NZXT has been on a bit of a streak lately. Each new iteration of their Phantom chassis has proven to be stellar (or at least extremely solid), and the H630 silent enclosure was a fresh take on a stagnant concept. At the same time, the under $99 segment was still being served with one of their worst enclosures, the H2. A late and unmentioned tweak did help the H2 make up for its lackluster appearance by increasing ventilation around the front of the enclosure enough that the intakes weren't starved for air, and it's remained a favorite for system integrators.

Now we have a compliment to the H2 in the form of the H230. The H230 comes in at just $69, making it one of the most affordable silent enclosures we've ever tested, and at least in terms of build quality and features, you definitely get a good value for your money. It's when performance enters the mix that the H230 falls apart.

But first, the build quality and aesthetic. The H230 is, as you can see, extremely shiny. The side panels have been painted with a reflective black paint, and the front plastic door has a mirror finish to boot. As a whole the aesthetic is very simple, but ventilation is restricted to a set of openings on the left side as the door opens to the right. Open the front door and there's a single 120mm intake fan at the bottom.

The side panels are both held into place with thumbscrews and notched as is unfortunately traditional of this market segment. Both side panels have sound dampening foam affixed to them. Remove the panels and you'll find a pretty run of the mill ATX case interior. Each drive cage holds three drive sleds; the bottom one is permanently affixed, but the middle one is removable. The sleds actually exit behind the motherboard tray and they're unfortunately pretty flimsy and not held into place especially securely.

Gallery: NZXT H230

Evaluating a $69 case, you have to learn how to make do with what's there. Evaluating a case designed for silent operation, you have to modulate your expectations accordingly. NZXT is still, at least in terms of features, making a fairly strong value play, but there are only two 120mm fans here and you can bet they're tuned for silence instead of performance.

NZXT H230 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX
Drive Bays External 3x 5.25"
Internal 6x 2.5"/3.5"
Cooling Front 1x 120mm intake fan (supports 2x 120mm)
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Top -
Side -
Bottom 1x 120mm fan mount
Expansion Slots 7
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 158mm
PSU 170mm with bottom fan / 280mm without
GPU 290mm with drive cage / 400mm without
Dimensions 17.6" x 19.8" x 7.7"
447mm x 502mm x 195mm
Special Features Acoustic padding
Removable drive cage
Price $69

NZXT's website even describes the H230 as "the perfect silent chassis for users looking for the bare essentials," and for the most part that's accurate. This is a no-frills silent case, with very little in the way of expandability. However, remember that "silent" design can't make up for mediocre airflow; two low-powered 120mm fans can be easily overwhelmed.

Building in the NZXT H230
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  • zero2dash - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I thought about buying one of these a few days ago but since the only 2 reviews out there for the case are not very flattering, I figured I'd wait for someone more worth their salt to review it.

    AT delivers as usual; thanks for the review Dustin.

    This looks like a silent case built for computers that don't make a lot of noise to begin with....the onboard video, 1 HD, ≤ 430W PSU systems.

    Guess I'll continue trying to lower the noise in my Core 3000 instead.
    Reply
  • flemeister - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    You've got the right idea. =)

    First deal with the noise making components:

    * Fans: fan control, undervolt, or change to better quality or quieter models (eg. for the PSU).
    * Hard drives: 5400/5900RPM models to reduce vibration and high-freq. noise compared to 7200RPM models (relying on your SSD for speedy stuff). Also suspension with elastic cord, which can even be done in the internal 3.5" bays if they're wide enough. Or go all SSD. ^_^

    That should be a marked improvement. But if you'd like to go further, get an enclosed case with solid panels, solid build quality (eg. Antec Solo, Antec P18x), mass damping and acoustic foam. Ideally, a case with not too restrictive ventilation. Generally though you'll have to sacrifice one of performance, temps or dust filtering to keep the noise down. Only under load though; at idle there should be no problem keeping the rig quiet. Few are so anal as to desire near silence at both idle and load. =)
    Reply
  • WarrenSmith - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online( Click on menu Home)
    http://goo.gl/6N9nai
    Reply
  • KLC - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    "the perfect silent chassis for users looking for the bare essentials"

    Maybe 20 years ago a huge case was required for the bare essentials, but not anymore. With better CPUs that require lower power, with 4tb hard drives that negate the need for multiple hard drives, and with higher power integrated graphics that eliminate the need for GPUs, the bare essentials in 2013 are more like a small mini ITX box than gigantic case the size of microwave.

    The PC industry is still living in the past.
    Reply
  • et20 - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    I completely agree.
    At this point, in any case review I see I immediately check for for factor and ignore everything larger than microATX.
    Reply
  • JoanSpark - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    so true.. where are the reviews of mini-ITX or m-ATX cases? Reply
  • lwatcdr - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    For the average home user yes. Even an ITX board would do. Thing is that the average home user buys a PC or these days a notebook or even a tablet.
    1. Integrated graphics are not good enough for high end CAD, gaming, or video editing.
    2. Multiple monitors are becoming the norm for developers and large high resolution monitors are becoming cheap.
    3. People do still roll their own NAS boxes so lots of drives is a plus for them.
    Bare essentials vary by use case.
    For me it would be a good nVidia graphics card, i5 or i7, at least 16gb of ram, one SSD boot and two HDDs in Raid for storage. I like slots because I do some hardware work as well and like to add at least one real serial port.
    Reply
  • Grok42 - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    Every thing you describe is handled by common mITX systems. I build a mITX system with an Intel i7 3770k, 16GB of ram, Nvidia 660ti and a 840pro SSD. Your need for a real serial port is pretty unusual given that I work for a company that does tons of hardware development and everything has USB interfaces these days even when it's serial over USB. Reply
  • JoanSpark - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    Zotac H87-ITX... besides the other stuff you need we find.. "internal connectors: .. serial COM port header".
    Admitted though.. with mATX this would be easier ;-)
    Still no need for full blown ATX cases anymore for 90% of the users of such hardware.
    Reply
  • Grok42 - Sunday, September 15, 2013 - link

    I completely agree. I've noticed a lot more "mini" GPUs coming out lately as well which will make it even easier to build mITX systems. I guess everyone is getting the picture that small cases are the future except the case manufactures.

    My only complaint with mITX is the PSU. While there are tons of good ones out there and most mITX cases support full ATX or small ATX PSUs, there is a lack of a specific standard for small ATX PSU that makes picking a PSU a case by case decision.
    Reply

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