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Thermaltake Kandalf VA9000B

Date: July 31, 2006
Author(s): Greg King

The Kandalf is virtually an Armor with some additions, but are these additions worth the extra cash? We are also taking a look at the new A2400 with 250mm fan to see if it improves on the original.



Introduction


You put a lot of time and effort into building your PC. Why not show it off?

The modding community started by putting windows in their PC cases and now those same ideas are implemented in a good majority of gaming cases sold today. This is nice but what good is a window in a PC if there isn’t room enough for all your components that you have chosen to build your PC with?

I personally have a pair of video cards, a pair of hard drives and more UV reactive pieces than a dorm room stoner. All this is cooled by a Danger Den water cooling setup and by God; I want to be able to see all this goodness.

With all this hardware, I personally prefer a larger case that allows me the room I need to properly install the hardware and route the cables as needed. All of this can, and has, been done in smaller cases but for me, I like to have that room. One case that comes to mind when I was looking for a new case was the Thermaltake Armor which we reviewed back in April. When doing some research, I found out that Thermaltake just released a new case, based on the Armor… called the Kandalf. The Kandalf appears to be the exact same as the Armor but with a different front. Will this different face prove to be better or is there more difference than just the front of the case? Let’s find out’

Packaging and Exterior

The packaging of the Kandalf is what you would expect from Thermaltake. The box is bright and full of relevant information, as you can see in the following pictures.

The Kandalf comes packaged in a thick styrofoam packing and has a fabric cover to protect against scratches that might occur during shipping.

Once out of the box, we see the front of the Kandalf in all its glory. The concept is the same as the Armor in which you have the sides fold out.

The front of the Kandalf is interesting to say the least but I like it. I don’t know about the Thermaltake logo on the bottom but we will see. Perhaps it will grow on me, who knows.

Once opened up, we see that the Kandalf also shares its front with the Armor. There are the same amount of bays and the little storage compartment is included as well.



Exterior Features

With the doors opened, I took a closer look at the doors and it would appear that this case is in fact an Armor with the Kandalf doors bolted onto the original doors. This is personally fine with me.

Moving along, let’s take a look at the side of the case. Here we see the windowed side panel that the Kandalf shares with’ you guessed it, the Armor.

This is something that I actually like. I enjoyed Matt’s review of the Armor and I liked the three paneled window on that case. It’s nice to see this side panel being shared between the two cases.

Moving to the top of the case, we see that there are quick access ports for audio, firewire as well as a pair of USB ports. This will provide convenient access to the audio jack for my headphones.

The back of the case is interesting as well. The first thing that I notice is the vertically mounted power supply. This allows you to use another fan as an exhaust, as well as cool your hard drives, should you choose to use the top gondola.

The rest of the case is what you would expect from an ATX case. The only other feature of note is that the Kandalf can be converted to accept a BTX motherboard. This kit was not included as I do not have a need. I just don’t own a BTX setup and honestly, have no plans at the moment to do so any time soon.

Also on the back, there are 4 holes that allow you to route water tubing out of them should you water cool your PC with tubing small enough to fit through these holes.

Now that we have seen the outside of the case, let’s move inward and see what the Kandalf has to offer.



Interior

Once inside, we see that the Kandalf provides plenty of room for almost any setup you might have.

There are a lot of areas in this case that I want to touch on. The first being the clear plastic brackets that vertically lines the right side of the case. These are intended to secure any drive that you have.

On the inside of the case, we can see that there are small plastic nipples that act as screws, holding the CD or DVD drive in place.

Moving along, we notice that there is a hard drive gondola in the upper left corner of the case, along side of the power supply. Behind this is a 92mm fan, meant to pull air from the case, across the hard drives and out of the back of the case. I understand why they did this way but the last thing I want is a set of SATA cables running across my motherboard. Regardless of my opinion, the gondola ‘hangs’ from a set of metal studs and is held in place by a small clip.

While we are on the subject of gondolas, there is also one for those of you who like your hard drives down low. This one holds up to 3 hard drives and has a 120mm fan on the front of it to pull cool air from outside the case and across the hard drives.

Another nice feature of the Kandalf is the fact that it is tool-less. No more dropping screws trying to secure your video or sound card. Install your card and snap down the hold down and you are done.

There is one last thing that I would like to touch upon and that is the power box for the front Thermaltake logo light. This little box has one toggle switch on the top of it and it controls the front logo. When pushed up, the front logo ‘twinkles’ and when pushed down, the logo stays lit all of the time. This is a nice feature that adds a bit to the over all look. This also might catch more than enough looks from curious people at a LAN event.



Side Window, Cooling Results

Also included with the Kandalf was the A2400 side panel. This fits both the Armor and the Kandalf but is different from the regular side panel in that it has a huge 25cm fan. The pictures do not do this fan any justice as this thing is really large. The fan is rated at 600rpms and is positioned directly over your motherboard, slowly bringing in cool air from outside the case.

Like the other side panel, this one has two latches on the top and bottom of the left side of the case. The top latch can be locked to keep anyone you do not want in your PC out. The A2400 is dominated by the fan in the center. I am curious how well it will help out temperatures with is only working at 600rpms but we will see soon enough.

Installation, Cooling and Results

Installation of my hardware into the Kandalf was simple, painless and trouble free. It would have been nice if a removable motherboard tray was an option but unfortunately it is not. This isn’t a big deal but having worked with cases in the past where the motherboard tray comes out, they are certainly convenient. The interior of the case has more than enough room and the installation of my water kit was easy and trouble free. I am glad to report also that I did not encounter one sharp edge and that’s a good thing.

The temperatures in the case were kept to an acceptable level as well. With the regular windowed panel on, my CPU never got above 35*C while idling around 27*C under full load and with one 7800 GT on the same water loop. When I put on the panel with the fan in it, my CPU never got past 35*C but idled at 27*C. While the CPU temps to not reflect it, the A2400 does offer a lot more benefits when motherboard temps are a concern. I saw my chipset temperatures drop from 47*C to 44*C. The fan also blows air across the RAM and all in all, brings in a lot of cooler air from outside the case, ultimately benefiting all of your hardware.



Conclusion


The Kandalf provided me with all the room that I was looking for. The available space made the water cooling setup a breeze to setup and while the picture doesn’t really show it, gave me adequate room to route the cables as well. There is more work to be done before this is a finish product but I know this will not be a problem. The Kandalf comes in a bit more expensive than its brother, the Armor, and to me, this extra money is not justified. I plan on removing the front doors soon if they do not grow on me but the look of the case with the doors closed is a clean look. Many people will like this case because of the front. I personally love this case but for other reasons. I like my cases like I like my cars’ large and sturdy. Following that train of thought, the Kandalf is 100% luxury sedan.

There is also the A2400 side panel. This is a nice addition to anyone air cooling their PC but for me, I don’t want to cover up the nice water setup with a fan, regardless of how much it helps. If it dropped my temps to ungodly lows then yes, I would continue using it but as it stands now, the regular side panel is staying on the PC.

When it comes down to it, both of these items are testaments to Thermaltake’s dedication to the enthusiast. The cases keep getting better and the smaller things, like throwing an incredibly large fan on a side panel, are a nice addition as well. I am awarding the Kandalf a solid 9 out of 10 with an Editor’s Choice award. The case was just too easy to work with to not give it a good score.

The A2400 on the other hand just didn’t appeal to me.at all. I spent all that time building the water cooling setup only to hide it behind the fan. I prefer being able to see my creation. On principle alone however, the A2400 does what it should and did help lower my temps on my motherboard as well as my chipset. These are nice but my vanity trumps the A2400’s functionality. I am giving the A2400 side panel a 6 out of 10. It is nice, but I just didn’t care for it. I highly recommend it for air cooled PCs but no thank you for water cooling as there is just to much to cover up.

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Kandalf VA9000B:


A2400 Side Panel:


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