There's no such thing as the perfect case. In fact I discussed this very question in a recent blog post but that doesn't mean that very, very good cases can't be found. Air-cooled cases have been around pretty much since the dawn of the PC (early models didn't even have fans so they might be considered an exception to the rule) and despite hardware growing ever hotter, manufacturers keep finding ways to push the design forwards.
The original Zalman GS1000 didn't wow us with features, build quality or cooling. In fact, when Custom PC tested cases in its labs (see issue 63) by locking them in Intel's thermal test chamber, the GS1000 only just passed the torturous 60 minute test and recorded temperatures (particularly of the CPU) were very high compared to some of the better cases such as the Antec Twelve Hundred.
As its name suggests, the new GS1000 Plus isn’t a total redesign of its predecessor. In fact it looks almost identical to the GS1000, with a glossy black plastic frame and black brushed aluminium side panels. The front and rear stands are still present, raising the case off the desk by a few cm, in order to providing clearance for a downward facing PSU fan. The strange vent in the roof is still here too and while it adds a sleek look to the top panel, it can only serve to hinder the airflow from the 120mm roof exhaust fan.
At £140, it's got some extremely stiff competition too. We've already mentioned the Antec Twelve Hundred but there's also the Antec Nine Hundred Two, the P193 and Lian Li PC-P50. It's clear then that the GS1000 Plus is in a very crowded and competitive market. However it does have some features which set it apart from the rest.
While there's an average assortment of USB2, eSATA and audio ports underneath a sexy slide-bearing hatch, those bulges in the front panel are part of one of the GS1000's most useful features. Each houses a slim 92mm fan with dust filter and sits in front of three 3.5in drive bays (six in total). All feature anti vibration slide out hard drive brackets meaning you can install or remove a hard drive in a matter of seconds. The bottom three are hot swappable too with SATA 3Gbps interfaces at the rear of the drive cage.
The fan housings drop down (a little too easily) when pushed revealing the fan, filter and drive cages. While having intake fans to cool the 3.5in bays is an improvement over the original GS1000, air has to be drawn in at 90 degrees into the fan then passed through a restrictive channel of cages and hard drives. In the lower three hot swappable bays, there's basically nowhere for this air to go either. The fans are also extremely noisy at full speed. Unfortunately the depth of the fan housing is about 3mm too shallow to be able to fit a standard 92mm fan so you're probably stuck with them.
Looks wise, the GS1000 Plus got a mixed reaction during its unboxing. The bulges in particular can result in a bit of an image crisis but you're allowed to like them if you must - they are functional. After a while the most likely opinion you'll reach is that it's different rather than attractive or ugly.