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Nathan Edwards Jun 24, 2008

NZXT Alpha

At A Glance

Alpha Flight

Great airflow.

The Omega Code

No room for high-end graphics cards; weird PCI holders. Cramped.

There are apparently two versions of the English language going around the technological world: One is the version manufacturers use when they say things like, “The NZXT Alpha also enables the user to fit large expansion cards like the Nvidia 8800 GTX.” The other version is the kind we use, where the word “fit” doesn’t suggest a large bucket of grease, a hammer, and profanity that would make a longshoreman blush.

If you're looking to build a screaming SLI or CrossFire rig, you'll have better luck using the box this case came in.

The blue LED fan on the Alpha's window adds some lovely coloration to the chassis.

The smallish size of the NZXT midtower case was obvious the minute we cracked the box, but we figured that installing a decent-powered gaming rig into the chassis wouldn’t be a total bust. And it wasn’t; it was just a hassle. The PCI holders aren’t your average combination of a screw and a metal tab. No, these holders have multiple notches and tabs that are meant to lock into the slots—obviously designed so the holder doesn’t accidentally fall out of your case. You know, when it’s not attached with a screw.

In actuality, you’ll likely break one or more of the tabs when you try to remove the flimsy metal holders from the Alpha. It’s a small concern if you never plan to build a second machine in this case or switch any PCI cards around. But that’s just silly talk. Nobody likes a gaping hole in the rear of their case, but that’s what you’ll end up with if you start futzing around with your PCI-based devices.

Have fun wedging an Nvidia 800 next to this neighboring drive bay!

Of course, the Alpha has an ingenious solution for this problem: It just doesn’t make any room for large PCI devices like today’s high-end videocards. If you try to put an 8800 GTX into the case straight on, it’s not going to happen. The videocard slams right into the case’s hard drive bay. It’s possible to get the card in there if you hit on the perfect combination of patience, deft angling, and brute force, but why bother? Once the hellish task is complete, you’ve got your card wedged in so tight that there’s no more than a fraction of an inch between the end of the card and the drive bays, and you still have to attach cables!

A strange benefit of the case’s miniature size is that airflow, for all intents and purposes, is perfect. The fresh breeze produced by the case’s two 12cm fans covers your motherboard just as well as it covers your videocard and hard drives. So feel free to pack your rig full of hot equipment—but not large graphics cards. The NZXT Alpha is, at best, an above-average case with a deal-breaking flaw.

Next: The Ultra m998!

THE VERDICT

NZXT Alpha

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