Zalman's HD135 HTPC case: Gasping for air

Cases|Damping
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MP3 RECORDINGS

Sound Recordings of Comparative Systems

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system and are intended to represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

CONCLUSIONS

The HD135 is flawed by poor airflow design, badly executed vents, and as is so common with Zalman, poor stock fans. Zalman's decision to use a pair of thin, low pressure, noisy, 80mm fans without providing mounting points for any other fans is disappointing. Many of the vents look perfectly capable of accepting a 120mm fan, if there was only an easy way of mounting one. As our quick experiment proved, the problem with the HD135 isn't a lack of airflow vents; it's the means of pulling air through them that's missing.

The placement of the stock fans is almost as bad as the choice of fan. Whoever decided that the intake should be on top and the exhaust on the bottom (behind the power supply???) could not have been communicating with the engineer who placed intake vents all over the place. It would have been much better (and probably simpler) to sacrifice some drive bays so that a properly mounted (and quiet) 120mm fan could be used to generate conventional front-to-back airflow. The HD135 suffocates because its lungs are weak, not because it's being choked.

The HD135 will probably find its biggest fans in the DIY community, who are willing and able to address its flaws in stock form. Its selling points are simple: Great styling, a sleek profile, and enough space to work with. There is a lot of potential in this case, but it will take skill to bring it out. Those who don't want to spend time with it are advised to find a better out-of-the-box experience elsewhere.

Many thanks to Zalman for supplying the HD135 sample.

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Cases: Basics and Recommendations

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