Date: March 23, 2007
Author(s): Matthew Harris
Are you in the market for a roomy server case? Tired of the small cases that don’t offer enough room for all your bits and bobs? Today we take a look at a case that can run the gamut from HTPC to server to gaming case and gives you more room than you can shake a stick of Rambus at.
We’ve looked at several Thermaltake cases in the past and overall they’re pretty nice. They offer a wide variety of cases varying from SFF to huge towers with more drive bays than any sane person can conceive of using. Today we’re looking at one that falls into the latter category. The Mozart TX. Let’s list the features as Thermaltake tells it.
|Case Type||Cube Tower|
|Dimension||330x360x720 mm (WxDxH)|
|Window Side Panel||Window|
|Case Front Panel||Aluminum|
|Case Body Material||Aluminum|
|Cooling System||Front: 12cm fan x 2 (Up to five 12cm fan)|
Rear: 12cm fan x 3 (Up to five 12 cm, one 8 cm fan)
|Motherboard||Primary: ATX, Micro ATX, BTX, Micro BTX, Nano BTX, Pico BTX|
Secondary: Mini ITX
|Drive Bay||7" Drive Bay x 1|
5.25" Drive Bay x 5
3.5" Drive Bay x 7 (Exposed x 1; Hidden x 6)
|Front I/O||E-SATA Connector; USB 2.0 x 4; IEEE 1394 Firewire; HD-Audio|
|Expansion Slots||7 Slots|
|9.0kg / 9.5kg|
Now, Thermaltake calls this a Cube Tower and it’s key emphasise is on the tower part. This case is twice as tall as it wide and high, actually a bit over twice as tall if you want to get technical. In inches it’s just in at 28" tall X 13" wide X 14" deep. That’s a fairly tall and wide footprint although the depth is very shallow. I’ll discuss what this means to you when we look inside, but if you’re using this case as a floor standing unit it means that the case takes up just a bit over one square foot of real estate.
The box is huge! It stands nearly a full three feet tall. It looks like the box took a good hit in transit so we’ll take a look at the case and see if it took any damage.
After pulling the Mozart TX out of the box and giving it a good once over I found that there were no dings, dents or broken windows so I gave a huge sigh of relief and got started looking the beast over. I say beast because this thing is a freaking monster! At half as wide as most of your conventional cases (or more than half) and a full 28" tall it’s a hard case to miss in a crowd.
The face is made from a curved aluminum panel that’s around 4mm thick and each end (top and bottom) is covered with an aluminum cap. Near the top you find four USB ports, front audio ports, a lone Firewire port (when will motherboards incorporate more than one front Firewire port?) and an e-SATA port and power for the e-SATA port. The downside about the e-SATA port is that the power requires a legacy plug and Thermaltake neglects to include one. Booo!
The side panels are held in place with thumbscrews and latches. The left side is the same traditional location where we find the motherboard mount. The HDD’s also live on the left side of the case while the opticals live on the right side.
The rear of the case is pretty interesting. There’s enough room back there for 2-240mm rads and at the bottom there are eight knockouts for plumbing in any external water cooling that you can think of… as long as the tubing is 5/8" O.D. that is.
Moving around to the right side we see that there’s nearly enough room for another motherboard, and in fact there is. ITX is the form factor that will fit there due to the fact that the power supply lives on this side of the case and there’s a support that that runs from the front of the case to the rear and over to the mobo tray. This support holds up the power supply and adds structural support to the case.
Here’s what I’m talking about. The box with the accessories is also on that side of the case.
Moving around to the left side we see the HDD cage with the front port cables stuffed into it. We can also see that there’s room for three 120mm fans below the HDD cage which also has a 120mm fan in it. Next to the fan mount between the lower fan and the HDD cage fan there is another fan mount, which if a fan was loaded there would blow air across the motherboard tray on both sides. There is no other fan for blowing intake air through the right side of the case.
Actually, aside from the power supply there are no fans on the off side of the case below the divider. There is a mount for an 80mm fan below the PSU mount but if you’re after silence it’s a marginal solution. A silent 80mm fan is basically useless for providing adequate air flow and an 80mm fan that does provide adequate air flow is about as much fun to endure as a dentist’s drill. Basically a no win situation, although, if you don’t have anything on that side of the case you don’t really need any air flow and even an ITX board will be more than adequately cooled by the 120mm intake fan that blows on both sides of the case so I guess it’s not a huge issue but it still sort of bothers me.
As you’ll notice, the sides don’t come off the case, instead they’re hinged and you’re stuck with them unless you want to pull the screws holding the hinges to the panels. This isn’t a huge issue but it does make laying the case down and installing hardware a bit of a challenge. The doors open only 90 degrees so unless you prop them open they tend to keep closing with the slightest bump.
I’d like to see a prop rod incorporated into the case to keep the doors open in the event that you’re laying the case on it’s side to install hardware as trying to install a motherboard in a standing case is like herding cats.
Inside the box pictured earlier resides the screws and standoffs normally associated with PC cases along with four grommets for passing tubing through, a mylar plate to put over the mobo tray where the BTX mounts protrude through the plane of the tray, although I haven’t had any issues but some motherboards with long component legs could. There are also a pair of cables for use with an ITX mobo. They’re extended length cables to reach the extra distance from the ITX mobo mount to the HDD cage. Normally bundled cables will be a bit short since they’re usually 18" and that might be too short to reach all the way around the tray and up to the cage.
Taking a look at the right side of the case wee see that the power supply mounts on edge. There are screw holes for mounting the PSU on either side although for units with a fan on the bottom it is best to mount the PSU with the fan facing the side panel since there is an intake grille in the case window. This will ensure that the fan isn’t being blocked by the motherboard tray / case divider and gives the added benefit of supplying the power supply with cooler room temperature air.
If you’ll note the arrows, they’re pointing to the ITX standoffs that are pre-installed in the case on the same side of the case that the PSU mounts on. If you’re a modder and don’t plan to use the ITX motherboard mounts for that purpose you could mount a plate over them using the standoffs to screw the plate to and mount something else to the plate such as a water pump, reservoir or anything that you imagination can conceive of.
The openings in the divider are very handy for routing cables through.
As you can see the fan opening in the case window doesn’t line up perfectly with the fan in the PSU I’ve installed in the case for testing but even with the mismatch it still worked very well. During my time with the case I’ve never noticed the exhaust from the PSU becoming any warmer than if the unit was laying on my desk running under load.
As the build progresses you can see that the aforementioned holes in the divider really do a nice job at keeping the wiring sanitary.
Taking a peek at the wiring from the front ports located at the top of the case we can see that these babies are very long. In point of fact, the audio and USB and Firewire cables are so long that they’ll hang a good foot (or more) below the case. This means that you can route the wires easily behind the divider and bring them out under the motherboard in the holes below it.
All the front mounted ports feature monolithic plugs so you don’t have to deal with individual mini plugs, although, the Firewire plug does feature the individual mini plugs just in case you have a 1394 mobo connector that isn’t dual row.
Here’s the power to the e-SATA port, although since you don’t get the adapter it requires to function isn’t included it’s kind of like an appendix …utterly useless.
Moving around back we find a feature that’s a bit more useful, screw-less PCI slots. The slot covers are held in place by individual locks that are released from the back of the case. Each one has a latch that you squeeze and pull outwards.
The tang end inside the case swings out from the PCI slots and releases the cover. I’m happy to report that the clamps do a very good job of locking your PCI devices down and if you’re not comfortable with them you can simply bend the ears at the pivot point away from the lock, remove it and use a screw instead.
Moving along we come to the hard drive bay. It’s held in the case with three thumbscrews and a clip. It has a 120mm fan mounted to the front and holds five or six hard drives. I say five or six since it depends upon if you desire to mount a floppy drive in the topmost bay. Personally, I’d avoid mounting a drive up there since it’s beyond the flow from the fan but that’s just me.
If you want to use this case for a three terabyte server then slapping six 500 gig hard drives in the drive cage is the answer. The lower five bays feature rubber grommets to isolate the hard drives from the case to avoid any unwanted vibrations from the drives and thwart noise. Great idea in theory but in practice it makes very little difference. The front of the case features a large mesh insert that allows any drive motor noise to waft it’s way prosaically to your awaiting ears. I never realized just how loud the motors are on my trusty Western Digital 1600JB’s… all I can say is dayumm.
Looking at the space vacated by the HDD cage we see that the mesh drive covers are held in place with screws. Now, I have read a few reviews of this case and one of the complaints I remember was that it seems odd that a case that features tool-less 5.25" bays should have the covers held in place with screws but I’m all for it. Having inadvertently shoved a cover into the 5.25" bays on more than one occasion with my now retired (and sold) Lian Li I can testify as to how much of a buzzkill it is to have to yank a drive out of the case simply because I’ve shoved the cover into the drive bay.
On the flip side of the 5.25" bays we find the locks for the screw-less drive holders. You squeeze the inverted U shape and the relived section together to release the lock and slide it forward to lock the drive in place or back to release it. They work very well and I never had an issue with the drives feeling loose or sloppy in the bays.
Above the floppy bay and below where the cables are routed from is where the VFD Media Center mounts. It mounts directly to the case front rather than in a bay so the opening for it is simply for the VFD. In my humble opinion I think that for the price of this case (a tad below $300 U.S.) the VFD should be included rather than trying to wring every penny out of the buyer of the case. A simple VFD can’t run more than $30 to produce and it would certainly be a selling point for the case. Oddly it looks as though this case had another incarnation that had two external 3.5" bays, why they chose to not employ them in the Mozart TX is beyond me aside from the fact that the venerable floppy is at last dying out.
An interesting thing about the Mozart TX is that there are fan filters over all the intake fans. They’re made from a plastic micro mesh and snap into place after sliding them in the small L shaped brackets punched into the front of the case. In a way they’re nice in that they help to keep the dust under control but in another way they’re a hindrance in that you have to remove the case front to get at them and the front mounted ports are on the case front.
If you’ve got the cables tightly routed inside the case removing the front becomes an adventure in futility as you cut everything loose, pull the case front and then have to redo everything. Another downside is that they’re very restrictive. I opted to remove them and saw a significant increase in air flow from the fans.
Remember when I said that they say that you can mount a pair of dual 120mm rads in the rear of the case? Well surprise, you can mount one in the front of the case as well. It even looks as though it can accommodate a triple 120mm rad up there as well, in a word, awesome.
And now, as the final look at the monster I’ve got a few nice night shots showing how the business end of the case looks when it’s all up and running.
And there you have it, a very well rounded case that has tons of room and can hold basically anything you care to throw at it. Yes, it’s large but for what it is it’s not a hindrance, instead it’s a plus. You can build it into anything that your heart desires, a full on gaming rig (lan parties aren’t much of an option though) or a home file server with a ton of storage space or you can mix the two and using the ITX space provided use the ITX board as a game server for a home lan gaming server that pulls double duty as your main gaming rig.
You can also use the ITX board as an HTPC and have the ATX side do server duties for your SOHO network. Imagine the Mozart tucked away in your living room running a water cooled server with three dual 120mm rads with super quiet fans on them keeping the server nice and cool while the ITX board serves up your music, videos and other media through your home theater. The beauty is that ITX boards don’t require a lot of cooling, in fact the VIA Epia boards can run passive heatsinks on them so that’s a noise source you need not worry about and with a water cooled server running inside the chassis the ITX board wouldn’t need more than a drive big enough to hold the OS and a few apps as the media can be served straight from the server.
The server could even pull double duty as a gaming rig so that you can play games on your HDTV when you’re bored of watching movies. I think that’s pretty much what Thermaltake had in mind when they conceived of the Mozart TX, not the last suggested use but that it’s a case with possibilities that are only limited by your imagination.
Overall I’m awarding the Mozart TX a 9/10 and our Editor’s Choice award. Yes, it’s got a couple of niggling issues but nothing that prevent it from being an astounding case with tons of possibilities to be anything that your heart desires and that your mind can conceive of.
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