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NZXT Phantom case review

NZXT Phantom case review

Computer cases are strange animals. While they’re extremely important in many ways, many builders (especially first-timers) don’t put enough thought into the purchase of their enclosure. Sometimes the case is seen as an afterthought, as in, “I’m only going to be interacting with it while I build the PC and then it will just sit there and hold my stuff.” While that’s partially true, a case is also an important part of accomplishing your end-use goals. Sure, if all you want is a place to throw your stuff in and stick it behind your desk, then it’s probably not super important. Of course, that’s not why you’re here.

There are companies that build cases specifically for enthusiasts, and NZXT is one of them. For years they’ve been building cases, accessories, and power supplies specifically for those who do care about the finer details of what makes an enclosure good. Of course, they’re not the only company doing this, but over the course of our relationship with them, they have mostly proven to be reliable providers of fine gear.

One of their newest entries to the case market is the Phantom, which is what we’ll be looking at today. The Phantom is essentially their new flagship; it’s big, it’s bold, and it’s aimed at the discerning PC builder.

Specs

  • Form factor: Full tower
  • Material: Plastic/steel
  • Dimensions (w x h x d): 8.75 x 21.25 x 24.5″ (222 x 540 x 623 mm)
  • VGA clearance: 13.75″ (350mm)
  • Included cooling: 1x120mm rear,  2x120mm side, 1x200mm top
  • Optional cooling: 1x140mm front, 1×200/230mm side, 1x200mm top
  • Drive bays: 5 external 5.25″, 7 internal 3.5″
  • Screwless rail design
  • Weight: 24.2 lbs (11kg)
  • Motherboard support: E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, Baby AT
  • Top ports: 2xUSB 2.0, 1xeSATA, 2xaudio
  • Colors: Black, white, red, black/green, white/red

This case is extremely sturdy thanks to its steel frame.  Of course, this also means it’s quite heavy, even empty.

All of the included fans are powered by a single molex connector that leads to a panel on top of the case.  That panel contains a set of sliders allowing control of fan speeds from a very convenient location. The panel is labelled clearly enough to figure out which control goes to which set of fans, but in case the hieroglyphics don’t make sense, a matching set is attached to the fan cables to make things a little easier.  LEDs on the control panel indicate the sliders that have fans connected.  At low speeds the fans are almost silent.  On highest settings, the sound is more noticeable, but still at a level I’d consider very quiet.

Ventillation in the left side panel is filtered nicely.  The system has been installed and left alone for over a month, and there isn’t a bit of dust in the case.  There’s a bit of collection outside the case, but that is to be expected (and easily cleaned off).  There are three additional mounts for fans—a 200mm top fan (doubling the top exhaust), a 140mm front fan (intake across the 3.5″ bays), and a 200/230mm side fan (intake over the CPU and GPUs).  Users with a large heatsink such as the Noctua NH-D14 will want to pass on the side fan, but the other fan mounts have no clearance issues at all.

Removing the covers for the 5.25″ bays involves a spring-loaded latch on the cover’s right side.  Just a little pull and it’s removed.  It’s the most hassle-free design I’ve seen.

3.5″ hard drives are held in place by a “wrap-under” harness that locks in place in the bays.  While it’s very effective at holding drives securely, I don’t care for it as much as the rail system used in the Beta series.  The harness can be difficult to install and remove, but it works well.

The 5.25″ bays use a slightly different locking system.  One side uses a lock with a sliding latch to hold drives in place.  The other side relies on screws.  It’s not the most convenient thing in the world, but it works. I’d like to see thumb screws included to hold the other side in place.  Using screws on the back side is optional, but you may experience vibrations coming from any unsecured devices.

Installation

It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with a full tower case.  Consequently I had forgotten about one of the form factor’s biggest benefits: working room. There’s plenty of space in the NZXT Phantom for even the largest of parts—the 12″ long Radeon HD 6990 has about 1.75″ of extra space behind it.

The amount of room to route and hide cables in the Phantom is amazing.  There are four large oval holes for routing power, data, and case cables.  A large square cutout behind the power supply mount allows for easy routing of power cables.  Below the 3.5″ drive cages is enough space to hold unused SATA/Molex power cables as well.  There is enough space behind the motherboard tray for even the thickest of 24-pin ATX power cables (if your cable is not long enough to reach, NZXT offers an extension cable to assist), and there’s plenty of space to tuck any other cables away for a nice, clean interior.

Loading a case to the max often becomes an exercise in frustration—mainly because the sheer number of cables creates a problem with airflow or just gets in the way of other hardware.  Not so with the Phantom.  To really see how well the Phantom is designed internally, my home storage server was installed.  The hardware is a slightly upgraded and expanded version of what went into the NZXT Beta Evo (that system actually outgrew the case, requiring a second Beta to sit beside the Evo to hold additional hard drives):

  • ECS P55H-AK
  • Core i7 870
  • Noctua NH-U12
  • 8GB Mushkin DDR3-1600
  • 2xGeForce 8800TG 512MB
  • Areca ARC-1230 RAID controller
  • 5x2TB hard drives
  • 6x1TB hard drives
  • 1x320GB hard drive
  • Antec TruePower Quattro 850W PSU

As you can see, not only is there plenty of room for the hardware but the cables are all routed behind the motherboard tray, allowing for good airflow.  This was my first attempt at routing the cables in the Phantom.  With a little extra time I’m sure it could be much cleaner, but this should give you a pretty good idea of just how much space is available.

The Icrontic Golden FedoraConclusion

The NZXT Phantom sells for $139.99, but can often be found on sale for much less. (Editor note: There’s a promo code on Newegg right now for $20 off: NZXTAP20)  The price is average among full tower cases, but given the build quality and thought given to keeping cables out of the way, the price of admission is well worth it.  It’s a great looking case to boot.  Is there anything bad about this case? Nothing major.  The 5.25″ bay retention could be better, but it does the job.  That’s really the worst I can say about it.  Everything else is great.

The Phantom is truly a case that has it all.  We’re proud to award it our highest honor: the Icrontic Golden Fedora. This is an award we rarely ever give out, and this is the first time we’ve ever awarded it for a computer case. Congratulations, NZXT.

Comments

  1. Thrax
    Thrax Choked front intake, plastic to hell and back, cheaped out on a second top fan, no fan RPM control. Hardly worth a gold.
  2. mertesn
    mertesn There's plastic on the front and top. That's hardly to hell and back. It's pretty sturdy stuff too. The RPM control is most certainly there. The sliders on the top panel control the RPMs.
  3. Bandrik
    Bandrik Sup Nick. Thanks for writing this review (way back in May). I was always considering picking up a Phantom, and it looks like now is that time. I read over this review to refresh my memory on the case. Looks like a winner.

    In particular, I'm looking at the black one with orange trim on Newegg.

    image
  4. mertesn
    mertesn Amanda keeps threatening to steal mine...I may just have to get her one of the new Phantom 410 models.
  5. Bandrik
    Bandrik Those 410's looked pretty tight. If I were in the market for a mid-tower and not a behemoth, I'd consider one, too.

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