IntroductionEstablished in 2004, NZXT is a company whose mission statement is aimed at unique designs and performance so that they can meet and exceed customer's expectations. Their goal is simple, to make products aimed directly at the gamers segment, which will also carry over to enthusiasts and overclockers as well. Based out of the Los Angeles area, NZXT creates some unusual designed enclosures, but also strives toward the high end of the performance spectrum.Enter the Tempest, an enclosure that claims to be the "Airflow King". This is a mighty tall order to fill considering some of the similar products on the market, so we will take a closer look and see if they can live up to this statement. It will take more than just a couple of extra fans to step up to a statement like this, so we will look at overall design, active fans that come in the standard configuration as well as cooling a high-end rig.Can NZXT manage to really be considered an Airflow King? Read on to find out for yourself.
The Tempest from NZXT features a solid black exterior with a steel frame and a plastic front bezel. The front panel is all about ventilation since all bay covers are made from a breathable mesh material. Considering the claim of "Airflow King" noted above, this is a good starting place. NZXT has obviously learned that cooling means more than just adding more fans. The ability to allow air to move will go far in the overall cooling of an enclosure.The overall layout of the Tempest allows for three optical drives, one externally accessible 3.5" drive (at the expense of one of the optical drives), and a total of eight internal 3.5" drives. This allows for a huge amount of flexibility for even the meanest of power systems.
Sitting on top of the enclosure is a raised area where you will find the power and reset buttons as well as the front I/O ports. The power and reset buttons have a similar appearance, but the larger of the two will be for your primary power. The front ports include a pair of USB 2.0 ports, the expected speaker/headphone and mic ports, and a very welcome addition, an eSATA port. This last is becoming more common feature, but not nearly common enough. With SATA becoming the industry standard, the ability to use this bus to connect external devices is huge. Our previous tests have shown data transfer speeds to be basically the same as if the external drive was installed within the system. The ability to access this type of connection without having to resort to a PCI expansion device is nice.
Moving to the side shows a full-sized window. It has a small amount of beveling along the edge to give it a bit of class and also includes a large 120mm fan set into the side panel. This fan works as an intake of cool air and is properly filtered. It isn't the removable fiber-type filter, but the mesh used is tight and will do a good job in collecting most of the gunk that tries to get sucked into the case. A quick swipe with a vacuum cleaner hose and this fan will be clean and ready for action. The fan is also equipped with a blue lighting effect to set off your internal components. If blue is not your color, the sizing is industry standard and any 120mm fan based in this guideline will fit easily.
Moving around to the back of this enclosure shows a pretty standard setup, but a quick look will show that cooling is still on the minds of the folks at NZXT. The power supply is located at the bottom of the back plate and at the top is another 120mm fan that helps with the task of exhausting all that heat being created by your energy-gulping components.Another nice addition is the inclusion of a pair of ports with rubber grommets to accommodate those enthusiasts who make use of an external water cooling solution. The grommets are smaller than some that I have seen, but will handle 1/2" OD tubing with no problems. The grommets have flaps so if you don't use this type of cooling you won't mess up your airflow. I like it when companies are forward thinking with regards to the needs of their consumers.
We don't often continue our tour of the exterior with the top panel, but in this case we really need to. Mounted in the top of this enclosure you will find a pair of 120mm exhaust fans. Since heat naturally rises, this is one of the best ways to get rid of it. There is a mesh covering the two fans to give an appealing look and it kind of reminiscent of some of the Antec products we have seen in the past. It has shown itself to be a very productive method when it comes to keeping your system cool.
Once we get the side panel off we can see what we are dealing with inside the box. The interior is larger than many mid-tower cases we have seen before and this extra room allows it to fit even those large Extended ATX mainboards. This extra space also comes in handy of you happen to be running a couple of monster graphics cards. You will be able to install them with a whole lot less effort than in some smaller enclosures.From this angle you can also see a small problem I ran into; the lack of any ventilation on the bottom of the box. If you are going to use a modified BTX structure and mount the power supply on the bottom of the case, you really need to have some sort of ventilation, especially since a vast majority of the power supplies being manufactured nowadays have a large fan in the bottom of them. But wait, this is where it gets even more strange...
The plate that holds the power supply firmly in place can be set to mount the unit in either an upside down or right side up manner. In the default configuration, this plate is set to allow you to mount the PSU in an upside down orientation. While this addresses the issue of the lack of lower ventilation, it has a serious drawback; it forces the heated air being produced by your high performance components to be drawn through your power supply!Yes, I realize that this is already the case with most power supply installations in use, but why go to the effort of creating a bottom mounted PSU and not following through and letting it draw cool air from outside the case to better optimize cooling? This is an oversight in design, I'm sure, but it should have been addressed on the drawing board.
Getting back to business, above you will see that they layout for the optical drive bays is nicely done. From this angle you can also see that all the bay doors are filtered with a fiber material that does very well in collecting dust and dirt. NZXT appears to have figured out that if air can come into your system, so can dirt. A filter is a very welcome sight for a box with the open construction of the Tempest.You can also see from here that you have a choice of either three optical drives or two opticals and a floppy. While this may seem a limiting factor, I know of very few individuals who actually make use of more than a pair of DVD burners, so it should still suit the needs of most users.Oh, and for those who may be concerned about not having a bunch of drive bays for use with an internal radiator setup, here is another nice feature of this enclosure; the two fans we talked up earlier are already pre-drilled for a dual radiator installation. It is compatible with the Swiftech MCR220, the Asetek Dual and the Thermaltake TMG2.
We have seen this before in the NZXT line and it works very well. The little knobs shown above are the retention mechanism for the optical drives you install. Just a quarter turn and your drive is firmly in place and won't move around on you. While the entire case is not necessarily set up as a "tool-free" solution, this portion of the enclosure certainly is. Installation is a breeze and I have yet to have any issues with this type of retention device.
Moving down the drive tower brings us to a very large and impressive hard drive bay area. There are two separately ventilated boxes that can accommodate four hard drives each. Better yet, the configuration out of the box includes two more 120mm fans, one properly sitting in front of each of these drive boxes. This allows you to have a large amount of active cooling for your hard drives. This means that even if you are running units with very high spindle speeds (and a proportionately high operating temperature), you are going to have no issues with overheating the drives.Installation is also tool free and consists of inserting the pins of the rails into the drive, then sliding it into place until it clicks.
Final ThoughtsWith a total of six 120mm fans in its standard setup, the NZXT Tempest makes claims of being the "Airflow King". All fans are properly configured and half of them are equipped to showcase your system with blue LED lighting. The two front fans and the side have this lighting effect in place. All fans ran quietly and performed very well. On top of this, the two fans mounted to the top panel are also set up to run several of the common dual radiators without having to modify the case. We have the makings of NZXT living up to its claim.Until we get to the task of mounting a high performance power supply. Then we run into a snag where the heat being produced by your components is forced through the PSU. Maybe I missed something, but I always thought one of the primary purposes of a bottom mounted power supply was to allow for better cooling of that component. Given the massive amount of airflow present in this case, this shouldn't have been done in this manner.Beyond this issue, however, the Tempest has a lot of great features that still make it worthy of a look. All areas in which air is expected to make entry into the enclosure are filtered in some manner. Add to this the ability to install large motherboards, larger video cards and eight hard drives and you can still make a very good case for buying this monster. As with most products, there is both good and bad, so you will need to weigh out your needs and see if this enclosure fits the bill. There is an awful lot that is good, and just one major issue that is really bad.As far as pricing is concerned, the Tempest can be found online for about $110US. This falls right into the price range we would expect for a decent mid-tower and a good deal less than many others who make the claim of solid airflow and cooling.So is the NZXT Tempest the Airflow King? Close but no cigar.
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