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Phanteks Enthoo Primo: Giant Tower Case

The high end Enthoo Primo marks Phanteks’ entry into the PC case market. Its enormous dimensions have a specific purpose – the innovative design focuses heavily on water cooling support.

November 11, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Phanteks Enthoo Primo
Extended ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$250

SPCR readers know Phanteks primarily for CPU coolers and fans, and now they
enter the PC case market with the oddly named Enthoo Primo. It takes guts to
expand into a saturated market and serious cojones to do in this fashion. Rather
than dipping their toe in the water, they’ve jumped in full cannonball style.
Not only is the Primo an expensive high-end offering, its size is gargantuan.


The Enthoo Primo box.


The Enthoo Primo.

At almost 10 inches wide, close to 28.5 inches tall, and 26.5 inches deep,
a total volume of nearly 98 liters, it’s substantially larger than most tower
cases currently available. In fact, we’ve reviewed only two case that are bigger,
the SilverStone
Raven RV01
, and the Cooler
Master Cosmos II
. The Primo isn’t as gaudy, however; the aesthetic design
is definitely understated. A similar case coming from a typical manufacturer
might have laser beams, metal spikes, or a fish tank compartment for all we
know. There is an odd structure on the right side that sits lower than the rest
of the chassis and sticks outward like an expansion that was added after the
fact. It either gives the case character or ruins the symmetry depending on
how you look at it. The black finish of the case is, of course, a fingerprint
magnet, and it’s especially noticeable on the brush aluminum front bezel.

Specifications: Phanteks Enthoo Primo
(from the
product web page
)
Case Specifications
Dimension 25 x 65 x 60cm (WxHxD), 97.5 litres
Form Factor Full Tower Chassis
Material(s) Aluminum Faceplates, Steel Chassis
Motherboard Support ATX, EATX, mATX, SSI EEB
Front I/O 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, Mic, Headphone, LED Switch, Reset Switch
Side Window Yes, split-window design
Expansion & Drive Bays
Expansion slots 8
Power Supply Slots 2
External 5.25″ 5
Internal 3.5″ 6 (2x 3 HDD cages)
Internal 2.5″ 12 (2x 3 HDD cages + 2x doublestack SSD brackets) *expandable to 3x
Cooling 120mm fan 140mm fan
Front 2x 2x (2x included with LED)
Top 4x 3x (1x included)
Side
Side 2x 2x
Rear 2x 1x (1x included)
Bottom 4x 2x (1x included)
HDD 2x
Liquid Cooling 120mm radiator 140mm radiator
Front Up to 240
Top Up to 480 Up to 420
Side (w/o HDD cages) Up to 240
Rear 120 140
Bottom Up to 480 Up to 280
Clearance
Graphics card 257mm (reservoir bracket installed)
277mm (reservoir bracket installed w/o cover)
350mm (no reservoir bracket)
390mm (HDD cages in front position)
515mm (no HDD cages)
CPU cooler 207mm
Cable Management 30mm
PH-F140SP (included fans)
Speed (rpm) 1200±250 rpm
Max Airflow 82.1 CFM
Static Pressure 1.33mm H2O
Acoustical Noise 19 dB
Packaging Information
Package Dimension 320mm x 725mm x 705mm (WxHxD)
Net Weight 17.9 kg
Gross Weight 20 kg
Warranty
Length 5 Years Limited

The Enthoo Primo’s measurements conform to a design that focuses heavily on
water cooling versatility. Inside the aluminum/steel enclosure are a ridiculous
number of large fan/radiator placements, one on every side with sufficient space,
except for the windowed left side panel. There are also a couple of different
spots for installing reservoirs, as well as a dedicated pump bracket. Almost
everything else you can image in an enthusiast case is on tap as well. If you
like having plenty of fan options, the Primo offers 16 different placements.
Five 140 mm fans are included, all hooked up to a PWM controller that can power
up to 8 fans out of the box (11 total if you can get your hands on a few 3-pin
fan splitters). The case has blue light strips on the sidecar, running along
the top and front and they can be turned off/on, along with the front fans’
LEDs, with a single button. The obligatory removable drive cages and dust filters
are present as well. There’s even a spot for a second power supply if you’re
so inclined.


Accessories.

A first rate case ships with first rate accessories. Included are a full color
assembly guide, a dual fan radiator bracket for the right side panel, zip-ties
and velcro strips for tying up cables, a couple of dampening pads for a second
power supply, and a neat plastic box housing all the screws you’ll need in separated
compartments.

EXTERIOR

The Phanteks Enthoo Primo immense body is constructed primarily of steel with
an brush aluminum front bezel and top cover. It measures 25.0 x 65.0 x 60.0
cm or 9.8 x 25.6 x 23.6 inches (W x H x D) for a total case volume of 97.5 L.
It has a good 30~40 L advantage over most big ATX towers.


Opening the door reveals five ventilated 5.25 inch drive bay covers. Underneath it is a removable cover housing a dust filter for the dual front 140 mm LED fans.

This cover has an interesting design with a less restrictive honeycomb grill coupled with a fine mesh filter behind it, separated by a large air gap.

While there are a few vents on either side of the fans, most of it is covered up once the filter is placed on. The rectangular ring cut into the filter cover is the primary intake source.

The power button is somewhat hidden at the top right next to the hard drive LED. Its location and rectangular shape fits right in with the surrounding contours.

The top of the case is home to another large dust filter. Along the side of the right protrusion are mic and line-out jacks, two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports (covered by removable rubber plugs), a reset button, and a switch controlling the case’s internal lighting as well as the front fans’ LEDs.

The power supply and a side radiator can be installed on the right side, so there is ventilation provided for both.

At the rear of the case, next to the expansion slots is a spot to mount a reservoir. The power supply is rotated from its typical orientation and can be accommodated on either side of the case, depending on one’s needs. The recommended location is on the side pictured left, allowing a 120/140 mm fan to be placed on the right.

More dust filters can be found underneath the case. Thin rubber pads provide some vibration protection and keep the bottom from scraping against the ground.

The front and top filters are secured by pushing down at the center of the top edge which opens/closes receptacles for a pair of plastic barbs. It’s a finicky system — the push has to be hard and dead-center or it only attaches/detaches to/from one side.

INTERIOR

The internal construction is fairly solid as one would expect for a premium
model. Nothing on the inside of the chassis has any noticeable give, feeling
solid all the way around. The interior is laid out in such a way to support
a wide array of watercooling options, making it incredibly spacious to work
with.


The side panels are a reasonably thick 0.9 mm. They go on in a similar fashion to the Antec Solo — a long catch at the front is inserted at an angle, wrapping around a column at the front of the case, forming a hinge. The back of the panel swings inward and it’s secured with two thumbscrews.

The fan and radiator mounting points on the right panel are covered up
by default. The fan placement has a thin plastic cover attached using
magnet strips while the radiator placement is blocked off with a bolted
on solid metal panel.

Both the top of the case and the front bezel can be removed with a forceful
pull. On the top panel are yet more spots for multiple fans/radiators.

The Enthoo Primo’s layout is essentially traditional except that the power supply and hard drives are cordoned off on the opposite side. The ridiculous watercooling support also makes it very tall and luxuriously spacious. Along with the intakes there are three more included 140 mm fans, one at the bottom, one at the rear, and one at the top.

A bracket covering the space between the motherboard tray and drive cage helps hide any cables in this vicinity but it’s primary purpose is for mounting a reservoir. Unfortunately, leaving it in place limits the maximum graphics card length so most enthusiasts will toss it aside.

The five included fans all have very long cables in order to hook up with
a fan control hub near the center of the back of the motherboard tray.
Routing them through the middle of the case where most of the bulky cabling
resides isn’t ideal, but is understandable. The velcro strips along the
edges of the motherboard tray are a helpful upgrade compared to most cases.

The space next to the 5.25 inch bays is occupied by a pair of 2.5 inch drive trays secured using bayonet mounts. The 3.5 inch drive cages below are removable, attached with thumbscrews. While they are solidly built and secure to one another snugly, they aren’t physically supported in any way on the sides, making them prone to hard drive vibration.

Next to the drive cages along the floor is a bracket for installing a pump.

All the fans are connected to what Phanteks calls the “PWM hub” which can be controlled via a PWM-supported motherboard fan header using the included 4-pin PWM cable. It’s possible to run all five this way but it’s dangerous due to the power requirements. According to the manual, the auxiliary molex cable should only be connected if the fan header provides insufficient power but it really should be used no matter what.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the Enthoo Primo is fairly straight forward. Our usual ATX case test system was used: An Asus 790GX motherboard with Phenom II X4 955 CPU cooled by a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD SE16 hard drive, a Cooler Master 700W modular power supply, and one and/or two Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards (see full system details on the next page).


3.5 inch drives are placed in plastic sleds with folding arms that lock them in place.

There’s a thin pad at the rear of each drive cage to brace it against the cover hiding it from the left side of the case, but it doesn’t really help with side-to-side vibration.

Our test system, fully assembled. For a standard air-cooled configuration, it’s very easy to keep things tidy, at least on the left side. The power supply, hard drive, and the bulk of cabling are all hidden away.

Cables tend to bunch up near the middle of the right side but it can’t be avoided unless the fan hub is moved from its centralized location to somewhere with less traffic. Still, with an ample 2.5 cm of clearance behind the motherboard tray, we were able to get the side panel on with little difficulty.

A series of 2-pin cables connect to the light switch at the top of the case. The included Phanteks LED fans have separate cables powering the LEDs, so they can emit full brightness even if the fans are slowed down.

A switch at the top controls both the fans’ LEDs and a light strip running along the side of the case. The overall effect is pleasant and not overdone.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle, and on load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking
and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise

The main noise source within the Enthoo Primo are its five PH-F140SP 140 mm
3-pin fans, which are essentially identical to the PH-F140HP/TS
model that ship on some of Phanteks’ large heatsinks. This model currently provides
the best balance of acoustics and thermal performance of any 140 mm fan we’ve
tested.

Stock Fan Noise Level
(2 x HD 4870 Configuration, Idle)
Fan Speed
SPL @1m
Off
20 dBA
500 RPM
20~21 dBA
800 RPM
26 dBA
1000 RPM
31~32 dBA
1250 RPM
38 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Our CrossFireX HD 4870 configuration at idle measured just 20 dBA@1m with the
system fans disabled. We began testing the fans at 500 RPM which barely added
any measurable noise to the total level. 5~6 dB jumps were recorded when the
speed was ramped up to 800, 1000, and finally 1250 RPM.

Without supplemental cooling, our idle CrossFireX system generates a fairly
pleasant sound, and the included fans did not introduce any undesirable elements
to its acoustic profile. The last case we reviewed with fans that sounded this
smooth was the Antec Solo II which had just a single 120 mm TrueQuiet.
Fans placed horizontally often produce a clicking noise but the Phanteks models
were free from this issue.

As expected, hard drive vibration was problem, even with one drive. Initially our single WD hard drive created an audible resonance in the case but strangely, slightly nudging the drive tray made it dissipate significantly. The tray sits a little loose so if you get it in just the right spot, much of the vibration vanishes. Placing a foam block underneath or on top of the drive to help steady against an adjacent tray also seemed to help.

TEST RESULTS: DUAL RADEON HD 4870 CONFIGURATION

As an enthusiast case with massive size, it didn’t seem likely that anyone would purchase it for use with a single video card, so we jumped straight into our CrossFireX test configuration.

System Measurements (2 x HD 4870)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
500 RPM
800 RPM
1000 RPM
CPU Temp
34°C
50°C
46°C
44°C
SB Temp
60°C
69°C
67°C
67°C
HD Temp
33°C
32°C
30°C
29°C
GPU #1 Temp
79°C
91°C
91°C
91°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed (auto)
1090 RPM
2330 RPM
2370 RPM
2360 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
68°C
86°C
85°C
84°C
GPU #2 Fan
Speed (auto)
990 RPM
2000 RPM
1940 RPM
1850 RPM
SPL@1m
20~21 dBA
32 dBA
33 dBA
34~35 dBA
System Power (AC)
192W
525W
525W
525W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Idle temperatures were fairly comfortable with the exception of the chipset which resides in an unfortunate position, straddled by the two hottest components in the case, a pair of Radeon HD 4870’s. Still, with GPU fan speeds of about 1,100 and 1,000 RPM, and the case fans at just 500 RPM, the overall system noise level was fairly quiet.

We tested the system on load with three different case fan speeds: 500, 800, and 1,000 RPM. Going from 500 to 800 RPM produced the best mix of performance and noise. It cooled down the CPU and Southbridge/hard drive by 4°C and 2°C at the cost of 1 dB. Moving to 1,000 RPM generated a much smaller improvement that wasn’t worthwhile.

Interestingly, the system fan speeds had little effect on the cooling of the upper graphics card (GPU #1). It stayed at the same temperature and roughly the same fan speed throughout, though the card below it did see some minor relief. GPU #2 ran a little bit cooler and its fan slightly slower with each system fan speed increase. We surmise that the intake fans provided cooler air for GPU #2 but none of it reached GPU #1 as the front and bottom fans aren’t positioned high enough to have a direct effect on the top card.

 

CrossFireX Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
SilverStone Fortress FT04
CM Cosmos II
Antec P280
Phanteks Enthoo Primo
Fans Speeds
fronts at 500 RPM
top, rear, front on med
top, rear, front on low
top, rear, fronts, bottom at 800 RPM
CPU Temp
42°C
46°C
45°C
46°C
SB Temp
69°C
65°C
64°C
67°C
HD Temp
30°C
29°C
28°C
30°C
GPU #1 Temp
88°C
89°C
89°C
91°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed (auto)
2150 RPM
2280 RPM
2440 RPM
2370 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
84°C
84°C
84°C
85°C
GPU #2 Fan
Speed (auto)
1930 RPM
1880 RPM
1950 RPM
1940 RPM
SPL@1m
[right side]
30 dBA
[30~31 dBA]
31~32°C
32~33 dBA
33 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

At our optimal system fan speed, the Enthoo Primo produced internal load temperatures
similar to Cosmos
II
and Antec
P280
, but with a higher noise level than either one. It is somewhat
disappointing given the P280’s much smaller size, but much of the Primo’s extra
space is reserved for a watercooling system which isn’t part of our testing
procedures. All that allotted space sits empty, making the Primo’s fans and
overall cooling strategy less effective.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Our favorite feature of the Enthoo Primo is the fan control hub which provides
PWM control for multiple 3-pin fans. It’s an elegant alternative to the physical
knobs found on most high-end cases. The included fans have exceptional acoustics
but we wish Phanteks had used bigger 18 or 20 cm models as there is adequate
room in the huge case. The front fans could also have been positioned higher
to better cool graphics cards, but instead they give way to 5 x 5.25 inch bays
which are quickly going out of fashion. Having the front fan LEDs controlled
in conjunction with the exterior lighting is a neat idea though it would be
more practical to use regular fans and have an additional light strip running
around them. It’s a strategy designed to sell more of their LED fans.

There are nice touches not found in most of its competitors. The power supply
placement is not only isolated from the rest of the components, its side-mounted
orientation provides a more open intake point. If you happen to have a carpeted
floor, you won’t have to worry as much about the PSU fan begging clogged up
with debris. The 2.5 inch drive trays attached to the right side of the 5.25
inch bays is a clever use of otherwise wasted space. The velcro straps behind
the motherboard tray and the box of segregated screws brought smiles to our
faces. It shows a high level of consideration for the user experience.

The vibration-prone drive cages are our biggest complaint. Stacked atop each
other and secured to the 5.25 inch bays and case floor with thumbscrews, they
are firmly supported only in one plane. An outer support frame would make a
world of difference, but the modular design was necessary to allow front mounting
of a radiator. There’s another flaw close by — the removable reservoir
bracket has to be taken out if a graphics card of any appreciable length is
used.

The Phanteks Enthoo Primo isn’t your average oversized enthusiast tower. With
multiple installation points for reservoirs, radiators, and even a pump, the
Primo is clearly optimized for watercooling. We’re not talking about those integrated
liquid CPU cooling units but rather complete, custom loops. Given our inexperience
in this area and lack of appropriate hardware for testing, it’s tough for us
to properly judge how well the Primo works for its raison d’être.
What we can tell you is that if you assemble an all-air-cooled system, you will
not be making full use of the Enthoo’s extensive capabilities for water cooling.

Our thanks to Phanteks for the Enthoo Primo case sample.

* * *

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Silverstone Fortress FT02 Revisited


* * *

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