The Zalman Z9 Neo is a product that is trying to put all of the eggs into one small basket. Its designer strived to make it solid, good looking, high performing, silent and versatile, all while maintaining a very low price tag. It is obvious that a product excelling over all of the aforementioned points with a price tag below $80 is utopian and simply cannot exist. Still, even though it is not without issues, the Zalman Z9 Neo is a positively surprising design.

One major quality issue is the use of different materials for the exterior of the case, which is causing a major visual dissonance. For example, the metallic side panels and the plastic top panel of the case are meant to be of the same color and they are most likely sprayed with the same white paint. However, the different properties of the materials change the final hue of the paint, resulting to an observable dissimilarity. We found this to be a significant issue, as the difference is easily discernible even from a distance in a well-lit room, with a significant impact on the aesthetic quality of the Z9 Neo. In terms of pure mechanical strength and solidity, the Zalman Z9 Neo is very well design and made for a case of this price range.

The use of a fixed nylon intake filter and a very thin layer of sound dampening material were also, in our opinion, poor design choices. Zalman wanted to keep the cost down and therefore implemented the simplest solutions they could find, but they are virtually ineffective. The fan filter will only block very large particles and debris, all while accessing it and cleaning it is inconvenient, and the thin sound dampening layer proved to be virtually ineffective. In our opinion, these two features could not have been implemented at all, lowering the cost of the case even further, or Zalman could implement just one of the two but in a more effective manner.

The spacious and versatile interior is perhaps the most positive feature of the Z9 Neo. There is enough room for powerful gaming systems and some top tier hardware, allowing future upgrades and easy maintenance. Its design is also helpful to modders, allowing them to easily work and modify the interior according to their needs.

It appears that the designer made a wise choice to go with five low speed fans. The stock cooling arrangement of the Zalman Z9 Neo is very efficient, providing more than enough airflow for an advanced gaming or professional system without being too noisy. The major side effect of this configuration however is that these fans have four pin Molex connectors and thus cannot be connected to a fan controller or to the motherboard, forbidding any kind of speed control from the system. It is only possible to reduce their speed by manually modifying their cabling.

In conclusion, the Zalman Z9 Neo may not be an engineering marvel, but the company did an excellent job designing a low cost versatile case with high thermal performance. With its five stock cooling fans and spacious interior, the Zalman Z9 Neo is an excellent choice for users that just want basic features but good performance right out of the box. The retail price of $73 including shipping, which gets down to just $60 for the black version, the Zalman Z9 Neo offers outstanding value for money that is very difficult to compete with.

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  • HollyDOL - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    Oh, my tomcat would definitely love this case... especially those little USB inserts. I'd give it about half hour tops before being discovered and ... privatized :-)
  • HollyDOL - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    Not to sound ironic, it seems like a good case, esp. related to the cost.
  • Flunk - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    What does that have to do with it not being cat-proof?

    I think you'd be ok if you removed the transparent section on the top and didn't use the port covers. The other parts are a bit big for a cat to make off with. Although I say that, my cat has stolen my razer and hidden it before.
  • Haravikk - Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - link

    Get rid of the cat; problem solved.

    No really, pet-related problems are the fault of having a pet, not products being designed around pets. Cat hair is one of the worst things for computers in general, so get rid of the cat and you not only save a ton of money, but solve that problem completely.
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - link

    How about you get rid of that disgusting attitude you have towards other animal species?

    I have 4 adopted cats I take care of, not because I went to an adoption center, but because of crappy people like you who leave them abandoned on the street, with no home, no shelter, and no food. Just like me or you, cats didn't ask to be born. They just do their best to live another day. I was gracious enough to accept not one, not two, not three, but four abandoned pets from my neighborhood and gave them a loving home.

    Also, cat hair isn't an issue. Regular vacuuming and A/C filter replacements takes care of that issue. It's a matter of PEBCAK. In other words, you're too lazy to vacuum (whereas you should regardless of whether you have pets or not) and you're too lazy to replace A/C filters throughout your home on a regular basis.
  • flyingpants265 - Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - link

    Whoa, not often you see someone that delusional.
  • MadAd - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    I'm constantly amazed how much full size ATX is still used.
  • Kepe - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    Why? mATX and mITX motherboards support 0 expandability. For example, I have a fast PCIe SSD and a PCIe sound card. And of course a PCIe GPU, and room for even more stuff. Also, I have support for SLI and CrossFire. You couldn't have those on a smaller motherboard. mATX has its place in the market, for people who want to build as small a PC as possible, or for those who want a living room media PC.
  • Black Obsidian - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    All of your points are true, but also irrelevant for (I would guess) north of 90% of all users, who need 0 expandability. SLI is relatively rare, PCIe sound cards rarer still. And yet full ATX remains the most common form factor.

    IMO, it's motherboard selection that's holding people back more than cases. I have one CPU, one high-end GPU, one PCIe M.2 SSD, and no expectation of ever needing any additional PCIe slots... and yet I have a full-ATX motherboard, because Asus didn't offer any mATX motherboards with the features I wanted.
  • just4U - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    I'd say it's not Motherboard selection.. We have had some variety for awhile now.. What's lacking is casing... casing.. casing. Can't stress that enough.

    I'd kill for a good ole lian-li type PC-60 without all the 5.25 drive bays /w a wider chassis to accommodate 120MM fans.. and cable management.. provided it had the old school removable MB Tray..

    Can think of about 50 other cases out there that would be great sellers to if these case makers would just shrink them down for the Mitx market..It's not rocket science to know what works and what doesn't.

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