Reviewed: December 15, 2003
Type: Computer Case
When building the Ultimate Gaming Rig we sent out requests for hardware to dozens of manufacturers for all the various components required to build our mega gaming system. When it came to CPU cases Thermaltake was the only one to respond to our requests, which was just fine with me as they are regarded as one of the best manufacturers of performance towers.
Sure, there are plenty of fancy case designers out their that make transparent Plexiglas towers with multi-colored neon lighting and spiral designs on illuminated fans, but when you want to build a serious gaming rig these are the guys you want to call. We told the guys at Thermaltake what we were buildings, gave them all the specs of the hardware we would be using and they sent us a shiny new Xaser III V200A Super Tower with a 420w ATX Purepower power supply.
I won’t bother to reprint the features or specifications for this product. You can find all that info at the Thermaltake website along with places to buy the Xaser III when you are ready to build your own ultimate game machine.
Installation - 7
Cases have the unique property of having things installed into them rather than being installed, so I will discuss how well that process went while putting our test system together. Out of the box, the Xaser III is pretty much ready for you to start sticking in your components. Two thumbscrews hold on the side panel giving you access to the inside of this massive tower. I was mildly disappointed that the side panel wasn’t hinged, but rather that slotted design that is often troublesome to get back on, especially after the hard drives are installed, but more on that later.
I mounted my motherboard to the case using the included post screws then slipped my 3.5” floppy and DVD/CDR combo drive into the 5” bays. Now came the biggest obstacle in my 15 years of building computers. The hard drives all mount in a separate bay structure down near the bottom of the case. They also mount sideways. Assuming you are using standard ATA IDE cables and you need to slave your CD off of a hard drive you are pretty much screwed. Well, not really, but you will need a non-standard IDE cable other than the 18” cables sold just about everywhere. It took me 3 days of searching both online and at my local retailers before I finally found an obscure computer store that had a 24” cable. Bad news – it was just a standard IDE cable – apparently you cannot find an ATA 100 cable over 18” in length.
It’s hard to fault the case entirely for this major inconvenience since the motherboard does come into play, plus the fact that I am using four IDE devices. Anyone who just wants to run one or two drives off the primary channel and the CD off the secondary will not have any trouble.
Mounting the drives is pretty slick. The case comes with plenty of plastic rails for both 3” and 5” devices. These fit into the normal holes on the drives then you just slip the drives into the system until the snap in. My only other complaint with hard drive mounting is that the drives mount in sideways. This means that the IDE cables come out right where the side panel wants to slide shut, so you have to forcibly bend the cables down and hold them there while trying to slide the side panel forward.
The Xaser III comes with no less than seven cooling fans (2 front, 2 rear, 2 side, and 1 top). These all use standard power couplings and can be daisy-chained together. By the time you have everything installed and hooked-up the inside is a mess of wires. I was thankful they didn’t send me the case with the transparent viewing window on the side panel.
Aesthetics - 9
While the Xaser III can’t compete with all the fancy neon-lit cases and customized hobbyists systems out there it does feature a simple elegance and offers a commanding presence in any room it occupies. You'll definitely get a few envious glances at your next LAN party.
The entire case is crafted from brushed aluminum. The front panel swings open revealing any devices installed in the top bays. Below, the Thermaltake logo glows with a pleasant icy blue. There is also a blue power light and gold drive activity light. With everything closed, the case has a very clean and stylized look about it.
The top of the case features a raised hump with a hinged door that pops up to reveal a pair of USB ports, a firewire port, and jacks for headphones and a microphone. Naturally, these will only work if you have connected them to the internal sound card and appropriate motherboard connectors, but this is a great and convenient alternative to crawling behind your computer when you want to plug in a quick device like a camera or MP3 player.
Durability - 10
Short of dropping this case off the roof of a four-story building or ramming it with a truck the Xaser III is pretty much indestructible. It’s heavily reinforced inside and even though the panels are thin aluminum they are surprisingly resilient. The heavy front door swings on a nice smooth hinge system with no looseness. The top door plastic and has the potential for breaking if you forget to close it and set something heavy on top of your computer.
Inside the computer the only thing that really moves is the side fan assembly. It’s hinged and swings out 90-degrees then lifts up and can be easily removed to access the motherboard and cards. You are going to have to be extremely careless to damage this case.
The aluminum construction makes this tower surprisingly light considering its size. This makes it great for hauling it around to your next LAN party, and Thermaltake even has an optional harness attachment that straps onto the case – perfect for the serious gamer on the go.
Performance - 10
The only thing that really “performs” is the cooling system and the Xaser III has enough cooling potential to create it’s own atmospheric conditions in your computer room. Most impressive is the fact that there are 7 case fans, my CPU fan, the power supply fan, and the dual fans on my FX5900 video card and this case is totally silent. It’s both a testament to the quality of the Ultra Silent fans and the tight construction of the case.
The final feature on the Xaser III is the four-channel adjustable fan speed and thermostat. Inside the case there is a thin wire coming off this device that you run down through the pins on the CPU. The sensor then measures the heat of the CPU and reports those numbers in either Celsius or Fahrenheit (you choose). You can then set an “alarm temperature” so if the CPU ever exceeds your threshold an alarm will sound. There are four knobs that give you independent control over each of the banks of fans.
Value - 8
Ringing up at $189 (although you can find it for around $165), the Xaser III is definitely at the high end of the price spectrum, especially considering you aren’t getting anything terribly flashy. But what you are getting is high quality and realiability. Thermaltake not only can provide you with a great case but they can back-up that core product with plenty of other cooling accessories for your other components.
Overall – 8.5
The Xaser III Super Tower is an elegant case for the sophisticated gamer who wants plenty of room for components, accessibility for external peripherals, and unprecedented control for airflow and cooling. If you like to overdrive your system and generate some serious heat then these are the guys and this is the case you want to help cool it all down.
Building the Ultimate Gaming Rig starts with individual components, but when it comes time to put all those components in a “box”, the Xaser III is definitely a box worth considering.