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Building 'em up
Building a system inside the MasterBox 5 is about as frustration-free as it gets. Once the power supply shroud is removed, the MasterBox's interior becomes a roomy and unobstructed place to build a PC. To simplify the cable runs inside, I moved the MasterBox's SSD tray from its default location on the "pegboard" area in front of the motherboard tray to the alternate mounting location on top of the 3.5" drive cage. I also moved the intake fan to the upper mounting location at the front of the case to improve airflow to the graphics card.

Those simple changes aside, I had no trouble getting any cables where I needed them to go, and I never found myself wanting for a zip-tie point behind the motherboard when I needed one. The one slightly annoying part of the build was wrestling a hard drive into Cooler Master's tool-free 3.5" drive trays. The tray isn't wide enough and doesn't bend enough to truly let the drive snap in. Instead, I had to slide the rubber-dampened pin out of the tray a bit to get the drive's mounting holes aligned before pushing it all the way back in—a process that took a bit of trial and error before the drive was fully secured. Cooler Master already had a winning design for these trays in the MasterCase series, so I'm not sure why it reinvented the wheel here with an inferior setup.

Overall, the MasterBox is one of the easiest cases to use that I've ever had the pleasure of building in, and the resulting build is clean and unobstructed.

Zalman's Z9 Neo, on the other hand, presents a few challenges for the PC builder that the MasterBox 5 doesn't. Its non-removable power supply shroud and fixed hard-drive cage require the builder to take some time and think out PSU cabling needs beforehand, because once the PSU is inside the case, there's no practical way to add more modular cables. Those fixed features of the interior don't leave much room for spare cables, either.. A non-modular PSU might require even more cable-stuffing than is evident in our test build. While Zalman's basic layout works, it doesn't make life easy, as the MasterBox's does.

While we're typically fans of cable grommets in cases that have cable pass-throughs from behind the motherboard, Zalman's grommets are tiny and prone to popping out of their associated holes. Getting those grommets back in place when they're full of cables is no fun at all. We'd also have preferred that the dedicated set of grommets in the motherboard tray be switched out for a pair in the top of the PSU shroud for more direct cable-routing to the graphics card's twin PCIe connectors. Zalman does deserve praise for including hook-and-loop cable ties along the most likely path for the major cables in a system, though.

Now that we've put our test system inside both of these cases, let's see how they do when it's time to keep that system cool.