Zalman Z11 Plus Review
Performance, Testing and Conclusion
Zalman have got all the basics here. The build quality is good, OK so we're not seeing half inch thick slabs of hairline brushed machined aluminium but then we're not being asked to pay £150. Neither are there any cable grommet hole rubbers, but then don't forget that neither did the iconic CM690II , and for that matter nor do a great many other cases that cost the same as this (and some that cost quite a bit more). The Z11 is made of good thick steel, not thin flimsy stuff, as indicated by the lack of flex and bend in the main panels and especially the side panels. It also has a reasonable feature set, actually let me re phrase that, this is a £50 case, given the price, there's a damn good feature set here. With 3x120mm fans and an additional 2x80mm fans in each of the side panels included at the point of sale. You also get an innovative 2.5" drive support on the rear of the motherboard and really very good cable management thanks to good sized, well spaced holes and the inclusion of 22 cable tie points. We've looked at cases very recently with an additional 5mm of space but with only 3 cable tie points and believe us when we say we know which was easier to build into and which gave the better end result. Add into the equation the inclusion of the handy dandy CPU power extension and you begin to appreciate that this case is budget, but certainly not "Cheap". So, there isn't any native water cooling support, but then neither do a lot of other cases that cost a great deal more than the Z11, It doesn't have tool free installation for 5.25" drives, but to be honest if you really need to get a 5.25" drive out of a bay that quickly that taking a few extra moments to undo 4 screws will be of critical importance then you really ought to re examine your priorities in life
We guess if we were to level a fair criticism it would be the inclusion of the 2x80mm fans in the front. As they're positioned both as intake and pointing directly at each other, it's likely that the intended airflow over the HDD area could become muddled., not actually degrading cooling, just not really adding much too it. They're also a bit on the noisy side, again, not an insurmountable problem, as they can always be detached or perhaps replaced with a set of super silent 80mm Noctuas. The only other thing we're not too sure about is the use of punch outs for the rear expansion bays. It's a bit of an uncommon design choice and one we can only hope enabled a cost saving otherwise we can't see the point.
And so to the competition. If you're on a tight budget and looking for a case around the £50 region then as you're probably aware you have quite a bit of choice. Far too many to mention in the confines of this review in fact. So there are other options, of course there are, but lets stand back and put the Z11 in perspective. Put simply, a great many of the cheap £50 and sub £50 cases feel exactly that, Cheap. The Zalman doesn't. It's sturdy, it has a great feature set including 3x120mm fans and 2x80mm fans, stealth mount for a 2.5" SSD bay and an inclusive 12pin CPU extension cable. Top all this off with good build quality and excellent cable management and you start to get the idea that your £50 is getting you quite a bang for your buck.
At the start of this review we mentioned the aesthetics of the case and accepted that it might not be to every-ones taste, and that's fair enough, but don't dismiss this case as being "bad" and of low quality simply because you don't happen to like the looks of it. If you like it and are thinking of spending in the region of £50 (after all, these days money is tight for all of us) then you're going to want to know what you're getting for your £50. The answer in simple terms is quite a lot actually. We asked is there substance as well as style? The answer is a resounding yes. All of which brings us neatly to the issue of the award. All this for £50? In these times of austerity, the Z11 just has to be the proud recipient of one of our VFM awards.