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Zalman Z-Machine GT1000 High End Gaming Case
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Date: Oct 17, 2007
Section:Misc
Author: Shane Unrein
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Introduction, Specs & Features

As enthusiasts, we're always looking for the next great design in computer cases. We're eager to see companies innovate in various areas of design, including cooling, tool-less installation, and style. When we see a new case hit the market, we often hope that it is made of aluminum, includes quiet 120mm or larger fans, and is easy to work in. We like aluminum because it usually looks good and is typically lightweight. We prefer the convenience of tool-less installation features because we are frequently swapping out parts.

We happen to have a new case in the labs that meets some of these criteria, the Zalman Z-Machine GT1000, which Zalman labels a "High End Gaming Enclosure." This case is made from aluminum, but it bucks the lightweight trend of aluminum due to it being constructed of aluminum that is 4-5mm thick. That alone should make you realize we aren't dealing with an ordinary case here. In addition to its high quality, thick aluminum construction, the GT1000 offers plenty of cooling and innovative tool-less installation.

The GT1000 comes in two different colors: titanium and black. The case features two 92mm intake fans in the front and one 120mm rear exhaust fan. The titanium model features blue LED fans, and the black one sports red LED fans. We have the black model on our bench, and a quick glance reveals that this case has a lot of potential.


Zalman Z-Machine GT1000
Specifications and Features

Specifications:

Enclosure Type Tower
Enclosure Dimensions 480mm X 220mm X 450mm (18.9" X 8.7" X 17.7") (L*W*H)
Weight 12.5kg (27.5lb)
Material Aluminum 4~5T
Motherboard Compatibility Standard ATX / microATX
PSU Compatibility Standard ATX / ATX12V
PCI/AGP Card Compatibility Full Size
Drive Bays
(Tool Free Kit provided)
3.5" Bay x 7
5.25" Bay x 4
Cooling Components Front Intake Fans : 92mm LED Fan x 2
Rear Exhaust Fan : 120mm LED Fan x 1
Expansion Card Slots
7 Slots(Tool Free Bolts provided)
Front I/O Ports USB Port x 2, IEEE1394(Firewire) Port x 1
Headphones x 1, MIC x 1
Color Options Titanium / Black

Features:


Zalman uses the typical packing technique to protect the GT1000 during shipping: a plastic bag around the case and styrofoam surrounding the top and bottom. Our test sample arrived without a single scratch or dent. As you can see, the box shows you what can be found inside, and it lists some of the case's main features.

     

In addition to the case itself, Zalman includes a somewhat useful manual and a small white box full of accessories. Inside the box, we found two cable tie-downs, drive bay screws, motherboard screws, power supply screws, spare Allen bolts, motherboard stand-offs, an Allen wrench, and a Zalman ZM-MC1 (which can be used to control fan speed). The ZM-MC1 is the cable you see on the far left of the right image above. On one end, it has a 4-pin Molex-style connector, and on the other end, there are four three-pin fan connectors. The two black connectors supply 12V while the white connectors supply 5V. You can use the 5V white connectors to slow down a couple fans to make them quieter.

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Closer Look: Outside

 

Closer Look: External
What Does a High End Gaming Enclosure Look Like?

Soon after taking the GT1000 out of its box, we could tell that the case looked as good as the pictures on the box and on Zalman's web site. Immediately, you can tell that Zalman took a different approach with the GT1000's design. While most cases feature one-piece, removable panels on each side of the case, the GT1000 sports two-piece panels that remind us of hinged doors. The right panel doors are secured by screws that have hexagonal sockets in the heads (hence the inclusion of the Allen wrench, or hex key). The left panel doors are secured by thumbscrews, and the bigger side features a window. Each side of the case is also adorned with a couple Zalman logos and an arrow with "Open" written inside of it.
 

      


Each part of each side is held on by two screws that are at the top and bottom of the sides. We appreciate Zalman's choice of thumbscrews for the left side. They make it very easy and convenient to get into the case. After removing the screws, each part of the panel can be swung open, but the panels aren't designed to be removed.
 

      


When we turn the GT1000 to look at its front, you can see its four external 5.25" bays and one external 3.5" bay. One of the 5.25" bay covers sports a Z-Machine logo. Beneath the external bays, you will notice the power button, power LED, hard drive activity LEDs, reset button, microphone jack, headphone jack, two USB ports, and a IEEE1394 (FireWire) port. Finally, at the bottom of the case's front, you can see the grill in front of the two 92mm fans.
 

      


Once we turn the case around to check out the back, it looks fairly typical. At the top, you see the empty area where the PSU goes, and beneath that, there is the empty rear I/O panel, a 120mm fan with a metal fan grill, and the expansion card slots. Interestingly, Zalman even included some logos back here. That's not all, though. There's even a warning below the fan to be cautious of ESD (electrostatic discharge) when handling expansion cards.
 

      


Overall, we think the outside of the case looks great. We like the simple, clean style of the brushed aluminum. We have to move beyond the surface, though, to see if we have a good case on our hands. A case that looks great but isn't very functional won't appeal to users, so let's open the GT1000 up to check if the internal design matches the great looks of the outside.

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Closer Look: Inside

 

Closer Look: Internal
Open It Up

One of the most surprising and unique design features of this case is the way the side panels function. As we mentioned above, the panel consists of two doors that open after removing two screws for each side of the panel. The left side opens far enough to reach the surface that you are working on, which means it shouldn't get in your way when you are working inside the case. The right side doesn't open nearly as far, but we don't think it will get in the way during installation either. With the case's internals exposed, you can see that the entire inside of the case is black, which we think looks great and further shows that this case has a quality that is head and shoulders above the average ATX enclosure.
 


When you take a closer look inside, you can see that the PCI slot covers are secured by thumbscrews, another tool-less feature that is easy to appreciate. Opposite the PCI slot covers and 120mm fan, you can see the drive bays and 92mm fans, which are in front of the hard drive bays. The top two 5.25" drive bays already have thumbscrews installed (and fixed) in them. This is a slightly different way to create tool-free optical drive installation, but it works just fine. Below the 5.25" bays, you will notice the hard drive cage. Hard drives slide in and are guided by rollers for another nice tool-less feature. The only thing that concerns us about the hard drive cage is that it doesn't look like it will allow for optimal airflow from those two 92mm fans in front of the cage.
 

      
 

The left panel window is secured on the inside by screws. The window is made of a relatively thick acrylic. If you looked at the specs of this case and saw the 4-drive hard drive cage above, you may be wondering how six hard drives can fit in the GT1000. Well, check out the second picture below, and you'll see the unique approach Zalman took to allow two more hard drives to be installed. On the bottom of the case, there are eight rubber-covered screws and a couple sets of securing mechanisms. It is a clever design; we'll show you how it works on the next page.
 

      
 

To open up the other side of the case, you have to use the included Allen wrench. The smaller part that covers the drive bays is secured by two hex bolts and is hinged like the other side of the case. The larger part, on the other hand, is secured by four hex bolts and can be removed. When removed, it can act like a motherboard tray, which as you can see already has the motherboard stand-offs installed.
 

      
 

We already knew the GT1000 was made of impressive 4-5mm thick aluminum before we even touched this case, but the thickness of the case became really apparent when we removed the motherboard tray. In the first picture below, you can see how thick the panel is compared to a U.S. dime. In order to truly appreciate this, you probably have to have at least a little experience with other aluminum cases, but if you haven't ever used an aluminum case, trust us when we say that the build quality of this one is top notch, due in large part to its thickness.
 

    

The final aspect of the GT1000's internals that we want to show you is all the cables that are connected to the front for the front-mounted I/O ports. These cables include connectors for USB, FireWire, and audio. In addition to these I/O connectors, you can see the motherboard connectors and the two 92mm fan power connectors. We wish Zalman would have made those fan power cables a bit longer to increase the chance that we wouldn't have to use an extension or adapter cable of some sort.

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Installation & Use

Installation
Fill It Up and Use It

When we see the phrase "High End Gaming Enclosure," we assume that the biggest, baddest components on the market can fit inside. Amongst the components we decided to install in the GT1000 were two of the biggest and baddest you can buy: the Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme CPU heatsink and a GeForce 8800 GTX. If either of these components didn't fit in the GT1000, we'd have to call Zalman out for misleading consumers. We'll go into the details more a little later, but let's just say for now that we weren't disappointed. Our installation included the following components:

  • Motherboard: Asus Striker Extreme nForce 680i SLI
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo Q6600 Quad-Core
  • CPU Cooler: Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme w/ Scythe 120mm Fan
  • Video Card: MSI GeForce 8800 GTX
  • Hard Drive: Maxtor 120GB SATA
  • CD/DVD Drive: Lite-On DVD ROM
  • PSU: Enermax Liberty 680W

Overall, we found the installation and use of the GT1000 to be rather simple and convenient. Before we get too far into the details, let's show the answers to the questions above. In the first of the two pictures below, you can see the 8800 GTX fits with about half an inch to spare. We'd like a little more space between the 8800 GTX and hard drive cage, but we're happy enough to see it fit without having to alter the case. In the second picture, you can see the Thermalright Ultra-120 fits with plenty of room to close the side panel.
 

      


We have mentioned the tool-free features several times throughout this review, and now it's time to see how (and how well) the tool-free drive installation works. To install a hard drive in the hard drive cage, you lift up the arm with the rubber roller and then insert the drive. You simply push it back as far as you can and make sure the bar comes down in front of the drive to secure it, as you can see in the second picture below. Each drive can be further secured by the thumbscrews you see on the left side of the drive cage. We're happy to report that this system works quite well.
 

      
 

As we mentioned previously, the GT1000 also includes two positions inside the bottom of the case that can hold hard drives. It's a rather simple and elegant design. Remove the four rubber-covered screws, screw them into the hard drive, unlock the securing mechanism, slip the drive in position, and finally lock the securing mechanism. The drive actually sits on two rubber strips to prevent vibration in the case. We aren't sure how many people would put drives here unless the drive cage were full, but we commend Zalman for the clever inclusion of this option.
 

     


We finished installing the rest of the components without any problems. The GT1000 is a great case to work in, and the view through the window is pretty nice. We're also fans (pardon the pun) of the red LEDs in the fans. The black and red combination looks great together.
 

     

          

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Summary & Final Thoughts

 

Evaluation Summary: Zalman definitely created a special case with the Z-Machine GT1000, and we wouldn't argue with the company's assertion that it is a high end enclosure, whether it's for gaming or any other use. The heavy duty aluminum creates the impression that this is one of the highest quality cases on the market, and from what we've seen, it definitely is.
 



While the GT1000 is a great case, it is not perfect, of course. The biggest gripe we (and probably everyone else) have about the case is its price. Currently, it sells for around $380. We remember paying about $200 for our first aluminum case around six years ago, and at that time, we know not many people would have paid even that much for a case. So now we have to ask ourselves if we'd pay quite a bit more for one today. Unfortunately, the question isn't easy to answer, and we have mixed feelings about it. Our first thought is that the case would appeal to a wider audience if it was more affordable, and of course Zalman would sell more of them. Then again, the higher quality, thicker aluminum obviously costs more, and dropping the price may not be practical for Zalman. We're not sure, but we do know this case is special. If we were building a high end gaming case full of really expensive components, then yes, we could see ourselves paying this price since we are fans of the high quality aluminum and construction. Plus, a case can be used for many years, and this is one we'd probably hold on to for quite a while.

In addition to the price, we noted a couple of other issues with the GT1000. For one, we don't think the airflow from 92mm fans in the front have a clear enough path to maximize circulation through the case. Sure, air will get through, but we can't help but wonder if Zalman noticed this limitation. Furthermore, the 92mm fans weren't as quiet as we expected them to be, which may be due to the air hitting the drive cage first, causing turbulance. It's worth noting that this could be remedied by the included ZM-MC1. Another issue we have with the GT1000 is the lack of an internal speaker, which are often helpful for troubleshooting motherboard problems (beep codes), when a motherboard doesn't have an on-board buzzer.

Despite the price and several other issues, we still find ourselves willing to recommend this case to anyone who is building a high end rig with a big budget. The quality and looks are undoubtedly first class. The tool-less installation features are innovative, convenient, and easy to use. The case seemed roomier than many others we've used. We've used other ATX cases that couldn't accomodate the Thermalright Ultra-120 or an 8800 GTX in them, but the GT1000 has no problems with either of these components. The GT1000 is a high quality and unique case that will give your friends fits of envy and that will be worthy of your flagship components for years. If you like a lot of what the GT1000 offers but don't think you need all of its features, watch out for Zalman's new GT900 coming soon.


 

•  Great looks
•  High quality, thick aluminum
•  Great tool-less installation features
•  Includes ZM-MC1 to adjust fans
•  8800 GTX and Thermalright Ultra-120 fit inside
•  Can hold six hard drives
•  No internal speaker!
•  Expensive
•  92mm fans not as quiet as expected


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