Phanteks Enthoo Primo Review
Reviewed by: red454
Reviewed on: January 13, 2014
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Introduction:
Phanteks was started in 2007 by engineers with 20 years of thermal solution experience. Phanteks broke into the CPU cooling industry with two goals in mind: “High-end quality and innovative products in thermal solutions.” And while Phanteks is best known for premium CPU coolers and fans, it is breaking new ground with the Enthoo Primo full tower case. I would not expect a relatively new company to jump in with such a high-end full tower case. This is territory usually relegated to well-established, seasoned manufacturers with a long history in case design. But today we have not just a shy, quiet entry into the case ring, but a heavy weight contender from out of nowhere that is ready to leave the competition on the floor as the referee counts to ten.
In the world of high-end, full tower EATX cases, the list is short. Among them there are the stand out cases such as the Cooler Master HAF-X and the COSMOS II, the Thermaltake Level 10, Corsair's 900D, and way out there is the massive (and costly) Case Labs Magnum TX10-D. These are cases for the true enthusiast, the people who build hardcore water cooling systems packed with radiators, fans, and the latest high-dollar hardware. They need the space. They need the cooling capacity that these monster cases can offer. Today we will look at the Phanteks Enthoo Primo as it tries to establishes itself in the short list. The Enthoo Primo can handle ATX, EATX, mATX, and SSI EEB motherboards; measures in at 250mm x 650mm x 600mm; and has space allotted for two power supplies along with space dedicated for (water cooling) reservoirs and many more exciting features.
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Closer Look:
Let's start off with saying that the pictures do not do justice to the size of the box. A couple of other cases arrived with the Enthoo, and they were dwarfed by it. I think I could put a license plate on it and take the family for vacation in it. Anyway, along with the size goes the weight. It takes a little heft to move it around. Ok, so the front of the box has a nice backlit 3/4 shot of the case. The name ENTHOO PRIMO is set across the top with ENTHOO SERIES just below in smaller text. Now, since it says 'series' that tells me that Phanteks likely has other cases in development, but we will have to wait and see.
The rear of the box has some very nice shots of the interior and then a variey of smaller detail shots showing many of the features.
One side of the box shows the specifications detailed in English and then a feature list in nine languages is on the other side.
Instead of the usual (and effective) Styrofoam end caps to keep everything well protected, Phanteks uses a soft closed-cell foam that is glued together in the proper shape. This seems to give more cushion to the case and with its weight, I think this is a good idea. Otherwise, the case is closed up in the standard pastic bag to keep the dust out.
Phanteks uses a shrink wrap approach for the entire case, and then the usual protective clear sheets of plastic to protect the side windows. After the protective plastic is off, you can see the magnitude of this case!
The Enthoo weights about 17.9kg empty (40lbs). Fully loaded may require a second person to help you move it around. I am not saying this is a bad thing, just that a large case like this has some significant weight to it and you don't want to lose grip. Make sure the side panels are secured with their respective thumb screws before moving it. Some handles or lift assists incorporated into the design would be nice.
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Closer Look: The Case
The Enthoo Primo is a case for the Enthusiast. I capitalize that word because to me it is a class of builders who knows what it takes to build a monster system. They are on top of the latest hardware, the latest software, and what it takes to make them work together. The Enthoo Primo is a case designed for just that group. So let's take a closer look at what makes this case the beast that it is.
Initially looking at the case, it has the familiar tall rectangular shape with a little extra bump out on the right side. The bump or inset area is a little shorter, and sits in a little from the front fascia. This adds some extra width to the case. The side panels are both hinged and are retained with thumb screws. The windowed side panel actually has two windows; the large one to show off your main hardware, and then a smaller angled side window that shows off the Phanteks logo on the builder plate. On the opposite side of the case you notice that there are two vented areas. The larger vented area can handle a side radiator and fans, and the smaller vented area is for the intake of a power supply. The case sits on the floor with almost no clearance, but since the bottom of the case has side vents to allow for air flow (intake), this is not a problem.
The front has a stealthy, understated look and is composed of all brushed aluminum panels highlighted on the right side and bottom by a perforated metal mesh insert. The final accent is a thin blue LED light strip that flows vertically from the bottom right to the top, and then there is a similar thin strip that runs parallel to the top vent panel. We will see that in action a little later.
The rear is a bit busier than usual as we have some unusual features, such as space for two power supplies, a couple of 140mm fans (one included), and mounting holes / slots for a rear water cooling reservior just to the right of the eight PCI slots. The default power supply location is at the lower left. There is an optional mounting location directly to the right and it is disguised as a fan mounting location. Of couse, you can mount either a 120mm or 140mm fan there, but to mount a power supply, you need to remove the dummy vent panel. You can see the hardware box in the default power supply opening on the left.
Along the top is a large vented mesh panel that is removable and is retained with two push-to-release detents. The I/O panel is on the top, along an offset, bumped out section. The bottom has two fine mesh filter panels that are removable for cleaning, and the entire case sits on seven rectangular rubber feet.
The top I/O panel has (from left to right) an LED switch, reset switch, two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, microphone, and headphone jacks. The LED switch controls all the LEDs including the front fans and the decorative LED strips on the front and top of the case. The USB ports each have a protective rubber cap. The caps are not retained, so you would want to put them where they won't be lost. There is actually a nice little solution to this, which we will see shortly. I like the way the USB ports are not stacked on top of each other so you can plug in a few wide-bodied flash drives like my Corsair Voyager GT.
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.
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Specifications:
PH-ES813P_BL (blue lighting)
|Aluminum Faceplates, Steel Chassis|
|250mm x 650mm x 600mm (WxHxD)|
ATX, EATX, mATX, SSI EEB
5.25" Drive Bays:
3.5" Drive Bays:
6 (2x 3 HDD cages)
2.5" Drive Bays:
12 (2x 3 HDD cages + 2x doublestack SSD brackets ) *expandable to 3x
2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, Mic, Headphone, LED Switch, Reset Switch
Front: 120mm x 2 or 140mm fan x 2 (2 x 140mm blue LED included)
Top: 120mm x 4 or 140mm x 3 (1 included)
Rear: 120mm fan x 2 or 140mm fan x 1 (1 included)
Side: 120mm x 2 or 140mm x 2 (optional)
Bottom: 120mm x 4 or 140mm x 2 (1 included)
HDD cage: 120mm fan x 2 (optional)
Front: Up to 240mm (with 120mm fans)
Top: Up to 480mm (with 120mm fans) or up to 420mm (with 140mm fans)
Side (w/o HDD cages): Up to 240mm (with 120mm fans)
Rear: 120mm or 140mm
Bottom: Up to 480mm (with 120mm fans) or up to 280mm (with 140mm fans)
|ATX x 2|
VGA card length:
257mm (reservoir bracket installed)
277mm (reservoir bracket installed w/o cover)
350mm (no reservoir bracket)
390mm (HDD cages in front position)
515mm (no HDD cages)
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Features:
Enthoo Primo includes 1 x 140mm fan on top, 2 x140mm LED fans in front, 1 x 140mm fan in the rear, and 1 x 140mm fan on the bottom. Ability to upgrade to additional fans is possible. All fans included are Phanteks’ new redesigned and better performing PH-F140SP. Phanteks’ Enthoo Primo, unleash unlimited possibilities.
- Clean and elegant design that can be recognized by the refined aluminum front and top panels. Controllable LED lighting (LED strip and Fan LED). Polished chamfers that subtly accentuate the intake and exhaust areas.
- Stealth interior: hidden PSU / hidden HDD / hidden cables and grommets (modular cable cover).
- Extreme cooling capacity, providing up to 16 different fan mount locations (120mm / 140mm)
- 5 included Phanteks’ premium fans PH-F140SP
- The PWM hub makes it possible to control all the connected fans (also 3-pin fans) with PWM function through 1 PWM connector and create a better cable management.
- Thermally isolated PSU keeps the radiant heat from other critical components, reveals an optimal bottom air intake and hides the cables from blocking the airflow.
- Extensive water cooling support. Provides up to 5 different installation areas for slim and thick radiators varying from single to quad (120mm and 140mm form factors). Clearance for push-pull fan configurations.
- Innovative liquid cooling mounting systems: radiator brackets for easy installation (bottom and side), cable cover can be transformed into a reservoir bracket with pre-drilled mounting holes and a universal pump bracket with vibration dampening function.
- Dual repositionable and removable HDD cages (support up to 6 HDD’s) for more installation flexibility or unrestricted airflow
- Closed HDD panel strengthens the chassis’ rigidity, even when both HDD cages are removed.
- Removable Drop-n-Lock Doublestack SSD brackets that can be installed on 3 different locations. (2 brackets incl.)
- Removable front and top covers for easy installation of cooling components and easy dust filter removal.
- Other removable dust filters are located in the bottom (2x) and side panel (2x).
- Pre-installed cable management tools behind the motherboard tray that can be fastened and released.
- 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, microphone, 3.5mm audio jack, LED switch
- Support up to 2 PSU’s
Information provided by: "http://www.phanteks.com/Enthoo-Primo.html"
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Testing:
Thermal testing involved recording temperatures for the CPU, GPU, and motherboard during idle and load phases. The load was simulated by running Prime95’s small FFTs and 3Dmark Vantage for one hour. The maximum temperatures were recorded using HW Monitor 1.21.0. Please note that each case is tested as delivered, including location of fans, unless otherwise noted.
- Processor: Core i7 4770K @ 3.9 GHz (100 MHz x 39)
- CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-D14
- Motherboard: MSI Z87-GD65
- Memory: Patriot Viper 3 Series Black Mamba PC3-19200 16GB
- Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 770
- PSU: Thermaltake SMART 750W SP-750P
- Hard Drive: Corsair Force GT 240GB SSD
- Optical Drive: ASUS DRW-24B1ST
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit SP1
- Lian Li PC-9N
- Enermax Ostrog GT
- Cooler Master N400
- Cooler Master N600
- Corsair Air 540
- COSMOS SE
- Phanteks Enthoo Primo
The results are not surprising as the Enthoo Primo is at the low (cooler) end for all the testing, with the only exception being the CPU idle test, and it was only one degree higher. The large volume of air inside the Enthoo Primo case, along with the five 140mm included fans, work to your thermal advantage, and the potential fan location spaces remaining in the case ensures that running hot is not anything to worry about. The GPU temps were virtually identical for idle and load between all the cases. So it looks like the GPU is getting a consistent supply of cool intake air between all the cases.
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Conclusion:
The Enthoo Primo is an amazing case. It is solid, well-built, and is aesthetically pleasing from any angle. A true case for the water cooling enthusiast and it is really hard to believe that this is Phanteks' first entry into the case race. I would have expected something on a much smaller caliber, feature starved, and mediocre quality, but Phanteks delivers a high quality case that has an impressive list of features for a reasonable price. I will often shy away from a new or first time product, especially from a manufacturer who has little or no experience in that area. But with the Enthoo Primo, there really are no loose ends, no corners cut, or features that look like afterthoughts. Whether you plan to go with air cooling or water cooling, you won't be disappointed. If you do go the water cooling route, you won't have to compromise on your build because of a case that lacks the features and full support for water cooling. The only part of the case that can't have a radiator is the windowed side panel. And speaking of the side panel, the large window will do a terrific job of showing off all of your hardware.
The list of features of the Enthoo Primo is impressive. The PWM fan hub allows PWM control over your case fans from a single PWM fan header on your motherboard. The blue LEDs of the front fans and front and top LED light strips add a touch of elegance to the case, and can be turned on or off with the touch of a button. The included pump mounting base, reservoir mounts, and multiple radiator locations simplify your water cooling build. Phanteks put a lot of time into this case and it shows.
As for the cons - there were really just a few things. One being the dust filter panel latches and while they were an annoyance, and I would not call them show stoppers. The top filter panel latches work fine, so I suspect that there is just something wrong with the way the others are mounted. I think there can be an adjustment incorporated into the latch mounting so that you can adjust the engagement point and get a nice smooth latch actuation. The other thing is that the case is rather heavy, which is to be expected with a case this size, but some sort of lift assist like some handles would be nice.
As for the price, well for what you get I don't think the price is out of line so I won't list it as a con. This isn't going to be a case for a low-ball "Aunt Martha needs a computer to check her email" build. No way. The Enthoo is going to be filled with high-end, high-dollar hardware, and at that level the cost of a case is less of a factor in the total build. And when you do sink the bucks into all that hardware, you want a case that is ready for the job, and looks great doing it. I can't wait to see what else Phanteks has for us!
The list price for the Enthoo Primo is $249, but it can be found at NewEgg for $229. Phanteks delivers a knockout punch with the Enthoo Primo. It is pure water cooling enthusiast Nirvana.
Note: The Enthoo Primo is now available in all white.
- Attractive design
- Brushed aluminum front panels
- Front and top LED light strips
- LED control switch
- PWM fan hub
- Dual PSU mounting locations
- Internal and external reservoir mounts
- Included pump mount base
- Tool box for fastener storage
- Options for front, rear, top, bottom, and side radiators
- Top, front, and bottom dust filters
- Easy filter cleaning
- Superior cable management
- Latches for front cover and bottom dust filter panels need to be adjustable
- Very heavy - could use some handles or other lift assist