A new year rolls on and a new range of cases rises to greet it. First in line for this year's case coverage from bit-tech.net is the forebodingly named ThermalTake Armour+, an…interesting looking case built for e-peen and LAN events. Or so I’m told. To me, a LAN case should be small, portable and well-cooled and with easy handles.
The ThermalTake Armour+ isn’t small. It isn’t portable. It has a sticker on the plastic parts which clearly labels them as “Not a handle”. How well cooled it is remains to be seen – we’ll get around to testing that in a little while.
So, what is the ThermalTake Armour? Well, it’s big, black and beefy. Truly, it’s a monster of a case. If it were a person then it’d probably be some sort of Neanderthal juggernaut who mysteriously survived into the present day – complete with jutting jaw and looming brow.
Don’t be fooled by my metaphors though. The Armour+ is a remarkably sophisticated piece of kit. It boasts 10 PCI slots for quad-graphic card systems, E-ATX support and a sliding PSU support bar described by the box as ‘evolutionary’. I’m not sure exactly what they mean by that – maybe they tried fitting numerous supports, keeping only those that survived under the intense climate and amid the many dangerous predators that thrive on the factory floor.
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The box and manual are full with hilarious Engrish too – with the front of the box proclaiming “Beyond the pass, exceed the present, surpass the competition”.
Despite the low expectations rammed home by the rather lame packaging though, the case itself manages to make an even bigger impression. Inside the cardboard box is a polystyrene shell, inside of which there is a plastic cover which sits atop the cloth bag in which the case rests. As soon as we had pushed through these various layers of protection to unearth the case beneath we had to take a step back.
Now, I don’t want to say that the ThermalTake Armour+ is ugly, because I know that it will no doubt appeal to some people. I also think that the shiny, smooth black finish and the stylised plastic grilles on top are, at the very least, well co-ordinated and fitting with the overall effect. The fact that the huge clear window on one side is branded heavily with the ThermalTake name is a big no-no for me though, especially because it the window also incorporates a 210mm fan with blue LEDS.
So visually the Armour+ isn’t to my tastes, nor to the tastes of anyone else in the office, so that's zero for six then. However, as it happens, we are arguably getting a little old for the target audience of LAN gamers these days so there might well be an army of 13 year-old h4X0rs who feel differently. Beauty is, as always, in the eye of the beholder.
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The ThermalTake Armour+ managed to utterly confound and annoy me with one facet of its design though – the front door. Both halves of it. It’s not detailed in the manual at all and although I’ve seen it on other cases before, I’m still no wiser about the technical term or intended use. Basically, it’s a hinged flap on either side of the case which is forced open when an optical drive opens up.
That’s all it seems to do. It doesn’t close again afterwards and it does have a catch or magnet for extra security – it just flaps around. If I’m missing something fundamental here then so be it, you can enlighten me by sending your ideas to the forums. If on the other hand all it is is an aesthetic choice then I’ll officially label it now as a bad one.
The outside of the case does have some other nice and interesting features though. There’s a 140mm fan at the front of the case, again complete with blue LEDs, and there’s plenty of room for optical drives.
The usual front-panel connectors are mounted at the top of the bezel - useful if you have the case on the floor next to you but a bit of a stretch if it's on the desk. It features four USB and the usual Firewire and audio connectors; e-SATA is a welcome addition. The power button is a little wobbly and rattle-prone but secure enough, and the recessed reset button isn’t one which you’re likely to press by accident. There’s also a removeable panel which we originally thought was to provide room for ThermalTake watercooling products – but according to the manual is nothing more than a toolbox. Ho hum.