Pros: Sleek looks, Good front door panel, Large CPU cutout, Top bay can fit a pair of 120mm/140mm fans, a single 200mm/230mm fan, or a 28mm 240mm/280mm rad
Cons: Too much plastic, thin metal, picks up fingerprints, rear 120mm fan placement, cramped behind mobo tray, small touches give it an unfinished feel
Bitfenix has had a pretty active role in the forums here for a while and has brought some interesting products to the market, some of which are quite nice, like their new Recon fan controller, the Alchemy extension cables, Alchemy LED strips, and, of course, some of their cases, while some of their other products, like their Spectre Pro fans, don’t seem to hold up as well. As such, I was incredibly interested to see where the Ghost fell. Is it a home run that every quiet computing enthusiast should have, is it an abject failure, or does it lie somewhere in between? At the time of writing, it’s sitting at $99.99 at Newegg and $79.99 at NCIX US. At that price point, it’s in a already pretty crowded market, putting the case in competition with other quiet cases like the Fractal Design Define R4, Antec P280, NZXT H2, and Cooler Master Silencio 550.
The market segment they’re aiming at with the Ghost is, as such, not an easy one to crack, but it’s not an impossible feat. After all, we’ve seen favorites like the Antec Three Hundred dethroned by other cases that brought something novel to the market. The question then is does the Ghost bring enough to the table to overthrow such favorites as the Define R4? Hopefully by the end of the review, you’ll have enough information to decide for yourself if it’s the right case for you or if there are better options out there.
When I opened up the box and pulled out the case, I was surprised by how big it was. I’ve played with Corsair 550D, Antec P280, and a handful of Fractal Design cases, but I wasn’t prepared for how big the case felt. At 19.75”x8.375”x20.5”, the case isn’t that big for a mid-tower, but the sleek lines give it an almost monolithic feel. In spite of the size of the case, I found that it was quite light and easy to pull out of the box.
In terms of design, the exterior is quite simple, an aesthetic I’m fond of. It’s full of sleek and simple lines that end in tapered curves and rounded edges. When viewed from head on or from the sides, it provides a refined and minimalist profile. This effect is bolstered by BitFenix’s NanoChrome finish, making it almost impossible to tell where the plastic ends and the metal begins. At the same time, the NanoChrome finish makes the metal look a little too much like plastic and is incredibly susceptible to picking up oils and finger prints. I’ve always preferred powder coating to paint and, as such, wish that BitFenix had found a way to create a similar effect with powder coating instead of paint, but that’s a personal preference.
The front door on the case is one of the better implementations I’ve seen. It offers you just enough resistance that it feels like it won’t go flopping open without warning, but isn’t so hard as to make it a Herculean task. Simply remove some clips from inside, and the case door will open to the left or the right or. If you want it to open on one side only, put the clips in on the side you want it to hinge on. Swapping out the front 120mm fan is also a pretty easy affair; just push in the mesh on the left hand side top and bottom until you hear a click and then lift it out. From there, unscrew the fan and replace it with another 120mm or two or a 140mm fan of your choosing.
That said, I wouldn’t go so far to say that the front panel is perfect. There’s a lot of plastic in the front panel and given that the hinge consists of a plastic peg and plastic clips that pop on and off of it, I wonder about its long term reliability. I also wish that they had the option for a white logo on the front instead of a plastic chromed one, but, again, that’s a personal preference.
The top panel is where the looks start to fall apart. It’s certainly better looking than the P280 and the H2, but it’s a far cry from the simple elegance of the Define R4. The power button, USB ports, headphone and mic jacks, and activity lights are just a cluttered mess that throws off the balance of the case. I love that the case offers a pair of USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 plugs, but the layout seems to break the careful symmetry present in the rest of the case. The placement of the reset button is also too close to the power button for my liking and a bit too easy to press if you’re ham-fisted.
Even though I’m not sold on the aesthetics of the top panel, it does have some nice features. As with the front panel, there’s a removable top honeycomb and mesh panel over the fan/radiator bay. Just push the rear corners of the panel in until you hear a click, and lift out the filter to access the fan/radiator bay. In front of this is the hot swap bay. Click in the included cover for the SATA connection in the hot swap bay and you can use it as a storage bay. If you do use hot swap bays, I recommend you leave the SATA cover off since it can be rather difficult to remove. One nice feature of the bay is a pair of rubber strips on the bottom to help deaden the drive vibrations and provide distance between the PCB and case. Overall, the inside of the bay itself is well designed. Personally, I would have preferred that they place the USB plugs and headphone jacks in the bay, but if you use hot swap drives, it’s a nice feature.
While I like the top bay and fan filter, their locking mechanisms needs some reworking. As a result of their placement at either end of the case, it’s quite easy to depress the locks when you’re trying to move the case, making it more difficult to do so. It’s also not uncommon for the lock to disengage on one side and not the other and then trade back and forth if you’re not precise in how you try to disengage it. The bays are a nice feature, the locks just need a little work.
The rear of the case is quite nice as well. All your PCIe and PCI card outputs are easy to access and are completely unrestricted. Unlike on my Arc Midi, there aren’t any slots blocked by overhanging parts of the case. Another nice touch is that it appears that the PSU can be mounted with the fan up or the fan down, depending on your personal preference. Should you want an external radiator for water cooling, there are three punch out holes for your tubing. I do feel that at $100, these should have been punched out already and with rubber grommets in them, but it’s not a deal breaker. Above those punch outs is a slot for a 120mm exhaust fan. The decision to have the fan mounted above the holes for water cooling is questionable, especially since it places the fan so high up in the case. Ideally the water cooling holes should have been placed above the 120mm fan since the fan placement can cause some internal issues that I’ll address later.
Lastly, the bottom of the case has some nice features. First, there’s a easy to clean mesh magnetic filter that easily pops on and off and there are two grooves for you to install a BitFenix Alchemy LED kit or LED strips of your choosing in with a pair of holes nearby for you to easily run a fan header from them into the case. This is one place where I felt that Ghost really could have offered something compelling to set it apart from the competition but didn’t. The similarly priced Define R4, P280, and H2 all come with a fan controller, something the Ghost is lacking. A pair of pre-installed Alchemy LED strips is a feature that would give potential customers a reason to choose Ghost over its competition. While not a big issue, I was also disappointed that one of the silver/grey plastic strips that runs along the bottom didn’t fit properly.
Upon opening the case, my first reaction was one of mild disappointment. This wasn’t because of what I saw inside, but because of what I felt in the side panel. At 3mm thick, the side panel, and the metal in the rest of the case, isn’t the thickest out there. As a result, the side panels have a lot of flex and wobble, even with the sound dampening material giving them some added rigidity. While the steel in my Arc Midi is only 1mm thicker, coming in at 4mm, it has far less flex to it and feels more solid. That said, the noise dampening foam on the side panels and in the front of the case is nice and thick.
Looking into the case, the layout is quite nice. You have room for two 120mm or a single 140mm fans in the front, one 120mm or 140mm fan on the bottom, one 120mm fan on the rear panel, and a pair of 120mm or 140mm fans or a 200mm or 230mm fan up top. In the stock configuration, you get a single 120mm BitFenix Spectre fan up front and a single 120mm Spectre fan as an exhaust. I was pleased that they used the Spectres instead of Spectre Pros. While the Spectre Pros have better specs on paper, the Spectres are quieter and seem to actually perform better.
Looking at the motherboard tray, you have room for 7 PCI/PCIe slots and support for all but eATX boards. The massive CPU cutout is a nice touch and it seems to actually be cut out properly for Intel or AMD boards. You shouldn’t have any issues with replacing your heatsink at all, a pleasant surprise given how most cases seem to make it too small in just the wrong places, forcing you to remove your motherboard to replace the heatsink. The motherboard tray is pretty easy to work with. While I prefer brass standoffs, BitFenix has made the case with built in stand offs that are labeled for motherboards ranging in size from mini ITX to ATX.
I absolutely love the tool less design of the 5.25” bays. Removing the bay cover is as simple as squeezing a pair of plastic tabs and sliding it out. To add a drive, just slide it in until it clicks. To remove it, just push the tab in on the left side and slide the drive out. Unfortunately, the clips are not easily removed and there aren’t any standard screw holes, so if you plan on mounting 3.5” HDDs in the 5.25” bays, you’ll need a sled for them instead of the cheap conversion brackets.
Below that is a floppy disk bay, three 2.5” drive bays, and four 3.5” bays. The inclusion of a floppy bay is an odd choice to me. While there are 3.5” devices like card readers and fan controllers, it makes more sense to either make that bay a fourth 2.5” drive bay or add a fourth 5.25” bay. Both of those are more useful to the average consumer than a floppy bay. The 2.5” bay is also a little odd. While it can be expanded to a 3.5” bay by undoing a pair of screws and moving a little metal sheet back in the case, it’s a pointless exercise since the case only comes with three 2.5” sleds and four 3.5” sleds and there’s no way to mount drives in the bay without the sleds. However, removing the bay entirely helps give the case better airflow and provides you a ledge for a pump or reservoir.
I’m also not sold on the drive sleds. Mounting drives in them is incredibly simple and you can easily screw an SSD into the 3.5” sleds and I didn’t mind that I had to install them myself, but they’re made from a cheap and flimsy feeling plastic. Not only that, but due to how much flex the sleds have, they don’t always slide onto the rails easily or properly. When they do work, they’re nice, but they should have been metal sleds with rubber grommets for noise dampening.
Cable management in the case shouldn’t be too difficult either. With four large cutouts along the bottom and side, it’s pretty easy to route all your cables. The only cable that might be a little tougher is the 8 pin CPU cable since the hole for it isn’t that large. The grommets they include are nice rubber grommets, I was just disappointed that I had to install them myself.
Behind the motherboard tray, you have just a hair over 0.75”. It’s also important to keep in mind that the rear panel also has sound dampening foam that cuts into that space, so you’ll want a PSU with flat ribbon cables like some the new Corsair and Seasonic PSUs are using. Thicker cables have the potential to cause the side panel to bow or not fit correctly. Additionally, I’m not sure there’s enough space to mount an SSD behind the motherboard for those of you who wanted to completely remove the drive bays.
The front panel cables are pretty nice as well. The hot swap SATA cable and SATA power cable and front panel USB and audio cables all have a nice black rubber coating on them that extends almost all the way to the plug, giving them a sleeker look. Since it doesn’t quite reach the plug, you will have some colored wires showing, but it’s much nicer than completely naked cables. The USB 3.0 cable also splits into a USB 2.0 cable if your motherboard doesn’t have a USB 3.0 header. An adaptor would have been easier to work with in the case, but it’s a nice touch. The HDD and power light, power button, and reset button cables are left bare, so you’ll see a bright red cable in your case unless you sleeve it yourself.
One of the most important things for being able to easily mod a case is being able to take it apart easily. I’m not sure that this is an area in which the Ghost excels. The top panel isn’t too terribly difficult to remove, coming off with the push of a few tabs and some minor contortions, and the pedestal base is pretty easy to remove, coming off by removing four screws.
On the other hand, the front panel is a little trickier. In order to remove the front, you have to remove six screws. This wouldn’t be so hard if the screws didn’t have some sort of specialty washer that forms a basket around the screw head. This is a minor inconvenience for the lower screws, but the screws at the top are already difficult to get to and the washer makes it that much harder to get to them. That said, it is nice that all the fascia is screwed or clipped to the case and not impossible to remove, just a little inconvenient.
The rest of the case is riveted together. If you wanted to remove the floppy bay or the bottom drive bay, you have to be willing to strip the case down and drill out the rivets. This is pretty standard for cases, so if you’re into modding, this shouldn’t be more than a minor inconvenience.
Due to the sound dampening material, cutting a side window will be a little more difficult since you’ll have to remove the material first. You’ll also want to be careful since the case is painted, no powder coated, so it will be easier to mess up the side panel. Since the side panel is so flexible and thin, you may also want to use a nibbler or Dremel instead of a jigsaw.
If you want to do more serious water cooling in the case aside from a single 240mm or 280mm radiator, it will be difficult to fit another radiator in or mod the case to fit one in. You could remove the drive bays altogether and mount a 240mm radiator up front, but then you don’t really have a place to mount any of your drives since the space behind the motherboard is a little too narrow and the base of the case is almost entirely honeycomb. You also can’t easily make a 360mm or 420mm radiator fit up top due to the hot swap bay. That said, if you’re willing to make a custom top panel, you could, with some work, fit a larger radiator up to. This case is also a perfect candidate for a water cooling pedestal. Just drill, nibble, or cut some holes for your tubing and the screw holes for the existing pedestal provide you a nice location for you to mount your custom water cooling pedestal to the case.
This case is a hard one. On one hand, I like the case and the features it offers. After all, how many quiet cases offer native water cooling support? On the other hand, it feels a little cheap and underbuilt, like it had the potential to be so much more but a bean counter somewhere cut back on material costs to try and increase the profit margin. It’s a case that, given a few small changes, would top my list of recommended quiet cases. If BitFenix went back and made a Ghost Rev.2 with slightly thicker or sturdier steel, used a little less plastic, improved the drive bays, made a little more room behind the motherboard tray, and included a fan controller or Alchemy LED strips and a solid top panel with sound dampening foam to replace the fan filter, I would make it one of my go to quiet computer case even if it came in at $130-150 instead of the $100 it’s sitting at right now.
So while I can’t say this is a must have case, I can say that it is a very good case for those looking for a specific feature set. If you’re one of those people looking to drop a Corsair H100/H100i, Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme, NZXT Kraken X60, XSPC Raystorm, or other AIO or custom water loop with a 240mm or 280mm radiator in a quiet case, this is the case to get. The only other quiet case that really offers similar capability is the P280, but it’s restricted to a 240mm radiator:
• Sleek looks.
• Good front door panel implementation.
• Easy to remove 5.25” bay covers.
• Easy to remove and clean fan filters on everywhere except the rear exhaust.
• Removable 2.5” bay.
• Hot swap bay.
• PSU can be mounted facing up or down.
• Large CPU cutout.
• Fairly thick noise dampening foam on the sides and front.
• Top bay capable of fitting a pair of 120mm or 140mm fans, a single 200mm or 230mm fan, or a 240mm or 280mm radiator up to 1 1/8” (~28mm) thick.
• Nanochrome Finish, which appears to be paint with some sort of finish to blend the plastic and metal. This is something you’ll love or you’ll hate. I prefer a powder coated case, but the NanoChrome finish does give the case a nice continuous look.
• Floppy bay. There’s no real reason to include a floppy bay in a modern case.
• Hard to move because of the shape and top side filter and hot swap bay lock location.
• Bizarre 2.5” bay that expands to a 3.5” drive bay but doesn’t give you any way to mount drives, limiting you to four 3.5” HDDs.
• No option to close off the top and insert noise dampening foam if you don’t need the top fan/radiator bay.
• Too much plastic, both in the outside construction and internal parts.
• Thin metal (3mm) construction.
• Rear 120mm fan placement can interfere with certain radiator and fan combinations.
• Picks up skin oils ridiculously easily. The lock in fan filters and side panels already have marks from mild handling.
• Can get cramped behind the motherboard tray for cable routing.
• There are small touches like the grommets not coming preinstalled, fitment being off in a few places, and mesh poking out of the filter that give it an unfinished feel for the $100 price tag.