With more and more capable, cheap and awesome looking graphics cards coming out these days. Such as the GTX 950. More and more people are escaping from their lives as console peasants to ascend to the famous and powerful PC Masterrace. These more affordable graphics cards are designed for people who are working on a small budget but still want to get the most out of their system. But since the case isn’t important at all when it comes to running your favourite games, is it really necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on it? No, not at all, as long as it fits your desk and you like the look of it, it should be fine. But finding a cheap, slick looking case with enough clearance for your graphics card is more difficult than you thought. Well then, maybe Zalman has a product you might like.
A couple of days ago we started working on a new build for an upcoming review, and we thought to ourselves: “why don’t we try to keep it as cheap as possible while still having it look nice?” After some browsing online, we decided to get ourselves a Zalman T5, which we got for the amazing price of €27.99 (31.73 dollars). Zalman’s T line products look both professional and sturdy, but are they a bargain or a mistake?
Features and handling
Let us first start by telling you what kind of features this €28 case has and how it handles. The Zalman T5 is equipped with a drive cage located right behind the front panel. To remove this drive cage, or to install the drives, you must first remove the front panel. Which can be removed by grabbing it firmly and then giving it a hard pull. Once the panel has been removed, the 4 screws holding up the drive cage can be removed. The drive cage can hold up to two 3.5” drives or with some tinkering, two 2.5 inch drives, a 5.25” drive can be found right above it. If you want to install an SSD, I highly suggest you don’t use the SSD bracket located right underneath the motherboard. The SSD would be partially covered by the µATX motherboard, if you’re using one of those. If you would choose to mount an SSD there, it would be easily accessible by removing the right panel, since the SSD mount is right behind it. A better mounting location for your SSD would probably be right underneath the 5.25” drive bay or on the bottom of the case (so in total that would make for five 2.5” drive bays, if you use brackets to convert the 3.5” drive bays to 2.5” drive bays). And yes, since this is a µATX case, it also supports mini-ITX motherboards and since they are literally everywhere these days that is definitely something you want. When unscrewing the case, the first thing you’ll notice is that some motherboards standoffs appear to be missing, but that is not the case. The standoffs for a mini-ITX motherboard are there, the ones you need to properly mount your µATX motherboard to the chassis, can be found in a small plastic bag, which you’ll also find inside the case, so there’s no need to go to your local PC hardware store to buy some.
When it comes to mounting the power supply, it is very simple. As with any budget case, the power supply can be attached to the chassis using simple case screws, there’s no easy-removal bracket whatsoever.
(I had removed the 92mm fan before I took this picture, it can be seen on the right of the case)
If there’s one thing this case definitely has enough of, it’s fan mounting holes. The Zalman T5 comes with an 92mm LED fan pre-installed in the back, there’s a second fan mounting location for a 120mm fan located at the front of the case, but since this case doesn’t have a perforated front panel, the air flow of that case isn’t that great. It is very restricted. Two other fan mounting spots can be found on the left panel, but personally, I wouldn’t use those. Mounting two more fans on the side would make it very difficult to fit in graphics card. There are dust filters everywhere in the case, except for the 92mm fan, making it ideal to be used as an exhaust fan. Of course you’d want to run Linux or Windows on your PC, and if you’re not planning on utilizing that one 5.25” drive you have, say you’d rather use it for some better cable management, then the you’ll a USB port. The Zalman T5 comes with both a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port located on the top of the case. Right in between these, you can find the analog audio jacks, which do come in handy if you’re using headphones and/or a microphone.
At the start of this review, we talked about the graphics card clearance. The Zalman T5 has this covered. The Zalman T5 can support graphics cards up to 300mm, so even your old Gigabyte Windforce 3X cooler will fit in there. But with stock coolers being terrible these days, you’ll need enough clearance for a decent CPU cooler. One option would be the CoolerMaster Hyper 212. With its 158mm height, it should fit the case. Since the Zalman T5 has enough room to support a 160mm CPI cooler.
When we look at the design of the case, you can clearly see how professional it looks. The case’s plain looks make it useable it both your home and your office. Zalman did a great job on the actual outer design of the case itself. With its black brushed steel finish on the front panel, the case will fit nicely in most places. And since it is such a simple design, the side panels can be easily removed to give them a custom paint job, so that they truly fit your setup. I myself am planning on modding this case, to make it stand out a bit more.
The case’s side panels bulge out slightly to make room for your GPU and CPU cooler on the left and to do some cable management on the right. That is one feature we didn’t expect to see in this case. We’ve seen cases from both 50 euros and of course cases with prices that are sky high. And most 50 euro cases don’t have any form of cable management at all, no cable management holes, cut outs to tie zip-ties to… nothing. And this is something we really like about the Zalman T5. This case, even though we got it for only €27.99 has a lot of room to do some decent cable management. It is not the best, but it is there for you to work with. And a bit of creativity can get you a long way.
Something else we’ve noticed is that the top of the case also has a bulging out part, why Zalman did this, we have no idea. As far as we know, this has no use and it is there solely for aesthetic reasons.
We were surprised by the fact that Zalman used anti-vibration rubber feet on the case. So even if you have one of those old WD blues, those that make a ton of noise if you don’t have rubber feet, the case should silence most of it.
For a €27.99 case we are quite surprised by how decent it is, but for this price, there has to be something wrong with it. And there is. The Zalman T5 probably has one of the crappiest paint job we’ve ever seen. Yes, it looks good to the naked eye. But when we were moving the case around to work with it, we noticed the paint would come off and it would leave marks on the desk. Since we own a white desk here, that was a bit of a pain to remove. The stains are still partially there. So if you're planning on getting one of these, please... put it on a rubber mat. Another thing we’ve noticed is that the screws provided with the case are probably the cheapest screws ever, when trying to remove the side panels using the thumb screws on the back of the case, we noticed some of these were genuinely stuck, so we had to go find a screwdriver to remove these screws. After we had removed them, we noticed the screws were damaged. The thread of the screws was damaged to begin with, or probably badly produced. Making it one of the worst flaws this case has.
So what do we think of this case? Personally, we think this case is a bargain. We’ve seen cases with much worse issues. The issues this case has are easily fixed if you spend another 5 bucks on it. So if you’re looking for an inexpensive case, with lots of features and a very simple design that will certainly fit your build. The Zalman T5 is definitely an option to consider. Since this is such a cheap product, and we were truly astonished by how many features it had, we are giving the Zalman T5 a BHT Bronze Award, but if there was a "BHT Bargain Award" it would definitely be getting it.