For all the sweet lighting options available in the Phantom 820, the exterior of the case is otherwise rather understated. Our unit sports an attractive smoky, gunmetal gray finish, although you can also get a Phantom 820 in white or matte black. The finish is rather impressive, as NZXT did an excellent job of concealing which parts are metal and which are plastic.
We’re never in love with mixed materials on cases (primarily when one of those is plastic), and there’s always a concern that even the best-matched colors will age differently over time, but NZXT has come as close as anyone we’ve seen in getting it right. Even the texture of the plastic and metal parts matches fairly well.
Of course, using plastic in various parts of the case was necessary--the behemoth already weighs 32lbs. Any more steel, and the Phantom 820 would need to come with a warning label about its weight.
There’s a continuous peak running the length of the front and top panels that evokes an industrial Art Deco sort of flavor. The front has a large grill on the bottom section for the front-mounted 200mm fan, and the top portion swings open to reveal the 5.25-inch drive bays, lighting controls, and built-in SD card slot.
The top panel is loaded with integrated features, including two USB 2.0 and four USB 3.0 ports on one side and the headphone and mic jacks and fan controls on the other. Much of the top panel has a grill design to accommodate up to two 200mm fans or a water cooling radiator.
One knock on the design is that the front and top panels aren’t especially removable. Granted, you only need to do so if you’re cleaning the grills or installing fans or a water cooling system, but NZXT has demonstrated the ability to make that process much easier in other cases such as the Switch 810, so it’s not clear why it’s so hard on the Phantom 820.
The case is set atop a plastic foot that helps provide more clearance for air exhaust and actually contributes to the overall profile of the chassis in a subtle way.
The main side panel sports a clear acrylic pane as well as a large pair of grills that offer a 200mm fan mount. The other side panel is, as usual, all one solid piece of metal, but the lower portion features a 36mm bump-out to help facilitate cable routing behind the motherboard tray. There’s a decent amount of clearance back there for cabling, and the bump-out helps, but it’s still a little tricky to get the side panel back on due to all the cables; we’d prefer to see more space, especially with a case like this one that’s likely to house a host of components and drives.
There’s certainly room to spare elsewhere; the main compartment is delightfully spacious, with plenty of room to work without nicking up your knuckles and nice depth for large CPU coolers.
Of course, if you load up on fans or employ a water cooling system, that space will fill up a bit more. NZXT ships the Phantom 820 with four large fans, as we previously mentioned, but you can fit another 200mm fan at the top of the case (or swap in a trio of 120mm fans), slap a couple 140mm fans on the bottom, or insert a 120mm or 140mm fan on a pivoting mechanism next to the uppermost 3.5-inch drive bay. For radiators, there’s 90mm x 280/360mm of space up top or 240/280mm on the bottom if you so choose.
The 5.25-inch bays have toolless mechanisms that feel strong and sturdy despite being made of plastic, and the 3.5-inch bays are rock-solid, although they use flimsy plastic sleds for the drives that aren’t particularly fun to work with.
And of course, there are large mesh filters at the top, front, and bottom of the Phantom 820 that all pop out smoothly for easy cleaning.
The lighting setup on this chassis is a sight to see. There are bright white LEDs on the back of the case that keep the I/O ports and expansion bays lit so they’re easy to work with in the dark; if you’re not a fan or just want to go stealth, you can simply switch those lights off with a button on the front panel.
There are also five LEDs securely built into the rim of the top the case on the side closest to the windowed side panel, and another light that makes the clear plastic strip by the fan controller glow beautifully. (Indeed, this is no after-market lighting string; those suckers are part of this case and won’t get yanked asunder when if you grip the case to move it with the side panel off.) The lights hit the clear side panel just right and do a nice job of illuminating the whole interior of the chassis. You can switch them off if you like, or you can adjust the brightness and color, choosing from various shades of red, green, or blue with the click wheel mounted on the front panel.
Using the fan controller is a breeze; you can toggle between the four sections of fans--rear, internal/side, front, and top--and click the +/- buttons to increase or decrease fan speeds. A white LED not only indicates which fan group is selected, it also changes in brightness depending on how fast or slow the fans are spinning.