Note: No Objective dBA Analysis At This Time, But Subjectively...
We’ve said this a few times, but it’s worth repeating: We do not presently test for noise emissions / decibel levels on products. It’s something we’re passively exploring, but dBA testing is not trivial, requires a stable environment with a known noise floor, and requires expensive equipment and training. We may be able to sort out the math and the methodology, but there’s still that environment limitation.
Our approach to methodology is underscored by one point: If we can’t do it consistently and confidently, we don’t do it at all. For noise, we aren’t yet confident in a reliable methodology given our setup, so we don’t test noise. Subjectively, the Phanteks P400 is about average for noise emissions. We're not quite sure how much – if anything – the front panel's sound damping material actually stops, but noise emissions are subjectively comparable to the S340. The enclosure is quieter than the 400C ($90 to $100).
Phanteks Eclipse P400 Thermals Without Front Panel
Before diving into the comparative benchmarking and analysis, we decided to test the Phanteks Eclipse P400 against itself – by removing the front panel. The highly restrictive nature of the front panel made us curious as to just how much cooler the case could be without the blockade. See below.
Removing the faceplate helps tremendously with GPU thermals and modestly with CPU thermals. It's no secret that the “best” case is no case – at least, when it comes to thermals – and removing a blockade to air is a step in that direction. The Phanteks P400 drops a staggering 9.04C without its face – perhaps an indication that Phanteks should seriously consider adding some side intake ventilation (as on competing cases) if the company wants to top these discreet mid-tower boxes.
The CPU's temperatures fall by 3.14C without the faceplate. Not nearly as impressive, but a predictable result given the front intake fan's positioning.
Phanteks P400 Thermals at Peak Load – P400 vs. NZXT S340, Corsair 400C, Others
The range for our peak CPU thermals chart is 3.21C; the GPU range is 3.25C.
Phanteks' Eclipse P400 enclosure is the hottest on the bench for CPUs, operating at 43.01C delta T over ambient, just behind Rosewill's new Gungnir (42.41C) and NZXT's S340 (41.92C). The Corsair 400C outperforms the whole lot of mid-tower, shroud-happy enclosures, with the 600C – a much larger enclosure with greater cooling focus – winning the chart. The P400's advantaged idle temperatures over the S340 are likely a result of the top ventilation and top-front ventilation of the P400.
GPU thermals tell a slightly different story: Now the P400 pulls marginally ahead of the S340. The Gungnir is ahead, but the lead is within margin of error (0.1C difference) and effectively identical in performance.
Now, when we say “effectively identical,” it can mean a few different things – we could be talking about objective measurements or about user experience. With regard to user experience, all of these cases are more or less “effectively identical,” especially the similarly designed mid-towers. No user will observe a perceptible difference between the GPU thermals of the directly competing cases.
That said, we don't excuse Phanteks for its severe oversight of a good opportunity to pass its nearest competition. A slight bit more ventilation could make a degree or two of difference, or more, and would instantly land the P400 ahead of its competition in a market segment that is notoriously flat for thermals. And it doesn't have to be a visible change, either: (A) the comically useless top 'vent,' with its dense, thick plastic fins, could be de-cluttered to improve performance; (B) the bottom breathing port could be widened to allow more intake; (C) the feet, which put the case 7/8” off the ground, could be elevated to something more like 1-1/8” (comparable to S340, 400C) for better access to cool air without risk of suffocating in house environments.
But, functionally, these cases are fairly comparable. Let's move on.
Phanteks P400 Thermals over Time Benchmark vs. S340, Corsair 400C, Others
Over-time representation of data:
Phanteks is still a relatively newcomer to market – and it shows in many ways, primarily small oversights – but the company has gained ground by quickly designing cases with features that are “in.” Phanteks most routinely fails with the small details that it seems to have overlooked, like the poor cable management, PSU shroud's industrial and functionally useless holes, or the hack-job that is the structural screw protruding from the top of the PSU shroud.
We've got a lot of issues with the shroud. Obviously.
The entire point of a PSU shroud is to clean-up the case. Hiding cables does a lot of that, but it lessens the impact made by cable management to forgo any design whatsoever on the shroud.
But at the same time that Phanteks has overlooked these small features, they've also failed to take a zoomed-out, grander view of the industry. Phanteks is trying to follow with the P400, and they don't even improve on what exists. They've added a light and changed the front panel. Corsair's 400C, we'd argue, also followed – but it improved or modified in ways that made the case interesting and worthwhile. The P400 doesn't have that spark of interest.
That's without getting into the DLC model of $7 drive cages and $10 color changes – does Phanteks offer a Season Pass? Maybe that'd be a better deal.
The company has firmly planted its foot into the ATX mid-tower market, competing directly against heavyweights Corsair and NZXT in price, size, and features. The P400 sets itself apart primarily in aesthetics – it's got a “louder” visual design with a classless interior. If the IKEA-look of the S340 and the discreet-but-edgy look of the 400C are sickening, then maybe the P400 is compelling – but not the P400S White, which immediately loses value against other $90-$100 market contenders.
The case is not thermally impressive. Design is disappointing. Cable management needs an overhaul and the PSU shroud could do with some cleaning-up.
For anyone researching a tower like this, we'd suggest digging into the 400C and S340 before making a final decision. Price is always a moving target with modern online retailers. The Phanteks case is presently $70, which is about the same as the S340 (+/- $10, depending on sales and availability) and is $20-$30 cheaper than the 400C.
And just a note to be 'real:' This non-objective testing aspect of the review is clearly an opinion. There's nothing wrong about liking all the things we didn't – except the lone shroud screw. That's wrong.
Editorial, Test Lead: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke
Test Technician: Mike “Budekai” Gaglione
Video, Photography: Andrew Coleman & Keegan Gallick