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NZXT Apollo

Date: June 20, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams

Building a new rig and can’t find a case that screams ‘gamer’? NZXT is a rather new company that’s making a splash in the case market, and they are releasing yet another new creation. This one is feature packed, looks great and it won’t even hurt the wallet.



Introduction


When it comes to computer cases, NZXT has some of the most unique on the market. All of their cases are designed with gamers in mind, and it shows. I took a look at their Lexa case back in February, and gave it a deserving 9 out of 10. I still use the case to this day and can honestly say, it’s a great case that’s built to last. I cannot immediately think of a single thing I don’t like about the case, which is something rare.

NZXT will soon be releasing yet another eye catching model, called the Apollo. Some Canadian outlets seem to have the case in stock now, but it may be a few more weeks before they hit e-tailers in the US. Because I have been so pleased with the Lexa, I couldn’t wait to tear this one out of the box. It has a nice set of features, so lets get right to business.

One thing that caught my attention quick, was the fact that the case not only provides standard AC’97 audio, but also Intel HD. It also includes 2 large 120mm fans, which are effectively used to export hot air out of your PC quickly. The chassis is made of steel also, which assures great durability. So, this case has a lot to offer, so now it’s time to see if it’s all executed properly.

The case arrived in a tall cardboard box… there was no denying a case was inside. After opening, the actual retail box was inside. This was great to see, because it guaranteed that the case and box survived shipping. It’s no ordinary box either. It portrays a futuristic scene which gives the idea that this is how the case should also be regarded. The Apollo comes in Black, Blue, Orange and Silver. The color you receive is marked on the box, alongside with the feature and specification listings.

After opening, you see the front panel of the case. It’s protected with thick styrofoam pieces, so even if the case had a rough ride to it’s destination, it shouldn’t affect it. And it didn’t. As you can see in the picture, there was a huge poster inside, which I figured were instructions. Nope. NZXT included a large poster of the same scene that was on the box. Sadly, the poster does not come with the case, but you can still receive one. I will tell you later, how ;)



Features

So lets take a look at a profile view of the Apollo. Reminds you of an Alienware doesn’t it? Usually I am not impressed by the color orange, in general, but it works very well with this case. It’s not too light, or bright… it’s just right. </dr. suess> Just like the Lexa, we can see they mounted the 120mm blue LED fan into the door with the same fan guard.

A look at the front of the case really does make it look alien-esque. The entire dark piece in the door is actually see-thru. So, if you have a media panel that glows bright, you will be able to still see it. This is perfect for LCD screens, like our previously reviewed CrystalFonts panel.

The front lower part that you see here, is not used for sucking in air. Rather, directly below this area, air can be sucked underneath to blow into the case. Each side of the panel here lights up blue LED when turned on, and looks quite sharp.

When you open the front panel door, it reveals not three… not four, but FIVE 5 1/4″ drive bays. This is plenty of room for your media panels and roms. There’s also a single 3 1/2″ floppy drive bay, which is perfect. Rarely anyone will need more than one of these drive bays. Beside that drive bay also, is the reset button.

On the bottom right hand side of the panel, is the firewire, audio and USB ports. This is the same spot as found on the Lexa, and is a good choice. It allows you quick access to the ports, without them cluttering up the front or top of your case.

The opposite profile view shows the entire side is clean of everything. Just the way it should be.



Features Cont.

The back of the case is like most others. There is a
removable motherboard connector panel, numerous card slots and the entry for the fan. The fan here is used for exhaust, so it will get rid of the warm air inside your computer. There is also an empty PSU space, so it’s ready to go.

Here is the view from the side, before you throw everything in. We can see there isn’t too much to deal with in there, just some cords and a box.

Here is a close up of the door fan, which sucks cool air in to blow towards your components.

Here is shot of the door taken off. Obviously, we have quite a bit of room to work with here. Nothing is in the way at all, so transporting the stuff from my current case into this one should be a breeze.

It’s becoming a common theme to make installing your CD-Rom drives simple, but this is a method I rarely see. Instead of clipping some plastic pieces to each end of your drive, you simply have to slide it in and move the black piece over until it clicks into one of the holes. Then you push down and it’s good to go. This was seen a few years ago in the Kingwin KT-424 WM case, and we should see it more often. The only downside, is that they are a little large looking.



Included extras, Installation

Here is a ‘handful’ of cables that come with the case. The USB, HD Audio, firewire and a few others are very easy to install, because they are wound up into a connector, rather than you having to manually plug in 11 or 12 small little wires into your motherboard.

There is a nice collection of screws that come with the case, in addition to a manual and some HDD clips, which we will get to in a minute..

.. and here we are. This spot can be used for your extra hard drives, or your primary hard drives. Personally, I like to keep my primary HDD in a floppy drive bay, but you may do things differently. If you choose to install in this spot, you will need to use the included HDD clips to secure it into place. This is probably the most common way seen on recent cases.

Notice the honeycomb pattern behind the HDD mount? Here is where you can install a 120mm if you wish, but one doesn’t come included with the case by default. If you had a fan here, you would set it to blow air towards the center of your PC. In the front of the case, very bottom, air can sneak in and up towards this fan. This may be a good idea in the end, to provide better airflow.

The first thing I decided to install were my drives. You can see how they are snapped in place thanks to the plastic side mounts. This works exceptionally well, I have to say.

Next up was my motherboard. The motherboard mounts do not come pre-installed, but no worries. There is a mini legend on the tray that tells you where to place all of them, depending on which type of motherboard you are trying to install.

Here is what it looks like once the mounts are into place:



Installation Cont., Temperatures

The motherboard installed seamlessly, without a single hitch. Next up came the IDE connector. As you can see, there was plenty of room to work with, and I was able to tidily keep the cable to the side, so as to not block airflow.

To install your graphics card, wifi card or whatever else you have, you need to push one of these black clips up. Once you do that, you can remove the metal guard and install the card. Once the card is in place, you snap this plastic piece back down to securely keep the card in place. Again, this was unbelievably easy.

Next came installing the PSU, which sat in there just fine. The screw holes matched up, so installing this was again easy. The remaining connectors were snapped into their respective components, and the side was placed back on. The end result looks messy, but that’s the PSU’s fault, not the cases. The Antec Phantoms outputs are intertwined, so it’s very difficult to keep the cords tidy.

Temperature Testing

To test the case out, I mainly focused on CPU and motherboard temps. To do this, I ran an instance of Prime95 Small FFT on each CPU core along with PC Mark 05 looped for a 3 hour period. I recorded all temps using Lavalys Everest 2.80, which does a good job of spitting out such results to a simple HTML file.

I compared the temperatures to my previous AC Silentium T2 review, which included Lexa and T2 results. During those temperature readings, the ambient room temp was 80°F all the way through. During the three hours worth of testing the Apollo though, the temperature started off at 80°F, but rose to 85°F by the end. Please take this into consideration with some of the results.

It’s hard to pick a clear winner here. While one case may have had a better Minimum, another had a better Maximum. At stock speeds, the Apollo had similar results to the Lexa. At 3.92GHz, the case was 3°F higher than the previously reviewed Silentium T2. This -could- be due to the extra degrees in room temperature. The 9500AT is just not capable of handling a major overclock in this hot room.

Motherboard temps, like the CPU results, are again tight. At our max overclock though, the Apollo managed a lower maximum temperature… shaving 2°F off what the Silentium managed. Overall, I have nothing bad to say about the temps… they are right in line with the Lexa. I did not have a spare 120mm fan lying around [I have no idea how that’s possible, so don’t ask ;)] so I was unable to test the temps with one mounted in the front. Chances are good that it will prove the extra boost to the airflow and keep your temps lower than without one.



Conclusion

I have a simple problem. I am trying to think of a way to ding this case of a perfect score. Nothings perfect, after all. I just can’t do it though… I absolutely love this case. From the moment I opened the box, it screamed quality. It was very well packaged. Even the box art entices you to open it quicker.

The front dark panel is a great addition. Allowing your LCD media panels to shine through is an awesome idea. Sadly, I don’t own such a panel, but Johnny from NZXT was kind enough to snapshot an example for me.

The addition of Intel HD audio is another plus, although I was unable to test that out. Unbelievably, I did not have any speakers available to use in a single master port. Yes, I seem to lack a lot of things ;)

Generally, it would be best suited for 2.1 speakers, which I did not have. However, if you have standard headphones or a 2.1 set, you should be pleased with this.

Installation is something I don’t even really need to touch on.. because it was painless. It has been the easiest installation of any case I have ever had. They left plenty of room for you to work, and the only thing to move out of the way are the cables. The clips for your CD-Roms and hard drives are very innovative, and easy to use. The only thing you will need screws for are your motherboard.

Another thing that sometimes isn’t discussed, but is important, is the door. This one proves -very- light and easy to remove. You just unscrew two thumbscrews, and push the door towards the back. It’s so light and slides back into place easily… I have done it with one hand.

The fans are quiet, so that’s another bonus. I am unsure of what speeds they are rated for, but they are very quiet compared to the fan on the Zalman 9500AT. The only ‘bad’ thing I could say about the case is that it doesn’t include a front 120mm fan. It’s hard to knock the case for that though, because the SRP once it hits retail is only $69US (Online retailer, brick and mortar stores may be different).

This case has the looks, provides simple installation, room to move around, two large fans, cool blue LED light, a front see-thru panel, a total of 10 drive bays… for $69US!

After using this case for a week, I have come to love it. It has great styling, but won’t suit everyone, especially if you dislike an Alienware-esque looking chassis. For the price though, this case packs a lot, and it’s quality is far better than similarly priced cases on the market. The guys at NZXT know what they are doing, and I wish them the best in success, because they deserve it. I am awarding the NZXT Apollo a rare score of 10 out of 10 and alongside our Editors Choice award.

If you like the poster that you see on the first page of the review, then you can receive one easily. If you purchased the case, scan your receipt and e-mail the scan to designer [ a t ] nzxt.com and mention this specific review. They will send one right along to you.

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