Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX Review

May 20, 2015 | 12:21

Tags: #best-mini-itx-case #mini-itx

Companies: #phanteks

Interior

The side panels come off easily using the thumbscrews and handles, and inside there are various parts also held in with screws, such as the roof and drive cage walls. This will help those interested in disassembling the chassis for modding or painting, although a full disassembly will still necessitate the drilling of some rivets.

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Inside you're faced with a tower design, albeit one shrunk to mini-ITX dimensions. The motherboard is installed vertically on a tray that comes with pre-installed mounts and a huge cutout for cooler backplates, with the PSU going below it on the floor where there are small anti-vibration foam feet for it to rest on. It's awesome to see Phanteks include a PSU cover in so inexpensive a case, and the cutaway in it means you'll see your PSU's branding through the side window but not the heaps of cables protruding from it. The interior design is rather open with virtually uninterrupted airflow from front to back, though remember the mostly solid external panels will still significantly stifle the available air.

An rear-accessible optical drive was included in the original EVOLV but for the ITX version Phanteks has done away with it entirely. In our eyes this is a sensible move and a good way of saving space, although it obviously comes down to your own lifestyle.

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You do, however, get a pair of 3.5in/2.5in drive trays installed in a removable cage at the front of the lower section, meaning they're totally obscured from view through the window. These use Phanteks' standard plastic drive trays that offer tool-free mounting arms for larger drives as well as anti-vibration mounting holes. There's an additional dedicated 2.5in tray installed behind the motherboard tray at the front of the case, and this is installed on rubber grommets using Phanteks' Drop-N-Lock design – it works really well.

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Back inside the main cavity, you have excellent clearance for CPU coolers and graphics cards, with enough room for flagship coolers and the R9 295X2, for example. Near the front, a bridge-style bracket sits over your graphics card, and on top of it you can install various bits of hardware. A 2.5in or 3.5in Phanteks drive bracket can be purchased separately to expand your storage, or you could buy the company's pump bracket and install that instead – this can also be installed on the case floor if you remove the front HDD cage. There are also mounting holes built into the bridge bracket for mounting reservoirs. The fact that the drive and pump brackets must be purchased separately is a shame, as they're usually supplied with Phanteks' cases, but again the price point is particularly low so we're willing to let this slide. Helpfully, the side of the bridge bracket can be unscrewed and bent upwards, allowing you to swap out your graphics card without removing the bracket entirely (which is also possible). On many cards it will also have the benefit of shielding the power connectors from view.

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Cable routing is another strong point, though this is something we've come to expect from Phanteks. The pre-installed Velcro cable ties are awesome and make adjusting things really easy. There are some nice, big holes to the side of the motherboard with grommets attached quite securely, and with cutouts above and below the motherboard too it's easy to neatly route cables almost anywhere. A short, modular PSU is always recommended when going mini-ITX, but here it's definitely helpful as you'll leave yourself more space in the lower cavity to stash excess wiring. There's also a healthy amount of space behind the motherboard tray. Understandably, Phanteks doesn't supply one of its awesome PWM fan hubs with the EVOLV ITX, but there are mounting holes if you wish to buy and install one yourself.

As mentioned, Phanteks has given consideration to pump and reservoir placement. It's also actually possible to install a thin tube reservoir next to your graphics card, provided your card's cooler doesn't protrude too far out into the case. As for radiators, the front can house a 240mm model once the hard drive cage is removed, which leaves you with just one default drive mount. If you use a slim model, it is just possible to install it behind the intake fans without removing the bridge bracket, so you could add a hard drive or SSD on there too as outlined above.

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The roof, meanwhile, has an innovative slide out radiator bracket, held in place with four screws. This lets you install your radiator and fans first before sliding it back in, and it works very well. The radiator mounts are offset, but even so 280mm models are limited to half height only, while 240mm ones can be thicker. You can also use both the roof and front mounts together, but only with slimline 240mm radiators, and things will be pretty tight. While the slide out roof bracket does make things easy, it also costs you at least an inch of clearance, meaning that radiators will partially block access to the motherboard, with thick ones obscuring it massively. This is less than ideal if you're a frequent fiddler, so there's an argument that regular, roof mounts directly in the roof panel would have been better, and this approach would certainly improve airflow considerably. That said, the level of water-cooling support for this price is hard to argue with.
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