With small form factor components becoming increasingly popular for desktop and gaming applications, the demand for cases to house these components is on the rise. It seems almost all case manufacturers now offer Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX cases of one kind or another. Today, we’ll have a look at one of Thermaltake’s newest offerings in this category – the A30i Speed Edition Gaming Cube. With support for Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards, full size power supplies, and long video cards, it certainly appears to have the features most enthusiasts would look for in a small form factor case. Let’s have a look for ourselves and find out if the A30i Speed Edition Gaming Cube has what it takes to warrant your consideration.
Specifications and Features
The specifications below were plucked from the Thermaltake website. Worth noting here are the four included fans and USB 3.0 Support.
|Thermaltake A30i Speed Edition Gaming Cube Specifications|
|Case Type||Mini Case|
|Dimension (H x W x D)||266 x 291 x 456 mm
(10.5 x 11.5 x 18.0 inch)
|Net Weight||5.7kg / 12.6 lb|
|Color||Exterior & Interior : Black & Red|
|Material||SECC & AL|
|Cooling System||Front (intake) :
90 x 90 x 25 mm blue LED fan (1200rpm, 16dBA )
Rear (exhaust) :
60 x 60 x 25 mm fan x 2 (1500rpm,18dBA)
Top (exhaust) :
200 x 200 x 20 mm blue LED fan (800rpm, 15dBA)
|Drive Bays||– Accessible : 2 x 5.25’’, 1 x 3.5’’
– Hidden : 2 x 3.5’’ , 2 x 2.5”
|Motherboards||9.6” x 9.6” (Micro ATX), Mini-ITX|
|I/O Ports||USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio x 1|
|PSU||Standard PS2 PSU|
|Other||CPU cooler height limitation: 90mm
VGA length limitation: 350mm
One of the major features the A30i Speed Edition offers is its modular design, which allows for easy system assembly. The removable motherboard tray is something rarely found on cases this size and is a welcome sight. All the drive bay cages and the PSU mounting bracket can also be removed and pre-assembled outside of the case. All images and descriptions below courtesy Thermaltake.
Being a small form factor case makes hauling the system to LAN parties a breeze. Gamers don’t like having to sacrifice video card options when going with smaller cases, and luckily, the A30i supports the longest of video cards.
Storage capacity is another area that offers plenty of available options. Dual external 5.25″ drive bays and one external 3.5″ bay offer the user many configuration options. Card readers, fan controllers, or anything else that fits in these external bays can be easily installed to customize your system. Internally, up to two each of 2.5″ and 3.5″ HDDs can be installed.
Keeping components inside the case cool is of utmost importance, and Thermaltake attempts to deliver with the four included fans. In addition to the four fans, Thermaltake provides large ventilation areas built into each side panel.
The exterior design concept comes from Thermaltake’s popular Armor series of cases.
Packaging and First Look
Not much has changed with the way Thermaltake box graphics are presented. We have the familiar black and red theme with a picture of the product on the box front and rear. The box sides are used for a list of high level features and product model numbers.
With the box top opened, we find the A30i Speed Edition nicely secured with two Styrofoam blocks and wrapped in an anti-static plastic bag. Inside the plastic bag, you’ll find the user’s manual sitting near the bottom of the case. Both side windows are further protected with plastic film applied to both the inside and outside. You’ll probably notice at this point that “Speed Edition” means the case’s color will be red. The A30i is also available in black; but best I can tell, it doesn’t carry the “Speed Edition” name.
Tucked inside the case is a bag full of accessories that includes everything you need to get a system installed into the A30i Speed Edition.
Here is the breakdown of included accessories.
As we begin our up-close look at the A30i Speed Edition, we begin with a tour of the exterior. Both sides are identical in appearance and feature a clear window with a large area dedicated to ventilation. The side panels are not removable; but in all reality, there is no need to remove them even if you could. You’ll see why when we get around to installing a system into the case.
At the front area, we find two external 5.25″ drive bays and a single external 3.5″ drive bay. The 3.5″ drive bay sits in a vertical position for space saving purposes. Below the drive bay openings, we find the two USB 3.0 ports and Headphone/Mic jacks on the left side. At the lower-right side is where the power and reset buttons are located. In the middle of the lower area is a mesh area covering the 90 mm intake fan.
Moving around to the rear area, the first thing that gets your attention is the multitude of thumbscrews. These screws are what hold many of the modular components in place and of course, need to be removed to get the modular pieces out. At the top area is where the PSU gets mounted, and just below that is where the two 60 mm exhaust fans are located. The motherboard’s I/O shield gets installed at the very bottom and is flanked by the four ventilated PCI expansion slot covers. The wire loop you see at the bottom is simply a handle used to slide the motherboard tray out.
The plastic top panel consists of a large mesh area covering the 200 mm fan below it. The top panel features several design attributes to add aesthetic value.
We’ll conclude the exterior tour with a quick look at the bottom of the A30i Speed Edition. There really isn’t a whole lot to show you here other than the four feet. All four feet are outfitted with rubber to help with vibrations and to protect the surface the case resides on.
Now that you have a good idea of the external aesthetics and functionality, let’s turn our attention to the interior.
In order to get inside the A30i Speed Edition, you need to first remove the top panel. This is accomplished by removing three thumbscrews located at the back of the case. Once those are removed, you simply slide the top panel towards the rear and lift it off. The top panel itself can be separated into two pieces by removing seven small screws found on the bottom side. Once separated, we can get a good look at the included 200 mm blue LED fan. The fan is a Thermaltake TT-2020, which runs at 800 RPM at a very quiet 15 dBA. Of note here is the use of a two-wire Molex connector to power the fan. In fact, all the fans in the A30i Speed Edition use this design for powering the fans. Sadly, this means you won’t be able to connect the fans to the motherboard or monitor them without doing some sort of modifications.
The modular PSU mount is removed by relieving six small screws from the back of the case, which makes for easy installation of the PSU.
The motherboard tray is held in place with four more thumbscrews at the back of the case. Once those are removed, you just grab the wire loop and slide it out the back. You can also remove the PCI expansion slot cover bracket by removing an additional thumbscrew. Removing this cover allows access to the mounting screws that hold your expansion cards in place. You’ll find two 60 mm exhaust fans mounted at the rear of the motherboard tray, which are Thermaltake’s own TT-6025. These fans are rated at 1600 RPM at 18 dBA each.
The modular drive bay brackets located at the front area can be removed by taking out three more screws. Once these last two brackets are removed, you’re pretty much left with a wide open interior. Now you can see why removable side panels are completely unnecessary. The smaller HDD cage will accept two 3.5″ drives, and on top of the larger cage is where up to two 2.5″ drives can be installed. The larger cage also doubles as the external 5.25″ and 3.5″ bracket.
The front Thermaltake TT-9225 90 mm intake fan also features a blue LED and is rated at 1200 RPM at 16 dBA.
A quick look at the case wiring shows the standard items found on most chassis now days. We have all the normal switch and front panel LED wiring, along with the HD audio and USB 3.0 cables.
Now that we have the A30i Speed Edition stripped down, let’s toss a system into it and see what we can come up with!
Putting it all Together
|Chassis||Thermaltake A30i Speed Edition|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus VI Impact|
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K|
|Memory||G.Skill 2×8 GB TridentX DDR3-2400 MHz|
|GPU||AMD R9 270X Reference|
|SSD||Samsung 840 EVO 500 GB|
|HDD||Western Digital 500 GB Caviar|
|ROM Drive||LG GH22LS30 DVD-R/W|
|PSU||Thermaltake SmartM 750 Watt|
|CPU Cooling||Stock Intel Cooler|
As the assembly procedure begins, you need to be aware of a couple important factors. The first is that there is no support for water cooling, which isn’t a big deal for the vast majority of people. If you need a small form factor case that supports water cooling, the A30i Speed Edition is probably not the case for you. Of course, our readership is known to be a crafty bunch, so with some modifications anything is possible I suppose. Secondly, you need to pay attention to the maximum cooler height, which is 90 mm. This will pretty much limit you to a lower profile, downdraft style of CPU cooler. Again, this isn’t a huge problem as plenty of good cooling solutions are available that fit this requirement. Unfortunately, the several air coolers I have are tower style and much too tall to fit. So, for this build I’ll have to resort to using the stock Intel cooler.
Working with the motherboard tray first, I mounted as many components as possible before installing it back inside the chassis. This included installation of the CPU and Cooler, memory, and the video card.
Next, I turned my attention to installing the 3.5″ HDD. Here you have the option of securing the drive from the side or bottom. I recommend using the bottom mounting holes so you can take advantage of the rubber grommets and the anti-vibration qualities they afford. Shouldered screws are provided for proper installation when using the grommets. Once the 3.5″ HDD was installed in the cage, it was installed back in the case.
Installing the 5.25″ optical drive was next on the list. This requires securing the drive to the cage with screws, which only takes a minute or two to accomplish. Once that was done, I installed the cage back in the case and worked on pre-wiring as much as possible at this point. Speaking of pre-wiring, you’ll definitely want to consider using a modular PSU with this case. Not only does it allow you to wire almost everything before installing the PSU, it also keeps cable clutter to a minimum. Not many cases of this size offer much in the way of cable management, so the fewer cables you use, the better.
The top of the 5.25″ cage is where 2.5″ HDDs/SSDs get installed. The tool-free clips provided in the accessory pack work very well and make installing 2.5″ drives a snap. Pre-built into the 5.25″ cage are alignment pins for one side of the drive and a place for the tool-free bracket to lock into, which secures the other side of the drive.
The last piece to this puzzle is installing the power supply. Again, a painless operation that only takes moments to complete because of the modular cage. You have a couple different options when considering the orientation of the power supply. If you find the CPU cooler is close to the PSU intake fan, then you may want to have the PSU fan at the top, so the two aren’t working against each other. If you do this, you’ll also need to flip the fan in the top panel, so it acts as an intake fan. Once you have the PSU mounted, it’s just a matter of tidying things up as best you can. I did find several spots for tucking away cables, such as both sides of the optical drive and the empty 3.5″ external bay area.
After spending a while finalizing the wiring, we finally have a completed build!
I must admit, when I first read the LED fans were blue, I thought it was an odd color choice. Surprisingly enough, I think it actually looks pretty good. Below are some pictures with the LED fans doing their thing in the dark and with the lights on in the room.
With all the fans running, I was pleasantly surprised with how quiet the system was. It’s certainly not the quietest system I’ve ever heard, but it’s definitely not what I would consider loud and obnoxious. Not only that, but the fans move a good amount of air through the system, which is critical in a small form factor system. All and all, Thermaltake managed a good balance between air flow and noise.
The modular interior design of the A30i Speed Edition makes system assembly about as easy as possible for a case this size. The two 5.25″ and single 3.5″ external bays offer expansion capabilities a lot of other cases in this class do not. I really like that Thermaltake saw fit to put a window on each side of the case and the added aesthetic value it brings. Whether the case sits on your right or left, you’ll still be able to enjoy looking inside. Internally, the option to install two 3.5″ and two 2.5″ drives should be more than adequate for desktop and gaming applications. LAN party goers will enjoy the portability this case offers, along with the ability to install high-end video cards. The four included fans are a nice touch and allow the user to keep the interior components cool. There is little doubt this case was designed for gamers who want a small form factor system without having to sacrifice their performance level components. To that end, I think Thermaltake did a fine job with the design of the A30i Speed Edition.
Not everything is perfect with the A30i Speed edition, and there are a couple areas I feel could be improved upon to make the case even better. First, I’d like to see the fans use a 3-pin power cable instead of the Molex design that’s used. This would allow even more flexibility when dealing with the included fans, either through a fan controller or a motherboard’s fan header. The other thing that would be nice to see is some kind of filter mechanism over the side panel ventilation holes. While I appreciate the excellent ventilation these holes allow for, they are an easy path for dust to enter the system.
I didn’t find the A30i Speed Edition available at the “normal” places, but it can be had at various other e-Tailers for under $100 (here and here). That price is inline with comparable offerings from other vendors, so nothing to complain about there. As the popularity of small form factor computers continues to rise, so does the need for enthusiast level products in this category. I think you will find the Thermaltake A30i Speed Edition fills that need quite nicely and is certainly worth considering if you’re looking to build an enthusiast level, small form factor system.