The is a high-end full-tower case that aspires to luxury while keeping its price out of the stratosphere. At $159, it’s far from cheap but virtually every aspect of the design is well thought-out. It’s available in three colors—white, black, and a gunmetal grey. The front 5.25-inch bays are guarded by a hinged drive door. A large intake fan is visible in front, but the Phantom 630 is clearly chasing a subdued, minimal aesthetic. Flip the drive door open and you see the first of NZXT’s smart ideas—a card reader. While common on laptops, SD card readers have never made the jump to desktop popularity; it’s good to see one as a default option. With a packed feature set and a fabulous design, the NZXT Phantom 630 earns our Editors’ Choice for high-end PC cases.
The top of the case includes a brace of USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and a microphone + audio jack on the left. On the right, there’s a power/reset button, a three-speed fan controller switch with LEDs for denoting current fan settings, and a button for toggling the LEDs placed alongside the PCI slots. The buttons feel robust, though the fan switch has a plastic, cheap feel to it as it shifts across its settings.
One minor point that may irk some users—the top of the case is peaked instead of flat. Users that rely on the top of the case as handy storage for papers, peripherals, or the cat won’t find the NZXT Phantom 630 amenable to such considerations. Ventilation of the top is handled via an asymmetrical grid—both the ventilation cut-away and the metal pattern act as exhaust paths for top-mounted fans. NZXT ships the system with one 200mm fan mounted at the back of the case, but there’s room for a second.
The left-side panel, like the top, continues the partial grill motif but adds an asymmetric window as well. NZXT doesn’t’ sell the Phantom 630 with a solid case panel. It’s a bit of an odd design, as it appears tailor-made for people who sort-of like fan grills and sort-of like windows, but aren’t sure of either and don’t’ want to commit to both. Still, it’s distinctive. The insides are what matter most, and when it comes to the internals, NZXT has done a lot of things right.
The Phantom 630′s motherboard tray is roomy and easy to work with, with a cutout positioned under the CPU mount points to make custom heatsink attachments easier. The case is designed for a bottom-mounting power supply and there’s a detachable drive tray at the bottom that can be removed if the PSU is too large to fit into a standard slot. The drive trays themselves are mounted inside multi-drive cages, and each cage can be removed separately. This makes it easy to customize the NZXT Phantom 630′s airflow or to remove one set of drive trays in order to fit a larger GPU or add-in card inside the case.
The drive cages and the HDD mounting sleds are all accessed from the far side of the case, which is designed to facilitate easy cable routing. Large, rubber-lined cut-outs make it easy to run both power cabling and SATA lines. There’s a fan controller with support for up to ten 3-pin fans mounted on the back of the motherboard tray, and two 2.5-inch slots for attaching SSDs. These two attach points aren’t removable and they aren’t in the main air path, but if you’re using a solid state drive (or, theoretically, a 2.5-inch Ultrathin from a company like Seagate) you don’t need to worry about ambient heat.
All told, the NZXT Phantom 630 can hold up to six 3.5-inch drives and two 2.5-inch drives for a total of eight, assuming you don’t convert any of the four 5.25-inch bays for storage space. The cages themselves are partitioned into three enclosures capable of holding three, two, and one drive respectively. That might seem odd, but it’s actually another one of NZXT’s smart decisions. If you only need one HDD cage, you can remove the other two to clear space for the intake fan and use just the single enclosure. If you don’t need any of the 3.5-inch bays, you can pull all three out.
The actual drive sleds, however, are one of the Phantom 630′s few weak points. They’re manufactured of a lightweight plastic so flexible it’s difficult to get them back in the enclosure; they’ll bend and twist out of the track if given the slightest opportunity. In a case that stands out for a number of really smart decisions, these feel like the wrath of an angry accountant, determined to claw back three cents per case.
The system ships a front intake fan, top exhaust fan, and side-mounted intake fan, all 200mm designs, and all with a maximum of 800 RPM. There’s also a rear-mounted 140mm exhaust fan. All of these are low-and-slow designs that emphasize moving a great deal of air per rotation rather than spinning at high RPM. This generates minimal noise but ensures high airflow; it’s a potent mix of near-silent operation with plenty of headroom for overclocking, should the user desire. There’s also room inside the case for a large watercooling reservoir and radiator block.
Aside from the drive bay issues, this is a great case. It’s not cheap—the $159 price tag is going to put it out of range for a number of buyers—but if you’ve got the cash, this case is worth a serious consideration. It’s packed full of clever thinking, from extra drive bays for SSDs that don’t require much in the way of airflow to the SD card reader to the included fan controller. The peaked top and asymmetrical ventilation / window design may not appeal to all comers, but if you like the style, you’ll find there’s substance to match it. All this earns the NZXT Phantom 630 our Editors’ Choice.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc