NZXT H500i Mid-Tower Chassis Review

NZXT H500i Mid-Tower Chassis Review

NZXT's H500i is an aesthetic case that has an equal amount of good features that back up its sleek visual design.

| Jul 17, 2019 at 10:00 am CDT
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: NZXT

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

NZXT is one of those case manufacturers that seems relatively new but in reality, has been around for about 15 years at this point. The way NZXT seems to maintain this feel of a younger brand is by keeping a fresh appeal and making modern style designs that not only are functional but chic. The H500i is one such case which has a modern simple yet elegant or chic styling, but, is that enough to make it a good case?

VIEW GALLERY - 32 IMAGES

The H500i being part of the now-iconic H series of cases has been denoted by a flat empty slate front favoring a smooth, clean aesthetic over visible open ventilation, RGB or other details which may take away from the H series ability to blend into its surroundings.

One of the significant changes or improvements for the 'i' version of the H500 chassis is the inclusion of a CAM compatible lighting control and integrated controllable RGB strip. Other cool features includes a removable mounting tray in the front to make AIO installation painless. Add to this a cable management guide system on the rear which we will look at soon that to me added some great functionality to the H500i.

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The Chassis we are looking at is the NZXT H500i and has a MPN of CA-H500W-B1. The B1 moniker designates the color of the chassis which we have is black. There are multiple options of colors, this one which is solid black, the black option like we have today also comes with two different color themes internally with the vertical cable management bar being available in blue or red. Lastly, there is a white option which clads the exterior in white and the vertical cable management bar being white as well, with the rest of the interior staying with the black steel finish. The H500i comes in at 460mm tall, 210mm wide and 428mm deep. This places it well within what is normally considered a mid-tower chassis.

The H500i is designed to fit up to an ATX board with of course mATX and mITX support as well. HDD is shown as 2.5" being 2+1 while 3.5" is also showing 2+1. This is made possible by a bottom-mounted HDD tray which is below the PSU tray and allows for not just two HDD inside it, but one can be mounted on top of the cage for the +1. The 2.5" HDD/SSD fitment has dual easily removable trays on the PSU shroud which we will look at soon. Power supply support is not actually listed, and from what we have seen of images the drive cage is far enough forward it should not pose any issues, but we will find out during the build.

Cooling fitment is a bit limited on the H500i series as the top has a single fan mount and would not really be suitable for a radiator mount. This means we are limited to dual 140mm or dual 120mm radiators in the front while a single 120 will fit in the rear. The same applies to fan fitment, but it does come with dual 120mm AER model fans preinstalled in the top and rear. Max CPU cooler height is 165mm, which means it should fit most air coolers on the market with no issue. The front mounting and removable tray means that the radiator or AIO installation should be much easier but also has plenty of clearance to fit pretty much any thickness cooling in the front.

The NZXT comes to market at $92.99 from Amazon at the time of writing, and it has some stiff competition. Cases such as the Lian Li Lancool One Digital which we looked at recently, several Cooler Master Masterbox series cases and a slew of corsair, phanteks, Fractal Design and several other cases all looking for the same space in the market. Now its time to see if the H500i has what it takes to gain a recommendation for your hard-earned dollars.

Shannon's Chassis Test System Specifications

Packaging

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The main side of the box is quite clean with only the product name, mid-tower designation, and a warning that tempered glass is fragile. And of course, it is worth noting the large pic of the case with an installed system in place.

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The first side shot of the box starts with another case name and size notation. Next below that is a rundown of the CAM software since the 'i' series of chassis from NZXT have a CAM powered smart device for controlling fans and internal lighting. Then below that, it rounds up in two feature notations, one being the clean interior, and the other being the cable management channels. Lastly is the EAN/UPC/SN and color notation via a rectangle swath.

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The rear of the box is clean again this time carrying the H500i name and the mid-tower designator. Then we get a close up of the white version of the H500i body with the I/O in view. This is a very chich way of designing packaging and gives a very premium feel to the chassis with the stylish photography on the packaging. This carries dare I say a very Apple feel, it is simply a great job by the marketing/packaging team and kudos to them for catching the eyes of a marketing guy such as myself. This is a very practical and well-designed packaging solution.

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The final side of the packaging lists some key features and specs. It also gives a full spec readout broken up by section like we made on the previous page. Even on the packaging, there is not any notation as to PSU length fitment or limits. We will explore this as we dig around inside.

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The case comes in standard hard polystyrene end caps over a plastic bag which the H500i resides in. There is a plastic cling film on the tempered glass panel which I would recommend removing the panel before removing the film. Otherwise, it will be trapped or potentially tear off and still leave a little bit on the panel as it can be stuck between the panel and the lip it slots into. I'm sure at this point you notice that I made this very mistake and spent the subsequent 5 minutes pulling the panel like I should have to begin with and picking the little bits of film off the window edge.

NZXT H500i Mid-Tower Chassis

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The front, as stated before, is simply a blank slate. The only embellishment being the NZXT logo at the lower middle. There is nothing else to see, and that's part of the charm of the NZXT H series of cases.

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The top is also a pretty solid blank slate as well with the exception of the I/O which we will get to shortly and the single fan port. The single fan port can fit a 120mm such as the AER fan which comes preinstalled, but also can fit up to a 140mm fan based on the slotted mounting we see.

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The front panel I/O is on the top area of the chassis at the front-mid/right side. The front I//o consists of the following from left to right.

  • HDD LED
  • Headphone and microphone independent 3.5mm jacks
  • Dual USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C ports
  • Power button with a circular ring around it which illuminates with the system powered on.

The I/O is pretty standard with no new gen USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports so you would be limited to 5Gbps which for most users that will be more than enough. One thing to note is that while many cases offer 3 or 4 front USB ports of various speeds or styles, the H500i only has the two, so plan accordingly if you use your front I/O regularly. Ensure more permanent devices are routed to the rear I/o.

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The main side of the chassis has a large tempered glass panel covering the hardware area. One interesting note is that instead of the traditional method of running a glass panel down the entire side where you can see the PSU shroud inside, NZXT opted to have the PSU shroud be part of the exterior panel, and therefore the main glass panel is actually only a ¾ window as the bottom is solid metal and also the PSU shroud.

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The rear of the H500i is fairly standard at first glance. The rear fan is adjacent to the motherboard I/O cutout. The rear fan is another preinstalled 120mm AER model from NZXT. The AIC expansion slots are equaling seven with two more vertically placed for showing off GPUs. The Expansion covers are held in with screws but also fastened with a bracket which doubles as the vertical expansion brackets. That is the one piece that is different from a standard mid-tower. It is worth noting that the H500i does not come with a vertical GPU cable and would have to be purchased form NZXT separately.

Also, it's worth noting that you can see the panel fastening both the main panel and the cable management panel. The main glass panel has a single bracket and captive thumbscrew in place at the top edge of the panel as it tilts from the top away from the chassis once the fastener is released. The rear cable management panel swings open like a door when both thumb screws are released.

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The cable management side of the H500i is primarily a solid steel panel with the same smooth aesthetic of the front. But, this is where we get one of our first views of some of the ventilation of the H500i. As you see toward the front panel there is a large strip of ventilation holes directly in the side panel which feeds air to the front-mounted fans or AIO as needed. There is filtration on the inside of the panel which is removable and can be cleaned.

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First off, we see the small plastic feet which have rubber strips to grip the surface when your place your system, and it will help avoid your system from skidding or moving. The bottom of the H500i chassis is a surprising bevy of ventilation. The PSU has its own removable external filter which removes from the rear, so keep in mind you will need to reach around the back of your case whenever it needs to be cleaned.

Heading toward the front we find slotted holes for adjusting the internal HDD cage to best fit your needs. The cage can also be removed and an HDD or pump can be mounted directly to the internal floor with the various hole arrangements. Lastly would be the far front there is a visible strip of mesh to filter incoming air as this is the other way that the front panel mounted cooling gets airflow.

Inside the NZXT H500i

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Looking inside with the panel removed, we can see that the build space is wide open with only the vertical cable management cover bar protruding into the space. There are also two plastic relocatable SSD trays on top of the PSU shroud area. Initial impressions, this should be rather easy to build in, and the vertical cable management cover bar should do well to help hide cables and just allow them to protrude at the boards edge for ATX based boards.

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The front as mentioned before has a removable tray to assist in ease of mounting front fans or radiator since the front panel is fixed and non-removable. Fan or Radiator support is up to dual 120mm or dual 140mm. In that same effect, Radiators will max out at 280mm for 140mm based fans or 240mm for 120mm based fans. The vertical bar can be used to slot in up to M4 screws in the slot near the top to mount clamps for cylindrical reservoirs which definitely ups the H500i's custom liquid cooling game.

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The Motherboard are as mentioned previously supports up to ATX size, and can fit mITX and mATX should you so desire. The large CPU cooler backplate cutout is plenty sizeable to service any cooler backplate I have ever seen so this should not be much of an issue. Cables are handled quite differently in the H500i as the vertical bar covers most of the pass-through holes which means that the need for a grommet on the holes is far less. There are top holes for passing cables to the CPU EPS cable along with others as needed.

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The PSU shroud on the H500i as mentioned previously is unique as it's not an internal model or at least not completely. The PSU shroud extends to being an outside panel. Internally it is covered with holes which allows airflow in and out of the shroud area. The holes also allow the SSD trays pictured here to snap into four corners mounting tab holes. If not using these trays they can be easily removed and stored away for an even cleaner look. The PSU shroud area also has multiple pass-through points for cables as needed. There is even one mid-way toward the window panel near the vertical bar, which can be used for the GPU cables depending on GPU being used and desired finished build appearance.

Inside the NZXT H500i Continued

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The rear panel from the inside shows the preinstalled fan which is wired to the CAM powered controller. This allows full control of the fan form the smart controller and tuning via the software interface. The rear expansion slot covers are externally accessible as we saw on the previous rear shot. Here we can see the removable vertical mount which is necessary to pull off to remove any of the normal slot covers as well.

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Here we get our first peek behind the curtain of the business end of the cable management of the H500i. The first thing I noticed when opening this side up is the unique plastic cable management channels which surround the CPU cutout and run most of the way down adjacent to the vertical bar covered hole. Speaking of the vertical cable management bar we can see that it is backlit as well via the LED strip which is just barely within view.

The aforementioned plastic cable management channels also employ several cutouts for zip ties or the three included Velcro straps to aide in retaining cables within the channel. There are also several cable management tie points which are stamped into the chassis metal panel both in the motherboard tray and the more forward mounting area next to the main channel run. Here we also get a peek at the CAM powered smart device which controls the fans and internal lighting.

The addition of this box does add a few extra cables to the mix which will add a little work to the cable management aspect, but in reality, they managed the cables quite well out of the box, so I did not see it as a major point of contention. The last thing worth mentioning is that the mounting on the rear of the motherboard tray which can support SSD's and even the SSD brackets which we saw on the previous PSU shroud mounting.

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Here we have a close up of the CAM powered smart device. This device has three channels for fan control and power in via a SATA power connection, a USB input which connects to the motherboard via USB 2.0 9 pin header and the LED connector which is run to the two LED strips preinstalled. One strip is in the main chassis at the top to illuminate your build. The other is on the rear of the vertical cable management bar, and both are controllable via the CAM software.

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The HDD cage is simply a square metal assembly which the HDD's screw mount to and can support up to three total HDD's. Two would be inside the cage while one can be mounted to the ears protruding from the top. The HDD cage can be removed if not needed or if you opt to mount a pump in this location for a custom liquid-cooled build. An HDD can also be flat mounted to the floor here should you opt to go that route although I feel like if you are going to mount an HDD, I would just use the cage.

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The PSU mounting location is standard below the PSU shroud. There are no anti-vibration pads here, but it does have risen metal pads for the PSU to rest on. Through the airflow slots, you can see the removable filter which should keep most major debris out of your PSU. I do not see any reason you cannot fit any commercially available ATX power supply in here with room to connect cables as needed.

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Here we have the front panel cables, from left to right.

  • SATA power connector for CAM smart device
  • 20 pin internal USB 3.2 Gen 1 connector feeding the two Type-A ports
  • Front panel wiring block for power and reset switches along with HDD and power LED
  • HD Audio connector for the front panel microphone and headphone 3.5mm jacks
  • USB 2.0 9-pin header connects the CAM smart device to the motherboard

The cable array is simple, but there is a diamond in the rough here that really stands out among the crowd. The front panel connector is a single clock vs separate small connectors that are a pain to install. This is something I have been asking and wishing for, and I can say that it may have existed previously, but this is one of the first I remember seeing and I really hope others pick up this trend.

Hardware & Documentation

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The included accessories are simple but cover pretty much any need. I do have to say that the labeling on the screw bags is awesome as it helps to quickly identify screws vs taking each one out and giving it a look over to figure out what it may be for. All of these are listed in the manual which makes identification trivial as to its purpose. There are also ten total zip ties which is plenty for this small of a case and probably will allow you a few extra in case you mess up and have to add another cable to a bundle or reroute something.

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The manual for the H500i is a multi-fold sheet which covers most of the major component installation. You will have to be somewhat versed in some things, but it has pictures that cover most parts. There is not much as far as helpful wording, but what is there is useful. The images are good enough to get your system build in the H500i without issues.

Case Build & Finished Product

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The front of the H500i is just as muted as when we first looked at it. That's kind of the beauty of the H series from NZXT is they are sleek and clean, so they could fit into anything from an office environment to a home theatre. The styling is so simple the PC could be placed even in a new age style room and unless you knew what you were looking at, or the RGB set it off, of course, it would simply blend into the room. The look of ‘nothing is happening' is really the appeal of the H500i we have today. Now let's take a look in the main side where something is definitely happening.

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As anticipated, everything went in easily, and there was nothing especially difficult about the installation. The vertical cable management bar was nice as it allowed for the larger pass through-hole and easier alignment of the cables and installation. This was really helpful with the right angle USB 3.2 Gen 1 connector as it plugs in then just disappears.

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Here we see the rear I/O now stuffed with our case test system. The only part beyond a normal build would be the full removal of the vertical mount GPU plate which retains the slot covers. Some cases have a plate here but not to this extent as far as size. It is not even an issue, but that's about as close as we got on this end.

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The cable management, in this case, was very good. I have stated before, and it stands, I do not like cable management, it takes time to get right, and well like most people I want to play with my rig, not spend countless hours tidying up every cable. With that said, the H500i and its integrated routing made the job mostly trivial with plenty of cable tie points, and as you can see we only used maybe 5 total cable ties. Don't get me wrong you can spend time to do even better than I did and have everything perfectly cinched down but for a quick job, I would say that the H500i definitely gets a passing grade for cable management as it was far more convenient to work in than many I have seen before.

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The side window being clear and not smoked means we get a clear view of our installed components. This is where you will appreciate the preinstalled LEDs as a build almost looks lifeless without some sort of illumination.

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Here we have everything lit; I was truly impressed as I have a few thousand watts of studio lighting on this case, and you can still make out much of the lighting. This means it will really set off your gaming environment. It is worth noting you can see the vertical bar backlighting here as well, which helps give some color or white accent to your build depending upon what kind of look you are trying to achieve. The system with the AIO and preinstalled fans make virtually no noise and even when stress testing, we only then barely hear it become audible when really pushing the rig.

Final Thoughts

Testing the H500i with our ATX test bench netted us some nice CPU thermals most likely thanks due to pulling fresh cool air from the outside front vs normally mounting in the top. This gave us about a 3C better delta over ambient than our average. Funny enough our GPU suffered with a gain of almost the same amount. The GPU due to taking air which is slightly warmer due to passing through the CPU cooling radiator caused an uptick of about 2.5-3C over ambient. It is in no way a deal-breaker but more a trade-off you come to expect when changing the cooling air path.

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When we first entered this review, I was admittedly concerned due to the complete omission of visible venting on the front panel. Even when looking at the venting at the bottom and side I was a bit uneasy as the small holes in the panel giving airflow I was not sure would be adequate to properly allow enough cooling airflow through. Much to my surprise, the H500i proved me not only wrong but intensely incorrect.

Now let's think about what we liked with the H500i, what made it a hit? Well first off will be the visual as the H500i simply delivers in the looks department as it has a clean slate appearance. Add to this potent enough fitment that we really cannot complain. The inclusion of a cam smart device means that all lighting and fan controls can be centralized for the H500i, which will make the jumble of multiple LED or control software less of an issue.

In regards to cooling fitment, ideally I would like 240mm fitment to be sorted for the top with the proper spacing to fit an AIO in the roof or to build a more substantial custom liquid-cooled box, but I also understand the tight confines of this mid-tower. There's really not much else I could ask for here as this case is overall well featured and a nice case to build in overall.

The sub $100 price point is a tough market, but NZXT does well with the H500i and delivers not only a competent case but one I would be happy to place a recommendation for. The ease of build and overall quality feel and clean appearance make the H500i hard to beat.

Shannon's Chassis Test System Specifications

Last updated: Nov 15, 2019 at 01:16 pm CST

Performance

94%

Quality

98%

Features

92%

Value

93%

Overall Rating

94%

The Bottom Line

The H500i from NZXT is one nice case to build in and has a sleek appearance to back it up. If you are looking for a potent mid-tower for your next build the H500i should be on your short list.

TweakTown award
94%

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR -

Shannon started his PC journey around the age of six in 1989. Now till present day, he has established himself in the overclocking world, spending many years pushing the limits of hardware on LN2. Shannon has worked with design and R&D on various components, including PC systems and chassis, to optimize the layout and performance for enthusiasts.

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