NZXT Phantom Enthusiast Full Tower Case

Author
Logan King
Editor
Aron Schatz
Posted
September 13, 2010
Manufacturer
NZXT
Product Page
Phantom
Views
223520
NZXT Phantom Enthusiast Full Tower Case
The NZXT Phantom has great build quality, a long list of included features, and quite a few little things that show a strong attention to detail, all for a price towards to lower end of the full-tower market. It is also able to pack in a lot of expandability due to an innovative approach to its design. However, that innovation may not be for everyone.

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Page 1
Introduction

If there is space to be had for one, using a full tower case should be considered as an option for all performance PC builds. Even at the bottom end of the price range, full-tower cases tend to be packed with the same features only available in the most expensive of mid-tower cases (and then some). In addition, the amount of interior space offered by itself usually proves to be an asset. Most case manufacturers have full tower cases available, and NZXT is no exception. HardwareLogic has their more recent creation, the Phantom Enthusiast Full Tower Case, up for review today.

About NZXT

Quote

NZXT, a company built upon gamer's dreams, hopes to create products that put consumers first. With the objective of designing unique products catered for hardware enthusiasts and gamers, NZXT has grown into a globally renowned brand recognized for dedication towards creating the next great gaming product. NZXT has won numerous awards from media and publications from across the globe with a product line spanning from gaming chassis, power, and gaming input devices. As a corporation formed by gamers, NZXT continues to expand into new horizons and push the limits further with each product unveiling.

Our dedicated sales and customer service team will work diligently to earn your trust and loyalty. All our products are built with high quality material and engineered in the best conditions.

NZXT products are designed and engineered in the United States and manufactured overseas in China and Taiwan.

NZXT was established in 2004 in Los Angeles, California.

http://www.nzxt.com/new/aboutus.php


Packaging

The box for the Phantom is pretty straightforward with a similar layout to most PC cases. The front of the box has a 3/4ths view of the case, and it uses the same view presented as a CAD-style shape outline as the background.

Packaging Front


The rear of the box shows a picture of the case with the side panel removed and the various case features pointed out and explained. It also has a picture of the red and black versions of the case (out testing was performed with the black version).

Packaging Rear


The side of the box has a more detailed list of features to complement the ones on the back, and it also has a label for which color the case is painted.

Packaging Side


Opening the box up presents you with various NZXT-brand power adapters first and foremost.

Packaging Interior


Removing the case from the box reveals the typical foam cutout interior packaging all wrapped in a bag to prevent scratches. The foam used here is a bit different than normal (and likely more expensive to use) as it is softer and made from separate foam sheets rather than molded to fit.

Packaging


The case also has a pretty liberal amount of cling plastic around most of the corners, which is SOP for most cases.

NZXT Phantom Wrapped


All in all, the Phantom has pretty typical packaging, as far as cases are concerned, with a few nice touches here and there.
Page 2
Specifications

  • Model - Phantom Series
  • Case Type: Full Tower
  • Side Panel: Steel Mesh
  • Net Weight: 11 kg / 24.2 lb
  • Dimension (H*W*D): 540.0 x 222.0 x 623.0 mm (21.3 x 8.7 x 24.5 inch)
  • Cooling System
  • Front (intake): 140 x 140 x 25 mm (120 x 120 x 25 mm supported)
  • Rear (exhaust): 120 x 120 x 25 mm (included)
  • Top (exhaust): Dual 200 x 200 x 20 mm (1 included, internal radiator mounting brackets included)
  • Side (Intake): Dual 120 x 120 x 25 mm (included)
  • Fan Controller: 5 X 20 Watts
  • Water Cooling Ports: 4
  • Drive Bays
  • 5.25" Optical Bay - 5
  • 3.5"/2.5" internal Drive Bay - 7
  • Material - Steel with black finish
  • Front Bezel Material - Plastic/Steel
  • Color - Black, Red or White
  • Expansion Slots - 7
  • Motherboards Supported - E-ATX, ATX, MICRO-ATX, BABY AT
  • USB Connectors - 2
  • e-SATA Connectors - 1
  • Amazon Link, Newegg Link


While the case is fairly large (though how is a bit different from the norm), it does seem to make quite a good use of its available space. 5 optical bays should be well over what is needed by most people as should the 7 internal drive bays. The amount of included fans is fair, and the wattage supported for each fan by the built-in fan controller is quite impressive.

Marketing Summary

Quote

NZXT presents the cutting edge Phantom Full Tower Chassis. Designed with sleek, pristine contours, the Phantom radiates personality and quality. As with all NZXT products, we strive to set apart our customers from the rest with unique, original designs – we run the extra mile so you won’t have to settle with the typical rectangular box.

The Phantom delivers high performance cooling advantages with 7 fan cooling options, dual radiator support, quad watercooling cutouts, and five 20W per channel fan controls. An innovative 5.25” screwless system, vast space to encompass 7 hard drives, and five 5.25” bays enable smooth customization. Establish your power, your presence.

http://nzxt.com/new/products/crafted_series/phantom


Package Contents

As mentioned, NZXT included several adapters and cables in the box when you first open it up. Specifically, the wires included are a 6-Pin GPU extension cord, a Molex/Dual-SATA adapter, an 8-Pin Mobo extension cord and a 24-Pin Mobo extension cord. With the exception of the Molex-to-SATA adapter (which was 200mm long), all of the extension cords were 250mm long. To be frank, it is great to see that NZXT thought of the people buying this case who might run into cable woes due to the case size and sought to nullify any problems with bundled extension cords. It would have been nice to see a Molex extension cord of some kind, but those are so common that it is inconsequential.

Bundled Cords/Adapters


There were also a few more things of interest included. Opening the case up reveals the instruction/installation manual as well as a small white box nestled under the drive bays.

Manual and Box


Inside the box are the typical included items. Screws of various types (fan screws, hard drive screws, thumbscrews, etc.), a pair of brackets for mounting a radiator inside the case, and a fan wire cord for the front intake fan which is connected to the fan controller on the top of the case. There is also a bag of zip ties for wire management use. Of note is that, at least for the black version of the case we reviewed (it might not be the same for the red and white varieties of the case), all of the screws and the two brackets are all powder coated to match the interior of the case.

Box Contents
Page 3
Phantom Exterior

The Phantom has quite an imposing figure with large mesh screens and shrouds that protrude well beyond the frame of the case. The majority of the case exterior is also painted with an enamel similar to automobile paint. It certainly takes strides to not look like your typical PC case.

NZXT Phantom Front


The front of the case has a door on it which opens up to reveal the five optical drive bays. Like the »Thermaltake Armor A90 reviewed on HardwareLogic a few months ago, the NZXT Phantom has the rather confusing design decision of including ventilated optical drive plugs despite having a door that prevents any actual airflow. As another plus, removing the plugs from the front of the bay is also pretty foolproof. You simply slide the little piece of plastic on the right side of the plug to the left and pull the plug out. You don't need to remove the front shroud or the like to remove them.

NZXT Phantom Door Opened


The door on the the Phantom is actually rather impressive by itself. It closes to the case with two magnets, has a sturdy feel to it, and it opens to about 270 degrees or so. A particularly clever design decision is, because the hinge isn't on the absolute edge of the case, even if you have the right side of the case up against something (for example, a wall) the door can still open to around 90 degrees, easily enough to access the optical drive bays.

In regards to size, the Phantom is definitely a full tower case, though, not necessarily in the way most people expect when they hear the term. Usually people associate full-tower cases with height and width increases, but in those particular measurements, the Phantom isn't really any bigger than the mid-tower Armor A90.

Size Comparison Front


In fact, comparing the size of the actual enclosure without taking the shroud into account, the difference between the two is practically nonexistent.

Size Comparison Rear


So what makes this a full-tower case, exactly? Well, the answer is actually an interesting deviation from the typical full-tower design philosophy: The Phantom is long. Really long. The Phantom's enclosure without the front is about an inch longer than the Armor A90 is with the front shroud.

Size Comparison Side


Building the case out instead of up is a pretty nifty idea that will certainly turn some people away from it. We at HardwareLogic applaud NZXT for trying something new in the market.
Page 4
Phantom Exterior Continued

Moving towards the top of the case, the first thing to see is the fan controller panel. Each slider corresponds to a certain fan (which have similar labels on the wires as well as the manual), and it controls how much voltage goes to each fan. The two top exhausts (if you install a second top exhaust) and the two side intakes are both wired together out of the box, so the slider for the top fans controls both of them and the slider for the side fans controls both of them.

Fan Controller


Moving to the left side you see the front panel controls and audio jacks. There is also a pair of USB ports and an eSATA jack. One rather unfortunate thing for a case of this caliber is that these are the only two USB jacks on the case proper.

Front Panel Controls


Moving back, you can see the monster mesh screen hiding away the 200mm fan underneath. The pattern inlaid into the mesh is pretty cool looking and a similar one is found on the 200mm fan mount on the left side of the case.

Top Exhaust Shroud


Moving down the left side of the case, you can see the rather large mesh screen roughly positioned where the hard drive bays area as well as a much larger one near the CPU which has mounts for a 200mm fan. Out of the box, the smaller mesh has a pair of 120mm drives mounted which are already wired to be controlled by the fan controller. This is a pretty good idea if you have the type of drives that run really hot (things like VelociRaptors, as an example).

NZXT Phantom Left Side


The right side of the case is blank with the exception of a mirrored version of the hard drive vent placed in the same location.

NZXT Phantom Right Side
Page 5
Phantom Exterior Continued

Compared to the rest of the case, the rear of the Phantom is pretty straightforward. From the rear you can see the bottom-mounted power supply, the steel mesh expansion slots, the four liquid cooling holes and rear exhaust fan. There isn't a security lock, but there are also no annoying I/O shields to punch out.

NZXT Phantom Rear


Taking a closer look at the liquid cooling ports, we can see that they are already punched out and are instead covered by rubber caps, which keep dust out and also would help protect the liquid cooling tubes from the metal surrounds.

Liquid Cooling Ports


Looking to the top left of the case, we can see a small button. What this button does is control the LEDs for the top exhaust fan (and any compatible LED fan) completely separate from the fan controller. It is purely a fluff feature that most people will never bother with, but it is a neat idea nonetheless.

Fan LED Button
Page 6
Phantom Interior

The obvious reason that one would spend the extra money for a full-tower case is obviously the space offered inside and the Phantom's rather unorthodox dimensions don't really limit it in that regard because of a couple of nifty design ideas. The inside of the case is painted matte black to match the outside coloring and, like most gaming cases, the power supply is bottom mounted.

Phantom Interior


The first thing to note is the two tiered 3.5" bay area. This is basically the entire reason that the Phantom is able to support 5 optical drives as well as 7 drive bays all while being relatively close in size to a mid-tower chassis. This is likely only possible due to the Phantom's immense length. There even appears to be enough space in the front bay section for another drive, but 7 "hidden" drives is still pretty good for a full-tower case, let alone an entry level one. Several full-tower cases only have 6, and several more only have 7 if you convert one of the optical bays to a 3.5" bay.

Phantom Interior Drive Bays


A closer look at the drive bay area also reveals a vent in the floor directly underneath both tiers. All of the individual bays support either 3.5" or 2.5" drives rather than the more typical single 2.5" on the bottom of the case seen in most cases with 2.5" support. All of the bays are mounted so the wires exit out of the side to better facilitate wire management.

Phantom Interior Drive Vents


Speaking of wire management, the Phantom is well equipped for the task. There are 4 rubber lined cutouts smartly placed in relation to the motherboard that are large enough to even accept IDE cables. There is also a hole cut out for a CPU cooler, and separate holes cutout for the PSU and the drive bay wires. There is also a small slit at the top corner of the motherboard tray where the fan controller cables run through that is just wide enough to accept SATA and fan cables. Finally, there are several raised portions of metal on the backside of the motherboard tray that are meant to be used for tying down your wires with the included zip ties.

Phantom Interior Wire Management Side
Page 7
Phantom Interior Continued

Moving back to the interior proper, another notable feature are the expansion slots. Not only are they powder coated hard steel mesh designs intended to maximize cooling through unused expansion ports, but they are all also held in with thumbscrews out of the box. Furthermore, if you do want to screw them in, there are corresponding holes drilled into the case to allow any long screwdriver to be used from straight on.

Phantom Interior Expansion Slots


Above the expansion slots are the rear and top exhaust fan. The rear fan is a 120mm fan, but it is a 9-blade fan rather than the usual 7-blade variety, so it will move air more efficiently. This is the same fan as the two mounted to the door of the case. The top fan is a 200mm unit with Blue LEDs which the button on the back of the case can turn off at any time. On our black test model, the white/black contrast gave off an impressive look, particularly from the outside of the case.

Phantom Interior Fans


From the other side, with the top shroud removed, you can see the included 200mm fan, the space for a user-installed second one as well as the large fan screen over the second fan mount.

Phantom Interior Top Fan


Moving back down to the bottom of the case, uoi see the PSU area. It is moved a bit away from the motherboard tray by some raised metal portions, probably just to have it in the middle of the case rather than off to the side. One thing to note is that the PSU in the Phantom doesn't rest directly on the bottom of the case. It is held up by the four rubber cones, presumably done in order to minimize vibration between the PSU and the case and to provide cooling benefits as well. The PSU area has a large vent underneath it with a removable mesh screen mounted to the exterior of the case.

Phantom Interior PSU Area


Back in the front of the case are the optical bays. They are all tool-less in installation and the locking mechanisms themselves have a very nice "feel" to them.

Phantom Interior Optical Bays
Page 8
Component Installation

With the typical obvious exceptions (the motherboard and any 2.5" drives you choose to install), component installation in the NZXT Phantom is completely tool-less. That being said, it does do things a bit differently than most cases in some specific aspects.

The optical drive bays, for example, don't have the same kind of slide lock usually seen. What it actually has is a more complex, but more durable-feeling, locking system. There is a small slider built into the frame of the drive lock that holds the lock against the drive and when you slide it to the right, you simply push on the middle of the lock and it releases from the drive.

Phantom Interior Optical Installation


The individual bays for the hard drives also work a bit differently than the norm. Rather than slide locks on the bays, each bay is removable from the case and uses small removable pins to attach to the hard drive. To remove the bay, you squeeze together the small tabs on the end of the bays

Phantom Drive Bay


There are a couple of different ways to install 3.5" drives in the bays. The way suggested in the manual is to pull the tabs on the bays apart and drop the drive into the pins. However, in our testing it was easier to slide out the pins, line them up with the drive holes and then slide them back in. The pins are made of metal encased in rubber and they slide into place with little effort.

Phantom Drive Bay 3.5" Installed


That isn't to say that the drive bay system in the Phantom is perfect. The most "major" of the problems that we encountered with the case as a whole (and, in all honestly, the only real problems in regards to installation) had to do with the bays. The first problem had to do with installation of 2.5" drives. 2.5" drives are installed into the bays by screwing them in through the bottom. While the lack of tool-less installation on the 2.5" bays wasn't a problem (that is something that should be expected for bays designed for 3.5" hard drives), their location in the bays was. For some reason, NZXT designed the bays so 2.5" drives would be right up alongside the edge of the bays rather than in the center. This required the removal of the hard drive pins which wouldn't be a problem if the drives could be mounted in the center of the bay.

Phantom Drive Bay 2.5" Installed


The other problem was in regards to clearance for 3.5" drives. On the forward drive area, there is a strip of metal running perpendicular to the sides of the drive area for extra support of the drive area. This is located in exactly the right location to prevent the use of Molex-powered 3.5" drives. NZXT seemingly noticed this since all of the drive bays can also be mounted upside-down to prevent the metal strip from getting in the way. For that reason, even calling this a problem can be argued, but it is still something to note.

Drive Clearance Issues


As these problems are minor to the extent of arguably being nonexistent, it should speak volumes for how easy component installation is inside the Phantom.
Page 9
Fan Installation

While component installation is pretty straightforward, installing a front intake fan and running it into the fan controller is a bit more involved of a process (though still tool-less, except for actually putting the fan on). The first step to be done is to remove the front shroud off of the case. This simply requires a bit of pulling force on the bottom of the case, and it pops right off.

Phantom Interior Front Shroud Removed


The next step is to remove the top shroud by lifting it up from the front of the case and it pops right off as well.

Phantom Interior Top Shroud Removed


You then run the fan extension cord included in the white parts box from the appropriate fan plug (for the front fan, it is labeled with a number 1) and snake the cord down with the other ones to outside the motherboard tray. After that, you just need to mount the fan and connect the wire. One thing to keep in mind is that, while you can mount any 120mm or 140mm fan that you like, the fan controller cord is explicitly of the 3-plug design, as the male end of the plug is designed with a housing that precludes hooking it up to any fan that has a 4-pin fan cord. When the fan is connected and the power is on, the light next to the speed slider lights up.

Wire Management

The Phantom has plenty of holes to tuck wires away to keep them from disrupting case airflow. It also has a sizable amount of space behind the motherboard tray for putting wires. Wire management seems to be another area where the Phantom's long length shines, because you can run wires behind the motherboard tray immediately to the right of the motherboard rather than running them down to the bottom of the case or up to the top of it.

One problem with the space behind the wire tray was that there is no gap between the vertical struts for the hard drive bays and the edge of the case. This means that you can't, for example, simply run your SATA and Molex connectors vertically and then horizontally so that they are completely tucked out of the way. Still, we were able to make what would be a pretty substantial amount of clutter into only a couple of individual wires, so the wire management worked pretty well regardless.

Phantom Interior Compontents Mounted


The back was a bit more hectic, but still pretty manageable.

Phantom Interior Component Wire Management


There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though. Things like more drives would lead to more wires, but this particular build was done to showcase how accommodating the Phantom is to typically inflexible wiring harnesses (in essence, anything that uses IDE cables). Secondly, more thorough planning and actual fastening of the wires to the motherboard tray would also ease up on the clutter, but generally doing so isn't worth the hassle if you switch out components frequently, because the benefits are more subjective than anything else.
Page 10
Use

The test system in question used various parts of various vintages to get a good assessment of how flexible the Phantom really was as a full-tower case. For example, the CPU and GPU were a Pentium 4 HT 3.2 and a GeForce 7900GS, respectively; and two of the hard drives were IDE drives (one of which being a 7200 RPM drive) to see how usable the wire management system was with wires as cumbersome to use as IDE cables are. Not particularly powerful components in this day and age to be sure, but still power hungry ones that will easily run hot if not properly ventilated.

Over the course of our testing, we only really noticed a few things, the first of which being the USB port deficiency. While the Phantom is on the lower end of the full-tower segment, it still seems a bit odd to be paying so much for a case that only has 2 USB ports built into it. And because of the way the top of the case is designed, you can't really hook up things like external hard drives without worrying about them falling off. This problem is somewhat compounded because the eSATA port is also located on the top of the case and the same basic problem applies to the front panel audio ports as well.

Another problem we noticed had to do with the fan controller. One of the speed sliders (specifically, the one that controls the top fans) would occasionally shut off the LED if the slider was put all the way to its lowest setting, only for it to slowly come back on after a few seconds. We tried reseating all of the wires between the fan and the fan controller with no improvement, so it seems to be a problem with the slider itself (possibly an internal short).

Finally, while our testing didn't present any specific problems, mounting a second fan to the top of the case may present clearance issues if you also use the top optical drive bay. The fan actually sat high enough that it sat above and behind the drive tested, but there wasn't that much clearance, so some drives may not fit.

Conclusion

The NZXT Phantom is, in one word, fantastic. It takes a refreshing new approach to case design for full-tower cases that offers many advantages over the typical way of doing things. The build quality seems outstanding across the board, the integrated fan controller is smoothly integrated into the design and more powerful than most, the removable drive bays are innovative and flexible, and the cases design lends itself quite well to wire management.

While there is room for improvement (particularly regarding the amount of USB 2.0 ports and their placement), overall the case more than overcomes these deficits with its user friendliness and clever design touches. And with a street price of around $140 (Amazon Link, Newegg Link), it represents a pretty good value as far as the full-tower PC case market is concerned. HardwareLogic can give our full recommendation to the NZXT Phantom Enthusiast Full Tower Case. Just make sure you have the space for the abnormally long length.

HardwareLogic would like to thank NZXT for making this review possible.

Comments

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