Thermaltake Urban SD1 Conclusion
I’ll try and summarize my experience with the Urban SD1 in terms of Performance, Appearance, Construction, Functionality and Value categories, but I feel like I should add a disclaimer. You must understand that my own preferences and uses for cases differ from most; while I try to view each case as objectively as I can, I probably can’t avoid my own bias from affecting my conclusion in some manner. I implore you to think in depth of your OWN uses and preferences, and use my reviews as a guide or simply as another perspective.
With the right components, I think the Urban SD1 would be a satisfactory performer. However, I’d hesitate to use anything other than mid-range open air cooled GPUs due to poor stock airflow. Using blower-style coolers or adding an additional fan would help (thus removing the ability to mount most AIO liquid coolers for the CPU), but to deal with heat monsters like the R9 290 the passive ventilation just wasn’t enough – some additional exhaust was needed to keep fan speeds at reasonable levels. If you’re comfortable with the PSU fan doing double duty as an exhaust, that may help the heat buildup a little. More stock airflow is needed for this chassis to really qualify as “high-performance” in my opinion.
The appearance category is where the Urban SD1 really shines. I like the designs of the Urban series, and the SD1 is by far the best looking Lanbox Lite yet. The conservative aluminum front panels are beautiful, and the clean lines are complimentary and tasteful. That other side of my brain still wishes the top blue power LED would scan back and forth “Knight Rider” style though… Missed opportunities aside, the Urban SD1 is an attractive enclosure overall.
The reduced use of plastic really enhanced the overall construction “look and feel” of the SD1 compared to the similar A30 or Lanbox Lite. Even with the large number of removable parts, everything fit together nicely. The power supply bracket is a little wobbly on its own, but once installed it is very solid. It would be nice to not have to deal with so many thumbscrews when removing components (or the six screws for the power supply bracket), but I don’t really see a way around that without re-engineering the entire thing. Besides, that’s something most people only have to deal with once or twice, it isn’t that big of a concern.
The biggest contribution to functionality for the Urban SD1 is the various sub-assemblies that can be removed for easier installation of components. The removable motherboard tray, PSU bracket and drive cages really do make for an easier time of assembly. It’s too bad a complete lack of cable management complicates this process a bit, but with this many removable components perhaps tied-down cables would just get in the way anyway. The small updates help keep the Urban SD1 modern, but the main feature would still be the external drive bays – there just aren’t that many cases this small that still make provisions for external devices.
The Thermaltake Urban SD1 was listed online for $93.00 (Newegg / Amazon) at the time of this review. While performance-oriented micro-ATX cases are still a bit rare, there have been some excellent candidates on the market for some time. BitFenix’s Prodigy based enclosures are especially compelling if cooling performance in a smaller mATX form factor is your main consideration (along with Fractal Design’s Arc Mini R2 and Define Mini, Silverstone’s TJ-08B-E, Corsair’s Obsidian 350D…) The external bays of the Urban SD1 are relatively unique for this particular form factor though, and fills a niche the other towers can’t. The only problem I can see is there are quite a few proven performers in this price range (most fall within $10). The competition is strong, and I fear the updates to the Lanbox formula, while certainly an improvement, may not ultimately be enough to shift the value back in favor of the Urban SD1.
Overall, the Urban SD1 is an attractive update to a classic form factor. There are a number of performance-oriented micro-ATX enclosures though, and I just don’t feel like I can recommend the Urban SD1 to anyone that doesn’t need the external bays (if you do, the SD1 is one of the only options). The stock airflow is just too limiting for high-end components, but at least there are some optional tweaks that can mitigate that somewhat. The updates modernize the chassis enough to keep up with current components, but it feels like the internal design has aged faster than the rest of the case. However, as an HTPC or with careful selection of low-heat components I think the Urban SD1 would be a great choice if you like the look and form factor.
+ Very attractive, small form factor chassis
+ mATX, wider range of compatible components
+ One of the few cases this small that can still use full-size optical drives or external bay devices
+ “Modular” design does assist in installing components
- No cable management
– Can run warm – needs additional GPU cooling or careful component selection
– Only the front panel blocks noise