Introduction and Motherboard
Fast, Mysterious, and Unbeatable is ASRock's motto for their Phantom Gaming Alliance. Over the past few years, the computer hardware component market has seen a great deal of expansion in regards to vendors producing products they had not historically produced. Motherboard vendors were creating everything from coolers to cases under their gaming brands.
ASRock decided to take a different approach and create an alliance of vendors who specialize in their own respective areas. They teamed up with CoolerMaster, T-Force, GEIL, NZXT, and INWIN to produce an ecosystem of hardware that is thoroughly tested to be compatible. For this guide we will use a Phantom Gaming motherboard.
The motherboard is the backbone of every single system, it determines what CPU you can use, what speed RAM you can use, controls your fans, provides RGB LED support, and controls expansion. In this case, our fan headers offer up to 1.5A of current, and there are dedicated water cooling pump headers that are designed to support water pumps.
We are using a Cooler Master cooler and our case has three fans, so we need a minimum of six fan headers. We also have many RGB LED devices, and in this case, our motherboard supports both addressable RGB LEDs and RGB LEDs. ASRock offers Phantom Gaming Alliance motherboards for the Z390, B365, X399, and X570 chipsets.
The motherboard comes with WIFI antenna, IO shield (although the Phantom Gaming 7 comes with an integrated IO), an SLI bridge, four SATA cables, and driver DVD and manual.
We find three NICs on this motherboard, two are Gbit NICs and one is a 2.5Gbit NIC. We get a Wireless AC card rated up to 1.73Gb/s. A clear CMOS button can be found on the rear IO as well as six USB 3.0 ports, a USB 3.1 Type-C port, a USB 3.1 type-A port, gold plated 7.1 audio outputs with S/PDIF out, a PS/2 port, an HDMI port, and a DisplayPort.
GPU, DRAM, and SSD
The GPU, DRAM, and SSD
More recently ASRock got into the GPU business and has been producing GPUs. As part of their Phantom Gaming Alliance, ASRock offers Radeon VII, Radeon RX Vega, Radeon RX 590, Radeon RX 580, Radeon RX 570, Radeon RX 560, and Radeon RX 550 GPUs. There are two variants of the Phantom Gaming RX 580, the X and the D versions. The D version is clocked slightly lower and only has a single 6-pin power connector, while the X version features a higher overclock and an 8-pin power connector.
An oversized heat sink allows for better heat dissipation, and there are two fans on the GPUs to help decrease temperatures. When running stock, the fans are silent and do a solid job cooling the GPU. It might be surprising to hear, but there are rare instances where the GPU and motherboard are incompatible, but in this case, you are guaranteed compatibility.
There is no backplate on the GPU, and if you try to remove any of the heat sink screws you will void the warranty on the GPU. You won't need to remove the heat sink since it's already aftermarket and allows for you to tweak the overclock.
One of the most common incompatibilities is between motherboards and DRAM. Every motherboard has a memory compatibility list, but in this case, you don't even need to check it. Both GEIL and T-FORCE make DRAM modules for the Phantom Gaming Alliance. The T-Force XCALIBUT Phantom Gaming RGB is what we are using, and it is the only DRAM in the alliance that has RGB LEDs.
The DRAM comes with a translucent light bar at the top and uses addressable RGBs, so it can produce more intricate lighting effects. It offers 120-degree ultra-wide angle RGB lighting. Team Group's website states the DRAM is compatible with all of ASRock's Phantom Gaming motherboards, both AMD and Intel. By default, it works perfect with ASRock's POLYCHROME SYNC, which is important because a lot of motherboard RGB software is not compatible with RGB LED DRAM.
The DRAM comes in three variants; 3200MHz, 3600MHz, and 4000MHz. The 3200MHz variant we have has latencies of 16-18-18-38, the 3600Mhz chimes in at 18-20-20-44, and the 4000MHz comes in at 18-20-20-44. All of them have lifetime warranties.
The SSD also uses addressable RGB LEDs, and offers a 5:3 ratio luminous area, which is the largest in the industry. Team Group's T-FORCE brand is the only SSD certified for the Phantom Gaming Alliance. It uses a 5V ADD header and supports three or four pin addressable RGB LED headers. A microUSB port is used to provide RGB LED signaling.
The SSD comes in three SATA6Gb/s variants at 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB. The 250GB variant we have offer sequential speeds up to 560/500MB/s read/write, the 500GB and 1TB chime in at 560/510MB/s. Random 4K performance is 90K IOPS read for all three variants, 75K write IOPS for the 250GB and 80K IOPS for the 500GB and 1TB variants. Terabytes written is >60TB for the 250GB, >120TB for the 500GB, and >240TB for the 1TB.
Case, Power Supply, and Cooler
CoolerMaster, InWin, and NZXT make cases for the Phantom Gaming Alliance. All of them have similar aesthetics in regards to color theme and styling. Cooler Master offers the MasterCase H500P Mesh and MasterBox K500. InWin offers the A1 PLUS and 103. NZXT makes the H510i.
The right side of the MasterCase H500P features the Phantom Gaming aesthetics.
The left side of the cases features a tempered glass side panel and offers good visibility of the inside of the case. It also features the Phantom Gaming aesthetic.
The front of the case features two huge 200mm RGB LED fans behind the front mesh, and there is one 120mm fan at the rear of the case that isn't RGB. The RGBs are not addressable. There is a splitter for the fans, and there is also an RGB LED controller that can be hooked up to the reset button so you can control the RGB lighting.
The case is actually quite nice on the inside. There are covers that cover up the PSU area, behind the socket, and even a cover on the backside for cabling. The case has rubber exits and entrances for cables, mounting that allows you to see your 2.5" SATA drives, and the ability to mount your GPU vertically.
There are no PSUs that are part of the Phantom Gaming Alliance, but since you wont see the PSU in this case anyways you can use any PSU. Sticking with all Cooler Master, we have the V750 power supply.
The PSU is rated 80 Plus Gold, features Silencio FP fan technology, uses 100% Japanese capacitors, and offers a fully modular design with flat cables for better cable management.
The PSU supports four SATA/Molex power cables, so you won't run out of available SATA or MOLEX power connectors. There are also two 4+4 pin CPU power connectors and four GPU power connectors, two per cable.
There are two coolers in the Phantom Gaming Alliance, both of which comes from Cooler Master. The Hyper 212 RGB Phantom Gaming Edition and the MasterLiquid ML240R RGB Phantom Gaming Edition, both of which are just like their non-Phantom Gaming versions, but are customized for ASRock.
The all-in-one water cooler comes with an RGB LED controller that will help control all the RGB LEDs, both addressable and regular in the system. You don't need to hook it up to the system through USB to get it to work, but you have that option. The fans and the pump need to be plugged into fan headers. The RGB LED controller is a nice addition and there are plenty of cables and adapters to help connect to everything.
The cooler comes with thermal paste not pre-applied, but you will need to remove the plastic protector over the cold plate. The cooler also has a special design that allows for the separation of warm and cold currents. Both the fans and the pump have addressable RGBs.
Building the System - Part 1
We used an Intel 9900K along with a Z390 Phantom Gaming 7 motherboard. The first step in this build will be installing the CPU, DRAM, and the cooler mounting bracket on the motherboard.
The CPU we used had been in a previous system. When you install the CPU you can leave the cover on the socket, as it will pop off once the bracket is latched with the CPU installed. You will want to line up the notches on the CPU to those in the socket, and you want to handle the CPU by the edges trying not to touch any of the gold pads on the underside.
The DRAM is next, and we can see the styling on the memory is matching the styling on the motherboard. To install the RAM you want to press firmly down and let the DRAM latch itself at the bottom and top. You want to use the DRAM slots second and fourth from the CPU first. You can also put the mounting together, but just remember that since we aren't mounting the cooler yet the hold down mechanism might slip out the back.
We counted out how many of the modular cables we need on the PSU, and we plugged them in We are also going to install modular connectors so that the unused ports are closer to the side of the case with access, so you can easily add more later and not have to remove the PSU.
We then will route our power cables to where they will need to go, just to make sure we have enough reach to meet the ports.
The next step is to prep the cooler as we will install it into the case before we install the motherboard, although you can change that order. The fans have rubber corners to reduce vibration and noise. We put the fans in a pull position so that they blow out of the case, as the radiator will be our exhaust. We want to maintain positive pressure inside the case to reduce dust and push air everywhere, so we have two 200mm fans and one 120mm fan pushing into the case and two 120mm exhaust fans pushing out.
In many cases people might want to sandwich the radiator, fan, and case mounting point with one screw, but we don't need to do that here as the screw tips to screw the fans into the radiator double as holes for mounting screws.
Do not forget to remove the cold plat protector plastic.
Here we find out mounting point for the radiator, and we can see the case supports many different types of radiators.
We loosely screwed the radiator into the case, but we didn't tighten the screws so that we could slide the radiator once the block is installed on the motherboard so we can find the best position for the tubing.
Building the System - Part 2
The next step is to get the motherboard in the case and plug everything in. However, we need to install the standoffs first. Our motherboard is ATX, so we screwed in a standoff anywhere we saw an "A".
The motherboard we used has an integrated IO shield, so we did not need to install the IO shield first. We then screwed the motherboard in place and put some thermal paste on the CPU.
Next step was to screw in the cooler, and we did our best to hide some of the wires coming out of the pump. If your Phantom Gaming logo is sideways you can pick it off the pump and place it back in right-side up.
We then installed the SSD and did our best to route the wires to the rear of the case.
We then went and plugged in our USB 2.0 header, our addressable RGB LED header, our HD audio header, and some of our front panel headers. You can see how tight the fit is, but in the end it looked great.
The RGB LED controller provided with the cooler was one of our saving graces when it comes to our RGB LEDs. We let the motherboard control the RGBs by plugging in the addressable RGB input from the motherboard into the controller. Then we plugged in an RGB LED splitter for the two fans and pump, and then we plugged in the RGB header from the SSD, and finally we plugged in the RGB LED headers from the front two case fans into the sole normal RGB LED port on the controller.
In the end, we had four addressable RGB LED devices from three brands and one RGB LED device, and everything fit together without a need for us to buy anything to make it all work.
We then hide all access wires behind the motherboard tray, pull on cables so there is no visible slack and install the GPU.
Here we can see everything synced up and lit up. It's a very gorgeous site when everything looks great and works well.
The final build is a thing of beauty. Booted up the first time without issue, everything was fully compatible electrically, physically, and aesthetically. There were no compatibly issues of any sort. We really liked how we had exactly what we needed to get everything going. We got RGB devices from three vendors to sync all up and we didn't need to use software to do it. We got a total of nine RGB LED devices to play nice and we got them all hooked up and didn't need to order an addressable RGB LED splitter. The styling of the machine is also quite nice.
I wasn't sure what to expect since motherboard vendors tend to go over the top when it comes to some of their designs, but ASRock's was tasteful and looked pretty cool. It's nice when your DRAM matches the motherboard, which matches the GPU, which matches the case, which matches the cooler.
ASRock's Phantom Gaming Alliance is a really great idea since it encompasses the entire computer build, and if you are a first-time buyer and just want everything to work and match, then you should look into buying from the Phantom Gaming Alliance ecosystem.