At the beginning of working on this case round-up, these three selections – the NZXT S340, Antec P70, and Zalman R1 – were all about $60 to $70 max. The price range was perfect, and the cases made for currently-marketed solutions that users may encounter. Over the week that we've worked on the round-up, things have changed a bit: Zalman's R1 and Antec's P70 now sit at $40 after a $20 rebates, shifting the price range to be unintentionally wider. The base price is still $60 for both cases.
These are the three cases we're looking at today:
- NZXT S340 Mid-Tower ($70, after MIR $60)
- Antec P70 Mid-Tower ($60, after MIR $40)
- Zalman R1 Mid-Tower ($60, after MIR $40)
In this gaming case round-up, we review the performance and build quality of NZXT's S340, Zalman's R1, and Antec's P70, hoping to narrow the selection of budget gaming cases. There are dozens of similarly-priced chassis out there and this is far from a comprehensive list, but it's our start on producing regular component round-ups as a means to more easily compare products for our readers. We'll work on more comparisons shortly following.
S340, R1, & P70 Specs
|NZXT S340||Antec P70||Zalman R1|
|Motherboard Support||ATX / mATX / mITX||ATX / mATX / mITX||ATX / mATX / mITX|
|Clearances||CPU Cooler: 161mm
GPU: 334 / 364mm (w/o, w/ front radiator)
|CPU Cooler: ~160mm
|CPU Cooler: 160mm
|Cooling||Front: 2x 120mm or 2x 140mm (optional)
Top: 1x 120mm or 1x 140mm (120mm included)
Rear: 1x 120mm (one included)
|Top: 2x 120mm (two included)
Rear: 1x 120mm (one included)
Front: 2x 120mm (optional)
|Top: 2x 120mm (one included)
Rear: 1x 120mm (one included)
Front: 2x 120mm (one LED fan included)
|Liquid Cooling||Front: 2 x 140 or 2 x 120mm
Rear: 1 x 120mm
|Top: 2x120mm||Top: 2x120mm|
|Dimensions||17.51H x 7.87W x 17.00" D
~445mm x 200mm x 432mm
|18.7H x 8.1W x 18.0” D
458mm x 205mm x 476mm
|18.31 x 7.56 x 17.72"
192 x 465 x 450mm
($40 after rebate)
($40 after rebate)
NZXT S340 Quality Review
We’ve already reviewed the S340 in full, so we won’t go into much detail over the features of the case. It’s a truly solid case—assuming you don’t want internal optical drives, and assuming you don’t need to be able to pick your computer up easily. NZXT managed to cut costs by keeping things simple and removing unnecessary chassis components.
The S340 exhibits high build quality with a focus on eliminating plastics wherever possible. The paneling is almost exclusively steel. Internally, a cable management bar offers a unique routing pathway for concealing cables without eating into limited panel-to-tray space. A PSU shroud obscures one of the ugliest sections of any PC build, with backlit NZXT branding on the side.
It’s included in this round-up as an example of a case that's worth $70.
Antec P70 Quality Review
(Above, second row, left: The chassis is effectively identical to the R1, sans the lack of odd drilled-out holes as found on the R1).
The P70 wasn’t awful to use, but it didn’t impress. The outside of the case is simple and pleasant enough, with a bright blue power LED strip in front and bay covers that fit flush with the front of the case when optical drives aren’t installed. Three fan control sliders are lined-up next to the front panel I/O.
One of the main advantages of the P70 is the fan control system. I’ve spent a lot of time fiddling with non-digital fan controls in the past, and personally I’d rather let the system decide what speed the fans push; fortunately, this is an option, as the fans can be disconnected from the controls embedded in the top of the case. The settings are simple, conveniently placed, and there’s a clear difference in noise levels between “low” and “high,” but I’d still rather just plug the fans straight into the motherboard. The two fans on top of the case are controlled by one switch, the rear fan by another, and a third switch is left unused to allow for the installation of a fourth fan in the front of the case (the only empty slot).
The case was fairly easy to take apart and build in. I liked the ease with which the top of the case unlocks and slides off. Antec includes a molded cover to put over the top fan holes, if you happen make the decision to remove two of the three cases fans. The bottom PSU filter looks much more effective than the next case's filter and also slides out conveniently, fitted to rails. Disappointingly, the PCI-e slots in the rear of the case are the sort that are covered by disposable metal strips, rather than more practical screw-on covers.
There are relatively few 3.5” drive bays—four, all told—although this should be completely sufficient for the average user. More importantly, the P70 includes only one SSD tray, and wastes space on a floppy drive bay. This is 2015, and that space could be better filled with pretty much anything else, including empty air. If an external drive bay were required for, say, card readers, the above 2x5.25” external bays could be employed.
The 3.5” bays are tool-less, as the 5.25” brethren are, but I was able to slide drives right out despite a locking mechanism, and there’s no rubber involved at all—any drive vibration resonates. One nice feature, though: The lone SSD tray requires only two screws and uses two pegs (inserted into the opposing screw holes) for mounting the drive. This eliminates some hassle and assembly in a non-dramatic fashion.
The biggest problem with the P70 is that it seems cheaply made. It was actually impossible to secure the graphics card with screws, because the holes provided were so poorly machined that they couldn’t fit any of the provided screws or any others that we tried. The outer case is fairly well-built out of thick plastic and reasonably sturdy metal, but the internals are thin and effortlessly bent. The chassis flexes freely and readily without the sides screwed on to apply pressure. It’s a matter of opinion whether this matters or not; most computer cases aren’t going to see intense action, but I don’t have much confidence in the P70’s ability to hold-up to repeated installations over the years. Is it worth the full $60? I don’t think so, but I’d consider buying it on sale. The case isn't offensively bad by any means – the exterior looks all right and isn't falling apart, as the next case seemed to do, and it sits in the mid-range of performance.
Zalman R1 Quality Review
(Above, second row, right: The top panel cannot be mounted flush with the chassis).
That brings us to the Zalman R1. First, some things I liked: 1. There’s a clear plastic window in the side of the case. 2. The three fans included in the case are in the top, rear, and front, with additional spaces for fans in the front and on the top; there’s a filter in the front; and one of the fans has shiny blue LEDs. 3. The case didn’t directly cause me bodily harm.
You might be able to tell that I’m not the biggest fan of the R1, and it's for several reasons. One of those reasons is that the chassis is the same as that of the P70, which I already wasn’t terribly impressed by, but it adds some odd drilling and lacks the decent exterior (yes, that means it also has a floppy drive bay, and this one was bent, too). It too has a fan controller with one slider to control every connected fan, and it’s at the bottom-front of the case behind a disturbingly flexible door (see video). This door also encloses the drive bays and front fan, and it warps and flexes dishearteningly every time it’s opened.
The small issues add up: the feet aren’t rubber at all, they’re just plastic pegs, which are practically frictionless on a hard surface; the bottom filter is just a square of screen with no frame and is cumbersome to use; the window only covers the back third of the case, and it’s recessed slightly into the side panel so that it actually rubbed against the Be Quiet! CPU cooler used in the build and got scratched. This wouldn't be a problem if the R1 were specified as being unsupportive of CPU coolers up to 160mm in height, but the Dark Rock Pro 3 that we use is 160mm tall – a somewhat common size – and just barely brushes against the panel, ensuring damage or failed panel installation. Either the manufacturing tolerances are low or the R1 is incorrectly specified. We found that the P70 side panel actually fit the R1 much better than the R1 side panel.
Worst of all are the top fans—if both slots aren’t filled, there’s essentially a giant hole in the top of the case, and there’s no kind of cover, just a few plastic bars that I can nearly slip my entire hand through. Even if both slots are filled, there’s a significant gap to the side of the fans for some reason, and the plastic bars obstruct some of the most critical parts of the fan's air channels. Zalman ships the case with a plastic cover installed over the top, which completely seals it off, but also with a single fan installed in the top as exhaust—the least useful configuration possible.
(Above: The front panel is incredibly weak and flimsy; our suspicion is that the "foam" is used more for panel support than for sound damping).
And these are just the obvious problems. I had my share of petty complaints as well, like the fact that the trim is made of that glossy plastic that gets coated with fingerprints the second the protective tape is taken off, and the way everything was shaped like a parallelogram, giving it a weird thrown-together look. To be fair, that one's more subjective and doesn't definitively deject the case, but the overall poor build quality does contribute to its lack of recommendation.
The side panels are designed to slide under the edges of the top and front panels, meaning that both overhang by about a millimeter rather than fitting flush – an oversight. The top and front panels also protrude from the rear and bottom of the case by about a millimeter or two, furthering the haphazard panel mounting. There is one fan with blue LEDs preinstalled, but both its air intake and any light it emits are blocked by the flimsy front door and the mostly superfluous front filter. There’s a removable rail to provide extra support for GPU(s), but it’s very hard for me to imagine a situation in which there is space for a GPU big enough to need extra support, since the rail wouldn’t even fit in the case with the moderately sized ASUS Strix GTX 960 (thankfully, the PCIe screw holes are actually usable on this case).
As of this writing, the R1 is $35 on Newegg after rebate, with the Iron Egg price guarantee, and yet there are no customer reviews. The top Amazon listing is on Amazon UK entitled “Zalman R1 Mid Tower Case With Window – Black,” costs about $63, and uses a picture of the Zalman Z1. The point is that clearly people aren’t very interested in the R1 at any price, and you shouldn’t be either.
Continue to Page 2 for the benchmarks and conclusion.