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Meet the new NZXT flagship case. Phantom 820 reviewed

Meet the new NZXT flagship case. Phantom 820 reviewed

NZXT Phantom 820 case review

NZXT has a history of pushing PC case design—if not from an aesthetic perspective, at least from the quality and features end of things. NZXT’s aesthetic design choices are sometimes downright divisive, but their brand is undeniably recognizable and consistent.

They won a lot of accolades for last year’s Switch 810, which used to be their biggest, boldest case. No longer. The Phantom 820 now takes that spot. It is a little bit taller and deeper than the Switch 810:

Phantom 820 next to Switch 810

The Phantom 820 is even bigger than the Switch 810

The Phantom 820 retains NZXT’s Phantom design language with its angular surfaces, but has improved over its predecessors in almost every way.

Specifications

MODEL Phantom 820
CASE TYPE Full Tower
FRONT PANEL MATERIAL Plastic/Steel
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D) 235mm (W) x 650mm (H) x 612mm (D)
SPECIAL FEATURES Integrated HUE LED lighting system, SD Card Reader, 4-channel 15-watt Fan Digital Controller
FAN CAPACITY Top: 2x 200mm (One included) or 2x 140mm or 3x 120mm
Front: 1x 200mm (Included)
Bottom: 2x 140mm or 2x 120mm
Rear: 1x 140mm (included) or 1x 120mm height adjustable
Side: 1x 200mm (included)
Pivot: 1x 140mm or 1x 120mm internal pivot fan
RADIATOR CAPACITY Top: 2x 140mm or 3x 120mm
Rear: 1x 140mm or 1x 120mm
Bottom: 2x 140mm or 2x 120mm
Pivot: 1x 140mm or 1x 120mm
DRIVE BAYS 4 EXTERNAL 5.25″ DRIVE BAYS
6 INTERNAL 3.5″ DRIVE BAYS
Screwless Rail Design
MATERIAL(S) Steel, Plastic
EXPANSION SLOTS 9
WEIGHT 15kg, 32lbs
MOTHERBOARD SUPPORT E-ATX, XL-ATX, ATX, MICRO-ATX, Mini-ITX

This is about as big as it gets for a “normal” enthusiast PC case. If you can’t fit your multiple GPUs, multiple drives, and giant watercooling setup in here, you’re probably doing it wrong.

The Phantom 820 comes with a separate case of screws and accessories as well, with individual compartments for each type of screw—a very nice feature.

NZXT Phantom 820 accessory case

Details

Details are where NZXT has always excelled, and the Phantom 820 is the pinnacle of attention to detail in their case lineup. The integrated HUE lighting system is gorgeous; it disappears when off, and when it’s on, the translucent rails where the light is seen are in aesthetically awesome places. The buttons all have a high level of fit and finish, and do not feel cheap or easily breakable like so many other cases. The inside maintains the high level of quality that I’ve come to expect from NZXT; from the motherboard tray area, to the massive CPU cutout, to the endless options for cable management.

NZXT Phantom 820 motherboard installed

One of the best features of the Phantom 82o are the included fans; three massive 200mm 800rpm fans are included, and just on their own serve to move enough air around (silently) to cool any normal system. They also include a 140mm rear fan, and all of these are hooked up to an integrated NZXT fan controller that is easily accessible from the top control panel.

NZXT Phantom 820 top removed

Building

I’ve said it before, and I mean it: building a PC into an NZXT case is a dream. It doesn’t really get much smoother or easier than putting a system into this case. There’s more room than you need, there are cutouts exactly where you want and need them to be, there are labels when you need them and clean surfaces with no markings when you don’t. Cable management is simple and there is a ton of room in the back of the motherboard tray for any possible cables you could ever try to cram back there. It’s entirely possible to make a completely clean, “wireless-looking” build with the Phantom 820.

System installed in Phantom 820

The only problem I encountered was with the hard drive trays; they were just slightly too thick to accommodate a normal hard drive mounting screw. As you can see in the picture below, the screw barely reaches all the way through the tray:

NZXT hard drive trays

A slight problem with length of hard drive screws

I had to really squeeze tightly to have enough screw come through to “grab” onto the SSD. I definitely made it work, but the effort involved was more substantial than every other part of building into this case, so it was notable. And yes, I tried every supplied screw. This was really a very minor problem, but when you have something that is so good and so easy to work with, the little tiny problems tend to stick out more.

The fan controller and HUE lighting system are already installed and working out of the box. All you need to do is plug the side fan into one of the controller leads and you’re set. NZXT (as always) gives you tons of extra length on case leads, so no matter what motherboard you have or where the headers are, you will not have any problems plugging things in.

The removable HD tray mechanisms are all extremely well-engineered and do not have any fit problems. They slide in and out very substantially and lock tightly in to place.

One of the standout features of the Phantom 820 is the giant space you have available for radiator installation on top. There is room for large radiators on top or on the bottom (for example, the NZXT Kraken X60 will fit on top or bottom), while still leaving plenty of room for tube management and aesthetic features. Here’s a press shot from NZXT showing some of the possibilities with multiple radiators and custom watercooling setups:

NZXT Phantom 820 watercooling radiator setup

Value

This is not a cheap case. It is $250, and at that price it is going to be one of the most expensive parts of your PC. However, it doesn’t really get more future-proof than this as far as enclosures go. You’ll be able to build your next several system cycles into this case, and with the high standard of build quality, it will last.

NZXT Phantom 820 rear

Aesthetics are a much more divisive element. Many people will not like the aesthetics of this case and will prefer the clean, flat surfaces of the Switch 810. The Phantom design is controversial; many users disagree with the choice of a side window, or with a non-flat top, or the angular front panel.

It’s also very heavy. At 32 pounds unloaded, you’re looking at a system that may weigh almost 50lbs with a bunch of stuff in there. This is not exactly portable, and makes travel for LAN parties a challenge. However, the reason it’s heavy is because it’s mostly steel and it’s built very well. You can’t have one without the other.

NZXT Phantom 820 hard drive trays

Conclusion

The NZXT Phantom 820 is a flagship in every sense of the word. It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s extraordinarily well built, and it’s bold. It screams “I’m a custom computer builder and I love my PC” when it’s all lit up and whirring away. Everybody that has seen it at IcronticHQ has commented on its size or sheer spectacle, though it maintains a classy look.

Icrontic Outstanding Product artworkFrom a features and performance perspective, this is easily the best full-tower case NZXT has ever released. Of course, case aesthetics are important and so some people will be turned off by the look, particularly older or married PC builders who have to deal with SAF (Spouse Acceptance Factor). At this size, it becomes almost a piece of furniture, and so fitting in with the rest of the room is something to consider.

Regardless of how you feel about the aesthetics, the features are spot-on, and the quality is tremendous. I am happy to award the NZXT Phantom 820 our silver Outstanding Product Award for exceptional attention to detail and for being the most feature-laden case I’ve ever reviewed.

The NZXT Phantom 820 is available in three colors: Black, White, and Gunmetal. It is available for $249.99 at Newegg.com and other retailers.

Comments

  1. fatcat
    fatcat For $159.99 you can get a Corsair 650D
    For $249.99 you can get a Corsair 800D
    For $229.99 you can get a Silverstone FT02

    UNLESS you REALLY love plastic, this case can't even compare to the Aluminum ones above
  2. Thrax
    Thrax Yeah, I cannot for the life of me justify the MSRP of this product in light of its competition. The interior is nice, but the materials are very baffling.
  3. primesuspect
    primesuspect The value prop is not in the materials; it's in the integrated light controller, integrated fan controller, and number of high-quality included fans.
  4. mertesn
    mertesn
    Yeah, I cannot for the life of me justify the MSRP of this product in light of its competition. The interior is nice, but the materials are very baffling.
    UNLESS you REALLY love plastic, this case can't even compare to the Aluminum ones above
    I have to agree. As much as I love NZXT's designs and their interior layout, the plastic really bothers me now. The top panel of the Switch 810 broke within a month, and I can't move the thing without the face panel coming off. The original Phantom's middle panel screw housing broke. Neither was being used in a rough manner.

    If they want to play in this space, NZXT is really going to have to step up their game. My next case will likely be the Corsair Obsidian 900D.
  5. fatcat
    fatcat
    The value prop is not in the materials; it's in the integrated light controller, integrated fan controller, and number of high-quality included fans.
    My Silverstone FT02 came with 4 high grade fans (3 of which are 180mm, and a 120mm) along with a fan controller and NO LIGHTS

    ;)
  6. mertesn
    mertesn
    The value prop is not in the materials; it's in the integrated light controller, integrated fan controller, and number of high-quality included fans.
    That's just it... if I want lights or extra fans I can add them easily. I cannot take a plastic case and make it less fragile.
  7. mertesn
    mertesn Of course, that being said, NZXT absolutely has case layout nailed. That's one of the things I've really loved about them. Cable routing is pretty easy in both the Phantom and the Switch.
  8. Thrax
    Thrax 650D also came with quality fans, an integrated fan controller, and MUCH higher-quality material. I understand a value prop, but these value props aren't sufficiently unique or well-executed to warrant the exorbitant price tag.
  9. _k_
    _k_ @mertesn I don't know what you did to your case but I took my 810 to QuakeCon,EXPO, and a local; also one domicile move.

    All of the cases fatcat listed are Steel/AL. The lightest being the 650D at 24 pounds and only taking ATX/mATX. The nearest to the 820 in spec is the 800D but it is smaller, older, and more expensive. The silverstone interestingly takes 12x11in boards and SSI-CEB sizes but is smaller, heavier by a pound, and still smaller since it is a mid-tower. The point of the 800 series is to be a Full tower for large boards and heavy system requirements. If you are looking at a MSRP of 200+ for your tower and worried about external besides IO I would recommend rethinking what kind of tower you actually need.
  10. mertesn
    mertesn
    @mertesn I don't know what you did to your case but I took my 810 to QuakeCon,EXPO, and a local; also one domicile move.
    The Switch 810's top panel broke while reattaching it. Apparently the clasp at the back side is a bit weak. It broke with very light pressure. It's entirely possible it came down to operator error, but I was told at one point (can't remember where) that mine wasn't an isolated case. I'm not terribly rough on hardware either. If anything it's the opposite. I also have a tendency to find the broken part. Put one defective unit in a stack of one million and I'll purchase it nine times out of ten.
  11. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx Value prop or not, they've built and delivered a brand. That works for a lot of people, materials and all.
  12. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster Man for $250 that case better be Joe Flacco elite.
  13. Soda
    Soda Yeah I have to agree, and particularly in the 650D's case, it is ALSO very aesthetically pleasing to those with minimalist/modern taste like me. Soon a 650D will be mine...I've been eyeing that case since it first released. So I take it you highly recommend it @Thrax?
  14. Thrax
    Thrax It is the first case I've ever owned that I am 100% happy with.
  15. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm I thought my RV-02 was pretty awesome until I worked with the 650D. It's fantastic, and my cable routing has never been more beautiful.
  16. Soda
    Soda I just got a shiver down my spine... I might be drooling.

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