NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case Overview

NZXT has been on a roll, releasing one innovative case after another.  The NZXT Phantom 410 was an award winning case we reviewed here back in December of 2011.  One year later NZXT sent us its big brother, the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case.  Unlike the Phantom 410, the Phantom 820's angles are not as hash softening the "Stormtrooper" look.  This is probably because the Phantom 820 is almost twice as big as the Phantom 410.  

NZXT Phantom 820 angle

 

NZXT released the Phantom 820 in three colors, White, Black, and the sample they sent us in Gun Metal Gray.  The gray is a nice departure from the all too common black and white that have been so popular lately but it is dark enough you might mistake it for black.  This is a full tower case meaning it is simply massive, standing over 28 inches tall and 27 inches deep.  All this size in steel comes with a price and that is the 32lb unloaded weight.  Fill this case full of water cooling gear and six hard drives and you will not want to be trying to lug this case to your local LAN party.  But that is not the point of this case, it was designed to hold everything you could want in a single box, cool it well and silently with copious 200mm slow 800 RPM fans, and do it all in a striking angled and accent lighted form factor.  NZXT wanted this to be the pinnacle of the enthusiast full tower cases and loaded it with options.  It has an integrated SD card reader, RGB LED accent lighting inside and out with a dial to change between 16 hues, LED utility lights on the rear ports, an integrated four channel 15W fan controller, and enough cable management to make your mother proud. 

 

Phantom 820 colors

 

The Phantom 820 is the new flagship for NZXT and it carries a flagship suggested price of $249.99, but we found a holiday deal of $195.00 plus free shipping from FRY's Electronics good until December 31st (White only).  Unless you find a deal buster like this, you can expect to pay closer to the $249.99 since the Phantom 820 has only been on the market a month or two.  Either way, this is a premium price for a case especially one made of plastic and steel but NZXT did fill it with features.  We will see if the features of the NZXT Phantom 820 justify the price on the next few pages. 

 

Specifications of the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case:

 

Feature of the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case:

 

 

Unboxing the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case

The box arrived at our labs a little banged up but no worse for wear with a few corners crunched which is not surprising after the trip over from China.

 NZXT Phantom 820 box front

The front of the box is simply an image of the case with the Phantom 820 badge.



NZXT Phantom 820 box right

The right side of the box had marketing text in seven different languages highlighting some of the features of this large full tower .



NZXT Phantom 820 box rear

Around the back are several images of the  with top, inside, and feature views.  If you were picking this case up in store retail it would be easy to see if it has what you want with the nice photo layout.



NZXT Phantom 820 box left

The left size of the box has some basic specifications for the NZXT Phantom 820.

NZXT Phantom 820 packing

Even thought the box had the normal shipping dings and dents the foam end blocks did a fine job keeping the case damage free.  A look at the outside of the NZXT Phantom 820 is next.

Outside the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case

 
NZXT second generation Phantom 820 looks very similar to the first Phantom 410 with a spine that runs down the top and front of the case.  This reminds me of a Cadillac and the type of style you either love or hate as are most cases aimed at the gaming community.
 
NZXT Phantom 820 Front
 
 
The NZXT Phantom 820's front has the air intake port slanted with the high point on the left which is the opposite of the Phantom 410.  This tends to merge better with the angles on the left side of the case.  The top half of the front is a magnetic door covering the drive bays and other I/O features covered below.  Below this is a 200 mm intake fan to bring in that sweet cool air.  Overall a very clean look in gun metal gray.
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 left
 
The left side of the Phantom 820 is a bit more styled and blingy.  The vented lower area has shaped areas in front of the 200mm intake fan.  The bends in the vent cover do not appear to provide any function and just add texture to the side.  Next to the fan area is another styled mesh panel with a plastic window above it.  The bottom of the case has a front foot and rear legs.  NZXT tried to do something interesting with the base while providing enough height for bottom intake.  A lot of bling on this side of the case.
 
NZXT Phantom 820 back
 
The back of the Phantom 820 has four ports for water cooling tubes to pass through, a reversible PSU mount, nine vented PCI slots, and a movable included 140 mm exhaust fan.  There  are also thumb screws to remove the side panels which are less convenient than the push buttons or locks of other top tier gaming cases but not a deal breaker.
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 right
 
Right side has a bulge to mimic the other side of the case and provide extra room to route cables behind the motherboard tray.  This bulge also helps make the side of the case more rigid to reduce vibration based noise.
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 Top
Up top is where it starts to get exciting.  The I/O ports and fan control live on the front edges with no less than a 200 mm included filtered fan helping with the thermals.  There is room up top for a second 200 mm fan or up to a 360 mm or 280 mm radiator if you are into water cooling.
NZXT Phantom 820 bottom
 
The bottom has a foot on the front and a another filtered intake port for one or two 120 / 140 mm fans.  The rear section is also filtered and aligned to the intake fan from a PSU if it is pointed down.  There are four rubber feet to help with vibration if placed on a hard surface.
 
NZXT Phantom 820 top buttons
 
A closer look at the right top edge shows the power and reset buttons along with the included quad channel digital fan controller with 15 watts per channel and LED indicators that change brightness based on speed.  In comparison most 5.25" bay fan controllers are 10 watts / channel so this is a very nice unit.
 
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 usb
 
 
NZXT added no less than six USB ports on the left side of the top panel with two USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0.  The only quirk is that the top is sloped so after you hook up your six devices you have to set them somewhere other than the top of the case.  Good on cool factor but eyebrow up on usefulness.
NZXT Phantom 820 5.25
 
 
Similar to the Phantom 410, NZXT has placed the four 5.25" bays behind a door panel.  This one is held close with a magnetic latch and is not reversible the best we could tell.  All four bays are covered with mesh panels that pop out easily with a press of the little button on the left.
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 card reader
 
Another cool feature NZXT added to their high end gaming case is the top of the bay behind the door.  Here you find a built in SD card reader to help transfer those photo's from your point and shoot camera to your system.  This case has a very sophisticated LED lighting system inside and out that is controlled by the remaining buttons that we cover on page 5. 
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 front filter
 
The front bottom has a push in to pop out intake fan filter to make cleaning easy.
 
NZXT Phantom 820 rear filter
 
The bottom rear of the case also has a pop out fan filter.  NZXT made sure all the intakes were covered with filters in the Phantom 820.
 
NZXT Phantom 820 front open
 
The front of the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case without the shell reveals a front mounted 800 RPM 200mm intake fan for high volumes of silent airflow.  In this image you can also see through the 5.25" bays to the rear 140mm exhaust fan.
 
NZXT Phantom 820 top open
 
On the top is another 800 RPM 200mm intake fan that is filtered and a second filter mount for another 200mm optional fan.  It is a bit odd that the top fan is default mounted as an intake but at least they are filtered.  Both of these fans can be removed to hold two 140mm fans or three 120mm fans.  A full buffet of cooling options on this case for both air and water coolers!

Inside the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case

  
 
To see what the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case has to offer on the inside, we pulled the covers off and explored a bit.
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 left open
 
The NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case is a standard configuration, providing access to the mobo from the left side.  NZXT provides plenty of pass through holes with rubber grommets for extreme cable management.  NZXT provides a massive back plate hole to accommodate just about any CPU cooler back plate configuration making it simple to swap coolers without having to yank the whole motherboard.
 
doorfan.jpg (550×526)
 
Inside the left panel is an included 800 RPM 200mm filtered fan pushing air over your GPU(s) providing even more cooling.  
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 drive bays
 
 
Looking a bit deeper from the left side you notice the four 5.25" bays at the top and some of the many cables from all the I/O on the front and top of the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case  .
 
 
  
 
NZXT Phantom 820 tool free
 
 
 All of the Phantom 820's 5.25" bays feature tool-free locking system to make installation a breeze.
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 drive cage
 
Below the 5.25" bays are the two HDD Cages that are only accessible from the right side.  The top holds four drives and the bottom holds and additional two.
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 bottom cage
 
The bottom two drive bays are removable from the right if you want to open up the bottom of the case for additional accessories such as a 240mm / 280mm water cooling radiator.  If you place a 360mm at the top, 140 mm at the rear, and  280 mm rad at the bottom you have 780mm of cooling all internal, amazing well thought out design.
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 fan mount
 
Another nice feature of the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case is this 120mm / 140mm fan bracket that angles up to 30 degrees, allowing you to focus cool air where you need it.
 
PSU Mount
 
The bottom PSU area has four sturdy rubber feet to dampen vibration and the filtered intake.  In front of the PSU area is the filtered space for a 120mm or 140mm intake fan.
 
NZXT Phantom 820 space above mobo
 
For you water coolers out there, the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case provides 90mm of space between the top and the motherboard.  This should provide plenty of room for a fat rad with 25mm fans in put and above the metal but below the housing in pull.  There is room for a 280mm or 360mm radiator up top that will provide enough cooling for a CPU and GPU with a heavy overclock.
 
 
 
NZXT Phantom 820 right open

 

On the left side the wires from the pre-wired front panel come out the top and this is the side you access all the hard drives from.  It is a little inconvenient to have to open both sides of your case to work on it and we wish you could access the drive bays from the right side but it is not a show stopper.   NZXT was nice enough to include the ATX power extender in the top right to help get power to the top of the motherboard in this massive case.

 

NZXT Phantom 820 HDD trays

 

A closer view of the HDD cages with the trays inside.  Another minor complaint is that the trays are very flimsy and tend to fall out of the slots if there is no drive mounted in them.  Of course once a HDD is inserted it is not a problem.

 

hddtray.jpg (550×381)

 

Here is one of the trays from the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case showing off the rubber grommets for a traditional drive and the center mount pattern for a SSD.  This common feature allows you to mount six drives or six SSD's.  

NZXT Phantom 820 space behind mobo tray

 

Behind the motherboard tray there is 20mm of clearance to run wires.  This space and all the ports with grommets should make cable management a piece of cake.

 

parts box

 

NZXT included a nice hard plastic case filled with screws, zip ties, and even long radiator screws to mount your fans.  The large rubber piece can be used to cover the USB ports on top of the case to keep the dust out and streamline the look if you do not plan on using them.

 
 

NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case Lighting and Fan Controller

NZXT tried to think of everything in the Phantom 820.  Keeping with this theme, they included big bling LED case lighting that is beyond what even aftermarket companies offer.

 

led_on

 

From the outside of the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower case there is a light bar on the top right next to the fan controller and audio ports that continues down the front a few inches.  On the left side is a second light bar tucked under the top and behind the front left edge of the 5.25" door.  Finally there is a LED bar mounted in the top of the inside of the case to light the interrior and create a nice glow out the side window.

 

 

NZXT Phantom 820 card reader 

 Taking another look at the control panel in the top of the 5.25" bay, behind the door, there are three LED specific controls around the SD card reader.  The left switch labled "mode" cycles between case LEDs lit on the outside, the inside, both, or all off.  The big wheel moves through the 16 possible hues for the RGB LEDs on and in the case.  And the button on the right turns the I/O LEDs on and off in the back of the case.

 

Phantom 820 top LED

 

On the right top of the case there is a plastic light bar that glows one of the many colors, but there are four little angled plastic pieces connected to the color light bar.  These are actually little white LEDs that light up depending on which of the four channels the 15w / channel fan controller has selected.  These white LEDs glow brighter as you turn the power up and dim as the fan power is turned down by the +/- silver rocker switch.  The channel is selected with the button in the middle of the rocker.  The black buttons are power and reset with the headphone and mic jack next to the power switch.  A lot going on in a little space, but it keeps the rest of the top of the NZXT Phantom 820 nice an clean.

 

Phantom Green LED

 

 Here are the row of RGB LEDs in a reflective bar that does a nice job of lighting the case.  This picture was taken with the photo lights on and the green still has a nice glow so you can imagine how well it would light a darkened room.

 

Phantom many LED

 

 

Red, green, pink, blue, let your mood drive your color.  Thses are a few shots of several of the rainbow of colors you can dial in with a close up of the RGB LEDs glowing blue.

Phantom I/O LED

 

Phantom PCI LED

 

 So simple, yet almost nobody does this!  Bright white LED's that light up all the ports in back of the case toggled by that I/O on/off switch in front.  Great for checking connections or plugging in that new ultra high DPI mouse you just got for the holidays!  This is by far the most innovative included lighting scheme we have ever seen in an enthusiast case.  Our only minor gripe is that they use a SATA power for the LEDs and Molex power for the fan controller requiring two cable runs from the PSU or the use of a converter.

Installing in the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower Case

The Phantom 820 is a full tower case so installing gear was very simple with plenty of room.  The only time we had to touch a screwdriver was to install the screws holding our SSD to the tray.

Phantom 820 installed

All the ports with grommets in the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower case really made it easy to run cables from anywhere to anywhere.  Our ASUS GTX 670 card is 10.7 inches long and this case makes it look simply tiny with a full 14 inches of room before the internal fan mount.  Even our ATX motherboard looks tiny in this case showing just how much room you have to install water cooling, additional lighting (if you really need it) or any other accessories.  Airflow from the front, top, and side included 800 RPM 200mm intake fans was superb and dead silent.  Providing all that filtered intake with only a single 140mm exhaust makes this case pressure positive which should significantly minimize the dust inside.

 

Phantom 820 rear install

 

We did not bother to tidy up our cables for our test install but suffice it to say there were enough cable tie bumps and pass through holes to do whatever we wanted.  In the top right corner you can see we used that included ATX power extender, thank you NZXT.  The only challenge we had was our PSUs cables were not very long forcing us to make a few routing decisions that were messy.  This is the only down side to installing in a full tower case with the vast space.  Nothing some cable extenders couldn't fix or a PSU with longer runs.

watercooled.jpg (800×600)

 

This marketing shot shows what is possible with water cooling a tri-SLI setup using a 360mm and 280mm radiator.  The Phantom 820 still has a decent amount of room even with all that gear loaded.

 

 

Phantom 820 Final Thoughts & Conclusions

The new trend of filling cases with features any enthusiast would enjoy is a great one and NZXT pushed the feature boundaries with the Phantom 820.  This case is big, really big, and solid with great fit and finish and nice visual details without getting to far off mainstream looks.  

 

Phantom820angle2.jpg (364×576)

We loved the room inside the case and all the cable management options make it hard to have an ugly build in the Phantom 820.  Including a 15-Watt / 4-Channel fan controller that did not require giving up a 5.25" bay is simply awesome although it is a bit hard to read the white speed LEDs if you have the external case lighting on.  Still for the majority of users this is more than what they need especially since NZXT included so many high flow, low speed, massive filtered 200mm fans in the Phantom 820.  We are not sure adding the second 200mm fan at the top and another 140mm at the bottom would provide any additional benefit to the tornado inside this case.  It is probably one of the best out of the box air coolers we have seen in a full tower.  The LED bling factor is great if you like that type of thing and has an off switch which is great if it sits in your bedroom and you no longer need a nightlight.  LED lights on the rear ports are so simple and a very welcome addition for those late night "OMG, did my mouse just come unplugged" gaming sessions.  We also appreciated the center SSD mounts on the HDD trays.  So many companies make them offset to one side and then your SSD is up against the HDD pins.  NZXT was really thinking user ease when they included the ATX power single braided extension to make it up and over the motherboard on this massive case.  Finally, all the internal water cooling options should be more than enough to cool even a quad SLI / XFire GPU setup with extreme overclocking.  

In all this greatness there are a few minor rough edges. We were disappointed that they chose to use two different power connectors for the fan controller and the LED lights forcing us to run an extra cable from the PSU.  This case has plenty of room to accommodate the extra run, but why clutter up the case, especially given how many wires are already dangling behind the mobo tray from the fan controller.  The other item that bothered us is the right side of the case access to get to the hard drives.  We realize you probably won't mess with your hard drives on a daily basis but it is inconvenient to have to go around back to mess with them.

With a MSRP of $249.99, the NZXT Phantom 820 Full Tower case is a bit pricey for a steel and plastic case but they did load it with options.  It is nice that you don't have to burn 5.25" bays for a fan controller or LED light switches.  In addition, the amount of modding required to add all the RGB LED goodness even if you could even find a cheap multi-color setup helps justify this price point.  If you can find a deal buster for the holidays like we found at FRY's for $195.00 plus free shipping (White Only), you have found yourself a great deal.  We are not sure there is anymore you could ask for in a full tower case which is why we are awarding the NZXT Phantom 820 our Editors Choice award.

 

Editors Choice Award

 

 

Legit Bottom Line: If you are in the market for a full tower case, it would be hard to top the NZXT Phantom 820.  NZXT really pulled out all the stops making this the most feature rich and well cooled case we have seen to date.