Date: January 18, 2008
Author(s): Colin Huckstep
If on the search for a great-looking gaming chassis that’s also portable, NZXT might have you covered. Their “SFF” label might be a bit of an understatement though – this case is far from being small. Despite that, it looks good, offers a whack of functionality and is definitely worth a look.
When it comes to a portable gaming rig, the choices for building are few and far between. You can go with a Shuttle or other barebones micro case, but these are fairly limited by temperature and size restrictions. Most barebones kits will only take a single-slot midrange video card. Fitting them with an 8800GTX or an HD3870 is pretty much out of the question, and most high end processors will run pretty hot.
Your other option is to build a MicroATX system. Most often, fitting a high end video card in a MicroATX case is going to difficult at best – odds are, it simply won’t fit. This is where the NZXT Rogue comes in to play. The Rogue is designed to be a stylish MicroATX case with enough room and cooling to fit all of your high end components while remaining easily portable. Its internal design is more like a full ATX case that has been re-arranged.
Coming in at around $150, the Rogue certainly isn’t the cheapest MicroATX case, considering it doesn’t come with a power supply. NZXT is touting this case as having “Enormous Power Within”, so let’s take a closer look and see if it lives up to the hype.
The first thing I noticed when the Rogue arrived on my doorstep was the enormous box. I knew a MicroATX case was coming, so I didn’t expect to see a box this large. Granted, the case was packed pretty well in styrofoam, but make no mistake, this case can barely be called small form factor.
From an aesthetics standpoint, NZXT did a nice job. Our review sample is black with blue LEDs and blue lighted fan in the rear, which shows through the window in the top of the case. The door provides some contour to the front of the case and is bordered by the LED strips. I do have one gripe about the LED strips; our review sample’s LED strips were covered with fingerprints on the inside. This was saddening in relation to how nice the rest of the case looks.
The build quality is wonderful. As you may have notice on the box, the case is made almost entirely of 3mm Aluminum. To put it another way, this thing is beefy. While the front door does add a certain aesthetic, it adds quite a bit of weight to the case as well. I’m personally not a big fan of cases with doors. While they add some aesthetic value, I find the have a tendency to annoy and just get in the way after a few weeks of owning a case. In particular, the fact that the door covered the power and reset buttons on this case annoyed me most of all.
The Rogue has a nice compliment of front panel connections. Audio, USB, and eSATA are all present and located outside of the door.
At the rear of the case I was pleasantly surprised to find a removable motherboard tray, a 120mm fan, and an interchangeable power supply mount. The case comes with the standard PSU mount installed, but you’ll find in the box an extender offering another inch of overhang out the back. This is intended to provide space for a 1000W+ PSU. NZXT definitely put some thought into making sure everything would fit.
NZXT also includes a carrying strap with the Rogue. Don’t get too excited though, after carrying my rig to the first LAN Party, the plastic rod in the handle had already started to rip through the woven nylon covering. Disappointing to say the least.
The Rogue comes installed with three 120mm fans, with mounting points for two additional 120mm fans. Cooling certainly shouldn’t be a problem like it tends to be in micro cases. Here you can see a side panel with the original NZXT fan and one of my Evercool Evergreen fans.
Next we will take a good look at the Rogue’s interior, followed by our installation process.
Most MicroATX cases are content with giving you a single hard drive bay, a single floppy bay, and two 5.25″ bays if you’re lucky. The Rogue laughs in the face of other MicroATX cases, touting four hard drive bays, a floppy bay, and two 5.25″ bays.
As I said before, the Rogue comes with three 120mm fans installed. The fans on either side are black, with a lighted fan in the rear. The fans on the intake side of the case are equipped with dust filters, a nice touch considering how porous the sides of the case are.
At first glance, this case looked like it would be hard to work in, and I must admit I was a little stumped until I opened the manual. It turns out that nearly every side of the case can be removed from the frame. This makes working in the case much easier, and is actually necessary in order to mount everything properly.
Once I figured out how to remove the sides everything became much clearer, and working inside the case was actually rather enjoyable.
While having the sides off makes the case easier to work in, there is definitely an order to putting things in the case. My recommendation is to follow the instruction manual included with the case. I’m usually one to throw the manuals directly in the trash but I found this manual to be quite helpful. I won’t bother with re-writing NZXT’s manual here, but I will give you a few pointers, especially when it comes to putting PCI cards in, and a few other oddities.
The first thing to do is mount the motherboard on the tray. Don’t put the CPU or CPU Cooler on yet though. Slide the tray back in, then drop in the CPU and mount the cooler, but don’t put the tray screws back in. You’ll notice in several of the previous pictures, there is a lip to support the PSU above the PCI slots. You’ll have to put your PCI cards in from the side, then slide the tray back out a bit to put the mounting screws for the cards in. Unfortunately the tray cannot be taken in or out with PCI cards in place.
An annoyance I have with MicroATX cases is cabling. As you can see above, I had an excessive amount of cabling inhibiting the airflow in the case. Fortunately the eSATA cable is removable; it was extremely long, longer than most of my standard SATA cables. Unless you’re using eSATA you might want to think about removing it.
I’m starting to believe the “Enormous Power Within” slogan. This is the first MicroATX case that has legitimately fit all 4 of my hard drives. You might also notice in the photo above, I was able to fit the OCZ Vanquisher we reviewed a few months ago. It just barely clears the PSU, but it fits. That means you should be able to slide just about any cooler into the Rogue.
Before we jump into our testing results, here are the specs of the completed machine:
Thermal testing is a fairly subjective test, given the number of variables involved. For this testing I’ll be comparing the Rogue against my reference case the AccoustiCase 340. This is my everyday user case, primarily because it is very quiet. I run the AccoustiCase with the same Antec SU-380 and two Evercool Evergreen 120mm fans. I tested the Rogue using the stock three fan configuration as well as with the additional two Evergreen 120’s.
Given the negligable difference in temperature between 3 fans and 5 fans, and the increase in noise, I wouldn’t really recommend using 5 fans. The Rogue significantly out performs the AccoustiCase at the expense of some additional noise. Still, the Rogue is reasonably quiet for what it is. I wouldn’t want to sleep in a room where it was running, but I could certainly live with it in a room I was working in.
Overall I think NZXT built a nice case with the Rogue. However, I feel they missed the mark a bit. I can’t honestly call the Rogue a small form factor case as I could nearly fit two Shuttle XPC cases inside. In reality NZXT has simply created a massive case with a non-standard layout.
If you’re looking for something that is a different than the norm, then the Rogue may be for you. The case is well built, though a bit heavy. The carrying strap makes what would be an awkward case, simple to carry – though the quality of the strap left something to be desired.
The Rogue is capable of fitting pretty much anything you could imagine putting in it. Living up to its slogan of “Enormous Power Within”. So if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary and don’t mind spending $150 to get it, the Rogue may be right up your alley.
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