Joining the team at TweakTown led me to have to do some traveling with my Antec 900 and the water cooling I had with it as well. With the Antec I saw no nice way to add the radiator inside, so I made legs and let the radiator sit about two inches off the top of the case. Let me tell you, it sure wasn't built to deal with moving all too well at all. Since those travels to Chris' house for many long discussions inspired by Bawls energy drinks, and most of my training, I have been searching for a tank of a case that could accommodate my needs. So in my pursuit, I wait with air cooling strapped to my E8600 and hope something comes across my desk that can fill the void.
Portability being my biggest concern, leads me to want to get a mid tower chassis that is light, yet strong, has a good layout and has the option for a completely internal water loop. Since this would also be my work rig that would reside in this, I feel airflow inside the case that can keep Northbridge and Mosfet coolers working well is a must, as I torture my hardware a lot. My final concern would be easy of installation; doesn't have to be screw-less, just easy to work with. With those three things in mind, NZXT has passed a case my way that seems to answer most of my requirements.
Today we take a look at the Panzerbox from NZXT. Unlike my last case from NZXT, the Zero 2 steel and plastic full tower, this time I am greeted with reviewing this all aluminum mid tower that is sleek and compact in appearance and boasts quite a good amount of airflow. The Panzerbox even addresses the issue of an internal loop for water cooling as an optional way to assemble this chassis. Now that I went and got my hopes up in the clouds, I think it is due time to get some images and see what NZXT has to offer with the Panzerbox.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
NZXT has built the Panzerbox completely of aluminum. During the process of assembly, all connections made to other pieces inside the case get welded together versus the standard rivets I am used to seeing. The Panzerbox measures up almost square, if not for the slight angle of the front top section. NZXT says the case is 244mm wide, or about 9.5" wide, and both the front to back and top to bottom measurements come in at 455mm or just under 18" tall or deep. The Panzerbox includes room for up to three 5.25" drives, all of which are external, nd can support up to four 3.5" Internal drives in two separate locations. Even as I lifted the Panzerbox off my porch, I realized this case was really light compared to most of the cases I have reviewed recently. NZXT ships the Panzerbox with an empty weight of 6.3 kilograms, or just under 14 pounds for those still on the Imperial system. With all this compact design and superior cooling, it can all be put to good use and still accept 10.5" graphics cards. Talk about the basic beginnings of a LAN sleeper rig!
The Cooling of the NZXT Panzerbox boasts over 300 CFM of airflow with just the top and front fans being added into that figure. Both the top fan and the front panel intake fans are 190mm each and both are rated to 150 CFM. All this wind power is accomplished with a relatively slow 100 RPM, which should help battle the roar I was accustomed to in my Antec 900. NZXT also supplies a 120mm rear exhaust fan, but does not sell them separately to check, nor do they provide any information for this fan. Going on a basic guess I would say it's about 80 CFM by feel, which makes this case a lot closer to 400 CFM of air circulation.
Availability at this time is still zero. The release to retailers was projected for late April. Well here we are and it still isn't on any shelves, last I checked. I can only assume these cases are in transit to your local retailers and hopefully to Newegg as well. As with other cases from NZXT, once they hit shelves stock is usually plentiful. I see no issues getting a Panzerbox from NZXT once they are ready to sell.
Pricing, last I saw, was projected in the $120 price range. At this price point there is pretty stiff competition in mid towers, as well as a select few full tower chassis'. For instance, the Cooler Master Storm Scout and HAF cases, Antec 900, Lian Li PC-60 series, as well as many other quality cases already have a strong foothold in this segment. While the Panzerbox takes concepts of a lot of other cases and rolls them all into one complete package, let's see if NZXT deserves the price that these other accomplished competitors are commanding.
NZXT sets its market with "LAN ready" followed by five good reasons that the Panzer box is just that. I'd like to thank UPS for covering the product at the top left, but still allowing me to see the frontal image near the bottom.
Looking at the side of the Panzerbox packaging shows NZXT has displayed the specifications against a light blue background in four different languages.
The rear of the package is similar to the front. But this time we do get to peek at the profile of the Panzerbox a bit. The upper right is where NZXT lists the features of this case.
Spinning the box around, once more, shows that NZXT again lists the specs in the same four languages.
Cutting the tape along the top and peeling the flaps back reveal s that NZXT sticks to the Styrofoam top and bottom protective ends. They do a good job of securing and centering the case during shipping. Just in case there is anything loose inside the box, NZXT wraps the case to aid against abrasion, and keep the case weatherproof during transit.
The NZXT Panzerbox Aluminum Mid Tower Case
Unwrapping the Panzerbox shows that they have sent a very well ventilated, monochromatic, sleek chassis for me to take a look at. The all black look is appealing, and the stepped edging works well to hide the full side panel's edge.
Getting a better look at the front gives you a peak at the 190mm fan behind the mesh that covers the bottom 2/3 of the face panel. The mesh is broken up by the aluminium panel that supports the three optical drives. Left of the bays is where NZXT has decided to place the small but functional power and reset switches.
Moving up, above the drive bays, NZXT continues this mesh, and uses it as the top panel as well. This time the mesh is molded for structure and is cut out in the front to accept the front I/O panel.
Zooming in on the front I/O panel shows what NZXT includes. There are two USB 2.0 ports, microphone and headphone 3.5mm jacks, and one E-SATA port to finish off the panels functionality.
Spinning the Panzerbox to the left, shows the textured all black panel, than NZXT has ventilates at the bottom and covers with the same mesh from the front and top parts of the case.
At this point with all the black going on, it's a little tough to distinguish everything. Starting at the top, NZXT has included holes and grommets to allow the passing of up to " tubing. Below these holes is the 120mm exhaust fan that sits to the right of the rear I/O panel. At the bottom you can see the seven ventilated expansion slots. What is a bit strange, is next to those slots, is where the PSU gets installed, in a side down position.
Spinning the Panzerbox around to the back side shows that it mimics the opposing side. One thing to add is that these panels are full coverage, and leave no real signs of where they start or end, the edges run cleanly along the built in stepped edging of the face and top.
Laying the Pazerbox on its back gives us a good look at the bottom of the case. The rubber feet that are included are large in surface area, but low in profile, leaving the Panzerbox with a lowered look. One other thing to point out was how easy this case absorbs hand oil. I left the bottom as-is to show what it could all eventually look like completed, if you don't have a rag handy to wipe away all the prints left behind.
Inside the NZXT Panzerbox Aluminum Mid Tower Case
Since I had to remove the side panel to gain access to the inside which you are about to see, I figured I would flip it around and show what they looked like from the back side. The rails and supports are spot welded to the inside of the door. The mesh isn't very easily removed for cleaning, as you can see they have bent tabs from the case opening through the mesh and folded them flat to secure the mash into place. The rear panel is a mirror copy of this.
Once the door is removed we get a good look at the black inside of the Panzerbox. With everything all strapped, up as it was shipped from the factory, you really can't see much past the obvious, PSU supports, two big fans, and hanging drive bays.
Looking out through the rear of the case helps to discern all the parts that were so tough to see against all the black innards of the Panzerbox. Also you can see that the rear exhaust 120mm fan has both 3-pin and 4-pin options for powering.
Here we have a close up image of said PSU support brackets. One attached to the rear of the case and another attached to the floor to keep the PSU in line with the sideways mounting required for the Panzerbox. I would have liked to have seen some sort of anti-vibration pads or tape here, not only to keep things quiet, but to help keep the brackets and PSU from scratching each other.
In the front, NZXT has zip tied all the hardware to the drive cages, which I am just about to remove so I can get a better look at that 190mm intake fan. Notice they bundle all the wires inside the 5.25" bays to keep things tidy as well.
While I was here I decided to get some close up images of the rear of the power switch leads and activity lighting. These are good and secure, but honestly I would have liked them placed on the other side, just simply to hide the wiring, but I am a stickler for wire management.
Taking the bundle of wires and getting them ready to get an image, I thought I'd stop and show you the Included PCB for the front I/O panel. If you should choose to not use the panel, these wires can be completely removed to reduce clutter.
The lengths of wiring from the front, as you can see, are long enough to reach to the appropriate headers on any motherboard.
Inside the NZXT Panzerbox Aluminum Mid Tower Case - Continued
Looking a little closer to see what is actually going to be connected, you can see NZXT includes all the basics. From the left to right, there are the HD and AC' 97 audio, followed by the USB 2.0, and E-SATA connections. As far as the switches and lighting goes, there is a power, reset, HDD LED, and power LED connections to deal with there.
Getting all the wiring and the hardware box out of the way gives you a much better look at the interior of the Panzerbox. There are the three 5.25" bays, with two 3.5" bays welded to the top part of the assembly. While thumb screwed to the rear support rail is a second rack to hold two more 3.5" drives at the floor if needed. You can also now tell that the motherboard tray is stamped for easy placement of the risers for your specific form factor. Overall, NZXT has left a very open layout to maximize the flow of the top and front fans.
Oh did I forget to mention that stamped motherboard tray is removable? Just remove five thumb screws from the rear of the case, and give it a gentle pull. The tray slides easily with no hidden surprises while removing it. One thing to watch out for, make sure you are careful with the fans wiring, it likes to grab onto the inside of the case when you pull out the tray.
Here we have the removable motherboard tray completely removed. This piece, while only really bent in the corner for any sort of structure, isn't as flimsy as I would have expected, in fact it is quite rigid,
With the motherboard tray removed I thought I'd get a look inside the front of the case. You can get a much better view here of just how well the 190mm fan covers most of the area below the drive bays, and still offers cooling for the HDD's as well. On the floor to the left is the space NZXT has utilized to add an optional 3.5 drive, two bay bracket. The thumb screw at the top, once removed, allows for complete removal for installation or just to get it out of the way.
Getting a lot closer to the optional drive bay, shows it is isolated with rubber grommets to keep HDD vibration silent inside the Panzerbox. Once the thumb screw is removed, there is a key way that you loft the bracket till you align the bigger hole with the grommets, and it lifts right out..
I wanted to lay the case down and get a good look at the inside of the top of the Panzerbox. Reasoning behind this, is that NZXT has mounted a 190mm fan to the brackets already mounted to the case. However, they also send brackets that you will see in a bit, that can be used in this area to internally mount a radiator as seen here and here. Lastly this and the front fan are both powered by 3-pin motherboard fan header style plugs. If you motherboard doesn't support two or three extra fan headers, make sure you have the right adapters.
Accessories and Documentation
As you could see earlier, strapped tightly inside for shipping, was the instructional guide slash pin-out guide and hardware box. The instructions are worded well, but to be honest the images are a bit lacking. While you can get the general idea of what they are showing the images are way to dark to do any real good. Then again, this is just a case, and making it work right can be done with trial and error, and a good motherboard manual.
Opening the hardware box I was greeted with a bunch of baggies loaded with various screws and hardware. At the very bottom was a big bag containing the two mounting brackets that are used to replace if you remove the top exhaust fan and opt to install a radiator instead. To the left of these brackets is a set of sixteen black thumbscrews to use as you see fit. I used four for my PSU and others for mounting the optical drive as well. To the right, at the top, is four regular hex and Phillip's head screws for the PSU installation. Below those are six, yes only six, risers followed by the corresponding motherboard screws. At the bottom are four more screws to use in the HDD's.
While not exactly included hardware, I didn't see any other place more fitting to show this off. I was really surprised to find very rigid, thick, metal, 5.25" external drive covers. These covers are held in with two thumb screws on either side, adding structural support to the mostly mesh front panel.
Again, not traditional in the sense of hardware, but I thought a closer look outside of the case would better serve to explain what I meant on removing this via the key way. A little hard to see, but at the back of these bays is a rubber bumper to rest the end of the drive on, keeping the drives from chafing against the back.
As I mentioned, there are only six risers supplied in the Panzerbox, at least in mine. This leads to a bit of an issue. The case claims ATX support, and I can see the holes are drilled and threaded for ATX, but with only six risers they leave me wondering why.
Anyways, on with the show! Even with only the six risers in place I continued on with the build. Here we have the motherboard all ready to be slid into place inside the Panzerbox. While the heatpipes on my passive video card wouldn't allow tray to install, I added it just to complete the look.
I wanted to give potential buyers a good look at just how much room there is to pre-install your cooler to the motherboard, then install the unit onto the tray. My measurement shows just over 6/5" from the PCB surface, not the top of the IHS. Six inches of room is fair enough to get most tower coolers in place and still allow clearance to install it as one piece.
Installed the optical and HDD, now to slide in the tray, and start getting things wired up and ready to go. I did run into an issue with my choice of slots, which I will show why and address in a few images.
Sliding the motherboard tray back into place is a breeze, especially with a stock cooler in place. Just line up the top and bottom tracks and gently push inward. Don't forget to tuck that fan wire before you get the tray all the way in.
Once the tray is all the way in, just screw in the five, plastic coated thumb screws to lock it into place.
Here is the issue I ran into. No that isn't a full view of the 24-pin power plug it is the reflection of half of the plug on the back of the DVD drive. With a full ATX board, this is something that needs to be considered when building inside the Panzerbox. This situation was easily remedied but raising both drives one slot, then they will flank the 24-pin above and below it.
I took a step back to show just how well everything goes together once you get past the small setbacks, that weren't accounted for. I did a bit of basic wire management, and as you can see the drives are now moved to allow access to the 24-pin socket. I didn't like the front power wires running across this side, and as you can see they did make it over the top of the cage and still were long enough to be connected on my ATX motherboard.
You can see the Panzerbox doesn't offer anything in the way of wire ties or specific spots to tie wires to. This doesn't really cause any issues, though, as a few zip ties here and there work wonders for keeping the wires tamed and out of the way of the airflow.
Here we have the last of the build shots. The power supply eventually gets mounted right in front of the graphics card. The instructions show that the PSU should be installed fan in, I'm guessing to help draw heat off of the card and utilize the PSU as another exhaust fan for the case. I chose to flip it this way for two reasons. One, being the wires are closer to the floor for display purposes. There isn't much to do to hide all these wires, you can tuck them behind the PSU on the floor and even a few can slide underneath it, but I chose to just lay them in the open. I have good reasons for leaving them lay there. First, no rat's nets of wires behind the PSU and two, they are out of the way of the airflow and with a full panel door, who is going to see them?
Fit and Finish
Fit and finish on the Panzerbox is very clean and true. The side panels align cleanly against the edge molding, as you can see, the doors run smoothly down both sides. I just need to get the power cord and boot the Panzerbox and asses the airflow a bit.
Spinning the Panzerbox to the right to show off the side, notice the PSU fan aligns nicely with the venting added to the door. As I said it wasn't designed with this in mind as the instructions show it should be installed fan in, but it is a nice bonus that it works out this way.
One last look at the rear of the Panzerbox! This time with the PSU installed and everything ready for powering up, aside from that blasted rear I/O shield that is still alluding me.
She's alive! Looking through the side door venting to verify the PSU turning on and it is, as you can see by the blue glow inside. I'm sure NZXT means well with this side vent, but if it is not in place to allow air to the PSU, as it is instructed to be installed in the opposing direction. Why have it back so far? The power supply blocks over half of the vent. It could be of more use closer to the front of the door in my opinion.
As you can see, even with the lighting, NZXT has gone basic and sleek. Just under the power and reset buttons are the only lighting provided in the Panzerbox. The green is for HDD activity and the blue LED is the power indicator, though I'm pretty sure you would be able to tell this case is running without the use of the light (more on that reasoning in the conclusion).
I found my short time with the Panzerbox to be enjoyable. The case is solid, yet very open and easy to use. I had no real issues assembling anything, or installing all the components. While I know I didn't install any monster heatsinks to see if they would slide in, I have to add I did lay a couple on the HIS and there is plenty of room for most of the coolers in the 120mm category. Don't let me mislead you in any way here, my Thor's Hammer or a V-10 is not going to happen prior to the tray being inside the case. Even with an unusual power supply mounting position, I still felt with all that equipment inside the Panzerbox, it has room for the optional radiator to be placed in the top and still have plenty of room to house a reservoir and pump. Allowing the removal of the bottom dual drive bays just adds more real estate to utilize with water if you don't need to house drives there.
I jokingly addressed the fact that once the case was on, you really don't need the power indicator light to remind you that the Panzerbox is still running. Housing two, 190mm 150 CFM fans, the case has a bit of a roar to it. While not as bad as my Antec 900 was for sound levels in use, it is still very noticeable to a guy whose case now is only as loud as my NVIDIA fan running at 40% idle speed. While the Panzerbox was running I did notice a bit of a issue in the CFM they claim to achieve. While the fans in open air may well be able to push 150CFM, once placed behind the small holed mesh cover the fans aren't pushing that anymore. Waving my hand around above the top exhaust, I was a bit surprised to feel that there is very little flow that actually passes through. Lighting a flame in front of the intake fan leads to similar results. I was within an inch of the intake fan with a lit lighter and the flame was bent over to the side, but I would have guessed if it was drawing 150 CFM I wouldn't be able to hold a flame burning in that.
My complaint list is very short with the Panzerbox. While I liked the overall package, I was disappointed to see only six risers and motherboard screws included. Not that I couldn't use some that I have lying around the house, but if you claim to support ATX with a minimum of nine screw holes, you should send nine risers and screws. Secondly are the power switches and wires. I don't mind that they are on the open side so much, but they could have added a bit more length to accommodate running the wires somewhere other than right across the front. I know that if I installed my Blood Iron, these wires wouldn't react to the connections with the wire going over the top to hide it a bit. My last issue is with the rated CFM of the fans. With a rating like 300 CFM combined inside the Panzerbox, I would expect the airflow to be greater than what is actually achieved once paired with the restrictive mesh.
These issues I have named are both personal opinion and things that can be overlooked or modded to remedy the situation. Back when I got the Antec900 I remember paying just over $150 to get it from a local box store. Taking that with what I feel is a better layout inside the Panzerbox, I wish NZXT had released this when I was looking for that. I really like the option for the addition of a radiator and room for the accompanying parts. First and foremost I like the sleek, black, sexy lines that the Panzerbox offers and I think the way the doors align is pretty "trick" as well. With NZXT asking a projected price of $120, you can get yourself one hell of a "sleeper" LAN box with room and options for everything you could want to do inside the Panzerbox, within reason. This solid, compact all aluminum case has made quite the impression in my mind. It just very well may make it into my personal circulation as a rig to travel with, versus toting my Raven over to Chris' house.
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