Thermaltake Element Q ITX Chassis

Print

Product: Thermaltake Element Q ITX Chassis
Provided By: Thermaltake USA
Price: $79.99 MSRP

 

Introduction:

It wasn't very long ago that Shuttle was one of the few companies making and selling ITX-based systems to mainstream consumers - with any success.  Since the Atom and ION have been married, there have been a lot more ITX-based platforms hitting the market and today we are looking at a slick little case from Thermaltake that will provide a home for your favorite ITX hardware.  The Element Q is not a tiny case, but it is definitely geared for ITX-only but provides enough room for an optical drive and a couple of other 3.5" devices.  If you want a quiet little PC, this case could be the start of something beautiful.

Box Front
Box Front
Box Back
Box Back

 

I knew this case was going to be small because the box isn't much bigger than a shoe box.  The case is part of the "Element" series from Thermaltake and is geared for "Pros".  We'll find out shortly if this is true or just a little hype.

 

Accessories & First Look:

There really aren't a lot of accessories included in the little Element Q bundle.  In fact, the bundle consists of rubber feet, HDD rails, screws, a speaker, Power Cord and the quick install guide.  It's pretty basic, but with a case so small there really aren't a lot of different options and configurations that you can utilize.

Element Q - Bundle
Element Q - Bundle

 

While there isn't a lot included with the bundle, there are a few things to make mention of in regards to the design and layout of the Element Q.  Much of the Element series consists of Black chassis with red trim and the Q is no exception.  The front is pretty well laid out with concentric power and reset buttons positioned on each side of the 3.5" bay.  Below these buttons are power and HDD activity LEDs which continue to keep the design balanced.  Below the 3.5" bay is a door that opens to reveal front audio and USB2.0 ports.  This is pretty much standard fare for every case these days.

Front Close
Front Close
Rear Empty
Rear Empty

 

Due to the small size of the chassis, the rear is dominated by the I/O area.  You'll notice that there is a PCI slot available on the right side and ventilation on the left side.  This again keeps the unit centered and balanced aesthetically.  Thermaltake has included a 200W Power Supply that should be more than enough to power a modest ITX system and a single-slot graphics card.

 

Features:

The Thermaltake Element Q case is not very big, nor is the list of features very long on this little unit.  That is par for the course with such a small ITX case so don't be dismayed and think that it sucks because the list is short.  We have pulled the following information from the product page and posted it below for your convenience.


  • Quintessence – Typical small form factor, Mini-ITX chassis
  • Qute – Cute , small size which require minimum spacing.
  • Quiet – Energy saving platform with fanless design.
  • Built-in 200W SFX power supply
  • Front I/O ports for easy access
  • Compatible with Intel Atom platform
  • Don’t settle for less.  Element Q supports full-size 5.25” Optical Disk Drives (Blu-Ray Players or DVD-RW Drives).

 

You can see that Thermaltake was actually trying hard to make some of the features sound impressive and had to warp some things to fit with the "Q" theme.  Regardless, it has some nice features and the specs are posted below.

 

Specifications:

 Specs

 

The case is made of steel and this gives it a bit more weight that I would have expected.  It is also very sturdy and should be able to stand up to a few bumps at your favorite LAN party. There is nothing really remarkable in the specifications so we'll carry on and take a closer look inside on the next page.


 

Inside Look:

While many people are just going to see the outside of the Element Q, it is still important to have a good layout - especially in such a small case.  If you are planning on putting in a graphics card, a hard drives, card reader and a full-size optical drive inside this unit, it better have some room in order to cram your gear.  It also better have some cable management options or you'll end up with the cables clogging up the little airflow that exists.  Let's take a quick peek inside before we install a system in this little box.

Case Open
Case Open
Left Side Open
Left Side Open


The case is pretty basic inside.  The PSU is a nice slim unit that can be removed easily for system installation.  I was able to install our gear inside with the PSU installed, but removed it for a better view.  As you can see there are standard 5.25" holes that allow for non-standard devices and should accommodate almost anything you want to drop in the top bay.  Although the specifications say that it can support two 3.5" devices you'll notice that there is only the 3.5" external bay available at first glance.

ITX PSU
ITX PSU


While many companies may skimp on the PSU in an ITX chassis, Thermaltake keeps the quality high and provides a solid 200W unit that comes complete with a very quiet fan as well as a chrome fan grill that you'll never see unless you pull out the PSU.  I like this attention to detail.

 

System Installation:

While ITX systems are not the most powerful systems on the planet, we are using some pretty decent hardware in this build.  It certainly isn't earth shattering, but it is good enough for an eMachine, HTPC and then some.  We are using the ASRock A330ION motherboard (review coming soon), 4GB of DDR3 from Crucial, a Samsung 400GB SATA drive that is left over from a working pull.  Thrown in for our Optical Drive is a 16x Samsung DVDRW and rounding out the build is a multi-format card reader.  This loads up the case pretty full and the only thing we are lacking is a dedicated graphics card.  We had to leave this out as we currently only have dual-slot cards and the case will support a single-slot card.

 Board Installed
Board Installed
Room In Front
Room In Front

 

On the next page, we'll continue with installation before we wrap up with some final thoughts.


Installation Continued:

Installation actually went pretty smoothly in the Element Q and we actually installed as much additional hardware inside this little case as many people do in a build with a mid-tower.  We used a single hard drive in order to use a card reader in the front of the case.  If you're concerned about amount of storage, you can always pick up a 2TB drive and you should be good to go.  The HDD gets mounted standing vertically beside the optical drive next to the RAM.  It is kind of an odd situation, but it works just fine.

HDD Rails
HDD Rails
RAM Spacing
RAM Spacing

 

As I previously mentioned, the optical drive uses standard installation whole and requires screws.  The same is true for front 3.5" devices as well.  This is most easily done if you install the 3.5" device first before you completely hide the bay with the 5.25" device.  There is quite a bit of room below the 3.5" bay to stuff extra cables and you should be able to keep the main area of the case and motherboard fairly free of cables.  

 Installed Close
Installed Close
Side Open Installed
Side Open Installed

 

There is adequate room for the motherboard and components on the ASRock A330ION motherboard in this case.  You can see in the picture below that there is a bit of room between the ION chipset and the PSU.  There isn't a lot of extra room in this case, but it is designed primarily for Atom & ION based systems and this should work out well.  If you are planning on putting an LGA775 or more powerful system in this case, make sure that you've got room.  It should work out, but I can't guarantee compatibility.

The Downlow

 

On the last page we'll wrap things up with a conclusion and a few pictures of the end result.


Finished Result:

The Thermaltake Element Q looks pretty slick out of the box but once you drop your favorite hardware inside, you can ruin the sleek look if you're not careful.  While the DVDRW drive doesn't look to bad, the card reader makes it look a bit cheap.  Of course you can buy a fancier card reader, but it would have been nice if a basic card reader was included under the covered USB2.0/Audio area.  It still looks passable, but it lacks some of the slick HTPC look that we were hoping to show off.

Front Installed
Front Installed


 

The rear of the case looks almost as good as the front as the tight little PSU looks pretty decent and it complements the rear I/O of the ASRock A330ION motherboard.  There isn't a lot of extra room, but you could still install a card like an 8800GT, or even an HD4770.

 Rear Installed
Rear Installed
Front Closed
Front Closed

 

Conclusion:

There are not a lot of choices when it comes to ITX cases that offer room for system expansion.  Many ITX cases focus on super small size and therefore cannot utilize full-sized Optical Drives, card readers or multiple hard drives.  The Element Q from Thermaltake allows you to install your favorite Blu-Ray burner, a pair of 3.5" hard drives, or a single HDD and another 3.5" device.  It also gives you room to install a full-sized graphics card to boot.  It may not be the absolute sleekest case on the market, but when priced under $80, it is a choice that deserves some serious consideration.  At the end of the day, there is really nothing bad to say about the Element Q.  Check it out if you're building an ITX system in the near future.

 

Pros:

  • Full-sized 5.25" bay for full-sized drives
  • Two 3.5" devices/drives supported
  • Well balanced design
  • 200W PSU is more than adequate for almost any ITX solution

 

Cons:

  • PCI slot only accepts single-slot GPUs
  • Card reader would be nice under the front door

 

BCCRating

Gold

 

I'd like to thank Thermaltake for firing over the Element Q for us to take a look at.  It's a nice ITX case that will stand out and stand up for a long time.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.