Phanteks Enthoo Primo Reviewred454 - January 13, 2014
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Phanteks Enthoo Primo Closer Look: Working Components
I'll just start off with saying that this case is big. Huge. I need my GPS and possibly a Sherpa to find my way around. With the side open, you even hear a faint echo. OK, I exaggerate, but really this is a large case. The first thing I notice in the open case is the hidden HDD stacks. They are below the ODD bays, covered by a solid panel that is not movable. And there are two places to mount your power supply. One is in front, below the motherboard, and the other is behind the motherboard in its own thermally isolated zone.
In the center of the case, there is a vertical reservoir bracket that can be removed, and you will want to remove it (temporarily) for an easier motherboard install. Access to your SATA cables will be much easier with the reservior bracket out of the way. This reservoir bracket also doubles as a cable cover and does a great job of concealing the connections and cables on the right side of the motherboard. Looking at the top of the case with the vent panel removed, you can see the mounting options for fans and radiators. And with the top vent panel out, you can easily access your components from the top. Phanteks starts you off with one 140mm fan mounted toward the rear and there is room for two more 140mm fans, or you can switch to 120mm fans and there is room for four of them. As far as radiators go, you can mount one up to 480mm (70mm maximum thickness). Looking down at the center of the case you can see another included fan mounted. It looks smaller because it is mounted in the bottom of the case, but it is also a 140mm fan.
Looking at the upper left section of the case, there is a generous cut out in the motherboard tray for access to the rear of the motherboard and there are two 140mm fans - one at the rear and one at the top. The fans used for this case are the PH-F140SP 140mm PWM models rated at 82.1 CFM, so they are quite capable of generating air flow when necessary. There is a lot of space above the motherboard for fan and radiator clearance, so routing the power cables for the CPU will not be a problem and the two grommets allow for clean cable routing. Toward the bottom there are more grommets to keep all the cables out of view. Also on the bottom there is room for up to a 480mm radiator and four 120mm fans or two 140mm fans, one of which is included.
There are two locations for the PSU, the optional one being at the bottom in front of the lower case fan, and the other (default) being behind the bumped out section below the motherboard. To use the optional area, you will need to remove the vented dummy panel. You can also install a 120mm or 140mm fan here if you don't install a PSU. Looking to the upper right, there is space for up to five optical drives. It looks rather cavernous without any drives installed, and I'll bet that some water cooling hardware would look nice in there .
Access to the five tool-free ODD bays is covered by a nicely hinged front door that is held closed with magnets embedded in the door frame and the front chassis. The front of the door frame is plastic, but the front fascia is brushed aluminum. The door only opens on the left. Not an issue for me, but some may like a door that can be switched to open on the right. Honestly, I almost don't remember the last time I had my optical drive open. Below the top ODD door are two 140mm blue LED front fans.
Here are a couple of the ODD covers. The top view shows the front of the cover and the bottom view shows the backs side of the cover. There are two tabs - one on each side that you squeeze in and the cover easily pops out. Next we have the front fan cover for the fans shown above. This is a somewhat large, heavy piece with a fine mesh filter attached to the back side. There are four platics tabs that hold the filter to the cover, but there are also six screws, and I really don't know why the screws are there. If you clean your filter regularly, then you will want to remove the screws and just use the tabs. The tabs do a fine job of holding the filter in place.
One thing to mention is that the bottom cover is held in place with two lower divorced hinges and the top is retained with two push-to-release detents like the top vent panel. The detents remind me of the ones that held the cassette door closed on my stereo from the 1980's. Unlike the top vent panel, I had an awful time pushing the top edge of the cover in far enough to get the detents to latch. One side is all I could get and I had to push hard enough to move the entire case. If the detents were adjustable, the problem could be solved, but I don't see any easy way to adjust them. This isn't a huge deal, but more of a minor annoyance.
Since you can install radiators and fans at the bottom, you certainly need some filters, and there are two identical fine mesh filter panels right there along the bottom. When they are installed they blend in to form the bottom edge of the case. They do, however, use the same push-to-release detents and I had the same problem getting them to latch properly. You should be able to simply push in, hear a click, and pull the filter panel out, then push the panel in, hear another click, and the panel is locked in place - all with one finger and not feel like you are about to break something, and this is how the detents work on the top vent panel. Again, not a huge deal, but I think Phanteks needs to address this.
There are two hard drive cage frames and each has three removable hard drive trays. Phanteks went the distance with the cage design and uses four thumb screws and a quick release latch so you can easily pop the cage frames in and out. And the entire cage section can be repositioned 90 degrees in the case for a side or rear load orientation. The trays can hold either a standard 3.5" drive or a 2.5" SSD. For the 3.5" drives, there are two hinged side locks integrated to each tray that snap in and hold the drive to the cage, so swapping HDDs is painless. SSDs are retained to the tray with screws.
Now we look at the box of hardware goodies. Along with a large case comes a large box for hardware. The first thing I notice is the plastic organizer for the screws. After your system is built, do you have a place to keep all the extras? Now you do.
The clear plastic tool box / organizer is a great accessory and has ten compartments for screws, and would probably also be a good place to store the little rubber USB caps from the top I/O panel. Also there is a bag of zip ties and Velcro straps for cable management. There is a metal mounting bracket for the side mount fan / radiator option. Finally, the manual is a glossy 31-page booket in seven languages. It is probably one of the most well organized manuals I have seen. The graphics and illustrations are high-res and thorough, and the instructions are equally complete and straight forward.
From the back side, the case is equally impressive. There are plenty of pre-arranged cable managment for all the fans and a power cable for LEDs and front I/O. There are nine grommets and the default location for the PSU is at the bottom right of the case. Let's start at the lower left. The two HDD cages stacked on top of each other can hold six HDDs (or SSDs). The cages are shown in a side load orientation, but they can be rotated 90 degrees for a rear load orientation. If you want to use a side radiator and fans, there is an included mounting bracket and you would need to remove the HDD cages for this option.
Mounted to the side of the ODD bays are two SSD cradles. They each hold two SSDs and are secured with the Drop-N-Lock method, which you simply locate the holes in the cradle over the fixed mounting screws and drop the cradle down (or shift to the right) to lock the cradle in place. Below the cut out for the motherboard tray is another place to mount one of the SSD cradles, so you have two cradles and three places to mount them.
To the lower right is the primary location for the power supply. There are six round rubber supports and depending on the size of your PSU, it may only use four of them. To the left of the PSU location, Phanteks supplies a pump mount on the floor of the case with a rubber topped vibration isolator pad. This pump mount can be shifted a little to the left to allow for an extra long PSU (which would use all six of the round rubber supports). You also have the option of removing the top HDD cage and installing the pump mount on top of the remaining cage, or you can remove both cages and install the pump mount on the floor of the case.
Now this is an interesting feature. It is a PWM fan hub that is attached to the back of the motherboard tray. A quick refresher on PWM, which means Pulse Width Modulation. Basically this means that to control fan speed, instead of varying the voltage as is done with standard 3-pin fans, a constant voltage is applied and the voltage duration or "pulse" is controlled by the motherboard. Think of it like switching a motor off and on. The motor has constant voltage, but you can control the speed by how fast and how long you turn the switch off and on. This is a more efficient and accurate way to control fan speed, and of course requires a 4-pin PWM fan. OK, back to the hub.
What Phanteks has done is create a hub that can control up to eleven 3-pin case fans and have them behave like a PWM fan. This is done by connecting the PWM hub to your motherboard via the included 4-pin connector. It connects to one of your CPU fan headers. I tried using other 4-pin fan headers on my motherboard, but the only ones that would work are the CPU fan headers. Next, you plug your case fans into the header. If your motherboard cannot supply the juice to drive all of your fans, the hub has a supplemental Molex input to pull power from your power supply. There are mounting holes to move the hub to a location a few inches lower if you like.
One thing to keep in mind is that since one PWM header (from the motherborad) is the source of control, then all the fans plugged into the PWM hub will run at the same speed. So if the signal from the PWM source from the motherboard is telling the fan to run faster, then all the fans plugged into the hub will run faster. You can still use the other fan headers on your motherboard if you want to have independent control over some of your fans.
And here we have the final build. The ATX motherboard, and even the Noctua D14 cooler, are dwarfed. Now, with the Enthoo Primo being a paradise for liquid cooling, you would likely find an wide array of tubes and fittings carrying the colored coolant throughout the case. So most of the open spaces would be occupied, and that is of course the intention. If you look closely, you can see that there is a little space (about 3/8") behind the GTX 770. My GTX 770 is about 265mm long. The reservior bracket will have to be removed for longer GPUs. And if I had to remove the reservoir bracket to make room for a longer GPU, it would not affect me (other than the aesthetics) since my system uses no water cooling, but it might be a problem if you plan an elaborate water cooled system with a long GPU.
I wanted to include a shot with the external lighting in view. The picture really does not do justice to the blue LED light strips. They are very intense and stand out when the room lights are dimmed. They aren't obnoxiously bright by any means, but they certainly add a nice touch to this case, and there is a switch on the top I/O panel that allows you to kill the strip and fan lights.