While Zalman certainly didn’t break from tradition with the actual shape of their product, it’s the surface that grabs your attention. In stark contrast to the black surface, this case proudly displays the emblem of its maker and namesake all over in white lettering. They really put their all into making sure you know exactly whom and where this unit comes from.
|Length||19" / 483 mm|
|Width||8.75" / 222 mm|
|Height||17.5" / 445 mm|
|3.5" Bays||4 (3 internal 1 external)|
|Front||2x 92 mm (included)|
|Back||1x 120 mm (included)|
|Additional I/O Ports|
|IEEE 1394||1x front|
If you can drag your eyes away from the branding, you begin to get the sense that there’s more to the case than its name. Indeed, it boasts a very silent cooling solution, which is barely a whisper. Here, Zalman relies on only three fans total and does not even provide additional brackets for more fans. There’s no exhaust through the top or an additional fan on the side. Instead, it relies on the ability of anodized aluminum to passively dissipate heat.
As the heaviest of the bunch by a good margin, the construction of this case is as well done as the others, and possibly even nearly as sturdy as the NZXT. We decided against abusing it to find out though, since Zalman has made no claims about just how rugged their product is. While you probably shouldn’t be jumping up and down on this tower, it very likely will survive travel with great ease.
Even the hard drives are secured and ready for travel. Loaded into bays by smooth, rubber padded rollers, any hard drive installed has zero wiggle room and is padded by the rubber, as well as a foam backing, which should help to eliminate a lot of the shock that could damage a disk when the PC is being moved.
Surprisingly, the left side panel doesn’t actually come off. Firmly anchored in place, it swings out a good 110 degrees or so and is sufficiently wide to open it up and tinker with what’s inside. The right side, however, does come off in two pieces if so desired. Usually, the only reason to access the right side of the computer is to access screws used in securing optical and hard disk drives. To facilitate this, Zalman made it possible to take off just the front section, giving you access to everything you require and nothing you don’t need.
As far as drawbacks go, not counting an over abundant use of logos and labels, the biggest hindrance with this case is the lack of space. There are only three bays for hard drives with shock absorbency features. A fourth can be installed by sacrificing an internal floppy drive, or you can use some of the 5.25" bays, but the number of options remains limited. Still, this may not be an issue to those hell bent on maximum speed instead of storage capacity.
Without looking at price points, it’s nearly impossible to look at four random cases, designed with different applications in mind, and then say which the best purchase is. As always, user preference will play heavily in the decision making process.
Antec came through with a case that is sure to attract hard core air cooling fans, as well as those that feel perhaps that a standard case looks a little too boring. Zalman put together a beast of a case that will protect your system when you lug it to a LAN while show off its sleek design. Silverstone has given us another functional case that should accommodate speed or storage capacity, even if it’s not as small as some may want. NZXT, in the mean time, has given us something that is likely to outlast any system, even through car crashes, earthquakes or possibly a tumble from a rooftop.
Bigger isn’t always better, but it was the Silverstone TJ09, the largest of the group, that gained my favor. The benefits of a roomy interior, classy design and features that make component installation simple outweigh the drawbacks of how the case may not fit underneath your desk.