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 NZXT PHANTOM 530 Review  

 

Introduction

Back at the start of this decade NZXT released the original Phantom.  Representing as it did a bit of a change in aesthetic direction it wasn't without its detractors.  The main criticism levelled at it, and as such, subsequent continuations of the breed was that it was insubstantial and "plasticy", although it has to be said that these comments came predominantly from those who had never actually seen ones in the flesh.  Wind the clock on 3 years and following the larger 820 and 630, and of course the smaller 410, we now have the 530, sitting as you might imagine both size and price wise between the 410 and 630.

In trying to make a little more sense as to where the 530 sits in the range, it's perhaps easier to think of the 530 as a cut down 630 rather than a larger 410.  This is in the main due to it offering much the same functionality of the 630 in a smaller enclosure.

For full details of Specification and features best we have a look at the tables

 

Technical Specification

Size

Full Tower

Model Number

CA-PH530-W1 White
CA-PH530-B1 Black
CA-PH530-R1 Red

Drive Bays

External 5.25" x 3
Internal 3.5" /2.5": 6
Internal 2.5": 1 + 6

Cooling System

Front 2x140mm/ 120mm or 1x200mm
(1 x 200mm included)
Rear 1x140mm (included) / 120mm
Bottom 2x120mm
Side 1x140mm
Top 2x200mm/140mm or 3x120mm
Interior 1x120mm/140mm

 Water Cooling Support

Roof:  Up to 360mm (120.3) or 280mm (140.2) Max 43mm depth including fans

Front:  Up to 240mm (120.2)  Max 135mm depth including fans

Floor:  Up to 240mm (120,2) Max depth 75mm not including fans

Clearances

CPU 183mm

VGA 282mm (With Pivot Fan)
VGA Card 310mm (With Cage)/ 444mm (Without Cage)
Cable Management 26mm (Lowest Point)/ 34mm (Highest Point)

Dimensions

235mm x 572mm x 543mm

Material

Steel, Plastic

Motherboard Support

ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX, EATX   (322x272mm)

Expansion Slots

8

External Electronics

1 x Audio / Mic
2 x USB 3.0

Product Weight

10.5 kg

Warranty

2 Years

 

Features

 



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NZXT PHANTOM 530 Review

 

Up Close:  Exterior Overview and Front

The sample we have for review today is presented in crisp white.  If blanco doesn't float your boat though it's not a problem as the 530 can also be had in Blood Red or a rather fetching Matte Black.  Which ever colour you go for the thing you're most likely to notice first is that NZXT have finally released a Phantom with a reasonable size side window.  Granted it's not full width, angling as it does away from the front as it sweeps down, but as the style and shape is identical to the one we cut into Project NZXSPC we can hardly berate it (we shall expect our design commission cheques from NZXT in the post)

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Elsewhere the styling of the 530 remains true to the Phantom Brand, with stealth lines and subtle yet striking cut away angles.  The front of the case although given over in part to a fan grill is dominated by a large right side hinged door, opening as it does to reveal the external drive bays

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There are three 5.25" bays in total with each having an easily removed plastic blanking plate.  To the left of the catches there is a thin black strip, this is in fact back lit with LEDs giving power status and HDD activity

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Attention to detail and design nouse is shown in the form of a rebate in the reverse of the door, presumably to allow room for buttons and knobs on fan controllers etc.  The reset button can also be found skulking away in here.  No chance of it getting pressed accidentally in here is there!

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NZXT also display their name and logo so subly that it's hard to see and even harder to photograph.  Personally we'd rather see it in here than plastered all over the exterior as is the want of many other manufacturers.

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The front air intake of the 530 is covered by a very fine mesh grill through which the white blades of the 200mm NZXT fan can clearly be seen.  This intake is filtered, but you will have to take the front panel off to access it.

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Great, we've managed to persuade NZXT to give us what we want, big windows.  All we have to do now is persuade them to stop putting fan intakes in the side panels.  Although not too aesthetically disturbing it's hard to see what the point of it is, as it's too far back to be of any use to the HDDs which after all are being well looked after by the front intakes, and too low down to be of any real benefit to the GPUs

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NZXT PHANTOM 530 Review

 

Up Close:  Exterior, Roof, Rear and Base 

Phantom case roofs have always been sleek minimalist affairs, and the 530 is no different, in fact we think it might be the most minimalist yet with just 2 buttons and a fan controller stealthily secreted about it's surface there's little to break up the slippery lines                

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The metal grill on the roof of the 530 is one of the finest we've ever seen, and by that we mean the mesh is of such a fine weave as to be almost transparent when viewed from certain angles.  While there is a strength to it, we suspect it won't stand up to well to having anything dropped on it, or a bit of ham fisted lifting perhaps

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See the buttons?  Yeah we had trouble finding them too.  It's not just the photography, they really do blend in that well.  On the left of the case we have a sliding fan controller and a small button which turns on and off the handy dandy rear I/O LED.  Over on the right along with the power button we have a brace of USB3.0 (there's no USB2.0) and the usual audio sockets

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Round the back of the case there's a quite gargantuan rear fan grill, bulging slightly out from the rear panel and with slotted holes enabling both 120 and 140mm fans to be mounted here, their positions altered to best suit the internal hardware.

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Further down there's a pair of rubber grommeted tubing holes (please stop doing this, it's not 2005 anymore).  These are flanked to the left by 8 expansion bays.  The bay covers are vented and finished in a black to nicely counterpoint the white.  At the very base of the case we do of course find the PSU cut out. 

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Flipping the chap over onto it's side allows us a good look at the underside.  To the front there is a pair of 120mm fan cut outs to allow air in for any base mounted rads or fans, and to the rear there's a slatted area providing the same service for the PSU.  Both of these areas are awarded their own easily removable mesh fan filters

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NZXT PHANTOM 530 Review

 

Up Close:  Interior Overview and Drive Bays

In addition to the small MicroATX and ITX boards that would look quite frankly ridiculous in this case, the 530 is also able to accept ATX as you would expect, but also the larger EATX.  Unlike it's larger brother the 630, you're not going to be able to get an XL-ATX in here though, still, we can't have everything.  There's a generous parallelogram of a CPU cut out, making cooler changing so much easier.  On the subject of coolers, if you're still into air then you'll be delighted to know that the 530 will take anything up to 183mm in height.  There are also four well spaced rubber grommeted cable management holes.  NZXT have used the same high quality grommets for this case as they have dome in their more expensive cases and we have to say these are some of the finest quality groments we've ever come across, and not only that being of "soft touch" rubber they feel very naughty to boot.  We must however level the same criticism at the 530 as we did at the 630.  Why did they not add a grommet to the PSU exit cut ou?  The largest and busiest of them all, and surely the most deserving of some form of masking. 

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We know from out trip around the exterior that we have 3 x 5.25" bays.  A few years back it would have seemed ridiculous for a case this size or even smaller to have this few bays, but with the death knell of the optical drive ringing ever louder in our ears we have less and less need for this space, allowing more of it to be given over to storage.  The three bays we do have though are well constructed and open, sporting NZXTs buckle down style all metal tool-less fitting method.

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Turning now to the 3.5" storage area it's pleasing to see that NZXT have stiffened up their usual HDD caddies, with the newer version appearing much sturdier and resilient and able to accept either 2.5" or 3.5" drive.  The storage area itself is split into 3 sections containing 3, 2 or 1 drive respectively.  The cages themselves attach to rails at either the top or the bottom and are secured in place from the rear are by means of rather a lot of thumb screws.

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As you might imagine this leaves us with quite a few permutations of position (24 by our reckoning but do feel free to correct our maths, it never was a strong point).  We've tried to show a few of them below but have first shown the case first with all the bays removed, allowing a better view of the 200mm fan that sits exterior to the metal chassis.  The removal of the lower plate inside the case by means of a few screws enables a 240mm rad to be fitted internally in this position.  The total space for the rad and fans being determined now only by the distance to the cable management holes and grommets, so pretty much anything you care to lob in there, even the 86mm deep brick like Alphacool NexXxos Monsta shouldn't be a problem.  We're not saying you should, we're just saying you could.       

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Unlike the 630 which has a stand-off rail posterior to the main base HDD rail enabling the drives to be moved back into the case, the 530 does not. so essentially if you want to put a rad in the front, you're going to have to lose all the drive bays.  Still, it's nice to have a choice.

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Like we say, "you gots choices".  I dare anyone to say the storage options don't meet their requirements.  As you might imagine, the HDD configuration greatly affects the max GPU length.  With all drives in place and a fan in the interior 120mm fan position the max card length is 282mm.  This rises to 310mm if you remove the pivot fan location, and maxes out at 444mm with no cages in the way.

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And as the underside of the 5.25" bay is also grooved you can hang them from underneath also!

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NZXT PHANTOM 530 Review

 

Up Close:  Floor, Rear and Roof

The images below afford a better view of the anterior floor area and in particular the space allocated for floor mouted fans or a 240mm Rad.  Although a 25mm thick fan will fit under the floor bracket, if you want to get a rad and fans in there, and as such keep the majority of your storage then the floor bracket will need to come out.  Have no fear if you have no Dremmel, NZXT have been thoughtful in securing this bracket with screws and not rivets.

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A football pitch of space has been given over to the PSU mounting area, with full length ventilation and even an addition set of rubber pad topped supports for the very longest of PSUs.  Sadly there's no padding around the PSU aperture though, and as we mentioned earlier, the PSU cable out hole is "moin le grommet"

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Above the PSU area there are no less than 8 PCI slots.  The slotted brackets, finished in a matte black counterpoint the white of the interior nicely

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A 140mm white bladed NZXT fan is fitted on extract duty up in the back corner, although slotted mounting holes are provided allowing variable fitting of both 120mm and 140mm fans.  The picture below right showing the business end of the small LED that is switched via the front I/O allowing illumination of the rear I/O

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The spacious roof of the 530 is able to accept rads of up to 43mm thick (with the rad mounted in the roof space below the plastic top plate and the fans internally).  The screw holes here are also slotted allowing for variances in inter hole pitch sometimes seen in rads.  In broad terms what this means is that you have access to a wide range of 360 and 280 rads and although this sot of space does lend itself more towards the custom build it does also mean that you can fit pretty much any AIO you care to mention up here. 

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NZXT PHANTOM 530 Review

 

Up Close:  Rear of Motherboard area

We here at OC3D find the reverse side of the Motherboard nearly as exciting as the front side.  Sure round the front is where all the sexy kit goes, but it's back here that all the hard work is done to make the wiring and cable management look clean and tidy.   Nothing makes us cringe more than a load of high end kit stuffed into a case amongst a viper's nest of wires and tubes.  When we look at the rear we look for three things.  Cable management holes, cable tie points and depth of space available.  We're pleased to say that like the other cases in the Phantom line the 530 excels in all three areas.  With 3 large vertical and one horizontal rubber grommeted holes, not to mention the large PSU out hole and a few smaller scattered holes there's plenty of places to route those pesky cables through.  A total of 25 cable tie points also means that that you're not going to struggle to get them all running where you want them. 

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Centrally located in the rear of the case lies a single channel 30W fan controller hub.  The hub is supplied via a molex from your PSU and has 3 pin outputs for up to 10 fans, meaning you can put in a 240mm rad with a 4 fan push pull system in the front, a 360mm rad with3 fans in the roof as well as a 140mm extract at the rear and still have 2 ports left over.  To the right of the fan hub there's a mounting bracket for a single 2.5" drive.  The bracket is secured with a screw meaning you can mount your drive to it and then attach the whole shooting match to the case.  We quite like these brackets although we would like to see them rotated 90 degrees and moved closer to the edge to make cable management easier.

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It's nice to see the use of screws in a case as opposed to all joints being riveted as this makes it much easier for the modder to ply his trade.  The image below left shows the metal top of the case being secured with 3 screws making it's removal a doddle.  Unlikely that it is that you're going to need to remove the floor of the case, it will be much trickier as the screws have been well and truly painted over.

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The third factor we look for at the rear of the motherboard is the space available for cable routing.  Again NZXT get it right with 26mm of space for the majority of he area and up to 34mm in some areas.  Much more room than that and you'd see us twitching to see if we could get a rad back here.

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NZXT PHANTOM 530 Review

 

Up Close:  Stripped

Still fighting the urge to call this section In the nip" let's take a look at the 350 once all the trimmings have been stripped away.  The plastic panels that identify the 530 clearly as part of the Phantom range are easily removed by a firm tug.  Although plastic, they are rigid and do not give the impression they are going to break or warp any time soon.  The image below left shows the front panel with the mesh fan filter in place, so should you want to clean this filter you're going to have to take the front off.  But let's face it, who cleans their filters?

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The front of the case has a large cut out for the 5.25" bays, below which we find the front fan intake area.  Supplied as it is with a 200mm NZXT fan, the area is also able to accept 2x120mm or 2x140mm units

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We've already talked about the importance of fittings being screwed as opposed to riveted when it comes to case modding, and it's nice to see that NZXT have carried this through to the plastic fittings supporting the various front I/O and lighting mounts.

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Looking down onto the roof gives us a good idea of how much space there is up here.  although no fans are fitted as standard, it's possible to get 2x200mm up here.  So if air cooling's your thing just think of the effect of 2 almost silently spinning low RPM 200mms will have on your cooling.  Other options include 3x140mm and 3x120mm fans.  If you're planning to water-cool then you have the option of a 360mm or 280mm rad up here, and with slotted screw spacing you're no going to have to worry about compatibility.  There's also 43mm of clearance so although you're not going to be fitting a massively thick rad you should have plenty of room for units such as the XSPC RS, EX and AX series as well as the Alphacool NexXxos ST30 and Hardware labs Black ice GT Stealth.  Pretty much any of the ever growing crop of AIOs which tend to have thinner rads such as the Corsair H100i and H110 will fit up here no problem at all, as will NZXTs own mighty Kraken X60

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NZXT PHANTOM 530 Review

 

The Build

Here at OC3D we often complain about manufacturers simply providing one big "Bag-o-screws", assuming that we have all the time in the world to go rooting through the thousands of screws (ok not thousands, but lots and lots) to find the ones we need.  Not so with NZXT, they have had the presence of mind to realise that we value our time and that by separating all the screws into labelled (yes labelled) bags they make us feel all warm inside.  Seeing that NZXT had also cross referenced the labels on the bags to the instructions brought us very close indeed to a mangasm.  The instructions themselves are good and clear with a nice fold out exploded diagram inside the front leaf to help you understand how it all fits together. 

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Having discarded the instructions as they won't be needed, (cross referenced or otherwise, we are men after all) it's time to lob the PSU in.  We still can't help but think how nice it would be to have a rubber grommet down here, have we mentioned that yet?

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Untangling NZXTs loom of fan and I/O cables enables us to get a better idea of what goes where.  Sure there's plenty of room back here, but that's no excuse for a shoddy job.  With the mobo in we can see how perfectly the management holes fit alongside it.

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We already know this case can take rads in the roof space, but if you feel you needed to have the fans up top and the rad under slung then you'll need to know that you've got 42mm between the roof and the edge of the mobo.  The screw holes aren't greatly off set so that really is all the space you have, but still plenty of room for any AIO on the market as well as a good many of the sub 40mm rads such as those listed on the previous page.  We've shown the case with a 34mm think XSPC rad, but it's entirely feasible to extend into the 5.25" bay area. provided you don't mind losing the top slot.  We think you could also fit a sub 40mm thick 420 (140.3)under slung, but the case is not pre drilled for the last set of screw holes and again you will lose the top 5.25" bay.

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With all the hardware in it's time to get things all neat and tidy round the back.  So Where did all the wires go.  I can assure you that everything you saw in images 4 and 5 of this page have been taken care of, thanks in no small part to the excellent distribution of management holes, no less than 25 cable tie points (we used 7) and a good 26mm of space to work in.  As always, a decent sized trough at the base of the case allows for the stashing of unused lengths

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Not to shoddy round the back and we're pretty pleased with the results up front.  A perfectly placed 8pin CPU power cable hole allows us to bring the cable through at just the right point, whilst also allowing exit for the top fan and rear I/O LED cable

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The 530 will accept CPU coolers up to 183mm in height which means there's very few if any on the market that won't fit in.  It also means that our NZXT Havik 120 that we use for comparison looks totally lost in there

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We've said through this review that the case will take a rad up to 43mm in the roof, in measuring the space we actually found the highpoint at the rear to be 60mm.  The reason for the quoted 43mm is that the case top slopes towards the front and as such the low point measurement is the one that must be taken.  As it also cuts in at the sides, especially towards the front we can see why with the 140mm based rads, only a 280 can be used.  Fact is, if you're planning on using an AIO  there's nothing that won't fit in here, and if you're into custom water then you have quite an extensive choice of rads.

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Door off or door on, the 530 makes for a tidy and impressive sight. 

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We have to say we're so pleased that NZXT have decided to go with a large window and ditch that absurd peep hole that they previously thought qualified.  The acrylic they have used is clear and almost has the impression of glass making for a quality feel.  We're still not to sure about the fan mount at the bottom though, or why the main window extends to show us a glimpse of the 5.25" bays.  Still a victory for case windows all round and a drop in the sales of dremmels as those who buy the phantom 530 no longer have to cut their own.

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NZXT PHANTOM 530 Review

 

Conclusion

Even in the geek infested world of PC components brand identification is important, and in a world of black boxes, whether it be in Blood Red, Matte Black or the White seen above, the Phantom range is a brand that stands out.  Anyone who's been a PC enthusiast for the last 2-3 years will have no trouble looking at the 530 and knowing its part of the Phantom range.  Perhaps this strong brand recognition explains in some part the lack of wording or symbols of any sort on the exterior of the case and only the merest hint of an embossed name inside the front door.  It's a Phantom, the shape of the case itself tell us that, they don't have to stick a big badge on it.

The problem with branding of course is that we associate all the attributes of one of the members to the whole of the brand.  This can be a bad thing if you happen to experience the part of the line that stinks.  The way round this potential trap is for a manufacturer to ensure that all the items in a range share the same common traits.  If you're wondering where all this is going what we're trying to say is that having looked at all of the Phantom range we're pleased to say that the 530 continues with the same brand attributes laid down by the 820, the 630 and even the 410.

So what are these brand attributes?  Well let’s start with build quality.  The 530 is built to a very high standard.  It's sturdy, the paint finish is excellent, the Rubber grommets are amongst the best we've ever seen, and the judicious use of screws as opposed to rivets in key locations enable the modder to largely dismantle the case.  Why is this important, well if you're not a modder you won't understand, and if you are a modder, then you'll know the first rule of "Mod Club".

The feature count of the 530 is also high, with seemingly infinite combinations of HDD rack configuration, native watercooling support for 360s or 280s in the roof as well as mega thick rads in the front or base, 30W single channel fan controller hub with 10 outputs, rear mounted SSD drive, switchable rear I/O LED light, and not of course forgetting the big window.  Did we mention that we like the big window?  Did we mention that it's about bloody time?  This is one area where we're pleased that NZXT have broken from the brand recipe and forged a new path.

Building into the 530 is a joy.  Plenty of space up front enables CPU coolers of up to 183mm in height to be installed.  HDD rack configuration dictates GPU length from 282mm with all the racks and pivot fan installed, all the way up to 444mm with the appropriate HDD racks removed, and as the racks are modular there's no need to lose the lot, just whip out the ones that are in the way of your monster GPU and Bob's you Uncle.  Of course all this would be for nowt without the well distributed good sized rubber grommeted (mostly) cable management holes, a good 26mm of space behind the motherboard, and no less than 25 cable tie points.

In use the 530 is quiet to the point of almost being silent with the fans on their lowest settings.  The middle settings sees the fans audible but not intrusive, with the highest setting being noisy and only likely to be used when gaming or other high temp  (and likely high noise) applications demand.

We've already mentioned the 530's native water cooling support.  It's unlikely the owner will be able to resist the urge to get "custom wet", with the case able to accept 360s and 280 up to 43mm thick in the roof, such as the XSPC RS, EX and AX series as well as the Alphacool NexXxos ST30 and Hardware labs Black ice GT Stealth.  With the drive bays removed you can lob pretty much any thickness of rad you care to mention in the front (yes even the 86mm deep brick like Alphacool NexXxos "Monsta").  Accepting then that it's quite likely that the owner of this case is going to install a custom loop it's still worth mentioning that with the ever increasing move from conventional tower air coolers towards AIO solutions, the 530 is pretty much able to accept anything you throw into it, whether it be the Corsair H100i the H110 or NZXTs own mighty Kraken X40 or X60, you're not going to have to worry about whether it'll fit, because it will.

So what of the competition?  Pricing the 530 as they have at £120 sees it fall into a price sector of the market that isn't exactly over saturated, and certainly not drenched with cases that offer this level of quality, feature count and usability, in fact you've got to climb up into the £150s until you meet the sort of case that can match it, and if you're going to spend that much then you really need to be considering the 530s big brother, the 630.

If you're a regular to OC3D you'll know that we've now reviewed the whole of the refreshed Phantom case range, from the entry point 410 through the 530s big brother, the 630, all the way up to the Daddy of them all, the Phantom 820.  With the exception of the 410 which was just edged out into Silver they've all received a Gold award, and they've all deserved it.  At the beginning of this conclusion we talked about the importance of Brand Recognition and Brand Attributes.  We're pleased to say that the 530 continues with the strengths of the Phantom Brand and so deserves a well-earned Gold award. 

    

Thanks to NZXT for sending the P530 in for review. You can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.