Zalman sent us their Z7 Plus case today to put through the paces. This ATX mid-tower chassis has some interesting features that we noticed right away, for example, the side mounted fan controller that can control up to two fans. Another feature is the top mounted IO ports that can be covered up when not in use. In addition, their Zalman LED logo is also a nice touch, and from first appearances the Z7 Plus is doing a good job so far. Now let’s get on with the testing so that we can find out more about it.
Beginning with the pictures above, we will take a look at the outer shell of the Z7 Plus. You can see the honeycomb mesh design on the front bay covers and the side panel fan where the two intake fan areas are located. At the bottom of the side panel, you can see the fan controller, which is very straight forward. Just slide it up or down depending on whether or not you would like your fans to move more or less air. This is great for high CFM fans when you really need more cooling power but don’t necessarily always want to suffer the noise.
Here you can see the power button on top and the IO ports when the door is open and closed. The door sits flush when it’s closed and looks good, unlike some of the top IO panels we have seen in the past. You can also see (in the pictures above) that Zalman has put two pre-drilled holes in the back of the case for water cooling tubing. This has become a standard in most cases in today’s market.
Glance inside the case (top right) and you can see more of the fan controller and its connections. It’s easy to install to say the least! In the bottom left, you will notice the tool-free expansion card slot installation. This is always a plus in our eyes because having to deal with extra tools is extremely annoying when it isn’t necessary.
In the two pictures above, you can see a hole in the motherboard tray allowing for easy installation/uninstallation of CPU coolers if they require a custom backplate. You will notice that there are no extra holes cut for wire management, but we will cover more on this issue later.
In the above pictures, the tool-free 5 1/4 drive installation is being shown. You will also notice the rubber sound dampeners in the hard drive bay, which is a nice feature that should help eliminate extra noise due to vibrations. These are nice improvements to have in a case.
Here you can get an inside view of the dust filters behind the honeycomb mesh front panel. This will help keep some of the dust out when you have your front 120mm intake fan running. The 120mm fan also blows air onto your installed hard drives to help keep them cool as well. In the bottom right, you get a quick look at the area where your PSU will go, as well as the pre-cut tubing holes for your water cooled setups.
In the final pictures above you can check out the intake fan that cools the hard drive bay. This helps bring in new air into the case. In case anyone still uses the 3 1/2 drive bay, it is there as well. You can also see the dust filter behind the honeycomb mesh bay covers.
This is just a nice shot of the Z7 Plus logo painted onto the side panel.
The air flow of this case can be considered average. The front fan can be replaced with a 140mm fan if you so desire, which could increase the airflow through the drive bays. The two side panel fans can be almost any size, ranging from 80mm to 140mm, and everything in between. As mentioned before in the pictures, Zalman has added an improvement to this case with a built- in fan controller (bottom right). With that, you can add your own powerful, high CFM fans to the side of the case to help bring in extra cool air to help during those long gaming sessions or when overclocking. With only one exhaust fan in the case, however, we are concerned whether this case can actually handle the heat. Heat rises and there is no fan at the top, only in the middle at the back. This could create a problem, but at the same point, having more intake airflow than exhaust will help to create positive air pressure inside the case. This will aid in keeping the dust out of the case and off of your expensive components.
Water cooling with this case could be a little complicated. With no fans at the top, it will force you to put the radiator at the bottom, if you want it all inside the case. With the radiator at the bottom, it will cover up some of the motherboard. Not that it is a huge problem, but more of an aesthetics issue, if you have to look at it. However, if you put the radiator outside by mounting it on the back, you will have two pre-drilled holes in the back of the case to utilize. As mentioned earlier, these two holes are pretty much standard on every case these days that’s geared to the enthusiast or gamer.
Dust filters are becoming more and more popular for prospective buyers. With motherboards, memory and heatsinks are taking more elaborate approaches with their appearances, users do not want dust to be the focal point of their systems. These dust filters will help minimize the dust accumulation, although the filters are only on the front, and not the side where the other two intake fans are. Maybe soon Zalman will figure out a nice way to put a fan filter on the side, since it does have two fans, versus just the one up front.
Once we had installed our primary hardware, we immediately saw a potential problem. Having no wire management solutions in the Z7 Plus has come back to bite us. We tried to jam the wire into the 5 1/4 drive bays, but you can see just how well that worked. Of course, we did not spend hours zip-tying all of the lose wires to help with the clutter. But even so, it still would leave a mess of wires on the inside. Moving on though, the GTX480 fits great in this case as you can see. Even as big as the 480 is, it still has a couple of inches of space before you hit the drive bays. This is great news for gamers and enthusiasts alike, you will be able to fit any graphics card on the market in this case.
In this picture at the top left, you can see the tool-free PCI expansion slot installation. All you need to do is push back the black clips and install the card of your choosing. Once that is done, you just slide the black clip back down and lock it into place. This will securely lock the card in its spot and does not allow any wiggle room. The top right picture shows another tool-free installation in which the 5 1/4 drive bays are shown with an easy one button install. Using this feature is very simple. To start, just insert the drive with the button aligned to the left. Once you do this, push in and to the right and it will lock the drive in place. These are two of the best features of this case, and we have no idea why more cases don’t employ similar features into their drive bays.
We are big fans of clean installations with as little clutter as possible, and we were pretty happy with the case until we installed everything and tried to hide the wires. We quickly found out this was going to be a real hassle and ultimately unsuccessful. The only choice for wire management in this case would be to jam as many wires as you can on the backside of the drive bays. To us, this is not wire management, as it still leaves complete mess that ends up looking like a hack job (because it is). This case unfortunately fails miserably in the wire management department. All we can say is that we hope your power supply is modular to help cut down on the clutter.
Overall, the Zalman Z7 Plus is an acceptable mid-tower chassis. It has some nice additions and features, as well as some areas where it’s lacking. The tool-free installation for the 5 1/4 bay drives and the PCI expansion slots are two great features of this case that we enjoyed using. Both of these make swapping things in and out extremely easy. The dust filters in the front were also a nice gesture, but they need to come up with a solution to help with the two side intake fans in order to truly minimize the dust coming into the case. The side fan controller is also a very nice addition that opens up a lot of options when choosing fans for the side panel. You can now bring in high CFM fans and only turn them up when you need that extra cooling. This actually made us wonder why fan controllers are standard in more high-end cases these days?
Ultimately, the lack of wire management ruined this case for us. As you know, we are big on wire management and optimizing air flow. If wire management is not as important to you, then this case has many other redeeming qualities. However, if wire management is as important to you as it is to us, then you may want to keep looking at other options.
All this being said, at $79 MSRP and places like Performance-PCs selling it for less, this case is still a very good value for the features that it brings to the table, and it should make most gamers or budget builders happy.
The Zalman Z7 Plus receives the TechREACTION.net Bronze Silicon Award!