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Case Labs not happy with Thermaltake ripping off their designs….again

I was told by some smart people (lol) that Copying from one person is plagiarism, but copying from multiple people is inspiration. I never really understood how the latter is justified as inspiration, but the former is very clear in the start but as I started reviewing products, ‘inspiration’ from multiple sources doesn’t always result in a good product. In this line of work, you can easily spot either a rip-off or an ‘inspired’ design easily. Inspiration is another matter. But a ripoff does not look good, especially when it’s happening for a while. Case Labs’ Vice President Kevin Keating isn’t happy when Thermaltake and its product manager ripped off their case design one after the other.

It should be noted that Case Labs is a small family business, but it earned a very high reputation for each of its cases. Judging by people’s testimonial about their case, the build quality is completely in another level. It is also known to have very expensive cases that would make a lot of people squeal. The base model of Case Labs S8 costs US$359.95 which roughly translates to INR 22,966/-, and Thermaltake Core X9 which costs 169.99 via Newegg which is INR 10,847/-.

I did not review Case Labs Mercury S8 which gives a choice to its buyers to customize the case- radiator mounts, transparent panel, vents, HDD cage, etc. I did not review Thermaltake Core X9, but I am planning to buy to buy a white edition because of the feasibility option and that Thermaltake is present some presence in India. I should make it very clear that I did check out S8 and as much as I love it, the cost and the usual fear of transit to India simply stabbed my heart of getting a suitable case. Like for many people, Thermaltake Core X9 was a blessing in disguise since it was significantly cheaper, does whatever I wanted on paper. Thermaltake as a presence in India, though their Indian counterparts should be more active. But though the external looks completely different, the internals and certain aspects were very similar.

At first I thought open test benches will be a good idea, but then testing in a closed case setup is more realistic. HAF XB seemed like a good idea at the time, but there were certain limitations. I also don’t intend on owning another case with everything black internally. That’s one reason why I am sticking with Lian Li A70F currently. I really liked the Core X9’s white variant, and I will like to buy it as soon as it is available here. But no matter how I see it, I know the origin of Core X9’s case design.

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Left: Case Labs S8; Right: Thermaltake Core X9

However one looks at it, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Thermaltake Core X9’s design has a lot of resemblance from Case Labs Mercury S8 to even dismiss it as ‘co-incidence’. Even Keating confirmed that Shannon Robb said that he will buy the case, after being refused to take photographs of the case during PDXLAN 22. To be clear, Kevin said in his Facebook post that Shannon Robb asked if he can take pictures to show it to his company’s R&D department. Nobody would like that. But Kevin did confirm that Shannon eventually bought a Mercury S8.

One of the key and attractive point is that Core X9 is a significantly low-cost option which allows many people to purchase it. Case Labs is significantly expensive, but it is Made in USA and an all-aluminum construction. Enthusiasts who Core X9 buy it because it is a very good case, but they also know that the case’s design is very similar to Mercury S8. A famous Youtuber once had a Core X9 review video (which is now missing- no prize for guessing why), and I remember the words “Poor man’s Case Labs” to describe Core X9.

That’s because- It is a poor man’s choice for those who can’t afford the Mercury S8.

Left: Case Labs SM8; Right: Thermaltake ‘W Series’ Extreme showcased in Computex 2015

It does make a very bad impression that one manufacturer is practically duplicating another manufacturer who is coming up with new designs in a row. This is in reference to Thermaltake’s new “W-Series” Extreme chassis, which looks to be replicated based on Case Labs Merlin S8 with Pedestal case. Thermaltake is showing off its W-Series Extreme case in Computex currently, but understandably the VP of Case Labs is simply not happy with the series of incidents, which led him to post all the interactions between Kevin Keating and his father from Case Labs, with Shannon Robb- Thermaltake’s Marketing and IT manager.

The game of rip-off or ‘inspiration’ isn’t a new one. This is discouraging, to say the least, that this is happening openly knowing that people will easily identify and point  it out.

Mr. Keating made a long post which shows that Shannon Robb interacted with them during PDXLAN 22, 23, 24 and showcase Tt’s Core series during PDXLAN 25. It also pointed out where Thermaltake’s manager said in his Facebook page as ‘My new babies’.

He said,”All of these events happened, and I did not make up anything, not a thing. Simply put, Shannon and Thermaltake, you disgust me. We are all for innovation, and welcome new case concepts from other manufacturers. We have said this publicly and I’m saying it again. There have been some AMAZING things to happen to the enthusiast market, and it’s better for everyone. Copying people’s existing concepts and calling them your own stifles innovation and hurts the industry with dull already done designs. We are a small family owned and operated business who make their products in the USA with pride. Anyone can steal designs and have them made overseas for much less. So do something with our own creativity and concepts or do nothing at all.”

Shannon Robb defended himself in his Facebook by saying the following:

Hi Guys, sorry I didn’t respond to this sooner but in TW it is just now like 7AM.. First off, anyone who has seen these cases, they are in no way as far as fitment and functionality a copy of anything. The scalability and modularity are simply awesome. as far as exterior appearance, we chose a design that ideally fit everything we wanted to accomplish with the design and similar with the panel grille designs. It’s only partially about appearance and more about what will provide best airflow without sacrificing panel integrity and rigidity. Lastly, do remember that as a chassis manufacturer we all make cases and if you remember we all used to have beige boxes, it’s not about copying anything it’s about what makes the best fit for the design you are trying to accomplish.
We are pushing the limits on many things as far as performance and feature sets and I’m glad you think our chassis is so awesome, because if you really like it that much you will like the price even better!

Stay tuned to see more cool stuff from Computex.

But when comparing side to side, you have to wonder who made which case. The external case design’s difference between the two is very minor:

This will be tricky for a lot of people who purchase these cases.

In one corner, people will not like that a design of one manufacturer’s designs are replicated by another manufacturer one after the other. In another corner, people will love to see a much cheaper and affordable variant of the much expensive variant as long as the build quality is good enough. Even in reference to many component makers, one brand got inspired from another brand- be it a design, a colour combination or something as seemingly trivial as RGB backlit design. But make no mistake- all system builders, modders, hardware enthusiasts and reviewers know where this innovation (and inspiration) really come from. It would also make people think that maybe ‘thinking-out-of-box’ and ‘innovation’ is bone-dry in the DIY PC business, but time and again we always see something new. As of now, I see modders doing something out-of-box, which then inspires PC case makers. Some however get modders onboard, some would rip it off.

As of now, I see modders doing something out-of-box, which then inspires PC case makers. Some, however, get modders onboard, some would rip it off.

Master Race Problems!

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  1. Caselabs has very little room to cry foul, when their entire business model is a ripoff of Mountain Mods which has been around since early 2000’s. The entire module design chassis was created by MM. They didn’t seem to have a problem with stealing to begin with.

    1. mountainmods looked as if a kid cut a cardboard box and glued it from another angle. caselabs took it to another level, used all aluminum and a much better finish and built quality. the case is made by free men and women, not in a chinese chop-shop or by someone who wanted to make it look amateur enough that no1 will really consider it as an end product. blame goes to both thermaltake and caselabs. thermaltake should have taken a cue from core series that shannon is just ripping design from CL. they should have kept a contract with CL and ask them to design a case for mass production in exchange for a consultancy fee. CL would probably be happy. its no difference from seasonic psu design schematics giving to brands for a certain price so that they can get it made elsewhere- or corsair paying a premium to have rgb cherry mx keys exclusive for them. but thermaltake management didn’t care and shannon went ahead probably knowing that there will be a backlash.
      why i am blaming CL is because their case are ridiculously expensive and it cannot be purchased by a very large amount of enthusiasts. people loved core x9 because it was a ripped off CL S8. CL should have acknowledged and should have done what swiftech did with h220 and beyond- go mass production. if they wanted to, they could have maintained two lineups- their existing made in america version or a cut down mass production model. if they dont want to do mass production from china then they should at least make it accessible for people to buy.

      but thermaltake didn’t just rip off CL or fractal design. they ripped off nzxt, antec, swiftech and corsair designs too. oc3d did a more detailed pictorial analysis. the difference is, they didn’t care and cl did. cl chose to be small despite having a very good knowledge and pride of making good things. nzxt has pride too. fractal design has pride too. swiftech has pride too. corsair has pride too. their pride was in the right direction to make it more accessible for people to buy. people swear by corsair’s first case, and 800D, etc. nzxt h440 completely bitslapped a lot of case makers and was preferred choice for a very long time. fractal design practically killed it. infact bitfenix makes awesome case too. swiftech has both custom and closed loop water cooler units. when asetek blocked them from selling, swiftech innovated and made a workaround, but that sparked in having a custom built water cooling kit, which now ‘co-incidentally’ ‘inspired’ thermaltake. cl your stuff is great, who wouldnt steal it. when shannon approached you to take pictures, you could have said that ‘maybe’ we could have a certain collaboration for case designs, and win his confidence in your side. the world is a very unfair place, so the best you can do is to bend people to work for you. or else make your products accessible. thermaltake took a lot of time in bringing forward ripped off designs. so if you earned good money out of it, you wouldnt care a damn.

      but yeah if thermaltake does the same time all the time, they will famous for being clones and not innovators. people will automatically assume that its ripped off design, therefore quality is cheap. they should have approached cl for an agreement to design their lineups.

  2. i feel guilty now because i purchased core x9 core edition few days ago. but after i have seen the price tag on caselabs that guilty feeling suddenly vanished..

  3. would caselabs object if some unknown chinese pc case maker ripped off instead? caselabs your case is too expensive. you should have a cheaper alternative using steel. at least thermaltake wants good designs to be purchased by the masses. you are depriving your fans by pricing it more than twice- and for what? you cant even mount a 480mm rad on yours and you have only 2 usb 3.0 fp port. but thermaltake core x9 is more updated and easily accessible to all. what thermaltake did was wrong. its cheap and not cool. but having your product designs only for rich spoilt people is not fair either. shipping to spain cost the same price as your case itself. aluminum is lighter than steel but that does not seem to be enough to keep the shipping cost low. also thermaltake cases are pre-assembled. you really need to rethink your strategy. even lian li premium aluminum cases and in-win will not be this expensive. in-win has very limited quantities, but point stands.

    the one who is really ripped off is fractal design r4 as thermaltake copied it for F51. but fractal design wouldn’t care. their case came a long time and reached the masses. everyone knows that f51 is a shameless ripoff. but in your case, it is hard to get to begin with!

    1. the level of effort that shannon took to rip off CL is what truly irritates people. the unknown pc case maker argument is a poor analogy.

    2. Huh, I guess the Caselabs SM8 with 4x USB 3.0 front panel ports and a 480mm rad in it is a hallucination. The image of the S8 with 4 3.0 plugs at the top of the article must be a mirage too.

      They’re priced where they are because they’re a small company, everything’s made in the US (ie, not Chinese borderline slave labor), and aluminum’s expensive. Steel is a design compromise they don’t need or want to make. Too expensive, don’t buy it. It’s not their obligation to cheapen their products.

      1. i was referring to S8 with core x9. SM8 is a pure clone atleast from the outside.

        ‘they’re price where they are because they’re a small company’ is a poor point to make. raise funds. hire more people. nothing is stopping them from doing the same in the united states. Steel is strong. heavy, but strong.

        besides, at some point in your life, you are knowingly/unknowingly using something that is made by boderlined slave labours from china. you are paying even a lot more on taxes and shipping. we need it cheap so that we can buy other components too. $300 is way too much on a case. Tt is doing it for half the price with decent enough quality, so nobody cares. sure it looks bad, but its affordable.

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