I would like to thank Thermaltake for supplying the review sample.
- Patented Design
- Anti-vibration & noise reduction material on side panel
- Stealth Black Interior
- Massive Storage Capability with 7 x 3.5" and 2 x 2.5" HDD bays
- Direction-free HDD cage
- Excellent thermal performance with optimal air flow
- Folding edge design to strengthen structure and prevent cutting
|Front bezel material:
||Micro ATX, Standard ATX
|Ext. 3.5" bays:
|Int. 3.5" bays:
|Front I/O ports:
||USB 2.0 x 2, eSATA & HD Audio ports
|Front (intake) fans:
||120 x 120 x 25 mm, 1300 rpm, 17 dBA:
120 x 120 x 25 mm (optional)
|Rear (exhaust) fan:
||140 x 140 x 25 mm TurboFan,
1000 rpm, 16 dBA
|Top (exhaust) fan:
||230 x 230 x 20 mm red LED fan,
800 rpm, 15 dBA
|VGA (exhaust) fans:
||Two 60 x 60 mm fan(optional)
||(L x W x H) 21.3” x 9.1” x 19.9” /
505 x 230 x 540 mm
||19.49 lbs / 8.84 kg
Packaging & Contents
The packaging for the Thermaltake Element S is what we would expect from Thermaltake: all-black packaging with a single image on the front, specs on the sides and more detailed images on the rear.
The case comes well-protected with some heavy Styrofoam and a blue cloth cover.
Included with the case are a warranty sheet and manual, both of which are written in multiple languages. The manual has small but detailed images in black and white. All the necessary hardware items are shipped in a small cardboard box and are separated inside plastic bags.
A Closer Look
The style on the Thermaltake Element S case is somewhat muted, except for the red trim on the front door. Upon opening the door, one is greeted by what appears to be nine 5.25" bays.
However, this is not the case, as only the top three bays are for 5.25" devices. Each of the vented bay covers pulls out to reveal the space behind. Unfortunately, Thermaltake has chosen to leave the stamped steel plates in the bay locations. While this may add some rigidity to the case if these bays are empty, most users will be installing at least one device in these locations and will be forced to remove these plates before installing their hardware. The good news is that, since only the top three bays are usable for external devices, Thermaltake decided to place dual 120mm fans in the lower six "bays" (one fan is included and the other is optional). These fans install on plastic brackets that easily snap out of the front.
Turning our attention to the rear of the case, we see the same black finish as the sides. There is a small vent at the top, and just below is an included 140mm fan behind a very open honeycomb mesh grill (there is the option to install a 120mm fan if desired). Below that and to the right are two more vents that allow the user to install dual 60mm fans next to the expansion cards. The power supply mounts at the bottom of the case, and there are two small knockouts for water cooling tubes. Again, Thermaltake has left the stamped I/O covers and PCI slot covers installed. Not only does this make more work the for system builder, but in this circumstance the PCI plates are not replaceable once removed. If the end user changes hardware frequently or plays around with hardware locations, this will leave the back wide open unless covers are purchased separately.
The side panels are attached with some matching black thumbscrews, and there is a loop to lock the side panel if desired. Also, both side panels are trimmed in plastic so they slide easily, and they have some rubber edging that covers the mating surfaces to reduce vibrations.
Toward the rear on the top is a clear 230mm fan which lights up from the red LEDs. There is an I/O panel on the top at the front of the case that features two USB, one eSATA, mic and headphone jacks, and the standard Power & HDD LEDs and Power & Reset buttons. The panel is well-laid out, with plenty of room between the connections. However, I can't help but notice that it looks as if it is missing a cover by the way it is designed.
Inside the case
Inside the Thermaltake Element S case is more of the attractive black finish. The motherboard area features several openings that may allow some cables to be managed neatly.
The hard drive cage allows up to seven 3.5" drives to be installed, and the cage can easily be removed. After removing the two thumbscrews that secure it in place, press the plastic clips toward the center of the cage and slide the whole unit out. When removed, it is evident that the cage can also be installed facing the front of the case for those that may prefer it.
Moving toward the power supply area we can see that the cover is also removable after two thumbscrews are taken out. The interesting thing about this PSU cover is that two 2.5" hard drives can be installed here, which are perfect for SSD drives. One drive goes on top of the panel and the second goes underneath.
Here is the rear panel from the inside, which shows the black 140mm fan. When turned back on the rear panel, it becomes easier to see the top 230mm fan. Underneath the case are four plastic (not rubber) case feet and a grill below the PSU area. There is also a grip under the case front that assists with removing the front panel.
Here we can see the front panel completely removed. The top panel also comes off, but is a little more difficult than the front.
The wires for the motherboard switches and LEDs are made of a flat ribbon cable, while the USB, Audio and all of the case fan cables are sleeved in black mesh or insulation. The Audio connector does have the option for AC97 or HD Audio like most cases today do.
The first step of installing the system into the Thermaltake Element S case is to remove all of those annoying plates that are still attached. Be careful, as the edges may be sharp where they were once attached. Next, I installed the motherboard standoffs in the non-removable motherboard tray.
Even though the tray is not removable, there was plenty of room to work inside the case at this point. As long as you are using a full-size ATX board or smaller (no Extended ATX), the board fits fine.
Next I installed the power supply at the bottom of the case. It is possible to orient the PSU with the fan facing up or down: I chose down to pull cold air in from the bottom of the case. I also installed the video card and started running some of the cables.
Next I placed the cover over the power supply, fitted the support brace along the front edge and tightened the thumbscrews.
I chose to install one DVD-RW drive in the top 5.25" bay. Unfortunately, there are no tool-free mounting options, and I had to screw the drive in place. If you change hardware out a lot this will be an annoyance for you; if you don't, then it won't be an issue.
To install the 3.5" hard drives, first the drives must be prepped with four screws each. You will want to make sure not to mount the screws the same on both sides: the right sides will need to have the middle screw hole used instead of the rear one.
Now the drives will slide into the HDD cage on the screws that were just attached. As you can see on the right side of the cage, the slot does not go all the way to the rear of the cage. This is why the middle screw hole had to be used. Alternatively, if the user wishes to permanently mount the drives, the fourth screw can be placed into the rear holes (shown inside the red box) after the drive is installed.
Cable management has become a very popular topic these days. One common practice is to hide many of the cables behind the motherboard tray. Unfortunately, this will not work in the Element S. The way the tray is designed leaves very little room between the tray and side panel, which prevents the panel from going back on. However, there is ample room to hide cables on the side of the drives, and this allows the side panel to still go back on.
With the components installed in the case, there are few cables showing. I even dug into my spare parts box and installed some extra PCI slot covers and two 60mm fans in the rear panel. The fans seemed like a nice idea until I went to remove the video card, and that is when I found the fans were blocking the screws for the card. Again, this would only be a problem for those that swap hardware often.
Value and Conclusion
- The Thermaltake Element S case has an MSRP of $149.99 US Dollars.
- Nice black finish throughout the case
- Plenty of room for hard drives (seven 3.5" and two 2.5")
- Anti-vibration rubber edging on the side panels
- Up to six fans can be installed (three included)
- Fans are fairly quiet
- Lots of plastic
- Steel covers need to be removed before installation
- Non-removable motherboard tray
- No tool-less options for 5.25" drives or expansion cards
- No available external 3.5" bay or adapter
- 60mm fans on rear panel (if installed) block expansion card screws
What I liked most about the Thermaltake Element S is the overall design. The removable hard drive cage has plenty of room for 3.5" drives, and the removable PSU cover can handle two more 2.5" SSD drives. Airflow inside the case is good, and the front door panel does a good job of cutting down the fan noise, even with dual 120mm fans installed. The side panels also work well to cut down noise and vibration. Some people may not like the amount of plastic used in the design of the case, but I feel Thermaltake employed it wisely without over-doing it.
However, I think Thermaltake and many other case manufacturers have "raised the bar" and we now expect more built-in features from a case. The main problem I had with the Element S was the lack of tool-less features for the drives and expansion cards, and those annoying metal plates that had to be knocked out before any assembly work could be done. And since I am one of those end-users out there that swap hardware frequently, those options (and a few others) could make working on the case much easier.
The Thermaltake Element S case is marketed toward professionals who do not want a loud case with lots of lights and other distractions. I think Thermaltake succeeds here, as there can not be one case that appeals to every market. Overall the Element S is a great case with a nice feature set.