As with any modernized adaptation of an existing technology, closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) have become almost fad-like in their adoption. In part, this is because CLCs actually do have very legitimate advantages over traditional air coolers - they are highly noise-to-temperature efficient, for one thing, and have an aesthetic appeal for some users. The other part of this liquid cooling craze, though, I believe is attributable to a general doting of something new.
The thing is, not every liquid cooler is going to be inherently better than similarly-priced air coolers. Just having liquid in tubes (rather than copper-encased capillaries) does not make the units predisposed to superior cooling qualities; this said, a well-constructed liquid-cooling solution can certainly trounce a well-constructed air cooling solution -- it just comes down to the engineering in each product and consideration of other differences (noise). There's a reason we use radiators for large, hot things (cars, for one) in tandem with traditional air-cooling engineering (also found in car cooling systems in the form of air intakes, copper/aluminum sinks, etc.): Both have their place for optimizing maximized potential for thermal dissipation.
As I've explained innumerable times this past month, the overwrought enthusiast market has clambered over itself with new hardware for 2013. It's really quite unbelievable: As the mainstream desktop market wanes—due to many factors, like prolonged usable system lifespan and minimized consumer interest—the enthusiast and gaming markets have picked up competitive interest among manufacturers. There's suddenly a much greater incentive to establish and maintain a foothold in enthusiast computing, making for undeniably excellent news for our readers; today's case review of NZXT's Phantom 630 is a testament to that, given its swath of features for a previously unachievable price-point. We originally previewed the Phantom 630 at CES, found here.
This is also evident in other recent cases we've reviewed (or intend to review), like the upcoming Throne, Corsair's 900D (which looks amazing, by the way), SilverStone's entire line-up, and the far more affordable RAIDMAX Cobra and Armor Evolution. Quite simply put, we're seeing more features, more efficiency, and better performance at a lower cost to the consumer -- or as it's affectionately known, competition at its finest.
NZXT's Phantom 630 is the next to be reviewed & benchmarked, a particularly interesting case for its appeal to more budget-conscious gaming hardware enthusiasts. The price scale for gaming enclosures is an interesting one -- it's very heavy in the mid-range (~$100 sector) and top-end, but lightens up toward the bottom of the scale ($50~$70). The Phantom 630 is targeted at around $180, placing it firmly between mid-range full towers and hardcore enthusiast systems (like the Phantom 820 we reviewed, which was $250ish).
As always, let's start with the video review component and the hard specs.
After reviewing the ultra high-end Phantom 820 case, the folks over at NZXT sent us their newest in mid-range computing accessories: The Respire T20 and T40 CPU coolers. These two coolers are marked at $30 and $40 MSRP respectively, fitted with 1300-1800RPM fans (50CFM or 68.8CFM), and have a fairly standard aluminum heatsink design with copper heatpiping.
We benchmarked the Respire T20 vs. the T40 and were able to collect temperature performance data on each, so if you're considering buying either of these new CPU heatsinks, read on! We've also included a video review for those who want a more hands-on look at the product.
NZXT's cases have secured a reputation for their knifelike designs: the cases are sharp and emit an almost preternatural aura, using jagged, cutting elements in unique combination with rounded and beveled-out features. And in that fashion, they're almost very Alienware-like in aesthetic -- astral and radiant.
The company's offerings range from dirt cheap to otherworldly, with build quality scaling immoderately within that spectrum. We had the chance to review the crème-de-la-crème of NZXT's cases recently (including a video review, below): The behemoth Phantom 820, currently marketed at $250 for high-end or enthusiast system builders.
We were impressed.
Following up with our guide to picking the best gaming case for your PC, we went on a quest to review more cases and research the facets of system builder personalities. We recently introduced you to the affordable mid-tower Rosewill R5; today, we switch gears and take a look at a high-end gaming case, NZXT's Switch 810 full tower.
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