A Closer Look – Outside
Right out of the box you know the Z-Machine is special! The clean lines and beautiful anodized finish are impressive and the heavy-duty, industrial grade construction is obvious. Also noticeable, Zalman has toned down the white lettering on the Z-Machine that was so bold and prevalent on the Fatal1ty enclosure.
The vast majority of PC enclosures are made from thin sheet metal (steel or aluminum) that is stamped into shape and pop-riveted together. Clip on some plastic trim pieces and you have a case that is relatively sturdy, lightweight, and easy to manufacture (inexpensive). On the other hand, the Z-Machine is made up of machined parts that must be hand assembled, which results in a much higher quality product. Instead of stamped sheet metal, the GT1000 enclosure is built using 4-5mm thick, extruded aluminum channels and plates, which are bolted together with SHCSs (Socket Head Cap Screws). This is the main reason why the all aluminum Z-Machine is relatively heavy (25 lbs).
The Z-Machine front panel is very similar to the original Fatal1ty and has one of the nicest layouts of any case I have reviewed. The thick aluminum front panel sides are now beveled for an even more elegant look. Centered in the top section are four 5.25″ bays and one 3.5″ bay. Plenty of room for two or three optical drives, a multi-function display controller, and a universal card reader – just right for the majority of users.
The drive bay covers are made from machined pieces of thick aluminum (not cheap sheet metal). It’s no wonder Zalman didn’t include the top bay cover as most users will discard one or more bay covers anyway. And leaving the top 5.25″ bay open provides a great initial hand hold (along with the empty power supply hole on the back) for picking the case up.
Just above the two front intake fans is a neatly organized control panel with all the basic buttons, LEDs and I/O ports.
- System Power Button
- System Power LED
- System HDD Activity LED (1 and 2)
- System Reset Button
- Headphone Jack
- Microphone Jack
- USB 2.0 Port (2)
Functionally and ergonomically this is a very good location – high enough to be easy to use and below the drive bays so as not to get in the way. When the power is turned on, the two front LED fans light up (blue or red), which really gives the case a cool look. The Z-Machine GT1000 logo is laser-etched across the bottom of the front panel. As we mentioned before, the white case lettering is not nearly as prevalent or bold as it was on the Fatal1ty FC-ZE1.
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One of our main criticisms of the Fatal1ty case was the large left side panel door. While attractive, it wasn’t designed to be removable and it didn’t open fully, which made working inside the enclosure difficult at times. The Z-Machine GT1000 enclosure has solved this problem by using two hinged doors on the left side. While they still are not removable, they provide much better access to the inside of the case. The rear door swings full-open and includes a large tinted window (thicker, sturdier plastic than the Fatal1ty window) to show off all the internal bits. Both doors open and close smoothly and are held closed by magnetic catches and secured with two thumb screws each.
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The clean right side of the Z-Machine GT1000 now includes a hinged door at the front for easy access to the drive bays. The larger rear motherboard mounting plate can be removed if desired by taking out 8 SHCSs.
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Moving around to the back side of the enclosure reveals a typical mid-tower ATX style layout. The power supply opening is at the top with a 120mm LED exhaust fan mounted below. Zalman upgraded the PCI slot area and uses replaceable slot covers with thumb screws on the Z-Machine (instead of the cheap break-away type covers that came with the Fatal1ty).
A quick look at the bottom of the Z-Machine chassis reveals four audiophile style feet like the ones Zalman uses on their HTPC enclosures. They definitely add to the Z-Machine’s classy, high-tech look.