If you’re reading this, chances are you’re sitting at a computer desk. Before you even start to read this review of the NZXT H2 Classic computer case, take a moment to listen to what’s around you. Turn your music off, shut your door, and close your eyes. You hear that loud buzzing and whirring sound? That’s your PC and all its fans and spinning drives.
Fortunately, computers don’t have to be clunky, noisy machines. NZXT has supplied us with a white mid-sized tower (comes in either black or white—we got white) that has several features that help make quiet computing easier to achieve. NZXT has really made an impression on us at Icrontic over the years. Since its inception, NZXT has grown to become a provider of a variety of quality PC components, from power supplies to fan controllers… and of course, PC cases.
- Model: H2
- Case Type: Mid Tower Steel
- Case Material: Steel
- Front Panel Material: Plastic / Steel
- Expansion Bays: 3 External 5.25”, 5 Internal 3.5”/2.5″ bays
- Expansion Slots: 7
- Cooling: 2 x 120mm fans @ 1200rpm (front), 1 x 120mm fan @ 1200rpm (back) included. Spaces open for 1 x 140mm (top), 1 x120mm (bottom)
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 20.47″ x 8.46″ x 18.35″
- Weight: 19.62 lbs.
- Special Features: noise-dampening insulation, 3-speed fan controller, easy removable front fans, water cooling support, cable routing, tool-less drive bays, USB 3.0 port
In the box
The NZXT H2 Classic comes in a protective transparent plastic dust cover, sandwiched between molded shipping foam, and all placed in a large cardboard box. Once removed from the packaging, a small cardboard box inside the case holds all the little accessories. Included are motherboard standoffs, a screwdriver bit for the standoffs, a TON of various screws, replacement rubber grommets, a motherboard speaker unit, and about ten cable ties.
Also included is an instruction manual pamphlet. Sadly, while I appreciate simplicity, the manual is extremely sparse and not very helpful. While most of the features are touched upon, none of them are explained in any form of detail—and in many cases, not at all. While this may not hinder an experienced builder, a novice will probably become frustrated. In particular, the tool-less features needed much better explanations.
The grand tour
NZXT has chosen a minimalistic-yet-attractive approach with the H2 Classic. Instead of the over-the-top edgy plastic moldings and case lights, the H2 is basically a rectangular box. This isn’t at all a bad thing, and I actually rather like its quaint stature, but those wanting a little more pizazz for a computer will have to look elsewhere. Still, the H2 takes several notes from the flashier NZXT Phantom that we recently reviewed and employs them here.
Starting with the front of the case, three 5.25″ drive bays and two 120mm fans are hidden behind a door that covers the entire front face. The door is held in place by two strong magnets, keeping it firmly in place yet easy to open. There are also two white LED lights on the front face for power and HDD activity. My main complaint with the door is that the hinge design only allows the door open about 100°, and if the door is left open it can easily be kicked and broken off. Also, the hinges are on the left side of the case, so the door can only swing one way, possibly limiting case placement.
The side panels are relatively unremarkable. No vents, fans, or even case windows here. Just what appears to be white powder-coated steel side panels. Simple aesthetics aside, the doors are very durable and good quality, and are held in place by thumbscrews on the back, and slide off and back on easily. There’s also a layer of quarter-inch foam padding to provide some noise dampening.
The top of the case is where the nifty features are placed. Towards the front and in a row formation is the power and reset buttons, headphone and mic jack, three USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port (connects to motherboard via cable in the back of the case), and a three-speed built-in fan controller switch. The switch works rather well, letting you choose between the tradeoff of some slight fan noise at high for slightly higher temps at lower speeds. There’s also a spot towards the back for an optional 120mm fan (not included), hidden under a removable plastic plate held on by magnets.
Probably the neatest feature on top of the case is a SATA hard drive bay. Inside the case is a Molex power cable and a SATA cable to connect to the motherboard. Once the cables are plugged in, simply lift the plastic lid off the top, slide a SATA hard drive in, and you’re good to go. My only concern with the bay is that there does not seem to be any ventilation at all, so I’m not confident in leaving a HDD in there for extended periods of time. Still, a very handy feature to have for quick access to loose HDDs without the need of an external enclosure.
Getting everything together in the H2 was fairly straightforward, but there were certainly some hiccups along the way. Starting with getting the motherboard in, the black-painted standoffs are extremely difficult to screw in by hand. Fortunately NZXT has included a screwdriver bit to fit around the standoffs which makes things easy, but I now feel dependent on something that’s easily lost, and most other cases I’ve used could be hand-tightened. Once they’re in, though, the motherboard slides in easily.
Installing the hard drives was a pain in the ass, starting easy enough but ending in frustration. Getting access to the drive bays are a cinch: just open the front door and remove the two modular front fans via easy-to-use tabs. The fans get power from a wireless contact surface, similar to one used in the previously reviewed Sentey Burton case, which was nice. Each drive sits in an easy slide-out plastic tray, which accepts both 3.5″ and 2.5″ HDDs and SSDs. Here comes the bad part: the trays use a confusing and clunky tool-less design. You have to snap the drive into steel pins that have rubber vibration dampeners, and it’s a bitch to get them back off. It came to the point where using traditional screws was a better idea.
Fortunately, the optical drives were much easier to install. With the front door opened, each of the three drive bays are covered with an easily removable and replaceable plastic faceplates. This is perhaps the most hassle-free design I’ve ever seen on a case of any price range. Once the plate is set aside, just slide the drive in. Unlike the HDD tool-less retaining clips, the optical drive clips are very easy to use. Just unlock them with a sliding latch, pull them back, line the drive up with the clip, and click it in place. Lock the latch, and you’re good to go.
Installing the rest of the hardware, such as the graphics card, was a snap. The expansion card slots each have a replaceable metal cover, held on by traditional screws. Some may prefer tool-less, but honestly I don’t mind screws as the H2 uses large enough screws that I can just tighten them by hand—though a screwdriver is still preferred for a snug fit. Graphic cards get a decent amount of room, with either 10.5″ or 12″ depending on if HDDs are installed in the slots that line up with the GPU(s) or not. The power supply is mounted on the bottom, where it pulls air in from underneath the case. Interestingly, the H2 features a very nice removable steel mesh filter on the bottom. Removing it for cleaning is easy, just slide it out of the back of the case by pulling on its handle.
Now it’s time for cable control. The H2 was designed with cable routing in mind, and I was able to get a very nice, clean look. There is about an inch (25mm) gap between the back of the motherboard tray and the right side panel, allowing plenty of space to hide extra cabling. There are three large port holes for cables to go through, each with a rubber grommet to hold cables in place. Unfortunately, the grommets can easily be pulled out of the holes. They’re not difficult to stick back into place, but it does take some time and practice. Also, another slight issue I had was that several of the cables that connect the case switches and LED lights did not designate their polarity, and there was zero mention of them in the featherlight manual. As such, my HDD light didn’t work at first, as I had guessed wrong. Not a big deal, but could have been labeled better.
Now for perhaps the most important aspect to the H2 Classic: just how silent is it? First of all, this largely depends on what components you have in the case. The quarter-inch thick foam does a pretty good job of insulating most of the noise within, but whiny GPU and CPU fans may pierce through. Fortunately, the fans NZXT uses for the case itself are pretty quiet, especially with the three-way fan speed controller switch. On low (40%), it’s almost undetectable. Medium (70%) is still very quiet, though on full-blast the fans whine a little bit, which can be heard emanating out the back of the case—but even then, it’s acceptable. And, with the option open for water cooling thanks to water tube pass-throughs in the case rear, I was quite satisfied with the H2 as a silent case.
Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the NZXT H2 Classic case, especially as it’s currently $99.99 on Newegg and Amazon. It delivers on its claims of quiet computing, and with mesh filters to keep dust out and good cable management, it’s a good setup for clean airflow—especially if the case is upgraded with two more fans. The three-speed fan controller and SATA bay are also a great bonus. The case is easy to open and get inside, especially the front-mounted fans. Plus, I rather dig its simplistic, professional appearance—no gaudy colors or angles, just pure classiness.
I have to say, though… I am a little disappointed with the drawbacks of the case. It really feels that NZXT skimped out on the case, just so it could be a penny below $100. I would rather see a slightly higher price in exchange for a meatier instruction manual, inclusion of a top and bottom fan, and especially a better design to the tool-less HDD trays. Granted, I could still use screws, but that’s not the point of a tool-less setup. It doesn’t stop me from recommending it, but a minor revision would make it much more attractive.
The pros do outweigh the cons, so we’re happy to award the NZXT H2 Classic case the Icrontic Stamp of Approval.
- Good features, such as SATA bay, 3-speed fan controller, and removable front fans
- Quiet and dust-free computing thanks to noise dampening and mesh filters
- Clean and classy aesthetics
- Great value at $99.99
- Clunky tool-less HDD tray design makes installing and removing drives a chore
- Instruction manual is very lightweight and unhelpful
- Would prefer extra fans built-in rather than an aftermarket option