Thermaltake SD101 case courts low-power Mini-ITX systems

Thermaltake has unveiled a new SD101 enclosure designed for Mini-ITX systems. Despite its compact 10.4″ x 4.7″ x 10.3″ dimensions, the case doesn’t skimp on features. It has a pair of USB 3.0 ports up front, numerous vented panels, and the ability to accept 5.25″, 3.5″, and 2.5″ drives. There’s a PSU included, too, but the 80 Plus Bronze-certified unit offers only 180W of output power. That’s the first hint the chassis is more suitable to a low-power desktop or HTPC than a pimped-out LAN gaming rig.

The second clue is the lack of support for full-height expansion cards. Only half-height cards can be squeezed into the case, and then only if they’re less than 6.8″ long. Thermaltake points out that the dual expansion slot covers at the rear will work with double-wide graphics coolers. However, beefy heatsinks aren’t exactly common among half-height cards, which typically use low-end GPUs.

Using the CPU’s integrated graphics is always an option, of course, but you’ll need to be careful about your choice of CPU cooler. The SD101 leaves just 1.8″ of vertical clearance above the motherboard, limiting the number of compatible heatsinks. At least there’s an 80-mm fan on the side panel next to the socket.

Thermaltake’s press release doesn’t mention the price, but I’d expect the SD101 to be relatively inexpensive. The case reminds me a lot of Thermaltake’s Element Q, which costs only $65. That’s pretty affordable for a Mini-ITX enclosure that comes with its own PSU. Alternatives like Silverstone’s SG05 cost nearly twice that much (but are considerably more flexible).

Comments closed
    • internetsandman
    • 7 years ago

    Why couldn’t they at least give it smooth lines? They did so with the Q, I see no reason why they couldn’t have at least tried more than black paint to make this thing attractive. It’s a nice idea, midget systems, but I’m sure even a fair amount of casual low-power users care what their computer looks like on their desk

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    looks like a fugly laser printer shell.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    Thermaltake: Making simple designs look ugly since 1999….

    • derFunkenstein
    • 7 years ago

    Still a long ways to go before I think about upgrading again, but my next system is going to be one of these midget machines. I never plug anything into expansion slots other than a video card and I don’t remember the last time I overclocked anything. My only reservation is with the PSU in this particular box. I’d want something I was sure I could run a midrange video card in. I suggested a 7750 for a LAN box in a reply to another comment, but for my main (only) desktop I’d want more than that next time I upgrade. Mostly because I would want more than my current GTX 460 if I buy a new card.

    And if it performs like the Q reviewed last year, then definitely not in this enclosure. Sheesh.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      It will be at least a few generations before we see GTX 460 level performance in low profile cards, so I think you’re safe not considering this case.

      This case (or a sexier, less low budget plasticy Dark Knight-looking case with a similar layout) would make an excellent half-rack HTPC case with an optical drive for easy, quick playback of Blu Rays. It might be perfect for an AMD APU for example.

        • jensend
        • 7 years ago

        No, it won’t be “at least a few generations.” The Radeon HD 8750 will most likely offer performance slightly better than the GTX 460 in a low profile form factor, and that’s less than four months away. When the 20nm die shrink generation cards show up in early 2014 the best low profile options will be quite substantially better than a 460.

          • XTF
          • 7 years ago

          I would’ve prefered the case to be shorter but taller, just move the PSU to the bottom of the tower.

            • jwilliams
            • 7 years ago

            Shorter but taller???

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          Yes, it will be. I quickly looked for rumored specs on the HD 8750 and it might be about equal to a 7770 but speculations varied. Makes sense though since they’re still on 28nm they can’t add *too* many transistors, there will be some architectural tweaks (77xx and up are all GCN already) or maybe more shaders so that the 8750 has some gains over the 7750. A GTX 460 is still a bit faster than a 7770. That’s one generation.

          Then, if the next generation is on a new process, there could be low profile cards that match the GTX 460 (as long as manufacturers don’t cheap out on them with crippled memory or whatever). That’s two generations. Two = a few. 🙂

          And on top of all that, there was literally one low profile 7750 that I’m aware of, made by Club3D. They don’t even have worldwide distribution, so counting that as an example of low profile cards isn’t very realistic.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            Yeah, I guess I’m aiming a little too small. I’ll have to get something on a full-width card.

            • jensend
            • 7 years ago

            Your “awareness” doesn’t count for much. A simple newegg search would have showed you in-stock low-profile 7750s from PowerColor, VisionTek, and Sapphire.

            The 460’s framerate advantage averages out to roughly two percent, and by 99th-percentile frame time, time spent over x ms, and other metrics which actually reflect gameplay experience, the 7770 is probably a hair ahead of the 460. (Of course the exact positioning will depend on the games in your benchmark collection.)

            The 8750 will have the same shader, TMU, and ROP counts as the 7770, and the shaders have been tweaked and improved (“GCN2”). I think it’s fairly definite it will be slightly better than the 460.

            I find it extremely doubtful that you originally intended “a few” to include two, which is contrary to normal usage, and much more likely that you’re trying to troll me into a pointless debate about the semantics of “a few.” Forget it.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            Thanks, I usually do go looking for items before saying things like that, I’m glad there is a variety available.

            [quote<]Of course the exact positioning will depend on the games in your benchmark collection[/quote<] Agreed, that's why, despite TR's awesome methodology (the downside to which is that they test fewer games), I usually go to techpowerup, Anandtech, or xbitlabs because they test so many more games. They only have average FPS though, but the GTX 460 does outpace the 7770 overall in games. If the 8750 matches the 7770, great, let's call it equal to a GTX 460. derFunk wants 'more' than his current GTX 460 (not meaning this to be pedantic) so an 8750 won't quite do it. The next generation of cards should though. As for 'few' it quite literally means [url=http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/few<]anything more than one[/url<] :p And I did mean 'two or more' in this case.

            • jensend
            • 7 years ago

            I think the difference between

            “It will be [b<]at least a few[/b<] generations before we see [b<]GTX 460 level performance[/b<] in low profile cards" and "It will be [b<]two[/b<] generations before we see [b<]performance [i<]clearly exceeding[/i<] that of the GTX 460[/b<] in low profile cards" is pretty clear. Claiming that you meant the latter when you said the former is just a disingenuous attempt at self-justification.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            Well don’t forget that whatever ends up in there needs to not tax the 180W PSU. That itself is going to be a challenge, low profile or not.

      • yogibbear
      • 7 years ago

      Bitfenix Prodigy?

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        After looking around a bit, I decided that yes, it’s a possibility if i had to build today. The only problem with it is that it lays the mobo horizontal instead of vertical, and it ends up being not much different than a regular micro ATX case. All the same, to save as much space as possible it’s probably going to wind up being a Silverstone.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      [url=http://www.lian-li.com/v2/en/product/product06.php?pr_index=545&cl_index=1&sc_index=25&ss_index=64<]A Lian-Li PC-Q11[/url<] might work better, especially if you want the full-size optical drive. Get a sealed water cooler to mount to the front fan, or use an SFX PSU to get some more CPU cooler clearance. It's roughly 8"Wx10"D so it takes up less horizontal space than this Thermaltake. It's taller at almost 13" but the H:W ratio is very close to the golden ratio 🙂

      • shaurz
      • 7 years ago

      I went mini-ITX for my new PC with the Silverstone FT03-MINI. It’s an amazing little case and I just managed to squeeze a Radeon HD 7870 in there (was a bit of a struggle) and a Corsair H60 cooler for the 3770K.

      Only problem is that you really need a blower style fan on the GPU (Silverstone recommends it) since otherwise it can start to get too hot under load. Unfortunately I didn’t get that kind of fan on my GPU even though I ordered one because the online retailer sent me the wrong version and I couldn’t be bothered to send it back. It’s not a big issue since it’s easy to just pop off the front panel and it will then get sufficient airflow for cooling.

      The CPU is cooled very well though with the H60, I am using the case’s built in fan and didn’t install the one that came with the cooler. Stays in the 30s overclocked at 4.0GHz.

      I’m using Silverstone’s 450W SFX PSU and it handles the hardware no problem. Under load the whole system pulls no more than 160W.

    • eitje
    • 7 years ago

    as a mITX enthusiast, this looks like a waste of time and space.

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      I couldn’t work out why the Bitfenix Prodigy has so many supporters:

      mITX is all about [b<]ONE THING:[/b<] Sacrifice loads of stuff to make the damn thing as small as physically possible. [url=http://www.streacom.com/products/f1c-chassis/<]This is by no means the smallest mITX case on the market[/url<], but even if you ignore the space-wasting handles and feet on a prodigy, you could fit [b<][i<]NINE[/i<][/b<] of those inside one....

        • Airmantharp
        • 7 years ago

        The Prodigy is portable; it’s not like you don’t know what you’re getting, and it has more than one use, despite being so focused. For the extra space used, you’re getting a system with a real airflow setup, that can provide for a cool, quiet, and clean workstation. These all get sacrificed when you try to put big-boy parts like a full-size GPU and overclocked CPU in anything smaller, particularly the Silverstone cases.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        Different cases for different uses, just because they both take maximum size ITX motherboards doesn’t change that.

    • BillyBuerger
    • 7 years ago

    Looks to be another version of some In Win cases such as the [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811108223<]Diva[/url<] or the [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811108227<]BM650.AD160TBL[/url<] which I have. Maybe they sold the production to Thermaltake since In Win doesn't seem to be selling them anymore. Decent case and has some potential. Hopefully the PSU is better as the BM650 had issues there. The 80mm case fan was slim on the In Win. You could fit a standard size one but with most motherboards, it would end up hitting the memory tabs. If you took the PSU and bottom drive cage out, you could fit a mATX board in there. You would have to use a picoPSU then and use the external drive bay to store any drives. I tried looking for a PCI slot to hold a 2.5" drive for mine nobody makes a simple one. There's a fancy hot-swappable one that someone makes for too much money. A simple bit of plastic would work great. And I was able to mount a 120mm fan in the drive bay area if you want some big airflow over the motherboard. So yeah, the In Win was a decent case. I don't see why this wouldn't be any different. But it could require some hacking to make it work well with a more powerful system. Can't say the Thermaltake style choices excite me. But then again the In Win wasn't anything great either.

      • jwilliams
      • 7 years ago

      Here’s a simple PCI 2.5″ drive mount. But it is not cheap. Or did you mean low-profile slot?

      [url<]http://atechfabrication.com/products/drive_mounting_kits.htm[/url<]

        • BillyBuerger
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah, I went searching again after writing this and found those same ones. Not bad. But still think a cheap little $5 piece of plastic should be doable. I could always get off my butt and buy some blank PCB board and cut out something myself.

    • mockingbird
    • 7 years ago

    Better take a good look inside that Thermaltake PSU before you use it to run your system…

      • jensend
      • 7 years ago

      Efficiency-wise, 80 Plus Bronze is quite good for a 180W PSU. While there’s more to quality than just efficiency, that does speak well for the PSU. Thermaltake hasn’t just thrown in a cheap shoddy unit here.

      For the kind of power usage most APU/integrated/lower-end discrete systems will see, it’s likely that a 180W 80 Plus Bronze PSU will perform at least as well as a 750W 80 Plus Gold PSU.

      The trouble with the entire 80 Plus program is that the efficiency standards only have to be met at 20, 50, and 100% of rated capacity, with the most stringent requirement at 50%. Since it’s easier to reach efficiency targets at higher wattages, manufacturers have an incentive to pad their product line’s rated capacity. “It’s 80 Plus Gold!!! (Never mind that its efficiency is only >80% when you’re running OCCT and Furmark simultaneously.)”

      This, along with decreasing system power requirements and enthusiasts’ increasing demands for ZOMG MOAR BIGGOR NUMB3RZ, has caused PSU capacity and actual system power requirements to diverge drastically over the past six years.

        • mockingbird
        • 7 years ago

        Since when did efficiency become a standard for PSU benchmarking?

        Most of Thermaltake’s units, even their expensive ones use lousy capacitors. So certification is irelevant if the product has no longevity. I don’t really care about power supply efficiency as long as regulation is good and the product lasts a long time.

          • jensend
          • 7 years ago

          [quote<]Since when did efficiency become a standard for PSU benchmarking?[/quote<]LOL. Are you kidding? Ever since Karl Ferdinand Braun discovered the first rectifier in 1874. AC->DC power supplies have been around a lot longer than electronic computers, and efficiency has always been one of the main criteria for comparing them. As I already said the first time, this doesn't give us a detailed picture of all aspects of the PSU's quality, but it is an indicator that they didn't just shovel a shoddy unit in there. Various measures of quality tend to be correlated; nobody sells an 80 Plus Titanium unit that'll die on you in three months.

            • yogibbear
            • 7 years ago

            I think he was trying to say that efficiency isn’t a measure for reliability.

            • Washer
            • 7 years ago

            jensend said as much with the second sentence in his first reply.

            • yogibbear
            • 7 years ago

            Just because they whack a 80-plus bronze sticker on it, doesn’t make it reliable. Jensend is saying that that is exactly what it does mean. I disagree.

            • jensend
            • 7 years ago

            You don’t get >= 85% efficiency at 90W and >=82% efficiency at 36W by “whacking a sticker on it.” Those are fairly difficult targets to meet, and it takes careful engineering and component choice to get there. As I’ve said three times now, though this does not [b<]guarantee[/b<] that the unit is high-quality by every other conceivable metric, it does [b<]indicate that it's more likely[/b<] to be well-engineered overall. As a point of comparison, the PSU in Antec's not-too-dissimilar mini-ITX ISK 300-150 is [url=http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/printpage/Antec-ISK300-150-Case-Review/934<]under 73% efficiency at 90W and under 70% at 24W[/url<]. Besides meaning that your fans have to dissipate another 20W of heat from a small case - and it seems pretty absurd that you and mockingbird are dismissing that as irrelevant with cases this small - this also makes me more worried that there may be other ways in which the PSU in Antec's case is poorly engineered.

            • mockingbird
            • 7 years ago

            My point was that I don’t care how much energy is expended as heat from my PSU as long as my ripple levels are low and my PSU lasts a long time.

    • drfish
    • 7 years ago

    I like it – but would like it better without the 5.25″ drive bay. A 180w PSU and a low profile PCI-e GPU could get you pretty far with a 55w CPU…

      • sjl
      • 7 years ago

      Mm, well. You could make the case both for and against having the ability to install a DVD (or BD) ROM drive. On the one side, for a HTPC job, it would be useful. On the other, it isn’t like it’s difficult to rip media and make it available over the network (despite what the MPAA has to say on the subject.)

      Me, I’d like to see a slim black case with a built in IR receiver, for remote controls. That would – depending on the overall case design – make for a sweet XBMC job for the home entertainment system.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      An i3 3220 and a Radeon 7750 would get you a teeny tiny LAN gaming box, for sure, and assuming the PSU isn’t whiny it’d be pretty quiet to boot.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    It looks to me like if one skipped installing an optical drive the case would fit a cooler taller than 1.8″. 1.8″ is only ~45mm which is just the height of low profile Intel stock coolers or 65W AMD stock coolers, and if an optical drive was above them it would restrict airflow. 4″, to allow a little for motherboard and socket height, is ~100mm and there are many more good performing blow-down heatsinks that would fit in that space.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      Yeah looks to be plenty of room for like a Noctua NH-L12, but with a 180W PSU of dubious quality, who knows if you’d be able to run a CPU that needs that much cooling.

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