Phanteks P360X Case Review: Form Over Function

Manufacturer: Phanteks Phanteks P360X Case Review: Form Over Function

Marketing departments for case manufacturers must be an exciting place to work. Come to think of it, it would be exciting in any marketing department for anyplace that has engineers and designers. I say that because I’m certain that the engineers and designers are constantly making attempts on the lives of their marketing counterparts (figuratively, of course! – Ed.). Imagine coming to work to discover that your recommended revision to the functionality of a product has resulted in Raiders of the Lost Ark style death traps being placed in your office.

I’m on record of my approval of many of the innovations Phanteks has brought to the enclosure industry. Jokingly, I have referred to myself as a “Phanboy” when it comes to their ingenuity and many of their designs. Off the top of my head I can think of seven different Phanteks cases I’ve built in over the last few years. In many ways, this review is going to be about three Phanteks cases; the Eclipse P3XX triplets.

I had some high hopes when I first saw the P360X. It uses the same basic chassis as the P300 and P350X, both of which I’ve had positive experiences with previously. Despite their compact sizes (around 18”x 17.7” x 7.9”) they will hold up to an E-ATX motherboard (max 280 mm wide), an ATX power supply, two detachable 2.5 inch drive sleds, and two 3.5 inch drive trays. In the front and top there is support for either two 120mm or 140mm fans, and a 120mm fan in the rear. You can also install either a 240mm or 280mm radiator at the front, and Phanteks claims that you can mount a 240mm radiator in the top, but spacing would be extremely tight so double-check all your measurements.

The original of this series of enclosures (the P300) is the first under $75 case that I can remember which offered a tempered glass panel. One of the great features of this series is that the main portion of the inner construction is from a single piece of stamped steel. This allows for the very wallet-friendly pricing of these models, plus it gives the cases a very stiff, quality feel. At the time of writing, the P300 tempered glass can be had for $60 USD, the P350X is $70 and P360X is $80. While being very similar to its predecessors the P360X offers a few updates on these models.

Product Specifications
  • Model PH-EC360PTG_DBK
  • Color: Black
  • Form Factor: Mid-tower
  • Materials: ABS, Steel Chassis, Tempered Glass
  • Motherboard Support:
    • ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
    • E-ATX up to 280mm wide
  • Front I/O:
    • 2x USB 3.0
    • Mic
    • Headphone
    • D-RGB LED control
  • Side Window: Yes, Tempered Glass
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 200 x 465 x 455 mm / 7.8 x 18.5 x 17.7 inches

Manufacturer Description

“The latest edition to the Eclipse Series, the P360X is a compact mid-tower ATX case featuring optimized high air-flow design, liquid cooling support, and easy to use storage options with an affordable price.”

Phanteks P360X Exterior

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With the P360X, you can see that Phanteks really worked to bring the design language of the P400 series down to the lower end models. The solid, angular front panel of the P360X is very reminiscent of its bigger, slightly more expensive brethren. This same front panel also feels more solid and better built than the front panels on the 300 and 350.

The drawback here is that intake space is limited, with only small openings at the top and bottom, then two long, angled and illuminated intake vents on each side. Ventilation here looks to be roughly equivalent to the P300, but I’m pretty certain the P350X would have an advantage here. The panel attaches with pressure clips and is very easy to remove and pop back on. The LED’s are connected with contact pins, so you won’t have any wiring to fuss about with to remove or replace the panel.

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Beneath the front panel we find a good quality magnetic dust filter protecting the lone 120mm intake fan. It’s a bit misleading to say “lone intake fan.” In fact, it’s the only fan that comes with the case. This is a slight departure from the 300 and 350 models, though the P300 used the fan for exhaust. The included fan here is one of the newer Phanteks designs which I was impressed with on the P400A I reviewed recently.

Internally, the P360X is essentially identical to the P350X. Both have an addressable RGB strip at the bottom edge of the tempered glass panel. The only real difference between the two that I was able to discern was the redesigned PCI expansion slots, which allows for the use of Phanteks’ own vertical GPU bracket, without the need to modify the case.

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One of the things that struck me with all three of the cases in this series is how high quality they feel for their price point. Due mostly to the nicer front panel, the 360 is the best of the three in that regard. It really looks and feels like a more expensive case.

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Phanteks P360X Interior and Build

Building in the P360X was very straightforward. The chassis has good options for cable management and routing. The two hard drive trays are concealed neatly in the front of the power supply compartment. To access them you just pop the front panel off and they slide out the front. I actually prefer this method to trays which slide out the side of a case. Here you won’t have to worry about getting tangled up in cables.

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The 2.5 inch drive sleds attach on rubber posts to the rear of the motherboard tray. If you have a modular power supply and a large CPU heatsink, I would highly recommend plugging the CPU power in before installing the motherboard, or installing the heatsink after the motherboard is installed and all your PSU connections are made. I did also encounter one of the motherboard tray standoff screw holes had some residue left in the threads from the powder coating, and I had to tap it to put a standoff in place for the Micro ATX motherboard. Other than that, building was a breeze.

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The 2.5 inch drive sleds attach on rubber posts to the rear of the motherboard tray. If you have a modular power supply and a large CPU heatsink, I would highly recommend plugging the CPU power in before installing the motherboard, or installing the heatsink after the motherboard is installed and all your PSU connections are made. I did also encounter one of the motherboard tray standoff screw holes had some residue left in the threads from the powder coating, and I had to tap it to put a standoff in place for the Micro ATX motherboard. Other than that, building was a breeze.

Performance Testing

Enclosure Test Platform
Processor Intel Xeon E3 1245 V2
Motherboard ASRock Z77 Pro M Motherboard
Memory 16GB (2x8GB) G.Skill Ripjaw DDR3-1666
Graphics Card EVGA GeForce GTX 980 SC
Storage Intel 520 Series 120gb SSD
CPU Cooler Scythe Choten w/ be quiet! Silent Wings 3 fan
GPU Cooler Arctic Cooling Twin Turbo II

Temperatures

I measured temperatures with my test system using the stock fans at the three speed settings (Low, Medium, and High), then replaced those for the standardized airflow testing and measured again.

Standardized Airflow Test:

  • 3 x Be Quiet Pure Wings 2 120mm Fans (2 intake, 1 exhaust at 100%)
  • CPU Temperature Testing: OCCT set to Small FFTs for 30 minutes
  • GPU Temperature Testing: Unigine Heaven set to Extreme at 1080p

Sound testing conducted during run of 3d Mark Time Spy Extreme. Arctic Cooling Twin Turbo II GPU cooler fan speed set to 33% (highest fan speed reached on default curve during open bench stress test). Scythe Choten CPU Cooler with Be Quiet Silent Wings 3 fan at 100%

Once my test system was installed, I ran the P360X through my battery of tests, both with the stock fan configuration, and with the standardized airflow configuration. Here is where I encountered two problems. A single fan is not adequate for cooling in this case. I actually think it would have performed better as an exhaust only. At the end of testing, in stock configuration, the P360X had the worst temperatures of any enclosure I’ve tested to date.

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In the standardized airflow testing, the P360X did improve from its bottom-of-the-list performance, but only slightly. The redesigned front panel looks really attractive, and the RGB illumination does look nice the way it is implemented, but Phanteks really sacrificed airflow to make these changes. Even with two intake fans at 100% speed, the P360X was still very near the bottom of the chart for temperatures. The best bet for this chassis might be to install two fans as intakes in the top of the chassis. This would insure a nice supply of fresh, filtered air feeding your CPU, but still won’t help the GPU very much.

Noise Levels

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The main problem here is that under load, the heat from the components (especially the GPU) would just build up inside the case and it would just get hotter and hotter. This led to the second problem with the stock fan. Initially the system ran really quiet (one case fan does tend to be quieter than two). At idle I could barely hear the system over ambient. Unfortunately, once the temps began to rise, the fans ramped up and the system became much more audible. To magnify this, even after the system had dropped out of a loaded situation, the fans stayed at higher RPM than normal because the hot air wasn’t leaving the chassis. A second fan in exhaust would really help a lot.

Conclusion

So, the P300 was a good case for the money, and the P350X was an improvement with better airflow and addressable RGB. I’ll be honest here, I feel like the P350X is a great little chassis for the price and would give it a gold award if I was reviewing it. This however, is a review for the P360X, and this is where the marketing department comes in. They needed more visually striking RGB, more modern aesthetics, and fewer openings in the front to try to match the design language with the P400 series, but these changes led to sacrifices in the front panel.

Sure, it looks nice, and is built better than its predecessors, but too many sacrifices to the airflow had to be made to pull this look off. There just aren’t enough passages for the air. You could certainly use the top panel and put two intake fans in front, two more in the top, then one as an exhaust in the back, but at that point you’ve bought 4 more fans than come with the case, and you could have spent that money on a better enclosure to begin with. Even within Phanteks’ own line, either of the new Phanteks P400A models (the black edition or the RGB model) are going to provide a much better value than the P360X.

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