Massive air and water-cooling potential in a unique and interesting chassis, but it’s overpriced for what you get.
Despite looking like a vivarium for exotic pets, and being huge for a mini-ITX case, the Thermaltake Tower 100 proved to be popular with air and water-cooling enthusiasts. People appreciated its unique design, ample working space and reasonable price. The Thermaltake Tower 500 here, though, is very different.
At Custom PC, we’ve been reviewing the latest PC hardware since 2003, and we run a number of tests on cases to gauge their cooling performance. We take the CPU and GPU Delta T readings from our test rig, so we can test in a lab that isn’t temperature-controlled. For more information, see our How we test page.
Available in black or white, the Thermaltake Tower 500 costs $180, which is a much higher price than that of the Tower 100, and the case itself is much bigger too. It’s not as gargantuan as the Tower 900, but it still stands 60cm tall and measures nearly 40cm deep and wide.
Strangely, though, it doesn’t seem that big on a desk, as its footprint is under 40 x 40cm, with the depth being much shorter than your typical ATX case. It gives you a great view of your hardware as well, benefiting from a top-to-bottom view of the main chamber, with half-width glass panels in the side too.
The motherboard sits on its side with the I/O panel facing upwards, with holes in the rear of the case at the top, allowing you to thread through cables for keyboards, mice and monitors. The front panel is fairly standard, with four USB 3 ports, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, audio jacks, and both power and reset buttons. We expected to see a few more features here, or in the box, which makes the price tag feel a little steep.
One key optional extra is a customizable color LCD panel. This sits in a replacement panel for one of the lower side vents and includes a 3.9-inch screen that hooks up to your PC using a USB header. It looks great, but we’d have liked this to be included as standard, and the extra $100 for the panel kit is steep too, given that larger customizable displays cost far less money, and the Tower 500’s ample number of flat surfaces can provide plenty of homes for them.
One feature we’ve loved about the variations of the tower we’ve seen in the flesh so far is the removable panels. The roof and all four side panels detach, along with the lower vent panels. It’s not quite as swish as the fully removable roof you get in some of Fractal Design cases, such as the Fractal Design Meshify 2, but it certainly makes building a PC much easier work than with a typical ATX tower, especially if you’re water-cooling your PC.
Speaking of which, unlike its mini-ITX sibling, the Tower 500 is very water-cooling-friendly, with space for 360mm radiators in the sides, two 240mm radiators in the base with one sat on its side, and either a 240mm or 280mm radiator in the roof. There’s a massive 275mm of CPU cooler clearance and masses of fan mounts too.
The left and right sides of the case each house a trio of 120mm fans, the rear of the motherboard tray offers a home to two 120mm or 140mm fans, and the trio of roof and base radiator mounts add six more 120mm mounts, with the option of two 140mm fans in the roof instead.
That’s more than enough cooling to handle any system you could house inside this case, which is one advantage it has over your typical mid-sized ATX tower. Out of the box, only two 120mm fans are included, with both acting as exhausts and one drawing air away from the side of the GPU. Again, though, given the price, we’d have liked to see more and perhaps some RGB lighting too.
Of course, the case could be a lot shallower if Thermaltake ditched the rear chamber, but this doubles as an area to stow cables, as well as house up to six hard disks or a mix of up to two hard disks and four SSDs. With eight hard disk mounts in total, that’s far more than many ATX cases, which also have far less generous cable stowage, and the entire tray that holds them in place is removable too.
Building a PC in the case, as we’ve mentioned, is fairly easy, but what’s not as easy as many ATX towers is getting inside it. You have to remove the roof section to remove any of the panels that allow you to get at your core hardware, and this setup could get old very quickly if you’re a regular tinkerer.
Thermaltake Tower 500 CPU temperature
The Thermaltake Tower 500 CPU temperature delta T of 47°C is also on par with the lowest results we’ve seen from recent case tests, with the CPU benefiting from the huge volume of air inside the case. Buried in the depths of the case, the two 1,500rpm exhaust fans were easily eclipsed by the noise made by the rest of our system.
Thermaltake Tower 500 GPU temperature
We were surprised to see the Thermaltake Tower 500 GPU temperature delta T sitting at a low of 41°C despite no fans pointing at it, but it does sit within a few inches of the vented side panel. Despite the glass surroundings, you’ll have no trouble cooling a powerful GPU in this case.
Thermaltake Tower 500 pros and cons
- Excellent air and water-cooling support
- Amazing view of your hardware
- Good cooling
- Roof needs to be removed to detach side panels
- Basic accessories and features
- Expensive for what you get
Thermaltake Tower 500 specs
The Thermaltake Tower 500 specs list is:
|388 x 398 x 608 (W x D x H)
|Steel, plastic, glass
|Power, reset, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3, 1 x USB 2, stereo, mic, LED control
|6 x 3.5-inch, 4 x 2.5-inch, 2 x 3.5-inch/4 x 2.5-inch
|E-ATX, ATX, micro-ATX
|6 x 120mm side fan mounts (fans not included), 2 x 120mm/140mm rear fan mounts (2 x 120mm fans included), 4 x 120mm base fan mounts (fans not included), 2 x 120/140mm roof fan mounts (fans not included)
|CPU cooler clearance
|Maximum graphics card length
Thermaltake Tower 500 price
The Thermaltake Tower 500 price is $180 (£200), which is overpriced for what you get, but it’s a great-looking case if you can find it cheaper.
Price: Expect to pay $180 (£200).
Thermaltake Tower 500 review conclusion
The Thermaltake Tower 500 is very much a blank canvas, as the air or water-cooled PC you could house inside it could be absolutely monstrous – far more so than the case’s size suggests.
With six hard disk mounts, five radiator mounts (including two 360mm ones), more fan mounts than you can shake a stick at, and essentially unlimited graphics card and CPU cooler clearances, both air and water-cooled system essentially have no limits. We also love the view you get of your hardware through the glass panels – this case will look brilliant with a water-cooling system installed inside it.
While it’s great to see unique and interesting case designs such as the Tower 500, though, it’s hard to justify its $180 price tag. If you have plenty of money, and can afford to build an eye-catching water-cooled PC, then the Tower 500 will give it an attractive room with a view, but everyone else can get better value elsewhere.
If this aquarium-like windowed PC case isn’t right for your needs, then make sure you check out our full guide to the best PC case, where we take you through the best case choices at a range of prices.