Manufacturer:Phobya UK price (as reviewed): £423 (inc VAT) (Approx) US price (as reviewed): N/A
There have been a few instances of PC modder-designed products hitting the shelves over the years. NZXT's Phantom was derived from modder recommendations and the Red Harbinger Cross Desk of course has its roots firmly planted in the modding scene. Now, three years after we asked you to design your idea of the perfect case to house a water-cooled PC, we have another product to and to that list, and finally we have the end result in our lab.
You can see some of the best designs from Phobya's case design competition here but we're finally able to take an in-depth look at forum user SnowyOwl's case, called the Black Owl. This is still a pre-production sample, though, and combined with the fact the side window wasn't included, there are no fans and that the Black Owl is first and foremost a water-cooling case, it's pointless putting it through our usual suit of case benchmarks.
Therefore, this p/review will be based on its features, build quality and water-cooling potential and as some features are likely to change - Phobya has already asked us for feedback on the case so they can tweak some of the finer details - we can't give it a firm score either. However, we can certainly take a closer look at just what the case is about and how well it's made.
Click to enlarge
It's certainly looks a faithful reproduction of SnowyOwl's final designs and, as we understand it, there weren't too many changes that had to be made to the original design to make what we have here. As far as the timescale goes, it's simply down to the fact that making a case like this isn't the norm. Designs are usually done behind closed doors and within a team that are very much familiar with the process and are driven by deadlines. Here, the design has come from an external community and Phobya is after all, a water-cooling and modding company first, case manufacturer second.
However, despite our initial concerns over sharp edges and general build quality, the nearly-finished article is very well made indeed. It's constructed entirely from aluminium and at the moment it weighs less than 10kg, which given it's substantial size - getting on for 70cm tall - does feel a bit weird given the similarly-sized Corsair 900D's and Cooler Master Cosmos II's we've been handling recently. However, we'd argue that it doesn't look big, in that the design somehow masks its bulk with the concave front and rear sections (well done snowy) - but we'll leave you to decide on that one.
Click to enlarge
The edges are very well finished with no sharp or jagged areas. In fact the only feature to betray its status as a potentially low-volume, high cost water-cooling case is the fact the side panels are screwed on using star-headed screws. There's only half a dozen or so to contend with and with the right tool, that Phobya kindly sent our way, it takes less than 30 seconds.
The side panel actually rests in a recess of depressed metal. It's not quite Lian Li-flush but it's not far off either and the matt-black paint job seemed very scratch-resistant too. The owl-wing protrusions, which are a little BitFenix Prodigy-esque, help to break up the boxy look too and are actually a massive help when carrying the thing, especially over short distances.
Click to enlarge
Phobya has yet to decide on ports and the like but at the moment there are two anti-vandal switch mounts in the front lower vent for power and reset switches. The side panel window is larger than it looks, and neatly hides the drive bays - kit the case out with some water-cooling gear and Mayhem's coolant and it will look mean in no time.