|Introduction and Specifications|
|As far as computer chassis go, when it comes to being successful in the enthusiast DIY niche', manufacturers tend to focus on a few key design approaches that will help products stand out and ultimately sell. You can go the way of functionality and build quality, like Corsair did, for example with their Obsidian 700 and 800 series, though it may or may not get you noticed. However, take that approach and also couple it with visual design cues that really catch the eye and you end up with products like MainGear's SHIFT chassis (developed with Silverstone) and the Thermaltake Level 10. Talk about "standout," the original Thermaltake Level 10 is easily one of the most recognizable and impressive high-end PC cases ever built. It's also one of the most expensive on the market as well.
Designed by the folks at BMW for Thermaltake, that one gripe stuck with the original Level 10. Gorgeous and drool-worthy perhaps, but be prepared to sell that kidney, with its original MSRP weighing in at $850 (they're selling for only $699 now). So Thermaltake set out to design a more affordable follow-on product and the Level 10 GT was born. The Level 10 GT has similar design cues to Thermaltake's uber-expensive first generation chassis, but is built with a more traditional internal component housing and lower-cost materials. The GT doesn't catch your eye like the original Level 10 but it certainly still calls attention to itself more than most full towers on the market...
Then again, Thermaltake's recently released white unicorn-like version of the Level 10 GT dubbed the "Snow Edition" just might turn a few more heads too.
Thermaltake Level 10 GT Snow Edition
Or should we call it "Storm Trooper White"
Thermaltake claims the Level 10 GT is targeted for "High Performance Gaming" and "Super Airflow Chassis" applications, which would seem rather fitting. There are three mammoth 200mm fans in this case, as well as a 140mm rear exhaust fan and the option for a bottom 120mm intake fan. If you're looking for increased airflow, the Level 10 GT should offer up more than just a cool breeze. Two of those 200mm fans are also covered by removable, washable air filters, thankfully. More on this later. You'll also notice in the spec list above, that the case only weighs about 28lbs. With the handle on the top of this chassis, for a full tower, it's actually fairly easy to move around. Finally, if you thought the original Level 10 GT wasn't bold enough, as you can see, our Snow Edition model here pretty much jumps out at you. We call it the "Storm Trooper" around the lab. Contrasted in flat black and white, this chassis would easily blend into the set of the George Lucas classic.
|Exterior Design, Materials and Worksmanship|
|The Level 10 GT Snow Edition is all about contrast, from its straight-up black and white color scheme to the carved compartments that mark each of the major component areas. And yeah, the original Level 10 and Level 10 GT black version chassis stood out a bit but, as you can see, the Level 10 GT Snow Edition is a major league head-turner.
The 5.25-inch drive bays are of a toolless design that allow you to snap optical drives into place with a locking mechanism. This is a quality design approach that makes the installation process that much easier and plenty robust. The Level 10 GT's 3.5-inch hard drive bays are a hot-swap style setup that allow you to release a drive sled with the push of a button. The sleds also have 2.5-inch mounting holes to afford you the ability to install SSDs or any 2.5" form-factor drive for that matter. The only small complaint we have with these sleds are that they're made of an all-plastic construction and they feel flimsy. Also, for whatever reason, the drive rack doesn't do a good job of dampening noisy hard drive head access during operation, unfortunately. On the up-side, the entire rack is setup with a 5-plug SATA power cable that connects each bay nicely. Just plug a single 4-pin molex connector into your power supply, connect your SATA data cables and you're done. This is a really nice feature, because it always seems that cable management for SATA power cables is a challenge. More on cable management inside the Level 10 GT, later.
Count 'em up; that's four USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port and two USB 3.0 ports, as well as headphone and microphone jacks, all setup for front and top panel access. Nice. You also get a fan speed switch which allows for control of those huge 200mm fans in the case. On high, you can pump a ton of fresh air into this thing, for not a whole lot more noise. On low, the chassis is whisper quiet. You also are provided the luxury of removable, washable fan filters for the side intake fan and in the bottom of the chassis, where an optional 120mm fan can reside, next to your power supply and its intake fan.
|Interior Design and Layout|
|When it comes to the interior design and layout, the Level 10 GT, no matter which color you choose, is a lesson in design and build simplicity. From its clean cable management features to ample and proper spacing between component areas, the Level 10 GT sets up easier than just about any full-sized case we've monkeyed with to date. Incidentally, the Level 10 GT also supports Extended ATX motherboards, if you're a sucker for punishment in that regard.
The side panel door of the Level 10 GT is actually hinged and is easily removable just by lifting it off its hinge. Thermaltake also designed a simple contact connector between the door and the main chassis, that connects the side intake fan to a power source, without the fuss or muss of a cable run. Again, it's the little things like this that make all the difference. The side intake fan also has a set of louvers behind it that can be positioned with a small lever on the exterior of the case. With this, you can direct airflow from this fan, inside the case.
Rubber grommet-lined cable pass-throughs in various strategic areas inside the case and out the back panel, serve for both interior cable management and flow tubing for water cooling. Again, setting up this case for impeccable, clean cable management and uninhibited airflow and cooling, couldn't be any easier.
Don't be distracted by the cool blue 200mm fan; look at that motherboard tray socket area cutout!
Even backside cable management behind the motherboard tray is easily accommodated by the back panel design. It's a slide-off panel type but Thermaltake left plenty of room behind the motherboard tray, to stuff that 24-pin ATX power cable and anything else you want in there and out of site. Also, take note of the motherboard socket area cutout in the motherboard tray. This allows for a bit more air flow around the backside of the motherboard socket area. Once again, we're impressed with the forethought that went into this design.
|Acoustics, Thermals and The Wrap-up|
|Acoustic and Thermal Performance: In terms of general performance, the Thermaltake Level 10 GT ran components in our system cool and quietly. We setup a fairly stout Core i7 970 six-core chip, along with an AMD Radeon HD 6850 graphics card, 6GB of RAM and a WD Raptor 150GB hard drive for testing purposes.
The large 200mm fans, on the system's Low setting, move massive amounts of air without having to spin at high RPMs. At this setting, the Level 10 GT is easily one of the quietest full-sized ATX cases we've worked with. For extreme cooling and heavy overclocking requirements, even on the Level 10 GT's High fan speed setting, fan noise, or lack thereof, is a strong point for this case.
Core i7 970 Six-Core, Intel X58 Motherboard, 6GB of RAM, 10K RPM Hard Drive - Cool and Quiet
Striking, distinctive, badass; love it or hate it but you can't say it looks like any other PC case.
The Thermaltake Level 10 GT Snow Edition performance PC case is definitely not for those that like a subdued, minimalistic look. Its over-the-top appearance may put off some, but for the enthusiast DIY set, this case definitely makes a statement with its cool-factor alone. The good news is, the Level 10 GT Snow Edition isn't just a cool looking case. It's also well-built for the most part and definitely well thought-out in terms of its design. Ease of system build, great airflow and clean cable management were clearly a priority when Thermaltake went to the drawing board with this chassis. You can currently find the Level 10 GT Snow Edition at places like J&R and Amazon, for $277 or so. If you want to tame things down a bit, go with the black standard version for about $20 less. At this price, the Level 10 GT Snow Edition is definitely a premium case, but if you're looking to build a killer gaming rig and aren't shy of taking a walk on the wild side, this case definitely has the chops.