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The stock fans are two identical, slim frame 80mm models of the type that have
given Zalman a bad reputation for fan noise. They are badly placed and badly
chosen. Both are installed directly against restrictive vents that will prove
difficult obstacles for the low pressure that can be expected of such thin fans.
The vents can also be expected to cause turbulence and whine.
The choice of intake fan is puzzling, because the top vent is clearly designed
for a 120mm fan. We can only assume that Zalman decided that a smaller fan with
a duct could provide better cooling than a larger, but less focussed 120mm fan.
This doesn't make a whole lot of sense though, since top-down style of heatsink
recommended by Zalman should have its own fan directly underneath the duct.
We won't be surprised to hear the duct generating the noise that comes from
placing two fans in series with no way of equalizing the pressure between them.
The intake fan has a plastic duct over top.
The position of the exhaust fan is equally problematic, though for a different
reason. The photo below illustrates the problem effectively: Located behind
the power supply, the mass of spare cables blocks much of the airflow around
the fan. We'd recommend a modular power supply ... but we can't think of a single
one that conforms to the standard 140mm length that is required by the indented
The exhaust fan is very ill placed, and is badly restricted when cables are
Installation was simple and straightforward, with little to make things any
easier or more difficult than usual. The only exceptions of note concerned the
PCI slots, which used a toolless, level-based system as seen in the photo below,
and the power supply, which, while easy to install, must be chosen carefully
to fit the constraints of the case.
Although we appreciate what the sunken power supply does for aesthetics, we
were very annoyed at how it limited the power supplies we could use. First of
all, the power supply must conform to the standard ATX12V length of 140mm.
This would not be a problem in itself if power supplies complied with this part
of specification, but a surprising number of "ATX12V compliant" power
supplies do not especially the high end, high capacity models that use
the extra space for larger components or improved cooling. As noted above, this
restriction counts out every single modular power supply that we know of.
The second limitation of the sunken mounting is that the wire harness
the spot where the output cables leave the power supply must be located
so that the cables are against the top of the case when installed. Again, this
is specified in ATX12V but, as with length, the requirement is not well
adhered to. Many popular power supplies, such as all of Seasonic's recent models,
are counted out by this requirement.
Toolless PCI slots are a nice touch.
The most complex part of the installation was correctly hooking up the VFD.
Access to the VFD control panel requires removing the optical drive, and then
a bewildering number of connections must be correctly hooked up. The location
of the connections are not clearly labeled on the panel, but must be looked
up in the manual, which (thankfully) does a good job of explaining things. At
a bare minimum, the VFD requires power, an internal USB connection, and pass-through
connections for the power and reset buttons. A pair of thermistors and a pair
of fans can also be connected, as there is thermal monitoring and fan control
circuitry built in.
In addition to hardware setup, there is also the issue of configuring the VFD
/ fan control software a process that will inevitably take time and experimentation
to get right. The software is M-Play,
by VL System, and is extensive and complicated. It is clearly a powerful
software tool (to the point of being able to create custom graphics), but it
is not very user friendly and we only scratched the surface of the features
it offers (one of which is integration with popular fan control tool, SpeedFan).
The VFD panel sprouts fans, thermistors, a power connector, a USB connection,
and pass-through connectors for the power and reset buttons.
Two looong thermistors can be placed as needed and used to control fan speed.
One final note: Installing the stealth drive door took considerable time and
patience. The process was the same as documented in our review of the HD160,
and we refer you there
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