NZXT H2 Classic Review

airman malmsteenisgod - 2011-03-24 20:33:58 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: airman   malmsteenisgod   
Reviewed on: May 22, 2011
Price: $99.99

Introduction:

To me, NZXT has always been one of those manufacturers that lurks in the background of the market and is seen with new products every now and then. It reminds me of an auto manufacturer like Maserati — everyone knows the name and the quality behind it, but you don't see one every day and you generally take a second look. NZXT has a rich legacy of having some of the most well-designed cases, inside and out. Each new product stays fresh and doesn't look like a repeat, which I enjoy a lot! I've only been able to review two or three other NZXT cases, but I've liked every one of them, so I'm hoping that this review will be no different.

NZXT's H2 Classic has been designed with silence in mind and integrates many of the innovative features generally found in NZXT cases, along with some that I have seldom seen in other cases. Folks that appreciate the value of silence in their computer equipment would most likely find this case very appealing by window shopping and I'm here to seal that deal with a comprehensive review of the NZXT H2 Classic. Seeing as how I liked my other NZXT cases so much, I'm ready to get this case out of the box and onto the testbed. With sound dampening, touch-connected fan housing, a concealed hard drive dock, and much more, I have a feeling that the NZXT H2 Classic will be a winner in many categories. In this review, I will provide a complete evaluation of the NZXT H2 Classic, including the product's unboxing, exterior and interior features, specifications, and lastly its performance. With that being said, let's move on.

 

Closer Look:

As with all NZXT cases that I've had the pleasure of getting my hands on, the box itself is made from a plain, brown corrugated cardboard and all the graphics are printed with one color, black. Many manufacturers probably spend $10-$15, or even more, on the box itself, which most likely gets thrown away and never used again. I like that NZXT cuts cost on the packaging and directs a higher percentage of funds into engineering the case itself, which is what matters to 99% of us. The front of the box has two pictures, one of the black H2 and one of the white H2. This review features the white version, as noted on one of the sides. Both the left and the right side of the box contain the same information as each other, such as dimensions, cooling capacities, materials, clearances, etc. The back of the case, although plain, still features the same information that any other more wasteful containers may offer, such as features and benefits of the case. A big note at the top talks about noise and offers a very dramatic lament about how it should be avoided at all costs as it endangers gamers in their endeavors. The NZXT H2 Classic is a very low-noise case, and should be very quiet by a look at its features — mainly, the fully foam-lined interior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the top of the box will expose the front of the case, wrapped in a plastic bag and sandwiched between two pieces of Styrofoam. Once out of the box, you'll find the case itself and the included accessories located in a cardboard box zip-tied to the inside of the case. Included is a user's manual, a product guide, PC speaker, zip ties, many sets of different screws, standoffs, and a standoff socket that allows the installation and removal of standoffs with just a phillips head screwdriver.

 

 

With the NZXT H2 Classic out of the box, I'm kind of liking the look even though is has a very simple design. It is elegant in its own way and I'm looking forward to seeing how it performs and how quiet it actually is!

Closer Look:

The front of the NZXT H2 Classic is a full-faced brushed aluminum with white trim to match the rest of the case. The bottom "foot," which is more apparent in the profile pictures, is inlaid with black rubber. This one feature adds most of the dynamics on the case and accents it well. Both the left and right sides of the case are plain with no windows and no fan grills. You can see the hinge for the front door is on the left side, meaning that the door will open in this direction. The first thing that I noticed on the rear of the case is the dedicated USB3.0 grommet — the first of its kind that I've seen! I continuously see and have been confused about manufacturers using one of the water cooling ports for this purpose, making it impossible to use an external water cooling loop and USB3.0 at the same time. It's taken a while, but NZXT got it right! You can also see the rear 120mm fan, seven expansion slots, the two water cooling grommets with more vents beneath it, and the PSU mounting bracket. The mounting bracket will accept both orientations, upward or downward facing, depending on the user's preference — pretty much standard now. The right side of the case is identical to the left side, with the addition of a black strip along the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top of the case is very closed off, helping with the noise. Underneath the magnetic cooler in the back is a spot for a 120mm or 140mm fan. The door closer to the front houses the integrated 2.5" hot swap hard drive bay, complete with the signal I/O and power port. There are three USB2.0 ports and one USB3.0 port, along with the standard 3.5mm audio jacks (microphone and headphone). The power and reset buttons are on either side of this row of I/O ports. The underside of the case shows the full-length fan filter, and many rubber feet to dampen any vibrations that can be transmitted from the case to the floor — another sound-proofing measure that NZXT has taken on the H2 Classic. The dust filter itself slides out from underneath the power supply very easily. Removal and cleaning of these dust filters is necessary to prevent a buildup of dust, which can degrade performance.

 

 

Below is a clear picture of the I/O ports and how they are placed. Between the last USB port and the reset button is a slider used to control the fan speed with three settings, 1, 2, and 3 — corresponding to 40%, 70%, and 100% speed settings. Above this is the door for the hard drive bay. The bottom of this hard drive bay has two rubber strips to alleviate any noise from vibration created by a non-SSD. Behind this is a magnetic cover to prevent noise produced inside the case from escaping through this fan grille if no fan is installed. So far, I've listed quite a few sound-dampening measures that NZXT has taken on this case and I'm not even done with the outside of the case yet!

 

 

Opening the front door of the case will reveal the first bit of noise dampening foam, which covers the entire inside face. With the front door closed, I would be a little concerned about the airflow from these fans, as there aren't any vents on the front. The three 5.25" bay covers are easily removed by releasing the tabs on the right side of each. The fans themselves are housed in standalone filter/power assemblies that don't require unplugging any wires for removal of the fans as they are powered by contact pins rather than plugs. The fans themselves use rifle bearing motors that operate off of 12V and pull 0.16A — making 1.92W. I will say that the fan controller itself can supply up to 30W, which is more than enough for what is supplied! The beauty of these housings is that the fans supplied by NZXT can be removed and any 3-pin fan can go in its place, which is very clever. Removing one of these fan assemblies exposes the hard drive bays behind it, which is where the hard drives are removed/installed — I will show this process on the next page.

 

 

 

With the outside evaluated, I am liking this case. Other than the concerning potential issues with the front fan airflow, it looks promising! I do believe the "foot" underneath the front will help with this, so I'm not going to linger on it. On the next page, I will evaluate the interior of the case and explain all its features. After doing some pre-reading on the H2 Classic, I'm looking forward to cracking open the case, as there are still more neat features to come.

Closer Look:

The first thing that I noticed after opening up the case is the full foam-lined interior that covers the entire surface area of the inside of each side panel. The eight hard drive bays is also an impressive mark, as well as the 1" of clearance behind the back of the motherboard tray and the side panel. This huge gap makes wire management a dream, as I can easily fit many heavy cables back there. Generally, anything over half an inch is substantial, but an entire inch is great! Behind here, the factory cables are already run and zip-tied for the new owner, making for a clean "rear end" so to speak — which everyone enjoys. Located on the back of the motherboard tray are many more loops for zip ties, easily more than a dozen. There are three wire management passages cut into the motherboard tray, which is usually enough for SATA cables and power wires, plus the two extra holes right beneath where the motherboard will be, presumably for the front I/O headers. These two holes are something new that I haven't seen, as they are dedicated to the I/O ports and are much closer to where the motherboard will be seated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we found from the outside views, the H2 Classic uses a bottom-mounted power supply, with either orientation being possible. There are perforations beside the seven expansion slots, whose covers are held in by thumbscrews, but I initially had to crack them loose with a screwdriver. Other than that, the case is entirely tool-less besides mounting the motherboard to the tray. You can also see where the bundle of cables sneak through from the front to behind the motherboard tray in the upper right, which includes the USB2.0 and USB3.0 cables, audio in and out, SATA power and SATA signal for the hard drive bay, and the power and reset buttons. The fan controller and hard drive dock are hidden well up in the front corner and are shrouded very well. Below the three tool-less 5.25" bays are the eight HDD bays, which is quite a stack in a mid-tower case!

 

 

 

The foam on the side panels is about 4mm thick and covers most of the inside panel, and both panels are dimensionally and visually identical since there is no window or fan cutouts. Many folks may believe that foam causes performance deterioration as it acts as an insulator. While this may be true, it cannot seriously affect the airflow inside of the case. So, if the user has the fans set up right, the performance hit from the presence of the foam would be little to none. This foam acts as a very strong sound dampener and will significantly reduce a lot of the drone from the fans and noise from hard drives inside the case.

 

 

The expansion slots in the rear are constructed of a fine mesh, both to act as a form of airflow, but also as a dust filter. Hopefully, with the two intake fans and only one exhaust, we should experience some positive pressure internally so we shouldn't expect these areas to accumulate dust, but the function is still there. The hard drives themselves clip into a tray (tool-less) and then slide into the drive bay from the front (behind the fans). Installing the hard drives "backwards" to place the power and signal wires out of view (one of my common practices) doesn't look to be possible judging by the small amount of clearance between the trays and the front intake fans. The pins that hold the drives in place are secured in a rubber sleeve — another noise-dampening solution. I've lost count of how many noise reduction accommodations that NZXT already has in this case.

 

 

 

The toolless 5.25" holders are just like that of other NZXT cases, where there is a corrugated strip of plastic that flexes and bends out of the way, and has a locking slider to keep it in place once the 5.25" device is installed. The holders come locked out of the box, but they have enough pressure holding them shut by themselves so I wouldn't be terribly concerned to leave them unlocked. I like these types of hold-downs better, as they are hard to break over extended usages and are effective. Other methods, such as clip-on rails, tend to wear out or can be clumsy for installation. This method is super quick and effective, as well as reliable.

 

 

As far as wiring that I found milling around the case when I first opened it, there are really three sets of things. I have already pointed out the USB3.0 cable that runs out a dedicated grommet in the back, as well as the rest of the headers for USB2.0, sound, status LEDs, and power/reset buttons. I haven't mentioned, until now, the two additional 3-pin fan connectors that are powered by the front fan controller. These two additional headers allow the user to run all five possible fans off of the one fan controller, where the additional fans are the one on top underneath the cover and one on the bottom in front of the power supply.

 

 

Getting all the components into the NZXT H2 Classic is just like all others. I did find that the drilled & tapped holes for the motherboard standoffs were painted over, so tightening the standoffs by hand is impossible after about a quarter of a turn. Fortunately, NZXT included the phillips head socket adapter for the standoffs and they went in with no problem. I did find a little difficulty in the wire management, even though NZXT provides a great amount of accommodation along the lines of cut holes, zip tie loops, and plenty of space behind the motherboard tray. My difficultly resided in not being able to pass wires through anywhere but the precut holes — such as between the motherboard tray and hard drive cages, and through the hard drive cages themselves. I also discovered that I would be unable to reverse the orientation of the hard drives, allowing me to hide the power and signal wires. Luckily, about 80% of the level to which I take my wire management is just looks — with there being no window to appreciate it, I won't be bothered! With everything in the case, I like the contrast between the black components and the white interior. It looks sharp.

 

 

With the case assembled and fired up, it's now time to take a look at the NZXT H2 Classic's features and specifications, followed by a rigorous stress test.

Specifications:

Case Type
Mid Tower Steel
From Panel Material
Plastic/Steel
Dimensions (W x H x D)
215mm x 466mm x 520 mm
VGA Maximum Clearance
310mm w/o HDD, 270mm with HDD
CPU Heatsink Support
170mm
Cooling System
Front, 2 X 120mm @ 1200rpm (included)
Rear, 1 X 120mm @ 1200rpm (included)
Top, 1 X 140mm
Bottom, 1 X 120mm
Drive Bays
3 External 5.25"
8 Internal 3.5"/2.5" slots
Screwless Rail Design
Material(s)
Steel with painted interior
Expansion Slots
7
Weight
8.9kg
Motherboard Support
ATX, Micro-ATX, Baby AT

 

Features:

 

Information provided courtesy of NZXT @ http://www.nzxt.com

Testing:

To test the NZXT H2 Classic, temperatures will be recorded for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and the overall system temperature during load and idle phases. Load will be simulated by Prime95 small FFTs and HD Tune for one hour, with maximum temperatures recorded by RealTemp. The GPU load will be the maximum value recorded by Catalyst Control Center after five loops of 3DMark06’s Canyon Flight test. For the idle temperature readings, I allowed each setup to remain idle for one hour, and the minimum value achieved during this period will be recorded. Each case is tested as is from the factory, including the fan configuration. The fan configuration for the NZXT is left in its default configuration of two front 120mm intakes and one 120mm rear exhaust.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a silent-based PC computer case with foam lining and low-RPM, quiet fans, I feel that the results we're seeing here are nothing out of the ordinary. Even on full speed, the case remains quiet and I cannot hear hard drive clicking or minor variations in the GPU fan speed. The hard drive remains cool due to the front-facing position and the two intake fans blowing right over and around the trays. The GPU and chipset temperatures fall onto the lower half of the performance tables, but with low airflow moving around this area it's totally understandable. The MSI X58 boards use passive cooling on the chipsets as it is, so that is already a negative factor on the performance. Anyway, I will finish wrapping up my thoughts in the conclusion.

Conclusion:

Though the NZXT H2 Classic may not have been a top performer in our stress testing, one aspect that we do not test in our reviews is noise. Adding this as a comparison, the H2 Classic would have certainly come out on top when put against the other comparison cases in this evaluation. The wire management accommodations are clean and overall it is a nice case. The paint is laid on thick and the construction is rigid. The only thing I didn't like about the white color is that it was difficult to photograph in a white light-box! NZXT took a lot of care during the design and assembly process, as I can tell it is very thought out and put together well. I like how the wires are routed and cleaned up out of the box and the lengths are appropriate. I really like the contact-style fans on the front and I wish more manufacturers would adopt this type of interface — I've been asking this of manufacturers for years! The neatest thing about it is that the housings are modular, meaning that I can plug any 3-pin fan into it if I choose.

I will say that I would have made only two suggestions to NZXT out of everything that I discovered throughout the entire case. The first one is the airflow restriction around the front intake fan. The only measure NZXT took here is the small vent between the "foot" and the door at the bottom of the front door. This is simply not enough, especially for two 120mm fans! Some slotting around the perimeter of the bottom of the door or maybe perforations in the front would have sufficed and certainly improved airflow. The other thing is the inability to route wires from behind the motherboard tray and back into the inside of the chassis through anywhere but the pre-cut holes. I generally get creative and snake GPU power cables through hard drive cages, or out through the outside of the motherboard tray, but unfortunately with the H2 Classic, these areas are blocked off or too small to pass through. Luckily, about 80% of wire management at the level I take it to is for looks only, which is a non-issue since there is no window in the H2 Classic.

Besides me maybe being a little picky about the wire management and flow impediments, the NZXT H2 Classic has a solid foundation for someone who wants a quiet, unique, good looking case that can house the latest hardware and not be overrun with excess heat — or noise for that matter. Though the temperatures weren't superb, the option to add two more fans into the case could definitely be taken advantage of and really help the chipset and GPU temperatures. So for those looking for a stylish and quiet case, the NZXT H2 Classic would be a perfect suit for those desiring around the $100 mark.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: