NZXT Phantom Review

airman - 2010-07-22 05:17:07 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: July 27, 2010
Price: $TBA

Introduction:

Established in 2004, NZXT is a manufacturer that many computer enthusiasts have become fans of. Having manufactured some very popular computer products in the case and cooling category, NZXT is even beginning to dive into high end power supply units. NZXT offers many sleek cases that cater to all enthusiasts in their market as their product line continues to grow every year. I had the pleasure of publishing a review on the NZXT Lexa S that outperformed most of the other cases it was compared against.

Unveiled at Computex 2010 earlier this month,the NZXT Phantom is a full tower case with plenty of room for just about anything that consumers would want to have in their cases. The NZXT Phantom offers many integrated solutions and accommodations that provide extra convenience and ease of use that many cases on the market today do not. I remember seeing this case in the Computex article (linked above) and felt a lot of excitement to finally see the Phantom in person. The Phantom is available in Black, White, and Red. I look forward to getting everything put together in the Phantom and seeing what it is capable of! This article contains a complete review from the Phantom's unboxing, to a thorough testing of its functionality and cooling capabilities.

Closer Look:

The NZXT Phantom is packaged in a black box with a lot of content printed on to it. The Phantom that is pictured on the box is the white version, though it does have two small pictures on the back that show the other two colors that are available. The front of the box pictures a top-down angle of the Phantom with a wireframe watermark behind it. Beneath this is the word "Phantom" and "NZXT". Both the left and right sides contain a complete list of the Phantom's specifications as well as the color in which it is packaged. The rear of the case has an extensive list of features that the case offers and is printed in several different languages. My favorite part that appears on this list is the integrated 5-channel fan controller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NZXT Phantom is protected by a plastic bag and secured between two styrofoam blocks. The box was delivered without any external damage, and as so, the case is completely unharmed. Inside of the case is a white box that contains a total of nine individual bags of screws and a bag of wire ties and a small speaker. The screws included are: standard 6-32 2x hex, flat, and 2x round screws (motherboard, power supply, etc), M3 for securing 5.25" devices (optional), screws for an extra front and top fan, and ten thumbscrews. Also included are two brackets for mounting an internal dual radiator.  Underneath this box is the user's manual, which contains information about assembly and features.

 

 

With the case out of the box, it is now time for this review to move onto the next stage, which will cover the outside of the case and its features.

Closer Look:

The NZXT is covered from head to toe with high-gloss plastic and a high-quality paint job. The mesh vents that are placed on the Phantom add a very contemporary and aggressive look while integrating a sophisticated cooling solution. Beneath this vent is a spot for a 120mm or 140mm fan, which is not included from the factory. The front of the NZXT Phantom is tapered to a point in the middle, with the bottom side angled out towards the bottom left edge. The door opens from left to right, where an NZXT logo appears right under the latch. Taking a look at the left side of the case will give an idea of the cooling capabilities of the Phantom. Two 120mm fans are included on this side panel, configured as intakes from the factory, with room for one more 200mm or 230mm fan which would be positioned just above the motherboard. Turning to the rear of the case gives the user a look at how the case is laid out internally. The Phantom mounts the power supply in the bottom of the case, as many do, but gives the user a choice to flip the power supply facing either up or down. I like this feature, as it is simple but adds a new level of user friendliness and wire management options. A 120mm exhaust fan, positioned at the top, is included here. The Phantom also offers four grommets for 1/2" ID water cooling lines, which allow a user to run an external loop if preferred. There are seven expansion slots and the PCI bracket covers have a mesh pattern cut into them. A last look of the right side shows that even the side panel here has a mesh vent, identical to the one on the left side panel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel that the top of the case is the most involved. The front side contains the standard I/O ports, which are two USB ports, an eSATA port, audio, power and reset buttons, and the 5 channel fan controller. The fan controller channels are controlled by moving the sliders left and right, where all the way to the left is full speed. The back side of the top has a large mesh vent where a massive 200mm fan appears beneath it, as well as room for one more 200mm fan. The included 200mm fan is configured as an exhaust from the factory. Even the bottom of the case is painted with the same high-gloss black, contains two sets of vents underneath the hard drive cages, and a dust filter beneath where the power supply will be attached. This shows NZXT is conscious of the orientation chosen by the user of the power supply, in case the user opts to run their power supply of choice with the intake fan facing downwards. Though some full tower cases have feet that can be flipped out for extra stability, I feel that the Phantom is wide enough and would require a large amount of force to cause it to fall on its side.

 

 

Opening the front door will reveal the five 5.25" bays which are closed by covers that use a plastic frame, wrapped in steel mesh. These 5.25" bay covers actually have a release latch on them, making it very easy and convenient to remove them without having to disassemble the case at all. Though only necessary to install a fan, the front bezel of the Phantom is removed by simply pulling it off gently, requiring no tools or a cramping entry to squeeze the interior tabs to release it. NZXT did not cut any corners on the paint that they used in this case, as there is no bare metal to be found. This is definitely an attractive feature and shows that NZXT certainly wanted to make this case truly shine.

 

 

With the front bezel removed, the top of the case pops off in the same manner, with no tools. Any component that is located on the top that is internally wired does not come off along with the top, which protects these components from being damaged by removing the top, simplifying the removal further. With the top removed, a clear look of the fan layout can be seen. The empty spot for an additional 200mm fan is covered by a dust filter. The fan controller wiring can also be seen. As stated, the controller has five channels, with four plugs already wired up. I did find that the two side intake fans are wired into one channel. If one wishes to add a fan to the fifth channel, the fan must have a 3-pin connector, or at least use an adapter.

 

One thing that I wanted to share about on the exterior of the case are the thumb screws in the rear. Before I discovered this function, I took the thumbscrew on the left panel completely off before I took off the panel, but once inside I noticed a spring-loaded mechanism which allows the screw to only loosened, and then pressed downwards, releasing the panel. I have not seen this before, though the closest mechanism to this that I have used are handles on the side panels. I like this better, as there are not any handles impeding the look of the case, and still remains very quick to remove. This mechanism is on both the left and right side panel.

 

 

As far as the exterior goes, this is about it. I will discuss the interior of the case and its functionality on the next page.

Closer Look:

Popping off the left side panel exposes the fully painted, massive interior of the NZXT Phantom. The case has room for seven hard drives, five 5.25" devices, seven expansion slots, a CPU socket cutout, and loads of accommodations for wire management. The mechanisms for the toolless 5.25" device bays are quite unique and I will be explaining them further a little bit later on this page. Looking at the right side of the case with the side panel off and the components installed, a visual of the amount of wires that can be routed behind the motherboard tray can be seen. I have had many cases that though they have cutouts to run wires behind the tray, there isn't very much room and can cause clearance issues making it difficult to get the side panel back on. I am happy to report that this is not the case with the NZXT Phantom, and I had no problems reattaching the side panel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a closer look at the inside of the case gives another angle of the power supply bracket and the expansion slots. The expansion slot covers are held on using thumbscrews, though I had to use a screwdriver to release them initially due to their tightness. Though this may not have been the situation at the factory, since the case had surely been sitting inside of a hot delivery truck for hours before it got to my door and probably caused the screws to expand slightly and tighten up. The top left of the inside gives a closer look of the fans that are included. They are housed in black plastic and have white blades.

On the right side, the seven hard drive bays can be seen. They are arranged side to side, rather than front to back, which allows the wires to be run from the hard drives to the rear of the case behind the motherboard tray, also helping out wire management. On the secondary hard drive cage, there are four screws that can be removed from the rear that will allow it to be taken out of the case if the user wishes. The main cage of five is riveted into place, though there wouldn't be much of a reason to remove it. The top right of the inside contains five 5.25" device bays, and locking, toolless fastening mechanisms. I will explain the toolless mechanisms for the hard drives and 5.25" devices next.

 

 

 

For the 5.25" devices, the toolless mechanisms are locked and unlocked my moving the small tab with "NZXT" printed on it. To the left is in its locked position, and to the right is unlocked. Once the tool less clamp is unlocked, it is released by simply pulling outwards on the left side. This will pull the barbs out from the inside and allow for the device to be installed, and then secured back into place my returning the clamp to its original position. It is not necessary to lock the clamp down as it stays in place, but it offers extra security during travel if the user chooses. The hard drive trays work similarly to most other toolless hard drive bays, where the two sides of the tray are pinched inwards and slid out. The hard drive trays have rubber dampers on the fastening barbs which isolate noise and vibration from the hard drives and prevent it from resonating into the body of the case. Yet another simple, yet extremely convenient addition to the Phantom by NZXT. The hard drive trays can be easily stretched over the hard drives themselves and do not require a lot of effort to get the drives to fit in. The way that the barbs are positioned in the trays will install the hard drives with the plugs in the rear, allowing the user to completely hide the wires and route them discretely behind the tray to the motherboard.

 

 

Below is a closer look at the hard drive trays. They are simple, yet rigid and I definitely appreciate their design, not requiring any tools or finger-wearing work getting them installed.

 

As I spoke of earlier, the 5.25" bay covers have a locking mechanism that allow them to be removed easily without any effort. There is a latch on the right hand side which can be slid inwards, releasing the bay cover. I have not seen anything like this in other cases, so this is a first for me and I can definitely appreciate it, as will any other future user of the NZXT Phantom. As I also said earlier, the bay covers are framed with black plastic and are wrapped in a black steel mesh. The mesh elements add a certain amount of dust filtration while not impeding airflow.

 

 

 

There are a total of four included fans with the NZXT Phantom. There are three 120mm fans, rated at 12V and 0.16A, and one 200mm fan rated at 12V and 0.42A. Each remain almost completely silent while running at full speed. Each of the fans use a 3 pin connector. The top and rear fans are already hooked into the fan controller with the wires run behind the motherboard tray, though the side intake fans need to be plugged into the designated headers that are pulled through the bottom of the motherboard tray. Each of the side 120mm intake fans come with a removable dust filter.

 

 

 

Installing all of the components and managing all of the wires was a breeze in the NZXT because of the huge amount of space, the accommodations for wire management, the ability to flip the power supply, and the orientation of the hard drive cages. Even with a 10.5" video card installed, there is still heaps of space between its end and the hard drive cages, giving the Phantom a future-proofed nature in the ever-expanding video card market, pun intended. NZXT definitely had internal volume in mind with the Phantom. This case certainly has the some of the most room on the interior and maintains the ability to house many components compared to many other cases.

 

 

With the case turned on, the fan controller instantly caught my eye. Only three of the channels were lit up, which simply shows that only the channels that are being used will illuminate. I also discovered that at the top left hand corner of the rear, there is a button that controls the blue LEDs in the top exhaust fan, giving the user the option to turn it off if they prefer. I did not find the LEDs to be very intrusive as far as brightness goes, but NZXT still thought about putting it in there for the few who did feel they do happen to be too bright. I will not hesitate to say that I really like this case so far, and how it works. I will go over the manufacturer specifications and features on the next page, followed by the true testing of the NZXT Phantom where I will measure temperatures of each component under idle and load simulations.

Specifications:

Motherboard Support
E-ATX, ATX, Micro ATX, ITX
Dimensions
222mm (W) x 541.34mm (H) x 623.81mm (D)
Material(s)
Black painted steel
Front Panel Material(s)
Plastic / Steel Mesh
Total Weight
11kg (w/o power supply)
I/O Ports
1x HD Audio/Mic, 2x USB 2.0, 1x eSATA
External 5.25”
5
Internal 3.5”
7
Expansion Slots
7
Front Fan
1 x 140mm
Top
2 x 200mm (1 x Blue LED 200mm included)
Rear
1 x 120mm (included)
Side
1 x 200/230mm, 2 x 120mm (included)
VGA Support
> 350mm
CPU Heatsink Support
180mm (w/o side 200/230mm fan)

 

Features:

 

 

All information provided by NZXT @ http://www.nzxt.com">http://www.nzxt.com

Testing:

To test the NZXT Phantom, temperatures will be recorded for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and the overall system temperature during load and idle phases. Load will be simulated by Prime95 small FFTs and HD tune for one hour with maximum temperatures recorded by RealTemp. The GPU load will be the maximum value recorded by Rivatuner after five loops of 3DMark06’s Canyon Flight test. Each case is tested as is from the factory, including the fan configuration. As stated earlier, the fan configuration for the Phantom is 2x120mm side intake, 1x120mm rear exhaust, and 1x200mm top exhaust.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, the temperatures exhibited by the NZXT Phantom are a little bit on the high side for the chipset and GPU temperatures, but in the middle, for the most part, in the other categories. The higher chipset and GPU temperatures are surely due to the lack of a fan blowing inwards from the side panel over the motherboard components. Adding a 200mm or 230mm fan on the sidepanel would be a very powerful addition to the Phantom. The hard drive temperature was a littler higher than the average of the other cases, but that may be due to the fact that the hard drive was installed on the top bay where there would be less airflow over the top of the hard drive. On the next page, I will wrap up my thoughts and this review in my conclusion.

Conclusion:

I must say that the NZXT Phantom is superior in quality and offers many great features. The amount of space on the interior is astronomical and will surely be a great choice for many computer users today, as well as for long periods of time in the future. NZXT has brought a lot of features to the table with the Phantom that are new to me and surely new to many others. The integrated fan controller is probably my favorite, though not completely necessary for the fans packaged with the Phantom as they already are silent at full speed. However 20W per channel can supply enough power to any high speed fan on the market. The case is almost 100% toolless (aside from installing the motherboard itself) and can speed up installations greatly. The mesh panels are also a great addition as they look great while acting as a subtle way to improve airflow throughout the entire case. Even a dual radiator can be installed next to the motherboard on the inside of the case on top of where the wire management slots are located.

However, there are several things that I wish were a little bit different on the Phantom. Though preferred by some, the high gloss finish acquires fingerprints very easily and can require a frequent wiping if the case is handled regularly. Also, it must be the motherboard that I'm using, because I have yet to discover a case with a heatsink mounting access hole that is positioned the right way to work with it. With the MSI X58 Platinum SLI, two of the holes there are inaccessible. Making the cutout slightly taller would fix it, but it always seems that this is the case. This means that any user whose mounting holes are too high or too low will be required to remove the motherboard completely to install or change a heatsink that bolts directly to the motherboard.

Aside from those two complaints, I can definitely make the statement that the NZXT is a great computer case and I doubt I'll be letting it go for a while. The wire management is great, there is loads of space inside the case, it can house a massive amount of fans, large ones at that, and looks great. For a computer enthusiast in the market for an upper end, full tower, great looking case, the NZXT is far from being shy of a poor choice.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: