Zalman Z11 Plus Review
Essential to any build is the bag of accessories and of course the instructions (if you're that way inclined). Accessories wise, along with the bags of screws we get a pair of spare PCI covers. As already mentioned, once the PCI covers that are quite literally attached to the case are removed, they cannot be re fitted, so should you wish to cover hole back up a spare is provided. The other cover as you can see has two small holes in it. This is to provide a pass through for the USB3 connectors from the front I/O which must be attached to one of the motherboards rear USB3 sockets. All of this is very well, but I can't help thinking it might have just been easier to follow the well trodden route of having PCI covers that are removed and re fitted by means of thumb screws. Presumably it must be cheaper to do it this way. With that little rant over with, lets assure you that the instructions provided do a more than adequate job of reminding you of your lack of manliness in having to read them.
As always, before we start a build we always strip the case down pretty much as far as it will go. This not only enables us to show you what lies under the skin of the case, but also serves to aid in planning the hardware installation and cable routing. In the images below you can see for example that although the front intake is filtered and can accept either a 120mm or 140mm fan, the front of the case must be removed in order to change and clean the filter.
Building into the Z11 is quite a pleasurable affair, made all the more so by the very large and well spaced cable management holes. Although the holes are bereft of rubber grommets a clean look can still be achieved by means of careful planning. As we anticipated though, the large cut out along the bottom of the motherboard tray did make it harder to stash cables out of site after they left the PSU. Although we've only popped our trusty old 8800GT in to the case, it's more than capable of accepting cards up to 290mm in length with another 10mm left over if you have a card with the PCI power socket located on the end.
If you've ever build into a mid-tower chassis and fitted a large heatsink you'll know that it's often near on impossible to get your hand into the small gap in the top left hand corner to attach the CPU power cable. So why not fit the motherboard and then fit the cooler to it? After-all, there's a big cut out at the rear of the CPU to allow for this. Well because it's a bit of a catch 22, as most of these big coolers have to be pre fitted with the motherboard out, again as a result of the lack of access in the top left to tighten contact plate retaining bolts. This isn't a situation unique to this case, or even just to Zalman, it's one we come across quite frequently with large coolers in mid tower cases. Unlike a lot of manufacturers Zalman however offer a way out of this viscous circle. By attaching the included 20cm CPU power extension cable to the motherboard with the cooler pre fitted you can then slip the cable behind through the small aperture at the top of the case ready for it to meet up with the main cable from the PCU. You then screw the motherboard down as you would normally. It's simple and effective, but more than that shows that Zalman are putting thought and consideration into their designs and not just leaving their customers to fend for themselves in working out a solution.
Focusing on the rear expansion bay area you can see that although the covers are only affixed by metal tabs, once removed to insert a PCI card chromed thumb bolts are supplied to hold your cards in place. For what is actually quite a slim case (power bulges excepted), the case is still able to accept coolers up to 160mm in height. The cooler shown below is the Zalman CNPS14X, measuring in at 159.3mm. It fits but only just. Guess we're just going to have to be careful not to use more than 0.7mm of thermal paste.
Turning the case around we can see that although 15mm is not exactly a lot of space to work in, thanks to the abundance of cable tie points it's relatively easy to achieve a decent cable management job, keeping them grouped together and feeding off through the holes at the appropriate points. Also shown below is the rather nifty 2.5" drive holder, and yes, that is a 2.5" drive out of an old lappy and not a super zippy little SSD but you get the idea.