The new budget case champion?
Normally when you think “budget case” you probably think of an ancient looking beige box or one of those overly plasticized “gamer” cases. You expect a case that is cheap looking and feels cheap in essence. Now while this is true for a great deal of these types of cases, NZXT has come up with a chassis that will hopefully break the trend. Available for $49.99 USD on Newegg, it certainly qualifies as a budget case. But the real question is whether or not it looks and behaves like a budget case. Time to find out.
The box is much simpler than previous NZXT products I have looked at. No doubt this helps keep costs down. The box also covers the various features and specs, as we would all expect.
Pulling the Beta out of the box reveals the standard plastic wrap and Styrofoam packaging.
Removing the bits of packaging reveals the Beta in all its glory.
There isn’t too much to say about the Beta’s aesthetics. You’ve got mesh bay covers and a large intake grille built into a black plastic bezel.
I’ve always liked the fact that NZXT doesn’t do a lot of brand advertising on their chasses. The Beta is no different, and this small NZXT logo on the top right of the bezel is the only piece of branding I could find on the case.
Also on the front panel you have the power button.
And the reset button.
The left side panel is pretty plain, but does include mounting locations for a pair of 120mm fans (not included).
NZXT used the ever popular hexagonal mesh pattern to cover the fan holes.
The back of the chassis is a bit more interesting. You have a space for another 120mm fan (again not included), rubber grommets to run tubing (big ones unlike on the Whisper, they would probably be good up to 1/2″ ID), additional ventilation next to the expansion card slots, and mesh slot covers. So not only should the case have excellent airflow for conventional air-cooling, but it also includes features to make installing water-cooling a bit easier.
The right side panel is completely plain, other than an indentation that acts as a handle.
Moving up to the top panel and we see that the Beta offers a plethora of conveniently located connections – microphone, headphone, two USB and an eSATA. Nothing terribly remarkable, but very good to see on a budget case.
To begin disassembling the chassis, we remove these two thumbscrews from the left side panel. NZXT uses custom plastic and metal ones. I personally prefer the more standard solid metal ones myself as I find the solid metal ones offer a more comfortable grip and a more stylish look.
The right side panel is held on with standard case screws.
Pulling off the left side panel we get our first glimpse of the Beta’s interior. NZXT uses the same rugged black finish throughout the case, which certainly looks better than black panels over bare steel innards. We can also see the bundle of cables descending from the top ports and the obligatory little white box of accessories.
Oddly enough NZXT doesn’t even include a printed manual with the Beta, just a slip of paper telling you where to find the online version of it. This isn’t a problem though, as I never ran into any situations that warranted looking up the manual as I was working with the case.
The little white box contains assorted hardware. Tool-less drive rails, case speaker, standoffs, etc. The one thing I noticed NZXT didn’t include were screws for mounting fans at the optional positions, although I bet many fans come with necessary mounting hardware anyway.
Moving back inside the case I noticed that the front fan was wired for both a 4-pin Molex and a 3-pin motherboard fan header connection. This irritates me somewhat as it adds to case clutter and makes the fan lead that much more difficult to sleeve.
NZXT has included extra reinforcing pieces at the rear of the case to ensure that the chassis doesn’t warp. You can never be too careful with thin steel.
On the bottom of the case, NZXT has mounted soft rubber feet to keep the case securely planted to prevent any vibration transfer to the surface it happens to be resting on.
Moving to the right side, we can see that NZXT has included ample cut-outs in the motherboard tray for wire management. This is an awesome feature, especially if you happen to be using a non-modular PSU.
Continuing to the front of the chassis, I removed the front bezel. NZXT has designed the bezel in such a way that it takes only a straight pull or push to remove/reinstall the bezel. Much better than my two hundred and something dollar ULTRA m998, which requires you to unsnap a bunch of little tabs before removing the bezel. Behind the bezel rests the case’s only included fan, an NZXT-branded 120mm blue LED unit. Notice that NZXT has also included removable foam filters on both the 5.25″ bay covers and the main fan grill, a fantastic feature that you wouldn’t expect to see on a case at this price point.
The included fan is glossy and painted solid. It wasn’t really apparent that it was an LED fan, as most LED fan’s I’ve seen have clear frames and blades.
The mesh grille and foam filter are secured with four screws to the front bezel.
I was pretty much just removing any screws I could see at this point. The two at the top front have been removed already, plus a few more in the surrounding chassis structure. The three screws that remain in this shot hold the top panel connectors in place.
Very interesting. The Beta is one of only a few cases that I’ve encountered with a removable top panel. Now it is quite a process to remove it in the case of the Beta, requiring a fair bit of fiddling and the removal of a boatload of screws, as opposed to the ULTRA m998’s top panel which only requires the removal of two screws and a firm tug. But it’s a great feature nonetheless, especially if you’re going to be chopping up the top panel to mount rads, handles, or the like.
With the top panel removed we can see how the top ports are set into the case. The small PCB is housed in a plastic box which is screwed onto the case.
The top panel is remarkably simple. I really like the fact that NZXT didn’t bother trying to “stealth” the top ports, as the port hiding attempt on NZXT’s Whisper was a remarkable failure in terms of function and quality. This approach with sharp, precise cut-outs and etched labels keeps the case’s clean lines relatively intact, while saving NZXT the cost of designing and implementing a system like the Whisper’s.
Once all the exterior components are removed, there really isn’t much case left. Not quite as extreme as the torn-down m998, but impressive nonetheless.
The PCB for the top ports is attached to this plastic box.
To remove the front fan you unscrew four of these.
And get a loose one of these.
It’s nice to see that there is practically no chassis structure to obstruct the flow of the front fan, other than the hard drive cage. Many cases have grills punched into the chassis structure for the front fan (like the m998) which reduce the flow of this fan. Instead NZXT opted to cut this area out to improve flow, an excellent choice in my opinion.
Like most cases, the Beta’s 5.25″ bay covers are held in with plastic tabs. Unlike the majority of cases, each drive blank is vented, covered in mesh and given a foam filter. This increases airflow while preventing extra dust from getting inside the chassis.
Similar to the 5.25″ bays, you could remove the filter/mesh entirely for max airflow in the front fan zone. I like that NZXT has a beefy grill in place, so should you decide to remove the filter/mesh you can still protect the front fan from FOD with a minimal airflow penalty.
With all the foam and mesh removed, the front bezel is almost completely open to airflow.
Moving to the rear of the case we can get a better look at the expansion card area. I like the fact that NZXT thought to include mesh slot covers to improve airflow, but I don’t like the fact that they’ve overlooked the use of thumbscrews in this area. With all the 5.25″ and 3.5″ bays having tool-less mounts, I don’t know why NZXT didn’t bother making this area accessible without tools as well.
I won’t go through the whole process pictorially, but know that the system install in the Beta was completely trouble free. This time I used my secondary server/folding rig for the build. It consists of the following:
ASUS P5NSLI Mobo
Pentium D 820 CPU
Geforce 7600GT GPU
6 gigs of ram (various brands)
500 gb Seagate Barracuda 7200.11
Plus PSU, DVD Burner, Wi-Fi card, etc. etc.
As you can see, for a fairly comprehensive build with a non-modular PSU the system is surprisingly clean looking. This is thanks to the Beta’s plethora of holes that allow wiring to be easily routed behind the motherboard tray. One thing I noticed while doing the wire routing was the part of the motherboard tray structure partially divides the rear of the mobo tray from the 3.5″ bay area, meaning that you can’t run thicker leads between the two, which is somewhat annoying to say the least.
I decided to go ahead and sleeve the front panel connections prior to doing the install, something which I seem to do with every new case I receive.
I also decided to mount these two Silenx 120mm fans to the side of the case to expel hot air, as well as mounting a 120mm ULTRA fan at the rear fan position.
With three 120mm in the CPU/GPU hot zone, the Beta should be able to keep this setup humming along at a decent temperature.
Firing up the PC, we can see the power button is lit with a blue LED. The HDD LED (also blue) resides behind the reset button. In terms of size the Beta is a little shorter than the TUNIQ 3 I reviewed previously, but is roughly the same size in the other dimensions.
So is the Beta the new king of budget cases? I would answer a resounding yes. The Beta’s feature set and build quality were both very impressive for any chassis, much less a fifty dollar one. The fact that I would choose this chassis over the Whisper (which costs almost three times as much) is a testament to this.
While the Beta’s overall aesthetic is simple (some might even call it ugly) its feature set is what really sets it apart. Not only does it include features like motherboard tray holes for improved wire management, but it also includes some of the best ventilation features I’ve seen on a case. It will also accept 10.5” video cards, and has the proper fan locations to keep them cool. Oh, and did I mention it costs 50 bucks?
Remarkably reasonable price of $49.99 USD
Solid build quality all around
All black paint job including all interior surfaces
Tool-less mounting of 5.25” and 3.5” drives
Space for four 120mm fans
Supreme ventilation features
Filtered front intakes and 5.25” drive bay covers
Blue LED’s for power and HDD status
Pass through holes for water-cooling tubes
Removable top panel opens up possibilities for easy modding
Supports large 10.5” graphics cards
PCI cards are secured with regular screws, not thumbscrews
Tight spacing behind motherboard tray can make routing large cables challenging
Only includes one fan
Not the best looking case out there
The Beta is a fantastic choice for anyone on a budget. Not only will it do low-end hardware well, but it has more than enough room and cooling capacity to take any high-end upgrades you can throw at it. The Beta deserves serious consideration for any PC build – I highly recommend it.