NZXT Phantom Review

The Phantom is one of the newest cases from computer part manufacture NZXT. NZXT has only been around since 2004, but they have made a name for themselves since then. They are mostly known for cases, but they sell a number of other items as well. NZXT’s cases tend to be very unique, but it wasn’t until the Phantom that they made something that got big appeal. Since first showing it off at CES people have been anticipating its release. The case has been out for a little while and it took me a bit to get a hold of one, but now it seems to be well stocked.

The Phantom is a full tower case with room for seven fans; three 200mm, three 120mm, and one 140mm. The case has a fan controller built in with support for five 20w fans. It has the usual seven expansion slots and holds room for five external 5.25 inch drives and seven internal 5.25” bays. All the bays are screwless. Each of the internal bays also allow 2.5” drives (like SSDs) to be installed, but that does require screws. The case supports E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, and Baby AT. Most of the Phantom is steel with the front bezel and top cover being plastic. The case is currently available in white and black colors with a red version coming soon. In this review, we will use the white version.

The Good

Appearance: The Phantom is a very unique looking case it’s something akin to an older Alienware case design. NZXT worked with a modder to design the look and functionality and it shows. All three versions have glossy paint, so on the black case dust and finger prints will be very obvious. On the white version it’s harder to see dust or smudges, which gives the case a cleaner look all of the time. The white isn’t dull or bland looking like you see on a lot of white cases; it sticks out and looks great. I have not seen the black case in person, but I’ve heard similar statements about it. In my opinion I don’t think that black version looks as good due to it being a solid black, there is nothing to accent the color. My only gripe about the look of this case is all the blue lights. I’m kind of sick of blue lighting and the power LED, HDD LED, fan controller, and top 200mm fan are blue. Thankfully the LEDs on the fan can be disabled by a switch in the back. In addition, the blue lighting is also fairly bright.

Installation: I have built computers using a lot of cases over the years; both for myself and for other people. The installation in the Phantom is one of the best that I have come across. I’ve had a couple of issues with installation. All of the routing holes are covered in rubber to protect the cables from being cut by the case (something that Corsair does as well in its cases). The internal 5.25” bays are designed similar to what Cooler Master uses in some of its cases and it works very well. Cable routing was very easy and it was a pretty straight forward process.

Fan Controller: You don’t see too many cases with good built-in fan controllers. Like most power supplies that come with cases, built in fan controllers usually look and feel cheap. Other manufacturers usually offer poor fan support as well. The fan controller in the Phantom has none of those problems. It supports up to five 20W fans and if you have a couple fans under 10W you could probably daisy chain them together. So, they can be controlled by one switch and you could control every case fan that way.

I have six fans in my case, but only four are connected to the controller due to two of them being on my H50 and I want those controlled by my motherboard. The fan controller looks nice (aside from my aforementioned issue with it glowing blue) and fits with the look of the case very well. The speed switches work like sliders so you can control the speed in small movements; there is no high or low button just a position on the slider. This is great if you have any loud fans in your case, you can easily adjust them to the place you think will provide an optimal speed to noise ratio.

The Bad

The small things: I don’t have many big issues with the case, but there are a number of little things that I need to address. NZXT is normally known for making budget cases that look neat and generally work well, but have issues with part quality. Unfortunately, this case doesn’t deviate from its predecessors. The metal on the back of the case is thin and not very sturdy at first. Installing the IO Shield for my Rampage III Gene was a small challenge. Once the IO Shield and video card are installed, the back moves a lot less and feels far sturdier.

The other issue I came across during installation was when putting my CPU cooler on. I use a Corsair H50 cooler and it would simply not install unless I removed the top 200mm fan. Thankfully there are two spots for that fan on top so all I had to do was take the plastic dust cover off of the other hole and put the fan there. Speaking of the dust cover, it is also a bit flimsy. Upon taking it off I noticed the thing was bent. That is a little annoying, but you can’t really see it inside of the case so it doesn’t throw the look off. The audio and mic ports in front of the case are not color coded or well labeled.   There are little images near the jacks, but there are virtually impossible to see unless you are in the perfect position.

Optical Drive Installation: This is my only issue that I feel deserved to be specifically pointed out, because it’s a bit of a big one. The screwless option for installing external 5.25” drives is not good. It barely holds the drives and it wiggles in all directions. The drives go back and forth a good quarter inch. You have to use screws to secure the drives in properly. This is probably the worst screwless drive installation option I’ve ever seen.

Conclusion

Despite my complaints I think the Phantom is a great case and it is priced accordingly. Currently the case is going for $140 and $148 (black and white respectively) on Amazon with free shipping. Newegg has them both for $140 with $25 shipping. The biggest competitors to this case are the Corsair’s Obsidian and the full tower versions of Cooler Master’s HAF line.

When it’s all said and done, cases are a very personal thing. I can’t say I would recommend this case to everyone. If it looks good to you and you‘re in the market for a case with similar features to the Phantom, then I think it’s a good buy. I liked the case from the moment I first saw it and am happy I bought it. I’m a little bored with all of the black cases on the market that have a bunch of blue LEDs. The Phantom has a bit of a “look at me” appearance to it, but it’s built around solid features. Although the case has a quality build, there are still a few issues. NZXT prides itself on being a company for and about gamers and the Phantom is very much a case for gamers. It would look out of place in a business environment or on the floor the average computer user.

Phantom Review by Derangel