hardware

Phanteks P200A – The Top Secret ITX Case!

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Since we can’t go to CES, CES comes to us. This new Phanteks Mini-ITX case is the Eclipse P200A, and it is only a prototype, so not a retail production sample. This Eclipse P200A is a very important case for Phanteks because it’s their third ITX enclosure, and it combines what they have learned throughout their history.

This case aims to cover the 3 main important pillars of case design, it’s affordable at around the $70 to $80 USD, it’s going to be accessible so you will actually be able to buy it unlike a lot of other ITX cases, and it also covers everything in terms of compatibility for water cooling, air cooling, massive GPU’s, and ATX power supplies. I feel like the ITX case market will grow in 2021 away from the boutique niche stuff into the mainstream, and I hope this case is the right approach.

Size & Specs

It is an interesting opportunity to receive something like this because it’s not completely finished yet. They are still refining things as they always do after receiving feedback during CES. Let’s talk about size of the P200A first because that’s kind of the important thing when it comes to ITX. It is just under 30 liters, which means it’s not the most compact enclosure. It’s not going to be competing with the NCASE or the DAN cases, but it’s kind of in the same footprint as the NZXT H200 and the other slightly larger ITX cases.

I would say the main advantage here would be the price point at $70 to $80, while still letting you build a really powerful system without compromising any of your hardware. It has good cooling, full-size power supply support, easy cable management, ample room for a GPU, and the comprise is just that this is a bigger case than your traditional really compact ITX cases. As previously mentioned, the main specs are the full-size ATX power supply support and the triple-slot/355mm length GPU support. If you are mounting radiator fans at the front you still have about 320mm of clearance for the GPU. The entire bottom of case is ventilated and features a fine dust mesh filter that is removable from the front. You can also install dual 120mm and 140mm fans at the bottom to help with GPU cooling.

Obviously the case is not very slim, so CPU tower height compatibility is excellent at up to 165mm for CPU towers. This case supports a vertical GPU orientation with an optional bracket, so if you are going air cooling a 74mm or 94mm for CPU towers will fit. However, if you are going for vertical GPU configuration just stick with the radiator at the front or the side. This leads us to the radiator support, you can do a 240mm or 280mm at the front, and you also noticed we have side ventilation mounts for dual 120mm fans. If you go for a 240mm at the front you can still mount fans on the side, however I mounted my 280mm radiator at the front, and that prevented me from actually mounting the large 140mm fans to the radiator because of the side fans.

So that was a quick recap of what the Eclipse P200A is capable of, but now let’s talk specifics. The exterior obviously has a familiar look to the Eclipse series, it’s like a mini version of the P360A. I’m not sure about colour variations yet, but the hallmark of any A-series Eclipse cases obviously is that perforated high-performance mesh front panel. It has 1mm ventilation cutouts, and that also acts as your dust filter. Not only does it allow a good air flow to pass through, but you don’t need an additional layer behind it for dust filtration. The front I/O is at the bottom attached to the frame. so you can remove the front panel to access that bottom dust filter without needing to deal with all the cables. There are two USB Type-A ports, a USB Gen2 Type-C port, a combo audio jack, and two buttons for your illumination.

Lighting

I love the simple lighting implementation on all Phanteks enclosures. One button changes the mode, the other button changes the colour. You can connect other accessories to it, like I have done with the Glacier ONE all-in-one cooler, the actual pump head is now connected to the case lighting. I don’t need to route that separately into my motherboard, although that is an option as a 5V addressable header is available if you want to control everything with your motherboard. The power button is at the top illuminated with the rest of the case lighting. We don’t know how many fans the case will come with, but right now we have the two of the front and nothing at the back, but it can support a 120mm exhaust fan, which is fantastic for an ITX case.

The Outside

The side panel here is glass and it’s attached with two pegs at the top, so a completely tool-less design. There is also little cavity in the frame into which you can pop out the glass easily. We also have this prototype solid panel with mesh at the bottom, and I’m surprised not to see any fan mounts because that would be kind of cool for that to come back. Here this mesh has the same high-performance 1mm design and it gives the GPU a bit more breathing room. I have done some temperature testing, but I will cover that later. Obviously since the case supports the optional side fan mount the rear panel has the same high-performance mesh covering that entire space.

The Inside

Moving on to the interior, the power supply at the top means there is no other ventilation at the top, but just a simple solid panel. This case layout allows for 3 things: Radiators at the front, side fan mounts and side radiators, and also opening up the entire bottom section for GPU’s. Now for storage we have two plastic SSD caddies that can be installed instead of the side fan mounts. We also have a single bracket behind the mother board with two SSD mounts. You can also mount it four 3.5-inch drives instead of the side fan mounts if you have the hard drive caddies.

Cooling Support

Now let’s get into the specifics with cooling. I mentioned the 165mm for the CPU tower clearance earlier, but if you want to go all air cooling install two fans on the front for intake and then install another fan at the rear you would have a really capable air flow ITX system. If you are going with a vertical GPU you kind of have to keep in mind that CPU tower limitations are 74mm or 94mm depending on which of the two locations you have the GPU mounted. There is still plenty of space between the GPU in vertical orientation and the tempered glass side panel, so don’t even worry about cooling whatsoever. Just be aware of the compatibility issues with riser cables right now when you are dealing with PCIe Gen4 devices. And the rise of cable is not PCIe Gen4. We did a full examination of that issue, which you can check out right here. With a vertical GPU orientation you can still utilize that side radiator mount to give you full length clearance across the case, but even still you have like 320mm until the radiator and fans at the front which is plenty of space for massive GPU’s. The only thing sacrificed with a vertical GPU is the rear fan mount, because that is going to be blocked, but there is still plenty of ventilation to move some air.

As for radiator support, it’s cool that a 280mm can fit at the front, although keep in mind that the side fan mounts will be blocked. I would say that the sweet spot would be a 240mm at the front or the side, depending if you want to intake or exhaust, and based on our all-in-one cooler testing 240mm seems to be that really good choice for performance and noise.

Temperatures

This leads us to temperatures, and I have discovered a few compromises along the way with this sort of configuration, but keep in mind this is still not the final case so things might change. Let’s start with my stock configuration, a 240mm radiator at the front as intake, two side fans as intake, and I’m using the side mesh panel. The temperatures are fine for the CPU, but the GPU is really toasty. Then I popped in the glass panel with the same configuration and that increased my temperatures by 1°C. I then removed the front panel and nothing changed, which shows just how good that front panel mesh is. I then rotated the side fans to exhaust air, and that helped with GPU temperatures a little bit. I then decided to add the rear fan instead of the side intake or exhaust, and that also didn’t do much. The CPU is totally under control of course, but the GPU is getting all that hot air from the radiator and that is an issue. That is when I decided to rotate the front AIO to exhaust air from the case, and only then did I see the GPU drop in temperatures quite significantly. In doing so the CPU temperature rose by 7°C.

Now when we compare the P200A day across my entire ITX stack, you can see that this case gets the best CPU temperatures, and that is because we are intaking cool air from the outside. However, we are also sacrificing a lot on the GPU temperature because all that heat is just meddling around. Once we rotate the front AIO to exhaust air, only then do we get comparable CPU and GPU temperatures versus everything else that is available. And again, one of the reasons why we get the best CPU temperature in the stock configuration with the intake is because all other ITX cases have the radiator as exhaust on the interior. Obviously it makes sense that when we switch things around it falls inline with what I was getting with other ITX enclosures.

Cable Management

And the last thing, when it comes to cable management don’t expect any challenges in a case this size. Just take your time, and you will achieve an absolutely beautiful layout with nothing sticking out. Even though the power supply is not in its own chamber, all the cables exit just fine at the back, and you can see just how much room there is at the back. I love the little metal brackets that hold that main cable channel in place. They don’t bulge out. I also love the small lip at the bottom to hide all your cables. The only thing I would recommend to Phanteks is to add a thumbscrew mount, so you can actually secure the side panel in place, since on my sample it doesn’t close completely flush.

Conclusion

So that completes this preview of the Eclipse P200A. I’m really excited about this ITX enclosure, not just because of the cooling and GPU compatibility or support for full-size ATX power supplies, but because it’s supposed to be affordable at $70 to $80 USD and widely available so you can actually buy it. I think a lot of really cool ITX machines are going to be built in this case.

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