If you're in the market for a new prebuilt PC, there's a name that might not immediately spring to mind. Well, not for full systems anyway. That name is Thermaltake. Yes, the well-known maker of cooling products, cases, power supplies and more has branched out into the gaming PC market.
In fact, such is the impression Thermaltake made, it won the 2022 Australian PC award for the best desktop PC maker. The Australian editorial team had the following to say about Thermaltake PCs: "Thermaltake has a solid local Australian team and has branched out into the pre-built PC space with a range of reliable and reasonably priced gaming towers featuring well-picked and balanced components, showcasing the company's own components well."
So, these are PCs with real cred. When you think about it, such systems make a lot of sense. Thermaltake components make up most of the system, even the memory. The only exceptions are the CPU, GPU and motherboard. It's worked for Corsair after all.
Thermaltake sent over its Sub Zero system. Its aim is to strike a good balance of value for money and performance. You can pay a lot more for a gaming PC if you choose, but the Sub Zero's components have been chosen to deliver good bang for your buck, but is it a compelling option in an increasingly crowded PC market?
CPU: Intel Core i5 12400F
Cooling: TH360 ARGB AIO liquid cooling
Motherboard chipset: B660
Memory: 16GB (2x 8GB) DDR4-3200
Graphics: GeForce RTX 3060 12GB
Storage: 500GB NVMe SSD and 2TB 3.5in HDD
Power: 650W Gold PSU
Warranty: 2 years
Our Sub Zero review sample came with a configuration we'd generally recommend for a decent mid-range gaming system. The Intel Core i5 12400F is an iGPU-less version of our favourite budget gaming CPU. It's simply a wonderful and affordable CPU, even if paired with a high-end GPU.
The GPU of choice is an RTX 3060 12GB, in this case, an MSI one, which is a good option for a high refresh rate 1080p monitor.
Thermaltake chose a solid motherboard, the MSI B660M Mortar Wi-Fi. It's joined by Thermaltake's RGB ToughRam, a 500GB Kingston NV1 NVMe SSD, 2TB HDD and ToughPower GF1 650W 80+ Gold PSU. There's little wrong with any of that, though personally I feel the SSD could be faster.
The case is Thermaltake's own Divider 300 Air Snow Edition. I'm a fan of white themed systems, there’s just something neat and clean about them. I like the split side panel too, it's that little bit different.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the system is the AIO liquid cooler. That alone is far from unusual, but the choice of a TH360 ARGB to cool a 12400F certainly is. It’s better that Thermaltake over-specced the cooling rather than under-specced, but it really is overkill in this case and it makes us wonder if TT should have gone with a simple air cooler, therefore shaving a good hundred dollars or more off of the price. Anyway, at least you can rest assured you'll be able to drop a high TDP 12th or 13th Gen CPU in there after a BIOS update.
As the MSI B660M Mortar is an off the shelf model, it's a lot easier to find drivers, troubleshoot and upgrade compared to a bespoke design. You can add a second PCIe 4.0 M.2 drive, SATA drives, or up to 128GB of DDR4 memory. This particular motherboard has a strong VRM and capable cooling, and it will happily accept a higher TDP LGA1700 CPU in the future.
The Sub Zero has a rear I/O that puts many prebuilt systems to shame. You get eight USB ports made up of four USB 2.0, three 10Gbps Type-A, and a 20Gbps Type-C. Add to that 2.5G LAN, Wi-Fi 6, a full set of analogue audio ports plus S/PDIF and you've got a great set of connectivity options. The 12400F lacks integrated graphics, but if you add a non-F CPU in the future, you get up-to-date DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 ports.
All in all, the Thermaltake Sub Zero has all the characteristics of a DIY PC that's simply been built by someone else. And it'll be easy to upgrade in the future. There’s no reason you can't pop something like a future Core i7-13700K, GeForce RTX 4080 and 32GB of fast DDR4 and not have a very competitive gaming system for years to come.
Though it's got those DIY build characteristics, it still has the key characteristics of a pre-built PC. The Thermaltake techs are experienced and knowledgeable. You get a two-year warranty and local customer support. The warranty doesn't quite reach the standards set by companies that offer on-site warranty, so if you absolutely refuse to ever remove the side panel of your machine, that might be something worth considering.
The Sub Zero comes with Windows 11 preinstalled and after getting past Cortana's annoying shouty interruption, you'll be at the desktop in mere minutes. Download your game library and you're away.
The systems in the graphs below are included for reference purposes only. It's important to note that they are a lot more expensive than the Sub Zero. The HP and Aftershock both cost well over AU$4,000 and come with faster CPUs and 3070 Ti graphics cards, and it's important not to put too much emphasis on their relative performance.
With a 12400F, RTX 3060 and 16GB of RAM, the Sub Zero should deliver good performance for your dollar. If you play games with DLSS support, it's definitely worth turning on for a bit of free performance with next to no quality penalty.
The i5 12400F isn't one you'd choose for content creation or multithreading support, but it will happily multi-task. I use a 12400 system myself for work purposes. Sometimes I’ll have Chrome with 30 tabs open, a word doc or two, spreadsheet, photoshop, Slack and other miscellaneous apps and it doesn't struggle at all.
The SSD of the Sub Zero is a bit on the slow side. It's a Kingston NV1, an entry level PCIe 3.0 drive, so it won't be setting any speed records. But it won't necessarily feel sluggish in general use unless you really hammer it, either. At 500GB, you will need to add a second M.2 drive if you want to install a large game library and get better performance.
Now, have a look at that CPU load temperature. It's not a typo. The longer term maximum temperature I saw was 48°C. 48! If you ever wanted proof that you don’t need a 360mm AIO for this class of processor, here it is. Even at 68°C, I'd still call it cool. As you’d expect, the noise levels aren't anything to worry about though its idle noise level is a tad higher than I'd like.
Synthetic and 1440p gaming performance
The RTX 3060 isn't the most powerful GPU around, but over the last few months it's become increasingly good value. It's more of a 1080p card than a 1440p one, but as you can see in the benchmarks, even a demanding game like Metro: Exodus runs around 50 fps, and just a bit below with ray tracing enabled.
If you do plan to plug a Sub Zero into a 2560 x 1440 screen, you might have to dial the settings back a notch in some games to keep at the all-important 60 fps level. Of course, some games will happily run at over 100FPS and older games won't have any problem even at 4K.
Forget about Cyberpunk. I’m not even sure why I include that anymore! Even an RTX 4090 Ti might struggle to hit 60 fps on that with all of the options turned up.
If you're looking for a system to run modern games at 4K, you really will need to spend more. And sometimes a LOT more. Those AU$4,000+ systems like the Aftershock Ultracore and HP Omen 45L have to justify their prices somehow right?
There are many different types of PC gamers. There's the enthusiast who is always upgrading. There's the more casual type of gamer who knows a bit about PCs but doesn't really focus on the minutiae. Then there are gamers who care next to nothing about the PC itself, treating it as a means to an end.
The latter group of users are the ones drawn to pre-built systems. Set your budget, google a few of the more popular options from the likes of Alienware and HP, or browse the aisles at Harvey Norman or JB Hi-Fi. This kind of buyer might overlook the Thermaltake Sub Zero, but if you're a bit cynical about lining the pockets of Gerry Harvey, your attention will be drawn to one of the big PC retailers.
PC Case Gear or Mwave are a couple that come to mind, And viola. Mwave has our Sub Zero sample's configuration for AU$2,269. That's cheaper than the AU$2,499 the system goes for on Thermaltake's own site.
At that price, the Sub Zero offers good value for money. The combination of a 12400F, RTX 3060 and 16GB of RAM along with the lovely white case, excellent I/O and connectivity is sure to appeal to many buyers on a set budget.
If you go back a year, a decent graphics card costs more than this whole system, and when viewed in that light, it’s a pretty solid buy. Don’t ask too much of it though. It is a mid-range PC after all.
The Thermaltake Sub Zero is well worth a look. It’s highly upgradeable, looks great, has unbelievable cooling potential and as result, it's quiet under load. I wouldn’t say it delivers stunning value for money, and that cooler is overkill for sure, but if you’re after a system from a reputable company that offers a good spec for the price, the Thermaltake Sub Zero is well worth considering.