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Hands-on: NZXT's compact H510 Elite blends sleek RGB-infused looks with easy building

The newest addition to NZXT's popular H-series cases keeps the iconic minimalist look while adding more tempered glass and RGB lighting.

The NZXT H510 Elite’s lineage reads a bit biblical in which case begat the next. Launched this Tuesday alongside NZXT’s refresh of its popular H-series, the small mid-tower traces back to last year’s H500 and H500i, and then the wildly popular S340 before that.

All builders need to know is that this new case serves as a blinged-out variant of the former H500 (now H510). It features the same upgrades as the H510 and H510i, like a Smart Device v2 controller and front USB-C 3.1 port, but mixes two 140mm RGB front fans, more tempered glass, and a little extra maneuvering room into the minimalist design.

The aesthetic will tempt anyone who has interest in understated illumination and no patience for inefficient, messy builds. So naturally, when one arrived at our office, we dug it out of the box right away—along with a screwdriver and enough components for a rough idea of how building inside it feels.

Specs and design

Because the H510 Elite is a variant of the H510 and H510i, it shares the same petite dimensions. Measuring 8.27 x 18.11 x 16.85 inches (210 x 460 x 428 mm), this mid-tower falls on the smaller end of the spectrum, bordering on overlap with the larger micro-towers.

Despite its compact size, though, this case comfortably houses most components. The H510 Elite accommodates GPUs up to 381mm in length without a front radiator installed, and CPU coolers up to 165mm. The front and rear fan positions also accommodate radiators up to 60mm.

What distinguishes it from the H510i—which shares much in common with the H510 Elite—is the inclusion of two of NZXT’s Aer RGB 2 140mm fans at the front, a tempered-glass front panel, the ability to remove that front panel, and no 120mm Aer F120 fan mounted to the top panel.* It also comes with only one RGB LED strip, while the H510i sports two (the second strip sits on the back of its cable management bar).

Update, 7/31/2019: NZXT says that it will now include a 140mm exhaust fan mounted to the top panel. For consumers who bought the H510 Elite before this change, you can get a free fan by contacting NZXT's customer service department.

Otherwise, the H510 Elite mirrors H510i’s practical features: a removable bracket for the front fans, vertical mount support for a GPU, and Smart Device v2 controller for NZXT case fans and RGB components.

NZXT H510 Elite empty Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

The H510 Elite is a variant on the new H510, which succeeds last year's H500.

As in the H510 and H510i (and their immediate predecessors), removable filters sit on each of the H510 Elite’s three vents. You’ll find them at the bottom of the case underneath the power supply’s spot and below the front fans, and on the steel side panel near the front of the case. All have plastic frames that make taking them out a cinch, be it by sliding one out (PSU) or releasing clips (front fan areas).

Just three front I/O ports sit on the H510 Elite’s top panel, but they cover the basics. You get just a single headset jack, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, and a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C. USB-C is a new addition to NZXT’s H-series, and replaces the older models’ second USB-A port. A splitter cable for headsets with separate audio and mic inputs comes included. 

The top panel also has spot to attach either a 120mm or 140mm fan, but as mentioned previously, it does not come with one already installed. The case’s lone RGB LED strip is mounted here as well, near the tempered-glass side panel. All of the H510’s RGB components—both front fans and this LED strip—are addressable RGB.

At the back of the case are 7 expansion slots, an additional two to support a vertically mounted GPU, and an included 120mm Aer F120 non-RGB fan.

A Smart Device v2 controller manages all of the fans and RGB components. It comes as part of the case and can’t be purchased standalone. The device has three fan channels with a maximum output of 10W each, and two RGB LED channels that support up to four Hue 2 LED strips or five Aer 2 RGB fans each. It also has a noise detection module. NZXT says that fan control is based on the fan connected to the 4-pin port if you use a fan splitter, and the company cautions against using low-noise adapters.

NZXT H510 Elite cable view Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

You'll find the Smart Device v2 controller mounted just above the plastic channels for cable routing.

Finally, inside you’ll find two removable bays for 2.5-inch drives, and a drive cage for either 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drives. You can mount up to three drives of one size at a time, but more drives in combination.

Teardown and build impressions

For those armed with just a screwdriver, the H510 Elite doesn’t tear down completely, due to the use of rivets for its power supply shroud. That said, you can still navigate the case quite easily, and NZXT includes thoughtful design elements to make component installation straightforward and quick.

The chassis has eight removable parts: the two side panels, the front glass panel, the front fan bracket, the cable management bar, two plastic drive bays, and a drive cage.

NZXT H510 Elite with parts Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

We built with a bare minimum of components to get a feel for the case's layout and cable routing.

Both side panels come off with very little fuss. Unscrew the thumbscrews and they pop right off. You will need to gently pry on the tempered-glass side panel to free it, though, as like the H500 and H500i, it has two plastic knobs that snap into the frame and hold it in place. This feature guards against the glass panel accidentally falling if its single thumbscrew is loose or undone.

Pulling off the front glass panel is similar to the side glass panel. After taking out two regular screws, you again need to lightly tug on the panel, as it also has the same plastic knobs that lock into the frame.

With all three panels removed, you’ll have maximum maneuverability. Even though the front fan bracket comes out as well (more on that in a moment), I still found it helpful to have the front panel off before moving onto those fans.

Getting off that fan bracket is as simple as the case panels; it’s held in place with two thumbscrews. Afterward, you just swing it away and out from the case, but beware: If you don’t lift up before you pull the bracket out, you can leave marks on the black paint on the power supply shroud.

We unfortunately discovered this firsthand—you can avoid our mistake by taking a piece of non-adhesive shelf liner and laying it underneath the fan bracket as you lift it up. The liner should protect the paint as you work with the bracket.

NZXT H510 Elite scratch Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

Gordon did not believe that the scuffs were permanent, but even with a little buffing, some remained.

Extracting the drive bays attached to the back of the motherboard tray, the drive cage tucked within the power supply shroud, and the case management bar is just a matter of undoing several screws. You will need to turn the case upside down for the cage, though, and successfully reinstalling the cable management bar requires lining up its front tabs correctly. 

Incidentally, you do have the option of installing a second RGB LED strip on the back of the cable management bar, like you’d find in the H510i version of this case. NZXT manufactured that bar with a set of metal clips to hold an LED strip in place, which eliminates the need for adhesive tape and makes installation very fast.

Cable routing in this case is tidy, with well-placed channels and metal clips located in optimal spots. One particularly nice touch is the clip just above the rear fan, which allows a clean, virtually invisible route of that fan’s cable. The spaces just above and below the motherboard also have enough room to pass through thicker power cables and cable heads.

The one lone shortcoming of this case is the length of its front audio cable—it was almost too short for the motherboard used in our sample build. With a little bit of rerouting, we got enough length to connect the pins, but it’s not the most attractive path for the cable. In fairness, this issue is not one unique to the H510 Elite, but it did stand out in an otherwise ideal building experience.

Pricing, availability, and additional thoughts

NZXT H510 Elite with box Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

The H510 Elite becomes available through retailers in early August, with pre-orders beginning on Tuesday, July 23 at NZXT.com.

With a sticker price of $170 USD, the H510 Elite steps into luxury territory for the average mid-range PC builder. Many more budget-friendly choices exist, most notably the NZXT H510i, which costs $110 USD and shares a nearly identical mix of the Elite’s clean, understated looks and practical, builder-friendly design choices.

If not for the situation with the U.S and its tariffs, this case would be less of a stretch at its worldwide price of $150 USD. Its aesthetic is one of the classiest we’ve seen for RGB lighting, and there is the added bonus of having most of the cable management complete upon arrival. 

Of course, we can’t speak to the case’s temperatures or fan acoustics during normal use, as we did not conduct a full review of the case, but we still feel comfortable with an initial favorable impression—the H500, the H510 Elite’s predecessor, did fairly well on both scores.

Pre-orders for the H510 Elite begin July 23 on NZXT.com, followed by shipments to customers and retailer availability in early August.

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