|Intro, Specs, and Features|
|Options, folks. That’s what NZXT is shooting for with its new full-tower Switch 810 case, which can be configured in a number of different ways to optimize airflow or sound reduction and is equally friendly for air- or water-cooling setups.
Available in black or white, the NZXT Switch 810 takes a while to get to know intimately. NZXT built buckets of details into this chassis, and the more you work with it, the more little surprises you find, from fans that rotate and slide, to well-placed LEDs, and the “hybrid fins” you can use to regulate noise or enhance airflow.
For all the nifty extras, the Switch 810 is not based on gimmicks; it’s solidly-built, with the specs and features users want in an enthusiast-class case.
The chassis is crafted from multiple materials that intermingle freely; for example, sections of the exterior are high-gloss black plastic rimmed by rubberized plastic with metal mesh embedded. It’s a risky strategy in terms of aesthetics, but the Switch 810 manages to pull it off in our opinion. The whole case is black inside and out with white fans and LEDs, which is a simple but attractive color scheme.
You can fit just about any-sized motherboard in there comfortably, from mini-ITX to E-ATX, and it supports graphics cards up to 375mm (350mm installed, 285mm with the adjacent fan at at full pivot). Speaking of fans, the Switch 810 has four of them inside, with mounts for an additional six--two on the front panel, two on the bottom, two inside the case mounted on the drive bays, an exhaust fan on the back, and three on the top.
The top of the case has 90mm of space and can accommodate 360mm or 420mm radiators; you can also fit a 140mm or 240mm radiator on the bottom of the case with a little rejiggering of the drive cages.
The Switch 810 has six 3.5-inch and four 5.25-inch drive bays, and one of the 5.25-inch bays is a hidden hot-swap bay that can fit a 2.5- or 3.5-inch drive. Both of the 3.5-inch drive cages are removable, and the 5.25-inch drive cages double as thumbscrew storage; there are eight holes for parking thumbscrews, and our case came with six extras already in there. There are also nine expansion slot positions.
The top panel features one of those pleasing extra details. Almost the entire top panel is comprised of “fins”; in other words, it’s mostly slot openings to let air circulate better. However, using a simple mechanical exterior switch, you can close off the slots to keep dust out of your rig and also cut down on noise.
If you’re planning to haul this to LAN parties, good luck, as the case without any components inside weighs 20 pounds.
The case comes with a manual, an 8-pin cable extender (which really should be standard-issue with a case this size), a small bag of zip ties, and a bag full of smaller bags of screws. The small bags are actually labeled with the screw type as well, to ease the building process.
|Exterior, Interior, and Installation|
We already mentioned some of the case’s exterior features, but there’s a lot more to discuss. We’ll start with the side panel, which has a big, clear acrylic window that gobbles up about 75% of the entire panel. The panel itself (as well as the panel on the other side) is held on by three thumbscrews. With the top and bottom thumbscrews removed, the sides will stay on until you press down on the remaining screw to pop out the panel. This allows you to just snap the sides on easily and then worry about the remaining screws later.
The front panel has a lot going on. Divided into two sections, the bottom portion houses a small mesh grill to allow air intake and a larger mesh filter to trap dust on its way in; removing this panel exposes the two front fans. The top portion features an integrated ODD drive door that hides your drive from view, ensuring a smooth, stylish front, as well as a door hiding the front ports. Those ports include headphone and mic jacks, a pair each of USB 2.0 and 3.0, an SD card slot, reset button, and LED toggle button.
The power button is on top of the case along with the aforementioned hybrid fins. The back is mostly either a cutout or mesh for great airflow, yet there’s more to see. Although there’s just one lone back fan, you can easily loosen it and slide it up or down a couple of inches to position it in just the right spot depending on your component setup. NZXT also put in a pair of white LEDs (controllable with the front panel toggle button)--one to light the back I/O panel and one above the expansion slots--to give users a clear view of the back ports so they aren’t fumbling around in the dark. It’s a smart but simple detail. To give them power though, you have to connect an internal lead to a SATA power cable, which seems a bit odd. We would have preferred they use a less valuable floppy or 4-pin power connector.
The bottom of the Switch 810 houses a pair of mesh filters, both of which are easily removable with a nice spring-loaded mechanism. Rubberized feet underneath keep the case off the ground by few centimeters.
The interior of the Switch 810 is spacious, especially if you start pulling out drive cages--which you don’t need to do to access your drives, as they’re easily accessible via the back. The 3.5-inch rails are sufficiently sturdy, and the tool-less 5.25-inch trays have a little lock that holds ODDs in place securely once the drives snap into place.
Of the four fans that come with the Switch 810, one is mounted on one of the 3.5-inch drive cages and can be pivoted at up to a 40-degree angle to direct cool air across various components. There’s room for another 140mm fan on the lower drive cage, as well.
If you want to use the hot-swap drive tray, the power (Molex) and data (SATA) ports are mounted in the tray and facing toward the motherboard. There are ten large, sturdy rubber grommets for easy cable routing and a plethora of clips on the back panel for zip-tying cables into place. With 23-25mm of space for cables between the back tray and the side panel, you shouldn’t run into any space issues.
With so much room inside the case, we had no problems installing our components--not a nicked knuckle to be found. Almost everything is spring-loaded and locks into place, and so many parts of the case are movable or removable that it’s always easy to find room to work.
Although the CPU cutout is plenty large, our backplate didn’t quite fit, which is always an annoyance. However, the back plate has a smart, simple feature that more than makes up for it: a fan power hub that has headers for seven fans and gets it juice from a single Molex connector. It’s even attached with Velcro so you can remove it easily, if you like hunting for fan power leads on your motherboard or something.
The PSU mount has little feet that keep the unit off of the floor of the case, even though that floor is just an airflow-friendly mesh, as well as a small metal arm that helps hold the PSU snugly.
|Test System and Thermal Test|
|Test System: Our test system consisted of a Gigabyte G1.Sniper2 motherboard with a Core i7-2600K (3.4GHz) processor, 2x4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600 (@1333), ZOTAC GeForce GTX 260, WD 150GB Raptor HDD, and Windows Home Premium x64.
We used Gigabyte’s built-in system monitoring software, EasyTune6, to record CPU and system temperatures (in Celsius) at idle and then again at full load after running Prime 95 for a set amount of time. We averaged the temperatures of the motherboard sensors (there were four detected by the software) to achieve a single number in each category.
The cases included in the below chart were tested using the exact components and software we used for the Switch 810.
The NZXT Switch 810 bested or matched the field across the board--though not by much, in several instances--with the sole exception being that the Antec Eleven Hundred kept the CPU one degree cooler under load. These results aren’t incredibly surprising, however, as the Switch 810 comes with four fans (which is how we tested it), whereas the rest of these cases had no more than three.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
In the end, there’s not much we would change about the NZXT Switch 810. Other than the issue of the CPU cutout on the motherboard tray not accommodating our particular CPU cooler's backplate, the use of a valuable SATA power connector to power two LEDs, and the substantial weight of the empty chassis, we didn’t find any objectionable features. One could carp about the lack of a FireWire port on the front panel, we suppose, but it’s a dying interface; we’ll take the four USB ports and card reader over FireWire any day.
Really, though, we’re just splitting hairs with the above criticisms. This case is exquisite. Every inch of its construction is solid, and it’s peppered with extra details that make working with it a pleasant experience.
Even with the four fans running, there was very little in the way of extra noise; primarily, any noise was just from the air moving, as opposed to mechanical sounds emitted by the fans. Indeed, our dual CPU fans were far louder than the case fans. Additionally, when under load, the fan noise did not increase whatsoever.