Introducing the NZXT Phantom 630

It wasn't that long ago that we reviewed NZXT's shiny new Phantom 820, a case that apart from its high price tag and slightly ostentatious design was pretty tough to beat. The Phantom 820 was providing some best-in-class thermal and acoustic performance, and it was a shot fired squarely across the bows of companies like Thermaltake and CoolerMaster, whose respective Level 10 GT and Cosmos II suddenly had a new, less expensive case to worry about competing with. Yet when I visited NZXT at CES 2013, they already had a descendant of the 820 on hand.

The Phantom 630 is just a little smaller, a little more conservative, and a lot cheaper. At $179 MSRP it's still on the expensive side and is clearly an enthusiast case, but unlike the 820, the 630 is using an entirely new chassis built from the ground up. The 820 scored a Bronze Editor's Choice award, but as it turns out, it may not have been a flash in the pan. Once you take a look at the 630, you'll start to understand why I'm beginning to think NZXT is entering a new era and the competition needs to be on their toes.

My meetings with NZXT at CES are often interesting just because of the unique approach they take to designing their cases. I would never, ever suggest that there's no art to engineering (quite the opposite actually), but the engineers at NZXT seem to have a more artisanal attitude towards their case designs than many of the other vendors. That attitude seems to have both intensified and been tempered by a stronger, clearer understanding of case engineering over the years, and an artist with a strong grasp of the technical can be formidable.

The results thus far have been some still fairly outlandish case designs, but the aesthetics have been reined in somewhat while more emphasis has been placed on useful functionality. Remember that it's not just about having features in general, it's about having useful features. In that respect, I think you'll see why I feel like in some ways, NZXT is pretty far ahead of the curve. This isn't the same company that produced my oft-maligned H2 two years ago.

NZXT Phantom 630 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, XL-ATX
Drive Bays External 4x 5.25”
Internal 6x 2.5"/3.5", 2x 2.5"
Cooling Front 1x 200mm intake fan (supports 2x 140mm or 2x 120mm)
Rear 1x 140mm exhaust fan (supports 1x 120mm)
Top 1x 200mm exhaust fan (supports 2x 200mm or 2x 140mm or 3x 120mm)
Side 1x 200mm intake fan
Bottom 2x 120mm/140mm fan mounts
Expansion Slots 9
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 170mm / 200mm without side intake
PSU 220mm
GPU 325mm / 507mm without HDD cage
Dimensions 9.65" x 24.69" x 23.62"
245mm x 627mm x 600mm
Weight 27.12 lbs. / 12.3 kg
Special Features USB 3.0 connectivity via internal headers
Toolless 5.25" drive bays and 3.5" drive sleds
Support for 360mm/280mm radiator in top of enclosure, 240mm/280mm in bottom of enclosure, thickness up to 60mm
Integrated three-speed, 30W fan controller (supports up to 10 3-pin fans)
Toggleable rear I/O and expansion LED illumination
Integrated SD card reader
Three removable drive cages (3-drive, 2-drive, and 1-drive)
Price $179

The immediate comparison should be made to the Phantom 820, which remains more expensive than the 630 at $249. In terms of dimensions, the 630 is ever so slightly smaller, only about 25mm shorter in height and 12mm shorter in depth, while actually being 10mm wider. The increase in width isn't really a bad thing as it allows for potentially better cable management by improving space behind the motherboard tray. It's also three kilograms (five pounds) lighter.

We do lose the HUE lighting system (my apologies to the commenter who corrected me on the original post about the 630), and the four-channel fan control is replaced by one single channel which supports ten fans at three steps. What we gain, though, is probably the smartest modular drive cage design I've ever seen, two additional 2.5" sleds behind the motherboard tray, and a slightly more svelte enclosure overall. We also save $70, which can't be understated even at this high level of the market.

In and Around the NZXT Phantom 630
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  • praeses - Friday, January 25, 2013 - link

    Like Dustin pointed out, it would be nice to see fewer 5.25" drive bays and shed the side panel fan but I would like to see it one step further yet. I would like to see all 5.25" bays removed and just fans at the front.

    I am sure there are many others that would agree that in their high performance system (gaming, workstation, etc) there isn't a need for either 5.25" or 3.5" drive bays, only a couple 2.5" ones that this conveniently already has. The optical drive is nicely served externally up on the desk near the monitor/keyboard/mouse. The front could then sport another large (200 or 140mm) quiet fan directly in line with the CPU.

    Also, a front fan filter and having the air redirected like the fractal design refine series (although their thermals aren't the best) would help muffle the sound.

    Aesthetics I'm not a fan of but it wouldn't prevent me from buying one, the rest of the design I am quite fond of.
    Reply
  • Magichands8 - Sunday, January 27, 2013 - link

    What they should do is move the drives all up ABOVE the motherboard in a separate compartment a la Lian Li's Tyr PCX-2000 cases. You could pack them pretty tight too and still have room for nice amount of storage AND an optical drive. Then, you could place 2 200mm fans in the front, remove the top fan(s), remove the side fan and have a solid panel there instead. Thermals should be AT LEAST as good and the case would be much quieter to boot. Sure the case would be taller but I'd rather have something better designed from an engineering and performance standpoint than something that sucked but looked prettier. Besides, no one looking for a compact, small case should even be thinking about this one in the first place so I don't get all the talk about it being x millimeters taller or wider than the other case.

    I just don't get why so many companies these days stick to this silly and outdated approach of placing the drives directly in front of the motherboard. Cooling HDDs TOO well can actually reduce their life-span and it makes no sense to pre-warm the incoming air before sending it to the CPU. Why is it that we are starting to see all these removable and modular drive cages anyway? It's because people keep trying to find a way to get the damn drives away from the front of the case.
    Reply
  • LS& - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    I just want to say thank you for your case reviews with temps as a solid focus. I have not built a pc in 7 years and am now just starting to do my research to find the best parts. Overclocking is going to be a goal in this build and at least for me low noise and great thermal is the key. Does anyone else know of any other cases well under $200 I should be looking at for this mix of sound and performance? Reply

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