We are going to explore the NZXT Phantom 410, a mid-tower computer case. The Phantom 410 is one of NZXT’s Crafted series. The product page shows four versions of this case, but don’t let that fool you. According to a press release dated March 12, 2012:
Early this year, NZXT polled the facebook community to see what color combinations were most demanded by gamers and enthusiasts, selected the top choices and made them a reality. Phantom 410 is now available in Black with Orange Trim, Black with White Trim, White with Blue Trim, and a surprise Gunmetal black edition with a gunmetal interior and exterior matte finish.
That’s a lot of possibilities for one case.
NZXT prides itself on being “a company built upon gamer’s dreams.” They say this about their creation:
NZXT introduces the descendant of the revolutionary Phantom, the Phantom 410. The beautiful and sleek Phantom design set the trend of all white chassis and idealized optimal expansion and cooling. In comparison to its predecessor, the Phantom 410 delivers more value for every dollar spent and possesses an acrylic window that allows gamers to admire the power of their rig.
See? We can admire the power of this rig.
Features and Specifications
- 215 mm (W), 516 mm (H) and 532 mm (D)
- 8.5 inches wide, 20.3 inches high and 20.9 inches deep
- FRONT, 2 x 120 mm or 1 x 140 mm (1 x 120 mm included)
- TOP, 2 x 120/140 mm (1 x 140 mm included)
- SIDE, 1 x 120/140 mm
- Interior PIVOT, 1 x 120 mm or 1 x 140 mm
- BOTTOM, 1 x 120 mm
- REAR, 1 x 120 mm (included)
Room enough to play in this mid-tower case, but it won’t loom over your room. Actually, with skids that are 23 mm tall, lots of headroom in the attic under the roof, and so much room for all your stuff inside the case, it is amazing that the metal part is only 450mm tall (that’s only seventeen and three-quarters inches, folks).
Quoting NZXT, here are the features (with my comments):
- Clearance for top 240 mm dual radiator for water cooling solutions (There was room for two 140 mm TY-140’s in the attic. TY-140’s are 160mm wide, and they fit easily. So I don’t doubt you could put a 240 mm rad up there, as NZXT promises.)
- Adjustable interior pivot 120/140 mm fan slot for directional air flow (The pivot also allows you to fit your mid-case fan in more than one way.)
- Removable HDD cage to allow more room for extended video cards (The HDD cage is dead easy to remove, but otherwise sits firmly in place.)
- Innovative right mounted HDD rails for easy hard drive replacement (They are easy to pull out.)
- Single 120/140 mm side fan with acrylic window for interior viewing and cooling (The side window is sized perfectly. There is actually room for a 150 mm fan below the window on the side — and my 140 mm test fan did not interfere with an NH-D14 heatsink; they placed that side fan just right.)
- Front Internal 2 x USB 3.0 headers, 2 x USB 2.0, audio and microphone input (All present, but with a caveat we’ll discuss below.)
- 30 W 3-step fan control for setting up your system for silence or performance (The fan controller has sockets for seven fans.)
- Wire management support up to 25 mm space for easy cable management (I love the fact that they’re advertising the amount of clearance they have behind the motherboard tray. And yes, it is 25 mm. Kudos, NZXT.)
- Screw-less 5.25” and HDD trays that secures 2.5” SSD (Half-deceptive here: the 5.25” bay and the HDD trays are indeed screw-less, but the 2.5-inch drives must be screwed down to the HDD trays.)
- Cooling capability of up to eight fans (2 x 120 mm and 1 x 140 mm LED fan included) (Yes. Room for eight fans, including the exhaust fan.)
- CPU Heatsink Support: 170 mm (This is from the carton, not the website. As best I can measure it, there is 175mm from the motherboard to the inside edge of a metal panel. A clear window would take a little away from that, so a 170 mm clearance is appropriate.)
These are interesting features, and they show that quite a bit of thought was given to the design of this case. In fact, one gets the impression that the designers have actually built computer systems in their cases. So let’s look at the Phantom 410.
The pictures on the box are effective in showing you what to expect with this case. The pictures show the mild beating it took on its way from California to New Jersey. One of the end panels cheerfully tells us how many fans it can support, the length of graphics cards, the wiring space. All obscured by the shipping label, of course. We see the dimensions, and we learn that this construction of steel and plastic weighs 9 kg, or 20 lbs. Hefty. The connectors are covered by another label. We learn that the case inside the carton is actually “Gun Metal,” a species of dark gray. And it has a warranty of two years. That’s nice. I wonder what fatal flaws can emerge from such a hefty steel box in two years?
Perhaps the warranty is meant to cover shipping damage. However, opened from the top, it looks like the case survived its trip. The next picture shows the case in its bag and Styrofoam end caps, which are marked for recycling (type 4) and labeled Phantom 410 — just in case you mixed end caps from several cases together.
It’s a handsome devil, eh? The left side view shows the protecting plastic on the acrylic window. These cover both sides, and are re-usable. The right panel is plain.
The front is elegant and clean, but we have no opportunity to mount a fan in the 5.25 bay, since the bay is behind a solid door. You can see the stock front white NZXT fan through the front double mesh below the door. We will revisit that mesh.
The rest of this case:
- The rear view shows us the space for a bottom mounted PSU, mesh slot covers and two grommeted holes for an external radiator. There is also a 120 mm fan, identical to the front fan. Both have white blades and no LED’s. Sorry, no room for a 140 mm rear fan.
- At the top you can see through the grill to the stock 140 mm fan. Also on top are the headphone and microphone jacks, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, and the three-position fan control switch. On the other side of the roof are the HD LED, the power switch and the reset button. The reset button is small and flush with the case so it is difficult to push by accident.
- On the bottom we can see a mesh held on the grill under the place for the PSU. The mesh comes off easily, but you must at least tilt the case to get at it. It can be replaced by feel — with practice. You can see the grill for the bottom fan intake. Finally, look at those skids. They are 23mm tall and should allow air to enter at the back and travel forward to the bottom fan, but there will be some resistance.
Looking Inside the Phantom 410
The left photo shows a typical thumbscrew. Just in case you were wondering, two of these thumbscrews fasten each side panel in place. You will become accustomed to these. The Phantom 410 uses them everywhere.
Next we see the case wide open. It’s all “gun metal” inside. The interior:
- Starting at the upper left of the motherboard bay, note the size of the CPU window in the motherboard tray. The motherboard tray is fixed.
- The cable pass-through holes all have grommets. Those grommets are an affectation, though. They are not necessary: the holes themselves are nicely finished so you can’t cut yourself or any cables on the edges.
- Six spare thumbscrews. Can’t have too many of those, right? Actually, NZXT intends you to use them to firmly fasten the other side of your 5.25-inch hardware, but maybe you won’t do it; I’ll explain later.
- Tool-less grippers for your optical disc drives (ODD). They can be locked, but mainly they work great and are easy to use. Good thing, too: we might need that ease of use, as we shall see.
- Below we see the removable hard drive cage. Just squeeze the top and bottom tabs and the cage pulls out — if you have remembered to disconnect the drives first. The 3.5-inch HD trays pull out on the right side, the “back” side from this point of view.
- At bottom right we see the space for two HD’s. I just pull out the trays and use the space for stuffing cables. You will see that I have a PSU that is only semi-modular. If you need a place to put unused cables, here’s the spot.
- The accessory box is sitting on the bottom 120 mm fan position.
- At bottom left there are some rubber cushions for the PSU.
- If you zoom in you can see that the mesh slot covers are fastened by the ubiquitous thumbscrews. Do yourself a favor and get a magnetic tip #2 Phillips screwdriver. That will make putting your thumbscrews back into their positions on the slot cover bank an easy proposition. No sense sweating the small stuff.
- 120 mm exhaust fan. Identical to the 120 mm front intake fan. No LED’s.
Throughout, I am struck by NZXT’s judicious use of materials and trinkets. This makes the case eminently usable without wasting cost on items you rarely use and don’t really need. Overall it allows them to keep the price down where people can afford it.
In the first shot, we see some of the accessories (the six 4″ zip ties and a bunch of the screws are not shown).
- Those screws are lying on the user’s manual, a single double-sided sheet that lists the parts and shows how to install equipment in the case. Pretty useful, and multilingual.
- In the center, you can see the “standoff wrench” that turns the hex-sided standoffs into thumbscrews. This little device makes it incredibly easy to install what would otherwise be nine pesky little things.
- Also very useful was that the various screws come in plastic bags that were labeled as to their contents. No more guessing about what that screw was you lost. So keep your little bags.
In the second photo is that bundle of wires arrayed for all to see.
- Molex connector with a 12 V wire and two grounds, just to be on the safe side. Also, no 5 V wire. I guess that is supposed to keep us modders from getting unduly creative. Of course, we know what a faint hope that can be.
- Blue-tipped USB motherboard plug. Now this is quite modern, but what of people who have older motherboards having only rear USB 3 connectors? There is no adapter provided and the USB 3 sockets up top are hard-wired. You can’t pull the USB 3.0 cables and replace them with point-to-point USB 3.0 cables. I can think of workarounds, and so can you. Maybe NZXT will send you an adapter if you ask.
- Four of the seven fan sockets controlled by the three-speed fan switch.
- USB 2.0 plug
- HD sound plug
- Plugs for the HD LED, Reset switch, Power switch, etc. Notice anything wrong? I’ll let you think about it until we get to the build section.
Hard Drive Management
The HD cage pulls out easily. Just pull the bottom tab up and press the top tab down, then gently pull the cage out. The offset of the top and bottom rails makes sure that the cage fits only one way. The HD trays pull out by squeezing the horizontal tabs together, then gently pulling. You have six trays to play with.
The HD tray is simple, but you have to bend it open to get a hard drive into it. With a little practice it’s not too hard.
You can install a 140 mm or a 120 mm fan on the left side of the HD cage to help pull air across the hard drives. The fan can be tilted up to improve the airflow going to your graphics card. I asked about that. Here is what one of NZXT’s engineer’s had to say: “We were thinking of options available to us that would improve GPU airflow, other than adding a side panel fan, the pivot fan was just perfect for that. It was a pretty perfect solution so we went with it.”
The Phantom 410 comes to you as a classic bottom front to top rear airflow, but NZXT gives us the versatility to go in a different direction. Like very few other cases, the Phantom 410 has no grills for its top fans. That means they can be reversed to become top intake fans with no grill to reduce their efficiency. This expands on a theme we can see developing in this case: versatility. We’ll see more of this.
One detail before we go: see that opening above the top fan? That 13 mm opening (0.5 inches) allows you to run a wire down to a CCFL tube you might want to install to light up your rig. There are a pair of them, as you can see from the top.
For you waterheads out there: will your rad hoses fit through these holes? Let me know in the comment section.
The back side of the motherboard tray. The cables are neatly bundled with zip ties, making room for you to see all of the tie down points on the back of the motherboard tray. Here’s a nice closeup of the IO cluster with the fan speed control switch.
The front intake fan peeks through not one but two grills. Look carefully and see there are two grills, one behind the other. You could call the inner grill a filter, but it’s not. It’s simply a highly restrictive grill. NZXT uses pretty good fans in its cases (I should know; I test fans), but whether you use one or two fans up front you can barely feel any air getting past the HD cage. The holes on the second grill will let all manner of dust through.
What if you want to clean them? They will accumulate some dust, after all. Well, you’ll need a #2 Phillips screwdriver. The third picture shows the grills taken off for cleaning.
Look at the fan position above the stock front intake fan. You need four 6-32 x 28 mm screws to mount a second fan. NZXT just happens to provide you with those. So, you can mount two front fans. Now look at the wide spot on the chassis. Yup, you can put a 140 mm there, right in the middle. Looking above and below the fan you can see the reason not much air gets through: the fan mounts, top and bottom, are quite restrictive. These HD mounts restrict airflow even when they are not populated.
What NZXT has in mind is for this case to exhaust air out the top. What if you like top intake? You can do that!
I put a pair of TY-140’s cross-wise on the top of the case to see if they would fit. Since I don’t have a rad this is as close as I could get to a fit test for rads (NZXT claims 30 mm vertical clearance). TY-140’s are 140×160 mm wide, and 27 mm tall. They fit with plenty of room to spare under the case roof.
NZXT contemplates a rad on the top of the case, with the fans feeding air from underneath. That would work fairly well, as you shall see when we build in this case.
Building in the Phantom 410
Let’s build, then.
The first picture shows the standoff wrench in action. Cute little bugger, eh wot? Remember I asked you what was wrong with the motherboard connector wires? The next picture illustrates the problem: they are too long. Just more cables I’ll have to manage, alas.
The right shot shows the motherboard installed. Notice my semi-modular PSU. All those unneeded cables. You can see where I was able to stuff them. Some of you have PSU’s with fixed cables. So, how is the Phantom 410 at managing cables, wanted and unwanted? Stay tuned.
Here is the back of the motherboard’s CPU cutout. Plenty big enough. But what I want you to notice is the two cutouts at the top of the case. The cutout over the CPU is perfect for running fan wires from the top of the case to run behind the motherboard tray. The cutout at the upper right is where you stick your ATX 8 or 4+4 plug for CPU power. A nice comfortable fit. No binding.
The middle photo shows one of the unused cables tucked into a handy spot. Hmm. A whole 2.5 cm behind the motherboard tray. NZXT told the truth about their spec.
The last image is the back of the motherboard tray with most of the hardware in place. The semi-modular PSU has long fixed cables so it can be used in a really big full tower case. The Phantom 410 is a mid-tower case, and not a tall one at that. So there was way too much slack for the CPU cable to run up the channel built for it. That resulted in this thick cable wandering over the main part of the motherboard tray, where it was tied to some anchor points. The right panel fitted over the cable with plenty of room to spare. Anchor points to the right on the motherboard tray helped take up the slack in the CPU cable. Above that you can see the bundle where I took up the slack in the motherboard control wires.
Anchor points everywhere made cable management easy. I suspect that if I had six hard drives (occupying my cubbyhole) and I had to do something with the unused cables, I could simply have tied them down across the back of the motherboard tray, using the many tie down points. It would have been untidy, but it would have worked. So, the Phantom 410 gives you lots of room to store unused cables.
On this case, installing a 5.25″ unit is dead easy. Open a front latch (pic #2), remove the slot cover and slide in your unit. Flip a side catch (pic #3, middle slot) to retain the unit and you’re ready to plug the cables into your DVD burner. Then go to the other side of the case (pic #4), screw in two thumbscrews and you’re ready to close up the case. Right?
Not so fast. Look at the last photo. That ridge, and another like it on the right side of the front slot, keeps your 5.25″ unit from sliding all the way through into the case. That means it is retained — caught — by the front bezel. Conversely, a fastened-in 5.25″ drive traps the front bezel. If you want to remove the front bezel you must unplug and unlatch your DVD drive before you pull it out with the bezel, or pull out the DVD drive before you remove the front bezel. That means you need access to the inside of your case to do something as simple as clean the front.
On some other case you would pop the face off the case, vacuum your fan filters and put back the front bezel. Not this one. I don’t think NZXT contemplated dusty rooms and frequent mesh cleaning.
Into the motherboard bay. First we install our heatsink. In the first photo, you can see I chose a Noctua NH-D14. Next, let’s install some fans. With all that room it wasn’t very hard, especially because the case has no top grills and you can get at your heatsink from the top, or from the heatsink’s perspective, from both sides. With side-mounted fans clips on the D14 this case made it extra easy to install those fans.
In the second image, you can see how the mid-case fan fits in. Unfortunately, it does not draw well unless it is tilted up. Those hard drive cages are simply too restrictive; tilting that fan up allows it to draw air from below instead of through the hard drive cage.
In the third photo, we indulge in a little of this case’s versatility: we re-mount the mid-case fan on the surface of its holder. Now it gets plenty of air from the bottom intake fan and it pours air to where we can put a graphics card.
Okay. So, I tried the NH-D14 with a 140 mm NF-P14 in the front push position instead of the normal 120 mm NF-P12. Notice I went with low profile RAM to try this experiment, visible in the picture on the left. The next picture shows that the fan fit under the acrylic window. Then I got daring and tried the same thing with the slightly larger TY-140. It barely fit, but it did fit. That means you should be able to fit a Silver Arrow in this case, and probably a Phanteks PH-TC14PE. If you do this, I recommend sanding the corners of the TY-140 or the Phanteks fan to keep from scarring your acrylic window.
NZXT says there is 175 mm clearance for CPU coolers. I’d say that’s about right.
By the way, that 140 mm fan in the middle picture did not touch the fin stacks of the NH-D14. I could have put a 150 mm TY-150 there.
NZXT tells us there is 305 mm for graphics cards. That’s 12 inches; a lot more if you pull out the hard drive cage.
The last two pictures are night shots, from the inside and from the outside. With the window and the top grill, LED fans light up the night.
One last bit before we move on to conclusions: noise, or the lack of it. The NZXT fans by themselves are not very noisy. What noise you hear is mostly the sound of air rushing. I did make some measurements, however. The following are the corrected Sound Pressure Level measurements I took with either just the bottom or with both fan positions occupied by the 120 mm NZXT stock case fans. The measurements were taken at 10 cm from the center of the front mesh and corrected for SPL at 1 meter.
|Controller Speed||Double front fans||Single front fan|
|High||27.0 dBA||25.5 dBA|
|Medium||22.5 dBA||20.5 dBA|
|Low||15.0 dBA||14.5 dBA|
Not bad. At high, whether the case had one or two fans it was quiet. At medium, it was very quiet, and at low it was ultra-quiet. Of course, the case wasn’t silent. For that, it would have to be passive, and this setup was certainly not passive. You would have to add the noise from the fans at the top of the case to get a complete sound picture, but this gives you an idea.
I would love to love this case. It has most of what I ask for in an air-cooled case:
- It’s wide enough
- It is free of fan grills at the top
- It has room for two fans at the top so the forward top position can be used for air intake
- There is a mid-case fan
- There is a bottom fan position
- There is a place for a side panel fan, and it does not interfere with a CPU large heatsink.
- There is plenty of room behind the motherboard tray for cable management.
For some of you this might be the very case you need. It’s even pretty, especially with lights in it.
If you, like me, live in a dusty environment, this case is too cumbersome to clean on a regular basis. It would get tiresome to partly disassemble this case on a biweekly basis to do what should be a quick cleaning of the air filters, much less the weekly vacuuming I give my own rigs. This case is so close . . . but that cigar goes elsewhere.
What about modding? Hmm. Let’s see. I’d take off that inside front grill, freeing up some airflow. I’d use the plastic gripper on one side and thumbscrews on the other to fix the drive in place so I would no longer need the ridges on the front bezel. Then I’d scrape or nibble off those ridges from whichever 5.25-inch slot I picked for the optical disk drive. That would make it easy to remove the front bezel. So if you were willing to do a tiny bit of case modding you could make the Phantom 410 work fine. Okay, so I can love this case after all.
One of the excellent themes in the design of this case is versatility:
- The top fans can be used for exhaust or intake.
- You can use a rear top exhaust, a forward top intake, or two top fans blowing in whatever direction you choose.
- Front — one or two 120 mm fans or a single 140 mm fan, along with enough screws to make it happen.
- The mid-case fan can be mounted flush against the HD cage; it can be mounted an inch away; it can be pivoted to direct air upward.
- You can mount lots of HD’s and fit a graphics card up to a foot long. If you need to accommodate a longer graphics card, just pull out that HD cage.
- One nice touch: except for the rear fan you can use 140 mm fans for everything.
In the end, after the primary purpose of serving as a container for your computer system, a case is all about airflow. The hard drive cage and lower hard driver holder are quite restrictive, and reduce the air that your fans can push into the case from the front. So most of the air this case can get will come from whatever top, bottom and side fans you install.
- Great looking case
- Easy to work in, including a tool-less design where it counts
- No sharp edges inside
- Great cable management: plenty of room, pass-throughs and tie-down points to manage cables
- Motherboard/CPU window is generous
- Just wide enough to accommodate 140mm push fans on your CPU heatsink
- Clever mid-case fan holder with pivot
- Spacious for a mid-tower: Room for a foot-long graphics card, 240mm radiator with fans on top
- Three fans included and space for eight fans
- Fan controller that is simple to operate, and will control up to seven fans
- Lots of deft little touches, like a standoff thumb-wrench and bags labeled as to contents
- Great versatility in designing airflow — you do it your way
- Must partly disassemble the case to clean the front air filter(s). (That is fixable with a little modding)
- Hard drive mounts that restrict airflow from the front of the case
That’s not a long list of cons. From what the engineer had to say, NZXT did make a few compromises to bring this case in at a very manageable $99.99 on Newegg (with free shipping to boot), but the compromises mostly don’t show.
That said, there are some missed opportunities:
- The rear exhaust fan is covered by a grill. Without a rear grill you would likely run your case without any rear exhaust fan. The Phantom 410 would have been that much quieter.
- The narrow strips of sheet metal between the rear slots do nothing but restrict airflow. Dispensing with those would allow easier cooling of graphics cards.
- All of the fan positions would benefit from filters.
- Cases have begun to come with slots for memory cards. These are most excellent, and add considerably to the value of a case.
The Phantom 410 is a fine looking case with many excellent features. If you live where dust is only a long term problem, you could use it unmodified.