ABS plastic used as its frame.

As we continue down the chart, we find that there is a 90mm fan in the front of the chassis to introduce most of the air into this design. At the rear of the chassis, used as exhaust, there is a pair of 60mm fans used there. Jumping down the list a bit, we also see that there can be a conversion made where the drive racks are removed and swapped out with another panel that offers room for a 120mm or 140mm AIO to be at the top of this design. Along with the four expansion slots offered, and the USB 3.0 and HD Audio offered in the front I/O panel, we also see the limitations of 90mm for CPU cooler height and 350mm for overall VGA length.

From what we can gather, obtaining the Urban SD1 from any retailer or e-tailer is very easy, as all the places we hunt showed stock currently. As for the pricing, it may be a touch high for some with a listed price exceeding the $100 US dollar mark, but this is not your ordinary SFF chassis either. Considering what we just saw from Cooler Master in the Elite 110 and 130, we had issue with parts compatibility, and only in one of them was an AIO even feasible. Is this the best SFF chassis that can house both a Micro-ATX motherboard and an AIO without working some form of magic during the build process? Well, that is entirely up to you, but as you continue on, you will see that we are fond of it, even at this cost. We find the pricing is on point with other cases of its caliber--it just depends on your personal tastes in aesthetics--but even there the Urban SD1 is no slouch, and it will make your decision tougher when looking for a new chassis like this. We can guarantee that.

PRICING: You can find the Thermaltake Urban SD1 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Thermaltake Urban SD1 retails for $119.72 at Amazon.

Australia: The Thermaltake Urban SD1 retails for $216.99 AUD at Mighty Ape Australia.

New Zealand: The Thermaltake Urban SD1 retails for $229.99 NZD at Mighty Ape NZ.

Packaging

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The packaging is dressed up a fair bit with the shiny coating and full on printing in color. Even so, things are kept basic with the company and product naming along with a single, smaller image of the product.

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Here we have twelve feature lists presented in various languages. The points covered here are the contents of the front I/O, the fans offered inside the chassis, the modular bay design for storage, and the options for both liquid cooling systems and dual card setups.

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Keeping some of the costs down, we find that the back panel is identical to what we found on the front. The only difference here is that there is no beginning to the red stripe that adorns almost all Thermaltake packaging.

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The last panel on the exterior of the packaging offers a full-blown specifications chart. In fact, this is the exact chart we just discussed on the last page, and it is not condensed in any way to make you have the need to visit the site while standing at the store thinking about grabbing this chassis.

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On the inside, the chassis is surrounded in an opaque plastic liner to protect the paint and aluminum bits, although the front bezel has extra plastic there to protect it as well. Outside of that, Thermaltake used Styrofoam to keep the chassis from getting poked at through the box, allowing this Urban SD1 to arrive in terrific shape.

Thermaltake Urban SD1 Micro- Chassis

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The front of the Urban SD1 is where most of the style and sophistication comes from. We find the power LED bar across the top, and the rest of the panel below it is brushed aluminium. The lower section is also aluminium and holds the I/O connectivity to the left; power, HDD activity LED, and reset button in the middle; and to balance it out, the Thermaltake name and logo is placed off to the right side.

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The majority of the front panel opens to expose the 3.5-inch bay on its side next to the pair of 5.25-inch bays, all of which have covers that can be removed without pulling the bezel. There are also three wide vents cut onto the plastic to allow the intake fan a source of air flow.

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The top of the chassis is very well ventilated at the front and back, with a section of solid steel in the middle. This panel is also how one accesses the interior of the chassis.

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The left side of the chassis is a lot of black painted steel, but the lower half has been perforated with round holes from the front of the chassis all the way to the back. This makes sure that if the chassis needs more air flow than the front fan can provide, it can use this to access more cool air.

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Only three thumbscrews are needed to remove the top panel. The rest of them allow the motherboard tray as well as this entire rear panel to slide out of the chassis. Well, everything excluding the PSU installation cage at the top left; it comes off separately.

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The right side is a copy of the left side. No window to look through, but as well as offering plenty of passive air flow into the chassis, you will have a view of the components through this mesh as well, since we can see all the way through it in this image.

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Under the chassis, all you will find are stamped components used to hold the tray or the HDD rack along with the large round plastic feet that have rubber pads applied to them. The larger lines you can see are not only structural to strengthen the panel, but all of them also help support the motherboard tray.

Inside the Urban SD1

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Removing the top is simple enough, but the view inside of the chassis is greatly impeded by the optical and storage rack at the front as well as the PSU bracket at the back. Removing one thumbscrew allows the front to slide back and lift out, but to remove the PSU bracket, there is a thumbscrew out back as well as six screws on the frame rails.

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Doing things a bit differently, we removed the components to show what they are for. This is, of course, the front bracket that offers room for a pair of 5.25-inch devices to the right, a single 3.5-inch drive to the left, and two places on top for 2.5-inch drives, all built into this assembly.

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If there is a need for a pair of 3.5-inch drives to be stored, under the rack we just looked at, this rack is slid into clips on the floor of the chassis and has a single thumbscrew to lock it into place. Both the top and the bottom offer rubber grommets to isolate the drives.

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At the other end of the chassis is the PSU bracket. This allows the PSU to be installed fan up or fan down, while the right side is completely opened up to allow for video cards to run under the structural support it offers when back in the chassis.

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Once those are removed, we went ahead and slid the motherboard tray out of the back. This offers a pair of 60mm fans, room for Mini-ITX or a Micro-ATX motherboard, and four expansion slots. With this design, everything can be installed and wired with this out of the chassis.

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With everything out of the chassis, we can now see inside of the front bezel. The 90mm fan offered is set low, mainly to make room for the drive bays, but it is also low enough not to interfere with AIO installation that happens here with the optional plate used.

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All three fans use 4-pin Molex connectors that can connect together and be powered by the PSU Molex line. We also have the LED and switch wiring, HD Audio, and Native USB 3.0 all in black to help blend into the chassis.

Accessories and Documentation

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All of the hardware offered comes in their own bags to help things along. We find fan screws, PSU and ODD screws, motherboard screws, an extra thumbscrew, and the HDD screws to use with the 3.5-inch drives.

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There were also two large adjustable tie straps, a plastic clip to use with them, a motherboard speaker, and five smaller adjustable wire ties. At the bottom are two plastic clips that are used on one side of 2.5-inch drives so that they may snap in and lock onto the top of the main drive rack or the optional plate.

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This is the optional plate we have been mentioning. This allows the conversion of all of the front bays into an open space that one could hang a single 120mm or 140mm AIO from. We were going to doctor this up and add a fan, but normal fan screws will not fit. We asked about this and were told that larger holes allowed some of the competitors' AIOs to vibrate in the chassis with larger holes, so these are kept smaller for the screws sent with all of the AIO kits available.

We also were not given an instruction manual or any form of a guide. The thing is, even without any form of instructions, the Urban SD1 is so easy to figure out and straightforward in its design. Even the most amateur PC builder can make it through the build process without much hassle at all.

Case Build and Finished Product

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Since all of the AIO units we had on hand were dual radiator models, we went with something very low profile for simplicity, but there is 90mm of room for much better cooling choices. Since we have most of the main things all ready to go at this point, we just need to do some pre-wiring and make sure nothing gets in the way.

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We decided to go with our PSU being installed fan up. This is a handy option for those using air cooling so that the fans do not compete for air, yet if an AIO is used, the PSU could be flipped to remove the heat produced from the motherboard.

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Since we can, we removed all of the drive bays in our build and for this image of the plastic clip locking into both the SSD and the steel tray mounted on top of the optional AIO plate. It works the same on the standard plate as well, but there are two locations on that plate rather than just this one.

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With a chassis such as this, a modular PSU is a must. It can be done with a standard PSU, but the reality is that it will frustrate you and be very messy inside when done. Of course, with no window, who cares, right? You should because it will impede airflow greatly with such small fans cooling this chassis.

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At this stage, we added the PSU bracket back into the chassis and made all of the connections. Then, we added in the AIO plate that is currently only holding an SSD, but with just a couple of wires to move, the front of the chassis is now completely open to hang a fan and radiator there.

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Taking the tour around the finished chassis, since we did not use any optical drives or bay devices, we just leave the magnetic front panel shut and enjoy the sleek sexiness of the brushed aluminum. We did try to remove the covers and install a drive into the rack, and we found no issues with fit or access.

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You have to look closely, but the HIS IceQ sticker from the video card is visible through the mesh, and there is even a bit of that GIGABYTE blue from the other PCI slots visible. Even without a window, the Urban SD1 is still able to offer some form of a view inside.

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Not an issue really, but something to keep in mind is that without the motherboard tray and the PSU rack, the back of the chassis is out of square, so when putting the components back into the chassis, you do have to flex the sides a bit to align the screws. As for the rest, the card went in easily, and so did the dust shield.

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On the right side of the chassis, you really have to get close to view what is inside, mainly due to the video card blocking the light from the other side, but again, this is intended for air flow and not viewing pleasure, but it is nice that it offers both.

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We end the images with this shot of the Urban SD1 before we added any power. We found with this build that the CMOS battery in our Micro-ATX motherboard bit the dust. So while it powered up and we were able to hear the fans surprisingly only delivering 38 dB of noise into the room, we had to take this out of the booth to reset the BIOS and get the blue LED bar at the top functioning when the system is powered as well as catching a glimpse of the red LED at the bottom blinking as the SSD is accessed.

Final Thoughts

Taking everything we have just seen into consideration, let us add a bit of perspective to what that is. While not as capable as say the Prodigy in either form, this chassis is much smaller any way you look at it. Comparing it then to something like what Cooler Master has sent to us in the recent past, the Urban SD1 is almost more than two Elite 110s end to end. So while the Prodigy offers a bit more room inside with more water cooling options, it is huge when placed next to the SD1. On the flip side of it all, I had someone ask for the Elite 110, and they tried to install an AIO in there, and after wires in the fans and cramped conditions that he can no longer deal with, this Urban SD1 will accommodate all of this parts.

The way everything comes apart in modular sections helps all the way around. Not only does it make installation of various components throughout the build much simpler to do, it also allows wiring to be done in stages and kept clean no matter what you leave in or remove from this chassis. While we still advise a modular PSU, we were pleased to see our longer test PSU fit and not have the need to break out the Corsair relic we have as a backup. It is, however, just much easier to tend to the wiring and route them where they need to be rather than having to hide a bunch of leads you don't need.

While we did not give the thermal testing in this chassis any real chance of great results using that tiny Zalman cooler in this chassis, we were impressed to see that the temperatures increased only two degrees over our open air testing. The other, and almost shocking, thing about this chassis is that while we played it off early as going to be loud and obnoxious, the fans chosen are very tolerable.

Reflecting back and thinking of just how easy the build went along with all the options this chassis offers, that initial sticker shock we felt is much easier to take. Sticking with the Urban Series' sleek and sexy aesthetics, offering a compact well thought out design, and even considering things like the diameter of the screw holes so that users did not have to buy a Water2.0 system are all things that more companies should be doing.

In this Urban SD1, Thermaltake has offered exactly what is needed to most users, and the company does so impressively. As long as you aren't trying to impress someone with how tiny of a system can be built, we will be suggesting the Urban SD1 for any Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX build for a long time to come.

PRICING: You can find the Thermaltake Urban SD1 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Thermaltake Urban SD1 retails for $119.72 at Amazon.

Australia: The Thermaltake Urban SD1 retails for $216.99 AUD at Mighty Ape Australia.

New Zealand: The Thermaltake Urban SD1 retails for $229.99 NZD at Mighty Ape NZ.

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After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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