The NZXT Manta ITX Case Review
The new mystery NZXT case is finally here: the Manta. This mini-ITX case bends the rules with its curvy frame, and it's aimed at the growing mITX market of those who demand small, powerful systems. Let's see if this small fry lives up to big expectations.
The first thing you notice about the Manta is its curves. At $139, NZXT is obviously trying to attract enthusiasts who will invest in a case that stands out from the crowd. The curved metal panels all around give it an elegant design—this far from an ordinary case. The second you notice is the size: the Manta actually isn't that small for an mITX enclosure, and an ATX version of this case certainly seems doable.
The top is fully covered with two beautiful curved indentations where we find two audio jacks, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a power button with an illuminated power strip that also acts as hard drive activity LED. The hidden ventilation ports running down the top and front of the case are very well implemented, maintaining enough space to allow any front fans to do their job properly.
Like NZXT’s H440 and S340 cases, you can achieve fantastic airflow inside the Manta. The front of the case includes space for two 120mm or 140mm fans, and two 120mm fans are included. Even better, the front dust filter is deep enough to house a set of fans outside of the frame for push-pull setups. The same goes for the top, where fans can be mounted above the frame with a radiator below. Now you can see why the case is so large for mITX.
On the side panels, NZXT says this is actually the largest window ever put in an mITX case. That’s understandable, given this is the largest one we’ve ever reviewed. The thumbscrews are attached to both panels so you don’t misplace them, a great feature we’d like to see on every case. And the curved side panels allow extra clearance for cable management while still minimizing on the total footprint of the frame.
On the inside what we find is almost a mini version of the S340, with a totally enclosed power supply chamber that will support any ATX PSU. The NZXT cable bar on the side of the motherboard allows to strengthen the entire frame while also hiding most of the cables that pass through it. One strange omission is rubber grommets, which you would expect for a $139 case with this many cutouts.
For storage we have two toolless SSD brackets, which need to be removed to install a 3.5-inch drive. It would be better to have an independent HDD bracket that you can access without having to worry about those SSDs. Another disappointment was a lack of compatibility with the company’s HUE+ lighting system due to the height-limited design of the SSD brackets. NZXT is aware of this and for the retail units the SSD mounting will be moved 5mm forward to allow installation of Hue+ or any other thicker 2.5” slot device—but they will be upside down.
Building a system inside the Manta is practically like working inside an ATX enclosure. You can take off the top and front panels easily and NZXT’s cable routing is straightforward and simple. The system is plenty large enough for watercooling, and it designed to work with NZXT’s own Kraken line of AIO coolers. Builders know mITX builds can be a nightmare when it comes to cable management and arrangement, but the Manta does very well—not least because of its size. But make sure to choose a motherboard that mimics the layout of an ATX board for its 8-pin and 24-pin connectors to save some headaches.
The built-in lighting feature is very basic and disappointingly lacks RGB options. Even though the white illumination looks clean and modern, it might be difficult to color-coordinate with the rest of the hardware unless you plan ahead.
The NZXT Manta is a solid mITX case in every sense of the word: it has a fantastic build quality, top-notch airflow, excellent cable management and room for watercooling. The only real flaw here is the mounting systems for that single vertical 3.5-inch drive, which makes swapping a pain. Most people building an mITX system will set it and forget it, but it’s worth noting.
The real question for the Manta isn’t how it’s built, but why. The case is nearly the size of a mid-tower ATX design. It’s actually more expensive than its bigger sibling, the H440. And it goes against the raison d'être of the mITX form factor, losing features such as space efficiency and a compact footprint.
|Latest Reviews in Computer Cases|