The NZXT Phantom is gorgeous in a Dark Side kind of way—whether you opt for Darth Vader black, Imperial Guard red, or our favorite: Stormtrooper white. Though NZXT considers the Phantom a full-tower chassis, at 8.75 inches wide, 21.25 inches tall, and 24.5 inches deep (and with no EATX support), it’s no taller or wider (and barely deeper) than the other mid-tower chassis that make up the rest of this roundup. The Phantom packs seven toolless hard drive trays in a dual-bay configuration that (hooray!) leaves room for long cards like the Radeon HD 5970. We’re not crazy about front-panel doors like the one that covers the Phantom’s five (toolless) optical drive bays, but the Phantom’s door is at least nicely weighted and has a magnetic latch.
It’s no secret that we really like Corsair’s full-tower case, the 800D. That chassis earned a Kick Ass Award for its no-nonsense exterior, gloriously roomy interior, and its mysterious ability to make every build look fantastic. Of course, it was enormous and cost close to $300. So we had high hopes for the mid-tower 600T: Sure, it’s graphite-colored and clad in (gasp!) curvy plastic, but it’s still Corsair on the inside, right?
Lian Li’s chassis are renowned for their all-aluminum construction and superb build quality, but are also known equally well for costing a fortune and featuring questionable design choices. The mid-tower PC-8FI, thankfully, brings the legendary build quality, adds some nice new toolless touches, and for the most part eschews silly design elements—aside from a giant spider-shaped side window, that is.
Fractal Design’s Define R3—the first Fractal case that will be widely available in the States—marries cool Scandinavian design with a hefty dose of acoustic foam and lots of nice touches.
It’s easy to install a 12cm or 14cm fan on the side panel in place of that acoustic damping foam.
The Define R3 is available in four colors: black, grey, silver, and white. We chose the white one because, damn, something about an all-white case with a great paint job just gives us the warm-and-fuzzies. And it really is a great paint job—it’s all smooth and glossy on the outside and matte on the inside, like the gods intended. The case’s frame and panels are all steel, and the side panels are quite heavy—due in part to the dense sound-absorbing foam panels they include. The case includes a nicely weighted front-panel door (with the hinges on the left), with acoustic foam on the inside and side vents so the front fans can continue to pull air into the chassis.
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