Letting it all hang out
Pull the windowed side panel off the Z9 Neo, and you're greeted with a layout that's becoming more and more typical in modern cases. The Neo has a (non-removable) power-supply shroud that runs nearly the full length of the case. It conceals both the PSU and the pair of 3.5" bays that the Neo offers. A pair of stamped-in mounts for 2.5" storage devices sit to the right of the motherboard tray. These mounts are just that, though—the Neo doesn't have slip-in or screw-in trays for SSDs like some other cases do. That setup might make storage devices harder to install here than they might be with cases that have separate trays to work with. Zalman also includes five rubber-grommeted holes that allow builders to route cables from behind the motherboard tray into the main chamber for a cleaner build. Two of these grommets will be covered up by ATX motherboards, though.
Five 120-mm fans ring the Z9 Neo's motherboard tray: two on the front panel, two on the top panel, and one at the rear. That's an unusually generous complement of stock fans for any case. For some reason, however, Zalman chose to power the front and top fans with four-pin Molex connectors, not the three- or four-pin motherboard header connectors we see on most every other modern fan. For perspective, the last PC case I owned that had Molex-powered fans inside was Antec's good old Nine Hundred, circa 2006. Zalman's choice of Molex fans means that builders can't tie the speeds of most of the Neo's spinners to changes in system temperatures—they'll be equally noisy at all times. Some folks may not be bothered by this fact, but we think that once you've set up a system with motherboard fan control, it's hard to go back to the older, noisier way of doing things.
Behind its motherboard tray, the Z9 Neo offers just 0.7" (17 mm) of cable-routing space. From this view, we can also see the Z9 Neo's non-removable hard drive cage and its two snap-on sleds. This non-removable drive cage leaves about 4" of room between the front of the power supply and the edge of the cage for cable routing and storage—not a lot, as these things go. Zalman strangely doesn't offer a specification for the maximum CPU cooler height inside the Neo, but our measurements suggest that towers as tall as 160 mm should fit inside without issue. The Neo can also accept graphics cards as long as 420 mm.
Stripping down the MasterBox 5 reveals a mostly wide-open interior. Cooler Master has hopped on board the PSU-shroud trend, but unlike the Neo's metal cover, the MasterBox's modesty shield is made of plastic and pops out with the turn of a thumbscrew. Cooler Master also includes a generously-sized cable-routing hole in the top of the MasterBox's shroud that could be useful for graphics card power connectors or other bulky cabling. Zalman's take only has pass-throughs for small cables like front-panel USB and audio connectors. Cooler Master also stamped a screwdriver-access channel into the MasterBox's rear wall, a nice touch that many cheap cases (including the Z9 Neo) lack.
Even if it doesn't have the extensive modular features of its MasterCase siblings, the MasterBox at least offers an "if you don't like it, you can remove it" approach. The dual-drive 3.5" cage can be removed with the twist of a single thumbscrew, and the aforementioned PSU shroud is similarly simple to get out of the case. The single included SSD caddy can be placed in any of three positions. Cooler Master only includes two fans with the MasterBox 5, but at least they're both wired for three-pin motherboard fan headers. Other than those basic features, the MasterBox is mostly wide-open inside, which might herald an easy build.
Behind the motherboard tray, the MasterBox 5 offers 0.9" (23 mm) of cable-routing space, more than both the Z9 Neo and even the Define S. The MasterBox also offers zip-tie loops at practically every location one might want to secure a cable bundle. Since the MasterBox's 3.5" drive cage can be placed in two positions—one that makes room for a front-mounted radiator and one that doesn't—the MasterBox gives builders a generous 6.5" of room for PSU cable-stashing by default.