NZXT Guardian 921 Review
Reviewed by: The Smith
Reviewed on: August 25, 2008
Are you currently researching the best case that would fit with your next build? Are you wondering which features it should have? Well, what's almost certain, is that you want the best airflow possible. Manufacturers from all around the globe work to design, produce and put on the market the cases that would fit your needs. There are many coming out every month. But since a case is a very personal choice, there are a ton of different models. So, all you have to do is to pick up the right one, having previously chosen it regarding your needs.
A case that could interest you is the new Guardian 921, made by NZXT. It is a black mid-tower case having three 120mm fans. It is also equipped with three temperature probes. Temperatures are displayed on a small LCD on the front. Moreover, it has tool-free functions for both 3.5 and 5.25inch drives, and also for PCI(-E) expansion cards. So now I'm sure I convinced you that this case is worth reading more about. Just scroll down and see what it looks like.
The case is packaged in a cardboard box of its own colors, which are black and blue. A picture of its side blue LED fan occupies most of the area on the front. On the back, its features are put into evidence. Furthermore, on each side, there is a picture of the whole case, with the slogan: "Power for gamers." NZXT also wrote the specifications, in four different languages.
Like other cases, it is supported in the middle of the box by two white foam blocks that are somewhat very tight. I even broke one by pulling on it. One thing you can be sure is that the case won't move inside the box. It is also wrapped in a plastic bag. Moreover, its glossy surfaces are all protected with plastic stickers.
In a black paper envelope, you will find the motherboard standoffs, along with screws. The black plastic pieces in the same picture are the tool-free hard drive hangers. The user manual is written in four languages: English, German, French and Spanish. There is also a 3.5" bay tool-free device provided which, I don't know why, but isn't installed. The only items to help you in your cable management are a small sticky plastic square and the tie-wrap that passes into it. I could not find the utility of the small metal piece on the second picture. There is nothing said about it in the manual.
So now let's look at the case itself.
The Guardian 921 has a futurist shape. The part at the top with the power buttons resembles in some respects the Halo video game helmets. There is a small LCD there, which we will see later. The left side of the case, which is the one behind the motherboard, is a plain black panel. However, the other side has in the middle of the window, a 120mm blue LED intake fan.
At the back, there are seven expansion ports. There is also the exhaust 120mm fan, which does not have LEDs. One great thing is that there are two holes just at the right of the expansion ports. They have grommets that can let water tubing through. Hence, you could install an external radiator at the back. The case also rests on four ordinary rubber legs.
Here you can see it working. The three lines on the front are lit, as well as the two intake fans. However, the front intake is hidden. You can't really see its blue color, because it is behind the hard drive cage and on the front, the door also hides it. So, you can only see it when this door is open. What we can do however, is to invert the exaust and the front intake fan. This way the fan without LEDs will be hidden, and the one with LEDs will be seen at the back. You also see the small LCD displaying temperatures.
The front panel features two USB 2.0 ports, microphone in, earphone out and a E-SATA port, all located on the right side. However, the cable runnning from the E-SATA port to the motherboard is not supplied. You need to use a normal SATA cable, which you will plug on the small front panel circuit board. The power and reset buttons are located on the Halo helmet. They are simple black buttons, nothing fancy.
We will now look into more detail to its working components.
When you first open the case, you will see that all cables are in a bag to protect them. There is also a brown paper meant to absorb humidity. In the next picture, you can see that there are five 5.25" drive bays and two 3.5" ones. However, the two first bays from the top are not external.
This is why they put a 5.25" to 3.25" bay adapter. It allows you to install another hard drive at the top. You can mount it on the adapter either by using the screw holes on the side, or the ones on the bottom. So there is only tool-free devices for the external bays. The third picture is the hard drive cage and the external 3.5" drive bays. To have access to the fan behind the cage, you'll need to remove four screws in order to take the cage out.
Next this is the tool-free PCI card hangers. To put the card in, you have to push on the hanger from the inside. Then you install the card, and push on the hanger from the outside. You also get a better view on the two holes used to run water tubing to an external radiator.
This case has a lot of cables. There are two Molex connectors to power the temperature reader and and the LEDs that light the three lines on the front. Then with the temperature reader comes three probes labeled CPU, SYS and HDD, respectively. Obviously, there is also the power and reset switch connectors, as well as the hard drive LED and speaker. Finally, the front panel connectors are USB 2.0 and HD audio or AC'97, with separate wires.
Lastly, here are its three fans. The ones with blue LEDs are at the top. What's great, is that each fan has also a 3-pin connector that can be used instead of their Molex connector. That allows you to plug them into the motherboard, or even in their Aluminum high performance fan controller, the Sentry LX.
Mid tower steel chassis
Dimensions (W x H x D)
206 X 459 X 522 mm
Front, 1 X 120 mm blue LED fan [Included]
Rear, 1 X 120 mm fan [Included]
Side panel, 1 X 120 mm blue LED fan [Included]
9 Drive bays
3 External 5.25" drive bays
2 External 3.5 " drive bays
4 Internal 3.5" drive bays
Screwless rail design
SECC steel chassis
400 Watt PS2 ATX 12V ( OPTIONAL )
8.2 Kgs (W/O Power)
ATX, MICRO-ATX, BABY AT
- NZXT Crafted Series Design: NZXT's latest addition to the Crafted Series takes cues from gaming culture with elegant curves and a newly designed clear side panel
- Spacious Interior and Solid Construction: Built from solid .88mm and 1.00mm steel, the Guardian 921 gives the user ample space for large, high-end video cards and space for up to four internal hard drives
- Constant Temperature Monitoring: Three temperature probe monitoring system allows the user to constantly gauge thermals within the system at all times to prevent overheating
- Multimedia and peripheral inputs: E-SATA, Intel HD audio, mic, and two USB inputs are standards with the guardian 921 allowing for maximum peripheral input
- Silent Cooling: Comes standard with 3 120mm fans installed to maximize cooling performance with minimal noise
I will test the NZXT Guardian 921 by recording hardware temperatures in degrees Celcius at idle and load. They will be provided by the SpeedFan 4.34 Utility, except for the graphics card, which will be reported by ASUS Smart Doctor. I will run Stress Prime 2004 Orthos using small FFTs (Fast Fourier Transform) to load the processor, and ATItool Scan for artifacts function to load the graphics card. By copying the program files folder, I will load the hard drive for a long time. Each temperature, representing the highest core for the processor, is measured thirty minutes after beginning the test, for both idle and load. Keep in mind that all digitally reported temperatures have an uncertainty of one degree celcius, as it is the smallest unit used. Also, all fan speeds will be set at maximum in every test, in order to represent maximum cooling efficiency and to avoid variation. As for the room temperature, it is gathered by the Sentry LX. Finally, the processor voltage is provided by SpeedFan 4.34 and is reported at idle, having a vdroop of 0.03V at load.
- Processor: Intel E6750 C2D(Lapped) @ 333x8=2.66GHz, 1.31V
- Motherboard: Gigabyte P35-DS3R
- Memory: Corsair Xms2 PC2-6400
- Video Card: ASUS EN8800GT 1GB RAM
- Power Supply: OCZ StealthXtream 600W
- Hard Drive: Seagate 250GB Barracuda
- Optical Drive: Pioneer DVR-212D BK
- CPU Cooler: Xigmatek HDT-S1283
- OS: Windows Vista Home Premium
- Ambient Temperature: 25.9 degrees Celcius
- Case 1: Thermaltake Xaser IV VH9000BWS
- Case 2: Codegen 4063-CA
The Codegen 4063-CA is a standard case equipped only of a rear 80mm fan exhaust.
The NZXT Guardian did well in these tests. It won most of the tests. It was beaten by the Thermaltake Xaser IV in only two tests, which are the hard drive load and graphics card load temperatures. As for the the Codegen, it was not really in the race. Surprisingly, it won the graphics card idle test, but it's the only thing it can claim. The Guardian 921 crushed it in both hard drive tests, because it has a front intake fan. However, the Xaser IV did a bit better, but I noticed that its fans are spinning faster than the Guardian 921. A good thing about the slowest speed of the Guardian's ones, is that they are a heck of a lot more quiet.
I also tested its temperature reader accuracy. All three probes were indicating 26C at room temperature, but keeping in mind that it does not measure up to 1/10 of a degree, this seems to be accurate.
The NZXT Guardian 921 is awesome. The Halo video game helmet shape on the front with the LCD looks great. The three blue lit lines on the front also gives it a nice look. Moreover, the case looks even greater when you switch on the front and back fans, to show the blue LED on, which is allowed by the removable hard drive cage. However, this one is held in place by four screws, differently from the tool-less features allowing quick and easy hardware installation for drives and expansion cards.
The three fans equipping it perform well. They could have been spinning a bit faster, but noise would have increased. They are incredibly quiet at their speed, and they still beat a faster fan setup like in the Thermaltake Xaser VI VH9000BWS. But there is also a small problem having a third fan on the side. This one leaves little room for larger heatsinks such as my Xigmatek HDT-S1283 CPU cooler. I have to force a bit to get the panel closed, therefore pushing on the motherboard. However, if you plan on watercooling, you won't have any problems. The Guardian 921 even allows you to pass tubing to an external radiator by two holes at the back, especially made for that purpose. Moreover, a great feature which adds to both watercooling and air cooling setups, is the temperature reader with three probes. You can stay aware of any temperatures, simply by looking at the LCD in front of the case.
However, it seems that NZXT cut a bit on accesories. There could have been a SATA cable and more than one tie-wrap supplied, but that's no big deal. You would need those tie-wraps to ensure that there is good cable management, because it is a bit hard. The problem is that you can't pass cables between the motherboard tray and the 5.25" drive cage, so that complicates the cable management. However, it is roomy for a mid-tower, so that is a big plus.
Overall, the NZXT Guardian 921 is a very good case that merits consideration when shopping for a new case. It is not far from being perfect. I would recommend it to anyone in need of a new case.
- Tool-free design
- Good air flow
- Great looks
- Removable hard drive cage
- Very quiet
- Temperature display with 3 probes
- Watercooling ready
- Cable management a bit hard
- Some processor coolers might not fit in it
- Slim accessories bundle