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Zalman Z11 Neo ATX Case Review

With more radiator space and a more-modern design, does Zalman’s Z11 Neo have the combination of cool and quiet to get our stamp of approval?

Exterior

The Z11 Neo doesn’t look like a groundbreaking design, though it is stylized quite a bit more than most other $85 “enthusiast” cases. Some of that style comes from hiding its second and third 5.25” bays behind a closed panel, and putting a slide-down cover over the upper bay, to mimic the look of modern feature-free designs without mimicking their impracticality.

Top-mounted front-panel ports also help to clean up the face panel, and Zalman even places a tray between those ports for holding your cell phone (or whatever other small device requires charging). This is an obvious nod to those who place their system under their desks, though we always recommend keeping the system above the floor to reduce dust accumulation.

Zalman understands that most buyers find top-panel ports extremely practical, though some readers would rather hide them under a dust cover. Its combination of two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports also matches the configuration of most mid-priced motherboards, though we’re sure someone will scream about the legacy nature of USB 2.0. Putting aside the notions of people who would negate practicality rather than tolerate legacy, the only thing that isn’t practical about the top panel port section is the non-scratch-resistant finish of the tray. Builds that must survive an extremely dusty environment could potentially use the hidden 5.25” bay for a port panel.

Speaking of dust, the front panel snaps away to reveal an easily removable dust filter. A single LED-lighted fan is installed in the lower of two 120mm mounts.

Two more filters cover the power supply inlet and an optional 120mm bottom fan mount, though these aren’t as easily serviced as the front-panel fan. Another option, installing the power supply “upside-down” to draw air from inside the case through the front filter allows users to ignore the bottom filters, though a second intake fan might be useful in that configuration. Even though that workaround exists, we can’t come up with a reason why Zalman didn’t specify a slide-out filter to cover both bottom-panel inlets.

The back of the Z11 Neo features a single 120mm exhaust fan, seven expansion slots, and two pass-through holes (with grommets). An eighth slot isn’t available, but would have been required to allow a thick graphics card to fit an ATX motherboard’s bottom slot.

A second LED-lighted 120mm exhaust fan is mounted in the top panel beneath translucent smoke-colored louvers.

A true mid-tower with an extended top panel to support thick radiators, with a full measurement of width (including the protruding side window and fan housings), adds 2.4 inches to the manufacturer-specified 8-inch width. Buyers who bought this case to fit within their 10”-wide cabinet would surely be disappointed.

  • Alexandru Tudor Sarbu
    I have one and it's awesome! :D
    Reply
  • danlw
    I would be interested to see it up against the Fractal Design R5. That's the case I'm planning to get, but I can be swayed.

    But really, Zalman? Break away slot covers? You came so close to knocking it out of the park...
    Reply
  • Steveymoo
    So, 6 months before all your components get covered in dust? :D
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15895020 said:
    So, 6 months before all your components get covered in dust? :D
    Put in another intake fan if you want positive pressure to trap most of your dust in the front filter :)

    Reply
  • King Kii
    I would be interested to see it up against the Fractal Design R5. That's the case I'm planning to get, but I can be swayed.

    But really, Zalman? Break away slot covers? You came so close to knocking it out of the park...

    go for the Fractal. Fractal's build, material quality, and thoughtfulness is very hard to beat. you definitely get what you pay for when it comes to their stuff.
    Reply
  • PaulBags
    Those hard drive mounts look like corsair rip offs.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    15900142 said:
    Those hard drive mounts look like corsair rip offs.
    Nearly every time I see a statement like that, I'm able to find a previous product from a third brand to contradict it. Many of these ideas come from the ODM itself, rather than the brand that has the product customized to match its market.
    Reply
  • Eggz
    Great performance, a little ugly.

    But if you like the way it looks, then it seems like a great deal!
    Reply