Thermaltake’s Level 20 RS ARGB case ($149.99) is yet another entry into the long line of RGB LED chassis that have swarmed the DIY desktop market over the last several years. That’s not to say the Level 20 RS ARGB doesn’t have its own charm, though—with a pair of preinstalled 200mm ARGB front fans and two glass side panels, this case gives you an excellent view of the light show your system will surely be. However, it can make mounting add-on cards in high-end motherboards a hassle, putting the Level 20 at a disadvantage against slightly less flashy but considerably more affordable PC cases.
The Design: Glass Galore
Thermaltake designed this ATX mid-tower chassis with two 4mm thick tempered-glass windows, which make up by far the largest parts of the left and right side panels. You won’t get quite as good a view through the front or top panels, which are covered by mesh instead of glass, but will still get a fine view through the mesh of the large ARGB-lit fans mounted on the front of the case. The same is also true for any fans you install into the three 120mm fan brackets attached to the top of the chassis.
Focusing in a bit more on the top panel, Thermaltake opted to use an uncommon split front I/O configuration for the Level 20 RS ARGB. Half of the front I/O panel is on the left side of the case and holds the power button, hard drive LED, microphone and headphone jacks, and a button that can alter the LED lights. The other half of the front I/O panel is on the right side and consists of four USB Type-A ports, two of them USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0. Running between these two sections is an ARGB LED bar that gives you a touch more of that RGB bling some folks love so much. (The RGB stuff on the chassis works with motherboard control/sync software from Asus, Asrock, MSI, and Gigabyte.)
I have slightly mixed feelings about the split front I/O panel. It makes accessing the ports easy, but if you set the right side of the case against a wall, you will have at least some difficulty in getting at the USB ports. Thermaltake set the I/O panels back from the edge of the case a bit to help improve this situation, but long USB flash drives and devices such as external hard drives that use thick USB cables will still prove challenging to plug in without pulling the system away from the wall.
You will encounter fewer issues if you set the left side of the case against the wall, as the power and RGB light buttons will still be easy to press and the 3.5mm jacks will not prove problematic unless you are using exceedingly thick audio cables. The tradeoff, however, is that most of the pretty lights from your system are best viewed from the left side.
The sad thing about this situation is that Thermaltake could have made these problems go away just by swapping the front I/O panels and setting the USB ports on the left side, the side you are much more likely to leave clear for visibillity. (Why else buy a case like this, after all?) As it stands, it’s not an exceptionally serious issue, and setting your system just slightly away from any walls will give you full use of both sides of the I/O panel, so I don’t plan to subtract points for this design choice. But I do hope Thermaltake switches the panels if it revises this case.
The Level 20 Building Experience
Building a system inside the Thermaltake Level 20 RS ARGB has its ups and downs, but depending on the hardware you select can be a painless experience. Mounting the motherboard is easy, and the case is spacious enough to help with cable management; it’s not too difficult to connect important cables such as the sometimes-tricky CPU power cable.
Thermaltake also opted to use a new power supply mounting system that I’ve been seeing with increasing regularity over the past year. Instead of fitting the PSU in through one of the side panels, the case has a detachable mounting bracket that you first remove and then bolt onto the PSU. After that, the unit slides in through the case from the rear and you simply remount the bracket.
I’m quite fond of this mounting system, as it has many advantages. When you insert the PSU into many cases, you are often left trying to hold the power supply in place with one hand while you work to screw in the unit with the other. This challenge is nonexistent using the Level 20 RS ARGB mounting system.
In my experience, it also makes it easier to add extra cables to modular PSUs later down the line. Trying to work cables in and connect them correctly to a PSU that’s already mounted is often difficult due to the limited space. This is still true, if not worse, on cases with this new mounting system, but usually I find there is enough slack in the cables to slide the PSU back out without disconnecting any, after which you can just connect your additional modular cables and slip the supply back into its niche.
It’s also quite easy to add storage devices to this case. The chassis can hold three 2.5-inch drives and two 3.5-inch drives, with one additional mounting location that holds either two extra 2.5-inch drives or a single 3.5-inch drive. Two of each of these drive mounts are accessible through the left panel and are in plain sight, whereas the others are hidden away on the other side of the case. It’s also worth mentioning that the two 3.5-inch bays use a toolless mounting system that lets you quickly add or remove drives. This is something I almost never see, which amazes me—you’d think that case designers would want to make things easy for their customers and incorporate as many toolless mounts as possible, but nope, that doesn’t seem to be the case. So kudos to Thermaltake here.
With all of these positive features, you’re probably wondering by now why I mentioned ups and downs. Well, the problems reside in the add-on card mounting brackets. Simply put, the space between the end of the PCI Express brackets and the edge of the case is smaller than usual. If you have a motherboard that doesn’t have an audio shroud, this likely won’t pose a problem, but if your motherboard has a shroud—which essentially all high-end motherboards do—your add-on cards might end up pinned between the shroud and the case and not be able to fit into place properly.
In the end, I was able to force a graphics card into place, but was obliged to bend the case in order to do so, which scratched up the interior just above the GPU. Removing the GPU was considerably more difficult, and I was forced to pry the case further out of shape using a screwdriver. Due to this limitation, I would advise against using this chassis with any high-end motherboards or even any midrange boards that have an audio shroud. This problem is really a demerit for the Level 20 RS ARGB, as it significantly limits the case’s compatibility with many motherboards, or at least makes you apply way more force to delicate hardware than you might want to get it seated.
The case was designed to allow you to mount graphics cards vertically in conjunction with a PCIe riser card, and the entire add-on card mounting bracket can be rotated to support this. On the bright side, this gives you a way to mount graphics cards without bending the case and is a perfectly viable workaround to the aforementioned problem. As you will need to buy a riser cable and mount, however, it’s a bittersweet alternative that ultimately boosts the chassis’ not-insignificant price.
That’s Some Sturdy Glass
During my time with the case, the glass panels were exposed to an unexpected durability test. Usually when I tear down cases, I leave the side panels standing in stacks leaning against the side of my desk. I had both of the Level 20 RS ARGB’s glass panels standing together like this along with a third glass panel from another case, and the stack got knocked over by mistake, causing the group to crash into the heavy steel frame of an electric heater.
Surprisingly, the Thermaltake glass didn’t break or crack, even with the weight of the other two panels falling on top of it. The glass did get a fair scratch, but under the circumstances this actually shows its durability and should give you some comfort that the glass can take a bit of a beating and still come out in one piece.
An Awkward Achilles’ Heel
In many ways, I like the design of the Thermaltake Level 20 RS ARGB case, but the limited space around the add-on card brackets is a serious problem that cannot be ignored. It makes this chassis a poor choice if you have a motherboard with an audio shroud, which again most high-end motherboards do. In that scenario, just as with my test build, you’ll either have to scratch and bend the case while inserting and removing graphics cards or invest in a PCIe riser.
This makes the case arguably best suited for midrange motherboards that lack an audio shroud, but at $149.99 it’s a case that is not cheap for a midrange build. That also throws it into competition with better-priced alternatives such as Be Quiet’s Pure Base 500 and Deepcool’s GamerStorm Macube 310P WH reviewed earlier this year. None of this is to say the Level 20 RS ARGB is a bad case, but you’ll need the right motherboard to really be able to enjoy it.
Thermaltake Level 20 RS ARGB Specs
|Motherboard Form Factors Supported||ATX, MicroATX, Mini-ITX|
|External 5.25-Inch Bays||0|
|Internal 3.5-Inch Bays||3|
|External 3.5-Inch Bays||0|
|Internal 2.5-Inch Bays||5|
|Front Panel Ports||USB 3.0 (2), mic, HD Audio, RGB Button, USB 2.0 (2)|
|Side Window(s)?||Yes (Tempered Glass)|
|PCI Expansion Slot Positions||8|
|120mm or 140mm Fan Positions||7|
|120mm/140mm/200mm Fans Included||3|
|Fan Controller Included?||Yes|
|Maximum GPU Length||400 mm|
|Maximum CPU Cooler Height||172 mm|
|Power Supply Maximum Length||220 mm|
|Power Supply Form Factor Supported||ATX|
|Power Supply Mounting Location||Bottom|
|Internal Chassis Lighting Color||RGB|
|Included Fan Lighting Color||Addressable RGB|
|Dimensions (HWD)||20.62 by 9.4 by 21.77 inches|