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Zalman TNN 500 A Totally No Noise Case

Introduction to the Zalman TNN 500A
Existing noise control solutions and their limitations
Zalman TNN 500 description and technical specs
What we like about the Zalman case
What we don't like about the Zalman case
Top of our wish list
Conclusion, other reviews, where to buy
Full image gallery of the Zalman TNN-500A


What we don't like about the case

Safety and security: Please note that the below comments are based on the initial prototype of the case and actual shipments to customers may not suffer the same issues.

Safety: The case looks like it's shut but despite a door both at the front and the back the guts of the case are more accessible than in any other design of case. You don't need a screwdriver, you don't even need to take the side panel off to access the RAM, PCI slots and CPU! Unlike any other PC case we've seen - when you open a door (front or rear) you can insert your hand right through the case to the other end of the machine.

A child could open a door (either at the front or rear) simply by push-clicking the door open. He can then put his hand deep into your PC, pull out the power cable going to your hard disk, unseat your graphics card, pull your RAM out and even unplug you from the power supply. You'll try to power your PC up later and be left tearing your hair out because you can't find why it's not booting. There are other implications for internal components being so easily accessible, especially by kids. Drink spills reaching the motherboard accidentally, sticks poking your PCI cards and chocolate ice-cream being smeared over your RAM are all things the parent of a two year old will have nightmares about. For the older kids - this is a convenient place to hide your unwanted broccoli  :-). If you're missing your hamster or pet mouse have a look inside this case first. It's a nice warm place to hide. And it can't be locked.

Hard disk attachments: Maybe we were just unlucky but we've had no joy with this. The idea ofHard Drive Heatpipe Cooler ZM-2HC1 incorporating the ZM2-HC1 hard disk heat sink with the TNN-500A case was a good one but we are not particularly excited about the ZM2-HC1. It comprises two metal plates that fit either side of the hard disk and a set of pipes that connect from one plate to the other. This creates a larger surface area for heat from the hard disk to disperse. So far, so good. But the ZM2-HC1 connects to a case via a set of four very, flimsy rubber bushes (bottom, inset). We don't know whether it was just our unit or whether there is a design fault with these bushes but we had a problem. We set it up in a PC and before long the combined weight of the hard disk and the heat sink caused two of the bushes to break (visible to the left of the hard disk here) leaving the hard disk balancing on the other two and we doubt those would have lasted long. The ZM2-HC1 is definitely something that you wouldn't want to fit into a PC that you are trusting to a knock
-it-around courier. The normal rough handling PCs get at most couriers is bound to damage something this delicate. Poweroid will not be using this hard disk heat sink in PCs we build. Our couriers are better than most ...but they don't have an unblemished record. Fortunately, there are other 3.5" locations within the case that will take up to four/five hard disks. It's been pointed out to us that Zalman have a revision to this product coming out shortly in the form of the ZM2-HC2. This hopefully will not suffer the same shortcoming.

Security: The easy access to internal components does raise some security issues. We don't know why you'd leave this expensive a case in a less than secure environment but a thief could nick all four of your RAM modules in under ten seconds. And he doesn't even need to have any tools on him.

Cleaning: We haven't had to dust one of these babies down yet but if you're using this case in a dusty location it could take a while to wipe down all the fins. (Who said men don't think about all these things? :-)) The good news is that not having fans pumping air into and out of the case reduces the amount of dust that collects inside the PC. 

One unmovable block: The centre CPU heat sink block (blue one to the centre top of the below image) can be relocated parallel to the motherboard but there aren't the screw holes to move the block closer to the motherboard. This may be an issue if you're using a motherboard which has a CPU located further away from the right edge of the board. The example in the picture here is a P4C800 Deluxe motherboard and as you can see the CPU heat sink is fairly close to the edge of the board. Zalman does provide a full list of motherboards that they have tried in this case. The manual lists about 90 motherboards that are "approved". These include cheap makes like Asrocks to expensive ones like Asus and several in-between, including the DFI LAN party (yeah, right ;-))

Packing: The packing could be a bit more robust. The external cardboard box seems sufficient to hold the empty case but it wouldn't be strong enough to ship a completed PC in. 

The packing is as in the picture below. Well, at least that's how they were all supposed to reach us. 


By the time Amtrak couriers finished with them this is what one of the boxes looked like:

The polystyrene blocks that go at the bottom and top of the case are brittle blocks and liable to break if the box is dropped thereby reducing the shock protection available to PC components like the hard disk.

Fortunately, the case itself is like a bomb raid shelter. If the courier driver did indeed drive into this box he's probably got a dented van now - and it serves him right ;-)

Top of our wish list






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Last updated: Jan, 2007 


Computer Case Review