My new NZXT H2.
I came from a ”top-mounted PSU” case, the Cooler Master Sileo 500, so I will be comparing this NZXT H2 with the Sileo 500 from time to time. I use this for internet browsing with 10+ tabs (Firefox), Word 2010, Excel 2010, Onenote 2010, music and gaming (Mafia 2, Call of Duty 4, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, Football Manager 2011 – 1280x1024 – highest quality possible).
My expectations for the case was a good general built quality, adequate room and cable-management options for an easy installation of the system. For the acoustical expecations, I expected an inaudible built, even during the night where there are no other noise sources.
AMD Athlon II X3 425, OC @ 4,3 GHz.
Powercolor SCS3 radeon 5750 (passive heatsink, but I put a fan on it)
ASUS M4A88TD-M EVO/USB3
Corsair 1x4 GB 1333 MHz, CL9, 1,5 V. CMV4GX3M1A1333C9.
Scythe Mugen 2.
Western Digital Green, WD5000AACS. 5400 rpm, 3,5”. (system drive,
Corsair CX400W (fan-swap. Read later on.)
Dual-monitor: both 1280x1024 (19” and 17”).
A number of fans (Read later on.)
With the Sileo 500 the exhaust air of my PSU was very hot because it had to pull hot air from the CPU area. But with the NZXT H2 the PSU exhausts air with temperatures comparable to the ambient room temperature. Neat. Parts of the NZXT H2 have been criticized by an OC3D reviewer. For example, the magnetic cover to cover the top fan placement. It sat rather loosely according to him, but I have never noticed that issue. It sits rather firmly in place and can easily withstand transportation.
The top of the case looks more streamlined than one would think considering the top vent cover, the HD dock, and all the IO’s (USB 2.0, 3.0, headphone/microphone, power and reset button). The fan cover and HD dock cover really make the top of the case look slick. The front door is well constructed but the hinge does feel weak considering how little it takes to push the door too firmly. But I guess that also applies to many other front doors. I’ve bought the white version of this case, and I must say that it looks great. The metal is also VERY scratch resistant. Perhaps if you used a screwdriver, but even so, the white color would camouflage the scratches. This is much better than the flimsy painting of my black Sileo 500. The NZXT H2 also marks where to put the motherboard standoffs for ATX, m-ATX etc., though the text on the inside of the case itself is very blurry. Things have definitely changed since the “old” Sileo 500 (it was released just two years ago). My last general observation is that one of the two front fans are slightly ticking, noticeable when it’s running on “low” (approx.. 5 V), and when the computer is run in a dead silent environment-xl. You have to pay close attention however! This is not an issue for me since I’ve undervolted the fans even further. I’ll get back to that later.
IMPLEMENTATION (and criticism) OF CERTAIN FEATURES:
There are a couple of implementations of features to this case that really disappoint me. Some of them just makes me ask “why?” and “did NZXT H2 actually try this case before it came out to the marked?” Let me begin with the hard disk bay. In the year of 2011, one would expect that tool-less HD mounting should be a breeze. This is not the case with the H2! Mounting the HD is fairly easy; you bend the plastic and put the HD in. But removing the HD… It took quite a long time, discernibly much force, and a screwdriver, to remove a HD. See, when it’s mounted, it is impossible to bend the plastic. And to be honest, I have not yet figured out how to properly remove the hard disk. If one of you can tell me how, I would much appreciate it, but until then I am very disappointed by the HD bays.
About the 140 mm fan placement on top. Why no compatibility for 120 mm fans? That size are the most available and mainstream size today. That should cost next to nothing for NZXT H2 to implement. Leaving out the option to add a 120 mm fan on top makes no sense at all. The “H3” (if it will be made) should really add this compatibility.
This has mentioned by a number of reviewers, SPCR included. The NZXT H2 could use some ventilation in front. I’ve performed the mod described in the post-script of the SPCR review
This took me roughly 20 minutes. I’ve somehow reviewed this (see later on).
The foam seems really cheap. It’s like the foam padding on very cheap headphones. It’s not at all dense. The Fractal Design R3 has much more dense foam (first-hand experience). I don’t know what impact the foam on the NZXT H2 has on acoustics. Maybe some of you guys could educate me on this.
When the PSU is mounted in the bottom, pulling air from beneath the case, it easily increases the noise level (is this phenomenon called impedance or turbulence). So I simply flipped it over and mounted it with two screws.
The NZXT H2 has been criticized for its implementation of the front USB 3.0 port. What it does is practically to provide an extension (male-female) cable that is supposed to go into a USB 3.0 port provided by the motherboard or an add-on card. The issue here is that the USB port is not connected to an internal 3.0 motherboard header. But I find that excellent! The first generation of USB 3.0 compatible motherboards (one of which I happen to use) simply provided the feature by putting in a PCIe x1 add-on card which meant: USB 3.0 could only be accessed behind the computer. Many new motherboards probably have internal USB 3.0 headers which are supposed to provide front USB 3.0 access, but even these motherboards most likely also have USB 3.0 ports BEHIND the case. So the NZXT H2 will let whatever motherboard you have with whatever implementation of USB 3.0 have USB 3.0 access in the front. Simply awesome!
I’m a bit disappointed by the out-of-the-box performance. I thought the “low” setting by the built-in fan controller would make the fans run quietly enough. But that setting does not satisfy my expectations. For an SPCR member, I believe, the fan noise should be noticeable, though for the regular customer, they would run very quiet. After some undervolting (see below), I’ve managed to create an almost inaudible system. I can only hear my hard disk (the emitted noise of the HD was masked by the other fans prior to the extra undervolting of my fans), but it’s quiet enough for my high standards so that I don’t bother to replace it for another HD.INTERIOR:
There’s a lot of room inside the case, especially coming from the Sileo 500. Also behind the motherboard tray which made my first cabling routing a pleasure. Only the thick 20+4 pin mo-bo cable felt a bit too thick, but this can be avoided by not overlapping this cable with many other cables. This is easily done. I would however wish that there were just few more holes to route cables behind the mobo tray. Few people have mentioned that their CPU power cable could not reach the proper socket if routed behind the motherboard. This was possible with my Corsair CX400W (the cable is 60 cm long, an average length I believe).
Bear in mind that this is the first time I’ve ever installed a system with cable routing behind the mobo tray. The installation was also with a non-modular PSU, and this did not hamper building my system significantly. Non-modular PSU’s can easily be used in an NZXT H2! (picture)
A good advice: zip-tie the cables behind the mobo-tray. It makes it much easier to put the side panel on again.A look at my cable management. It looks less messy in reality.
When I first bought the case, I suspended the HD vertically in the 3,5” bays. But it was quite problematic because the HD would be positioned too closely to the front fans, and then I was worried about the stability of the suspension. So I put the drive on some sponge that was cut off from some regular washing sponge. No vibration!
To solve the stock fan issue, I bought some cheap 12-to-7 V resistors and a single 12-to-5 V resistor. I put this between the stock fans and the built-in fan controller, and also some other fans. I’ll tell about it below.
CPU: Scythe Mugen 2 with the excellent stock fan. The PWM fan is controlled by FanXpert in ASUS AI SUITE v1.06.20. The great thing here is that even though it’s Windows based, it still controls the fan though the program is not even turned on when Windows is booting. FanXpert lets you control PWM fans and regular 3-pin fans. The latter can only be undervolted to 40% (approx. 5V since 40 % of 12 V is ~5 V), so I haven’t used this option. The PWM header for the CPU, however, can be undervolted to as low as 10 % (10 % of 12 V I assume. That’s 1,2 V!) SIMPLY AWESOME! The way it’s done is that you can set up your own temperature/fan speed curve. It works quite well. The CPU fan runs very slowly (as I want) at about 200-350 rpm while staying within safe temperatures (<65 C). This is while Folding@Home is running in the background.
Rear-fan: running at “low” on the included fan controller and with a 12-to-7 V resistor between the built-in controller and the fan. The starting voltage is too low, so at boot-up I simply let all the fans run at “high” for a couple seconds before I let them run at “low” + resistors. Works wonderfully and virtually silent!
Upper front-fan: Same as above.
Lower front-fan: same as above, but with a 12-to-5 V. Kind of a wrong purchase, and will under rare circumstances not start reliably by the method mentioned above, but at least one front-fan will be running. So I don’t really bother to buy another 12-to-7 V resistors all the way from the UK.
PSU: I’ve swapped the stock fan of the Corsair CX400W with a Scythe Slipstream 1200 rpm. This fan is also run by the built-in fan controller and a 12-to-7 V resistor and turned on just like the case fans.
Video card: The same fan as the PSU, but receives its power from a molex-to-3pin 12-to-5 V device (Zalman ZM MC1) and a 12-to-7 V resistor. This particular fan would not run under the same setup as the PSU fan, though being the exact same model. Perhaps this is because of sample variance or because the fan is faced upwards, unlike the fan in the PSU which faces downwards.PERFORMANCE:
I originally planned to log temperatures in many different fan set-ups, with and without modifications and so on. But due to laziness and unscientifically lining up some of my experiments, I’ve simply logged the temperatures for my current system during a stress test.
What I can tell however, is that I measured temperatures before and after the postscript mod. This was done prior to using the 12-to-7 V and the 12-to-5 V resistors, so the fans only run at “low”. To stress-test I used Prime95 and Furmark simultaneously. To measure CPU and GPU temps I’ve used ASUS PC Probe and Furmarks included software, respectively. And according to my somewhat unscientific measurements, the mod decreased the temperature of my then passive Radeon 5750. The reason why I call my measurements “unscientific” is that I thought that the temperatures would eventually stagnate, so I could log the temperatures. They didn’t! The Radeon 5750 would reach uncomfortable temperature and continue to rise in temperature. Though both set-ups made the temperature rise without stagnating, the temperatures would at some point stagnate temporarily, for approximately 5 minutes before they would rise by a single Celsius. Here, I noticed that the post-mod setup would make the temperature stagnate at a cooler point than the pre-setup. Simply put, the post-setup would take a longer time to warm up my components compared to the pre-setup.
For my only “scientific” measurement of the temperatures of my system, I’ve used the aforementioned software. This is with the 12-to-7 V and the 12-to-5 V resistors AND the Slipstream to cool my otherwise passively cooled Radeon 5750.
CPU: Prime95, 3 threads, In-place large FFTs (maximum heat…) – ASUS PC Probe II 1.04.86.
GPU: Furmark, 800x600, no AA – built-in temperature sensor.
Motherboard – ASUS PC Probe II 1.04.86.
Harddisk – HD Tune
I put my digital thermometer on the floor, in front of the case, to measure the intake-air temperature. Ambient room temperature: 25-25.5 C.CPU:
fluctuates between 500-950 rpm with temps at 63-66 C. The ASUS FanXpert software takes care of this. I can definitely feel how warm the rear fan “mesh” socket is. I believe the restricting mesh traps the heat inside the case. Perhaps, I’ll cut off the mesh later on.GPU:
very stable at 50 C and a bit below. A passive & massive heatsink + bit of airflow = very nice temps!Mobo
: 45 C. Stable, I guessHDD:
48 C. Never that hot during regular use, where it runs at 43-44 C at most.
Considering that this is during stress-testing, and the immensely undervolted fans, I am quite satisfied with the thermal performance of the NZXT H2.CONCLUSION
Of course I haven’t made a complete review. I see this more as additional comments that complement many of those thoughts that have been shared by many reviewers on the web and here at SPCR.
The reason I chose the NZXT H2 over the Fractal Design R3 was because of the USB 3.0 in front (and how it is implemented), the third 5,25” slot for suspending my hard disk, one additional fan, the built-in fan controller and the extra space behind the motherboard tray. I do however acknowledge, that the R3 has a better HD mounting system and a more streamlined look, but I don’t regret my decision to choose the NZXT H2. It fits my needs.
Overall, the NZXT H2 is a good, recommendable case with many features, though I don’t feel that it is complete. This is due to some of the poor implementations of otherwise decent features (the hard disk bay, the top vent, just a tad too noisy fans)