Zalman Z9 Gaming Case

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Posted by on Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 12:00am

zalman z9Although what most of us know Zalman for is their cases, and that is exactly what we will be revealing to you here today: the new Z9 and Z9 Plus. Zalman has decided to announce to the world a new gaming case for the budget minded individuals, as not all of us have the coin to drop on the high end components, yet we are still after something that looks the part. These cases come packing a lot of functionality, and a Z-shaped mesh front that is quite pleasing to the eye.

Introduction to the Zalman Z9 Gaming Case

Zalman have long been releasing top quality products to the market for some time now. We see that quality in their coolers, cases, as well as other components. We have even seen Zalman come out with their own line of solid state drives. From the looks of it, they are showing no plans on stopping anytime soon either, which we look forwards to their future products.

Although what most of us know Zalman for is their cases, and that is exactly what we will be revealing to you here today: the new Z9 and Z9 Plus. Zalman has decided to announce to the world a new gaming case for the budget minded individuals, as not all of us have the coin to drop on the high end components, yet we are still after something that looks the part. These cases come packing a lot of functionality, and a Z-shaped mesh front that is quite pleasing to the eye.


Specifications

Enclosure Type

ATX Mid Tower

Dimensions

207(W) x 464(H) x 504(D)mm

Weight

7.0kg

Material

Plastic, Steel

Motherboard Compatibility

Standard ATX / m-ATX

Power Supply Compatibility

Standard ATX / ATX12V

VGA Compatibility

Full Size (290mm)

Expansion Slot

7

Drive Bay

External 5.25"

3

Internal 3.5"

5

External 3.5"

1

Internal 2.5"

1

Cooling
Component

Front

120㎜ /140㎜ fan x 1 (120㎜ Blue LED fan x 1 standard)

Top

120㎜ /140㎜ fan x 2 (option)

Bottom

120㎜ /140㎜ fan x 1 (option)

Rear (L)

120㎜ fan x 1 (standard)

Side

120㎜ fan x 2 (option)

Front I/O Ports

Mic x 1, Headphones x 1, USB 2.0 x 4

Color

Black

Features:

  • Front Mesh Cover for High Cooling Performance

   The front mesh bay cover provides cool air into the system while dust filters prevent dust from entering.

  • Supports up to 7 System Fans

   Up to 7 system fans are installed to expel hot air effectively from the case.

  • Supports Bottom PSU Installation and Aperture for Cable Management

   Z9 Plus supports bottom PSU installation and provides an aperture for cable management to make better use of interior space.

  • Black Interior Coating

  The interior of chassis is coated black to provide a sense of unity and elegant design.

  • Tool Free HDD Installation with Anti-Vibration Rubber

  The server-type Tool-Free HDD Mount Trays allow easy HDD installation/removal and maintenance.

  • Spacious Interior for Installing 290mm Card

  The interior has been designed to be spacious for easy installation and maintenance of various components.

  • Front I/O module for Easy Component Change

  Front I/O module enables the location of DVD-ROM and other components to be changed easily according to user preference.

  • Supports 4 USB 2.0

  Front I/O module provides 4 USB 2.0 ports for user convenience and expandability.

  • Supports Front and Rear 120mm Fan

  Two 120mm fans deliver maximum cooling, and 1 Blue LED fan emphasizes cool aesthetics.
     (*One front 120mm Blue LED and 1 rear 120mm White Impeller fan are provided.)

  • Front and Bottom Dust Filters

  Dust filters in the front and bottom mesh covers prevent dust from entering the system and keep the internal components dust-free.

  • Supports Solid State Drive (SSD)

  Space is provided on the back of M/B plate for installing 2.5" HDD/SSD.

  • Separate Apertures for Convenient CPU Cooler Installation

  Separate apertures for CPU cooler are provided for convenient CPU cooler installation without having to remove motherboard from case.

  • 3IN1 Adapter Tray Provided

  3IN1 Adapter Tray is provided for installing FDD / 3.5" HDD / 2.5" HDD/SSD.

  • Tube Apertures for Liquid Cooling Systems

  Tube apertures are provided at the rear of the case for convenient water cooling set-up and maintenance.

 


Closer look at the outside

Zalman's Z9 series consist of two models for now, the Z9 which we will be reviewing today, and the Z9 Plus. Both units are only available in black, with the only real difference between the two models being the Plus has a windowed side panel and a 2-channel fan controller. No power supply option is offered as Zalman leaves it up to the individual to buy whichever power supply best suits their system build.

The front of the Z9 is where you will find three exterior 5.25” bays and one 3.5” bay. There are technically four 5.25" bays if you really needed, but the first one is occupied by the I/O panel. It consists of four USB 2.0 ports, audio jacks, HDD activity light and the reset button. The power button is recessed flush into the top of the case, right above the I/O panel. Below the drive bays you will see how Zalman implemented the ‘Z’ into the front bezel. Even with the ‘Z’ molded into the design the case still has plenty of room for cold air to enter the case through the mesh portion.

The rear of the Z9 has the standard seven expansion slots, bottom mounted power supply and a 120mm cooling fan (included with the case). For the person wanting to use exterior water-cooling components there are two water tubing ports .

The top of the Z9 greets us with the Zalman logo embedded towards the front, and a long strip of mesh covering the remaining area. Under the mesh grill hides the two locations to mount dual 120mm cooling fans or a 240mm radiator.

As we mentioned earlier there are two models of the Z9, one coming with a windowed side panel and one without, as our model is. If you look hard enough you can see a subtle ‘Z’ in the panel, created by the two indentations and slanted mesh area. Additionally the mesh area can support up to 120mm cooling fans if needed. Finally, a small Z9 logo is in the bottom-right corner.

In order to help promote good air circulation Zalman implemented a couple of vented areas in the bottom of the case. The first one is a filter space for a 120/140mm (neither included), and the other location has stamped louvers for power supply ventilation.


Closer look at the inside

With both side panels removed you can get a good look at the cable management offered by the Z9. There are inlets to the back of the 5.25” HDD cages, as well as the whole bottom of the motherboard tray being completely omitted. Zalman also provided the Z9 with an array of loops to fasten zip-ties to the securing of cables. Then there is the obligatory huge cut-out for switching out heatsink backplates.

We already mentioned that the Z9 has three useable 5.25” bays and one 3.5 exterior bay. The 3.5” is actually made possible by an adapter plate fitted inside another 5.25" bay. A total of five hard drives can be mounted inside the case. More on the mounting of hard drives in a bit.

Zalman uses vented expansion covers to aid in air ventilation. But what we did not like about the Z9 was the covers have to be knocked in order to use that slot. Once knocked the cover cannot be reused. In the image below we get a shot of the white-bladed 120mm cooling fan.

Here we get a better image of the bottom of the case where the power supply ventilation occurs, which four raised rubber pads surround the area for the power supply to sit on. Also visible is the air intake mounting location for a 120/140mm fan.

 


Installation

Here we have the power supply mounted inside of the Z9. When using a standard length PSU, the fan location next to it can be populated to suck cool air into the case. The PSU is mounted fan-down to utilize the ventilation underneath. It will also allow for the cables to be up next to the bottom of the motherboard tray for cleaner cable routing behind it.

With the motherboard, cooler and graphics card installed you get an idea of just how much room is left in place. The Z9 is compatible with standard size ATX and mATX motherboards; eATX boards are not supported.

The Z9 is long enough to support video cards up to 290mm longs. As you can see the Radeon HD 5870 had no issues fitting inside this case.

In order to mount a HDD into the Z9 you must first install rubber grommets around metal screws into the HDD. Once fitted the HDD is inserted into any empty HDD slot. In order to remove an installed HDD simply pull these plastic levers towards the inside the case to release the HDD.


Conclusion

The Zalman Z9 is not the case that the extreme gamer or enthusiast would fork out the money for, but one must know this also is not the crowd who the case is aimed at. The person considering the Z9 is budget-minded, looking for a good deal, but yet not giving up on quality.

What is liked about the Z9 is its near tool-less operation for mounting hard drives. Simply installing four screws into the HDD and then inserting it in to the HDD cage is all it take to achieve this. Another feature of the Z9 that cannot be overlooked is the interior. A growing trend we are seeing in a lot of more expensive cases, and now slowing starting to see in lesser priced towers: the painted interior. Another nice bit that Zalman didn't skimp on was the cable routing. You have more than enough room to weave them in and out in order to get them where they are needed, but also plenty of tie points to keep them there.

Zalman includes two fans with the Z9, the rear exhaust and the front intake. But there are five other locations in which to install fans. This is a good feature to have as some cases really need the help of extra air flow to keep everything in good working order.

Keeping in mind that this is a budget gaming case we really can't mark this against it, but the only real flaw we found was the expansion slot inserts. Sure they are vented, but in order to utilize the slot they must be permanently removed. Perhaps the inclusion of at least a couple screw in plates could be added to give the consumer a way to block those slots that had been previously used.

The Z9 does not include a windowed side panel which is very popular these days, but at $65 we really can't complain. If you really want that option all that is required is to fork out another $10 above the Z9's asking price and upgrade to the Z9 Plus. With that you will also get a nice two channel fan controller.

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