|Thermaltake Element-Q VL52021N2U mITX HTPC Case|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cases|
|Written by Servando Silva|
|Wednesday, 02 June 2010|
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Thermaltake Element Q Final Thoughts
The Thermaltake Element Q offers some features other Mini-ITX cases don't. Basically, the whole idea behind this case is to make the change to an HTPC cheaper and easier. While a good DVD-Writer can cost $20 USD, a slim DVD drive costs at least $35 USD. The same applies for the Blu-Ray drives, where you can find a 5.25" one for $60 USD while the slim variants cost $150 or more. Offering 3.5" bays for hard drives lets you re-utilize your old drives or pay a little bit less for storage. Of course, this leads to some disadvantages too. First, using 3.5" drives usually means consuming more watts. Maybe 2-5 watts isn't that much, but for a HTPC, they are a good percentage of the overall system. The same applies for the 5.25" optical drives which will add some watts to your power consumption.
The second disadvantage is the space. While Thermaltake kept the wide and large similar to other products, the height almost doubles other Mini-ITX cases. I don't find these particularly problematic, but other users might be looking for the slimmest case they can get for their money and this won't satisfy those needs. The Element Q lacks of aesthetics and cooling options. The overall design of this case is good, but for some reason, it doesn't looks like an elegant HTPC, but more like an enthusiast HTPC (if that exists). The red line at the front tries to add some unique/elegant design, but in my opinion they're just adding some pimp. Maybe a glossy plated line would have been much more appropriated to the HTPC concept. There's also a lack of airflow due to the null fans included on the case. The only fan moving air inside the case would be the CPU heatsink-fan, and right on the top of it, the PSU fan, creating a weird airflow inside the Element Q. There are holes on both sides but it's weird not to find holes on the top of the case, whereas there's a lot of space for ventilation. Let's go ahead with the conclusions of the Thermaltake Element Q.
Thermaltake Element Q Conclusion
Performance on PC cases is rather subjective. The Element Q offers good features and "normal" performance. They let you install 3.5" HDDs and 5.25" optical drives, but considering there's lots of space below the external drives, they could have offered space for a pair of 2.5" drives too, but they didn't. The ventilation is quite simple and it doesn't have any fans except for the PSU. The good part is that you can install full-height expansion cards like a Mid-end GPU or even a good sound card. That`s what makes this case so special at the end. I wish they had added push-clip covers to the external drives instead to the front connectors though.
The Appearance of the Element Q isn't exactly sleek and elegant. It looks much more like a toy or an enthusiast mini-case, and the plastic finish on the front makes it look a little bit cheap. They added a red line but again, that doesn't make it elegant. A silver strap would have made the job better. Because of the height, it looks more like a mini LAN-party case, than a HTPC, and since you can add a full-height GPU, it might work like that too.
Construction is where this case shines. The construction is very solid and it´s very easy to build your HTPC inside the Element Q, while it isn't on many other mini-ITX cases. The only downsides I should add here is that the side-HDD interferes with the 24-pin ATX connector clip and finally, that you need to take off the PSU in order to make all the connections. They could´ve added some 2.5" bays below the optical bays, but other than that, the design of the Element Q is very well produced.
As for functionality, Thermaltake didn't added fans and it lacks of eSATA port at the front. In exchange, they let you mount full size optical/storage drives and it includes a 220 watts PSU. This might be enough for some users who just want to make a quickly change to a smaller form-factor PC, but at the expense of wasting more energy for each component (perfectly understandable if that reduces the final cost).
As of June 2010 the Thermaltake Element-Q, model VL52021N2U, costs $64.99 at NewEgg and includes a 200W power supply. This puts this case just between the cheap and expensive cases making it an interesting proposal. The price you pay doesn't get at a premium level, and it offers full functionability and backwards compatibility with full sized drives, so, if you're looking for something between both worlds, this might be the right case for you.
Benchmark Reviews recommends the Thermaltake Element Q for those who want to build an inexpensive HTPC system without changing or adding an extra price for small-sized units. As you can reduce they cost (especially in the BD drives area) or even re-use your desktop drives, this becomes a very well suited product for that change. However, if you´re looking for the smallest configuration, with lower power consumption and noise, there might be other options in the market for your needs. Please remember the 220 watts PSU basically supports all kind of CPUs at the moment (without overclocking and over-voltage), so you could even buy a H55 motherboard and put a Core i5 650 in there and it should work well as long as you don´t add too much stress with a dedicated GPU.
+ includes 220 watts SFX-PSU
+ Allows 2x3.5" drives installation
+ 5.25" optical drives supported
+ Solid construction and easy-build options
+ Allows full-height expansion cards
+ Price is very reasonable for the features
- No eSATA connector on the front panel
- Doesn't include push-clip covers for external drivers
- There's space for 2.5" drives but no mounting holes for them
- Side HDD interferes with motherboard connectors
- The PSU is sited right on the top of the CPU fan
- Overall design isn't that elegant. Plastic front panel looks a little bit cheap
Final Score: 8.85 out of 10.
Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.
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