|Model||Level 10 GT|
If you care the slightest bit about computer cases, odds are you're aware of Thermaltake's Level 10. Co-designed with BMW Group DesignworksUSA and shaped like a cross between the monolith in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and some sort of sci-fi skyscraper, the Level 10 dazes and amazes. No other computer enclosure looks quite like it.
The problem with the Level 10, as we noted in our review, is that it doesn't seem to be designed for PC enthusiasts from this planet. The empty case alone is over 2 ft tall, weighs in at nearly 50 lbs, and costs between $700 and $850 depending on where you order. Even if you can handle the stupendous cost, weight, and size, the enclosure seems to place greater emphasis on form than function. While a system built inside the Level 10 will draw oohs and aahs from your friends and neighbors, the process of building and upgrading isn't as smooth as you'd expect considering the price tag.
Last summer, we concluded that the Level 10 was more showpiece than ultimate enthusiast case. We went so far as to say that folks seeking a genuinely practical top-of-the-line enclosure might be better off with something like Corsair's Obsidian Series 800D—a sort of monolith in its own respect, but a less extravagant one centered more on function than form.
Today, the Level 10 is still among us, but Thermaltake is also offering a new, rather different version of it dubbed the Level 10 GT. This newcomer apes the Level 10's looks yet does away with much of what makes the original unique: the fully compartmentalized design, the remarkable price and weight, and the absolutely massive size. The GT may look like a baby Level 10, but it's largely not; the innards have obviously been reconfigured with more practical operation in mind, and the price has been adjusted to a reasonable level.
At a glance, the Level 10 GT looks like a different animal, too. You can still see traces of the original Level 10 design, but they've been subdued, smoothed out, and swallowed up into something a little more rectangular and conventional. Thermaltake has retained the hot-swappable 3.5" hard-drive bays but has de-compartmentalized them and reduced their number from six to five. The number of 5.25" bays has grown from three to four, and an external 2.5" bay has materialized.
At the same time, the front and top sides of the enclosure play host to more connectivity: dual USB 3.0, quad USB 2.0, external Serial ATA, and audio ports. The cooling system has been reconfigured to include three 200-mm fans (at the front, top, and side) and a 140-mm rear exhaust fan—quite an upgrade from the Level 10, whose largest fan measures 140 mm across, and whose hard drives are cooled by a tandem of rather whiny 60-mm fans. The somewhat loud and pedestrian cooling provided by these fans was one of the reasons the Level 10 disappointed us. The Level 10 GT addresses that shortcoming with not just more and larger fans, but also an integrated fan controller that lets you switch between slow and fast rotational speeds at the touch of a button.
The Level 10 GT builds up from the Level 10 in other ways, adding a rectangular window over the CPU area, holes for liquid-cooling pipes at the rear, easily serviceable dust filters, a removable headphone stand, and a cable-locking scheme.
Despite all of these enhancements, Thermaltake says the Level 10 GT tips the scales at about 28 lbs and measures 23" x 11.1" x 23.2". Newegg currently charges $269.99 for the case, putting it in the same neighborhood as high-end offerings from Corsair, Lian Li, and Silverstone—you know, enclosures that enthusiasts actually buy.
On paper, the Level 10 GT looks to have the bells and whistles to compete with the best products in its price range, all the while retaining some of the peacocking abilities of the Level 10. The question is, can the Level 10 GT marry showiness and ease of use?