Thermaltake M9 Case Review
By Gabriel Torres on April 3, 2008
M9 is a 9-bay mid-tower case recently released by Thermaltake, available with an acrylic side panel (VI1000BWS, which is the model we reviewed) or with a solid side panel (VI1000BNS), coming with a rear 120 mm fan, a front 120 mm fan and a side duct. Let’s take a good look at this latest Thermaltake release.
In Figure 4, you can see the jacks and buttons present on the case frontal panel: power and reset buttons, hard disk drive activity LED, two USB ports and mic in and headphones jacks. No eSATA port is provided.
In Figure 5, you can see the rear panel, using the very traditional ATX design, but with the addition of one big 120 mm fan there. This case uses two thumbscrews to hold the left side panel (the one that must be removed for installing parts inside the case).
Both versions of this case have a small mesh and a duct on the left panel (the panel you remove to build your PC), matching Intel’s Chassis Air Guide Design 1.1. You can adjust the height of the duct to better match the CPU cooler you are using, as this duct is used for improving CPU ventilation (read our How to Correctly Assemble PCs with Pentium 4 Prescott tutorial for an in-depth look at the role of this side duct). You can also replace the duct with a 80 mm fan if you’d like to, and you can also add a fan to the mesh (pay special attention to Figure 6 for the available holes for you to install these fans).
Even though you can remove the right panel (the panel behind the motherboard) the metallic plate where the motherboard is installed is permanently attached to the case, so you can’t remove it to facilitate the motherboard installation. This panel must be removed for you to correctly install disk drives to this case (more on this later).
In Figure 7 you have an overall look inside Thermaltake M9.
The two 120 mm fans that come with this case glow in blue when turned on and use the traditional peripheral power connector. One of the down sides of this case is the fact that the fans don’t provide a speed controller and since they don’t use a small 3-pin power connector, you can’t monitor their speed through your computer as well. In Figure 8, you can see the rear 120 mm fan.
On the other hand one good thing about this case is that it uses a screwless mechanism to hold daughterboards. To use this mechanism you must press each individual lever and move it up or down as needed. To move each mechanism you need to move it up to a slight angle, otherwise it won’t move.
This case has nine 5.25” bays, coming with a removable hard disk drive cage for three hard drives that takes up three of these 5.25” bays (the front 120 mm fan is attached to this cage). The case also comes with one bay adapter to convert any of the 5.25” bays into a 3.5” bay for installing a hard disk drive or a floppy disk drive. The 5.25” bays use a screwless mechanism to hold optical drives, the HDD cage and the adapter.
So there are several possible disk drive configurations for this case. The standard configuration will give you three internal 3.5” bays for hard disk drives, one 3.5” for either another hard disk drive or a floppy disk drive and five 5.25” bays. If you don’t use the adapter then you have six 5.25” bays. If you remove the HDD cage you have all nine 5.25” available, but this is an unrealistic scenario, as all computers need at least one hard disk drive. If you really need a lot of 5.25” bays, then you can remove the HDD cage and install just one hard drive on the adapter, allowing eight 5.25” to be available.
The big question is: who needs that many 5.25” bays? We think that M9 would be a far better product if it included a second HDD cage. This would expand the number of internal 3.5” bays for hard disk drives to six (or seven, if you use the extra adapter), giving you three (or two, if the adapter is used) 5.25” bays, which is more than enough even for a hardcore user.
Maybe Thermaltake did this thinking of users willing to install one of their water-cooling systems that use 5.25” bays. In any circumstance, these users could simply remove the extra cage if they needed more 5.25” bays and, at the same time, provide more internal 3.5” bays for the users that need to install more hard disk drives.
You can not only remove the hard disk drive cage from the case to facilitate the installation of hard disk drives, but you can also reinstall it anywhere you want. It comes installed on the lower three 5.25” bays, but in Figure 14 we moved it to the middle three 5.25” bays. Before moving it to a new location you will need to break and remove the metallic cover that exists on the other 5.25” bays.
Even though the HDD cage and the 5.25” to 3.5” adapter are fastened to the case using a screwless mechanism you will need to use screws to install the hard disk drives to the cage or adapter. Let’s see how to install a hard disk drive to a cage.
First you need to place the hard disk drive inside the cage (Figure 15). Then you need to match the holes present on the hard disk drive with the holes present on the cage (Figure 16). Then go ahead and screw the hard disk drive to the cage, using thick thread screws (preferably using four screws).
You can also install one hard disk drive to the 5.25” to 3.5” adapter that comes with the product. If you install a hard disk drive using this adapter you can’t have a floppy disk drive, though. After you put the hard disk drive in the adapter, you need to move it until the holes on the bottom of the hard disk drive match the holes present on the bottom of the adapter. Then screw the hard disk drive to the adapter using four thick thread screws.
To install optical or floppy disk drives you will need first to remove the meshed cover that is in front of the bay that you want to use. This cover can be removed by pressing the latches present inside the case. These latches are really hard, so you need to press them really hard. As you can see in Figure 21, these covers feature a foam that acts as a dust filter. You will also need to break and remove the metallic cover that is behind this meshed cover, if the bay you will use has this metallic cover.
If you are going to install a floppy disk drive, you will need to install a cover for floppy disk drives that comes with the case and is shown in Figure 22 to the bay you are willing to install the drive. Then install the floppy disk drive to the 5.25” to 3.5” adapter as described in the previous page and install the adapter to the case.
To install an optical unit remove the screwless mechanism by twisting its knob 90° counter clockwise, slide the optical unit in the bay you want to use and then use the screwless mechanism to fasten the unit to the case, rotating its knob 90° clockwise. Ideally you should use two mechanisms, one at each side of the drive.
Thermaltake M9 case main specs include:
* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review.
This is a good mid-tower case for the mainstream user, built with cooling in mind. All covers on the front panel are meshed, it features two 120 mm fans (one on the rear and one on the front, attached to the hard disk drive cage) and a side duct. The exorbitant number of 5.25” bays – nine – makes us believe that this case is particularly targeted to users that want to install a water-cooling solution based on 5.25” bays, like BigWater 780e and BigWater 760i, also from Thermaltake.
A good thing about this case is that it uses a screwless mechanisms to hold your PC daughterboards and to fasten 5.25” disk drives, the hard disk drive cage and the 5.25” to 3.5” adapter to the case. You, however, will need screws to install hard disk drives and floppy disk drives to this case.
This, however, isn’t a “perfect” product, even for the mainstream user. The first down side is that it isn’t in fact a completely screwless case, as mentioned above. Also, the fans used don’t have speed control (even though they already spin at a somewhat low speed it is always nice to have this feature) and since they don’t use a small 3-pin power connector you can’t monitor their speed through your computer.
Even though the number of hard disk drive bays is more than enough for the mainstream user, high-end users will have trouble. If you have four hard disk drives – which isn’t an uncommon configuration for a hard core gamer – you won’t be able to install a floppy disk drive. And if you have more than four hard drives you will simply need to find a different product.
The absence of an eSATA port – a feature that is becoming more and more common, even for mainstream users – and the absence of any kind of suspension mechanism to reduce the noise produced by hard disk drives (feature present on mainstream products from other manufacturers like Antec) are other down sides of this product.
We honestly think that it would be a more appealing product if it came with two hard disk drive cages instead of just one. Users with less than four hard drives could simply remove this second cage to reduce noise (by removing the second frontal fan this cage would introduce), or simply keep it if they wanted a second frontal 120 mm fan.
It is a good product – if you know its limitations. For the exigent user, however, we believe that there are better products around. For example, mainstream mini-tower products from Antec cost the same thing or less and come already with a good power supply installed (keep in mind, however, that this comparison is a little bit flawed as we are comparing a mini-tower to a mid-tower case).