Zalman Z11 Plus Review
Up Close: Exterior
Probably the most striking aspect of the aesthetics are the "Evo" style power bulges in the front and sides of the case. As Zalman are perhaps better known for their cooling solutions, it's not surprising that their cases should have a focus towards airflow. The bulges aren't just there for aesthetic reasons though, oh no, each bulge houses an 80mm fan. Each of these 80mm fans are mounted transversely as an intake so as to focus it's airflow inwards towards the HDD area. The air they draw in comes from the side portion of the front grill on each side respectively. In addition to pushing air directly over the HDD area the fans also serve to increase the overall intake volume of the case, adding to that provided by the front mounted 120mm fan. Aside from the "power bulges", the window on the left of the case also protrudes outwards. This isn't a feature you see on a great many cases and does serve to increase the three dimensional aesthetic of the Z11. The window itself is acrylic as you would expect and aside from being smoked is also very easily removed by means of clips should you want to replace it at any time.
Looking at the case in more detail and starting at the rear of the top section we see that Zalman have gone with the slatted vent approach. This is a design we're starting to see more often and have to say although not too every-ones taste it's not something that offends us here at OC3D. However, unlike a few of the other proponents of this design, the slats on the Z11 cannot be closed up as they are fixed in place. They are however semi transparent and so serve to disperse the blue light from the LED fan which lurks beneath.
Anterior to the roof extract we find the front I/O area. The area is centrally dominated by a large sloping recess intended to provide a home for our various phones/USB sticks and of course Haribo sweets. To either side we find reset and HDD activity lights as well as a brace of USB2 and USB3 sockets, and of course the obligatory audio jacks. The shield shaped power button itself is located anterior and central to the I/O area on the leading edge of the case front. the switch is of the short throw soft click type and is pleasing to use.
Heading down the front of the case we are treated to no less than 5 x 5.25" external bays. The lowermost of which has a 3.5" cut out presumably for your state of the art floppy drive, or I guess failing that a little fan controller or card reader. The drive bays themselves are recessed some 25mm into the front of the case , as would be any device you inserted into them. As we reach the bottom of the case things bulge back out again with a large horizontally slatted air intake are dominating the lower half of this case. The styling is certainly aggressive, with more than a nod towards auto styling. The recessed 5.25" bays in particular reminding us of the front grill of the early model Dodge charger (69 to be exact) and perhaps the lower section having more of a lean towards the Power bulges seen on many of today's rice rockets.
Turning the case round we see the black finish extends to the rear of the case, an area often left as bare metal on cases this low in price. At the top we find a white bladed fan set to extract air from the rear, along with the usual rear I/O area. Two small rubber grommeted holes are provided to aid with any external watercooling ambitions you may have. Towards the base we find 7 expansion bay covers. Rather unusually these are not screwed in place, but rather left secured by 2 metal tabs. To use the bay you must work the cover back and forth to fatigue the tab until it snaps away, as such the covers, once removed cannot be re fitted. Zalman do however include a few spares in their accessories pack, and be assured that your valuable GPU is still secured by means of a thumb screw in the traditional manner. Right down at the base of the case we find the PSU cut out.
Flipping the case over on its side allows a view of the base, the very rear of which has a mesh filtered ventilation panel for the PSU. Anterior to this sits a slightly bigger removable mesh filter designed to provide clean air to any base mounted fans you have fitted. small rectangular rubber dampened feet are found in each corner of the base, lifting the underside about 10mm of the deck.