Thermaltake has released its Core G21 TG (tempered glass) Edition case, and it’s only $70 -- more proof that glass panels don’t need to be expensive. Despite the name, there’s no product listing for a non-TG Edition G21, although the View 21-TG that was displayed alongside it at Computex shares the same tooling with a different front panel.
Today’s review looks at the Thermaltake Core G21 TG case for build quality, thermals, and acoustics, with additional testing on optimal fan placement and fan configurations.
Thermaltake Core G21 Appearance
The full glass panels, sharp angles, and sort-of-full shroud put the G21 in the same visual category as the NZXT S340 Elite, although the mesh front panel and prominent Thermaltake badge detract from the sleekness somewhat. Narrow black borders on the tempered glass side panel leave every part of the interior visible, and both the border and screw holes are conveniently symmetrical so that the panel can’t accidentally be installed upside down. Oddly, the back side panel is also translucent, although tinted a darker shade. This means that cables and drives tucked behind the motherboard are visible from outside, especially if they’re white. Despite Thermaltake’s charming description of this decision on the Newegg page (“two-toned tinted glass for the look up front, while keeping business in the back”), this puts much more pressure on the user to bundle cables neatly.
Core G21 Build Process
Right away, Thermaltake deserves praise for putting catches below their side panels. Working on the S340 Elite and the Bitfenix Shogun required constant vigilance to avoid dropping heavy panels while removing them, as they can easily slip off their mounts and bang on the table. That’s not enough to be dangerous, but it scares Senior AMD Analyst Snowflake, so this was a marked improvement. Thermaltake’s panels are secured by the catches until they’re hinged out to about 45 degrees. They can also provide extra leverage for pressing the glass down on bulky cables, although “glass” and “leverage” aren’t necessarily concepts that should be put together.
That’s fine, though, because there’s plenty of space for managing cables in the G21. We’ve praised cases like the Fractal Define C for allowing space for a couple drives as well as the inevitable bundle of front panel, power, and SATA cables in front of the motherboard in the space that would have been occupied by optical drives in the past. The G21 goes a step beyond in functionality (and quality) by using two separate sheets of metal for this forward section and the rear part where the motherboard is mounted, leaving a large gap between the two. Some might prefer cutouts for cable routing, but a big gap like the one behind the S340’s cable management bar is much easier to work with. With convenient cable tie points and a shroud to cover up any stray wires, it was no trouble to keep things looking tidy in spite of the transparent side panel.
Whereas most cases just provide a couple 2.5” mounts behind the motherboard, here there are two 3.5” hard drive sleds hidden in the back. There’s no way for cool air to circulate around them, but it’s a great option for HDDs that aren’t working constantly.
Front I/O is completely normal except for the fact that the reset and power switches share a single button. This didn’t cause any problems, but is an interesting and different choice.
The front panel is one thing (other than the glass) that really makes the G21 stand out: it’s all mesh, and as the SilverStone RL06 proved, that allows for serious airflow. Unfortunately, Thermaltake falls short on execution.
There’s only one fan shipped with the G21, and it looks and feels cheap. If a reasonably-priced tempered glass case that cuts its MSRP by excluding fans sounds familiar, it might be because if our In Win 303 review, where our review sample was shipped with 0 fans. Fans are one of the best places to cut costs in enclosures, since rather than forcing the customer to pay for cheap fans that they’ll have to replace, the customer can save their money and buy the fans they want. On the other hand, shipping a case with no fans means that some customers will feel cheated, and at least one will accidentally cook their PC.
This is a tremendous oversight by Thermaltake that mars the quality of an otherwise excellent case at the $70 price-point. In the very least, get a slightly better fan and put it in the front of the case, splitting intake between the GPU and CPU. There’s so much potential here in this mesh paneling, and Thermaltake manages to let it slip through their grasp.
We decided to move the fan to the front, attempting to push some cool air over the CPU and GPU, but after that things got a little wild. We added one 140mm fan, then two, then took the filter off, then the front panel, then both, then switched back to the standard configuration and did a couple more tests.
Case Test Methodology
We tested using our new Skylake case test bench, detailed in the table below. This particular configuration is brand new with the launch of the 570X & 270R. Results on this test platform cannot be compared to previous case benchmark results, as the platform has completely changed.
Conducting thermal tests requires careful measurement of temperatures in the surrounding environment. We control for ambient by constantly measuring temperatures with thermocouples and laser readers. We then produce charts using a Delta T(emperature) over Ambient value. This value subtracts the thermo-logged ambient value from the measured diode temperatures, producing a delta report of thermals. AIDA64 is used for logging thermals of silicon components, including the GPU diode.
All case fans are manually configured to their maximum throughput using BIOS, then we configure to an RPM closer to 1050 for a universal "quiet" testing. If a fan controller is present, we opt-in and test on multiple settings. This forces testing of case fan performance in addition to the case's air channeling and airstream design. This also ensures minimal variance when testing, as automatically controlled fan speeds can reduce reliability of benchmarking. The CPU fan is set to 1100RPM (constant) for consistency, and the CPU is overclocked to 4.4GHz with a vCore of 1.272V (constant). C-States and power saving states are disabled.
|Video Card||MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X (OC Mode)||MSI||$640|
|CPU||Intel i7-6700K @ 4.4GHz||GamersNexus||$300|
|CPU Cooler||MSI Core Frozr L||MSI||TBD|
|Motherboard||MSI Z170A Gaming M7||MSI||$180|
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance LED 32GB 3200MHz||Corsair||$200|
|SSD||Samsung 850 EVO 120GB||Samsung||N/A|
|Case||This is what we're testing!||-||-|
The video card is configured to run at 55% fan speed at all times.
Prior to load testing, we collect idle temperature results for ten minutes to determine the unloaded cooling performance of a case's fans and air channels. Thermal benchmarking is conducted for 1400 seconds (23 minutes), a period we've determined sufficient for achieving equilibrium. The over-time data is aggregated and will occasionally be compiled into charts, if interesting or relevant. The equilibrium performance is averaged to create the below charts.
Load testing is conducted using Prime95 LFFTs and Kombustor “FurMark” stress testing simultaneously. Testing is completely automated using in-house scripting, and executes with perfect accuracy on every run.
We recently validated our test methodology using a thermal chamber, finding our approach to be nearly perfectly accurate. Learn more here.