Make Way For The Airflow King

With the goal of providing every gamer a case they can identify with, El Monte, Calif.-based NZXT has been striving to become the premier chassis manufacturer for the gaming community since the company was established in 2004. Within that short period of time, they have successfully created more than a dozen award-winning designs that fall into either their Classic Series or Crafted Series, each with their own unique look.

The CRN Test Center recently built a system designed around NZXT's newest case, the Tempest, and we were pleased to find that it was a capable, relatively low-cost solution for builders outside of the gaming world as well.

The Ingredients:

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Billed as "The Airflow King," the Tempest is a black, steel, midtower case with a total of six included fans. There are two 120 mm intake fans in the front, two 140 mm exhaust fans on the top and additional 120 mm fans on the side and rear. Like most gamer-focused cases, the left panel has a window. Continuing with the airflow theme, there are holes next to the motherboard tray that allow for the routing of excess cabling under the board. This makes for a neater-looking, not to mention cooler, system. Other cooling-based features are a bottom-mounted power supply (not included) and eight server-like hard drive bays situated behind the front fans. Additionally, for liquid cooling solutions, there are grommet-filled holes in the back and the Tempest is pre-drilled to mount a dual radiator at the top.

From the moment we took the case out of its shipping box, reviewers were impressed by the sharp lines of the Tempest. Inside we found a box of assorted screws in individually labeled plastic bags. The standoff holes drilled into the motherboard tray were numbered and there was a sticker listing the supported board sizes (the chassis can accommodate full ATX and smaller), with the respective hole numbers that needed to be used.

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The working area of the case gave us plenty of room to assemble the system without cramming our hands into tight spaces. We were most impressed with drive installation on the case. Both hard drives and optical drives are installed with screwless brackets. Up to eight hard drives are mounted with rails that attach to the screw holes on either side, then slide into the HDD cage vertically. Optical drives simply slide into the appropriate slot and are secured with a bracket that attaches where screws would normally go, and then locked into place with a twist of a handle.

Unfortunately, to install the optical drives (or any other drive into the 5.25-inch bays), the front panel must be removed. Although this is not difficult, it does take a little extra time and runs the risk of a broken tab or two if not done carefully. Out of five 5.25-inch bays, three are external, one of which houses a removable tray that functions as an adapter to mount a 3.5-inch drive. This tray was just as easy to use as all the other mounts.

Considering the number of fans, reviewers were amazed at how quiet this case was. We had to place our ears close to the box before any sound could be heard. Of course, no chassis would interest the gaming community if there weren't any lights, and the Tempest doesn't disappoint here either. The window-mounted fan on the left panel, as well as the two fans between the front of the case and the hard drive cages, all emit a blue glow from internal LEDs. There also are two blue LEDs running straight down the edge of both sides of the front panel, one of which functions as the hard drive light. It may sound like a surfeit of lights, but the effect is actually very subtle and it adds a level of refinement to the system.

At the top of the case are the Power and Reset buttons, as well as E-SATA and USB ports. By mounting them at a 45 degree angle, approximately four inches back from the front of the case, they are all easily accessible, even when the chassis is placed on the floor. Additionally, their silver finish makes for a classy look against the case's flat black color.

Although the Tempest was planned with gamers in mind, its quality features such as high airflow design and screwless drive bays make it a nice alternative for servers too. At a relatively low MSRP of $99, the case offers loads of room and is one of the quietest enclosures we have ever seenand#8212;but not heard. In addition to enthusiast cases, NZXT manufactures a line of fan controllers as well as a series of power supplies. With different partner programs for resellers and system builders, NZXT is working to build recognition in the channel. From what we can already see in the Tempest, the company is off to a good start.