Mid Tower Case Final Thoughts
NZXT’s decision to keep the H440 free of any externally accessible drive bays is a bold new step in tower case design. While we’ve seen optical drive bays vanishing from small form factor systems for a while now, this is the first tower case to have this “feature”. Although most people will immediately think of not being able to install an optical drive, it also means you can’t install a fan controller, a card reader, or a bay reservoir. Of course, all of these devices can be installed externally, and it’s hard to argue with the fact that physical media like optical disks is simply going away. Apple, the first company to eliminate floppy drives from their computers, has eliminated optical drives from their entire computer lineup.
It’s easy to say that optical drives are rarely needed by most people…but think about it: if you’re interested in this case, you’re building your own system. Which means you’ll be installing a separately-purchased motherboard. And what will all the drivers for that motherboard be delivered on? And installing Windows is still a from-DVD process for most people. So for now you’re going to need an optical drive; it’ll just have to be an external one. I would have liked to see an integrated SD card reader like the one NZXT has on their Phantom 630 case.
That said, eliminating external device bays opens up the interior of the case to an amazing degree. You have room for two 360mm radiators, and cable management becomes much easier. With NZXT’s other design features, constructing a super-clean, professional-looking system becomes so simple that even neophytes can do it.
I’m pleased with the results of the build, but I wish NZXT had included a fan controller. The case comes with four 120mm fans, and while every removable panel has thick sound absorbing foam, it did not strike me as a particularly quiet case: the fan noise was clearly audible at all times. Being able to turn down the built-in fans would have helped.
NZXT H440 Conclusion
Optical drives aren’t the only thing slowly vanishing from the desktop computer world: tower cases are an endangered species as well. Increasing motherboard features and graphics card power make the seven or eight slots of a full-sized ATX motherboard redundant for most builds, which is why mini-ITX and micro-ATX cases are exploding in popularity.
Still, sometimes you just need a full-tower case (personally I’ve never been really comfortable running air-cooled SLI or CrossFireX systems on an mATX system). With the H440 case, NZXT is adapting to the times, and while its lack of external drive bays will rule it out for some, others will appreciate the advantages of this design. Personally, I’m torn: I have to have an optical drive, but I love the case. Could I live with an external drive? Well, maybe…
The performance of this case right now is in a class by itself. If you want an exceptionally neat, easy-to-build rig, this is your case. My only build complaint was the lack of space behind the motherboard tray. The fit back there is so tight that when I removed that side panel for the first time, there were depressions and small tears in the foam just from the standard case cables. There’s ample cooling, and little touches like the lights on the back of the case for the ports and slots can make day-to-day tasks a lot easier.
Some people have suggested that the white version of this case looks like a Stormtrooper accessory or a small refrigerator. I find the very understated looks attractive; since there are no front bays to access, were it on my desk, I’d turn it sideways so I could look directly into the case window. (I’d also add some interior lighting.)
All the case panels and parts fit together smoothly and appear to be well-made. I was impressed with the quality of the heavy white paint used on this case; I’ve seem other painted cases that weren’t nearly as well-done.
Functionality…well, that’s a tough one. If you need an optical drive or anything else that requires an external bay, this case is a non-starter. If you don’t, you’ll appreciate the tremendous versatility you’ll have in designing your cooling system, the fantastic cable management, and the little touches like the fan hub and power supply cover. Still, in the final analysis, the functionality of this case must be judged as limited compared to other cases.
Costing $119.99 (NewEgg), this case competes well against the likes of similarly-priced cases like the Antec 1100, Corsair Carbide series, or the venerable Cooler Master CM690.
If you’re ready to take the next step in computer case evolution, your case is ready. Wish it had a card reader, though.
+ Can accommodate multiple closed-loop water coolers
+ Unique internal design makes it trivially easy to build a super-neat system
+ All air intakes have easily-removable filters
+ A bold new step in tower case design
- No externally accessible drive bays
– Limited to ATX-sized motherboards
– No card reader
– Doesn’t seem particularly quiet even with foamed panels