I would like to thank Thermaltake
for providing the review sample.
Thermaltake nicely sums up their mission statement on their cooperate website:
Our Mission "Delivering the perfect user experience"
The beginning of every myth and legend is about dreams and desire: the challenging, creative and combative features of Thermaltake Group create an exciting and fascinating user experience to share with everyone, while allowing users to enter a selfless state in terms of function and potential.
Thermaltake has a long history of interesting products from cases, power supplies, water cooling, gaming and many other areas. We have the pleasure of taking a closer look at the Commander MS-I RX-I, which is the most affordable offering of the new line-up of cases, followed by the Spacecraft VF-I, Overseer RX-I and Chaser MK-I.
|Specifications: Commander MS-1 USB 3.0
||4.5 kg / 9.9 lb
||3x External 5.25" |
1x External 3.5"
5x Internal 3.5"
1x Internal 2.5"
||535 x 220 x 580 mm (21.1x 8.7x 22.8")
||1x 120 mm (optional)
||120 x 120 x 25 mm Blue LED fan, 1000rpm, 16dBA
||2x 120 mm (optional)
||1x 120 mm (optional)
||2x USB 2.0 |
1x USB 3.0
Thermaltake packages the chassis in a full color cardboard box. The front holds an image of the case and a "Commander", while the rear goes into great detail about the features of the case. On the sides you will see if the package includes the USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 variant and a list of specification on the other panel.
The case is held in place by two Styrofoam spacers and further protected with the help of a plastic bag to ensure a scratch and fingerprint free chassis right out of the box.
As this is an entry level chassis, there is not a lot of unusual extras to be found within the box. A bag of screws, a speaker, four long screws, a single plastic mainboard spacer and a manual is all you get.
A Closer Look - Outside
The chassis makes a good first impression. Even though it is really affordable, the overall design can be considered very detailed. The quality of the plastic front is excellent, while the metal frame - even though it is thinner than other cases - still feels sturdy enough for an enclosure of this price class.
Thermaltake has done an excellent job in giving the Commander MS-I a cool look. Straight lines in combination with metal mesh and a nicely placed logo, should make this a great choice for first time builders wanting to create a nifty looking chassis on a budget. Turning the case around, we can see that the PSU is bottom mounted and the interior of the case is all black as well.
Even though the Commander MS-I is quite cheap, both sides offer a great level of detail. With many edgy and straight lines in combination with the uniquely shaped window it looks refreshing. Thermaltake has gone the whole nine yards instead of keeping such elements isolated to the front of the chassis.
Taking a closer look at the front, the bottom utilizes metal mesh mostly, with the Thermaltake logo placed unto this material. This vent allows for fresh air to enter the front of the chassis. Above that you will find three 5.25 inch slots and a single 3.5 inch one. In-between these are the USB 2.0 & 3.0 ports and the traditional pair of audio connectivity.
In the rear, the bottom mounted PSU bay is multi-directional. This means that you may install the power supply with the fan facing up- or downward. Above that are seven standard motherboard expansion slots for an ATX case. These are protected by break-out covers, so you will not be able to reuse these once detached from the chassis, but Thermaltake goes a step further and adds two separate ones in the top and bottom bay. In the very top of the rear is the only fan within the chassis - a 120 mm, blue LED equipped one.
In the top are two openings to install two further 120 mm fans. Due to the distance between these to vents, it is not possible to install a 240 mm radiator properly. The different extrusion on the two vents for the screw holes is also a bit weird.
A Closer Look - Inside
To gain access to the interior of the chassis, simply remove the two thumb screws holding the windowed side panel in place. You will require tools for the other panel, as it is secured with traditional case screws instead. The insides of the chassis are all black and the drive bays are lined with plastic locks. Besides this, the case is kept quite simple in terms of layout and how drive bays are formed. Multiple openings in the motherboard tray should aid in cable management, while a large one will allow access the the CPU cooler backplate.
To keep the chassis as affordable as possible, the motherbooard spacers have been replaced by arches created from the tray itself. Having worked as a system builder, I strongly suggest you insulate these before installing a board. Simply taping over them should do the trick. There is no usable space behind the mainboard tray, except along the three openings for cable management. Even here you only get around 1 cm to work with. While the side panel is extruded slightly, this accounts for at most 0.5 cm more space.
You may install up to five 3.5 inch drives within the Commander MS-I, but only three of these utilize a black & red, plastic locking mechanism. A single 2.5 inch drive may be installed unto the floor of the chassis on four little bumps. Of the three 5.25 inch bays, only two have the same type of screw-less systems. While these are generally alright to use for a system that is never moved, such locks are also the source of unwanted vibrations in many scenarios, as these do not tend to hold the drives well. Luckily, Thermaltake includes enough screws to secure the devices, which should be an easy fix for such issues.
In the rear, the bottom PSU bay has a dust filter which cannot be removed easily and the power supply will rest on a support bar. This latter part needs to be removed before you may even install a power supply. Above that are the afore mentioned motherboard expansion slots. Even though the bottom and top ones are removable, there are no screws holding these in place. In the very top you will find the 120 mm exhaust fan, which is semi transparent and features two blue LEDs instead of the traditional four. A nice touch is the sleeved cabling of the cooling unit which may be connected directly to the mainboard with a 3-pin connector.
The bottom slot for a fan can hold a 120 mm unit, but does not have a dust filter protecting the intake. Besides the fact, that I think such a slot is rarely used in a system, it may be obstructed when a longer PSU is used within the Commander MS-I. In the top you will find the two, simple 120 mm air vents. These are intended only for fans, if you wish to pull air out the top of the chassis.
Before we dive into the assembly process, let us take a quick look at the case cables. The ones for general functionality are nothing out of the ordinary and are multi-colored and the I/O leads are of the standard variety. Thermaltake has chosen to use an external USB 3.0 connector instead of an internal 20-pin one. Other manufacturers offer similarly priced cases which do offer internal connectivity and I strongly suggest that Thermaltake considers this option as well.
Installing the mainboard is achieved quickly as you just need to place the board unto the afore mentioned arcs. Due to the compact nature of the chassis and the fact that Thermaltake wants to keep costs to a minimum, the motherboard expansion cards are locked into place on the outside of the chassis. Interestingly enough, the metal bar covering all seven slots holds the dual-slot graphic cards extremely well with just a single case screw - pretty nifty, especially for system integrators.
As there is a spot on the bottom to install a 2.5 inch drive, I did so as you can see. To add such a drive, you have to tip the chassis over, so that you can gain access to the four screw holes for the drive. Due to the design of the chassis and its compact dimensions you will have to install the hard drives before placing a graphics card into the system, as you may block the adjacent slots otherwise. Once the drive is placed in the slot of your choice, placing the plastic lock and turning it, does an alright job in keeping the drive there. I strongly suggest using at least a single, traditional screw to ensure no vibrations are passed on to the case framing.
To install an optical drive you have to pry off the entire front first. It is good to see, that the I/O is not firmly attached to the front panel as this should reduce the RMA issued and make life easier for system integrators. Once the slot is freed, simply slide the optical drive into the bay and place the plastic lock back unto the side of the bay. Even though it holds, you should use a screw here as well to keep the drive from becoming extremely noisy as it spins up when a disc is inserted.
Placing the PSU inside the case is nothing out of the ordinary, but you have to remove the crossbeam first, as the different power supplies are of different length. Once the unit is in place, you should slide the support back into place, tip the chassis over and screw it back on from the underside of the case. This extra step may be tedious for end-users, but it secured the unit, reducing the strain on the frame of the chassis, which is once again a feature of interest to a system integrator.
Once everything is installed, the chassis still makes a bit of a messy impression, even though it is hold the minimum parts for a modern system. This is due to the lack of cable hiding and basic cable routing methods.
Once the side panels were placed back unto the chassis, the Commander MS-I makes a really cool impression. Once turned on, the front LEDs and two embedded blue lights in the fan are the only visual hint that the system is up and running.
Taking a closer look at the openings, the light of the fan can be seen, glowing through the air vents. Due to the top openings, noise from the internal components can easily escape the confines of the chassis, which may result in a louder working environment as with higher-end cases.
The window gives you a good peak into the insides of the chassis and it is great to see, that the tall Prolimatech Super Mega fits perfectly fine within the Commander MS-I.
The power LED of the chassis is blue, while the one for the hard drive lights up red when in use. This looks quite nice and fits the overall design of the chassis.
Value and Conclusion
- The Thermaltake Commander MS-I with USB 3.0 sells for 37 Euro incl. taxes or 50 US Dollar excluding taxes.
- USB 3.0 connectivity
- Cool and detailed design
- Real 3.5 inch bay
- Excellent, solid front for the price
- LED equipped fan in the rear
- Tool-less on three HDD and two ODD bays
- Simple cable management possibilities
- Bottom mounted PSU
- Completely detachable case front
- All black internals
- 2.5 inch bay on the floor
- Dust filter for the PSU bay
- Big CPU coolers like the Super Mega fits
- Locking bar for expansion cards holds surprisingly well
- The USB 2.0 version costs just as much and thus will not sell
- Plastic locks do not hold too well
- Top vents not usable for a radiator
- Bottom air vent has no dust filter
- No space behind the mainboard tray for easy cable hiding/management
- USB 3.0 with external connector
The Thermaltake Commander MS-I chassis is the perfect example of how small things in cases could make all the difference. If you look at the USB 2.0 version, then the market offers many other enclosures from various manufacturers which tend to offer the same or better level of quality and at least an identical feature set at the same price point. One such example is the AeroCool XWarrior Red Devil Edition which offers a red interior, cool looks and more fans for example. In such a scenario, the Commander MS-I USB 2.0 will not be the first choice of the vast majority and some may end up spending a few Euro or Dollars more to get more bang for their buck.
Now let us add the Commander MS-I with USB 3.0 to the mix. Suddenly the pool of comparable cases with USB 3.0 at this price point shrinks down to a handful and the Commander MS-I USB 3.0 leads the pack in terms of price. So the result should be obvious: with cases in this price class, looks and a basic compatibility with the hardware are the two most important aspects, add the requirement of USB 3.0 and the Commander MS-I is a solid and most affordable choice. If all you need is a USB 2.0 equipped chassis, then you should take a good hard look at what else there is out there - unless you fell for the design of Commander MS-I USB 2.0.
*These Awards are only for the Commander MS-I USB 3.0! *NOT* for the USB 2.0 version