NZXT Beta Review
Reviewed by: Geekspeak411
Reviewed on: August 4, 2009
NZXT. While not a comparatively huge vendor against the likes of Cooler Master and Antec, most enthusiasts have heard of NZXT and their products. Oriented towards gamers, NZXT tends to appease their supporters with thoughtful innovation and design. With the Beta, NZXT has addressed the problem of many gamers - a lack of cash. Retailing at just $50 even before rebates, the Beta makes for an excellent bargain - if it's up to snuff. The company has released a good amount of cases since its founding in 2004 to know what they're doing, so I'm excited to see how their newest case, the Beta, part of their classic series, holds against the likes of the juggernauts of the computer industry!
The Beta is shipped in a very plain brown box with BETA clearly proclaimed along the top. Using black ink there is a list of features and a black stripe. In the top left corner NZXT proclaims that this was designed in Los Angeles, and in the bottom left corner the company has printed on their logo. Hopefully this conservative design is only to allow more flexability on the case itself. Only time will tell!
The Beta comes well protected in the standard packaging used with cases these days. The case comes wedged between two molded styrofoam blocks giving the Beta a protective buffer zone and is then protected from liquid and minor scratches by a plastic bag. Overall I have no worries that this case will make it safely to wherever it might be sent.
Trying to appease gamers is tough enough with a big budget. I can't wait to see how NZXT does with $50!
Once out of it's protective material, the Beta surprises. Despite being a steel tower it is extremely light which, if durable, would make a good case for someone on the go all the time such as myself. Another surprise is that NZXT went one step further than most other vendors and painted the interior as well as the exterior. Usually this comes at a price premium, but here it is on a $50 case! The exterior paint seems pretty durable too, not like some cheap rubbish that will flake off easily. The paint is textured and will hide fingerprints like a champ, a definite plus in my book. The front panel leaves a bit to be desired, perhaps it is just because the front panel lights are off, but the plastic quality just doesn't match the paint job. There is another surprise to be found here however. The 5.25" bay covers are not only perforated which allows for more airflow, but they, along with all the rest of the front panels air intakes, are padded with 1/4" foam which provides about the best air filtration available. I must admit, NZXT is really surprising me with how far they can stretch $50. They even drilled holes for watercooling! These pictures also show the two massive 120mm vents on the side which are drilled for fans of that size.
The front I/O panel can be found on the top of the Beta as opposed to being on the front in the traditional location. There are 2 USB ports, an eSATA port, and a microphone and headphone port. The inclusion of an eSATA port allows for fast and easy transfers between the computer and an eSATA compatible external hard drive.
Once you remove the front panel, you can see the 1/4" foam over the fans intake vent that NZXT attached to keep your system dust-free. The cords for all of the front lights and buttons are hot-glued in place rather haphazardly, but effectively. Also, after the panel is removed, you can get a closer look at the Beta's sole fan. It is easily removed via 4 crossover Phillips/standard head screws so that the user can install his/her own fan in the bay which the spec sheet clearly states can handle thicker fans. Following the design quality standard, the paint job continues unscathed even where you cant see.
Other than the lacking front panel, the designers at NZXT have blown me away with what they could do on a budget! Let's see whats hiding inside.
Upon opening the Beta, which was very easy thanks to the thoughtful inclusion of tool-less side panel screws, I instantly admired the sleek black paint job applied to the interior. All of the PCI covers are perforated allowing for extra airflow. There is also a large vent next to the slots, which will allow for hot air coming out of a video card's cooler such as the GTX 295's, to exhaust out of the case rather than stay trapped inside. There is a 120mm opening in the usual spot on the back, but surprisingly a fan is not included - undoubtedly left out to cut costs. I'm not sure whether this was a wise move however, because I have trouble believing a case with one fan will be able to keep an overclocked gaming rig cool. Without proper ventilation, a system can become very unstable and even crash during peak temperatures ie: during gaming. I suppose we will just have to wait and see how the Beta performs in the testing regiment.
There is a little white cardboard box in the bottom right corner of the case which includes all of the Beta's accessories. The the top mounted I/O panel's cables are joined with the front panel's cables neatly wrapped and twist-tied together. There is also a cord for the front 120mm fan which interestingly enough has both a 3-pin motherboard adapter, and a 4 pin Molex adapter. At this point I am not sure if they can both run the fan independent of each other, or if the motherboard connector is just to adjust the speed of the fan while being powered straight from the PSU through the Molex. You can also see the holes drilled and set back for cable management.
Like I said above, the little white box inside of the case contains all of the accessories that NZXT thinks you will need with the Beta. Those accessories are: 4 Tool-Less Floppy Disk Mounts (uses two per drive), 8 Tool-Less 5.25" Drive Mounts (uses two per drive), not one but two bags of varied screws, headers, and spacers, a little screw-on adapter allowing you to lock your side door, a motherboard speaker, and 10 Tool-Less 3.5" Hard Drive Mounts (uses two per drive.) There is also a little sheet of paper thanking the purchaser for buying a NZXT product in four different languages, and states that the manual can be found online here under their downloads section. I included one of the 5.25" drive bay covers in the picture too below the white box.
The fan itself is a standard grade NZXT with blue LED's. Knowing most case fans are junk, I wouldn't expect too much from this but only testing will tell!
Installing components into the Beta was a painless activity. The thumbscrews on the side panel were a nice addition, and all of the tool-less components worked as they should, which made the whole experience hassle free. I do have a couple of complaints however. If you are going to put good tool-less mounts for the 5.25" bays, the 3.5" bays, and include thumbscrews for the side panel, why in the world would you put some plain-jane screws in to secure the PCI cards? Now If it's because they didn't trust the plastic tool-free mounts that are out there for PCI cards then I don't blame them. But why not put thumbscrews in? When I install the OCC test bench into a system I usually only expect to have to use a screwdriver in the motherboard screws, which if anyone can come up with a good tool-less idea for motherboard installation, I would support them forever. But I was surprised when I saw that I had to crunch my fingers into the back panel to get the right angle with my screwdriver on the PCI screws rather that just twist them out with my fingers.
With the 5.25" drive bay mounts really all you have to do is slide your drive in, line up the 2 pins on the mount with the screw holes on the drive, push and twist the knob on the mount 90 degrees. It really is that simple! It is also secure - I think that my drive would stay in the case just fine with only one mount attached.
Once everything is installed, I found that there really is no place for the extra cables to go. I never thought about it before but NZXT engineers designed the Beta so that the motherboard tray goes all the way from the bottom of the case to the top. No hole for extra cables to be seen. Now with NZXT aiming at gamers here I don't know how in the world they though they would get by without! Almost every custom builder posts pictures of their rig at some point, whether to show off or to get some help with trouble shooting. Either way builders like you and I know that to get the most out of your system, you have to tuck those extra cables away so that they don't obstruct airflow and so that you can see and show off the guts of your rig. NZXT did put cable management holes underneath the motherboard but there is no way to string your cables to them without wrapping them around the drive bay, which would take about 3 feet or more of cable. This is something I for one, don't have. Instead, I had to stuff all of my extra cables into the two empty 5.25" drive bays which completely blocked the possible air flow opportunities, defeating the purpose of the wonderful drive bay covers that I like so much.
With this review, the Beta was put through some additional testing which I wasn't going to include, but after the results I feel that I would be doing you, the reader and possible consumer, a huge disservice by omitting the facts. I moved halfway through the review which means that my systems had to come with me. Like anyone going to a LAN party etc. would, I got my rig ready to ship. I took out the graphics card, I took out the hard drive and unlike most I took an extra precaution by packing the interior to the brim with packing peanuts. I had tightened down all of the screws and made sure everything was good to go. I put the case into it's original shipping box and sent it off. When it got here however, I was appalled. In order to keep the Beta lightweight, and to cut down costs I would imagine, NZXT used thin steel to construct the case. Now when I was installing the OCC test bench I noticed how the back panel flexed a good bit when I pressed the lip right above the PCI slot openings, but I didn't think much of it. Now I see that I should have. When I opened up the Beta to empty out the packing peanuts and reinstall the graphics card and the hard drive I found that the back of my PSU, a Cooler Master RPP 850w had sunken down far below where it should have been. This wouldn't have been that big of a problem except for the fact that since I had the PSU's cords under the PSU unit for lack of cable management, and I had a few packing peanuts up there to fill in the gaps, the PSU had actually made contact with the CPU cooler, a Cooler Master V8, via the extra cords and bent the cooler so that it about a half-inch lower than where it should have been. Luckily the motherboard didn't crack, although the motherboard tray was bent out of shape around the upper stand-offs.
Now how did all of this actually happen? Well it was actually a combination of things. The part of the case that the PSU mounts onto wasn't sturdy enough to hold the unit in place and had bent all out of shape around the screws which you can see in the first picture, the plate holding the PSU was flush to the upper panel you see in the picture when I got the case. In the second picture you can see one of the bottom screw holes which wasn't bent out of shape, originally the top one was a smooth at the bottom.
Now to keep this from happening, manufacturers have put either a metal tab extending out from the motherboard tray or a bar that the PSU sits on. Occasionally you will see both. In this case, NZXT went with a tab extending from the motherboard tray. Like the PSU mount however, the steel was too thin and wasn't curved to add support. When the mount bent, so did the tab. In the picture below, you can see what happened. I would recommend opening the larger version if you are interested because even after moving the cords and everything, it was difficult to get the light and the camera in the right place so that you could even see the tab, so please excuse the poor picture quality.
To give you an overall look at the damage, I have included a picture of the side of the unit. I was able to fix the problem to an extent after which I took the picture that has everything installed, seen above. When comparing the two pictures, notice just how far the PSU has sagged and note that the Cooler Master V8 was originally level with the 120mm vent in the back, even after adjusting the brightness and contrast ratios, I was unable to get the motherboard to show up.
I'll have to keep the PSU issue in the back of my mind until the conclusion. For now, let's see what I found on NZXT's website!
|Case Type||Mid Tower Steel|
|Front Panel Material||Plastic|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||200x430x501mm / 7.87"x16.9"x19.7"|
Front, 1x120mm Blue LED (included)
9 Drive Bays
4 External 5.25" Bays
5 Internal 3.5" Bays
Screwless Rail Design
|Materials||Steel with Black Finish|
|Power Supply||500 Watt PS2 ATX 12v 2.0 (optional)|
7.28 KGS (w/o PSU)
|Motherboard Support||ATX, Micro-ATX, Baby-ATX|
- Fits ATX standard motherboards and power supplies
- Fits large 10.5" performance graphics cards
- Expanded cooling directly cools video cards and CPU
- Screwless installation for hard drives and external 5.25" drives
- Black internal finish for sleek look
- Meshed front panel allows for better airflow than traditional cases
- Top mounted Dual USB/Audio/ESATA for convenient usage
All information courtesy of NZXT @ http://www.nzxt.com/products/beta/
Okay, now to the part that makes or breaks a review. The testing! To test the Beta I will first let the system idle for 30min and record the temperatures. I will then run the Beta through OCC's rigorous benchmarking suite which consists of a series of synthetic high stress benchmarks to simulate 100% load on the CPU, GPU, HDD, and the Chipset and record the temperatures after 30min. Will the Beta's single 120mm fan be able to keep up with the rest of the components? Now we can finally find out. Keep in mind that the CPU is being cooled by the stock Intel heatsink.
- Processor: Intel i7 920
- Motherboard: MSI X58 Platinum
- Memory: Mushkin HP3 12800 9-9-9-24
- Video Card: nVidia GTX 260
- Power Supply: Cooler Master Real Power Pro 850w
- Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Blue 640GB
- Optical Drive: Asus DVD-RW
- Case: NZXT Beta
- OS: Windows Vista Home Premium 64bit
- Ambient Temperature: 24° Celsius
NOTE: Cases that were previously reviewed on 790i chipset have been retested with the new results shown below.
- Case: Cooler Master CSX Stacker 830 Red Flame Edition
- Case: Antec Sonata Elite
- Case: NZXT Panzerbox
- Case: Cooler Master Storm Scout
- Case: Cooler Master HAF 922
Hmm, what a mixed bag. The CPU temperatures are approaching the thermal limit for i7's - not good. This case really shines in the hard drive temps though, since they are positioned right in front of the fan. The Beta also produced close to the lowest GPU temperatures for the same reason. With no side fan installed, there is almost no airflow over the chipset causing the high temperatures there which would severely limit overclocks. With that I think we are ready to wrap this up with my final conclusions.
Wow, the NZXT Beta sure has taken me on a wild ride. I like the looks of the Beta. There are better looking cases out there, but none for this price. Even so, the Beta is sleek and stylish. I love that NZXT has painted the interior, and the paint they used is of high quality. The meshed 5.25" drive bay covers are a nice feature and, coupled with the 1/4" foam for air filtration, really put the Beta ahead in potential. I would like to see every vendor start using these covers. Although there is only one 120mm fan included, it is of high quality and can easily compare to some of the retail fans available. It would be nice to see at least one more fan included for exhaust on the rear vent, but at such a low price, you could pick one up at any retailer or e-tailor pretty easily. The two 120mm vents on the side panel leave open a huge window of opportunity. Personally I think it would be a great spot to mount a 2x120mm radiator for watercooling using the 2 pre-drilled holes in the back.
The construction and build quality took a hit, due to the surprisingly low price of the Beta. At $50, almost everyone can afford the case, but I would definitely not recommend this case to everyone. The Beta is a very attractive option if you are looking for a good looking, well thought out case on a budget. Due to the thin steel used however, the Beta is not for someone who plans on taking their rig to multiple LAN parties, or who moves around a lot. This case is suited for those who want to use their rig in one place. It is very tinker-friendly with it's tool-less interior, but it's just not designed to be packed on a plane and shipped off.
The Beta put in a decent performance in the testing arena, and I think that if you mounted even a cheap 120mm fan to the bottom vent, the Beta should improve his overclocked CPU temp. If you are really interested in overclocking, then you will probably purchase an aftermarket heatsink for $30 - $60 aswell. I enjoyed testing the Beta and in the end, the NZXT Beta is a perfect solution for someone on a budget that values innovative design, physically and visually.
- Good cooling potential
- Intuitive tool-less interior
- 5.25" drive covers offer additional filtered airflow
- Water-cooling ready
- Build material isn't great
- Poor CPU cooling with stock fan
- PCI slot covers not tool-less
- No cable management