Good looks, solid installation, a few eyebrow-raising quirks
If you’re big on case lighting—you Cylon fan, you—you’re going to absolutely love NZXT’s latest Phantom chassis. It’s rare to see such attention to detail paid to simple illumination, as with the three separate strands of lighting found on the exterior, interior, and rear of NZXT’s Phantom 820. Cooler still, you can manually cycle through a variety of colors for the lights, so as to find the one that matches whatever mood you’re in at any given moment.
Don’t assume that you can just leave certain wires dangling on this case: To get all of its features to work, plug in everything you can get your hands on!
Of course, a case is more than just its looks—striking as the sharp angles might be on the various windows and grills adorning this jet-black chassis. Installation-wise, stuffing parts into the Phantom 820 is a pretty pain-free process that leaves plenty of room for advanced customizations by skilled system-builders. We’re going to assume that describes you, since your average DIY computer crafter isn’t likely to buy a $250 ticket to this case’s light show. Regardless of its redeeming qualities, it’s a wee bit expensive.
The Phantom 820 comes with four 5.25-inch bays, which all lock your optical drives (or reservoirs) into place using handy little plastic mechanisms instead of the screws we oh-so-hate. And we’re giving special mention to the Phantom 820’s drive covers, which lock onto the sides of the chassis using a spring-loaded, front-facing switch instead of those often-finicky plastic tabs—you know what we’re talking about.
The case’s six hard drive bays use trays to secure your storage in place. They all pull out on the right side of the chassis, but with a caveat: Two of them can also be accessed by first pulling out a compartment on the chassis’s left side. We don’t mind it much that you have to pop off the nonstandard side of the case to access the drive bays, but it would have been nice to be able to access all the drive bays from the case’s left side, as well.
For example, a built-in fan controller on the top of the case (across from its two USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports) allegedly controls fans you plug into certain connectors. We couldn’t get it to work with any combination of fans we hooked up, nor does it appear to work with the default case fans already wired on the Phantom 820. And don’t just assume that the manual’s instruction of “plug in the Molex connector” is all you need to do to get the case’s full light setup working: You have to connect your front-panel headers and a supplementary SATA connector for the full, controllable effect.
NZXT’s Phantom 820 is a strong contender for your attention and wallet, especially if you prefer looks over functionality. At this price, however, you should be looking for a case that nails both categories flawlessly: The Phantom 820 is close, but not tip-top.