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Written by Nate Swetland - Edited by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Zalman Z9 Plus Mid-Tower Computer Case
Closer Look: Exterior
Detailed Exterior Features
Closer Look: Interior
Detailed Interior Features
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Detailed Interior Features

Without actually installing any parts, the interior of a case can look good, especially on paper/text. Once you put a few components in, you can soon learn whether the manufacturer thought ahead and paid attention to builder's wants and needs. Let's see if Zalman made the extra effort to make the Z9 Plus with a high level of detail we would expect from an established company.

Zalman_Z9Plus_Interior_PSUCage_Installed.jpg

This is an image with the power supply mounted in the bottom of the Z9 Plus. I read many concerns about installing PSUs in the bottom like this because "heat rises". Most PSUs now have one intake fan and one exhaust fan. If you install your power supply so that the air draws air in from the bottom, and expels it out the back, there is little to no heat that will be rising from it. My only concern here is again with the vents not having a dust cover. Being on the floor, I would imagine the power supply would drag in a bunch of dust, so a regular cleaning would be necessary, but you should be doing that already. Depending on the cable configuration of your PSU, you may run into some trouble if you choose to install a fan on the bottom of the Z9 Plus. I enjoy the option of being able to put a fan there, but it may create a very tight space for your cables, or not fit at all depending on where your cables exit your PSU.

Zalman_Z9Plus_Interior_HDDCage_Installed.jpg

Shown in this photo is the area where your hard drives go. The Z9 Plus can hold up to five 3.5" hard drives in this cage, and Zalman says that they it is a tool free process. We all know better, and realize that tool free means that once you use a tool to install a certain clip or bracket, that you no longer need tools to move it around. There are included rubber washers that screw into the hard drives to slide in and out of the grooves and lock into place. To remove the drive, you simply pull up on the locks and the drive will slide out. The rubber allows for a reduction in sound and vibration. There is also a way to secure each hard drive with a screw in the rear if you are transporting the case. You can mount the drives in either direction, allowing you to point the cables towards the back, keeping some cable clutter out of sight. In the front of the case, there is a 120mm Blue LED fan that draws air in and across the hard drives to help keep them cool.

Zalman_Z9Plus_Interior_MoboInstalled.jpg

You can see the motherboard installed in this picture. The Z9 Plus will accommodate both Standard ATX and m-ATX motherboards. There were no issues installing the motherboard at all. The open area behind the CPU allows for easy installation of the CPU cooler. Speaking on the CPU cooler, the distance between the motherboard tray and the external panel is roughly 7", so bear that in mind when choosing a CPU cooler, but most should fit (here if a good place to start if you are in the market). I made a rookie mistake of not roughing out where my wiring will go from the included rear 120mm fan or to the 12V plug on the motherboard, so I got to install the motherboard twice. Normally, I would just plug the rear fan into the chassis fan header on the motherboard and not have to worry about tucking it behind, but Zalman annoyingly chose to use a fan with a 4pin molex plug. I hope I am not alone in thinking that every fan should really be the 3 pin connector, as most all motherboards and fan controllers use those plugs as their standard for fan power. Luckily, this was the only fan of the four included that needed a molex power source.

Zalman_Z9Plus_Interior_FullyInstalled.jpg

After installing the PSU, motherboard and drives, next comes the video card. I have a EVGA GTX 260 that I use, and I had no trouble installing it. My previous case requires me to put it in at an angle, and rotate it once I get it in, but with 290mm of space between the HDD/ODD cage and the rear of the Z9 Plus allows for even the largest video cards to go in without hassle. I now realize why the spec sheet lists only three external 5.25", even though there looks like there is a place for a fourth 5.25" drive. If you install an optical drive in the bottom slot, it will be right up against your GPU, and that is asking for trouble. The optical drives install the old fashion way, and ar e screwed in. One thing I noticed when installing the GPU is with the PCI bracket covers. Like with the front 5.25" bay covers, they are the type that you need to break away. However, unlike the ones in the front, you cannot put them back in. Once they are out, you will need some other 3rd party PCI slot cover. Cable management is easily done by way of the openings leading to the opposite side of the case. There are two on the side of the case, one small one in the upper left corner for your top/rear fan and the 12V 4-pin power. There also is an opening on the bottom of the case. It would have been nice if there was a small space to allow cables to pass between the PSU and the motherboard, as that would cut down on a lot of clutter.

Zalman_Z9Plus_Exterior_Side_WireManagement.jpg

This is what the opposite side of the case looks like with all the components installed. Yes, I still use an IDE DVD-RW. As you can see, it is pretty messy. I cleaned it up a little, but I honestly did not feel the need to clean it up perfectly because this is a part of the case that never gets seen. The point of having this area, and all the openings to run the cables through is so that you never see these cables, but still can have easy access to them. The distance between the motherboard tray and this side panel is 1/2". Obviously, this could be cleaned up some, but being hidden, it doesn't require it. I think Zalman makes it very easy to run your cables behind here and make the Z9 Plus look better on the inside. If you notice on the right hand side, Zalman included an extension cable for the 12V plug that goes next to your CPU. This is the very first time I have seen a case included with one of these cables, and I could not be happier. This cable made the difference between me having to run the cable on the interior instead of neatly behind the motherboard. Kudos to Zalman for that.



 

Comments 

 
# RE: Zalman Z9 Plus Mid-Tower Computer CaseDougq 2011-01-20 22:51
Meh. Decent low budget case I guess. It's pretty functional, and I think you're review was clean and well ordered.

I'm still not seeing any innovative ideas in case making, save the side mount drives, putting their rear ends back where the connectors are, which is good.

I also don't like the cheap look of stamped metal and injection molded plastic, but hey, it's what everyone does.

I can see why you think the case is decent looking, but for me, it might win one of the fugliest cases ever award. But I'm really nit picky when it comes to cases.

As stated before, I have a CcolerMaster Stacker 830 SE black brushed full aluminum case, and it's build quality and thick aluminum is second to none, along with its beautiful design. It's an old case and still puts to shame many of the newer ones in form and functionality. You can still by these iconic cases, but their prices haven't gone down in 5 years. They will set you back almost 300US dollars.

Here is the case in bare brushed aluminum:
##coolermaster.com/product.php?product_id=16

Now THAT is a handsome case!
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# RE: RE: Zalman Z9 Plus Mid-Tower Computer CaseNate Swetland 2011-01-21 08:38
@Dougg - Thanks for the comments. I actually own the original CM Stacker case, now known as the Stacker 810 ATX. That may be one of the best looking cases I have ever owned, but both the 810 and the 830 are/were near twice the price of the Z9 Plus, so they can't really be compared in the same way. Stamped metal and plastic tends to cost significantly less to use than brushed aluminum, which is reflected in the cost. I do not disagree with your taste in the Stacker cases, they are very sharp.

As far as it looking good or bad, I think we can agree that is very much a subjective category. If you don't like a particular color or material, and the case is made out of it, you will think it does not look good, but another person will praise it up and down. It is just the way it works.

Again, thanks for your comments!
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# RE: RE: RE: Zalman Z9 Plus Mid-Tower Computer CaseDoug 2011-01-21 13:47
Nate agreed on the subjective nature of looks for sure. Function comes first, as I can live with subjectively ugly, but not with objectively functionless. The price difference is also a fair evaluation. If you have noticed, CM no longer carries the 830 Stacker series. I guess it was too expensive to be too profitable.
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# RE: Zalman Z9 Plus Mid-Tower Computer CaseRobrt17 2011-01-21 06:06
It's nice to see certain design trends filtering down from the higher end cases to the mid-range such as wire management, dust filters, fan controllers, tooless mounting, and water cooling ducts. All this, and the cases are still affordable which will allow many more enthusiasts to enjoy these benefits. In my mind it will help create more enthusiasts rather than frustrated or price-shocked builders.

Thanks Nate. Good review.
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# RE: RE: Zalman Z9 Plus Mid-Tower Computer CaseNate Swetland 2011-01-21 08:40
@Robert - Thanks for the comments. I agree with you. I think it is nice that companies are now taking some of the trends and features typically reserved for the high-end and high-priced chassis and putting them into their mid-market cases. Just because consumers may not want a case that will cost them an arm and a leg, they still want one with decent features.
I hope more and more companies continue these trends. Having the same features as the high-end cases will require more innovation just to keep the cases in the high-end categories and justify the costs.

Thanks!
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# Nice reviewEd Hume 2011-01-21 18:47
First of all, thanks for measuring the distance between the mb tray and the right side panel.

This case has some nice features, especially for this price point. I liked the two 140mm fans on top. That means your can block off the rear position and set up the forward position as an intake to feed your cpu cooler fresh air.

I liked the bottom 140mm intake - with filter.

The HD cage seems to be made with mesh, so there is better airflow past the HD's.

Finally, if you put your ODD up top, you will have three 5.25 slots available for a 120mm intake fan., which can also feed fresh air to the heatsink.

Lots of opportunities in this inexpensive case.
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# RE: Nice reviewNate Swetland 2011-01-24 09:47
Thanks for the comments.
The bottom intake fan is a nice option. But, depending on your PSU, it may be a pretty tight fit with all the wires down there. I still don't understand why they put a fan filter there, but not one for the PSU intake.

Adding a 120mm fan in the 5.25" slots would indeed be a great way to push fresh air from the front all the way across the heatsink and out the back, or straight out the top depending on your heatsink and fan position.
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