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Thermaltake Highest Xaser III

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    1 Review
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      14.07.2005 06:25
      Very helpful
      (Rating)
      9 Comments

      Advantages

      • Reliability

      Disadvantages

      Good case...not quite worth the money...but a good case.

      Thermaltake is always innovative with product line, ranging from heatsinks to the Hardcano series fan control modules. It's no wonder this company also succeeds in the case market.

      The introduction of Thermaltake's Xaser line of cases brought about new and unique ideas in design and features. The original Xaser design was based on a few of Chenming series of desktop cases with added features of its own, like the Hardcano fan control. Since the Xaser III line made its debut, it has sent ripples through the case market. It is a high end enthusiast's dream. The most emphasized feature of the second series of Xasers is the totally screw-less design.

      When I think of Thermaltake, the image that comes to my mind is their front bezel design. This particular case has a black front bezel to match the rest of the 0.8 mm SECC shell. The red brushed aluminum trim gives it a sleek look. It also has skull designed light with 3 modes, a flashing pattern that complements the VM3000A's strong looks, a constant On mode, as well as an Off mode. The inverter switch used to change between the 3 modes can be detached from the system if the light show is not to be used.


      Design Features

      The VM3000A features a swinging door, which conceals the drive bays as well as the power and reset buttons and LEDs. The buttons themselves are both flush to the plastic casing to prevent accidental shutdowns or resets. The entire front bezel can be removed by grabbing hold of the bottom and pullingaway from the case. The side panels are also made from the same strong 0.8 mm SECC as the rest of the chassis, so bending is not a problem. The left panel has a plastic window, which is also shielded with its honeycomb design. Both panels are screw-less and can be removed and replaced easily. They are also EMI shielded to help protect the installed hardware from magnetic interference.

      The case also features an a rheobus, which Thermaltake has monikered the Hardcano. This module can be removed and can be replaced with, a normal 5-1/4" drive if you are so inclined. The panel itself has an LED display with a 2 color backlight: blue for normal temperatures, and red for the alarm mode. The display shows the user specified alarm temperature on top and the current CPU temperature below. A temperature alarm can be set by an inset dial using a small flathead screw driver. When the temperature rises past the set alarm, the Hardcano produces an audible alert along with the red backlight display. On the right half are 2 dials to control the speed of 2 case fans connected directly to the power supply. This seems insufficient, since there are 4 fans installed. If I was to use this case for a long time, I would be severly tempted to replace the Hardcano with a slightly more robust rheobus. There are also twin ports for USB and a port for firewire capabilities. A disadvantage to the included fire wire adapter cable is that it needs to be taken out externally through the back and plugged in to a fire wire card on the back panel, which is just tacky in my opinion. Note to thermaltake: KEEP ALL CONNECTIONS INTERNAL!



      Fans

      Along with the issue of the firewire connection, the Hardcano has an overabundance of wiring. This is especially a problem for the USB ports. The bundle of cables that run to the motherboard are separated with individual plugs. This is frustrating to plug in as the labels are not standard! Another note to Thermaltake: STANDARDIZATION IS GOOD!

      Lack of fans is not a problem for this case. It comes with four orange colored 80mm fans, strategically placed throughout the chassis. A exhaust has been placed at mid-height on the right side of the case in a fold-down module. This fan is mainly used for relieving heat generated by the hard drives mounted in that area. Two 80mm fans are placed vertically in the back of the case within a plastic casing, which directs air from the CPU's heat sink outwards by way of properly aimed vents. Though the idea makes complete sense, the vents do not direct all warm air out the back. The case would strongly benefit from a small plastic vent to displace heat directly from the CPU. The last fan sits on the swing bar and seems to exist solely to exhaust warm air from the add-on card section. Thermaltake specifies it as a CPU cooling fan, but it is most definitely not.


      Construction

      The 0.8 mm SECC steel construction of the VM3000A makes for a solid and sturdy case that can handle the usual daily applications for a desktop case and is strong enough to hold the extra place of a coffee cup placed on top of it. The shell is fully EMI shielded. A minor problem with using steel is the occurrence of sharp edges where the metal has been cut; the inside as well as the backside of the VM3000A have many sharp edges that could have been reduced by sanding/smoothing them. These edges led to a few sliced knuckles during installation and many curse words from the installer. (Note to the mother's of the case designers: I didn't mean all those insults really. I am sure you are perfectly wonderful ladies). I went ahead and filed/sanded these edges down to remove the sharpness to prevent sliced cables.

      The front bezel itself is made of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene plastic, which is low cost, a mouthful, an apparently very durable. I didn't go very far to test its durability...as it is my luck to get the only weak piece in the batch and break it right after getting it.

      Along with solid construction, the case has security features like a keylock for the front panel, a special stopper for the right panel, loops for padlocks, and an electronic intrusion system for motherboards that support this feature. None of this was important to me, as I know who is going to be getting into this case.


      Expansion

      The case was designed with expandability in mind. Behind the front bezel are six 5-1/4" drive bays and four 3-1/2" bays. Since the top bay is used for the Hardcano, five of the 5-1/4" drive bays remain to be utilized. There is a spot for a floppy drive and three 3.5" hard drives below that at middle height of the case's front end. The last three 5-1/4" bays are at the lower section. Another area where a hard drive can be mounted is the swing bar, which is new to this model. A spare drive can be mounted with screws via 4 holes. Being a desktop case, five 5-1/4" drive bays sounds excessive since 2-3 at most are used in a typical desktop rig. Instead, converting the lower 3 bays to 3-1/2" would make more sense, especially since hard drives are still the standard medium for storage.

      The swing bar also has a device that prevents the add-on cards from popping out of their slots. The casing that holds the 80mm fan in place also has 7 clips that, when the swing bar is in the closed position on the frame, holds full width add-on cards in place. Tiny features like this can help reduce many hardware problems.

      The motherboard is held in place by clips on the removable motherboard tray. This provides for quick installations or replacements and the need for no other tools but human hands. Removable motherboard trays have become standard in well-constructed cases. This tray comes off completely as a separate part. A much more efficient design would have been to manufacture the motherboard tray as well as the entire back side of the case as one piece, keeping add-on cards on the motherboard itself when removing the tray. In this situation, the add-on cards would need to be removed prior to detaching the motherboard tray, which is very time consuming.

      Problems may arise when replacing the power supply while a motherboard is already in place. There is just enough room to install a power supply when the case is empty, but I doubt it would be possible alone with the CPU heat sink along with wires and cables in the way. Swapping a power supply may require removal of the motherboard tray for easier access. Once installed though, the power supply is held in place by the machined out mounts on the right and backside of the case as well as a rubber stopper at the top. The rubber stopper helps to cut down on vibrations, and is just another example of how little details count.


      Installation

      This case's main feature is its completely screw-less design. I found it difficult to deal with some screw-less features, such as drive mounting rails, but Thermaltake has done a great job with the design and construction of its chassis.

      A combination of both plastic and metal snap-ins, clips, and brackets are used in the case to hold all hardware in place. Metal brackets have been provided with the package to add a new drive easily into one of its 7 usable bays. The brackets themselves are made of steel and are somewhat flexible to allow a drive to be locked in place. A downside to these brackets is that they can be easily bent out of shape if not properly handled. I tore up my first pair in installation...and quickly kicked myself for my stupidity. I spent at least 15 minutes getting the stupid things bent back into shape.

      The total time for my installation was about 15 minutes. I ran into a problem with the number of drive rails I had. The package includes 5 pairs of rails, which seems incomplete in order to fill all 6 drive bays. The case, however, does have the traditional holes to mount various drives with screws. The most time consuming portion of the installation was connecting all of the wires from the Hardcano module to the motherboard as well as all of the case fans to the power supply. The USB plugs that go to the motherboard are a bit frustrating to install. All wires are separated by their own plugs, where a better design would have been to group the wires together to end with a single easy install connector.

      Conclusion

      The VM3000A has many strengths. Its screw-less design makes for effortless installations and easy replacements. The Hardcano itself is feature-laden with fan controls, USB and firewire ports, and a temperature alarm that keeps you informed of potentially dangerous conditions.

      While the few shortcomings, like sharp edges of the case's chassis, slightly complicated wiring, and a somewhat high price tag, may lower the VM3000A's overall attractiveness, its bold look and great features bring this Xaser III back in line with its peers.

      Also appears on Andrewthetechie.com. Copied with permission.

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