Zalman Z9 Plus ATX Tower Case

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System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z at idle and on load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise

The Z9 Plus shipped with two different kinds of 120 mm fans: Three blue LED 3-pin models on the top, side and front, and a more traditional black and white model with a molex connector on the rear. Both used sleeve bearings, had a nominal speed of approximately 1000 RPM, and could be started with less than 5V.

Front, side, and top stock fan.

Rear stock fan.

Outside the case in open air, both fan types had similar acoustics. They were buzzy at high speeds, but fairly smooth once brought down to ~8V and below. However, once mounted, only the rear fan retained its positive characteristics. The top and front fans interacted negatively with the chassis, resulting in a slight humming noise.

The side fan was the worst of all, sounding absolutely atrocious, producing a deplorable buzzing like that of a cheap toy car motor. The mesh on the side panel turned out to be far too restrictive to be used as an intake. The only way to bring the fan's noise down to reasonable levels was to make it an exhaust fan, or mount the fan on the exterior blowing inward.

Noise difference between the side fan mounted on the interior (stock) at 5V, and mounted on the exterior at 7V.

With the side fan on the outside of the case blowing in, it was much quieter, generating 14 [email protected] at 7V, while in the stock configuration, it emitted 16 [email protected] at just 5V. The quality of the noise was also much better when mounted on the exterior, with fewer tonal peaks. In the end we decided to ditch the side fan altogether — it simply wasn't worth the amount of noise it generates, and we doubt many people would resort to placing it on the outside. Only by cutting the grill away could the side fan remain quiet enough to be used.

Baseline Noise Level
SPL @1m
24 dBA
16 dBA
13 dBA
22 dBA
13 dBA
11 dBA
27 dBA
21 dBA
17 dBA
12~13 dBA
27 dBA
25 dBA
20~21 dBA
16 dBA
Side (exterior)
22~23 dBA
17 dBA
14 dBA
12 dBA
Top, Rear, and Front
28~29 dBA
23 dBA
18 dBA
13 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front of case.

Together, the top, rear and front fans are SPCR-quiet at 7V and close to inaudible at 5V. These voltages can be reached with the included fan controller which supports two 3-pin fans.

With the stock fans running at 7V, the Z9 Plus measured 18 [email protected] Interaction between fans and chassis generated a hum centered at ~300 Hz.

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