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I’ve been in the market for a new computer case for quite some time. My little Antec Aria has served me well, but I’ve been experiencing a growing need for something with more flexibility. I’ve actually been on the search for the right case for over a year now, but the need hasn’t been pressing enough to rush me. Thus, I’ve been able to take my time and select one that fits all of my needs. These needs are, in no particular order: mATX, full-size PSU, lots of ventilation, small footprint, many cooling options, easy to work in, super stylish, and reasonably priced. When the NZXT Vulcan was offered up for review, after looking over specs and photos for a few days, I realized this may be just what I’d been looking for.
First, let me say I’m not a huge case guy, and when I’m not actively looking to purchase one, I don’t keep up with the latest styles and trends. As such, when I am in the market for a new case, only the big names I recall seeing from my most recent case purchasing experience. In this instance, NZXT was not one of the first names that came to mind, but after looking around on the internet a bit, I quickly came to realize NZXT actually has been around for a while, and with quite a bit of notoriety.
Packaging and Specifications
Packed only in the retail packaging and shipped to me, the case received no damage whatsoever due to a thorough, effective packaging job by NZXT. Although it’s a pretty standard case packing method, it’s still appreciated quite a bit. I’d also like to thank FedEX for keeping the box reasonably undamaged on their end.
On first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much going on with this case. As I began to explore it a little more, I found more and more unexpected goodies. First, here are the features of this case listed on NZXT’s website.
- Durable Non-slip finished top handle for portability
- Black Interior
- Dual 5.25″ slots and four 3.5″ slots (internal and external)
- Wire routing holes + extruded side panel provides extra space for cable management
- Dual 8 W channel fan control
- Fits at least 350 mm video cards like the ATI 5970
- ATX PSU with removable filter + anti-vibration rubber support
- Dual external watercooling cutouts
- Dual top 120 mm exhaust for optimal cooling
- Top mounted (2x) USB, E SATA, External HD Audio + Mic
- Fan LED on/off function: Turn off lights during night time use
- CPU heatsink cut-out + 170 mm heatsink support
- Supports 200 mm fan intake on side mesh (NZXT only guarantees fitment with NZXT’s FN-200)
- Extra large mesh holes for optimal airflow
- Removable Hard drive cage
- Included thumbscrews for all drives
The Vulcan’s Exterior
Most “mATX gaming cases” on the market are so far beyond ugly it makes you wonder what kind of weirdos design them, as well as what kind of weirdos buy them. Looking at pictures of this case both online and printed on the box when it arrived, I figured this case could be hit or miss. What I found when I unwrapped the case was a thing of beauty. Clean lines, a nice flat black finish, a mesh front, and a mesh window instead of some played out ugly plastic window. Out back we see this case appears to be water cooling friendly, with two holes ready for water lines. There are also thumb screws for both side panels.
The next thing I noticed is all of the panel buttons and plugs are located on the top of the case, both giving the front a cleaner look, and providing easier access for the user. NZXT also included a fan controller with two fan speed dials.
Case handles are generally ugly, so I was planning on leaving the handle off. After seeing the case both ways, I decided the handle actually completes the case’s stylish look. I’m using mixed pictures so you can decide for yourself, some with the handle on, some with it off. Under the handle, we find a space for 2×120 mm fans, or a 2×120 radiator (externally) for a water loop. As we’ll see in a bit, a radiator will not fit on the inside of the case in this location. In addition for the water line holes in the back of this section, there is also an LED on/off switch.
Inside The Case
In addition to the upper drive cage, which holds 2×5.25″ drives and 2×3.5″ drives, the Vulcan has a second drive cage located behind the front 120 mm fan for two additional 3.5″ drives. Since I’m using two hard drives, this lower cage is where I’ll be mounting them. In addition to being a cooler location due to the fan, it’ll allow for better cable management. The lower cage is removable, but the 3.5″ part of the upper cage is not. The reason I mention this is the upper one may prevent you from installing a full size graphics card like the HD 5870, depending on the PCI-E slot placement on your motherboard, as we’ll see in the installation section.
This case has room for a standard size PSU, and should even fit an extended length unit, definitely if you remove the lower drive cage. The case has screw holes for mounting a power supply normally or upside down, so if you’ve got a fan on your PSU you want blowing in a certain direction, you won’t have any issues here. There are also anti-vibration rubber grommets.
NZXT made the back side of the Vulcan very user friendly, and included features for cable management as well as a cutout in the motherboard tray for accessing the back of the CPU area on an installed motherboard. This is extremely useful for anyone using a heatsink that utilizes a back plate or thumb screws, especially if you frequently change your CPU or cooling.
As you can see above, the Vulcan comes with all of the front panel connectors running to their appropriate locations in nice bundles. Let’s take a look at those cables.
Bringing Everything Together
Since I don’t do much PC gaming (that’s what my XBox is for) the Clarkdale iGPU is enough for my needs once some decent clock speeds are applied. What I actually use this computer for is media playback, photo editing, internet surfing, and Folding@Home. That noted, the list of components I’ll be installing is as follows:
- Core i3 530
- MSI H55M-ED55
- CoolIT ECO A.L.C. CPU Cooler
- 2×2 GB Crucial Valueram
- 2×1 TB Samsung HDDs
- Samsung SATA DVD RW
- Sivlerstone 450 W fanless PSU (on loan from MIAHALLEN. Thanks!)
Installation was a breeze. The only hitch I ran into was mounting the radiator for the CoolIT ECO unit, but as we’ll see below that problem was easily solved. I started out using my trusty old Thermalright Ultra 120 original to cool the CPU. I was more interested in seeing if it would fit in this mATX case but as I found out, there is more than enough room to accommodate an even taller heatsink if needed. I also tried installing my HD5870, but it didn’t fit in the upper PCI-E slot. This is why I mentioned above that you may or may not be able to use a full size GPU depending on your motherboard layout. If I install in the lower slot on this board, the graphics card nearly rests against the power supply. NZXT’s website does have pictures of a setup where even two of these larger cards will fit.
Since I made my own bolt through kit for mounting my Ultra 120 to an LGA1156 board using the LGA775 mounting bracket, the cutout for the CPU socket area behind the motherboard came in especially handy. In proved to be extremely useful again when mounting up the CoolIT ECO unit, because I neither had to install the CPU cooler before mounting the motherboard, nor stick the back plate to the motherboard before installation.
And here’s the final installation before switching CPU cooling methods a few hours later.
And the back will look the same regardless. This is when I wish I had a black I/O shield and a black PSU.
A few hours after getting everything installed, I decided I wanted to switch over to the CoolIT ECO A.L.C. for cooling the CPU instead of the Thermalright Ultra 120. I don’t remember why I did this, I think I needed the Ultra 120 for something else. I can get better CPU temps from the CoolIT unit with less noise anyway, and it looks a little neater. I first tried mounting the radiator to the unused 120 mm fan bay in the top of the case, but it wouldn’t fit. Actually, any fans thicker than the stock ones that come with this case will not work either. I started looking around the case for somewhere, anywhere to mount this, and realized there was a 120 mm fan in the front I could swap out. I had to remove the drive cage (just to get it mounted) and mount the fan for it on the outside (behind the front panel) but after some jimmying around it finally went in. I moved the old fan from the front to the top position so now there are two matching fans there. Really, I’d say everything came together perfectly. My final result is nothing short of a miraculous improvement.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
This is a fantastic case. It’s light, stylish, and fits all of my components very efficiently. I have so many more good things to say about this case than bad. This will most likely be the new case I hang on to for years and years, but this time because it’s absolutely ideal for me, not because nothing better pops up on it’s own.
- Flat black finish, inside and out.
- Tons of cooling options, and great case airflow.
- Mesh side, no plastic window.
- Included fan controller.
- Full size PSU.
- WC friendly.
- Back of motherboard CPU area is accessible.
- Good cable management.
- Larger graphics cards may or may not fit.
- Thicker fans will not fit internally up top.
- Scratches easily.
- Mounting options for self-contained water cooling units aren’t immediately apparent.
I’d like to thank NZXT and Overclockers.com for making this review possible.