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Zalman, a company better known for its CPU coolers than chassis, hasn’t released a new case in a while, and its previous ATX-compatible entrants were not without flaws. But now Zalman’s back with a miniscule, low-cost mid-tower that sports some surprising features. So, what do 75 smackeroons get you these days? More than you might expect.
The Zalman Z7 Plus is one of the smallest and lightest steel mid-towers in our roundup, at 18.6 inches high by 19.5 inches deep by 8.8 inches wide, and a mere 17 pounds. And though it’s not as rock-solid as, say, the Fortress FT02 or as light as the Lian Li PC-B25F, it’s a perfectly acceptable middle ground, especially given the price. For $75, you get four case fans—one 14cm rear exhaust fan, one 12cm LED intake fan attached to the hard drive cage, and two 12cm intake fans for the left side panel, only one of which comes installed by default, but both of which can be controlled via a dial on the side panel. The case also features a cutout in the motherboard tray for CPU coolers that require backplanes, a genius feature that would not have appeared in a budget case a few years ago, but is thankfully becoming standard. Furthermore, the Z7 Plus comes with four toolless optical drive bays and toolless PCI expansion-slot retention clips, as well as a five-drive hard drive bay that you can raise and lower at will.
The hard drive bay is not toolless—you have to unscrew eight screws to remove it, then use four screws and four rubber grommets to install each drive. But the bay can be moved higher in the case to accommodate extra-long videocards. That’s right: You can put two optical drives at the top of the case, install the hard drive bay directly below that, and have room for multiple ATI Radeon 5970s—the longest cards on the market, at more than 12 inches. Why you’re putting one or more $700 cards into a $75 case is, of course, your business.
And on that note, there are things you won’t be getting with this budget chassis. Like easy-to-remove dust filters. Or cable-routing cutouts in the motherboard tray—a pity, because there’s plenty of room behind the motherboard tray. Or vents in the top or bottom of the case, or a place to put a water-cooling radiator. Or a painted interior. And build quality, while acceptable, isn’t rock-solid. Still, for $75, it’s a lot more case than we were expecting.
Great value; appealing exterior; roomy interior; fan-control dial on side panel.
No place for water-cooling radiator; lacks cable-routing cutouts in mobo tray; unpainted interior.