My last review of a case was a bit on the small side and slightly frustrating when trying to add all the pieces into that puzzle. That's the good thing about what I do, though. Never fear, as something different is just around the corner. This time around, it just so happens to be a full tower case from NZXT; the Zero 2, that is up for discussion.
In the past five years NZXT has started from a fledgling company, into a name that most gamers and enthusiasts recognize. These people are who NZXT strives to please by using ideas of the masses to incorporate better ideas and technologies into their products. Now, NZXT released the Zero in their Crafted series some time ago, but they have stepped it up and tweaked the original proven plan into something hopefully better. I hadn't had the opportunity to review the Zero, as it was released before my joining the team here at TweakTown, but I have looked at the predecessor to what I have for you here today; The Zero 2 Ultimate Cooling Chassis.
Looking at the Zero 2's box makes me want to tear into it and see what she has to offer. NZXT has done a nice job of presentation. The box has a very clear image of the case, which I personally find sleek and sexy. The other thing is the listed specs that are all over the packaging. I'm really interested to see just how NZXT gets all the included fans and the amount of bays inside without interfering with the airflow. This case is badged as the "Ultimate Cooling Chassis", so I am very interested to see how they accomplish this.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The NZXT Zero 2 is an all 1.0mm, steel, full tower chassis construction, with a black plastic front cover. Building off the predecessor, the NZXT Zero, the Zero 2 comes to the market with an all black exterior, versus the aluminum inserts of the Zero. The Zero 2 is an inch longer than the earlier version, stretching the interior room for bigger components. The case comes equipped with three 120mm fans to circulate air throughout the interior. There is room for four additional 120mm fans that can be added to the inside of the case door and also two 80mm fan holes are present, one at the top and one in the bottom. The drive bays are broken up into five 5.25" bays for optical drives, two 3.5" floppy drive bays and six 3.5" bays for hard drives. The rear of this case sports seven expansion slots. This case is solid and weighs in at just over 22 pounds.
The Zero 2 has already been released to the retail market and all the major e-tailers are carrying this case. This makes availability, at this time, a non-issue, as the Zero 2 can be found almost anywhere. One would have to suspect that since I rarely see a NZXT case show up as out of stock, that the same should hold true of the e-tailers stock piles now. So don't worry if this case ends up being for you, you should have no problem getting it to your door, as long as your wallet will allow it.
Speaking of pricing, NZXT made a pact to supply the gaming and enthusiast community with the best case money could buy for under $100. The case can be acquired from Newegg, and spot on the money, it retails for $99.99 USD, but this of course does not include shipping costs. Considering the price tag of the NZXT Zero 2 to be well within the reach of most shoppers, let's get down to brass tacks and see what the Zero 2 has to offer.
As with most cases these days, NZXT has also chosen to go with a black packaging. This does, however, make the blue striping displaying the Zero 2 Crafted Series and the case image really stand out.
This side of the package contains the specifications of the Zero 2 in five different languages. Something to note at the bottom, NZXT has PSU's available to be added from the factory if you choose to buy direct. This sample did not contain an included PSU.
The back of the Zero 2 box, again, displays the specs in a larger font for easier reading. This shows the case again as well, but next to it this time is a brief statement from NZXT.
As you can see,m this side is a repeat of the other side.
Removing the cardboard box reveals a well protected case. With a foam top and bottom protection, this keeps the case away from the sides of the box to keep things safe during its travels. NZXT has also wrapped the Zero 2 in a plastic liner to keep abrasions away from the finishes.
The NZXT Zero 2 Crafted Series Full Tower Case
Here we have the Zero 2 fresh out of the packaging, with the sticker-like plastic coating still protecting the shiny parts of the front cover. This case is black as can be, so please do not take the reflection into account. As that is what is giving the gold coloured hue to the case.
The front of the Zero 2 is a bit different than the Zero. This time NZXT has gone with a shiny black where the aluminum one sat on the Zero, making the Zero 2 much sleeker to look at in my opinion.
The left side of the Zero 2 is covered with a textured, black finish. This side of the case has a vented cover to keep fingers and dust out of the four, 120mm fans that can be placed on the opposing side.
The opposing side is very similar to the other, just this time the lack of venting as the back doesn't allow for fan placement.
Here we get a good look at the rear of the case. NZXT has decided to go with dual, 120mm, exhaust fans and a top mounted PSU. Of course there is the hole to accept the rear I/O plate and a total of seven expansion slots.
NZXT has used the top, front, right corner to add an aluminum sticker with their logo and the series of the case. Nice touch, although the placement and application could have been a little better.
Another look at the top reveals one of the two 80mm fan holes that are in the Zero 2. To the right in the front is where NZXT decided to move the front headers to, versus their lower placement on the original Zero.
A close up of the header that NZXT uses in this case. It contains one eSATA, two audio 3.5mm jacks and two USB 2.0 ports.
The Zero 2 with the front door open shows that NZXT has gone with a modular style lay-out for the inside bay covers. Easily remove what you don't need and leave the rest in place; it's as simple as that. The power button is the odd shaped, aluminum button to the bottom left, while the reset button is hidden at the lower left, behind the door.
Last we have the bottom. This is where the second 80mm fan hole is located and as you can see NZXT has used non marking, black rubber feet to keep the Zero 2 in place.
Inside the NZXT Zero 2
Removing the side panel with the two thumbscrews reveals what NZXT packs along with the Zero 2, as well as our first peek inside it. The hardware packet is on the bottom, next to a piece of paper that is treated to keep oxidation away from the case during its overseas travels. NZXT also takes a bit of extra time to protect all the motherboard headers and front panel headers in a tiny padded sleeve.
Here we get a look at the inside of the rear panel of the Zero 2. Phillips screws release the expansion slot covers, just under the hole to snap in your I/O plate. This is flanked by two included, 120mm fans. There is a couple of inches space above the motherboard before you run into the little tab that helps support the underside of the PSU.
With the wiring out of the way, it is easier to view the drive bay set-up of the Zero 2. The third included fan is in the front of the hard drive rack. It is placed there to intake cool air from the bottom and blow across the hard drive to cool it, before it enters the case.
This view is to help me explain the set-up of the bays. The punched holes act as guides for the screw-less rail concept. I will get to that hardware in a bit.
Next to these bays in the floor, NZXT adds a dust filter that can easily be removed to mount a fan for added circulation.
With the rear door removed you can see that the Zero 2 is pretty basic in design here. I would have liked to have seen a bit of wire management help in the motherboard tray, but you can't have everything for under $100.
This is a close-up of the PCB that holds connections between the outside of the case and to your motherboard. Two things I like about this. It isn't taking up room inside the top optical drive, which is the normal issue I run into. The second reason, if you choose not to use the front panel connections, they can be removed all together to reduce wire clutter.
Inside the NZXT Zero 2 - Continued
Here we have the opposing ends of the front panel connections. From the left is the USB connection then to the AC97 and HD audio connectors. Down to the reset, power, HDD activity, and LED power connections. That leaves the SATA wire and an additional molex power connector.
Opening the front door and removing all the panel covers reveals that the front of the case does in fact have to be removed to get to the bay's metal covers.
Removing the front of the case is relatively easy. It has pressure released clips, three on each side, that hold the front to the case. The two silvery round things to the top right side are magnets to keep the front door securely shut.
Flipping the front over and looking at the bottom, you can see NZXT changed the old plastic bottom vent for a steel mesh version in the Zero 2. This is where the HDD fan gets its intake of fresh cool air. Surrounding this mesh at the top is a LED lit "chevron" that is powered by the molex connector.
Flipping around to see the front of the case without the cover shows the fan I was discussing and the added dustcover. Just above the fan on the right are two holes that are made to get the wiring from the front to the motherboard.
Here we get a good look at the door and the grill that covers the holes for four 120mm fans. The edges are plastic and contain the same mesh found in the front of the Zero 2.
The inside of the door gives you a much better idea of how all this mounting gets done. Just remove the grill screws that you can see here and install the fans as usual. When they are all installed and ready to go, re-attach the grill and you are ready to wire them up.
Accessories and Hardware
NZXT includes hardware to make life simple for the end-user. There are 12 screw-less rails for the hard drives bundled to the left. At the top in the middle are the ten optical drive screw-less rails and below that are four rails for the floppy drives. They also include the four PSU screws, nine motherboard risers and the matching screws, and screws for the optical drives if needed, all packaged in handy baggies. In the bottom corner is sixteen, self tapping, fan screws and four black, short fan screws for use in the top or bottom fan. NZXT also includes a sticker that can be applied to hold the tie strap to the back of the case to tidy things up.
The last thing left is the instruction manual. This manual is very easy to follow all the way through the build. NZXT provides good clear images and well written text to allow a pleasurable building experience. I have to say these are actually some of the better written case instructions I have read in quite some time.
This is the hardware I had laying around to use for the build. I'm using an ATX, Foxconn X38A to give good perspective on roominess, IDE drives to see about the layout possibilities and of course four sticks of G.Skill RAM. There isn't a graphics card pictured as I wasn't too sure which cards would fit in the Zero 2.
After installing the risers in the appropriate spots, I mounted the motherboard and got a shot to allow you to get perspective of the roominess inside the Zero 2. I have to assume this is where the extra inch of case comes into play.
Moving on to installing the optical drive brings us to removing the steel plates that cover and block the bays. This design allows you to stick a screwdriver in a hole and push up and it will start to bend and twist. Bend them back and forth until the two little bits of steel give way. Rinse and repeat for whatever bays you want opened.
Making sure to grab the appropriate rail for the ODD, you just press them into place. They hold really well as they are designed. In my use of them I found no need to use the supplied screws versus the pins that are already in place.
From there you just slide the rails into the grooves and keep pushing till it clicks into a locked position.
It's the same scenario with the hard drive as well. Just press the rails into place on either side.
Just as simple as installing the optical drive, pick a slot and slide in the drive till you hear a click. Releasing these drives is as simple as pushing both tabs inward and pulling the drive out.
NZXT adds a nice feature to the rear rail of the case. They have punched holes in line with the seven expansion slot screws. Another addition to add to the simplicity of the build, and I appreciated the thought. I really dislike screwing my graphics cards in with the screws going in at an angle.
I was able to install the PSU and get the wiring tidy in a very limited amount of time. You can also see that I was able to get my 9800GTX+ inside of the Zero 2. It takes a bit of finesse to get it in correctly, but it does none the less fit.
The one shortfall that I found that I feel needed addressed was the overall length of the front panel audio wire. I could make it to the correct header on my motherboard, but it looks out of place running diagonal across the board and behind my graphics card. Just two more inches of this cable would allow for a much cleaner look.
Fit and Finish
With everything installed and the door back in place, you get another look at the Zero 2 just before I add some juice to power it up. Notice the mesh grill does allow you to still see rather well into the case.
Spinning it fully to look directly inside at the hardware, you can see even with no interior lighting, the internals are clearly visible. Fans will block a bit of this, but during operation you will still have a view inside.
I opened the front door to show a bit of what the inside looks like all back together.
Testing out the optical drives functionality and also showing that the door gets way out of the way, this should cause no issues when the draw is functioning.
Here we have a completed look at the rear of the case with all the components in place. Nothing out of the ordinary to discuss here; everything fit and went easily into position.
Adding power shows off the NZXT Zero 2's flash. As I alluded to earlier, this is the molex powered LED that surrounds the front intake. To the top left is an LED that outlines the power switch, so it is easy to find in low lit rooms.
Here we are looking at the Zero 2 from the top down. You can see that the door is centered with a blue led line running down it. Just below that is the green HDD activity light.
One last look at the Zero 2 as we take a step back to absorb this case in action.
To be completely honest here, I didn't really look into the Zero 2 in depth previously to opening the box to try to keep my thoughts untainted by others views on it. Looking at this case and absorbing what NZXT had done to the Zero 2, I was overall impressed with what they packed inside. With everything considered with the way this build went together, I have to give NZXT credit for making it a simple and pleasurable experience while building the Zero 2.
I can't really say there was anything that was disfunctional or anything that may cause real issues, but there are a few drawbacks that I need to point out. Using IDE drives, both for HDD and ODD just isn't going to work too well inside the Zero 2. I know most users have all-SATA drives these days, but a few budget minded gamers may need to take that into account. Wire management is minimal at best and the Zero 2 doesn't allow a lot of options as to where to run the wires. Not a huge issue as the wiring still can tuck in the corner and be mostly out of the way. Lastly, is the length of the front audio cable; I know I'm being picky, but I don't like to stretch wires to make them connect.
Even with the limited issues, I have to take all things into consideration. The NZXT Zero 2 gives the gamer a roomy case, with a lot of added flash and features that most cases in the price range don't even attempt to offer. This may sound harsh, but I don't believe this to be the "ultimate" in cooling either. The front fan is mostly blocked by the hard drive bays and the minimal holes that it has. Even with the addition of two 80mm fans to the top and bottom, I still cannot call it "ultimate". While I was critical of these four things, I can overlook them based on the $99.99 asking price at Newegg and I have to say NZXT does do a good job of giving you the best bang money can buy at that level. I personally enjoyed the build and I liked the completely screw-less rail design, that makes it that much easier to build and to swap out parts later. If you have an eye for this case and a budget in mind, I will say I would recommend you take a good look at the NZXT Zero 2.
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