Date: October 5, 2011
Author(s): Ryan Perry
Thermaltake has a large number of chassis lines, but it’s time to welcome another: Chaser. The first model, MK-1, features a bold, gamer-esque design and borrows many cues from the Level 10 GT. It features an HDD dock, a headphone holder, and tons of cooling capacity. At $150, is this a full-tower that should top your list?
It’s full-tower review time again! This time around we have the latest and hopefully greatest from Thermaltake, the Chaser MK-1. This case was previewed at Computex in Taiwan earlier this year and has been staring at me from the review pile for far too long.
The last Thermaltake case that we checked out was the amazing Level 10 GT that had everything anybody could ever want – looks, cooling and loads of room to work in. But, it also came with a hefty price tag. Judging by the specifications alone, the Chaser MK-1 might be the case to buy for those who need most of what the Level 10 GT offers, without having to donate any bodily fluids or organs to afford one.
Constructed from steel with plastic accents, the Chaser MK-1 full-tower case features a black and blue colour scheme inside and out. It stands just shy of 568mm high, is 581.6mm deep and weighs in at a back-straining 27.1 lbs while supporting micro-ATX and ATX motherboards.
The front of the Chaser MK-1 features a styled plastic and metal mesh panel divided into two sections. Making up the top portion are four 5.25″ drive bay covers outlined by blue accents that double as the external cover releases, and the bottom portion that hides a 200mm “Colorshift” intake fan behind the silver Thermaltake logo.
Over on the left side are the large window that takes up most of the top and a vented area below it with a pre-install filter where an optional 200mm fan can be mounted. Towards the front at the top of the panel is a flip-down headset holder for those who like to keep their cups where they can grab them easily.
At the very back about a third of the way up is a loop that matches up with one on the rear panel. These two loops allow for a small lock to be used so that the side panel cannot be removed. Side panels this large will always have a certain degree of flexing so to counter this a design has been stamped into the metal and runs around the perimeter.
The layout of the back of the Chaser MK-1 starts off with a recessed area at the top that allows the top cover to be removed when pulled up on. Below the recess to the left is the motherboard I/O opening, to the right are three pass-through holes with rubber grommets for external water cooling and a 140mm non-LED exhaust fan below.
Further down are the 8 vented PCI slot covers, a security loop to the right that can be accessed from inside the case and used to keep peripherals secure, a large vented area further down and the power supply opening at the bottom.
There’s not much to see on the right side panel since it is completely solid, but it has been stamped with the same pattern as the other side, only flipped upside down to give it a little bit of eye appeal while providing strength. Both panels are secured using two black thumbscrews.
The top panel has a lot going on, so starting on the left side and working forward finds the 3.5mm headset and microphone jacks, the reset button, high and low fan speed buttons and the LED colour control button for the Colorshift fans. Over on the right at the top are two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port and two USB 2.0 ports.
Smack dab in the center of all of this is the diamond-shaped power surrounded by a blue accent that fades in and out when the system is on. Finally, behind the power button is the spring-loaded door of a hot swap hard drive bay based on Thermaltake’s own BlacX that can accept either 2.5″ or 3.5″ drives.
From there back the rest of the top panel is covered in the same mesh found on the front panel, which hides a second 200mm Colorshift exhaust fan with room for another 200mm, 140mm or 120mm fan. If water cooling is your thing, the included fan can be swapped out in favour of a 240mm radiator.
The underside of the Chaser MK-1 shows off four case feet that can rotate 360 degrees for extra stability. The rest of the bottom is taken up by a removable dust filter that covers the area where an optional 120mm or 140mm fan can be installed, along with the power supply vents.
Regardless of whether the exterior appeals to you or not, the Chaser MK-1 is shaping up to be a great case. Let’s get those pesky panels off and see what’s under the hood.
The front cover comes away cleanly seeing how the buttons and I/O area has been moved to the top panel. The removable dust filter for the fan area is attached to the frame by plastic tabs and the drive bay covers are backed with foam to help keep unwanted bunnies out. I’m not sure what it is about huge fans but this one makes me smile.
Here is an overall shot of the left side, so have a peek before we dive into the individual sections.
At the bottom front are the six 3.5″ or 2.5″ drive bays that have been rotated 90 degrees. Each bay features a blue plastic tray with an arm and latch system to hold it all in place. 3.5″ drives install without tools but 2.5″ drives will need to be secured with screws.
Above the hard drive cage are the tool-less locks for the 5.25″ bays. These are similar to what Corsair uses in its cases and employs the same style of push-to-release latch at the front.
The floor of the case shows a better view of the mounting area for the optional fan and the vents for the power supply. The adjustable power supply brace makes its return to ensure the unit stays in place by reducing any up and down and side to side motion while elevating it to ensure proper airflow.
It’s not quite as comprehensive as the motherboard tray in the Level 10 GT but the Chaser MK-1 features enough of what most users will need. Each of the cable management areas down the right side of the tray, in front of the power supply and above it feature rubber grommets. A good portion of the top edge of the tray is cut away to help with routing cables to the top of the motherboard and there is also a huge cutout in the CPU area to help with installation and removal of coolers.
The rear panel shows off the exhaust fan, pass-through water cooling holes, motherboard I/O area and power supply opening but also the thumbscrews used to hold each of the slot covers and any expansion cards in place.
Up on the top panel are the 200mm exhaust fan and opening for another of the user’s choosing. In total this case could possibly be configured with four 200mm fans if water cooling isn’t a must.
The back of the motherboard tray shows off the small loops where zip ties can be used to wrangle any loose cable, the initial routing for the top panel connections and the area behind the hard drive trays to hide everything else. There is just under 3/4″ of space between the motherboard tray and side panel so that space at the front may be useful.
Included with the Chaser MK-1 are the motherboard stand offs, screws to hold everything in place, extra long screws should an extra 200mm fan be added in one of the open spots, a 5.25″ to 3.5″ bay converter complete with matching cover, a 12V cable extension, a handful of zip ties and a case speaker.
The Level 10 GT was a dream to work in and cooled like a champ, so I have my hopes up that the installation and testing will be the same this time around.
There are some cases that I have worked in where things have gone awry from the start. Some are so bad that half way through the build I find myself wishing that everything was finished and I could move on. Then there are cases like the Chaser MK-1 that does everything right – and I’m a little bit sorry to see the build finished.
Absolutely everything went beautifully and since this is a full-tower case there was more than enough room to work. From the power supply to the motherboard to the GPU, I couldn’t find a single thing that didn’t line up or could be done better. The hard drive trays and optical drives lock in place solidly, all of the top panel cables were long enough to reach the headers and the build ended up being just as fast and easy as the one in the Level 10 GT.
Normally I show each component installed individually but I’m going to change things up a bit moving forward and show only unique or interesting features, something that is just plain cool or problem areas that were found during the installation. The first part I want to show is the adjustable power supply brace. Even for those with longer power supplies there should be no compatibility or clearance issues.
The second part is the hot swap bay on top, which worked like a charm. A test drive was inserted and was immediately picked up by the OS, which was installed after the SATA mode was set to AHCI in the BIOS.
The rest is standard fare for those who are used to building systems, so let’s jump forward to the final shots of what most should expect to see once the build is complete.
The back of the motherboard tray looks quite messy, and I’ll admit that I didn’t take as much time as I could have to tie the cables up nice and tight. Most of the cables were stashed behind the drive trays but this will not cause any issues with airflow and ended up being necessary in order for the side panel to go on due to the limited space between it and the motherboard tray.
All of our testing is performed in a near steady 20°C ambient environment with readings taken before and after with a standard room thermometer. AIDA64 Extreme Engineer is used for monitoring and recording all system temperatures throughout the testing process.
Windows is allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes after startup to ensure all services are loaded before recording the idle CPU and GPU temperatures. CPU load temperatures are generated by performing a 20 minute run of OCCT LINPACK using 90% of the available memory, while GPU load temperatures are generated by OCCT’s built in test, also for 20 minutes.
Stock CPU settings were obtained by setting the AI Tweaker option with the BIOS to Auto and the maximum stable overclock frequency of 4.0GHz was obtained after extensive testing to ensure stability. The final clocks for the GPU are 760MHz on the core and 1000MHz QDR (4000MHz relative) for the memory with the voltage increased to 1.087V using MSI’s Afterburner overclocking utility. As with the CPU overclock, testing was done prior to ensure full stability.
The components used for testing are:
Techgage Test System
Intel Core i5-661 – Dual-Core (3.33GHz)
ASUS P7H55D-M EVO mATX – H55-based
Corsair Dominator 2x2GB DDR3-1600 7-8-7-20-2T
EVGA GeForce GTX 470
Western Digital 2TB Green
Antec TP-750 Blue
Cooler Master HAF 932 Advanced
Cooler Master Silencio 550
Corsair Carbide 400R
Corsair Obsidian 650D
Corsair SE White 600T
NZXT Tempest 410 Elite
Silverstone Raven RV03
Thermaltake Chaser MK-1
Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Corsair H60 (Exhaust Configuration)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Even though the Chaser MK-1 finished a little bit back, it was able to keep the CPU of our test system within 4 degrees of the Level 10 GT and 3 degrees of the Cooler Master HAF 932 Advanced – but with only 2 fans installed, not including the fan on the Corsair H60. GPU temperatures were pretty much in line with the rest of the pack but throw in another 200mm fan on the side panel or, dare I say it, one in each open spot and you’d have a cooling power house.
Larger fans run at lower RPMs, meaning less noise is normally added to the system, and these ones are no different even while running at the maximum speed. Only the sound of rushing air could be heard aside from the fan on the H60 that runs at 100% all the time.
Being able to control the colour of the LEDs on the two 200mm fans is a nice touch as well, although having red or green LEDs with blue accents looks a little bit silly to me.
With loads of features, good cooling and enough eye candy for those who want it, this review is in the bag.
Normally, I don’t start off this part of the review by mentioning the price – but I will for the Chaser MK-1. One can be picked up at major online retailers for ~$160, which puts it quite high up on the price scale.
This is the only problem that I have with the case considering that the HAF 932 Advanced is available for $10 less and provides better cooling out of the box. The 932 Advanced loses out with only 7 PCI slots compared to 8 found on the Chaser MK-1 and an extra optical drive bay in exchange for a hard drive bay.
Pricing aside, including a side panel 200mm fan doesn’t seem like too much to ask given the price and would likely help it match the Level 10 GT in terms of cooling – which at the same time might be why it wasn’t. A side panel fan will almost always be useful, whereas not including one in the open spot on the top is understandable since one fan in this location is typical and some may swap it out and install a radiator.
Other than that, the Chaser MK-1 should be a welcome addition to any power user’s system. It’s too big and bulky for my needs but there are those who need or simply like full-tower cases. To them I say go for it because the fit and finish more than makes up for the amount of room it needs.
The styling may end up being a “take it or leave it” affair, but for me there is just enough flash without being too over-the-top. The symmetrical lines compared to the odd-ball design of the Armor series and the blue accents around the 5.25″ bays, on the movable feet and on the hard drive trays are perfect for my tastes.
If this is the MK-1 version of the Chaser, I can’t wait to see what the MK-2 and beyond will offer.
October 5, 2011 Addendum: This article was posted originally without an Editor’s Choice award when it was meant to have one, so it’s been added.
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