Zalman Z9 Plus ATX Tower Case

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The Z9 Plus is a foray by Zalman into the budget gaming case market and from that perspective we consider it to be a success. It is definitely middle-of-the-road for thermal performance and build quality, but for its asking price no one expects any miracles. Fortunately, it has a few nifty features that make it standout amongst the rabble.

The hard drive cage is well-constructed and the soft mounting system is actually more than just show. The rubber grommets used are thick and when locked into the place the drives are a little loose — as they should be for good mechanical decoupling. Cable management is hassle free thanks to the myriad of holes on the motherboard tray. The case is fairly deep with ample graphics card clearance. The temperature sensor is a nice bonus, but it would have been nice to include some thermal tape to adhere it to the base of a heatsink or what have you.

The included fan controller is simple add-on, supporting a pair of 3-pin fans, though this isn't enough for all the fans included. Zalman provides a generous four 120 mm fans for the Z9 Plus, with the option for three more. In addition, four of the placements can use 140 mm or 120 mm fans. The stock fans themselves are quiet, at least in open air. Of the included fans, only the one at the rear interacted with the chassis without creating a negative acoustic result. The fan grill at the back is punched outward to give it clearance, while the top and front fans sit flush against metal surfaces, generating low pitched hums that are audible at close proximity. This isn't a huge issue for most users, but if you want to house an ultra low noise system, the Z9 Plus really isn't for you. We reserve special mention for the intake fan mount on the side panel — it sounds horrid, even with a low speed fan.

Our other complaints are less damning. The power supply vent on the case floor is too restrictive, basically a small series of slits. It is baffling why they did this and then put a massive wide open 140 mm fan vent right next to it. They tried to form a "Z" with small acrylic windows separated by mesh, but the end result is pretty ugly. The "Z" shaped molding at the front might also impede the intake fan. On a more personal note, we took issue with the hair-trigger. flush mounted power button. We leaned on it a few times during testing, shutting the system off by accident.

Still, the Zalman Z9 Plus represents pretty good value overall, whether you're interested in cooling a hot gaming rig or making one quiet enough for day-to-day use. There is a lot offered for less than $70.

Zalman Z9 Plus

* Support for up to seven fans (four included)
* Independent fan speed controller and temperature sensor
* Damped hard drive bays
* 29 cm graphics card clearance
* Low price

* Side intake makes fans sound terrible
* Restrictive PSU vent
* Questionable aesthetics

Our thanks to Zalman for the Z9 Plus case sample.

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