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Thermaltake Sword M Super Tower Case w/Liquid Cooling Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Water Cooling Issues / Acoustics

Water Cooling Issues

Even though installing the water cooling was easier than I would have imagined, there were some long-term issues which need to be addressed. Originally, we were planning to include a full set of benchmarks pitting the stock Thermaltake water block against the venerable D-Tek Fuzion but that was not meant to be. While our experience may be the exception, this section will cover all the issues we had with the components Thermaltake includes with their built-in watercooling loop. It should be mentioned that on the whole, our experience with most of the included pieces was excellent.


P400 Pump Goes Poof

As the title suggests, the pump Thermaltake included with the Sword M self-destructed after a few hours of operation. Before you ask, no there weren’t any air bubbles in the system and yes I made sure of it on more than one occasion. From the second I turned on this pint-sized pump, the racket it produced was bordering on intolerable so I knew something was wrong so it was only a matter of time.

Since I didn’t have time to order myself another I decided to try my hand at a bit of pump rebuilding which meant disassembling the whole loop. Lo and behold, one of the wires going to the pump motor had fried itself and a bit of soldering made it good as new. Unfortunately, even after going over it with a fine-toothed comb I couldn’t find the source of the noise and it is still loud as hell.


More Blockages than a Toilet in Grand Central Station

When I began leak testing the loop I noticed that the second the water hit the Thermaltake CPU block it would slow down to a crawl. Thinking this was due to the restrictive nature of the block itself, I thought nothing of it but then during testing the temperatures of the Phenom started going through the roof. I opened the case only to discover the water was barely moving through the block at all.

After disassembling the loop (AGAIN) I tried a few things to get water moving through the block. I attached some leftover tubing I had, filled the tube up with water and tried to blow the water through the block. I could to it but only if I blew harder than necessary. I did not reinstall this block for fear of it overheating the processor once again. Since there is no way to open the block, I can only speculate that there was something in there causing a blockage.


Acoustics

Even though the Sword M comes with seven 120mm fans installed, the noise produced stays at a minimum. This is due to the fact that all of the fans are operating at a mundane 1300RPM though I have to cast some doubt on Thermaltake’s claimed 17dBA per fan. Yes they are quiet but they are not SILENT and no matter the lack of noise produced, having seven 120mm fans all running at the same time does produce more than a cursory amount of noise. I also noticed a fair bit of hard drive vibration due to the complete lack of rubber grommets on the hard drive tray.

To tell you the truth, it wouldn’t have mattered if there were seven 2000RPM fans installed because they would have still been drowned out by the pump. Make no mistake about it; that thing was LOUD and it could be heard from the other end of my condo. While this may have been a manufacturing defect, this thing will be changed out the second I have the chance.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion

The Sword M is about contrasts; a well designed back but a generic front bezel, tons of interior space but no place to run the cables, it is sure to warrant a positive comment from your friends but it weighs a ton. I could go on and on but you see my point; for every positive point there seems to be a negative one. To tell you the truth, the Sword M has been used intensively as the enclosure for one of our test rigs and the jury is still out on whether it is a great case or a mediocre enclosure with some fancy bits tacked on. Thermaltake claims that this case is a revolution in case design but it is quite obvious that his is instead a very minor evolution of basic case design.

There are however many endearing qualities of the Sword M which need to be mentioned and the first and foremost of those is the shear degree of manufacturing excellence seen on this flagship case. All of the pieces are seamlessly melded together without any trace of welds or rivets and the effect is simply stunning. The overall design of a case is mostly up to an individual’s preference so I have to say that while the front strikes me as a bit drab, the rest of the design is (in my opinion) a work of art. I also liked the amount of interior space and the attention given to water cooling enthusiasts with plenty of mounting options for radiators, pumps and tubing. These are all trademarks of a landmark case but there are some downfalls as well.

In many ways the Sword M met and exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds but in other ways it fell short of being a great case. One of the major issues I had was the lack of any viable cable routing options; the interior of this case is so well done, you don’t want a rat’s nest of cables and connectors lying around. The inclusion of a paltry 3 hard drive bays will also be a deal killer for many enthusiasts out there since running arrays of hard drives has been quickly gaining popularity. Then there is the hydraulics….where do I start? They add nothing to this case and can only be called a gimmick. Their novelty quickly wears off after a few times of having your side door try to take your head off and you will be quickly searching for ways to remove them. This should be a note to all enclosure manufacturers: let me open my own effing side panel.

As for the water cooling kit, let’s be honest; the $100 premium you pay for a pre-installed water cooling kit of dubious quality would be much better spent if it was put towards a custom kit you put together yourself. On the other hand, if you are a novice at water cooling, the kit Thermaltake provides here will give you a good starting point with easy-to-install components and the option to upgrade it with aftermarket components. Just watch out for the pump and the water block since these are the two components we had problems with.

The asking price of $600 to $700 for this case with the pre-installed water cooling is in my opinion simply too much. So much so that I would recommend you completely ignore the Sword M with the built-in water cooling and go with the slightly less expensive $500 VD5000BNA if you are in the market for a high-end case. It is not that the Sword M isn’t worth it – to the contrary, it is one hell of a case – but there are SO many other things you could buy for $700 and the premium you pay for the lackluster water cooling kit is completely unjustified.

In the end, I have enjoyed my time with the Sword M. It is THE highest-quality case I have laid my hands on and everything about its design and construction is absolutely top-notch. There are a few areas where it falls flat but if you are in the market for an ultra high end enclosure, the Sword M deserves to be near the top of your list.


Pros:

- Superb build quality
- Tons of interior space
- Stunning design
- Many options for water cooling locations
- Wheels so you don’t have to lug it around


Cons:

- Price
- Pointless hydraulics
- Price
- Substandard pre-installed water cooling kit
- Did I mention price?
- Bland front panel design



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Thanks to Thermaltake for providing us with this case
 
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