Thermaltake Armor A30 review
The Armor A30 is certainly a small form factor case, but this is no Shuttle box. For a start, it's hardly a subtle design, and although it's half the height of a normal midi tower case, it's 50% wider and almost as deep. This is a case for short-on-space gamers, and its relative bulk means you can fit a double-slot graphics card up to 350mm long - so you'd be able to plug in AMD's frankly ludicrous Radeon HD 6990 and a powerful PSU to go with it. You have to be careful when it comes to processor coolers, though - an 80mm height restriction cuts out most sideways-fan models, but stock coolers will be fine and there are plenty of sub-80mm models around.
You're more restricted when it comes to motherboards - this is a microATX-only chassis. There's a huge amount of space for storage devices, with three internal 3.5in drive bays and two external 5 1/4in drive bays. There are two slots on top of the 5 1/4in drive cage for 2 1/2in drives, so you can fit a pair of laptop disk-sized SSDs. The case has an eSATA port on the front along with USB2 and USB3 ports, but as with many cases there's no connector to plug the front port into a USB header on the motherboard - a cable snakes out the back of the case through a dedicated hole to plug into a USB3 port on your motherboard's backplate.
It’s generally easy to build a PC into the case - there are thumb screws to take the case apart and plenty of room inside. You build it from the top down, screwing the motherboard into a slide-out tray, mounting the hard disks and optical drives in their removable cages and finally putting in the power supply and sliding on the large top panel with its huge 180mm fan. All the screws you could need are provided and there are a couple of cable ties in the box, and we encountered no sharp edges within the PC. The only real problem we had was removing the blanking plates covering the 5 1/4in drive bays at the front - these were stiff and incredibly hard to ping loose. There's one problem - as the sides don’t come off, you need to take out the power supply to access your memory and the 5 1/4in drive cage to get at the 3 1/2in hard disk cage, so upgrades can be time-consuming.
Along with the top-mounted 180mm fan, there are two 60mm fans at the rear drawing heat away from the processor cooler. We didn’t have a problem with airflow - after fitting a fanless power supply and passively-cooled graphics card the PC could get through our 2D and 3D benchmarks without a problem or the case getting too hot. We were worried the two small fans at the rear would be noisy, but they made barely a hum - with our low-noise components we managed to use the A30 to make a very quiet PC indeed.
It's easy to use Thermaltake's A30 to build a smaller-than-average PC with multiple storage devices and a powerful graphics card. You're limited to microATX motherboards and upgrading will require a lot of disassembly, but it's a good buy if you're short on space and fancy a PC that looks a bit different.