Zalman Z7 Plus Case Review
By Gabriel Torres on February 12, 2010
If you've never bought a case from Zalman because you always thought they are too expensive, we have good news. Zalman is going to release a mainstream case series, called Z7, in March. Featuring two models, Z7 (USD 65 MSRP) and Z7 Plus (USD 75 MSRP), we had the privilege to review the Z7 Plus model one month before its launch. Let's see if this product will be a good buy and in tune with Zalman's reputation for quality.
The difference between Z7 and Z7 Plus is the presence of a meshed side panel on Z7 Plus, which comes with a 120 mm fan installed and a space for installing a second 120 mm fan (which comes with the product) and a controller to allow you to control the speed of these two fans. Interesting enough there is no other place that this spare 120 mm that comes with the case could be installed, so we wonder why Zalman wouldn't simply ship this case with this fan already installed (Zalman explained us that depending on the height of your CPU cooler, this second fan can't be installed, so they decided to ship this case with this fan uninstalled). These fans spin at up to 1,100 rpm, produce a maximum airflow of 44.72 cfm and a maximum noise level of 22 dB. You can, if you want, replace the side fans, as the two spaces available support 80, 92-, 120- and 140 mm models. On the regular Z7 you can add the two side fans, but no speed controller is available.
Another difference between Z7 and Z7 Plus is the presence of an eSATA port on Z7 Plus.
Z7 and Z7 Plus have nine external 5 1/4" bays, and on these case's default configuration the top four are to be used with 5 1/4" devices (optical drives and liquid cooling solutions), the bottom one is to be used with an external 3 1/2" device, a hard disk drive or an SSD, and the other five are used by the hard disk drive cage. We will explore all the possible configurations later. All bays use meshed covers featuring air filters.
The case comes with a 120 mm attached to the hard disk drive cage, glowing blue when turned on. It uses a standard peripheral power connector, so you can't install it on your motherboard in order to monitor its speed. Technical specifications are identical to the side fans.
There is absolutely nothing fancy about Z7 Plus top panel, as you can see in Figure 4. The word "ZALMAN" glows in blue when the computer is turned on, acting as the "power LED". In Figure 5, you can see all connectors available on the top panel, which are protected with a lid: two USB ports, eSATA port, mic in jack and heaphones out jack.
The rear panel can be seen in Figure 6. On Z7 and Z7 Plus the power supply is installed on the top part of the case. A 120 mm fan comes installed here, and it uses a regular peripheral power connector, not allowing you to monitor its speed (1,100 rpm, 39.77 cfm, 22 dB). Two holes for liquid cooling solutions are available, protected by rubber covers, so you won't need to break anything on your case in order to use this feature.
This new case uses vented slot covers, which can help improving the computer internal airflow. There is also a small mesh above the expansion slots with the same purpose.
Z7 Plus comes with a tab for you to install a padlock or a seal to the left panel.
As you can see, the rear panel isn't painted black.
Both panels are fastened to the case using silver thumbscrews, which is excellent. Before talking about the interior from Z7 Plus, let's take a look at the left panel from this case, which is portrayed in Figure 7. There you can see the 120 mm fan, the fan speed controller and the place for installing a second fan.
The interior from Z7 Plus can be seen in Figure 8. Being a budget unit, its interior isn't painted black. The motherboard tray features a huge hole for you to have access to the backplate from the CPU cooler, allowing you to replace it without having to remove the motherboard. However, no holes are available for you to route cables behind the motherboard tray. In fact there is almost no space between the motherboard tray and the right panel, so we think it would be difficult to store cables there anyway.
Expansion cards are held in place with the use of individual plastic retention mechanisms, which can be seen in Figure 10.
Zalman Z7 and Z7 Plus come with nine 5 1/4" bays. The top four bays feature screwless installation mechanisms. The removable hard disk drive cage uses five 5 1/4" bays (and can hold up to five 3 1/2" hard disk drives) and the bottom 5 1/4" bay comes with an adapter for 3 1/2", 2 1/2" and 1.8" devices on it. So in theory you could remove the hard disk drive cage and the adapter and have all nine 5 1/4" bays available, or remove the cage and leave the adapter and have eight 5 1/4" bays available and a space for installing a hard disk drive.
Since the hard disk drive cage is removable, you can move it up or down if you'd like to.
The hard disk drive cage can be seen outside the case on Figures 12 and 13. It comes with a 120 mm fan installed on it to cool down the hard drives (glows blue when turned on). It is possible to replace this fan with a 140 mm model if you want to.
The hard drives are installed inside the case using regular screws, however notice how the cage has rubber rings to absorb the vibration produced by the hard disk drives and thus reduce the noise level produced by the computer.
Unfortunately there are some sharp edges on the metal sheets used on the hard disk drive cage and on the 5 1/4" bays, so watch out.
The adapter that comes installed on the bottom 5 1/4" bay is shown in Figure 14. You can use it to install an external 3 1/2" device such as a floppy disk drive or a memory card reader; a 3 1/2" hard disk drive and a 2 1/2" or 1.8" hard disk drive or SSD.
Zalman Z7 Plus case main specs include:
Zalman Z7 Plus has a very Spartan looks, especially when you compare it to other cases from Zalman. However, at a suggested price of only USD 75 (and will probably be found for less than that), we believe it will please the user looking for a case with features usually only available on more expensive models.