For a $80 case, the P400S is surprisingly weighty and sturdy. It has an all-metal exterior, with the roof and front panels, which are plastic at their core, having external steel layers. The case
stands on foam, rather than rubber feet, but this material still does an okay job.
The I/O panel sports the usual USB 3 and audio ports, and there are fan control and LED control buttons tucked beneath the front lip. The former can control three fans at three different speeds, while the latter cycles the power button and front underglow LEDs through ten different colors, with additional connectors on the inside that can synchronize with optional Phanteks LED strips.
You only get two fans, both 120mm, but there are many expansion options, including extra fan mounts in the roof, which are covered by blanking plates. Unlike many manufacturers, Phanteks has seen the sense to provide separate dust filters for these mounts, so you can open them up just for extra ventilation without compromising your protection against dust. Meanwhile, the PSU is guarded by a slide-out filter, and the front panel vents also have filtering.
There are lots of neat touches inside too, including pre-installed standoffs, all-black internal cables, plenty of noise-dampening material and foam pads to help isolate the PSU (although not fully). A full-length PSU cover ensures a tidy build and, like the Define S, there’s no optical drive support and no hard drive cage in the main cavity.
Instead, there’s a two-bay hard drive cage at the front of the lower section, as well as dual SSD trays behind the motherboard, which use Phanteks’ excellent Drop-N-Lock system of rubber grommets to slide into place. All the drive mounts have anti-vibration measures in place too. Meanwhile, back in the main area, you can install up to four extra 3.5in/2.5in drive trays, purchased separately. These bays, however, would reduce graphics card clearance to 280mm.
You can only really use the front for water-cooling gear, as the roof lacks adequate clearance – an area where the Define S has a clear advantage. Still, you can get a 240mm or 280mm radiator in the front area, and even a 360mm one if you remove the lower hard drive cage and the front of the PSU cover. This job is achieved with screws, but it’s still a much better system than that of the Corsair 400C.
Phanteks has a good reputation for cable routing, and the P400S is no exception. All cables are neatly pre-routed and the LED and fan controllers come hooked up and ready to go. Velcro cable ties make cable-tying brilliantly simple and there’s loads of room for excess wiring in the PSU area, as well as a decent amount of room behind the motherboard tray.
Initial cooling results aren’t great though. Even at maximum fan speed, we only saw a CPU (Core i7-870) delta T of 65°C, which is very warm, although 54°C for the GPU (HD 5870) isn’t too bad. However, the roof dust filters make it feasible to open up this area, which instantly knocks 7°C off the CPU temperature – it still isn’t an amazing result, but it’s healthy enough. Noise does increase with the roof open, but you can then use lower fan speeds too.
For $80, the P400S offers great value for money. It punches above its weight in terms of looks and quality, the ease of use is outstanding and the expansion options are solid – it’s easily your best bet for a budget of around $80. If high airflow performance or flexible room for water-cooling gear are priorities, though, the Define S is worth the extra outlay.