In and Around the NZXT Phantom 630

I'm almost ashamed to admit the NZXT Phantom aesthetic is beginning to grow on me. Part of it is that the 820 I reviewed and now the 630 both employ a gunmetal and black two-tone that I'm partial to, but each successive Phantom has gone a long way towards streamlining the look. The 820 still looked a bit slapdash, but the 630 for the most part has it together. However you feel about the overall design is going to be a matter of taste, but it's at least the most focused Phantom chassis I've seen yet.

The front of the Phantom 630 is the same wedge shape we're used to seeing, with angular accents and a black mesh fan grill. A door held closed magnetically swings open to the right, and it hides four 5.25" drive bays (with easy-to-remove spring-latched shields) as well as the integrated SD card reader. The card reader is something I actually discussed with their designers at CES; every notebook and desktop sold comes with a card reader standard these days, but for some odd reason they're still largely absent in cases. Apparently a basic SD reader isn't particularly expensive to implement, so NZXT went for it, and I honestly appreciate the inclusion. There's a fan filter that slides out of the bottom as well, but when moving the 630 you'll want to try to avoid putting too much pressure on it.

Move to the top of the 630, and that's where NZXT put all of the I/O and controls. The original Phantom, way back in the way, had controls that were borderline indecipherable. The 630, on the other hand, is much clearer. There are two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports along with the audio jacks, and these are along the top left. The right side sports the three-step fan controller (with three white LEDs beneath it to indicate fan speed), the rear LED toggle (for turning the LEDs around the expansion slots and I/O in the back on and off), and then the power and reset buttons.

While the side panel behind the motherboard tray is flat, the one above it features a single window and then what appears to be a large vent. Actually, beneath the vent is still mostly solid covering with an opening for the substantial 200mm side intake fan. I thought the split window on the 820 was kind of goofy; I'd still like to see NZXT release either a Phantom with solid, closed off sides, but this is a step in the right direction.

When we get to the back, we can see the usual adjustable rear exhaust fan along with a healthy amount of ventilation above the expansion slots. What we don't see are portholes for external liquid cooling, which is an interesting exclusion on NZXT's part. Those holes come bog standard on almost every case produced these days but I've never actually seen them be relevant. Most modern liquid cooling systems, even on super high end builds, tend to be housed within the case itself.

Four thumbscrews hold the hinged side panels into place, and despite hewing to the same basic ATX case design principles, NZXT's design inside the Phantom 630 is incredibly modern and enthusiast friendly. The motherboard tray is recessed slightly and the routing holes on the right side angled to steer assembly towards neater cabling. My personal favorite feature is the trio of drive cages. Because of the way NZXT split up the drive trays between cages, you essentially only need to include as many cages as you need, allowing you to remove the excess ones and improve airflow from the front 200mm intake. The cages themselves are locked into place with thumbscrews behind the motherboard tray.

Move behind the drive tray and you find more genuinely useful features. The fan controller supports up to ten three-pin fans and prevents fan cabling from becoming too cluttered (there's also an extension cable for connecting the side intake without too much trouble). NZXT also included two trays for 2.5" drives behind the motherboard tray. These wind up sitting behind the motherboard's expansion slots and will receive minimal airflow, but for SSDs they're perfectly adequate and better still, allow you to use fewer drive trays/cages.

It's probably obvious at this point that I'm relatively enamored with the NZXT Phantom 630's design, but a lot of that stems from how useful a lot of their inclusions are. The biggest problem with ATX case design is getting cool air to hit the CPU. The bottom-front-to-top-rear airflow design is dire; SilverStone's best designs skirt it entirely by just placing a fan almost directly in front of the hottest components. By tweaking the drive cages the way they did, they're removing as many obstructions as possible from the massive 200mm intake fan, allowing a tremendous amount of cool air into the case. You'll see this pay dividends later on.

Introducing the NZXT Phantom 630 Assembling the NZXT Phantom 630
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  • sna1970 - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    I wonder why people cant design REAL good looking cases ...

    if the Japanese can ...

    hey Anand ... take a look at Abee PC cases for a change ...
  • awg1031 - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    wow, i hope anand can hold of abee's product..

    even look at the i-phone case..nice~
  • meefer - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    They look like clean designs but they aren't terribly interesting- all crisp but cold right angles. I'd like to find a nice balance between the old beige box look (like Abee Smart) and the ridiculous 1990s Mega Bass boombox look (like the CoolerMaster HAF).

    It doesn't look like Abee have distributors in the US, too bad. Their phone and tablet cases look awesome.
  • 3ogdy - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    The right angle design and sharp edge design is back for some - they think that if they add a nice shiny painting they can pretend to be the latest craze and well, "simple, yet awesome design" -which they're not. Those look like those second hand PC cases people throw away for $30. But hey, I was against Alienware's case redesign (their cases were by far some of the best looking one on the market), yet they went on and came up with something that looks a lot worse than their previous seems taking steps backwards is the new fashion now.
  • meefer - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    Good point. For what it's worth, I think the bland right-angle design works much better in the small form factor cases from Abee. Example:
  • 3ogdy - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    I really don't get it:
    Do you really mean those UGLY cases from the link you posted look better than the NZXT design?
    I understand it's a matter of taste but hey, the Abee cases have absolutely no design at all - they're simply a bunch of unpolished Pentium 3-style cases.
    So why did you use them as an example against the NZXT Phantom, which OBVIOUSLY and DEFINITELY looks a ton better. Even if the NZXT Phantom cost twice as much as those cases, I'd still get the Phantom. It looks better and it is functional-enough.
  • Bob Todd - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    I bet you thought the MSI GT660 looked better than a MacBook Pro too...
  • kyuu - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    30gdy is right. How exactly are *those* cases good-looking? They look like the towers from the P4 era and back. If you really loved your old beige-box, great. But I think most people agree those are far from aesthetically pleasing.

    I'm not a huge fan of NZXT's aesthetic design either, but at least it *has* a design.
  • kyuu - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - link

    Their iPad/iPhone cases on the other hand, now *those* look nice.
  • JPForums - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    I understand it's a matter of taste but hey, the Abee cases have absolutely no design at all - they're simply a bunch of unpolished Pentium 3-style cases.

    These are most certainly not unpolished Pentium 3-style cases. Take a look at the list Ugly posted below for a valid point of comparison. The looks are definitely understated, but the combination of brushed aluminum exterior and what appears to be a well constructed and modern internal design (looking at the X3) counts as polish in my book. There is a market for designs such as these, especially in a business oriented setting.

    That said, the understated look isn't for everyone. I'd expect cases like these to appeal more to fans of the classic Lian Li enclosures than fans of Coolermaster's HAF series or NZXT chassis in general. I probably wouldn't use one of these for my gaming build, but I could see myself building a workhorse for the office in one of these if the performance keeps up. I'd like to see Dustin review one of these if he gets the chance.

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