NZXT Switch 810 Review

airman - 2012-01-20 08:36:00 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: May 10, 2012
Price: $149.99

Introduction:

First seen at CES 2012 several months ago by a lucky select group of people, NZXT has had a large portion of buzz and excitement in its court. Launched the Tuesday after the week of CES this year, the NZXT Switch 810 has already received a lot of good feedback due to its solid construction and its unique feature set that is a mile long. Available in both white and black, the NXZT Switch 810 is a "Hybrid Full Tower" with a staggering amount of room for watercooling (360/420mm radiator up top and 120/240mm radiator support on bottom), an LED-lit rear back panel that illuminates all of the rear I/O ports, two pivoting fans on the hard drive cages to optimize hardware cooling in any configuration, and loads more. The term "hybrid" in NZXT's description of the Switch 810 as a "Hybrid Full Tower" refers to the fins at the top of the case that can be opened and closed to switch between silence and performance.

At a retail price of $169.99, the NZXT Switch 810 can be considered, by price comparison, a little higher-end than where the NZXT Phantom currently stands. The Phantom was another NZXT creation that also produced a lot of good feedback — I know I really liked mine. I look forward to getting an upclose look at this new case from NZXT. I'm already in love with the mere size of the thing, its feature set, and the fact that it's nearly half the price of some "top end" full tower cases that are also fresh to the market, and even some that have been around for a while. In this review, I will share and support my findings through a thorough evaluation of the NZXT Switch 810 from its unboxing, exterior and interior features, technical specifications, and an intense thermal performance benchmark where the Switch 810's performance will be compared to other cases on the market.

Closer Look:

The NZXT Switch 810 comes packaged in a large, mostly black box with a photo of the white version of the case at an angle with the text "Switch 810 / Full Tower Chassis" in the top left of the front panel. "NZXT." appears at the bottom right. The right side of the box has a few paragraphs of text in many different languages, and a table of specifications and general information on the left side of the box. A very descriptive and heavy assortment of pictures and features of the inside of the case and other components are on the back. The inside of the case is colored with white paint and black accents. To me, the most interesting feature shown here is the two 120mm pivoting fans attached to the hard drive cages that can be angled up and across to video cards and other internal components. I'll be taking a close look at these and the other features shortly after this and the exterior's evaluation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once opened, you can see that the case is safely sandwiched between two pieces of soft/flexible styrofoam and protected from dirt and minor scratches by a clear plastic bag. Inside of the case is a bag of hardware and other typical components packaged with cases. Though the pictured case on the box itself is the white model, the model we will be taking a look at is the black model.

 

 

 

With the case removed, I can already say that it's a good looking design and the paint is of high quality. It is relatively glossy, so I am prepared to prepare myself to handle fingerprints!

Closer Look:

Though I got to see several instances of these cases in person in Las Vegas for CES this year, now that it's in my tiny apartment — I have to say it is large! Of course, it IS a full tower, but when you're used to even a 'large' mid tower, an even larger case seems to tower above what you're used to. Aside from its size, the NZXT Switch 810 is just how I remember it. The only drawback that I initially sense is the high-gloss finish — which not only makes it difficult for me to photograph, it makes it difficult to keep fingerprints away! Other than that, the exterior of the case is quite functional. There is room for up to four 5.25" devices (the one at the top hides the I/O area) along with a stealthed bay cover, which allows a disc drive to be installed on the inside of this cover giving it an OEM look. Underneath the short taper in the bottom left of the front is a matte plastic area with a small mesh vent for the front fans. The left side of the case features a large window whose geometry follows similar, tapered/triangular lines as the rest of the case. The shape also hides one of the usually less tidy areas of the case, the hard drive area. However, (spoilers ahead) this case features a pretty sweet hard drive/SSD cage system, which should keep them cleanly out of sight. Along the bottom of this side is a small strip of mesh that functions as a passive intake for the rest of the case.

By looking at the PSU mounting area on the back of the case, the relative size difference kind of puts into perspective the size of the Switch 810. Most cases are only a little wider than the shape of the PSU, but by observation it's clearly wider than a general case. Above this are nine mesh expansion slot covers (yes, nine) and four 3/4" OD water cooling outlets. You can also see the tiny (in comparison) I/O cutout next to the included 140mm exhaust fan (also 120mm compatible). Instead of four arranged holes that position this rear fan in a fixed location, the cutouts are slotted - allowing several inches of up and down play. Though common practice for a lot of other applications, this is the first time I've seen it in a computer case. As far as the right side of the case goes, it's an identical mirror to the left side — lacking the window of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A unique function of the NZXT Switch 810 is the "switchable" ventilation panel that has 13 adjustable slots to allow the user to choose between high airflow at the sacrifice of high noise or (more) quiet operation at the sacrifice of low airflow. Of course, a user wouldn't seal off these vents during a 10-hour gaming session, but there wouldn't be any harm in shutting them while watching a movie, other light tasks, or simply while the computer is idling. In front of these vents is a very inconspicuous power button in the top left of the gloss portion that wraps up from the front bezel.

 

 

Behind the door above the 5.25" bays are the I/O ports, which contain 2xUSB2.0, 2xUSB3.0, multi-memory card reader, and headphone and mic inputs. The reset button and HDD activity light are also with the I/O components. The included built-in memory card reader is a nice touch and it has been rare for me to see those on cases for as long as I can remember! As I mentioned above, the ventilation panel at the top is removable. With the panel removed, the gargantuan 3x140mm-capable top rack is exposed. At the NZXT area at CES, the Switch 810 was shown that with little or no modification, a 420mm radiator can fit in this area, which is remarkable! A 140x420mm radiator is huge and could easily handle huge heat loads on a single loop. I wish I could have opened up this area and see it filled with three 140mm fans, but NZXT chose to only ship the case with one 140mm fan in the front-most position. No worries there though, there are still more fans that we haven't gotten to yet!

 

 

At the bottom of the front and the rear are two more push-to-remove filters. They easily slide in and out with no resistance or snags and they cover the entire bottom surface of the case.

 

As luck would have it, I've already found another fan — and that's the one behind the front panel/intake area on the front bezel. The 140mm fan pulls in air from the tiny little triangle in the corner of this removable section, which appears to have a rather non-functional filter on the inside. Most of the incoming air will pass through the perforated portion, which is not protected by the dust filter. Otherwise, it's still a dust filter although seven screws must be used to remove it for cleaning. No worries though, it shouldn't gather dust very quickly. The entire front bezel is also removable by releasing the multiple "snap tabs" that lock into the sheet metal body of the Switch 810's chassis. Luckily, the I/O area, lighting, buttons, etc. are not fastened in any way to the front bezel so we don't have to worry about accidentally damaging wires or other circuits during removal.

 

 

With the exterior of the case peeled apart, I can go no further but to enter the case itself and start exploring its internal features — stay tuned!

Closer Look:

As usual, the first thing you check out when opening a case is looking at what's on and around the motherboard tray. The biggest thing standing out to me while looking at the inside is of course the full-coverage black paint job, and the ten wire-management grommets along the perimeter of where the motherboard will be attached. The only thing that I'm wary of is the CPU mounting access hole, which is oddly shaped (as opposed to a simple square or rectangle) in comparison to what I'm used to and I hope that it is compatible with this new X68 board of mine. We will find out shortly! Moving on, what I mentioned previously about the hard drive areas being very tidy can be seen in the bottom right. The hard drives will be completely hidden from sight and are accessed and wired through the opposite side panel. Many of us have been running our SATA power and signal cables out the back this way for wire management reasons, and now NZXT has now made that much easier! Also, if you look close enough, I've found the fourth 140mm fan — it's a pretty neat mechanism! I'll be showing that soon.

The other side of the case with the side panel removed, though just like most other cases, is a soothing vision because of several things. Obviously we get a better look at the wire management grommets in the motherboard tray, but of the wiring itself and what to expect. I will most likely pass these wires through other grommets, but its good to see that I won't have to deal with a huge harness out of the box. Mounted to the rear of the motherboard tray is a central fan hookup board, to which all of the included fans are connected. Two more fans can be used with this included splitter, though with more fans it might be more advantageous to get a dedicated fan controller like the NZXT Sentry Mesh controller (5x30w channels).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 5.25" toolless bay locks are simple to use. Instead of sliding them one way or another, they simply bend outwards and remain there until the user pushes them back. A security tab on each of the three device bays can be clicked over to lock the toolless arm in place, though I can't imagine that any of them would "pop out" on their own. The toolless arm on the top drive bay is shifted back slightly because this location places an optical drive further away from the front in order for it to be able to clear the integrated, stealth drive bay cover.

 

 

Looking at a different angle (no pun intended), we can observe the pivoting fan mechanisms (and included 140mm fan) that allow one or two fans to be directed at specific areas in the case for optimum cooling based specifically on the component configuration. Each fan bracket has a swing path from about 0°~25°, which will easily cover single and dual GPU setups or even just direct air towards the CPU and/or pull warmer air away from the hard drive areas. The brackets are easily repositioned by loosening the thumb-screw clamp, selecting a new angle, and tightening the thumb-screw clamp. Both 120mm and 140mm fans can be used on these brackets. The brackets can also be removed entirely in order to allow more video card clearance with ease.

 

 

Just above these two pivoting fan mounts are the back-end goods of the hot swappable SATA hard drive bay (found in the bottom 5.25" device bay). It is powered by a simple 4-pin molex plug. I like that it doesn't have permanent wires for power and signal hanging off of it like some cases do on their hard drive bays, but without some pretty right-angle connectors, it may be hard to make it look clean if the cables are plugged into it. Luckily I'm not a hot-swap user so I need not worry, but others certainly would. It accepts 3.5" and 2.5" drives with no problem, so rest assured that your drives will be compatible. On the back side of the case is a distribution area through which all of the fans in the case can be powered from a single 4-pin molex connection for a total of seven fans. Only four are used out of the box, so up to three more can be added to satisfy the user's desire — maxing out the usable fan locations in the case. As far as wire management goes, inside of the rear of the motherboard tray is a decent amount of room to stash wires. It's not anything to run home and tell mom about, but it's enough to not have to force the side panel closed as long as the wires aren't stacked up on each other in a huge bundle.

 

 

 

Behind the pivoting fan brackets are the six 3.5" hard drive slots. As shown briefly earlier, hard drives / SSDs are loaded from the opposite side so that all of the trays and wiring can be hidden from view. With multiple hard drives, it can be difficult to keep 6+ plugs (plus triple or more of that in individual wires) tidy and hidden. The trays themselves are nothing special and are standard in comparison to other hard drive trays from other cases and manufacturers. Constructed from black plastic, the tray clips onto the hard drive and holds it securely. 2.5" hard drives can also be used with these trays, though mounting screws are required. The entire hard drive cage can be removed as a whole from inside of the case by folding the two black handles into each other and sliding them out. Removing one or both of these cages may be necessary when using extra long video cards and/or making room for water cooling components such as reservoirs or pumps. Replacement is simply the reverse of their removal.

 

 

 

Getting the computer together in the case was no problem and took very little time. Even though they are available, I have never been able to determine a need for so many wiring pass-throughs in the motherboard tray. Other than front panel I/O, SATA, maybe a molex or two, and video card power, I can't imagine using more than three or four out of the ten that are present. I guess it's nice to have the comfort of having all of them available. With everything installed, it is evident that there is a lot of real estate inside of the NZXT Switch 810. There are several inches between the angled fan and an XFX HD 7970, and the motherboard looks dwarfed once mounted inside albeit the Gigabyte motherboard isn't quite as wide as a full ATX board (short by a little over an inch). I have no complaints as to the level of effort required to get the computer together. Once powered on, the NZXT Switch 810 is rather subtle when it comes to lighting. Without any LED fans, there aren't any glowy bits — so for those who are going to want some eye candy, be prepared to pick up a couple of LED fans for the front and the top.

 

Specifications:

Case Type
Hybrid Full Tower
Front Panel Material
Plastic/Steel
Dimensions (W x H x D)
235 x 595 x 585 mm
VGA Clearance Maximum
375mm (w/o fan), 350 (installed), 285 (full pivot)
Cooling System
FRONT – 2x120/140mm (1x140mm included)
REAR – 1x120/140mm (1x140mm included)
TOP – 3x120/140mm (1x140mm included)
BOTTOM – 2x120/140mm
INTERIOR – 2x120/140mm (1x140mm included)
Drive Bays
4 External 5.25” Drive Bays
6 Internal 3.5” Drive Bays
Screwless Rail Design
Material(s)
Steel, Plastic
Expansion Slots
9
Weight
9.1kg
Motherboard Support
E-ATX, XL-ATX, ATX, mATX, Mini-ITX

 

Features:

 

Information provided courtesy of NZXT @ http://www.nzxt.com/new/products/crafted_series/switch_810

Testing:

To test the NZXT Switch 810, temperatures will be recorded for the CPU, GPU, hard drives, and the overall system during both idle and load phases. Load will be simulated by running HD Tune and small FFTs in Prime95 for one hour, all while recording maximum temperatures using RealTemp. The GPU load temperature will be determined using the maximum value as recorded by Catalyst Control Center after looping Unigine Heaven 3.5 for 30 minutes. For idle temperature readings, I will allow each setup to remain idle for one hour and record the minimum value achieved during this period. Each case will be tested as it is from the factory. The fan configuration for this NZXT case is left in its default state, which comprises of a front 140mm intake, one 140mm top and rear exhaust, and one 140mm fan on the angled bracket cooling the GPU. I will not be using any fan throttling for these tests.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well folks, many of us may remember the Cooler Master HAF 932 when it came out and many of those who do will remember the awe that some of us felt about its cooling capabilities and performance. It seems that the NZXT 810 is equal or better than the HAF 932 in every test other than one, in which it was only a single degree worse off. The hard drive temperatures are excellent thanks to the push/pull configuration through the hard drive cage, and the GPU temperatures are made superior by the extra fan(s) specifically to cool the GPU(s). As far as these numbers go, this should put the NZXT Switch 810 at the top of many competitors' lists.

Conclusion:

As we just saw in the Testing & Results section, the performance of the NZXT Switch 810 really seems to take control of the other cases and put up some impressive numbers for being as quiet as it is. The interior pivoting fan appears to have been a very worthwhile addition to the case as it dropped the GPU and hard drive temperatures by several degrees from where I had unplugged the fan to see the difference out of curiosity. The system temperature did hit 1° lower with the fan on than it did without it a couple of times, but since it was unsteady I'll write it off as a less significant fact. On the size and shape of the case, I like it. There is an extraordinary amount of room on the inside of it for just about anything we would want to put in a case, especially when it comes to video card real estate. Removing one (or even both) of the hard drive cages almost doubles the amount of usable room inside of the case for water cooling or other components, and you'll still have the space for a hard drive inside of the 5.25" hot swap bay.

As far as the feature list goes, it's quite exciting as well. The built-in memory card reader is huge for me and I use it all the time. Pulling the card out of the camera and putting it in the card slot sure beats having to lug a big SLR to the computer, plug it in, turn it on to realize the battery is out of it to charge, worry about yanking it off the desk if someone trips on the cable, etc. On top of that, even though I probably haven't actually used an optical drive for over three years, having the stealthed drive bay cover to hide a potentially ugly beige drive and offer an OEM-style integration is a cool thought. I remember years ago modding my cases' drive bay covers where I trimmed and fastened them to the optical drive trays for a really cool flush, hidden look when the drive is closed. Users can have something similar with an NZXT Switch 810 without the extra work and trial and error. Also, the LEDs in the back of the case illuminate your motherboard's I/O panel nicely in the dark, making any wiring changes much less frustrating when you may not be near an immediate light source.

On the negative side of my thoughts on the case, I really, really don't prefer high gloss finishes on cases especially in plastic. A high gloss and reflective powder coat is okay, but when it comes to plastic I really don't like it. On the NZXT Switch 810, gloss is everywhere. On 95% of the case's surfaces, you can find a high gloss surface finish. It makes cases look cheap in my opinion. It is no doubt a solid, well-performing chassis with a great feature set, but I think NZXT missed it in the aesthetics department for a $150+ dollar case. Look at low-end case manufacturers (yeah, the $25-40 dollar cases on Newegg) and you will see the obvious love and overuse of glossy plastic. There is some rubberized matte finish on the top and front trim of the case, but it offers very little contrast between the large amount of glossiness. Again, it's just my opinion, though I have seen a lot of cases in my experiences.

Opinions aside, the closeable vents on the top of the case are unique and I'm sure some people will be thrilled with having that ability. However, it's a lot of (flimsy) moving plastic parts that if fully closed or open, can be difficult to actuate without having to coax the mechanism by pushing down on it through the vents. If you never open or close the vents fully, it operates smoothly. But since it "locks" at both ends thanks to its design, a little 3/8" deep, 1.5" wide handle does not provide a large enough moment to make it move well. If it wasn't made out of what feels like Rubbermaid plastic (it's really, really flexible) or didn't snap open or closed, I think it would work a lot better.

To conclude, I want to say that if I ignore my distaste for glossy plastic and the mediocre design of the vent/louver mechanism at the top, I like the NZXT Switch 810 and I don't mean that sarcastically. It has a lot of features that other cases just haven't offered and aren't really available in any other models. The fan layout works great, it has an atrocious amount of room for components like water cooling goods and fans, plus it performs very well compared to many other cases out there. I really hope NZXT keeps the Switch series in its lineup, as long as the "cheapy" factor goes down and some of the high gloss finish goes away!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: