Super-long front-panel cables, beautiful asthetics, plenty of internal working space, ample cooling
Limited cable management, hardly tool-free, no EATX support, annoying stealth optical drive covers
The NZXT Khaos looks like it would be a sleek addition to Maximum PC’s “best of” case club. We like how NZXT is attempting to bring an aesthetical refresh to case construction by toying around with the thick aluminum exterior of the chassis itself: curved edges and indented, grilled valleys add a modernistic look to the otherwise drab framework of conventional rectangular cases.
That said, we still find the Khaos lacking amenities that should be at the top of a company’s design schematics, ahead of making it pretty and modern. For its immense size— 8.8 inches; by 2 feet; by 1 foot, 11 inches—the Khaos lacks accoutrements that we’ve seen in less expensive midtower chassis.
This full-tower case does not support the EATX motherboard standard at all, instead using the extra horizontal space of its interior for a fan mounting appendage. This bracket juts out from the motherboard tray and feels flimsy to the touch, although it doesn’t wiggle back and forth (as we expected it to) even if you attach three 12cm fans. We still ultimately question this fan bracket’s usefulness, as the case’s two front 12cm fans, one rear 12cm fan, and top 14cm fan more than adequately handle airflow.
This case will have you reaching for your toolbox throughout your building (or upgrading) process, as no part of this case is screwless. While we recognize that most PC builders will not perform as many upgrades inside this chassis as, say, a typical Maximum PC editor, it’s still frustrating when a simple hard drive replacement takes the better part of 20 minutes. With tool-free cases we’ve reviewed, this procedure requires but 20 seconds of our time.
We like how the Khaos’s motherboard tray bends backwards out of the chassis. It helps simplify the installation process by eliminating the need to flip the case every which way just to find a great angle for attaching the motherboard standoffs and screws. But we were surprised to find no cable management holes around the motherboard area. That’s right: zero. While you can run cables behind and around the motherboard tray, you still have to wrap them across the motherboard itself.
The Khaos supports up to five 5.25-inch devices and up to eight hard drives. This makes for a great mix of accessories and storage, although we have to ding the chassis for throwing two stealth optical covers into the mix. Unless you actually run two optical drives, you’re stuck having one of your 5.25-inch bays look like one, as the Khaos doesn’t come with any extra “normal” covers. Rejiggering these around requires—you guessed it—a lot more screwing and unscrewing than we like to see.
There’s no denying that the Khaos is a pretty case. But its unique benefits—support for two power supplies; the "big three" front-panel connections of USB, Firewire 400 and eSATA; and an awesome combination of front wheels and a pulling handle—aren’t enough to overcome its lapses. That doesn’t mean we’re going to toss this chassis out with the trash. But there are better full-tower cases on the market. They might offer slightly less space or peripheral support, but we’ll gladly sacrifice a drive bay for better features and usability any day.