Thermaltake has long been known for their product line that keeps the enthusiast in mind. Whether you're looking for cooling, power or enclosures, odds are good you will find something that grabs your eye.
Today's article will cover one of the newer enclosures to wear the Thermaltake moniker, the Aguila. This particular model is a mid-sized design so should be good for those who are looking for a reasonable amount of room but don't have a desire for the larger full tower models. Thermaltake has a solid reputation for bringing innovation to their product line, so we'll see if this newest offering can keep up the tradition.
So relax for a bit and enjoy as we take a closer look at the Thermaltake "Aguila" enclosure.
Beginning with the front side of the box, we can already see an immediate improvement over many of the designs hitting the market place right now. The Aguila has gone with a full sized door panel that offers full protection and also helps hide off-colored optical devices. Also, take note of the cutaway corners at the bottom of the door. These sit a good distance away from the front bezel and offer excellent airflow for the front fan system. The fuzzy looking top portion of the door is also made of a mesh-type material that also allows air to flow freely. This all adds up to good airflow for an optimal cooling setup.
Opening up the front door shows a lot room for expandability. The default setup allows room for 6 optical and 2 3.5" external devices. If you are wondering how we get these numbers, take a closer look at the layout above. You can set 4 of your optical drives in the easily seen spaces for them. Another will fit vertically to the left of the fan, and the last will go just beneath the fan. As for the 3.5" devices, one fits in the housing that holds the power button and the other is situated just above the fan.
Another item of note is the flexibility of the layout. If you don't like the power button being at the top, just pull out the tray and mount it into another 5.25" slot and you're done. While not quite as flexible as the Thermaltake SHARK series, this one comes close and allows you a lot of room to customize.
Opening the bezel gives us another view of the layout of the front panel. The fan you see is a very nice 120mm model that provides very good airflow with a minimal amount of noise (only 17 dBA). You can also see the mesh-like material of the front door from this angle.
Above is a closer look at the front cooling included in the base model. You can also see that all front cover plates are covered with a foam filter material. Most folks who have read my past reviews know that I am critical toward any product that does not provide for some sort of filtration for all intake areas. The Aguila has addressed this concern in a very satisfactory way. When these filters get dirty, you need only blow then out with some canned air or even a vacuum cleaner. If they get very dirty, just carefully remove the filter and clean it in warm water. With a little care, they will last you a long time.
Moving to the side area we see a large window. Since windows are generally a matter of personal preference, the Aguila series is offered both with and without a window. I like them myself, but others may prefer this case without, so you have the option to get what you want.
Regardless of which design you prefer, there will still be what is referred to as a "ventilation opening" in the side panel. While Thermaltake recommends you use this as a passive exhaust, I would encourage you to add a fan here for a more effective airflow pattern. There is already a mesh covering in place with push pins, so a nice 92mm fan will work perfectly here and enhance the overall airflow of the enclosure.
To keep everything secure on the inside, you have a dual latching setup and thumbscrews. The top latch also has the obligatory locking mechanism for those who are either in a working environment and need people to stay out, or for those with small kids with an inquisitive mind. If you don't need the door locked, just leave the latch unlocked and it works normally.
The thumbscrews are larger than you might be used to so grabbing hold is easy. Even when tight, I had no problems removing the thumbscrews without tools.
As with most enclosures, the back of the Aguila is an industry standard layout. Since we have to use normal components to create out system, there is just not much you can do in this area. There is, however, an included 120mm fan to aid in the cooling of the computer. The fan used here has the same specifications as the front fan but also includes LED lighting. This sets off the interior nicely through the large side window.
Our final stop on our tour of the exterior of this enclosure will be the top. Easily accessible I/O ports have become a staple in modern case designs, but they are not always created equally. The Aguila design has these ports sitting under a cover on the top of the box so they are hidden when not needed, but still accessible. Standard headphone and mic jacks, two USB 2.0 ports and a IEEE1394 port are included.
I have heard that some folks have had issues with top mounted I/O ports since they are hard to get to when the case is sitting under a desk. While this is somewhat the case here, you should have little trouble since this enclosure is over 2" shorter than a full tower enclosure (2.28" shorter, or 58mm shorter for those who are not metrically challenged).
Moving to the interior of the box, we'll start off with the optical drive bay area. This is a pretty standard layout for systems using a rail system for drive mounting. Toward the top of the photo you can see the bottom of the tray that contains the power switch. Remember, if you don't like where it is located, just move it.
Speaking of that tray, this gives a closer look at it. It serves as a multi-function carrier since it is compatible with either a 3.5" floppy drive or a hard drive. Rails are already mounted to the side of the tray, so you simply install either of the supported devices and your set. From there it slides easily into place. We'll cover installation in a bit, but is really is a simple install.
Moving down the front column brings us to the hard drive tray. The assembly sits in a sideways position and has a steady flow of air coming from the front mounted 120mm fan. This ensures that newer (and faster) hard drives will stay cool.
The drive bay comes out by removing the screw located at the top right hand corner. Remove the screw and the entire tray comes out of the case for easy installation of your hard drives. You can also see a large circular design cut into the back of the tray. This is for those who are looking for a more direct cooling solution for their hard drives as it is designed to fit a 120mm fan. Word to the wise... Don't install a 120mm fan in the drive tower if you are using the 120mm fan in the front of the enclosure. If you do this, you will have airflow entering the same space from two different directions and the turbulence will most likely cause a very ineffective overall cooling solution.
Taking a closer look at the hard drive bay shows a very nice addition. These small black chunks you see are rubber grommets. Their purpose is to stop the vibration caused by having a rapidly spinning drive mounted directly into a metal enclosure. This helps reduce noise levels during times of hard drive activity and is always a welcome addition to any case design.
Tool-free installation of PCI/AGP/PCI-E devices has long been a goal of many case manufacturers. While this isn't the first style we've seen, is appears to be better than many I've seen. It takes just a simple movement of the retention bracket shown above to hold your peripheral device firmly in place.
If you take a closer look you will see that the plastic tip sits very close to the rear edge of the enclosure. Without anything to stick out over the lip, you will have no problems with tall peripherals. The notch on the right edge of the retention clip is in a location that coincides with the PCB attached to the peripheral bracket, which is why larger (taller) cards are easily accommodated.
One note of caution; if you have a video board or other peripheral that requires two PCI slots, you may have to remove one of the retention clips. The reason for this is that many of these dual-slot devices do not have a edge that is compatible with the retention clip of the enclosure. If you lock the clip down until it snaps into place, you will break the clip's bottom edge.
To finish up our tour of the interior, I wanted to point out the strange location of the speaker. Most cases made, if they decide to add a speaker that is, mount it to the bottom of the enclosure. In this case, however, the speaker is mounted beside the rear fan. This places it just under the power supply. Not a big deal, but different so I thought it worth mentioning.
I tend to use this section of the article to point out both good and bad points when it comes down to the system installation. Many enclosures can look good, but their features leave a lot to be desired when it actually comes time to start putting the parts together. Let's see what the Aguila has to offer, shall we?
To start things off, I'll begin at the front.
In this day of everything being disposable, it is very common to find those little metal plates that you twist out and throw away in this location. One of the benefits of having something more permanent here is structural stability. If I remove two of those throw away metal plates and later decide to use only one optical device, I lose a small amount of stability with the missing plate. With this setup, I remove the covers I need, but can replace them if I decide later to use a different setup. While this is a small detail, I like the fact that Thermaltake is paying attention to these details to begin with.
After the covers have been removed, you use a simple rail system to mount the optical devices. This is a tool free rail design and they have even marked the rails L and R to make the installation even easier. Simply place the rail studs into the device and slide it into place.
This gives you an idea how the rail system works. Once you insert the optical device into the bay with the rails attached, just slide it until you hear the click. This indicates the device is locked into place. The lower drive is fully mounted, the top device is getting ready to be. Since the rail works on the industry standard placement of the mounting screws on the device, you don't have to worry about how far the drive hangs out of the bay.
Once the drives are mounted, just close the front bezel and the drives are lined up properly. It is just that easy.
We talked earlier about the hard drive tower and the grommets used. This shows you a drive in place. Just a word of caution for those like myself with large fingers, you may have a little difficulty with the screw insertion. The oval you see above is recessed and made it a bit of a chore installing the hard drive. Once installed, the drive was very secure and the sound dampening effect of the rubber made for a very quiet operation.
Here is something that I have never encountered before, the requirement to add a protective material to the motherboard tray before system installation. Seems that since this case design is compatible with the new BTX standards, the motherboard tray has some high areas that need to be covered with a mylar sheet to keep the system from shorting out. Not a big deal, but one that I've not seen before.
The plastic tabs shown above are made of the mylar material and are non-conductive. Make sure to pay attention to the directions at this point to make sure you get these pads mounted in the right spot. Let me show you how it will look once they are in place.
I removed the hard drive bay to show you the layout. I think that the two smaller pads you see on the right will only be necessary for those using a server-sized mainboard. I went ahead and installed them, but they were not in lay when I installed a standard ATX motherboard into the system.
Besides the features shown above, there weren't any other areas of system installation that were out of the ordinary. While this enclosure doesn't have a removable motherboard tray, the installation of components went without a hitch. As a side note, I had no problems with sharp edges in this model. At no time did I receive any cuts from areas when adding components. Overall it is a very nice layout and the features included are done in good taste.
When it comes to computer cases, it all comes down to personal preference. Some want a large window, some folks want none. Some may want a power supply included while others already have a serviceable one that they want to keep. Thermaltake has gone far in providing you with enough choices to make you happy and it shows with the Aguila. But once we get past the aesthetics of the enclosure, there is still the matter of a good layout and nice features.
Cooling is often a killing point in a new case design, but the Aguila has excelled in this area. With two 120mm fans included with the default setup, it already has more going for it than most enclosures currently on the market. Add in the rubber grommets used in the hard drive tower and the mostly tool-free installation features and you have a very nice overall design.
I also like the hinged front bezel concept. This is a design that Thermaltake has been using on several of its case designs and it works very well. It makes getting at the filters a simple matter and makes drive installation a snap.
As far as price is concerned, you can expect to fork out about US$120 for this thing. While not the most expensive case on the market, it is certainly no bargain basement special. Of course, I have said in the past and still maintain to this day, you get what you pay for.
Bottom line... If you've been considering a new case and want something that looks great and has very good cooling already in place, make sure to add the Thermaltake Aguila to your short list of potential candidates. It offers a lot of features that are generally only available to the DIY modder and they are very professionally done.
Very good looks
Hinged front bezel
Large side window
No removable motherboard tray
Rating - 9.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Features Award!
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