[nextpage title=”Introduction”]Previously known for offering only high-end and expensive products, recently Zalman decided to offer entry-level products as well, like the Z7 and Z9 case series. The Z9 series, which is the latest release from the South Korean company, comes with two models: Z9 (USD 50) and Z9 Plus (USD 70). Let’s see if the Z9 Plus is a good option.
Both Z9 and Z9 Plus are based on the same body, but the Z9 Plus comes with the following features that are not present on the standard Z9:
- Digital thermometer
- Fan controller
- 120 mm fan on the top panel
- 120 mm fan on the left panel
In Figures 1 and 2, you have an overall look at the case. The left panel has two small transparent windows, plus a big mesh, coming with a 120 mm fan attached (Zalman ZQ1225CSL, sleeve bearing, glows blue when turned on, three-pin connector), and space for you to install a second 120 mm fan. Unfortunately the case doesn’t come with an air filter installed on this panel.
The front panel of the Z9 Plus can be seen in Figure 3. This case has three 5.25” bays and one external 3.5” bay, all using meshed covers with air filters. The case comes with a 120 mm fan identical to the one that comes installed on the left panel at the bottom of its front panel. You can replace this fan with a 140 mm model if you want.
[nextpage title=”Introduction (Cont’d)”]
The buttons and connectors of this case come on the top part of the front panel, where on other mid-tower cases would be the first 5.25” bay. Two of the highlights of the Z9 Plus can be seen here: a digital thermometer and a fan controller. You can install the thermometer probe (thermistor) wherever you want to monitor the temperature (the CPU cooler and the GPU cooler are the most common choices). The fan controller uses one potentiometer and can control up to two three-pin fans, but since there is only one potentiometer, both will spin at the same speed.
The case comes with four USB 2.0 port and the traditional mic in and headphones jacks.
Figure 5: Buttons and connectors
The top panel of the Z9 Plus can be seen in Figure 6. It comes with one 120 mm fan identical to the front and side fans. You can replace this fan with a 140 mm model, if you like, and there is space for installing a second 120 mm or 140 mm fan.
The bottom panel (Figure 7), features a removable air filter for an optional fan that can be installed at the bottom of the case.
In Figure 8, you can see the rear panel of the Z9 Plus. It comes with a 120 mm fan that is different from the other fans available (Zalman ZA1225ASL, sleeve bearing, standard peripheral power connector). The power supply is installed at the bottom of the case, and the rear panel and the interior of the case are painted black, features usually found only on more expensive products. The Z9 Plus has seven expansion slots, all featuring meshed slot covers. These slot covers, however, are not reusable: once you remove them, they can’t be used anymore. There is also a mesh above the area where expansion cards are installed. The case also has two holes with rubber covers for you to pass hoses of liquid cooling solutions.
Let’s now take a look inside the Z9 Plus.
[nextpage title=”Inside the Z9 Plus”]
Both panels are attached to the chassis using black thumbscrews, which is nice to see on a case from this price range. The motherboard tray has a huge hole around the area where the CPU is installed, so you can replace the backplate of the CPU cooler without the need to remove your motherboard. You can route cables behind the motherboard tray, thanks to the presence of three holes on the motherboard tray and several metallic clips for you to fasten cable ties. Plus the motherboard tray doesn’t go all the way down to the bottom panel or all the way forward to the front panel, making it very easy to route the power supply cables and also the hard drive cables. The small meshed area that you see on the motherboard tray is a 2.5” hard drive/SSD bay, and we will talk about it in the next page.
Figure 10: A view behind the motherboard tray
The Z9 Plus supports video cards up to 11.4” (290 mm) long.
Expansion cards are fastened using thumbscrews, which come inside a pouch. Unfortunately these thumbscrews are silver instead of black.
In the Z9 Plus you can install the power supply with its bottom fan facing up or facing down, so you will have to decide if you want the power supply to be pulling coo
l air from outside the case (fan facing down) or hot air from inside the case (fan facing up). Unfortunately the case doesn’t come with an air filter for the power supply fan on its bottom panel.
You can install a 120 mm or 140 mm fan on the bottom panel of the Z9 Plus, see Figure 12. The case comes with an air filter for this fan, which can be removed from outside the case, as shown before.
[nextpage title=”The Disk Drive Bays”]
The Z9 Plus comes with three 5.25” external bays, one external 3.5” bay, five internal 3.5” bays, and one internal 2.5” bay. You can also convert the external 3.5” bay into a second internal 2.5” bay using the adapter that comes installed in the external 3.5” bay.
You will have to use regular screws to install devices in the external 5.25” bays, external 3.5” bay and internal 2.5” bays. The installation of 3.5” hard drives, however, is done by attaching four thumbscrews to the drive and sliding the drive in the bay you want to use. A rubber washer is used to reduce the vibration and thus noise level of the drive.
Figure 14: Adapter to convert the external 3.5” bay into an internal 2.5” bay
Figure 15: Internal 2.5” bay available on the motherboard tray
In Figure 16, you can see the accessories that come with the product.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specs for the Zalman Z9 Plus case include:
- Style: Mid-tower
- Application: ATX and smaller form factors derived from this one
- Power supply: Doesn’t come with the product
- Available colors: Black
- Material: Steel
- Side panel: Meshed with two small windows
- Dimensions: 18.3 x 8.2 x 19.8 inches (464 x 207 x 504 mm) (H x W x D)
- Net weight: 15.0 lbs (7.0 kg)
- Gross weight: 18.5 lbs (8.2 kg)
- Bays: Three external 5.25” bays, one external 3.5” bay, five internal 3.5” bays, and two internal 2.5” bays (one converted from the external 3.5” bay)
- Expansion slots: Seven
- Maximum video card length: 11.4” (290 mm)
- Maximum CPU cooler height: NA
- Fans: One 120 mm fan on the front panel, one 120 mm fan on the top panel, one 120 mm fan on the left panel, and one 120 mm fan on the rear panel
- Optional fans: One 120 mm fan on the left panel, one 120 mm or 140 mm on the top panel, you can replace the 120 mm fan from the top and front panels with 140 mm models
- More Information: https://www.zalman.co.kr
- Average price in the US*: USD 70.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
The Z9 Plus is a terrific option if you are looking for a case full of nice features at a very attractive price. We can’t really complain about the “weak points” listed below because of its price. For its terrific cost/benefit ratio, we are giving it our Golden Award.
- Digital thermometer
- Fan speed controller
- Meshed covers on the external bays with air filters
- Air filter for the front fan
- Air filter for optional bottom fan
- Five 3.5” hard drive bays
- Tool-less mechanisms for installing 3.5” hard drives
- Anti-vibration rings for the hard drives
- Supports two 2.5” hard drives or SSDs
- Thumbscrews for fastening expansion cards
- A huge hole in the motherboard tray for accessing the backplate of the CPU cooler
- Holes and clips for routing cables behind the motherboard tray
- Rear panel and interior are painted black
- Holes for passing hoses of liquid cooling solutions
- No sharp edges where you could cut yourself while building your computer
- No air filter on the left-side panel
- No air filter for the power supply fan
- Slot covers aren’t reusable
- Thumbscrews for fastening expansion cards are silver, not black
- No tool-less installation mechanisms on the 5.25” bays
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