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Michael Brown Jul 19, 2010

NZXT Vulcan Micro-ATX Case Review

At A Glance

Rad

Very cool looks; reasonably priced; lots of storage options.

Fad

Rear case exhaust limited to 92mm; very cramped motherboard area; not as high-end as it looks.

Badass looks, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

We’ve always been attracted to microATX cases and have long fantasized about building a high-performance PC in a small package. But cases designed for Micro ATX motherboards have always disappointed. Cube-shaped cases are typically cramped, despite consuming twice the floor space of a tower. And while micro-towers take up less space, they often look like something from Home Depot’s appliance department.

When NZXT’s Vulcan arrived, we thought this might be the one. The Vulcan offers up military-industrial styling and front-mounted manual fan controls. On top you’ll find two USB ports, power and reset buttons, audio jacks, an eSATA port, and a removable handle for easy carrying. It’s black inside and out. It boasts a cutout on the motherboard tray for easy installation of advanced CPU coolers and the requisite liquid cooling tubes. It can accommodate as many as four hard drives and two optical drives. And the power-supply compartment at the bottom has a down-facing vent for PSUs with 120mm cooling fans.

NZXT's Vulcan boasts aggressively pretty looks.

So we set about building a system inside what looked like a very promising case. Our primary components consisted of a Gigabyte GA-H57M-UD3 motherboard, an Intel Core i7-875K , and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 . And we ran headlong into some very frustrating issues.

We wanted to use CoolIt’s ECO A.L.C. sealed liquid CPU cooler. But while the front intake fan is 120mm, the rear exhaust fan bracket is only 92mm. Okay, we thought, let’s mount the radiator and fan inside the top of the case, which has space for 120mm exhaust fans. Oops, the motherboard’s memory sockets and ATX12V power connector got in the way.

We pulled out a Thermalright Ultra 120 , but that turned out to be just a little too tall, even though the side of the case has a bulge. (The bulge is ostensibly for an optional 320mm fan, but can help accommodate taller gear.) An NZXT rep suggested that we consider the Corsair Hyrdo Series H50 liquid cooler, which works because the radiator fan acts as an intake fan and can be mounted to the front of the case. But if you want to use long graphics card on this Gigabyte board in this case, you’ll need to move it to the second x16 PCII Express slot. But if you do that, the card winds up blocking the SATA ports.

NZXT markets the Vulcan as being capable of accommodating liquid cooling, but we encountered significant limitations.

In desperation, we turned to an Intel cooler—not the stock cooler that comes with most retail Intel CPUs, but an Intel XTS100H; it’s similar to the cooler that ships with the six-core Core i7 980X , but it’s equipped with Socket 1156 mounts. That one fit with no problems.

While it's true that most Micro ATX cases suffer from limited interior space and limited cooling options, shortcomings exacerbated by quirky motherboard designs, NZXT is marketing this case as capable of accomodating dual graphics cards and liquid cooling. We really wanted to like this case. Actually, we do like this case. It looks cool, and the $70 price tag is pretty reasonable for solid, solid black steel. If the case was just a little wider—broad enough to accommodate a 120mm rear exhaust fan—it would have been a standout. But hands-on time building inside it reveals it as just another garden-variety, Micro-ATX case wrapped in a very cool-looking skin.

THE VERDICT

NZXT Vulcan Micro-ATX Case

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