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NZXT's H2 mid-tower enclosure


Might still get shushed at the theater
— 11:19 PM on June 6, 2011

Choosing the right computer case is often the hardest and most subjective part of any system build. An enclosure can speak volumes about the person pressing the keys and bossing around the electrons within. It can tell you whether the operator fancies themselves a gamer, whether they value form over function, or if they simply don't care. Every now and then, a case comes along that seemingly plays all the right form-versus-function cards. Today, we'll be looking at just such a creation. The NZXT H2 Classic Silent has been diligently whirring away under my desk for two weeks now, and it's high time we broke it all down for you, to see what's what.

If I'm being honest, my brain tends to associate NZXT with funky, plastic-y, teen-gamer boxes that aren't really my style. Happily, NZXT has toned down raucous design cues with the H2 and created something that will draw more than a few comparisons to the Antec P180, which is more up my alley.

Frankly, I think it looks great.

The H2 is a steel mid-tower case that makes liberal use of plastic parts on the front and top sides. Measuring roughly 20.5" x 8.5" x 18.5", it's a bit smaller (albeit slightly wider) than the P180, but it's in the same ballpark. The front door is made of plastic and swings open to reveal two 120-mm fan intakes and three 5.25" drive bays. The door is permanently hinged on the left and unfortunately cannot be changed to open from the right. On the plus side, though, the door is securely held shut by a pair of strong magnets and is lined top-to-bottom with acoustic foam.

The front fans are particularly interesting, because they're installed in hot-swappable caddies that can be removed and installed without the need to route wires. I've never seen this configuration outside of the server world before, but I must admit it works rather well here. You can remove and replace the fans for cleaning without having to power down the system or fish around inside the case. This mounting scheme serves a secondary purpose, allowing easy access to the hard-drive sleds that hang out directly behind the front fans.

Also on the enclosure's front, NZXT has included a white hard-drive activity LED in the upper right-hand corner, plus a white, v-shaped power LED in the lower right. The angular cut-out at the bottom serves as an air inlet for the front and bottom fans—and it looks good, to boot. I really like the "P180 with an attitude" styling this case brings to the table.

Up top, you'll find four USB ports. The blue one is of the USB 3.0 variety, but it can be used as a USB 2.0 port, too. Next to those are the headphone and microphone jacks, in addition to a three-speed, 30W fan controller switch. This controller can run connected fans at 100%, 70%, or 40% speeds depending on the setting. On either side of the ports are the power and reset buttons. Initially, I was worried about the buttons looking so similar—reset buttons I've encountered in the past tend to be much smaller and harder to press. However, the H2's reset button does take significantly more pressure to activate than its counterpart, and I've yet to hit it accidentally.

One feature many users will ogle is the hot-swappable SATA dock built into the top of the H2. Removing a plastic cover will grant you access to the connector, which is recessed enough to accommodate both 2.5" and 3.5" drives. I think NZXT nailed the design of this feature. Most docks I've seen leave the hard drive hanging or partially exposed, whereas the H2 swallows up the entire drive, allowing you to hide it by replacing the dock cover.

Behind the SATA dock sits another plastic cover. Held in place by four magnets, it hides a ventilation grill capable of accepting an optional 140-mm fan. The cover is tasteful, but I found myself removing it and longing for an extra fan during actual use.

Around back, it's pretty much business as usual. NZXT has outfitted the H2 with a single 120-mm exhaust fan and a pair of rubber-shrouded holes for the liquid-cooling crowd. Out of the box, you'll find a blue USB 3.0 cable protruding from the top left corner. This cable is wired to the blue USB port on the top I/O panel. The cable can be hidden if desired, but you'll need to plug into something for that blue front-panel USB port to work. This case also features a bottom-intake dust filter, accessible from the rear, which fits along the underside of the case and prevents dust from being sucked into your power supply—or into the main case compartment, if you install an optional 120-mm intake fan at the bottom.