NZXT Lexa S Review

airman - 2009-09-18 09:18:01 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: October 28, 2009
Price: $74.99

Introduction:

In the huge market of PC computer gaming, there are thousands of cases on the shelves. Nearly fifty manufacturers offering products on many online retailers, with each of those manufacturers contributing to a selection of over seven-hundred current cases to choose from. With such an overwhelming number available just on one online store, making a selection is no easy task. Many reputable manufacturers exist, and picking a case solely on looks and space preference can usually be considered safe. This has been proven by many manufacturers, through the success of their products. NZXT is a well-known brand with many cases on the table, ranging from their budget options to their high-end, high-performance cases. Under the spotlight is the NZXT Lexa S, which is a mid-priced mid-tower. This is the first NZXT case I've had in my possession, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it holds up during this review.

 

Closer Look:

The NZXT Lexa S is packaged in a glossy cardboard box with attractive graphics on the front, displaying a futuristic, sci-fi picture of the case with the NZXT logo, the name of the case, a few features and the phrase "Ready For Battle." The sides display the same information, and are identical graphically. The rear of the package shows a picture of the case with the side panel off, listing many of the features it offers, which will be evaluated later in this review.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the top open, the standard packaging method can be seen, and is shared by most other companies. The Lexa S is wrapped in plastic and sandwiched between two large pieces of Styrofoam. Underneath the Styrofoam and plastic wrap, the plastic surfaces, which are the front bezel and the size panel window, are protected from scratches by adhesive plastic film stuck to the surface.

 

 

Now that the Lexa S is out of its package and determined to be unharmed from the trip to my front door, it is now time to take a closer look at the outside of the case, as well as the construction.

Closer Look:

The front bezel of the case has a glossy black finish and is shaped into a point on the top and through the middle. The bottom of the bezel features a large vent, with two clear plastic slivers on either side of it. The left side features a plastic window, which has a unique feature to it. The window is not completely clear, it is actually somewhat tinted and is beveled at the edges. This accents the visuals of the case and provides a very nice, sleek look. Mounted in the window is an included 120mm fan, masked by a fine mesh for a grille, which still provides adequate airflow and dust protection at the same time. The rear of the case is like most others, where an included 120mm fan can be found at the top. There are perforated PCI slot covers and an additional vent to the side of the PCI slots. Both side panels are held in by thumb screws, which allow for a tool-less entry into the case later. The case features two holes at the very top of the rear of the case, for an external water cooling loop. The holes are too small to fit 1/2" ID tubing, which is a little strange, as most custom loops use 1/2" ID.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top of the case includes two spots for 120mm or 140mm fans, with one 140mm fan included and configured as an exhaust. The bottom of the case has raised feet with rubber pads and a vent under the power supply that includes a filter. A lot of bottom-mount PSU cases now are including these vents.

 

 

Part of the front bezel on the case is a door that houses the front of the 5.25" drive bays. It is held closed by magnets, instead of some sort of plastic latch that can wear out after extended use and no longer stay closed. Inside the front cover, above the NZXT badge, is a two-channel fan controller. For each of the channels, there are two three-pin headers available to plug in the fans. With the front bezel off, it is obvious that there are a large number of cables required to run the dual fan controller. These include both the power and reset buttons, USB, front audio and eSATA. The headers on the inside of the bezel are held onto the PCBs by hot glue, in a way that I would describe as 'haphazard', as most of the connections popped free while removing the front to take pictures. With the front bezel removed, a filter on the intake fan is clear to see and many manufacturers are including these now. The drive bay covers are perforated steel with a foam backing. This foam backing doubles as a noise blocking element and a dust blocking element. They are sturdy in construction and require the front bezel to be removed in order to change their configuration.

 

 

Inside the case in the hard drive area, is a cardboard box. Included with the case in this box is a 2.5" to 3.5" drive adapter, which allows for two 2.5" drives to fit in the 3.5" drive bays. Included hardware is a bag of thumbscrews, a bag of motherboard standoffs, as well as a bag of regular screws. Also included, for use with the 3.5" drive bays, are five pairs of tool-less drive holders.

 

 

With the outside of the case explored, I will now take a look at the inside and working components of the case.

 

Closer Look:

Entry into the case is easy, thanks to the thumb screws holding on the side panels. Seen with even the budget NZXT Beta review, the entire interior of the case is painted black. This simple detail, paired with the tinted Plexiglass window, creates a very attractive look guaranteed to draw the eye.

The first thing I noticed after opening this case, was the lack of tool-less contraptions. A little surprising, though somewhat of a blessing, as a lot of tool-less setups inside cases leave something to be desired, with flimsy construction and unsecure holding capabilities. Included, however, is a bag of thumbscrews for holding in the optical drives and PCI devices. I found that, at least with my optical devices, the threads on the included screws were not the right pitch to work and were therefore useless to me. The case does feature a cut-out in the motherboard tray directly underneath where the processor is located. This means that easy access can be had to the mounting holes when using a heatsink that mounts from behind. Most heatsinks now use rear mounting brackets, so this cut-out in the tray is very convenient to most users, as it does not require removal of the motherboard or modification of the case in order to change a heatsink.

The PCI slot covers are perforated steel, which allows passive heat exchange with the surrounding of the case. This is common practice with many manufacturers lately. Beside the PCI slots are another section of perforations that are there to do the same thing - passive heat exchange. If positive internal pressure is maintained (where more air is pushed in by fans than pushed out), then there will be slightly higher pressure inside the case, meaning that heated air will be forced to escape through these holes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

The case itself houses four 5.25" drives and five 3.5" drives. The 3.5" drives, are held in a tool-less manner, with the slightly superior "rail" method. This is where a plastic piece is fitted on each side of the drive, that lock it  into position when slipped into the drive bay. To remove the drive, the small portion of the rails protruding past the drives are pinched inward to unlock them, so that the drive may be slid out. Below is the tool-less hard drive method in action.

 

 

As stated on the front of the box, four fans are included inside this case. A top and rear exhaust, along with a front and side intake. The fans themselves are all labeled to be 12v, rifle bearing and 0.16A, which are meant to perform very quietly. The side intake fan is also a blue LED fan. They each have three and four-pin plugs.  The three-pin plugs can be used to power the fans by the built-in fan controller or the motherboard headers, while the four-pin plugs can be powered by the regular Molex connections.

 

 

The front and side intake fans are equipped with fan filters, preventing dust from entering the case and causing the need for frequent cleaning. Along with the four wires for the fans and the large amount of headers coming from the front, there is plenty of wire management that can be done, even without components in the case yet. Headers from the front bezel include: USB, eSATA, AC97 audio, power and reset buttons, power and HDD activity lights, four inputs for the fan controller and finally, a Molex connection to power the fan controller. Luckily, NZXT has supplied this case with a wire management feature that runs along the outside of the motherboard tray in a backwards 'L' fashion. The slot itself is far too small to fit the ATX power connection and nearly too small to fit other cables with Molex connectors, as well as four and six pin PCI-e connectors. It seems NZXT has only their own cables in mind, as they are the only ones that don't cause a little struggle when pulling through. The pictures below show the cable headers themselves. The volume isn't nearly as intimidating as seeing the cables banded together in the pictures earlier on this page, but it does show the amount of plugs that need to be taken care of.

 

 

 

With the working components of this case explored, it is now time to evaluate the performance of the case with an i7 setup running at full-throttle.

Specifications:

 

Model
Lexa S Series
Case Type
Mid Tower
Front Panel Material
Steel
Dimensions (W x H x D)
196 x 480 x 528mm
Cooling System
Front, 1x120mm 23db/42CFM
Side, 1x120mm LED fan @ 1200RPM, 23db 42cfm
Top, 2x120/140mm (1x140mm included)
Rear, 1x120mm 23db/42cfm
Drive Bays
4 External 5.25”
7 Internal 3.5”
Materials
Steel Construction
Expansion Slots
7
Weight
7kg (without PSU)
Motherboard Support
ATX, Micro ATX, Baby AT

 

Features:

 

Information courtesy of NZXT @ http://www.nzxt.com/products/lexa_s/">

Testing:

To test the NZXT Lexa S, 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 1 hour, with maximum temperatures recorded by RealTemp. The GPU load will be the maximum value recorded by Rivatuner after five loops of 3DMark06’s Canyon Flight test. Fan configuration is front and side 120mm intakes, and top (140mm) and rear (120mm) exhausts. The data collected from other cases will have the same fan configuration if applicable.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NZXT Lexa S performed very well in all areas, except chipset temperature, where it performed quite poorly compared to the other cases. This is most likely due in part to the position of the side intake fan, which did not provide any air movement over the chipset cooler on the motherboard. When cooled passively, the X58 northbridge can become very hot. If the side intake fan were positioned to provide airflow across the Northbridge heatsink, this case would have outperformed all of the other cases in every area.

Conclusion:

I like the look and the feel of this case. The small accents, like the tinted plexiglass with the beveled edges, the steel mesh drive covers and the two plastic strips on the front that glow blue, are all subtle details that make the appearance of this case superb. NZXT decided to pass on adding the tool-less features to the 5.25" bays and the PCI slots, which although surprising, is actually a nice thing to some. Most users will describe the sturdiness of the tool-less 5.25" and PCI screws as lacking. Wire management in the Lexa is somewhat of a bear, even with the added cut-outs on the motherboard tray. Nearly half of the cables hanging inside the case were from the front bezel, which led to a lot of extra cables to hide. The cut-outs on the motherboard tray were a little too small, although more room could be gained if the rubber grommets were removed. The fan controller is a nice feature, but almost doesn't need to be used with the included fans, as they are nearly silent at full speed. The case performed very well in the testing, but seemed to fall behind by a large margin in the chipset temperature test. This was most likely due to the low position of the side intake fan, which passes no air over the passive chipset cooler. If this fan were moved up by no more than one-and-a-half inches, enough air could have reached the chipset cooler to keep it cool. Aside from that one flaw, I enjoyed getting my hands on this case and seeing what NZXT had to offer in the latest of their "Crafted" series.

 

Pros:

 

 

Cons: