Looking Good on the Outside
First, we're going to start things off with the outside of the Tai Chi Aluminum Extrusion Case. The design invokes a yin/yang feel with its butterfly access doors, with an inner black door contrasting to the aluminum colored outer door. Behind the access doors were a total of 11 drive bays, 10-5.25" and 4-3.5", three of which are hard drive bays that lie behind the front intake fan. In the top bay is a removable power console with a 3.5" bay as well as power and reset buttons and hard drive and power LEDs. The console is removable and can be relocated to any 5.25" bay. At the bottom of the bays was a single 120mm fan with blue LEDs with a handy tool tray beneath it.
On the very top of the unit were two cast aluminum handles molded into the design, making for easy handling of the case. In the center of the Tai Chi's top, Thermaltake provided two USB ports, one IEEE1394 port along with a microphone and headphone jack. The positioning for this was excellent. All too often we find this type of port collection mounted at the bottom of a case, making it hard to access. Since most large towers will likely end up on the floor, putting these ports at the top of the unit makes the most sense. We also found it useful when we connected an external device such as an MP3 player that could be left on top of the unit rather than on a desk or the floor.
The rear of the Tai Chi Aluminum Extrusion Case sported a standard ATX layout, however, Thermaltake does offer a BTX conversion kit if needed. The rear of the case was also equipped with a 120mm exhaust fan with blue LEDs. Just above the fan are four holes that allow cabling to pass through if needed. Sometimes external drive panels require cabling to be run to the rear of the case to connect to the sound card, a USB port or other item. These holes make it very simple to snake the wires as needed without having to open a blank PCI slot in the case.
One of the Tai Chi's best features is its two fold access door with hydraulic actuator. To start, there is a smaller front door that can be opened to provide access to the drive mount screws, with a sister door on the opposite side of the unit. The second door is a hydraulic mechanism that swings the door open as soon as the thumbscrew is removed. The feel of this entire mechanism is of high quality. While some may perceive this as gimmicky, make no mistake, there is nothing cheap about this design. In fact, the door is very sturdy as another flavor of the Tai Chi comes with a water cooling kit mounted to this door, which explains the vented area on the door. All doors are secured in place with thumbscrews, requiring no tools to remove.