|Zalman Z9 Plus Mid-Tower Computer Case|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cases|
|Written by Nate Swetland - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 20 January 2011|
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.