NZXT H2: Not Quite Quietby Dustin Sklavos on May 26, 2011 2:43 AM EST
Assembling the NZXT H2
Starting with the motherboard, I was a little disappointed not to find stand-offs already in place. I've seen a couple of manufacturers build them right into the tray (which is frankly ideal), and at a point in the industry where pretty much everyone has standardized on mounting hole placement in motherboards this would've been nice. On the flipside, though, NZXT includes a socket with a phillips head that makes installing the stand-offs substantially easier. Getting the I/O shield and motherboard in was fairly painless, though I do wish NZXT had made the heatsink cutout in the motherboard tray a little wider: if you visit the gallery you'll see the backplate for our heatsink is slightly covered up.
There are two steps in computer assembly that I hate more than anything else: connecting the case headers to the motherboard, and routing the 12V AUX cable (which we'll get into in a bit). The headers for the buttons and LEDs are already irritatingly small and standardized in the most consumer-unfriendly way, but NZXT inexplicably opts not to use the traditional color-coding. The cables in the headers are black, and black with white stripes. My mental shortcut has always been "the color is the positive, the white is the ground". I looked at these cables and was instantly confused, and thus reacted in the same fashion most other white guys do in that situation: anger and fear. If the power LED hadn't been split into two separate headers with a "+" and "-" on them I would've had no idea at all how NZXT had color-coded these. It's completely unnecessary, as the case lacks a window so no one will see if your case headers are a matching black or not.
Installing the drives took a little bit of work, but nothing unreasonable or unusual. Removing the covers for the 5.25" bays is a breeze, but note that they aren't entirely toolless: while the main side has plastic studs that snap in and lock the drive into place, the other side isn't secured at all, so you'll probably want to use thumbscrews to keep it from wobbling. The 3.5" drive trays can be a little fussy since you have to basically flex them to snap the studs into the drive's mounting holes, but I found it fairly easy to jimmy the drive in and out of the tray with a small flathead screwdriver. The trays also have mounting holes in the bottom for 2.5" drives, but you'll need to screw those in manually, which is par for the course for almost any enclosure.
When you install expansion cards, you're going to note that there are some potential clearance issues. Our GeForce GTX 580 butted up against the cables connecting our SSD; we were able to get everything in, but it was a tight fit. If you use a longer card you're going to have to sacrifice a couple of drive bays to get it. Since NZXT offers you a staggering eight that shouldn't be a serious problem, but it's something to keep in mind. Likewise, because of this clearance trouble, side-mounted SATA ports on motherboards are going to be somewhat cramped.
Finally, installing the power supply and wiring the insides resulted in a couple of nagging issues. I had a little trouble lining up the power supply correctly, but that's not a big deal. This is where I discovered that the rubber linings for the mounting holes in the motherboard tray aren't actually secured to it in any way. Routing the main power cable to the motherboard inevitably requires using at least a little force, and routing all of these cables through the rubber lining actually caused the rubber lining to come off. Thankfully the holes themselves are rounded off so they aren't going to start cutting the cables (or you), but a little glue here would've been appreciated.
And of course, getting the auxiliary 12V cable plugged into the motherboard has alwats been an exercise in bloodletting. I love Zalman's CPU coolers and have been a big fan for years, but I've tended to colloquially refer to having to "make sacrifices to Zalman the Blood God." This is because whenever I've had to work in a case with low clearance (like the H2), I've inevitably carved up my hands on Zalman's heatsinks like a moron while trying to install the auxiliary 12V cable. Clearance between the top of the motherboard and the top of the case appears to be particularly low in the H2, and I'm not sure how end users are supposed to do this with any kind of ease with a 140mm fan installed.
Ultimately the assembly went fairly well, though. Most users may want to simply remove the rubber linings from the motherboard tray altogether, and I can't stress enough how much easier a modular power supply can make your life; that's just true of any build in any case.