The Zalman Z11 Plus
When we think of the name Zalman, the first things that come to our mind are their stylish and great performing CPU coolers. These last couple of years Zalman has been expanding their computer product line portfolios even further. This includes anything from CPU coolers to video cards and just about everything in between, including computer chassis.
Today we are going to look at one of the many Zalman’s chassis, the Z11 Plus chassis. This particular chassis incorporates a unique feature that I have yet seen on other manufacturer’s chassis: an HDD cooling system incorporated into the chassis directly. Instead of just placing a fan on or near the HDDs like other manufacturers do, Zalman specifically designed a powered venting system on this chassis that will help keep our HDDs cool during their usage and not have that heated air circulate inside of the chassis.
Zalman Z11 Plus Specifications:
- Enclosure Type: ATX Mid Tower
- Dimensions: 260(W) x 498(H) x 525(D)mm
- Weight: 7.4kg
- Material: Plastic, Steel
- Motherboard Compatibility: Standard ATX / Micro ATX
- Power Supply Compatibility: Standard ATX / ATX12V
- VGA Compatibility: Full Size (up to 290mm)
- Expansion Slot: 7
- Drive Bays:
- External 5.25' 4
- Internal 3.5" 5
- External 3.5' 1 (Convertible 1 x Internal 3.5” or 1 x 2.5” SSD)
- Internal 2.5" 1
- Front 120㎜ or 140㎜ x 1 (120㎜ Blue LED Fan x 1 built-in)
- Rear 120㎜ x 1 (120㎜ x 1 Standard Fan built-in)
- Top 120㎜ or 140㎜ Fan x 2 (120㎜ Blue LED Fan x 1 built-in)
- Side 80㎜ x 2 (80㎜ Standard Fan x 2 built-in)
- Bottom 120㎜ or 140㎜ x 1 (optional)
Giving the specifications of the Z11 Plus chassis a look through, we can see this particular chassis is capable of handling a lot of different varying computer components. Also, Zalman gives the computer user the option of being able to install either 120mm or 140mm fans into this chassis, or we can install a little bit of both types of fans in this chassis.
Like most Mid-tower chassis, there are going to be some limitations on what can/cannot be used with these types of chassis. Like all other mid-tower chassis I have used in the past, we are limited of only being able to use the standard ATX, mATX style of motherboards, so we cannot use the larger EATX style of motherboard with this chassis. Even though we can use video cards that are up to 290mm in length, some of the coolers used on video cards extend much farther than 290mm.
Looking over at PriceGrabber, the Zalman Z11 Plus chassis can be found for $58.99 Shipped without any rebates.
Unboxing the Z11 Plus
The packaging that Zalman uses for this particular chassis is plain and simple. We get an image of the chassis and some general information about the Z11 Plus chassis. The opposite side has the exact same information that is listed here.
On the side panel of the packaging, Zalman lists some general features of this chassis in several different languages. Again, the opposite side panel has the exact same information written on it.
Upon opening the packaging that Zalman uses for the Z11 Plus Chassis, we can see it is not much different from how other chassis manufacturers package their chassis.
This is the small parts bag that Zalman included with the Z11 Plus. I do like how Zalman uses a top locking zip-lock bag instead of the traditional zip-lock bag that other manufacturers use. What we should get with the bag of accessories are:
- All of the screws required for assembly:
- Motherboard standoffs
- Motherboard screws
- Thumb screws
- HDD T screws
- HDD rubber isolators
- CD/DVD/Blue ray drive screws
Unfortunately, I did not get any of the HDD T screws that will be needed for me to install my 3.5" HDD into the Z11 Plus chassis. Thankfully, I do have some similar HDD T screws from previous chassis that I can use.
Here are the contents of the accessories bag laid out. What we don't see is a third bag that contains all of the HDD T screws and the HDD rubber Isolators.
This is what the Zalman Z11 Plus chassis looks like from the front. Right off the bat, we can see that this chassis looks intimidating. This chassis has five 5.25” drive bays available for us to place CD/DVD/BLUE RAY drives and/or peripherals. If you still require the use of a floppy drive, this chassis can and will accommodate you.
Z11 Plus Exterior Thoughts
It is time for me to start ripping this chassis apart and see what makes the z11 Plus chassis tick.
Starting from the top front of this chassis, we can see that Zalman places their name dead center of the chassis’ front bezel. Turning our attention to the 5.25” bay covers, Zalman uses a standard metal mesh to keep large objects from entering the chassis, while providing air flow into the chassis.
Zalman made sure that the entire lower portion of the front bezel uses vents that are large enough and spaced far enough apart to give us users the maximum amount of air flow to the front fan.
Here is a closer look at the front bezel vents.
Looking at the left side of the Z11 plus chassis (if you are looking directly at the front), the one thing that grabs our attention is not the window, but this unusually large vent that is mounted onto the side panel. This side vent is used as an exhaust for our HDDs. So, instead of dumping the excess heat of our HDDs into the chassis' interior, Zalman uses these side vents to help vent the hot air out of the chassis. I will go more into detail how Zalman does this on the interior descriptions. I will have to add that Zalman places HDD exhaust vents on both sides of this chassis.
An up close shot of the exhaust ports of the HDD exhaust vents.
The side panel window that is being used on the Z11 Plus chassis is a bit different from what we are used to seeing. Instead of this window being flat, Zalman makes the window on the Z11 plus form outward. This side window also has a light smoked look to it.
Time for us to turn our attention over to the back side of the Z11 Plus chassis. As we can see, the Zalman Z11 Plus chassis uses a standard ATX layout.
Looking at the upper portion of the backside of the chassis, we see it is not much different from what we have seen on previous chassis. Right below the rear 120mm exhaust fan Zalman places 2 water cooling hose access ports to allow us to use an external water cooling setup on our computer. Zalman also places rubber grommets to keep our water cooling lines from getting cut or chafed when we route our hoses through these access ports. Word of note: These water cooling access ports can only accommodate up to a 5/8” OD tubing/hose, so for those who use the larger 3/4” OD tubing/hose, you will have to use the smaller OD tubing/hose.
Since this is a midsized tower, the Z11 Plus can only use the standard mATX/ATX style of motherboards, as there are only 7 PCI Expansion ports available. Right alongside of the PCI Expansion ports, Zalman places hexagonal vents to help aid in air circulation inside of the chassis.
The PCI expansion covers are not actually covers; once you remove them, then you can no longer use them. I would like to have seen actual vented PCI expansion covers instead of the remove and throw away covers used.
The Power Supply Unit (PSU) gets mounted on the bottom of the chassis. Zalman ensures there are multiple mounting holes to accommodate the multitude of PSUs that are out on the market today.
Here is the right side of the Zalman Z11 Plus chassis; as I said earlier, both side panels use an HDD exhaust vent.
Time for us to turn our attention over to the bottom portion of the Z11 Plus chassis. Giving the bottom of the chassis a quick glance, we can see that Zalman places fan filters to help keep large objects from entering our chassis.
Now what I don’t completely understand is why did Zalman use a locking type of filter holder instead of using the standard sliding type of filter holder? Because in order for us to even clean these filters, we would have to turn the computer off, lay it on its side, and then remove the filters. This to me is way too much work to remove a simple fan filter.
On the bottom of the plastic feet of the Zalman Z11 Plus chassis are rubber insets to ensure that we do not mar the surface of what our chassis is placed on. Also, they help keep the Z11 Plus chassis from sliding around on the floor.
We are moving our way up toward the top of the Z11 chassis.
Zalman places the Front on/off button up front and dead center of the top of the chassis; also, Zalman makes sure this button is large enough for us to turn on/off the computer with ease. Up behind the on/off button and to the sides are the USB 3/USB 2 IO ports, and right behind the USB 2 (top in picture) are the headphone jack/mic jacks, and then right behind the USB 3 ports (bottom in picture) is the reset button and the HDD LED indicator.
I would have preferred to have seen the reset button up toward the front of the chassis for quicker access, but this is more of a personal preference, so I won’t hold this against the Z11 Plus chassis.
Instead of using a mesh covering on the upper exhaust fans, Zalman uses more open rear facing smoked translucent plastic directional vents. These vents will also light up to the color of the fan that is used as an upper exhaust fan.
The only way we can remove/replace, or clean the front fan is by removing the front bezel. This is one area that Zalman could have done a lot better. Trying to remove this front bezel proved to be rather difficult, and it required a bit of force to get it to come off. When it finally came off, I thought I may have broken it (I didn’t). Then when I had to put it back on the chassis, it required a couple of good hits to make sure it was secured. That is the last thing you want to do to your computer especially when all of your components are inside of the chassis.
Now, I like how Zalman included the used of the quick disconnects from the on/off power button and LED indicator.
Zalman places small foam filters behind the 5.25” bay covers to further reduce the dust to micro sized particles.
Similar to how the bottom fan filters are attached to the Z11 Plus chassis, the front filter uses a locking type of holder. We can mount either a 120mm fan (which is included) or we can change this fan out for a larger 140mm fan.
I was going to show you the upper part of the chassis with the upper bezel removed, but like the front bezel it was also extremely hard to remove it. But unlike the front bezel, the upper bezel is a bit more delicate. In order for you to install/remove the upper exhaust fans on this chassis, you have to remove the upper bezel. All I am going to say is tread very lightly in its removal.
Z11 Plus Internal Thoughts
Since I went through the outside of the Z11 Plus chassis, it is time for me to give you a good look at the internal portion of this chassis.
On each of the 2 side panels, Zalman places a small fan to help exhaust some of that hot air that our HDDs may produce during their usage. These small 80mm fans do not use the standard 3 pin fan header, but instead use a 4 pin Molex connector.
The side panel exhaust vents can be removed so we can clean/replace the 80mm fan that is located behind here. There are 2 screws toward the front that have to be removed first.
Then there are 4 small clips that have to be gently pushed away from the small mounting holes.
After we do the above, the side panel vent will just pop right off, allowing us access to the fan. If you look at the interior of the side panel vent (last picture), you will see that Zalman places a channel to ensure the hot air gets exhausted towards the rear of the chassis so that it does not get re-circulated back into the chassis by the front fan.
Well, let’s give the interior of the Z11 Plus chassis a good look through.
The Zalman Z11 Plus chassis does not use independent HDD carriers; instead, this chassis uses T screws that mount directly on to the HDD and then it slides into the HDD cage shown here.
I would have personally liked to have seen individual HDD carriers that can mount both 3.5" and 2.5" HDDs. This would give the Z11 Plus chassis much greater flexibility on what the user can install/use with this chassis.
In the lower part of the 5.25” drive bays is an external 3.5/2.5" bay device where we can either mount a 2.5” HDD/SSD, a 3.5” HDD, or a floppy drive with this bay device.
These are pretty much standard front IO header hook ups, with one exception: the USB 3 front IO header is not actually a header but an extension cable that has to be hooked up to one of the onboard rear IO USB 3 motherboard ports.
Looking at the included 120mm rear exhaust fan on the Z11 Plus chassis.
Zalman makes sure the CPU cut out is large enough for this chassis to accommodate a multitude of different motherboard CPU configurations. Zalman also installed 4 of the motherboard standoffs around the CPU cutout.
Looking at the included upper 120mm exhaust fan, the Z11 Plus chassis can accommodate either a 120mm or a 140mm fan.
Then right directly in front of the 120mm exhaust fan we can install another 120/140mm for more ventilation inside of the chassis.
Grabbing a measuring tape to see how much room the Zalman Z11 Plus has, we can see from the back of the chassis to the back of the HDD carrier we have a tad bit over 12” of room here. Considering this is a midsized chassis, this should be able to accommodate a variety of different configurations. We just have to be careful not to get too large of components, because it may be a really tight fit, or it may not fit at all. Double check all of your PCI/PCI-E expansion cards sizes.
We have just about 5/8” of inch of room behind the motherboard tray; it should be more than enough room to hide all of the wires here. Only time will tell if it is.
Zalman places a 2.5” HDD/SSD mount directly behind the motherboard tray, and right below the CPU cutout. Things may get a bit warm back here.
Rounding out this portion of the review, I will like to add that Zalman did a good job on ensuring this chassis is solidly built and that all of the corners of the chassis are rounded enough to keep us from shredding our hands, arms, and fingers.
Installing Hardware in the Z11 Plus
After digging around the accessory bag and locating the rest of the motherboard standoffs, I then got them installed into the proper holes. I am now ready to install the motherboard into this chassis.
The ASUS Rampage 2 Extreme is almost too big for this chassis. This is going to make my wire management a bit more interesting.
If you need to use the USB 3 front IO ports on the chassis, you will have to grab the USB 3 PCI expansion cover that has a couple of notches cut out of the cover plate, so you can route the USB 3 cable through the back of the chassis.
The Z11 Plus chassis allows you to place a bottom 120/140mm fan to the chassis. Unfortunately, if you are using a fairly long PSU, you will not be able to mount a fan here.
I went ahead and removed the external 3.5" bay device because I will need to use it for my 2.5” HDD that I will be using in this computer build. This will also have to be used if you plan on using a floppy drive with your computer.
All of the mounting holes for your drives are located at the bottom of this tray. It is a simple installation; line up the holes of adapter to the corresponding mounting holes on the drive, then use the right screws and secure the drive. The 2.5” HDD has the exact same mounting holes as an SSD.
Here is how a 2.5” HDD/SSD will be mounted on the back of the motherboard tray. There is enough room behind the tray to allow the use of these small drives. Since there is little to no airflow back here, I suggest you don’t mount a 2.5” HDD back here. I am only using this 2.5” drive as an example.
If you install a CD/DVD/Blue RAY drive in the most upper bay, you will not be able to use a 120/140mm fan on the most forward exhaust fan mount.
I have done better wire management on previous chassis, but all in all this was not too bad.
On the backside of the motherboard tray are small little loops. These are used for the wire ties that come included in the bag of accessories to hold back the wires from the PSU.
Here you are looking at the size of the CPU cutout on the Z11 Plus chassis with the motherboard installed.
I am all done with my installation, well, minus the memory of course. The hose/tubing I am using on this computer build is 5/8” OD, and it was a bit tight to thread the hose/tubing through these small water cooling access ports.
Final Thoughts of the Zalman Z11 Plus chassis
The Zalman Z11 Plus chassis is a decent, well built, well thought out chassis design. Considering this chassis is a mid-tower, I was not expecting much as far as room inside of the Z11 Plus chassis. The Z11 Plus chassis was more than capable of being able to handle the fairly larger ATX motherboard the ASUS Rampage 2 Extreme with considerable ease. By Zalman having the HDD exhaust vents incorporated into the Z11 Plus chassis, it should help keep our HDDs much cooler during their times of heavy usage, especially if a computer user is using the fast and hot running Western Digital VelociRaptor HDDs with this chassis.
Unfortunately, there are areas that I feel where Zalman can improve upon with the Z11 Plus chassis. The removal of the upper and front bezel could be a lot easier. I really do not like having to yank on the bezels in order to remove them, as this could cause some damage to the computer components inside of the chassis. I did not really care for the locking style of the bottom PSU/120mm fan filters because if and when we may have to service these filters, it will require us to lay the chassis completely on its side to in order remove them. Those computer users using only air coolers may not mind this so much, but those of us who are using external water cooling with this chassis may find it to be a hassle. Please keep in mind these are just suggestions that I feel that could possibly improve the overall user experience with the Z11 Plus chassis.
The only real gripe I have with this chassis is that The Z11 Plus did not come with any of the HDD T screws that are required to install the 3.5” HDDs. Thankfully, I had some extras floating around from previous chassis.
Looking over at PriceGrabber.com, at the time of publishing the Zalman Z11 Plus chassis can be purchased for $58.99 Shipped. For having a low cost accompanying the Z11 Plus chassis, it does make it quite enticing to anyone needing a mid tower chassis that can handle their computer components while adding some style to their computer at the same time.
Legit Bottom Line: The Zalman Z11 Plus chassis is a well built, stylish, affordable chassis that can fit just about anyone’s budget or computing needs.