Time for me to switch gears a bit and tend to the other half of my duties at TweakTown, case reviewing. In front of me today I have a mid tower case in need of a review. My last personal experience with a mid tower build was inside of the second version of the Antec 900, the one with no wire management holes, but did have the holes added for water cooling. That case took a lot of modding with my Dremel tool to get that case exactly how I needed it. Mind you, this was over a period of about nine months to a year of different ideas and concepts I put into practice as I went along adding different hardware. After I completed all the work and effort, I was finally proud to house my PC in what I had created.
This time, my review sample is shipped from AZZA. They started their company building motherboards back in 1999, eventually building up to manufacture power supplies and cases as well. AZZA has posted on their site as well as on the case I am about to review, the words "One Vision One Mission". Looking deeper into the website shows that this mission is simple, AZZA believes that your satisfaction is their success. I guess with a mission statement like that, they really plan to please their buyers.
The case I am reviewing today is the Fantom 900 from AZZA. The Fantom has some very nice features labeled in its specifications. These include large, 230mm, low dBA fans incorporated to supply and evacuate massive amounts of air. The Fantom also incorporates noise reduction methods, not only by using low noise level fans, but by adding isolation materials in strategic areas. Well, enough talking about what the Fantom 900 has to offer, let's get to the images and we can see what AZZA brings to the table with the Fantom 900 mid tower case.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
AZZA has chosen to build the main body and doors of Japanese, SECC steel, while to top and front covers are plastic. They cover about 3/4 of the front with a black anodized aluminum door that opens to reveal the optical drives, which is also continued at the bottom of the face plate. The Fantom 900 is a mid tower chassis, but boasts some nice features. These include the 230mm, blue, LED fans located in the door and the top. AZZA has chosen to use a 140mm intake fan, which is also lit with blue LED's. The exhaust fan is a more basic issue 120mm with no LED's to light it.
The Fantom 900 is built to utilize up to four hard drives in the included cage that contains the intake fan. Above the cage there is room to house up to five optical drives. AZZA has added holes for water cooling hoses to pass through the rear of the case, and even perforated the floor for the addition of even more airflow if desired. With the Fantom 900, AZZA has even included hardware for the use of a floppy drive as well. Looks to me like AZZA has covered all the basic necessities so far, but I need to see it all in action before I make any final judgments.
There are Fantom 900's out there, just at this time they are in fact hard to find. Google shopping leads me to one e-tailer who stocks the AZZA case other than E-bay. The price posted there seems about right to compete for the all mighty dollar in the mid tower market. Even though the selection of e-tailers is limited at this time, please be patient if this case makes your "must have" list, the Fantom 900 is relatively new to the scene and will need a little more time to show up on more shelves than it is at this time.
From the link above, the AZZA Fantom 900 was priced at $79.95 and I can only assume there is shipping on top of that to figure into the equation. I liked the take that AZZA presented to me. They planned to ship this case, in the beginning, to e-tailers in the range of $89-109, which the price I posted is a deal. Then AZZA goes on to explain that they anticipate a point where they can offer the Fantom 900 to the public at a really good price of $59.99. Time will tell if that day comes to fruition for us, the buyers.
AZZA has surrounded the Fantom 900 in an all black box that is highlighted by flames. This is a nice contrast to display the cooler blue lighted image of the Fantom 900, itself, sort of a play on fire and ice.
Turning the box to the right you can see AZZA put a long list of the specifications and features of the Fantom 900.
The rear of the package is a mirror image of the front side.
Same goes for the left side, another list of specifications and features.
Once I opened the top of the box I was greeted to the front of the Fantom 900 staring back at me. Both sides are surrounded in Styrofoam ends to support and protest the Fantom from any damages during shipping. Inside of that is the typical plastic bag that surrounds most cases. AZZA also takes the extra step to plastic coat the window in the Fantom as well for added protection. All these implementations made the Fantom 900 arrive internally sound even thought the box looked a little roughed up.
TheAZZA Fantom 900 Mid Tower Case
The AZZA Fantom 900 Mid Tower Case
Removing the foam and plastic protection reveals the Fantom 900. AZZA takes front row, blazing their name proudly in bushed aluminum that contrasts the black anodized door it is placed on. As I mentioned the Fantom comes with a window, in a reversed "c" shape that surrounds a bumped out bezel. Inside that bezel is one of the two included, blue LED, 230mm fans.
Taking a good look at the front of the case by itself shows that AZZA does make an attractive presentation with the Fantom 900. Their name plate is at the top left of the front door that is separated by a strip of blue LED light for an accent. The door tapers to a point at the bottom allowing AZZA to use mesh to allow a 140mm, blue LED fan to pull air through. The same black, anodized aluminium of the door panel is continued under the chrome accent stripe that separates the two. This panel is also vented to allow even more air to flow into the bottom.
Opening the front door should give you good access to your optical drives. This time I don't see that as being the case. In my opinion if there is a window on the left side of the case, the door should open from left to right. Personally this door would get in my way, as my windowed cases always sit to my right.
Moving up to the top of the Fantom 900, you are first greeted with the front I/O panel. Behind this is a small tray for keeping flash drives, extra bits, or odds and ends. Going all the way back, the top of the Fantom 900 is louvered to allow good airflow of the 230mm, blue LED fan below it.
Getting a little closer to the front I/O panel to show what AZZA has included to make access easy on the user. You can see AZZA has incorporated a very functional front I/O panel. This panel contains the reset switch and HDD activity light to the left. In the centre is four USB 2.0 ports, two on either side of the headphone and microphone 3.5mm jacks. That just leaves the backlit power button on the right side of the panel to complete the tour.
Getting a better look at the windowed side of the case reveals a bit more. The Window is applied to the outside of the door on the Fantom with black caps exposed to mount the window to the door, which blend very well. This window is supported in the center by a piece of metal of the case door to aide in any odd pressures not cracking the window. Lastly once the thumbscrews are removed, the bezel that surrounds the fan is molded into a hand hold to slide the door open.
The rear of the Fantom 900, starting at the top, has a switch just above the 120mm exhaust fan, which is for controlling the fan speed of the fan in the top of the case. To the left of these is where the rear I/O shield is placed. Below the exhaust fan is a well ventilated area that AZZA added pass through holes with grommets to allow the user to easily run tubing out of the case. To the left of this area are the seven expansion card slots. That leads up to the bottom where AZZA chose to place the power supply since it would be in the way of the exhausting top fan if placed at the top.
Laying the Fantom 900 on its back gives you a better idea of the louvered top I had mentioned, The gaps are close enough to keep foreign objects out, but still allow for good airflow, as not to choke off the fan that is house directly under it exhausting up if the case is oriented correctly.
That leaves me with the bottom of the Fantom 900. You can see AZZA includes some pretty beefy feet to support this case on your desk. Something I like to see is that with the rear mounted PSU they have already made the floor of the case adaptable to a fan down position, this allows the wires to be closer to the motherboard tray, and makes for cleaner wire management. AZZA also includes additional room all ready to go, if you have the desire for more airflow from the bottom of the Fantom.
Inside the AZZA Fantom 900 Mid Tower Case
Here is the fan that is placed at the top of the Fantom 900. AZZA chose an eleven bladed, 230mm, blue LED fan to whisk the warm air out the top of the case. There are four screws to remove the fan from the Fantom for cleaning, and the top plastic easily slides forward and lifts out once the face is removed.
Looking at the rear of the case from the inside shows off a couple of things worth mentioning. First at the very bottom, being a bottom mount power supply case, I am glad to see they spent the extra couple of cents, and placed pads to support and isolate the PSU from the Fantom. This case, like a few others, uses thumbscrews for the expansion slot covers. To the left of these are the two holes that were measured at almost ¾", allowing ½" tubing to pass through with ease. Lastly is the seven bladed, 120mm exhaust fan that is placed in the rear, sorry, this time no LED's.
Stepping back just a bit gives a good look at the interior and motherboard tray layout. I can't really figure out why, but AZZA has made four of the risers to be a permanent feature of the motherboard tray. Depending on the motherboard form factor, you add the risers needed to accommodate that specific board. This tray is also cut in various strategic locations to minimize the wiring "nests" I have seen in many PC's. The front of the Fantom 900 supports up to five optical drives, and the included fan and HDD cage can literally be moved anywhere, although closer to the bottom is best to allow the fan to pull air through the venting.
Swinging a bit more to the right give you an inside view of the front of the Fantom 900. This is where the "goodie box" is shipped, inside the cage, and it is taped into place. As you can see the box is just folded shut, and this one loosened up and spilled a couple of its contents inside the case. The front of the Fantom 900 is pretty much universal in the way it can accept the cage, but you are only allowed optical drives to be placed in the top five slots.
Removing the rear door give you a look at how AZZA handles the wire management behind the scenes. There are seven places to easily use from the back, with the supplied wire straps, and five easily usable from the front to keep things tidy. To the left is where you gain access to the opposite side of the drive bays to add and remove screws as needed.
At the bottom, as I showed from the outside, AZZA makes it possible to run a PSU with up to a 140mm fan in the fan down orientation. To the right of this is the added space for additional cooling that supports both, an 80mm or a 120mm fan. As you can see with the beefy feet that are used, it raises the floor of the case to about 1" off the surface it sits on allowing the fans to draw more air.
It's a little easier to see what I mean about the front bay drives being universal. Once the cage and face panel are removed, you are left with quite a large amount of room to house your drives in pretty much whatever configuration you need, optical drives are limited though as the front panel only has slots corresponding to the top five. I like the fact that the front is able to take the front panel power cable from its shipped installation on the exposed side, and allow it to run across the front and be hidden in the rear for the case, behind the door.
Can't forget about the front I/O panel connections, and here is what AZZA supplies in the Fantom 900. At the left, there are the two USB 2.0 connections. These are followed by the AC' 97 and HD audio connections, which you will soon see come up a touch short in my opinion. The next group of wires include the power, reset HDD activity, and power LED connections.
Accessories and Documentation
Here we have a good look at all the included hardware and instruction guide. To the left is the include cage for HDD's, and its 140mm fan that doubles as the case intake. I removed and slightly repacked the "goodie box". No worries though, all that fell loose was the motherboard speaker and a few wire ties. The Instruction manual is folded in quarters and opens up to reveal a comprehensive parts list and very basic instructions on how to make everything go together.
Here is what I found packed inside of the "goodie box", well most of it anyways. AZZA ships a bag of thumbscrews, drive mounting screws, and risers inside the baggie. Flanking the USB and audio connection pin-out sheet is the floppy drive or card reader adapters. At the bottom is the motherboard speaker, and just right of that is the floppy drive face plate to install if you choose to use a floppy drive. That leaves the additional three wire management straps that AZZA includes, aside from the two that are in place in the rear of the tray.
Here we have a closer look at the included cage AZZA ships inside the Fantom 900. AZZA took this cage a little more serious than most I have seen to this point. The cage allows for up to four HDD's to be installed. The real addition to their take on the hard drive cage is that they have placed high density foam down as a lining, again to keep the drives from vibrating and causing any squeaks or rattles. One thing I think AZZA overlooked at this point is that the supplied screws are a tad short to actually get all four of them into the drive without really compressing the cage to try it. I did eventually win, and got one screw per side installed.
First off to answer all the questions up front, yes, this case is fully capable of housing some of the bigger models of graphics cards. Even though I didn't pull it from my work rig, my GTX 280 would have no problems fitting at only 11" long. For the build purposed i used a smaller card, I just wanted to point out it wasn't due to it not fitting.
For my installation I have a lot of older IDE drives, and due to the cage being able to be moved I was able to get the optical dive installed in the middle slot but when I went to install the ribbon cable I realized it was wishful thinking. The cable wasn't long enough, and for review purposes it was easier to just raise the cage. Nice to have that option!
Fast forward through a bunch of "no thrills and no surprises" installation leaves you with this, the completed package. I could only find a couple things to address here. For starters I would have liked a way to get the top and rear exhaust fan power wires to the rear of the case neatly. Second is that I had to really stretch the audio cable to get it mounted to my motherboard audio header. I would have liked just a bit of slack in my wire, but it does at least get there. As you can see I went sort of half and half with the wire management. You can either bundle extra wire under the HDD cage, or pass them through to the back and use the supplied ties to hold them in place and out of the way.
Here we have the back of the Fantom completed and ready to run, minus one thing. I seem to have misplaced my rear I/O shield for this board, but you get the idea. As you can see the Fantoms's rear mounted PSU design even includes blackened thumbscrews for the installation. Just another step AZZA took to make things a bit easier on the user.
Wire management was very simple and the holes cut in the tray correspond nicely to drives and graphics card power needs. As I say if I had routed all the cabling to the rear of the tray, I have the whole right side left to use to strap them to the tray also. Even with routing the 24-pin motherboard power supply wire along with the front I/O panel wiring, I was still able to get the rear panel back into place with relative ease.
Here we are again back around to the front, this time in completed form ready to receive some power and accept the fresh Os install the PC so rightly deserves. Just too bad this door isn't reversible.
Fit and Finish
With all the panels back in place and all my connections double checked, here we have the AZZA Fantom 900 just waiting for me to add the power and show of its lighting and cooling features.
Now with the power on, the Fantom 900 goes all a glow with a soothing blue flood of light.
Looking more directly at the door of the Fantom 900, you can see that the window shows off a bit more of the drive bays than the hardware inside the case. This is sort of a give and take situation though. You are giving up a bit of visible hardware for a 230mm fan that does end up in a very centralized position.
This is the blue LED front light bar that centers the front door of the Fantom. I know it is just a bit of flash, but I think it looks pretty good this way, a nice little touch in my opinion.
It may be tough to see, but I wanted to show the amber HDD activity light lit up to the left and the blue backlit power button in action.
As you could tell in the image of the full front, when I raised the cage I lost the glow behind the mesh, from the intake fan. Even needing to move it for demonstration purposes, the fan can still get a good amount of air supply. Holding a lighter in front of the mesh gets extinguished within about 2" of the mesh.
Finishing the fit and finish section is a look at the top of the case. The Fantom 900's top fan glows blue through the louvers as well as flooding the top half of the interior with blue light.
To be really honest, when I first got the email to see if I wanted to sample the Fantom 900 from AZZA, I thought to myself, this case reminds me an awful lot of my old Antec 900. But after getting to know the Fantom 900 I have to say it is a slight cut above the Antec 900. For one, I felt firsthand the airflow of both cases and I feel the Fantom 900 offers more airflow than the Antec did and with considerably less noise. Granted, if both cases were displayed next to each other you will find many similarities, but I feel AZZA has done a lot towards attending to a lot of little things that add up to a better complete package.
With pricing to be as high as the $79 and change that I linked to earlier, and as low as $59 from what AZZA themselves project for the near future, this case is definitely priced very well for what you receive. If you are looking for a black mid tower case with really good airflow on a tight budget, don't overlook the AZZA Fantom 900 as a choice in your bang for the buck pursuit. There aren't very many good looking cases in this price range as it is and definitely not many that offer what the Fantom 900 includes.
The complaint list is somewhat limited, as I really didn't run into anything out of the ordinary while spending time with the Fantom 900. Two things that stand out are, for one, the swing of the front door. It might just be me, but I strongly feel it should swing in the opposite direction. The second is that the audio wire from the front panel may cause some issues with varying motherboards depending on the motherboard header. Even another inch or two would make me feel much better than the tension needed to connect it to my specific motherboard. Other than that, I Found the Fantom 900 to be a solid case with very adequate airflow to aide in keeping some of the hottest systems cool.