Table of Contents
Phanteks was founded in 2007. Their first product was a heatsink that was arguably the best heatsink when it was introduced. Since then we have seen more fans and more heatsinks from Phanteks. And now they jump into the world of cases. Just as they did with the PH-TC14PE, Phanteks is starting at the top end of the market, this time with the Enthoo Primo, a $250 case. Is this case worth that price? Let us find out.
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Features
First of all, the Phanteks Enthoo Primo is a big, big case, 250 mm wide, 650 mm tall and 600 mm deep. That is 10×25.5x 23.5 inches — big. And it is heavy. Without power supply, motherboard, fans or rads, it weighs 17.9 kg. That’s nearly 40 pounds. Add your components, and you will not want to move it very often. You will find aluminum on the top and front, but the rest is made of steel. It’s solid and heavy, with sturdy pieces of plastic at various locations. With that, you get two windows that give you a full view of whatever you put inside. Be sure to get some LED’s. There is a lot of territory to light up. I know they advertise this as a full tower case, but perhaps we should call an edifice like this a supra-tower case.
A summary from the Phanteks product page:
- Full Tower Chassis
- Brushed Aluminum Front and Top Panels
- Ultimate Water Cooling Solution
- Removable Dust Filters
- Dual PSU Capability
- Innovative Reservoir Bracket/ Cable Cover
- Modular HDD Cages
- Drop-N-Lock Double Stack SSD Brackets
In more detail, Phanteks says this in their Overview:
Phanteks’ Enthoo Primo features a unique PSU thermally isolated location, multifunctional cable/reservoir cover, exclusive brackets, and massive cooling potential. Phanteks’ new case features a shifted design which allows for the unique PSU configuration. The PSU is thermally isolated, creating cooler temperatures within the case. With the PSU located in the back of the case, this allows for a cleaner look and better cable management. Exclusive brackets that makes everything a breeze to install. Reservoir bracket that can be use as a cable cover with the modular cover on or as a reservoir bracket with the pre-drilled holes when cover is off. Enthoo Primo includes a pump bracket that supports many different pumps, side radiator bracket and bottom radiator bracket for easy installation.
Enthoo Primo includes 1 x 140 mm fan on top, 2 x140 mm LED fans in front, 1 x 140 mm fan in the rear, and 1 x 140 mm fan on the bottom. Ability to upgrade to additional fans are possible. All fans included are Phanteks’ new redesigned and better performing PH-F140SP. Phanteks’ Enthoo Primo, unleash unlimited possibilities.
-Clean and elegant design that can be recognized by the refined aluminum front and top panels. Controllable LED lighting (LED strip and Fan LED). Polished chamfers that subtly accentuate the intake and exhaust areas.
-Stealth interior: hidden PSU / hidden HDD / hidden cables and grommets (modular cable cover).
-Extreme cooling capacity, providing up to 16 different fan mount locations (120 mm / 140 mm)
– 5 included Phanteks’ premium fans PH-F140SP
– The PWM hub makes it possible to control all the connected fans (also 3-pin fans) with PWM function through 1 PWM connector and create a better cable management.
-Thermally isolated PSU keeps the radiant heat from other critical components, reveals an optimal bottom air intake and hides the cables from blocking the airflow.
– Extensive water cooling support. Provides up to 5 different installation areas for slim and thick radiators varying from single to quad (120 mm and 140 mm form factors). Clearance for push-pull fan configurations.
– Innovative liquid cooling mounting systems: radiator brackets for easy installation (bottom and side), cable cover can be transformed into a reservoir bracket with pre-drilled mounting holes and an universal pump bracket with vibration dampening function
-Dual re-positionable and removable HDD cages (support up to 6 HDD’s) for more installation flexibility or unrestricted airflow
– Closed HDD panel strengthens the chassis’ rigidity, even when both HDD cages are removed.
– Removable Drop-n-Lock Doublestack SSD brackets that can be installed on 3 different locations. (2 brackets incl.)
– Removable front and top covers for easy installation of cooling components and easy dust filter removal.
– Other removable dust filters are located in the bottom (2x) and side panel (2x).
– Pre-installed cable management tools behind the motherboard tray that can be fastened and released.
– 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, microphone, 3.5 mm audio jack, LED switch
– Support up to 2 PSU’s
I quoted the entire marketing statement because it is most informative, and will in fact help you if you buy this case.
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Specs
|Dimensions||250 mm x 650 mm x 600 mm (WxHxD)|
10 x 25-1/2 x 23-1/2 inches (WxHxD)
|Form Factor||Full Tower Chassis|
|Material(s)||Aluminum Faceplates, Steel Chassis|
|Motherboard Support||ATX, EATX, mATX, SSI EEB|
|Front I/O||2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, Mic, Headphone, LED Switch, Reset Switch|
|Side Window||Yes, split-window design|
|Expansion & Drive Bays|
|Power Supply Slots||2|
|Internal 3.5″||6 (2x 3 HDD cages)|
|Internal 2.5″||12 (2x 3 HDD cages + 2x doublestack SSD brackets) *expandable to 3x|
|Cooling||120 mm fan||140 mm fan|
|Front||2x||2x included with LED|
|Top||4x||3x (1x included)|
|Rear||2x||1x (1x included)|
|Bottom||4x||2x (1x included)|
|Liquid Cooling||120 mm radiator||140 mm radiator|
|Front||Up to 240||–|
|Top||Up to 480||Up to 420|
|Side (w/o HDD cages)||Up to 240||–|
|Bottom||Up to 480||Up to 280|
|Graphic card||257 mm (reservoir bracket installed)|
|277 mm (reservoir bracket installed w/o cover)|
|350 mm (no reservoir bracket)|
|390 mm (HDD cages in front position)|
|515 mm (no HDD cages)|
|CPU cooler||207 mm|
|Cable management||30 mm|
|PH-F140SP (included fans)|
|Speed (rpm)||1200±250 rpm|
|Max Airflow||82.1 CFM|
|Static Pressure||1.33 mm H2O|
|Acoustical Noise||19 dB|
|Package Dimension||320 mm x 725 mm x 705 mm (WxHxD)|
|Net Weight||17.9 kg|
|Gross Weight||20 kg|
|Length||5 Years Limited|
Do note: they advertise the height of the CPU heatsink you can use – 207 mm. Phanteks also advertises the 30 mm clearance for cables behind the motherboard tray. When a manufacturer specifies those clearances you can make better buying choices. You can look through the Enthoo Primo manual in PDF form here.
Phanteks Enthoo Primo Packaging
The Enthoo Primo’s carton came wrapped in cardboard. Apparently whoever sent it did not have a shipping box as large as the case’s carton. The carton was taped together with ordinary 2″ packing tape – an irony, as we shall see later.
When the cardboard was removed, the carton was revealed. The front showed a handsome picture of the case. The reverse showed a number of the ways you can use this case, along with some of its more unusual features. The end cap unreels the long list of specs for this case.
Inside the carton the case is well-protected by springy closed cell foam. The pieces were cut for this case, then glued together. Not the cheapest way to pack something, but a case this heavy would pulverize Styrofoam. Under the top layer of foam you can see the plastic bag that further protects this case.
Prowling Around the Edges
The Enthoo Primo emerges from its packing to show off yet another layer of protection: a plastic wrap, in this case covering the front of the case. You can see that a part of the case seems offset to the left. This is not simply decoration, but reflects some design choices on the inside. Also note the arrow heads that indicate where to press to release the fan cover. The indicators are on decals which can be removed later.
Two soft plastic sheets protect the acrylic side windows. This too is ironic; for the material that goes over the top and down the front is a layer of an unholy cross between heavy Saran Wrap and packing tape. It was very hard to pull off. They could have used this wrapping material on the outer cardboard. They could have used the mildly sticky plastic covering the windows to cover the top and front. But someone at the factory, in what was clearly a mistake, put the tough stuff on it. We received an email mentioning the stuff, promising it was not part of normal production. And in fact others have reviewed this case and made no mention of the stubborn adhesive. We will revisit this sticky stuff at the end of our outer tour.
Moving around to the rear of the case we see the first 140 mm fan visible to us. The PH-F140SP fan is mounted in slots, so it can be moved up and down. A 140 mm exhaust fan is always a promising sign. That means you can probably fit a heatsink that is taller than a full tower heatsink. Further down we find eight card slots, and two positions for PSU’s. The standard PSU position is on the left, and the optional PSU position doubles as a place for another 140 mm fan. Both of these exhaust fan positions come with spots for 120 mm and 140 mm fans. Note that the upper fan is at least a cm away from the motherboard IO window, with another 2 cm between the fan and the side panel. You can see that the 207 mm CPU cooler clearance Phanteks advertises seems believable.
The right side of the case shows us two things. Toward the front end of the case there is a place for two 140 mm fans with 140 mm or 120 mm screw holes. Currently those places are covered from the inside by a plastic plate. The rearward grill shows the intake panel for the PSU. Through it we can glimpse the accessories box.
Next is a top view of the Enthoo Primo. At the front of the case we see the top-mounted IO cluster. This is a big case. Phanteks clearly anticipates you will have this big boy at your feet. So top-mounted IO is just right (I keep having this recurring image of a big black dog lying on the floor next to my chair). At the rear of the case are two more press-here indicators. Push down, and up comes the top filter.
The close-up shows you the IO cluster, complete with soft rubber covers for the USB ports. You have two highspeed USB3 ports for USB3 flash drives and such, and another two USB2 ports for your wireless nubs if you use wireless keyboard and mouse (a lot of manufacturers miss that touch; and motherboards still come with USB2 sockets). The forward-most switch is the LED on-off toggle. It is a polite button, showing you whether it is off or on: up for Off, down for On. A small touch, but a nice one. This case is full of nice little touches.
The bottom of the case shows the offset filters. You can see that bottom mounted fans will blow up into the left side of the case. The filters pop out when you press them. Phanteks does not expect you to drag this case forward to get at bottom filters.
Now we will revisit the sticky stuff. Not only was it hard to pull off, but the stuff left an ugly sticky coating on the case that would not come off with alcohol, detergent or nail polish. I finally discovered that Gojo, a lanolin-based hand cleaner, would get the adhesive off the surfaces it had infested. But that discovery came after I had taken most of the pictures in this review. I retook a number of shots, but if you see some ugliness, you will know why. When this case was cleaned up with my lanolin-based hand-cleaner, it was much prettier, a gleaming black. Still, there are a few places to touch up when I have time.
A Peek Under the Filters, Plates, and Door
The Enthoo Primo is so big, and so complex that we need to explore it in layers to understand it. Our first stop is the face. Open the front door and you see five filtered 5.25″ slot covers. Pinch the ends and out comes the cover. This is about the easiest front slot cover I have handled. But why the filtered look? I suspect the reason is that the covers match the rest of the décor. But behind that sturdy plastic door no fan will draw much air.
But let us suppose you might want the extra airflow. Perhaps you are willing to run your rig with the door open. What could you do with this? Let us pretend we have a fan controller in the bottom slot, with that DVD player in the second slot. Let’s pop off the slot covers and put a fan in the 5.25″ bay. That bay is still tall enough to fit a 140 mm fan in the top three slots, which means there is even more room at the top.
The second picture shows the fan behind the slots; they really do double as filters. But the real point in this exercise is that a large 5.25″ bay is where waterheads like to stash their reservoirs. Plenty of room in this bay for that.
For our next trick, let us pop off the front plate. You get it off by pushing on those little arrowheads in the middle of the case’s front. The arrowheads are on a decal, so you can remove it when you are ready. Now that we have it off, we can consider the overkill that went into making this item. It is made of five pieces in four layers: fine mesh filter, plastic frame/bracket, steel grill, aluminum plates (frame and center). The whole assembly weighs 633-grams (1 lb. 7 oz.). That’s overkill. The filter is held on with six screws and with four clips. Trust me, you want to remove those screws so you can un-clip the filter for cleaning. As for myself, I removed the steel grill to free up airflow.
Not only does the grill block a lot of air, but in my opinion the front looks fine without it.
The fans behind the front are PH-F140SP, two 140 mm Phanteks LED fans with Uplift Bearings and vortex handlers on the blades. They are not PWM fans but they range up and down in speed as the CPU gets warmer or cooler. We’ll see why further on.
The top of the Enthoo Primo pops off by pressing at those arrow points, which again are on a removable decal.
Peering into the top part of the Enthoo Primo, we see that the upper fan is at the top rear of the case. The fan that looks like a lower fan is actually way down at the bottom, which is why it looks small from up here.
In this picture you see a fan that clarifies the geometry of the top of this case. When you are using a radiator on the top, you can put the fans on the top layer where the orange fan is. Underneath that you can sling up to a 480 x 70 mm radiator (four 120 mm fans) or a 420 x 70 mm radiator (three 140 mm fans). You read that right. Up to 480 mm long, 70 mm deep; or 420 mm long, 70 mm deep. See page 26-27 of your manual for details.
The close-up shows there is a filter in addition to the restrictive grill. Phanteks should be given a lot of praise for putting a filter here so you can have a filtered top intake if you want it. But that unduly restrictive grill reduces the capacity for cooling.
The filter does not come loose from the grill, so if you are using top exhaust you will have to remove the top periodically to clean dust off the underside of the filter-grill assembly. If you are using top intake you can simply run a vacuum over the top.
As we noted above, the right side panel has spaces for two 140 mm fans and an intake spot for a PSU. The inside of that panel shows what passes for magnetic filters – one for the PSU and one for the fans, covered now by a plastic plate. The close-up shows both “filters” with their magnetic strips. But it also shows them for what they truly are: really restrictive plastic sheets. Once again we see a fine intention spoiled by thoughtless execution.
Speaking of side panels, these are large and made of steel. They are a tad heavy. So Phanteks has made handling the side panels easier with open hinges in front, with a bottom that rests on a sill, so you can open the case and get a good grip on a panel before you take it off. The diagram from page 13 of the user’s manual shows how to do it.
And the sill? Thought you’d never ask. When you are mounting a side panel on the case, rest it on either sill while you are getting ready to push it in. A potentially hard job made easy.
Inside the Phanteks Enthoo Primo – The Back Side
We have unpacked the case and inspected the wrapping. We have toured the exterior and peeked at the outer layers of the Enthoo Primo. It is now time to plunge inside. We will start in the most interesting part of the case – back behind the motherboard.
Behind the motherboard is a pretty boring place in most cases. Not for this case, however. There are a number interesting features here. So, going clockwise from lower left, let’s examine them.
After we remove the right panel we see that panel-mounted side fans, if you use them, will be blowing air on up to six 3.5″ hard drives, mounted in trays. Above the HD cages is the 5.25″ bay. Those objects on this side have nothing to do with ODD’s or DVD’s. You are looking at two double-mount 2.5″ drive holders held on the side of the 5.25″ bay. You get the brackets off by pulling toward the rear of the case, and the rubber compound-washers let go. You pull the brackets through the holes and attach your 2.5″ drive(s). Truth to tell, most of us will mount an SSD there and not notebook-style hard drives, but you never know. Next is a large CPU window. This probably is among the largest CPU windows you will see. I have seen others that match it, but so far none larger. Below that is another location for one of the 2.5″ drive mounts, and below that is the largest accessory box I have seen.
Note the straps labeled Phanteks? Those are Velcro straps, pre-installed to hold your cables in. Even at stock, there sure are a lot of cables here. There are also grommets and tie-down points. But the centerpiece is the fan hub, what Phanteks calls the PWM Hub. The PWM Hub lets a single PWM signal from your motherboard control all your fans, whether PWM or Voltage-controlled. The PWM Hub is one of the stars of this case.
Finally, in the exact center of this picture there is a Molex connector labeled “LED Strip.” This connector is turned on and off by the top LED switch. While I didn’t have an LED strip to test it with, I did plug in my CCL. It worked! Phanteks has provided you with switched power for internal lighting.
The PWM hub has six positions for fans. It sends a PWM line to your motherboard CPU header. It then converts the PWM signal to a varying voltage to control any fan. If you have clicky PWM fans, this will control your fans without the clicks. Phanteks warns you to plug only one fan into the first position – clearly the RPM signal from that fan gets passed to the motherboard. If you have two fans you may confuse it. But the other headers can handle a number of fans. The manual mentions eleven fans in total, but if you have rads you may wish to connect more. More fans? The motherboard can only put out 1-2 amps from a header. But the PWM hub has a Molex to plug directly into a cable from your power supply when it needs more current, so it is not clear just how much current the hub can provide to your collection of fans.
You can also move the PWM hub. That pair of threaded screw holes is an alternate PWM hub position. One thing the PWM hub certainly does is simplify your wiring. Instead of all your fans plugging into a string of Molex plugs strung through your case, the fan cables go to a single place.
We will test the PWM hub later.
A close-up of the hard drive stack shows us a pair of three-drive cages which can be pulled out. In fact, the HD cages can be pulled out and put back to the left, to give you more room for video cards in the lower motherboard slots (more about that later).
In the next picture we see the top cage removed. The point of this picture is to show the rails the cage slide into, top and bottom. This makes for flexible mounting. The utter smoothness means that the cages must be held in place with thumbscrews, which Phanteks provides you.
Here we see the bottom HD cage removed. You can also see hints that the bottom bracket on the other side of the motherboard tray can be removed. One of the screws is visible in this picture. The reason for removing the bottom HD cage is to make room for a rad. You can put a 480 x 70 mm radiator in the bottom of the case by removing the bottom HD cage.
Another feature for waterheads is a rubber-cushioned pump mount, which can be put in either of two positions on the bottom of the case. The fan bracket will fit two 120 mm fans. You can also put a 240 mm rad there, but if you do you will need to find another place for your hard drives. The fan bracket goes right up against those HD sleds. The fan bracket arrives inside the accessory box, which is why that is so large.
With the drive cages out, you can see the top rails, the handles for pulling them out, and the base. I slid a 140 x 25 mm fan under the bottom mount to show how the fan lifts it up; clearly there is not enough room under the base for a 25 mm fan.
In front you can see a drive sled. Inside the sled, those white circles are vibration dampeners. They move a bit to fit with the grippers that swing in to immobilize the HD. One odd thing that is hard to see: little upright pegs that fit into the screw holes of your 3.5″ hard drive. You would think that with sideways pegs provided by the swinging grips, you would not need bottom pegs. But they are there. I noticed this because I usually mount my SSD on a 3.5″ adapter. The adapter lacks bottom holes, so I was unable to use it in the HD sled.
The next picture shows you the bottom backside of the Enthoo Primo without the accessories box. There we find padded columnar mounts for an extra-long PSU, as well as the padded movable/removable pump mount.
Here we see how Phanteks has immobilized the case wiring without resorting to a zip tie. The usual connectors are there. But you can see the USB2 motherboard plug supplementing the blue USB3 plug. And wonder of wonders: an HD audio plug without an AC ’97 add-on. Thank you Phanteks for removing that clutter.
Finally, we wind up our tour of the backside by measuring the clearance behind the motherboard tray. The actual number is 32 mm, more than enough room to run cables and hoses to your heart’s delight.
The Motherboard Chamber
The main motherboard chamber is large, befitting a large case. Starting at the very bottom left we see a cut-off portion of a combination position for a 140 mm fan and a second PSU. Traveling up we see the eight slot covers for the expansion slots, attached with thumbscrews. Then we have a 140 mm Phanteks exhaust fan, which can be positioned higher in that space. On the top left is another 140 mm fan (you have seen it before), and coming down the right side we can see the reservoir bracket. It does not cover a standard ATX motherboard, so it will not interfere with a 9.5″ (250+ mm) graphics card. If your graphics card is longer, you will have to remove the reservoir bracket.
Below the motherboard tray, on the other side, is where you will find the PSU. The steel divider protects the motherboard components from a PSU’s radiant heat. Not only do you find a grommet at the level of the PSU, you see four visible grommets on the motherboard tray. On this side of the tray, the size of the CPU opening is more obvious. The opening is the full width of an ATX motherboard, the bottom runs up against the middle row of standoffs, and the top runs up between the first and second standoffs where it can. All nine standoffs are already installed.
The closeup of the middle standoff reveals it as a stud, something you can use to physically place the motherboard before you screw it down.
Behind the reservoir bracket there are three more grommets. But this picture shows more. For example, if you look up into the 5.25″ bay you can see there is more than a slot of vertical space up there, along with cable or hose openings with rolled edges to avoid snags or cuts. Back to the left of the shot, if you look carefully you can see that the upper middle standoff is, like the center standoff, a stud. So your motherboard can be well-anchored before you put the screws to it.
The reservoir bracket comes off and comes apart. Here the lower end is on the left, with the removable plate in front. Taking the plate off reveals twelve threaded screw holes.
Looking down from the motherboard chamber we see a bracket holding another 140 mm fan. The bracket has cushions and is removable (I have pics, but to include them would unduly crowd an already crowded review). To the left of the bracket is the lower position for a 140 mm exhaust fan, or an additional PSU. Through the bracket you can see the totally unnecessary grill. True, it is not a very restrictive grill, but it is not needed.
Finally, we can see the accessories left over when you remove the fan bracket and ten 150 mm zip ties from the accessory box: a parts box, two Velcro cable ties, a user’s manual and two closed cell foam pads for a second PSU. Note that the parts box includes four extra standoffs for extra-large motherboards like EATX and SSI EEB (a server motherboard).
Building a Computer System
With all the room in this case, building a system in the Enthoo Primo was very easy. I did choose to use a 650 mm EPS12V (8-pin CPU connector) rather than a 580 mm cable because the distance would have been a stretch. So you may wish to consider investing in a CPU power cable extender if your cable is a bit short. But even with that, the job was easy.
Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the back of the case is the large CPU window. Because of its expansive dimensions it should accommodate any place a motherboard puts a CPU. Below that is the PWM hub, which serves power to five fans through three headers; two connections are to 3-pin Y-cables. Below that is the PSU.
Continuing clockwise, we see a single 3.5″ hard drive. There is enough room here that we could have used a straight cable from the USB port without problems. Above that is the SSD mounted in its SSD bracket. To the left of the SSD are the 2-pin LED connectors for fans 1 and 2. Up at the top, the center Velcro cable tie is hiding 2-pin LED connectors for fans 3, 4, 5 and 6. Clearly the LED switch at the top of the case can control the LED’s of up to six fans. Since a number of fans use 2-pin connectors to turn their LED’s on and off, you will not be locked in to Phanteks LED fans.
The front of this build would be much more exciting with radiators, reservoirs and tubes full of colored liquid. Instead, you will have to settle for my drab, passively air-cooled system. The first thing to notice is how far above the bottom of the case you will find the motherboard. There is plenty of room for rads there, which is what Phanteks intended. Next up, ten grommets. Count them: two above the motherboard, three to the right, two under it. The right side of the shelf has a small round grommet, and there are two more in the PSU sidewall. Ten grommets.
The case wiring intruded very little in the motherboard chamber. If airflow in the chamber is an issue, those wires will not impede it. Also note that I only used 10″ (250 mm ) SATA 3 data cables, and this is with the HD cable having right angles on both ends, lengthening the trip. But alas, the tool-free ODD latch did not grip my DVD unit. I had to fuss with it until it did grip. And it let go easily.
In the second photo you can see the profile of an NH-D14 against the rear of the case. Plenty of room for the tallest tower coolers.
I must report that you cannot use a PCIE card longer than 340 mm in the first two slots of your motherboard: they would run up against the lower lip of the 5.25″ bay. This is generally not a problem: 340 mm is more than 13″, and no enthusiast graphic card is longer than a bit over 12″. This limit will apply to you only if you use specialized equipment in those slots.
|CPU||Intel i7 860 HT enabled, LLC enabled; ran at stock – 2.8 GHz|
|Motherboard||GA-P55A-UD3P; supplied 1.1125 Volts to the CPU.|
|RAM||4 x 2 GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1600 at 10x (1333 MHz)|
|Graphics Card||PowerColor AX3450 Radeon HD 3450 (fanless)|
|Solid State Drive||Crucial C300 120 GB|
|Hard Drive||Toshiba DT01ACA100 1TB 7200RPM SATA3|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic X650 (fan mostly doesn’t run) 650 Watts|
|Heatsink||Fanless NH-D14, with Gelid GC-Extreme TIM|
|Stress Software||OCCT 3.10; logs temperature readings|
|SSD Software||CPUID HWMonitor; keeps track of max temperature readings|
|Tenma 72-942 Sound Pressure Level Meter|
|Digital TEMPer USB Thermometer with dedicated logging software|
|Micronta (Radio Shack) analog multimeter, cat no. 22-204B|
For the sound testing, the fans were run at idle (set by the motherboard) and full. For load testing, the fans were at full. SPL was measured at 10 cm from the left front corner. In the charts below, what you see is that reading, less 20 dB to represent the noise at one meter.
Testing the Enthoo Primo
I tested the PWM hub with the stock fans, running my motherboard PWM controller from a nominal 10% to 100% PWM duty. At 10% PWM duty, I measured less than 4 V – perhaps around 3.5 V (my multimeter is an old analog device and isn’t very accurate at that range). I could get the fans to run as low as 378 RPM. Below that, they stopped spinning. As an interesting side note, the front LED’s blinked when the fans did not get enough Voltage to spin. With speed control disabled, the index fan ran at 1278 RPM with the fan hub putting out around 11.8 Volts.
To understand the handicaps under which the Enthoo Primo labored, know that it was tested where it was built. It was too heavy to move. The usual place cases are tested has been calibrated at 30.5 ~ 31 dBA. The Enthoo Primo was tested where the background noise ran 32 ~ 33 dBA. That said, the SPL meter recorded a sound pressure level of 41 dBA at one meter. It sounded about that loud, but it made a pleasant noise. You will hear it, though. However, at idle the case made 32 ~33 dBA measured at 1 meter, essentially the same as the background noise. At that distance and at idle, you won’t hear the Enthoo Primo.
Thermal and sound testing was interesting. No other case came close to matching the cooling profile of the Enthoo Primo except the NZXT Phantom 820, and that case was designed for air cooling, coming with 200 mm fans.
Next up is drive testing – hard drive and SSD. The HD in the Enthoo Primo recorded the lowest net temp of all of the cases I have tested. But unlike the others, the SSD was warmer than the HD. We should not be surprised, since the SSD does not have an airstream to cool it.
At $250 the Enthoo Primo is not an inexpensive case. But you get a lot for your money. It is clearly aimed at enthusiasts who use water cooling. With accommodations for long, wide, and thick radiators, the Enthoo Primo is a waterhead’s case. But Phanteks did not neglect air cooling. The fact that every single fan position will accept 140 mm fans is proof of that. And there are eleven fan positions. As shown in the testing results, whether you cool with air or water, the Enthoo Primo will handle your overclocked rig.
Let us make a big deal about Phanteks’ PWM hub: this is a unique and unexpected feature to have in a case. The Phanteks people were creative here. For you airheads out there, Phanteks allow you to officially control eleven fans with a single PWM signal from the motherboard. If you cool with water, not only can you hook up more fans with the judicious use of Y-cables, Phanteks gives you a special Molex connector to give those fans more amps. Just as an example, I can foresee someone hooking up push-pull Gentle Typhoons on their 4 x 120 mm rads, and controlling them without resorting to a separate fan controller – and we know how often fan controllers make fans buzz (Enthoo Primo fans do not buzz). Or you can control a passel of 38 mm fans without a controller, thanks to Phanteks’ supplemental power hookup.
If you were considering PWM fans with a PWM splitter, you were probably worried about the clicking noises PWM fans are famous for. In this case you need not worry – PWM is handled at the level of the hub, not the fan. Any micro-torquing (the cause of PWM fan clicking) will occur on the PWM hub PCB, not a rigid fan frame. This is truly a big deal.
The Enthoo Primo is a big case. Actually, huge is not an inappropriate term to use here. If you want to build up an airflow in this case you will either need to seal it off, top and bottom, or add fans (I can see you groaning at the prospect of adding fans; right?). Luckily the fans Phanteks put in the case are excellent, so you can merely add to them and not throw them away.
No case is perfect, of course but the Enthoo Primo gives you an enormous playground. The possibilities, if not endless, promise hours and days of fun. If you buy one, you will want to set it up and start using it while you think about what you want to do next.
- Built for water-cooling: Flexible siting for rads and reservoirs, including long and thick radiators.
- PWM hub, a built-in PWM-to-Voltage fan controller; a unique feature.
- Eleven official positions for 140 mm fans.
- All fans and fan positions are 140 mm.
- Built-in Velcro tie-downs.
- Power supply sited away from parts needing to keep cool.
- Nine pre-installed motherboard standoffs.
- Two motherboard standoffs are mounting studs.
- Packed in springy closed-cell foam.
- The LED switch shows when it’s off and can control internal lighting.
- Bottom filters pop out to the side.
- Top and front filters are accessible by popping off their plates.
- Two USB3 and two USB2 ports on top.
- The LED switch at the top of the case can control the LED’s of up to six fans.
- This is a lot of case for $249 .
- Unnecessary grill on the bottom.
- Unnecessary restrictive grill in front.
- The grill on top is overly restrictive.
- Fake filters on the right side.
- ODD locks do not hold.
Items to Think About
- This is a large and heavy case
- Graphics cards are limited to 34 cm or less in the top two PCIE slots.
I hope Phanteks extends their PWM hub to all the cases they make. This is a dynamite device.
– Ed Hume (ehume)