ThermalTake is a rather large manufacturer and distributor of various computer accessories and hardware. They have never been known for excellent quality (and I can attest to this as a owner of a Tt PSU and case), but what gets them their sales volume is the low prices. Recently, they have been accused of having company values that go deeper than being a cheaper alternative. It appears that they have copied designs from other manufacturers and have even been deceitful in their own product advertisements.
The most amount of drama has circulated around two of ThermalTake’s recent cases. The first of which is the ThermalTake Suppressor F51. The exterior of the case is nearly indistinguishable from the Fractal Design R5. The interiors are different, but the F51 does imitate some features such as noise-reduction options. Even more shockingly, the product videos for both of these cases are shockingly similar (F51 vs R5).
What makes this design choice so controversial is the fine line between using the ideas of other companies to innovate and just ripping off other companies design. Josh Smith, who is the vice president of Marketing for Fractal Design, didn’t seem to think much of the F51. On the technology podcast, Tech Talk, he said the imitation is flattery and there isn’t much you can do with cases to make them different. However, many consumers feel that the similarities between the F51 and R5 are just too close to be light-hearted.
While the morality behind the F51 is certainly debatable, ThermalTakes interactions with CaseLabs seems to be a lot more nefarious. CaseLabs is a relatively small, family-owned, boutique case manufacturer that is known for their innovative designs. According the VP of CaseLabs, Kevin Keating, ThermalTake approached him at PDXLAN in 2013 and asked, “Wow I wish our company made cases like this, can I take some pictures to send to our R&D department?” After Kevin told them no, ThermalTakes only response was “Well I guess we will just buy one then.” Surely enough, ThermalTake ended up buying a CaseLabs Merlin SM8 two months later. Fast forward to Computex 2015, ThermalTake releases the TH10 which is extremely close to the SM8. The major difference being the lack of a window.
In addition to using these tactics with cases, ThermalTake also appears to be taking designs from other types of products. The most notable is the ThermalTake Riing fans, which have a near identical look to the Corsair Air fans. The ThermalTake Commander FT fan controller also has a GUI that is very similar to the NZXT Sentry 3. Finally, The Thermaltake W2 is identical to the Swiftech Apogee XL. However, it’s plausible this could have been a planned licensing agreement considering Swiftech has done that with other companies. Unfortunately, the YouTuber JayzTwoCents has talked to the other aforementioned companies and confirms that they had no sort of agreement with ThermalTake.
To add even more drama to the situation, ThermalTake’s response to the backlash was very unprofessional. Shannon Robb, who is one of the main people in charge of ThermalTake case designs, claims the cases “ are in no way as far as fitment and functionality a copy of anything.” Considering Robb was also the one who approached Kevin at PDXLAN and the very obvious similarities, he is clearly talking out of his you-know-what.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much the companies ThermalTake ripped off can do. One of the main reasons is because they are relatively small when compared to ThermalTake. This means that taking legal action would be a daunting task and really hurt the companies financially. Secondly, ThermalTake isn’t based in the US, so any legal actions would only affect their North American distribution.
At this point, I think it’s clear what my stance on this whole situation is. How you want to view ThermalTake is up to you, but you should certainly put the above information into consideration when looking at ThermalTake products.