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Zalman Z-Machine GT1000

Date: September 5, 2007
Author(s): Greg King

Zalman is not normally known for their cases, but they are looking to please gamers everywhere with their Z-Machine GT1000. With it’s black aluminum frame, the case is built like a tank. But is it worth your $400?



Introduction


There are a few companies that we have all come to expect superb products from. This isn’t to say that these companies always hit home runs, but more often than not, a solid offering is usually a safe bet. One such company that has had a solid history in releasing well built, good performing products has been Zalman.

Over the years, we have taken looks at quite a few products from Zalman and almost all of them have scored extremely well. Just last month, we looked at their latest fan controller, the ZM-MFC2. As expected, it was a quality product that had a build quality second to none.

One area that Zalman hasn’t exactly been known for is the PC chassis market. Sure, they had the much publicized, prohibitively expensive, passively cooled and silently designed chassis and the case was a head turner, but nothing much more than that. They also have had a considerable amount of success with their Fatal1ty chassis but it too was not without its fair share of criticism.

Not intended for the case itself, the complaints were more directed towards the shameless branding of the case, making it more like a Team Fatal1ty/Zalman NASCAR PC than actually something that any self respecting gamer would dare take to a LAN party. Taking the criticism in stride, Zalman decided to simply take that same case, remove most of the logos from the front, back and side panels, add a few Zalman themed logos and dub it the Z-Machine GT1000. This new case, the GT1000, is the topic of today’s review and on our bench, ready to go.

Closer Look

Shipping in a package not unlike what we have come to expect to from Zalman, the GT1000 is securely sandwiched between a pair of molded Styrofoam ends. With glossy pictures of the two different varieties of GT1000s, as well as information about the case on the sides, we quickly remove the case and get down to business.

With the packaging out of the way, lets get a closer look at GT1000 itself. The right and left sides are divided into two different sections, each that are hinged and fold outward like a set of pantry doors. On the left side, like in most other cases designed for gamers, there is a window. With the two door design of the sides, the window in housed solely on the back panel and thus, will only show the area of the inside directly above the motherboard. This should help to hide the unsightly mess of cables that haunt almost everyone that cares about what the inside of their case looks like.

Disregard the look of the window in the follow picture. The protective plastic sheet is still affixed and will have to be removed. To do so, we first had to remove the window itself. This is achieved by removing the allen bolts that hold the window in place… and there are quite a few of them. Like everything else on this chassis, if two or three bolts would have done the trick, Zalman used eight. This gives the chassis an incredibly strong feel.

The front of the GT1000 shows us the four 5.25″ drive bays, a single 3.5″ bay, the I/O ports and power button as well as a pair of 92mm cooling fans positioned at the bottom of the case.

The back of the case is situated much like any other standard ATX compatible case on the market today. At the top there is a spot for your power supply and below it we find a 120mm cooling fan, the I/O shield and seven PCI slots.

Moving back to the front of the case, let’s take a minute and focus on the pair of 92mm fans that sit behind a mesh grill. These fans will glow red when the system is powered on and give the case an aggressive look. They should also provide adequate air intake as well.

Just above the front fans rest the I/O ports and power and reset buttons. From left to right, we see the power button, power LED indicator, primary and secondary hard drive LEDs, audio jacks, a pair of USB ports and a single FireWire port. With the popularity of eSATA, and the abundance of hardware that can now take advantage of this new connection, it’s a bit of a bummer to not see it included on the GT1000.

However, with most motherboards including this feature on the back I/O panel, this really isn’t that big of a deal but something that would have been welcome none the less. Notice the buttons and how they are made out of brushed aluminum. As with everything else on the case, Zalman clearly spared no expense in the making of the GT1000 and the quality of something as simple as the power and reset buttons completely prove this.

Like we stated earlier, the GT1000 is simply the Zalman Fatal1ty case, sans the logos every 3 inches. While there are far fewer than the original case, the GT1000 still isn’t without its own. While simple, there are a few logos containing both the name of the case as well as a reminder that Zalman is behind this work of art. On the sides there is a large Z-Machine logo and a smaller Zalman logo in the lower right hand corners.

Apparently not ones to leave well enough alone, we find one more section of logos on the back of the case in the lower right hand corner. This time around, Zalman has done a decent job of branding the case and on the GT1000, the logos are well done and have a bit of a classy look to them where as the Fatal1ty case was a shameless attempt to cash in on the Fatal1ty name and brand the name in as many places on the case as possible. This is just my opinions however.

One of the most notable features of the GT1000 is the side panels. The word panel really doesn’t fit in this case as the sides are more like a pair of doors that open out and away from each other. By taking the stellar Fatal1ty case and redoing the side panel, making the one large panel two separate panels, the evolution of this case has only gotten better. To hold these doors in place, there is a small magnet in each door and when shut, each can be secured with a pair of provided thumb screws at the top and bottom of the door.

With the side doors open, we see the interior of the GT1000 in all its brushed aluminum glory. Everything from the hard drive cage to the drive bays is constructed out of black aluminum, giving the interior of the case a very classy look.



Interior

Starting at the back and working our way counter clockwise around the interior of the case, se first see the back 120mm fan. The clear plastic fan will glow a deep red once the machine is powered on and is powered through a three pin pug that can be connected to any motherboard or fan controller with an available fan header.

Below the fan are seven PCI slots. For anyone who is looking for a tool less designed case, the GT1000 isn’t for you. While the hard drives use a simple racking system and the drive bays use pre connected bolts, the PCI slots are still secured with the tried and true thumb screws.

At the bottom of the case, there are a pair of places that allow an additional two hard drives should the provided four slots not be enough for all of you RAID junkies out there. All that needs to be done to use this area is install the four black spacers seen in sticking up from the bottom of the case into the side of the hard drive and then slide it into place, locking the hard drive at the front.

The GT1000 also offers a little different approach to installing your hard drives. Rotated 90 degrees, the hard drives actually sit perpendicular to the motherboard. This orientation not only allows the drives to be easily slid into place, but also allow the power and data cables to be easily connected when the drives are in place as well. All that needs to be done is to slide the bar up, push the drive into place and lower the bar back down, securing the drive in its place.

It also nice to see rubber wrapped around the bars and the interior of the hard drive cage, ensuring that the drive touches no metal when installed in the slot. There are also opening all over the cage, allowing easy cable routing when trying to hide all those pesky SATA and power cables. Fortunately, for those not as concerned with cable management, the front side panel lacks a window and will hide any crappy wiring that you might choose to do.

Directly above the hard drive slots, the drive bays provide just as simple installation as the hard drives do. There are attached bolts on the top two bays and all that needs to be done is turn screw them into the drive bolts must be used in the lower bays but few people have more than two drives and thus, many users won’t even have to get their screwdriver out for 5.25″ drives.

To connect the front I/O port to the motherboard, there are the standard cables found in any case and there really isn’t anything different between these and the cables found in other cases. There is a pair of plugs on this cable to allow the front jacks to be connected to a standard AC ’97 or a High Definition Audio plug.

To protect your desk, there are square rubber feet on the round feet on the bottom of the case. These not only protect the surface of your desk, but also provide exceptional vibration dampening as well.

Zalman has included a small box containing spare motherboard stand-offs, allen bolts, power supply bolts and a small allen wrench to aid in installation of hardware. Also included is a power adapter for the fans, allowing the two front fans to be connected to a single 4 pin Molex connector. As with any case of this caliber, most owners of the GT1000 are going to be extreme gamers who like to show off. To help people like that, Zalman has included a few cable handlers to aid in keeping those pesky cables together and out of the way. Also included is the mandatory manual.



Installation, Testing

To get a feel for the ease of use of the GT1000, the same hardware used in past case reviews will be installed into the Zalman case. This hardware includes:

The first thing we do is to put the motherboard into place and secure it by bolting the board to the stand offs. The pre-installed standoffs were nice to see and the Commando fits into the GT1000 as it should.

We chose to install our hard drive in the drive cage as opposed to the bottom. While I like the expandability of the bottom mounts, there will be direct airflow across the drives provided by the front two 92mm fans. Not only that, but the installation of the drives in the cage involves no use of tools and is simply a “slide it in until it stops” type procedure.

Like we pointed out earlier in the review, the drive bays also make installation quite simple with their attached thumb screws. Small tool less features like this make the installation process very convenient.

One thing that we would like to point out as well is the power supply installation. While there is plenty of room to place a larger power supply in the Z-Machine, there is an odd omission of any rail, shelf or support system. This seems a bit odd to us but using the provided hex bolts, and taking into consideration the thickness of the back plate of the case, there shouldn’t be any concerns as to whether or not the power supply is supported well enough our not.

With everything installed, let’s power the Zalman up and see how it looks with its red fans spinning away. One other thing to mention is the brightness of the power and hard drive activity LEDs. They certainly stand out as well.

As the pictures show, the red glow of the three included fans look absolutely solid and give off a unique look compared to the normal blue lights that most cases today use. It should be mentioned that the titanium colored GT1000 uses this blue light scheme and if I were in the market for an updated gaming chassis for my own PC, I would personally choose the black and red combination. The green light of the Zalman 9700 doesn’t look to bad in the case and works reasonably well with the red lights.

We have taken looks at many different cases and for a while, we compared the temperature results to the others. While our hardware has remained the same, the test environment has changed a bit and while the temperatures are quite comparable, we are simply giving the temperatures that we got from the Zalman GT1000.

Idle
Load
CPU Temperature
36°C
45°C
GPU Temperature
58°C
87°C


Final Thoughts


In this review, we have looked at the exterior of the GT1000 as well as the interior. We have teased Zalman for the ridiculous amount of logos on the Fatal1ty version of this case and pointed out the only significant flaw of the case, its lack of a power supply support. Negatives aside, the Zalman GT1000 can easily be summed up in one word… awesome.

From the second to none build quality to the better than average cooling, the Zalman GT1000 is easily the best case that I have personally dealt with. The most critical complain that we have at this point is an obvious one. The case costs almost $400 and I personally have a hard time recommended any case that costs this much. However, with that said, I can see why this case costs as much as it does. The GT1000 is hands down the most solid case we have ever worked with and while this certainly adds to the overall weight of the case, rest easy knowing that it’s built like a tank and should last as long as you’re still using an ATX based motherboard.

The ability to remove virtually any piece of the case by either sliding it out or removing the allen bolts is a significant boost for Zalman in our eyes as well.

The noise that the GT1000 produced was audible, but nothing that would take attention away from your favorite game. While not the silent offering that Zalman has become known for, the Zalman GT1000 chassis isn’t going to distract you from doing what you do best, game.

Basically, what we are saying that we love the case. Yeah, it’s safe to say that. However, for a case like this, of this quality, you’re going to have to pay a pretty penny to have one. With all these positives, we really only have one complaint… its price. At its asking price, we are venturing into the realm of a high end graphics card or even a quad core CPU and some change. This isn’t to say that the Zalman isn’t worth this much, but rather, it’s difficult to recommend this to anyone other than the hardest of hard core gamers.

Zalman has simply out done themselves with this chassis and for those fortunate enough to own one, there really isn’t a single feature that will disappoint. From the convenient hard drive bays to the ease and simplicity of the twin side doors, the Zalman GT1000 offers more than enough to system builders and gamers alike to almost be worth the steep price most online retailers are asking. The Fatal1ty version of the case can be found online for around $350 so we are hoping that with time, the GT1000 will venture down to this price point as well.

With all this taken into consideration, the Zalman Z-Machine GT1000 earns an 8 out of 10. With a slightly lower price, say into the mid to lower $300s, that score could easily go up to a 9 but as it stands now, $400 is a lot of money regardless of how you look at it and unless you have everything that you need to run your games at an ideal level, an investment into another video card or CPU might be a more rational decision when we are talking about this much money. That said, if you’re looking for the absolute best case on the market, the Zalman GT1000 fits that bill in my opinion.

For its style and quality of build, the Zalman Z-Machine GT1000 earns an editor’s choice award as well.

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