Assembling the NZXT Phantom 820

Apart from just how heavy the NZXT Phantom 820 is, assembly actually goes fairly smoothly. In keeping with that premium feel they're going for, building inside it is mostly geared towards ease of use, and the out of the box experience is a pleasant one. Of particular note is the box of screws that NZXT includes, which already has them all neatly organized. Lian Li includes a screw keeper with many of their high end cases, but it's not organized and the one for the PC-A76X wasn't actually big enough to hold all the screws that came with the case.

It's not worth boring you with the details; suffice to say installing the motherboard and optical drive went off basically without a hitch, same with the expansion card (expansion slot shields are ventilated and held in place with thumbscrews) and the power supply. Having all of the screws conveniently in one place and organized made things go that much more swimmingly.

Where NZXT went off the rails a bit is, ironically, with the 2.5"/3.5" drive sleds. NZXT's promotional material talks about how these have been radically redesigned, but the funny thing is that they're just too flimsy. I found it was particularly difficult to keep the sled with the 2.5" drive screwed to the bottom in place, as it was easy to push too far into the drive cage. I also think it's unusual that they have to be installed on the side behind the motherboard tray instead of in front of it, and there doesn't seem to be any real reason as to why the case was designed this way.

Routing power and data cables goes smoothly, and NZXT even includes an extension cable for the AUX 12V line, but what's amusing is how much of a mess all the cabling for the integrated peripherals of the Phantom 820 actually is. I don't think it can really be helped, but it's awfully hard to sort some of it out. NZXT does the best they can with a bad situation by at least labeling which channel each of the fan leads connects to and pre-connects the existing fans (outside of the side intake), but honestly it's just cable spaghetti and I'm not really sure how much more they could've done to mitigate it. Added features breed added complexity. It's worth noting that NZXT does give a healthy amount of lead for the side intake fan's power cable.

Ignoring the fact that I'm a tiny man and the Phantom 820 is a heavy case, assembling our testbed inside it was easy enough, a process made much easier by the sorted screw keeper. I do think the drive cages and trays need to be redesigned and brought a bit more in line with contemporary designs similar to what Antec and Corsair are doing; it seems like NZXT may have erred on the side of aesthetics when they should've gone for practicality. The aforementioned mess of cables can also be difficult to cope with but again, I don't really know if they could've done much more to mitigate it, and it's worth the added complexity for the robust fan controller.

In and Around the NZXT Phantom 820 Testing Methodology
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  • Sunrise089 - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the review. I was pleased to see the note about watercooling in the conclusion, since as soon as I saw "NZXT" I though "watercooling" from my association with the Switch 810 as a great watercooling case.

    I would however like to humbly request the author consider putting watercooling info in an earlier part of the case review, perhaps the "in and around" section when describing the interior arrangement of the case. It's very helpful for me at least to know how practical watercooling will be with a case even if I don't place to use it that way since it helps put some design decisions in perspective ("that case isn't bad, it's just designed around space for rads"). It would therefore be useful to me if that info was more consistently included in reviews and in a predictable place.

    Again though, I do appreciate the watercooling info making it in period, even if new info doesn't seem wholly appropriate in a conclusion. Thanks again for the review.
  • vvv850 - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Why do you always show a build on anything rather than a full ATX or e-ATX motherboard?
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    To keep the testbed standard. A full ATX or e-ATX motherboard isn't going to generate much more in the way of heat or really affect results in any way, but using a Micro-ATX board across cases allows for consistent, comparable results.
  • HisDivineOrder - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Perhaps people just want to see how the board fits in the case to check clearances visually and see how their motherboard would match up. Using a smaller than ATX motherboard doesn't really help a lot in the visual comparison.

    It's just like you said. If the motherboard makes a minimal difference in heat, then I suggest you've given yourself a great reason not to always use the same small motherboard.

    I suspect if you used the micro-ATX mb and ATX mb in the same line by the same company, you'd have a minimal difference yet allow users to get a visual on how the larger mb's layout in the case.
  • chowmanga - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Changing test hardware is never a good idea. If the audience just wants to see how a full sized motherboard fits, Dustin could take pictures with said motherboard in place but keep the testing hardware the same for thermal results.
  • HaydenOscar - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Would have loved to see some temperature results with all the fans off!
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Would like to see the IO ports and fan controller.
  • Earthmonger - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    This is the sort of case you'd find under a 40 year-old business professional's desk. Not because they're PC-savvy, but rather because they aren't. It's the sort of run-of-the-mill case that a local PC shop would bundle together in a build when the customer didn't bother to specify a case preference. Certainly not premium, but not too cheap or gauche either.

    That's been Johnny's problem for quite awhile now. He knows how to design really good cases, but he settles on plastic and steel crap like this and says, "Oh well. The kid's will buy it." He doesn't take a design to it's potential, he just compromises and says, "Meh. Good enough." He doesn't take risks anymore, and he doesn't compete with the big dogs.

    At $249. the bracket demands a premium case. Or at the very least, premium materials. So I'd wager that you'll see this thing sub-$200 in no time. Probably closer to $175. It's another design in a long line lately that doesn't stand up for itself.
  • crimson117 - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Where's the downvote button when you need one?
  • ExarKun333 - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    You would only see this case bundled 'by default' if a buyer gave a big price for a new build and said 'have at it' for the specifics.

    It is VERY doubtful many 40-something professionals would have this under their desk. Way off there.

    I agree on the premium price/premium materials comment though. Plastic and steel for $250 is asking a lot. Great WC options though...

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