Introducing the NZXT Phantom 820

NZXT is an interesting manufacturer. Each company that designs and manufactures cases has their strengths and weaknesses, things they're good at and things that need work, but NZXT is unique in that they're very closely related to iBuyPower (one of the biggest system building boutiques and one that's starting to threaten established brands) and tend to vend some of the most cost effective enclosures to boutiques in general, for better or worse.

Our experiences with NZXT have been mixed. The H2 when it was released suffered from a serious design flaw that drove up internal thermals (an unmarked revision was silently released later that largely resolved those problems), and the Switch 810 was a good but not great enclosure that couldn't quite live up to its promise. But today NZXT is launching the Phantom 820, a case aimed squarely at the top end of the case market where stalwarts like the Thermaltake Level 10 GT, Corsair Obsidian 800D, and SilverStone FT02 reside. It has a lot to live up to, but most impressively of might actually do it.

I'll get this out of the way: the Phantom 820 is not coming cheap. NZXT is listing an MSRP of $249, placing it squarely into competition with the highest end enthusiast cases, and it's a pretty bold move from a company that's usually been more about raw value than premium gear. I'm of two minds when it comes to this decision; I think it's a good choice for the company since price is often the best way to give a premium product that extra kick (just ask Apple), but it's ultimately bad for the end consumer who wants and should get great products at reasonable prices.

NZXT Phantom 820 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, E-ATX
Drive Bays External 4x 5.25”
Internal 6x 2.5"/3.5"
Cooling Front 1x 200mm intake fan; 1x 120mm/140mm internal fan mount
Rear 1x 140mm exhaust fan
Top 1x 200mm exhaust fan, 1x 180mm fan mount or 3x 120mm fan mounts or 2x 140mm fan mounts
Side 1x 200mm intake fan
Bottom 2x 120mm/140mm fan mounts
Expansion Slots 9
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 180mm
PSU 220mm
GPU 13" / 330mm
Dimensions ?
Weight ?
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 four channel (three leads per channel), five step 15W fan controller
Color configurable, toggleable LED lighting system
Toggleable rear I/O and expansion LED illumination
Integrated SD card reader
Price $249

When I spoke to my rep at NZXT he was very bullish about the Phantom 820 and it's not hard to see why. While Taiwanese case designers have a tendency to try to throw in everything but the kitchen sink (see NZXT's own Switch 810) and call it a product, the Phantom 820 is a different beast. This is a feature rich case, but a lot of the features that have been incorporated are done intelligently. The integrated fan controller in particular is an incredibly slick design that's easily the equal of many entry-level fan controllers; the lack of analog adjustment is offset somewhat by having five different steps, ranging from off to full bore.

I'm also keen to point out that NZXT included an SD card reader; SD cards are pretty much the standard these days, yet for some reason they're seldom integrated in modern case designs. The convenience is appreciated tremendously.

Finally, the Alienware-style LED lighting system is a nice touch and can be disabled entirely if you so choose; otherwise you can turn a dial inside the front door to change the color to whatever you like, and you can toggle between enabling and disabling different lighting zones on the case.

In and Around the NZXT Phantom 820
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  • puppies - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    I actually disagree with just about everything you said in your post.

    No 40 year old business professional is going to be seen dead with this case, it is a "gamer" case through and through.

    I wouldn't touch aluminium if that is what you class as a "premium" material. It serves no measurable benfit over steel in my eyes and is more easily damaged, i'm sure the case designers looked at various materials when they went through the R+D for this case and may take on board the comments made about the drive trays being too flimsy but simply calling plastic and steel "crap" is laughable.

    As for the price demanding a premium case, did you see the thermal and acoustic test results. It justifies itself there without a shadow of a doubt.
  • glugglug - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    You mentioned there is a control for the color of the LED accent lighting. Is it possible to rewire the case to have the different LED colors act as different drive activity lights?
  • Twoboxer - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the fine case reviews. They are invaluable.

    In your article you mention the Thermaltake Level 10 GT, Corsair Obsidian 800D, and SilverStone FT02 as the "standards" for comparison, but you do not include performance data for them. I don't recall if they were done prior to establishing the current test bed, or if the results are available elsewhere on the web site.

    But in any case it would be beneficial to include their results in at least some of tables presented, even if it means repeating those tests using the current test bed.
  • Astarael - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Agreed, and the Rosewill Thor v2 was also mentioned and would be nice to have in the comparison (given that it's so much cheaper, a useful cost/benefit analysis could be done).
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    They were done using the previous testbed. I generally avoid keeping cases around any longer than I have to as they occupy a LOT of space.
  • Sugarfoot - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    I have been looking to replace my HAF-X for a year now.

    Switch 810 almost did it, but since I dont have plans for watercooling for the foreseeable future, I wanted the Switch but with a side intake, as air cooled setups really love that. Plus the front panel's corner mesh was not dust filtered and I am quite keen on keeping my system dust free. (I use demciflex on my HAF)

    I thought this case would be exactly it. Finally dethrone the HAF. Turns out not so. Not for me anyway, as ghastly as the HAF-X looks like, this one is even worse. Looks WAY too cheap and "gamer" to me.

    Oh well, maybe there will be a Fractal Define R4 XL?
  • GeorgeH - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    So, what's the conversion between ? and inches?
  • glugglug - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    235mm x 650mm x 612mm (W x H x D)
  • superflex - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    For $249, I'll take an all aluminum Lian Li.
  • spamreader1 - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    the cables can't be seen from the motherboard side. I noticed this after I saw the completed install.

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