Zalman Z9 Neo: a cheap case with 5 fans

Measurement

The nominal fan speed is about 1000 RPM for the ASL fans and about 950 RPM for the CSL fans. At 38.9 dBA ambient noise the five fans are quiet at 40.1 dBA. In the end because of troubles using the HDD caddy, I had to mount the SCSI drive with ball bearing to the 5.25″ position. With the drive inside the case in the middle cage and the fans turned off, the noise climbed to 41.6 dBA (where the HDD itself put on the bottom of the chamber produced 41.0 dBA). While this seems as quiet and indeed it is not loud, it is definitely noticeable. It also greatly depends on the position of the case, that means which part of it you can hear the noise from. The frontal part with the noise-dampening door really is the most silent. If the case would be facing you more from the side or top (e. g. under table), consider it louder. At least with the stock fans. Also as I suggested about the 5.25″” caddy thing, when the drive was seeking…you can imagine it. The test equipment is the usual as for power supplies.

Conclusion

My overall impression of the Zalman Z9 Neo is slightly better than what I expected. However, it also showed there is weight to the bad things I heard about Zalman cases. So lets separate the wheat from the chaff. For the price the Z9 Neo is not bad, though consider I do not have that much experience in this price segment. So there may be much better cases out there and compared to them, this one may come with quite poor result. Anyway, I can pretty much see a use for it: if you are one of those people who put components in, replace maybe a graphics card if it dies in a few years and otherwise do not ever touch it again, throwing the whole thing away later and buying a brand new one, it may be good for you. Especially when your build does not need that much of cooling so you can keep the front panel door closed, and you have it right next to you, facing mostly the front door towards you.

If you seek somewhat more silent build, you can replace the fans provided with the case. However, if you seek well built case which can be with you for many years, see many total upgrades of your rig (thus saving money and resources in the long term) or you simply just work often in your case tweaking or replacing things, look elsewhere. Definitely look elsewhere. Though there are some features which may help you with that, the work experience with this case is not the best I have seen, especially around the drive cages. The material quality, including both the steel sheet, riveting and especially the painting, is far from ideal. So with described use, quite soon the area around most of the screws would be paint-less. And that is with this particular case. As I heard (second or third-hand experience though), the quality varies from piece to piece and you can get very noisy (imbalanced) fans or even worse metallic/paint processing than I got. So this is definitely a thing to consider.

Also if you have your case under a table or in another position but facing the front, it is noticeably noisier as it lacks the steel thickness and any noise-dampening material in the sides. Also if you seek ultra-low-noise and/or very powerful rig, the cooling system of this case, especially the top and front cover openings, are weird (at the very least) and will not satisfy you. To wrap things up, I think this case is intended for what companies describe as lightweight “home use”. If you are lucky and get a good piece. If you want more, the Zalman Z9 Neo is not for you by far.

Pros + optical drive positions
+ support for long graphics cards
+ 5 fans pre-installed
+ fan filters
+ thumbscrews provided for side panels
+ front/top panel connector caps
+ noise dampening material on front door
+ good price
+ easy to remove front/top covers
Cons worse fan connector quality
strange/difficult drive mounting system
thin steelsheet, poor paint quality
give in the riveting
no sound dampening on sides
strange cooling openings
Be aware of… /?\ window

Thanks

I thank the impakt company for providing the Zalman Z9 Neo Black.

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