Phobya WaCoolT OWL Case Review

Manufacturer: Phobya
UK price (as reviewed): £387.22 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): Currently unavailable

A few years ago, we held a competition whereby we asked you to design the perfect ATX case for watercooling. That's trickier than it sounds but we were hugely impressed with the entries. The winner, as voted for by you was forum user SnowyOwl's design, called the Black Owl. It's taken a while for the case to hit the market - after all, Phobya is more well-known for making water-cooling gear and bringing a large, easy to make case to the market isn't easy.

Phobya WaCoolT OWL Case Review Phobya WaCoolT OWL Case Review
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However, it's pretty amazing to see something go from a bit-tech competition entry a few years ago to an off-the-shelf case that's readily available today. The Black Owl retails for a slightly eye-watering £387 from Aquatuning but the price does reflect the materials used. The case is made almost entirely from 1.5mm German-made aluminium and despite it being perfectly solid, at just over 10kg it's also incredibly light for what is one of the biggest cases on the market - nearly half the weight of Corsair's humongous 900D for example.

At 66.5cm high and 62.5cm deep, it's pretty much the same size as Corsair's flagship too. However, as part of the volume is taken up but the top and bottom handles and feet - no Prodigy-esque wobble here by the way - it looks a lot less bulky. The WaCoolT OWL is of course more of a show case than your average large Corsair or Phanteks offering. In many ways it's similar to the Parvum Systems X1.0 and S2.0 or even the Hex Gear R40, in that they're designed to be a blank canvas as far as hardware and modding goes.

Phobya WaCoolT OWL Case Review Phobya WaCoolT OWL Case Review
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That said, the WaCoolT OWL does offer a few more creature comforts than these cases. It has grommeted cable routing holes, proper drive mounts and unlike a Parvum Systems case, the WaCoolT OWL comes fully assembled. The downside is that the side panels use quite a few allen/hex head screws to hold them on so an electronic screwdriver is highly recommended. Our case, while 99 percent complete, did have a few niggles but we've been reliably informed that these have been ironed out. Namely, the screws proved to be too soft and one managed to strip its head when we were trying to remove a size panel. Phobya actually mentioned this before we did and has since recalled/pulled black cases from stock to resupply with new screws plus fix a few other issues.

The case comes in two shades - white or black, with our sample's finish a match for any other on the market. It also proved to be fairly hardy, if prone to fingerprints, but it's anything but cheap-looking. Comparing the WaCoolT OWL to SnowyOwl's original design, Phobya has been remarkably faithful given the hurdles it must have had to overcome in making the case. The cooling layout is pretty much the same, as is the layout of the hardware.

Sticking with the exterior, it's a pretty porous case with a large vent in both side panels for an efficient side-to-side intake and exhaust for the bottom radiator mount, with more vents on the front panel too. The front panel itself is located in the middle of the case, with the vandal switch-based reset and power buttons located in the top vent above the usual audio jacks plus single USB 2 and USB 3 ports, with all the motherboard header cables included too. We were impressed with the finish of the machining, with the panels fitting tightly together offering up few if any large gaps.

Phobya WaCoolT OWL Case Review Phobya WaCoolT OWL Case Review
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Finishing off the exterior is a modest-sized side window. If anything, we'd have liked this to be bigger - you'd only just about be able to see two graphics cards and large motherboards won't be totally visible either - given the size of the case, multi-GPU Intel X99 setups are clearly likely so a couple of extra inches in height and width wouldn't have gone amiss. However, if you look at SnowyOwl's design, Phobya has been true to it again as the window is roughly the same size. It's likely a moot point, though; if you were showing off this PC at a LAN party for example, you'd likely have the side panel off anyway.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 235 x 625 x 665 (W x D x H)
  • Material Aluminium
  • Available colours Black, white
  • Weight 10.45kg
  • Front panel Power, reset, USB 3, USB 2, stereo, microphone
  • Drive bays 3 x external 5.25in, 3 x internal 3.5in, 4 x internal 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
  • Cooling (no fans included) 1 x 140mm rear fan mount, 3 x 120mm/140mm base fan mounts, 2 x 200mm, 3 x 140mm or 4 x 120mm roof fan mounts.
  • Maximum graphics card length 360mm
  • Extras Anti-vibration pump mount

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