Introducing the Thermaltake Armor A30

It's pretty clear on our side of the fence that smaller enclosures and leaner builds are increasingly becoming the way to go for most users these days, with even die hard enthusiasts drawn to these smaller cases if for no other reason than to see just how much horsepower they can cram into a small form factor system. There are tradeoffs made in going small form factor, though, and if you go too small the cooling demands can produce system noise that may be too much for many users.

That's why there are slightly larger, Micro-ATX scale enclosures like the Thermaltake Armor A30. Thermaltake's case is designed to support a Micro-ATX motherboard and a substantial video card or two, and the cooling system is remarkably robust. Yet as it turned out, working with the A30 proved to be a remarkably fraught experience, with the case having split personalities. Cooling and acoustic performance were actually quite good, but the case itself is tough to recommend. So what happened?

Thermaltake is pretty well known in the industry for being especially press friendly, and given the demand for smaller, more powerful systems, we figured we'd check in with them and see what they had to offer. The Armor A30 turned out to look like a pretty exceptional option, and despite having been around for a little over a year it looked to be a fairly current and competitive offering. This was a case I specifically headhunted, as it's actually roughly the same size in volume as BitFenix's exceptionally popular Prodigy while featuring support for Micro-ATX builds as well.

Thermaltake Armor A30 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25", 1x 3.5"
Internal 2x 2.5", 2x 3.5"
Cooling Front 90mm blue LED intake fan
Rear 2x 60mm exhaust fan
Top 230mm blue LED exhaust fan
Side -
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 4
I/O Port 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, 1x eSATA, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 90mm
PSU 180mm
GPU 9.5" / 242mm
Dimensions 10.5" x 11.5" x 18"
266mm x 291mm x 456mm
Weight 14.8 lbs / 6.7 kg
Special Features USB 3.0 passthrough
Price $119

Because the A30 is about a year and a half old, I'm less inclined to ding Thermaltake for using a USB 3.0 passthrough instead of an internal header. What's surprising is the sheer weight of the enclosure. Thermaltake uses a decent amount of plastic, true, but an awful lot of steel. For an enclosure intended for LANs, the A30 is remarkably heavy and unfortunately does not include a handle. Its dimensions are appropriate to a more portable system, sure, but it starts at nearly fifteen pounds.

In and Around the Thermaltake Armor A30
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  • Dadofamunky - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I tried a couple of microATX build with cases to match and finally gave up. It's always been too complicated and too high-maintenance for long-term use. In my experience with SFF (which ended some three years ago) the motherboards also tend to require too many compromises, including indifferently updated BIOSes, limited overclocking options compared to normal ATX boards and fewer SATA and USB ports. For me, though, the biggest headache always proved to be working with the cases and the hardware.
  • Icehawk - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Maybe a few years ago? I built a mATX machine for the first time last month with an i7 and GTX670 using the (much larger but clearly MUCH nicer) Fractal Design Mini Define and while the mobo doesn't have a ton of options as you said, it has enough to run a simple O/C and XMP which is all I need.
  • Zap - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    You're doing it wrong. :P Well, it is easier these days too.

    First thing is to choose the right motherboard. They are available, and have as many SATA/USB ports as full ATX boards and can overclock as well as an ATX board of similar price point.

    Second thing is to use a micro ATX mini tower, and NOT a "cube" style case. The computer still ends up a lot smaller than an ATX tower, and are just as easy to build.
  • Fuzz1111 - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    While I'm interested cases of this style, I can't say I would recommend the sff cases that require the use of half-height cards, or any that don't allow alternative power supplies.

    Until recently my media centre was a build that used an Antec Minuet 350, an intel E2200 and cheap gigabyte board (had an intel chipset though). The board and cpu were fine, and with a zalman 8700 I even got a decent overclock. Unfortunately half-height turned out to be more limiting than I'd have thought - vidcard choices were rubbish (still aren't great), and I had to make my own half-height bracket for my TV tuner.

    The worst problem by far was the power supply - it was a complete piece of crap and it got worse over time (in the end I was running without tuner card, and with DVD drive disconnected).
  • Death666Angel - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Can't say that I agree. Unless one specifically needs more than 2 GPUs, mATX is plenty enough. I've had my Gigabyte mATX P55 mainboard with an overclocked i7 860 since a month after the i7 came about (roughly). At first I had it in a cube case from Lian Li (V351B) with an HD5770. I had an optical drive, a 3.5" drive and a 2.5" SSD for my system in there. Had I wanted, I could have fitted more drives, the mainboard certainly provided all I needed. While it was a bit hard to assemble and maintain, it was pretty small, light, powerful and quiet. It also did not cost any more than a regular ATX with similar quality components. Last Christmas I decided to get the Silverstone TJ08-E because I wanted to get water cooling. That is also a mATX enclosure, much smaller than most ATX ones of that performance. The CPU now runs at 3.8GHz (up from 3.3 in the cube), my mainboard is still fully functional and has all the connections and abilities one can expect from a ~130€ board of the time.
    Unless you are doing LN2 OC'ing, it is stimply not true that ATX offers greater performance than mATX. Most often, they don't even offer more ports or better quality.
  • just4U - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I have to agree with other's on this.. Nothing wrong with Matx setups.. and you don't have real compromises with the MB either. Look at Asus's Gene line, Or Gigabytes M3.
  • NA1NSXR - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    My X58M was offered new BIOSes periodically to support the entire lifespan of 1366. It was also capable of overclocking as well as any full ATX board in its price range, well encompassing any OC on air cooling anyone would be doing. Fewer SATA ports are moot, as my mobo had way more ports than pretty much any matx enclosure could support anyway, and I had 8 USB ports. So I don't know what you are talking about. It sounds like you just did not do the planning, which is the funnest part anyway. There is no reason to use full atx on air cooled, single GPU computers anymore, unless the extra PCIe slots are absolutely needed.

    Quite frankly when I see a massive "gamer tower" these days I just roll my eyes.
  • Operandi - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Looks like a fairly decent case aside from the 60mm fans but holy crap does it eve stop with the taken to “11” overly designed boxes that constantly try to convey the image of just about anything but a PC case?

    That and the price is a joke when I can get a Lian LI PC-Q08B for the same price.
  • Lucian2244 - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I second that, it looks like a travel bag !
    And if it was hard for you to assemble it, i can't imagine how it would be for me as I only assembled ATX cases so far.
  • Mr Perfect - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    Yeah, that's way to busy for a SFF case. Angles here, windows there, extra vents, raised lines, additional bevels and a pop-up roof. To be fair, it looks like they took a full ATX design(that probably looked fine) and scaled it down until everything got jammed together.

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