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Maximum PC Staff

Jun 10, 2010

NZXT Panzerbox

At A Glance

Panzer Dragon

Water-cooling support; fits giant GPUs; good stock cooling; small and lightweight.

Panzerbjorn

Inconvenient PSU placement; toolless HDD/ODD bays would be nice.

Tiny enclosure holds a whole lotta stuff

NZXT’s Panzerbox is akin to a Mini Cooper. It might look diminutive, but it has a surprising amount of space and is feature-packed, to boot. The Panzerbox is smaller than a mid-tower yet it has a slide-out motherboard tray, is made entirely of aluminum, and includes support for 12.2-inch videocards and even water cooling. At $120, it’s even affordable. On paper, the NZXT Panzerbox seems like the perfect case to house your LAN gaming rig. But is there a catch?

At 9.6 inches wide by 17.9 inches deep and 17.9 inches high, the Panzerbox’s all-aluminum chassis is one of the most compact modern ATX cases we’ve seen in years. And as mentioned above, that tiny chassis holds a lot of stuff, and still manages to offer decent airflow.


NZXT's Panzerbox is understated and elegant; two adjectives not always associated with NZXT cases.

The Panzerbox ships with three fans: a 19cm front intake fan, a 19cm top exhaust fan, and a 12cm rear exhaust fan—a pretty standard configuration. It has four 3.5-inch hard drive bays and three 5.25-inch bays. The lower two-bay hard drive cage is removable, and we recommend using it only if you’ve already filled the top two: The bottom drives sit on their sides, perpendicular to the motherboard, blocking airflow to your second GPU (if you’re running one).

With the use of two included adapters, the 19cm top fan can be replaced with a dual-fan radiator (you’ll have to buy the fans separately)—but with only three optical drive bays, there isn’t much room for an internal reservoir.

To achieve the Panzerbox’s miniscule footprint, NZXT had to make compromises, most notably in the power supply mount. The power supply mounts on its side, flush with the case’s left side panel; there’s a mesh exhaust hole in the panel to accommodate this, and a riser to support the PSU’s weight. But for most power supplies we tested, the riser was a few millimeters too short to actually hold the PSU’s weight when the mounting screws were fastened; the case’s rear panel ends up taking the brunt and bows slightly. Worse, once the PSU is installed, it effectively blocks access to the videocards and everything south of them. In order to swap out a videocard, you’ll have to either remove enough power, SATA, and front-panel connectors to pull out the motherboard tray, or—more likely—remove the PSU entirely.

It's a little cramped, but the Panzerbox will fit today's longest GPUs.

If you choose to install everything possible into the Panzerbox (dual 5970s, anyone?) don’t be surprised if you have a very cramped case on your hands. There’s hardly anywhere to route cables or tie them down. Anyone who’s swapping out parts frequently will mourn the PSU placement and the lack of toolless hard drive and optical bays.

The Panzerbox tries to be all things to all people. It’s a lightweight, low-profile aluminum chassis that can hold a whole lot of rig, but you’ll hardly be toting it to LAN parties with a dual-GPU water-cooled system inside. And if you have more than one optical slot full, well, hello external coolant reservoir, goodbye portability. For such a small case, the Panzerbox isn’t all that luggable—there’s no handle, for example.

Still, the Panzerbox is one of the least expensive, most expansive small aluminum chassis we’ve seen. Build quality is high, stock air-cooling is workable (especially if you don’t use the lower HDD chassis), and the motherboard tray is a useful feature. This is a great case if you’re looking for a smallish chassis you can cram a burly rig into, but there are roomier options for a stay-at-home rig, and more portable options for the dedicated LAN gamer.

THE VERDICT

NZXT Panzerbox

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