The Future Of ITX Cases NZXT H1 Review
This is the new H1, a super exciting Mini-ITX vertical case from NZXT that promises to streamline the whole small form factor experience and remove the usual hurdles that come from building something small but powerful.
The case is just 13.6 liters in volume and is very close in size to the Corsair ONE compact gaming PC. Since I have to return that wonderful miniature machine the H1 has arrived at just the right time, as I will be building myself a new gaming station that should hopefully satisfy for the next few months.
Now what makes the H1 so special is that you’re not just getting the enclosure, you are also getting a 650W SFX 80 Plus Gold rated power supply, a riser cable for the GPU, a 140mm all-in-one liquid cooler, and one of the easiest assembly procedures you can experience in this size category.
That is why the H1 is price at a steep $349 USD, and while there’s definitely a premium applied on top of that, purchasing all the equivalent parts separately comes out to even more money. Finding a roughly similar case and power supply is fairly easy, but finding an affordable 140mm motor AIO is challenging. If you substitute the AIO for a quality 120mm all-in-one cooler instead the price definitely drops to around $310. What I’m trying to say here is that let’s not discount the H1 solely due to its price, because it’s actually quite competitive and reasonable when you look at it from a macro level. Furthermore, you also get a 3 year warranty on the case and the cooler, and a 10 year warranty on the power supply, which is definitely confidence building.
First of all, let’s appreciate the signature NZXT style here. With sharp corners, consistent ventilation pattern, and the dual tone look with the main exterior panel. An all-black model is also available. The NZXT logo is hidden inside the glass, which I’m not sure this case needs as you will see later on. Honestly, if I could make one change, I would have loved another mesh panel on the front instead of tempered glass.
By the way, it is 2020, why do we still include paper stickers on glass? Also, I really do not appreciate the removal of the second USB 3.0 port on pretty much all NZXT cases. Why are they doing that? It’s using the same 19-pin connector that you plug into your motherboard, so why do we only get one? The USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port is definitely always welcome, but it’s not a replacement for an Extra Type-A port, especially on this case where the motherboard’s rear I/O panel is not easily accessible.
The build quality of the H1 is alright. It’s all mainly steel, but with a plastic frame for the base, which might prevent scratches. When it comes to my gaming build, I’m thinking a Z370 motherboard with the perfectly capable Core i5-9600K overclocked to 5GHz, a Zotac RTX 2060 Super – not because of the size but because of the power – and this gorgeous Corsair Dominator Platinum memory that matches the whole interior colour scheme and is rated at DDR4-3600.
The interior access is all tool-free, you simply pop off the side panels that sit on pins, and then slide the main metal cover up from the top. It is on a rail system to simplify the whole procedure. All of the compartments are nicely divided with their own air flow chambers, so there shouldn’t be too much mixing between the main AIO and the GPU on the other side. The entire installation is pretty straightforward as the radiator and fan are on a swivel bracket that reveals full access to the main area. Even though this section is quite tight you can reach all sides of the motherboard and I love how the PSU cables – all of them – are already pre-routed and are short enough to not be in the way. This convenience touch made this part of the assembly the quickest.
We also have a combo front panel connector that I appreciate, along with an included adapter if you need to split them up. I’m actually surprised to find that the fan and pump are connected through 4-pin and 3-pin fan cables and not via USB. As a result, there thankfully is no CAM software needed to control the pump and fan speed. One of the two hiccups I’ve encountered with assembly is RAM clearance, as my Dominator Platinum modules are way too tall and the bracket would not close. Therefore I had to swap them out for regular-sized G.Skill Trident Z, which don’t have any clearance issues.
The second issue is that unfortunately the USB Type-C cable on my unit is not long enough to reach the far corner on my motherboard. NZXT offered to send me an I/O replacement with a longer USB Type-C cable, which is appreciated, and that offer extends to all customers who buy the H1 at launch. If your cable does not reach your motherboard’s USB Type-C header simply reach out to NZXT and they will send you a new one, but they will be extending the cables for all H1 productions after launch.
Thermal paste is already pre-applied to the AIO, and it spreads really well as you can see. The final steps include mounting the CPU block, which is the same as with any Kraken or any AIO cooler compatible with both AMD and Intel sockets. Even after everything is in place you can still access anything on the motherboard when you bend the tubes out of the way. Furthermore, the lack of cables makes this one of the cleanest ITX systems that I’ve worked with, because the power supply is fully modular with thin cables.
As for storage, there is an 2.5″ SSD cage below the PSU with two slots, and there is no 3.5″ drive capacity inside the H1, which I don’t consider to be a negative. The last thing to do is plug in the riser cable and our Zotac RTX 2060. Graphics cards that are 2.5 slot and up to 12 inches in length can fit in this GPU compartment. Even my massive AORUS RTX 2060 fit no problem, which is quite surprising.
You can 100% build a powerful system in the H1, as the 140mm AIO is plenty capable of cooling a high performance processor, and we have a lot of ventilation on both sides. On the right is our GPU with about 2cm of clearance away from the side panel and the filter. I guess that a blower-style card might be actually better in this environment. While on the left is our 140mm exhaust through the AIO, so the two airflow sections don’t really mix much. Plus we obviously have the exhaust blowing out through the power supply.
Above you can see the temperatures with the case in default configuration, then with the dust filter removed to see if the GPU side was a choking point (and there’s only a 3°C difference there, which is not significant), and lastly with all panels removed. This last configuration reveals a different story, not so much for the CPU which is surprising, but the temperatures on the RTX 2060 Super dropped significantly. That was kind of disappointing given that the whole exterior is basically mesh, but at least the noise levels are a surprise as well. At 1400 RPM on the radiator fan and the GPU fan at 68% speed, the system is whisper quiet. There is definitely more power available in the fan if you need extra cooling, but that really kills the silent factor.
I will say that I think NZXT has a Mini-ITX winner on their hands, because power/cooling/cable management are all covered out of the box with this enclosure. Plus it’s a beautiful vertical tower with pretty good GPU compatibility. However, the downsides cannot be ignored, like the single USB 3.0 port, why not two? Also the motherboard I/O area is difficult to reach because the motherboard is facing down, but that’s just the nature of the layout. I would actually say the tempered glass front panel is unnecessary since the components underneath are sandwiched anyway, so you can’t really see anything. The mesh on the GPU side is still fairly restrictive and I think a lot of people would still like to have the option to buy the case separately, and choose their own SFX power supply and CPU cooler, but that currently is not an option.
NZXT definitely took some risks with the H1, but it’s almost the perfect Mini-ITX case for me. I hate dealing with cable management and tight spaces, and basically half of the assembly is already complete at your doorstep. I would love to hear if you feel the same, and how do you feel about the price? I think it’s fairly competitive, especially given the full small form factor market, but then again it’s not the smallest enclosure and I think they could have made it even smaller, maybe with the H2!