Thermaltake Armor+ MX Chassis

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Product: Thermaltake Armor+ MX VH8000BWS Chassis
Provided By: Thermaltake USA
Price:


Introduction:

Thermaltake is probably best known for their CPU coolers and their Computer Cases.  They have been around since modded cases were cool and even before that with their "Orb" coolers that made them famous.  When the started making computer cases, they were consider some of the best gaming chassis around and the Xaser series won a lot of attention in the community.  Today we are looking at the latest case in the Armor series - the Armor+ MX and are going to find out what is new and exciting about this case.  We'll take a close look and see how its layout affects usability as I've been quite disappointed with the difficulties discovered with some Thermaltake cases in the past.  Hopefully the Armor+ is just that - a plus.

 Box Front
Box Front
 Box Back
Box Back

 

About Thermaltake - Values & Principles:

While Thermaltake doesn't need much of an introduction, we'll still post the company's Values and Principles as stated on their website.  They outline what the company stands and strives for.

  • While still a relatively young company, established in 1999, Thermaltake is built on unwavering will and dedication to address issues and innovate at the same time for computer enthusiasts and corporate users worldwide.
  • With strong support of Research & Development team standing behind the brand, Thermaltake is committed to never-follow but always-lead.
  • In past decades, the industrial and technological advancements in different fields have shaped the world we live in today and have also made a big impact on the environment. Thermaltake takes great measures to ensure the product that we produce relieve these impacts by being first to act on 80 PLUS® specification for computer power supply that greatly reduces the amount of electricity that a computer consumes.
  • Always striving to be the best, we continuously benchmark our performance against the very best internally and externally.
  • Customers are our greatest asset and Thermaltake does not take that for granted. That is why Thermaltake is the industry leading in customer service and customer support with around-the-clock automated product return service.

 

Armor+ MX Packaged for Freshness:

You can see by checking out the pictures of the Thermaltake Armor+ MX box above, the Armor+ MX comes is a pretty large box covered with nice graphics and typical Thermaltake branding.  Rarely has Thermaltake marketed a product that shipped in bland packaging and the Armor+ is no exception.  What makes it better is the amount of padding and care they take to protect the contents as well.

 Package
Package

 

It is protected by heavy foam caps on each end and is enclosed entirely is a soft cloth-like bag.  This helps keep dust off the unit and the case from getting scratched during shipping.  When the bag was pulled off, the case was in pristine condition.


Thermaltake Armor+ MX First Look:

This case is part of the Armor series and features a similar front dual-door design that is also present on the Armor, and the Armor Jr.  Both of these cases sit at the BCCHardware shop with the Armor Jr. being my wife's personal rig and the original Armor houses a triple SLI beast on the test-bench.  The Armor+ MX has a similar profile, but a few improvements and aesthetic changes worth mentioning.

 Window Side
Window Side
Front and Back
Front and Back
Off-Side Profile
Off-Side Profile

 

The first thing that is striking about this case is the size of the fan on the windowed side panel.  This is a 23cm fan that turns at a snail's pace - 450rmp according to a laser tachometer and generates virtually no noise while providing airflow to the VGA cards and lower motherboard components.  Another notable change is the top of the case.  The top of the Armor+ MX has some plastic molding that splays out to widen the front stance of the case.  This gives the case a beefy look and also provides a place for Thermaltake to place their tool/accessory drawer.  On other cases Thermaltake has provided an accessory draw in a 5.25" bay, but this takes up a bay and can limit some users in their quest to load up all of their 5.25" bays.

On the next page, we'll take a look at the features and specifications of this case and then take a closer look at some of the more interesting areas.



Features:

While the features of this case are very similar to many other cases on the market, we'll sum them up below to save you the effort of heading on over to Thermaltake's site by posting them below.

  • Optimized design for both liquid cooling and air cooling system
  • Sliding hood with toolbox on top (upgradable to LCS)
  • Tool-free design for 5.25” device and PCI slot
  • Independent thermal management for CPU, VGA & HDD
  • Cable management system for better cable routing and internal air flow
  • Micro ATX, ATX supported

 


Specifications:

  
Case Type    Mid Tower
Material    0.8 mm SECC
Front Bezel Material    Aluminum
Color    Black
Side Panel    Transparent Window
Motherboard Support    12" x 9.6" (ATX),
9.6" x 9.6" (Micro ATX)
Motherboard Tray    N/A
5.25" Drive Bay   

5

Ext. 3.5" Drive Bay    1
Int. 3.5" Drive Bay    4
Expansion Slots    7
Front I/O Ports    USB 2.0 x 2,
eSATA x 1,
HD Audio
Cooling System    - Front (intake) :
120 x 120 x 25 mm blue LED fan, 1300rpm, 17dBA
- Rear (exhaust) :
120 x 120 x 25 mm TurboFan, 1300rpm, 17dBA
- Side (intake) :
230 x 230 x 20 mm blue LED fan, 800rpm, 15dBA
Liquid Cooling Capable    Yes
Liquid Cooling Embedded    No
Power Supply Supported    Standard ATX PSII
Power Supply Included    No
Dimension (H*W*D)    21.1 x 9.4 x 19.3 in
535 x 240 x 490 mm
Net Weight    23.8 lb
10.8 kg
Security Lock   
Application   
Warranty    3 Years

 

There is a total of four 3.5" Internal HDD Bays and while this is actually half of the NZXT Tempest, they are very handy and offer great cable management - something not many cases can claim.

 

Closer Look - Outside:

The Armor+ MX is made from 0.8mm SECC Steel and is a bit heavy.  Often when a company throws in some plastic detailing, it doesn't come off that well, but Thermaltake has had a lot of experience in the case market and they do a very good job of at incorporating the plastic drawer on top as well as some handy I/O ports.

Top Tray Open
Top Tray Open
 Top Front - Closed
Top Front - Closed

 

The top tray is roomy enough for a few tools, some extra screws, cable ties or even a 2.5" External HDD.  I've used the top tray to store a screwdriver, my Western Digital Passport HDD and a USB cable with no crowding issues at all.  In front of the tray are the power and reset buttons as well as an eSATA port, two USB2.0 ports and the front audio ports.  eSATA is becoming more mainstream and it is nice to see it on the Armor+.

 

Closer Look - Inside:

After removing the side panel a quick peek inside revealed that this case was quite roomy for a mid-tower chassis.  There is ample room for a full-size ATX motherboard and several full-length VGA cards without causing any issues with the Hard Drives.  Many older cases had issues with long cards interfering with drives, but this is remedies with a slightly longer case body and with the HDDs mounting perpendicular to the motherboard.

Open Side
Open Side

 

One thing to keep in mind when deciding on whether or not you want this case is the cooling solution you plan to use on your CPU.  The side fan is rather large and will take up at least 1" of room inside the case so you want to make sure your tall HSF or watercooling setup will not interfere with this fan.

 Side Fan - Close
  Side Fan - Close
 PCI Slots
PCI Slots
Front Bays Inside
Front Bays Inside

 

Tool-less is the name of the game with the Armor+ MX and Thermaltake has done a decent job with their revamped PCI slot retention brackets.  The original Armor case was not compatible with large 2-slot coolers and many cards and required the entire bracket to be removed to install a large VGA card.  The Armor+ MX has fixed this with independent brackets and this is no longer an issue.  The front ODD and HDD bays are also tool-less and they work very well for quick, easy and secure drive installation.

System Installation:

As pretty as a case looks and as good as the ideas are behind the design, unless you try it out by using it and installing a system inside, you only know a little about the case.  We put together a basic system consisting of an ATX motherboard, CPU, VGA Card, HSF, two HDDs, an ODD, as 3.5" Bay HDD rack and a few other odds and ends to see how easy this case is to use in a typical situation.

Motherboard installation is simple and while the Armor+ MX doesn't feature a removable motherboard tray, there is plenty of room to install the motherboard.  To install a PSU, there is a support rail that must be removed if you already have the motherboard installed.  This is an improvement over some earlier Thermaltake cases that required the motherboard to be removed if you wanted to install or replace your PSU.

HDD installation is a little different in the Armor+ MX and different is good.  There is a pair of screws that help secure the HDD rack in place.  Once these are removed, there are still a couple of thumb-tabs that keep the rack in place.  Once these are pressed, the rack slides smoothly out of the case and you can remove any of the four individual drive racks for HDD installation.

 HDD Rack
HDD Rack
HDD Rails
HDD Rails

 

When the HDD is placed in the HDD tray, it can either be secured using screws or by the snap-in retention system included from Thermaltake.  Using these little clips, the HDD can be mounted in a matter of seconds and it is held securely in place.

One of my personal biggest frustrations can be mounting 5.25" devices in a new case.  Often, removing the "blanks" on the 5.25" bays can be challenging and at time can only be accomplished by removing the entire front bezel on the case.  Other times, the user has to reach inside the case and push the blanks out.  This can be difficult if you already have a drive or two installed.  Thermaltake has come up with a great mechanism for securing the blanks in place that also makes it a snap to remove.

 Front Bay Removal
Front Bay Removal
Front Bay Removal
Front Bay Removal

 

On the right-hand side of the blank is a recessed area that allows you to pull and release the meshed section of the cover.  Once the meshed section is disengaged, it in turn releases the left side of the cover and allows you to remove the entire bay cover without fuss or effort.  It's a beautiful thing that Thermaltake should use on all of its cases in order to keep their customers happy.

Once the cover is removed, an optical drive is installed by simply sliding it into the empty bay.  Once it reaches the proper place, the side tabs on the bay snap it into place and hold it securely.  If you are using a non-standard 5.25" bay device, there are screw holes available to secure the drive if required.  That being said, both the 5.25" ODD and the 3.5" HDD rack for the 2.5" drive installed perfectly without tools.

 Drive Installation
Drive Installation
Gear Installed - Front
Gear Installed - Front

 

Although I failed to get a picture of the bundle of cable management clips and ties, Thermaltake has thrown in a bunch of stuff to help you keep your cables out of the way and tidy.  The design of the case promotes this as well - especially the HDD section.  With the drives mounting in "backwards" all of the SATA and power cables are kept out of sight behind the drives and can be accessed by removing the off-side panel.

 Cable Management
Cable Management
System Installed
System Installed

 

On the last page we'll briefly summarize the Armor+ MX and draw some conclusions.


General Thoughts:

When choosing a case, there are many factors to consider.  Size and appearance are two of the biggest determining factors.  If you are building a Home Theater PC, you want a nice small case.  At the same time, any case you purchase should fit your eye and have nice curb appeal.  While personal tastes vary greatly from one user to another the Thermaltake Armor+ MX should fit the tastes of many enthusiasts and gamers.  It has aggressive styling without looking too tacky.  I know that some may not like the odd shaped side window or the extra plastic molding on the top, but this adds to the overall appeal in my opinion.

Case Profile Powered
Case Profile Powered

 

Conclusion:

Not only does the Armor+ MX look attractive, it is also very functional and offers good cooling performance without a lot of noise.  While the case is certainly not silent, it is much quieter than the NZXT Tempest that we looked at recently.  The Armor+ MX brings some great tool-less improvement on HDD and ODD installation with ways to help keep your cables tidy.  If you're careless, you can still have a cable disaster inside the case, but Thermaltake gives you a good design and enough resources to make it as neat as Ramsom's hair.


Side Lights The top draw may not be looked at as a good feature for some people, but I really like the top drawer for storage and prefer it to the 5.25" bay drawer on other cases.  Overall, there is really nothing bad to say about this case.

It all boils down to Pros and Cons.

Pros:

  • Tool-Less design
  • Good airflow
  • Pretty quiet
  • Lots of HDD and ODD bays for a mid-tower
  • Tool Tray at the top
  • Easy to remove 5.25" bay covers
  • Excellent cable management and design
 

Cons:

  • Steel construction is heavy
  • Umm...

 BCCRating

 Top Pick

 

I'd like to thank Thermaltake for sending up this case for us to review.  It is a nice follow-up to the Armor I personally received a while back.  It's a good case and can be found for under $120 online.  Please feel free to post your comments and feedback and the link below.