When we reviewed the NZXT Phantom 630 in September, we praised the chassis for excellent design, thoughtful extras, and a very reasonable price point for the luxury case market. The NZXT Phantom 530 is the next step down from the NZXT 630, with a slightly cheaper price tag and a few feature changes. It’s a great chassis overall, particularly for this price point, but there are some differences between the NZXT 630 and Phantom 530 that might nudge some buyers towards the higher-end enclosure.
Physically, the NZXT 630 and 530 are cut from the same cloth. Where the NZXT 630 offers a small clear plexiglass window on the case panel and a lower panel with an included fan, the Phantom 530 opts for an asymmetric plexiglass frame and a fan grill in the bottom-right corner. This is rather odd placement –the fan grill is partly blocked by the drive bays, and doesn’t push air directly over the hottest part of the GPU.
The front panel door on the Phantom 530 is a straight rectangle, unlike the triangle-shaped panel on the Phantom 630, but both designs have a prominent front intake fan. Here, we see one of the omissions from the NZXT 630′s design, in order to bring the Phantom 530′s price down—the cheaper case lacks the NZXT 630′s integrated card reader.
The top of the Phantom 530 retains the NZXT 630′s blunt triangular shape and the integrated fan controller. The fan controller has switched places—it’s on the left side of the case now, instead of the right—there are a fewer top-mounted USB ports. The NZXT 630 offered two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, and a set of audio jacks, while the Phantom 530 retains just the USB 3.0 ports and the pair of audio ports.
The inside of the chassis is every bit as well designed as the NZXT 630. The Phantom 530 keeps NZXT’s removable drive bays and offers a stairstep configuration—the first 3.5-inch drive bay has three slots, the second has two, and the bottom-most drive bay has just one. This way you can swap and move drive bays around to put as many drives as you want into the computer with ideal airflow. Users who plan on using a solid-state drive (SSD) with a massive set of video cards can pull all three bays out and drop the 2.5-inch drive behind the motherboard in the appropriate slot cut for it.
Once you’re working in the chassis, everything goes smoothly. There’s room for up to eight expansion slots, the case supports the EATX (Extended ATX) standard, and there are two cut outs for external water cooling pipelines and a substantial top vent with additional space for exhaust fans or a top-mounted internal radiator. Hard drives still insert from the back (making them easier to cable), and this time, the drive mounting brackets are sturdier than the rather flimsy counterparts that the NZXT 630 uses. That was one of the few places we dinged the NZXT 630, so we’re glad to see the adjustment.
The fan controller, meanwhile, includes both fans already wired up, with four additional empty slots for more fan headers and two fan extension cables. This last might seem a trivial point, but there are few things more frustrating than ordering a new fan and realizing you’ve got to head back to buy a separate cable before you can mount the thing because neither the case manufacturer or the fan company believed in bundling 15 cents worth of wire and plastic. There are plenty of cable routing options for hardware and the chassis itself, at 22 pounds, is reasonably light (as these things are reckoned).
Cooling performance and acoustics are both top notch in the Phantom 530, though exact performance will depend on how you configure the fans (if you add any). Moving the side-mounted case fan to the front was a bit of an odd choice, but the impact on GPU temperatures is minimal. With a $129 list price, the NZXT Phantom offers virtually everything a midrange enthusiast case could ask for—this is a chassis that can handle multiple video cards and a serious CPU aplomb, and the configurable drive bays continue to be a welcome touch.
We miss the front-mounted card reader and a few of the integrated fans that the NZXT 630 sported, but in both cases, these are relatively minor omissions that don’t compromise the quality of the design. If you want a midrange case with enthusiast, high-end performance, the NZXT Phantom 530 is a great choice.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc