It's crazy to think that someone had to “innovate” – to use the word lightly – and apply non-beige paint to PC cases. There had to be a first for that – just like there was a first to package a case in a non-brown cardboard box. In the former instance, we believe NZXT to be the pioneer in painted cases, though Antec shares some credit for early industry innovations (like box art). NZXT's Guardian was among the first painted cases available for DIY enthusiasts, and further emphasized its rebellious nature by outfitting the left side panel with an acrylic window. For 2003, these were leading advancements in case design.
And it fits, too. We also see NZXT as the trend-setter for power supply shrouds with the launch of its critically acclaimed H440 chassis, then later its S340. Since the H440 launched, we've seen a market shift where nearly every $70-$100 enclosure is outfitted with a PSU shroud. Corsair's 400C and 600C cases, the Rosewill Gungnir and Cullinan, the Phanteks P400, the SilverStone RL05 – they all follow this trend.
The Intel booth at PAX West hosted iBUYPOWER's Snowblind case mod, an early mock-up made to integrate an LCD panel into an NZXT Noctis 450 side panel. The team has since improved its mod by adding a light guide, useful for darkening the black colors and reducing “fuzziness” of the output, increasing contrast overall. The side of the case has also now moved the LCD PCB and wiring to the top of the panel, nearer the CPU, as an effort to improve viewing angles and reduce the discoloration observed from non-oblique angles. As a side effect, this improves cable management by rerouting the monitor wiring through the top of the case, more concealable with an N450, rather than through the PSU shroud.
The goal of this revisit was to get a better understanding of how the Snowblind works, since our PAX coverage was entirely based on a quick study on the show floor. The enclosure mounts a 5:4 (1280x1024) resolution LCD to the side of an NZXT Noctis 450, which has its left side panel manually punched by NZXT's factory that we previously toured. You can actually see some of the machines responsible for this process in our video tour of the Shenzhen-based God Speed Casing factory. This is a one-off punch done by the factory team, but could be tooled-up for mass production if the Snowblind ends up as an actual product.
We were able to get hands-on with the new NZXT S340 Elite enclosure, officially announced today at a $100 price-point. The case is an updated version of the NZXT S340 mid-tower, now two years old, and is primarily distinguished with its tempered glass and updated cable management.
This is the most similar enclosure we've yet seen to iBUYPOWER's Element that's based on the S340 (not available as a standalone product). The front panel sticks with a flat metal, the left side panel has been metamorphosed into a tempered glass window, and the window is fixed to the chassis with four screws. This is similar to all the other tempered glass panels we've seen lately, including the Cullinan and 460X.
NZXT's presence at the recent UCI eSports arena opening made for a silent unveil of new CAM software functionality, when coupled with the company's HUE+ RGB lighting controller. The software update ties Valve's official game state API to NZXT's CAM software, theoretically circumventing any potential anti-cheat concerns by nature of plugging straight into an official Valve programming interface.
At least a dozen game states are made accessible to developers, and NZXT may pick-and-choose which game states cue a visual reaction through attached HUE+ devices. For now, NZXT supports player health, grenade interactions (flashed, in smoke, on fire), and the C4 count-down. Users may customize individual colors of these events, but the demo offered a standard green/red for health, then used a white-ish LED illumination for flash bangs and a similar white-blue for smoke effects. Standing atop ground hit with incendiary grenades offered an orange hue from the HUE, and C4 instated a binary LED pulse – on and off – that matched the count-down timer.
This week's news announcements include AMD AM4 Zen chipset naming (rumors, technically), NZXT's new RGB LED 'Aer' fans, and a pair of cases from Rosewill and Cooler Master.
AMD's initial AM4 chipset announcement was made at PAX, where the B350, A320, and XBA300 chipsets were announced for mainstream and low-end Gen 7 APUs. The high-end Zen chipset for Summit Ridge was concealed during this announcement, but is now known to be the X370 platform.
X370 will ship alongside the Summit Ridge CPUs and will add to the lanes available for high-speed IO devices, mostly SATA and new generation USB. Most of the IO with the Zen architecture will be piped through the CPU itself, with what remains of the chipset acting more as an IO controller than a full chipset.
The NZXT Noctis 450 enclosure was modified for display at Intel's booth for PAX West 2016, featuring an LCD panel for the side “window” in place of the usual acrylic. The display was built by iBUYPOWER as a prototype, and is effectively a 4:3 screen slapped onto the side of the case, then backlit (because there is no normal LCD LED backlight) by the internal case LEDs. White components are specifically used to create a high-contrast viewing port, meshing with the LCD panel in a way that allows video playback on the side of the case.
For the show, iBUYPOWER loaded a splash/advert video onto the side panel that scrolled through Intel and IBP logos. The future may permit more dynamic integrations with the panel, like loading PC monitoring software (e.g. NZXT CAM) with high contrast onto the display, then extending through usual Windows functionality. That's not possible yet, but is one of the considerations made by the team.
Our recent NZXT factory tour showed how the burgeoning case manufacturer manufactures its towers – from tooling to assembly – and gave an insider's look at the industry. Now, just a few weeks later, NZXT has announced its refreshed H440 “EnVyUs” Edition, named after the popular eSports team that competes in CSGO, CoD, LoL, and now Overwatch.
The H440 is similar to the model we reviewed back in 2014 (and said it was “why we review cases,”), but has been updated with the H440v2 modifications. These primarily include updates to the airflow – like larger intake ventilation – and have been in production for around a year now. Newegg lists the H440v2 as the “H440 STEEL.”
NZXT's manufacturing birthplace is in Shenzhen, China, but the company moved to a new, high-end facility in 2000. The company now works with Godspeed Casing, a factory that NZXT is largely responsible for 'raising' from the ground-up. Over 1200 employees work at the factory, working with tens of millions of dollars of equipment on a daily basis. One of the largest, most impressive machines in the factory is the SAG-600, which can apply upwards of 600 metric tonnes of downward force to create case paneling. That machine alone costs $2 million (USD) and towers a few times over its operator.
This NZXT factory tour is part of our Asia trip, and marks the second stop in our extended “How Cases are Made” coverage. In-Win was the first factory we visited, based in Taoyuen, Taiwan, and we've now spent a day in China for NZXT's facilities. We'll soon be back in Taipei for further Computex and local factory coverage.
Let's look at NZXT's setup:
I'm not sure why the hotel phone rang – a loud, cursed beige thing – at 11PM. I was asleep; it's 11AM on the East Coast, about bed time, and the woman speaking to me was doing so in Chinese. There's something especially vexing about trying to come-to from a Snorlax-like slumber while also being at the receiving end of an unfamiliar language. I sat there in silence for a moment while trying to piece together what she just said, then realized it was no use – “English?”
She laughed. I said “It's OK,” phonetically stammered out “may qwan qi” – something I learned a few hours prior, and without learning the spelling – and then we hung up. This curious episode was matched moments later, when one of the hotel staff knocked (loudly) on the door. I still wasn't sure of the time, and figured it was room service: “Later?”
Sticking to single words seemed the best bet.
She knocked again. I cracked it open and was handed a lighter, and she was whisked away by the darkness of the hall. After looking at the thing for a moment, I put it on the bathroom counter and returned to bed.
The mid-tower ATX market seems like it's burgeoning with options right now. Everyone's got some kind of mid-tower-with-shroud available, and those who don't already have one on the way. Of late, we've looked at the NZXT S340 (arguably the start to all this), the Corsair 400C – a good progression, Phanteks' disappointing P400, and we'll soon look at SilverStone's RL05B.
All of these cases seem to fall within the $60 to $100 range, too: The NZXT S340 is $60-$70, the Corsair 400C is $90-$100, the Phanteks P400 is $60-$90, and the Gungnir is a flat $65. SilverStone's forthcoming RL05B will land at about $60.
For today, we're reviewing and benchmarking Rosewill's own mid-tower gaming case, the “Gungnir.”
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