Phanteks Evolv Shift 2 Introduction
The Evolv Shift 2 is a case that appeals to those who admire its tall and compact design, as well as its stunning anodized aluminum panels. It comes in two versions, one with mesh priced at $100 and another with tempered glass and an addressable-RGB fan priced at $110. Let’s explore whether the Evolv Shift 2 deserves a spot on our list of the best PC cases.
I’ve been close to buying Phanteks’ Evolv Shift ITX chassis several times over the years, but I never did. Why? Because I didn’t really need another chassis. If you’ve ever felt the same way about a computer case, you can relate to my situation. Of course, about six months ago, Phanteks informed me that a second version was in the works, which got me excited. However, like many other things in 2020, it faced multiple delays.
Now, the new Evolv Shift is finally available, and I can confidently say that the wait was worthwhile for a simple reason: Phanteks made sure it accommodates the latest GPUs perfectly.
The Evolv Shift 2 takes the original design and updates it to meet the standards of 2020. It now includes features like addressable-RGB lighting with a built-in controller, improved dust filtration, a slightly modified layout, and most importantly, enough space for modern oversized graphics cards.
These are all positive improvements, but it’s important to note that building in this case remains challenging, and those seeking the lowest possible CPU temperatures may not find it ideal due to limited cooling options.
Phanteks Evolv Shift 2 Specifications
|Case Type||Mini Tower PC Enclosure|
|Dimensions (Height x Width x Depth)||19.0 x 6.7 x 10.8 inches (490 x 170 x 274 mm)|
|Maximum GPU Length||Up to 13.2 inches (335 mm)|
|CPU Cooler Clearance||Accommodates coolers up to 3.3 inches (85 mm)|
|Maximum PSU Length||Designed for SFX-L (SFX recommended for additional radiator space)|
|External Drive Bays||None|
|Internal Drive Bays||1x 3.5-inch, 2x 2.5-inch|
|Expansion Slots||Two available|
|Front Panel Ports||Dual USB 3.0 ports|
|Additional Features||Dual Tempered Glass Panels, RGB Controller|
|Front Fans||No front fans included|
|Rear Fans||Includes one 140mm rear fan (Supports up to two 140mm fans)|
|Top Fans||No top fans included|
|Bottom Fans||Supports one 140mm bottom fan|
|Side Fans||Not supported|
|RGB Lighting||Yes, featuring fans with A-RGB, A-RGB Power Light, and Built-in Controller for additional devices|
|Sound Damping||Not equipped|
|Warranty||Main chassis covered for 5 years, all other parts covered for 2 years|
Phanteks Evolv Shift 2 Pros And Cons
- Attractive, sturdy glass and aluminum design.
- Compact size
- Simple interior arrangement
- Built-in D-RGB Lighting and Controller
- Accommodates large graphics cards
- There is also an air version with fabric mesh panels available
- Can only accommodate 120mm AIOs for CPU cooling
- Building inside can be difficult due to limited space
- Tempered glass version is only suitable for GPUs with around 250W power consumption
- Riser cable only supports PCIe 3.0
- Unstable controls at the top
Phanteks Evolv Shift 2 Features
When you first look at the Evolv Shift 2, the most striking thing is its impressive height of 19 inches (490mm). However, it’s also important to note that it has a compact design, which means it doesn’t take up much space on your desk. Its dimensions are only 6.7 x 10.8 inches (170 x 274 mm), including its feet, giving the case a total volume of 22.9 liters. While this isn’t considered small for ITX cases, its compact footprint allows it to maintain a relatively small form factor.
The exterior of the case has a tiled appearance, featuring elegant anthracite-gray aluminum panels on the front and back, with tempered glass sides.
You might be wondering how to access the case’s IO (input/output) ports. All the IO operations are handled through the top of the chassis. Simply press down on the top vented panel to open it, revealing the ‘rear’ IO ports and thumbscrews for removing the case’s paneling.
With the rear IO conveniently located at the top, it’s easy to access, and you can keep the cables neatly organized as a single bundle at the back. If you prefer to hide the cables, there are also cable guides behind the panel to route them downward, out of sight.
When the top vent is closed, you can access three buttons at the top, which control power, RGB mode, and RGB color settings. Despite the reasonable $110 price for this tempered glass version, the overall quality feels premium. However, it’s worth noting that these three buttons may have a slight wobble, although you won’t need to interact with them frequently if your system is in sleep mode most of the time.
At the bottom of the chassis, you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports. Notably, there are no dedicated headphone or microphone jacks. This omission is deliberate because the ‘rear’ IO at the top is easily accessible, rendering dedicated ports unnecessary. Furthermore, dedicated audio ports often introduce interference to the audio signal, so their absence is not a significant drawback.
The inside of the Evolv Shift 2 looks quite different from what I usually see in Mini-ITX cases, but that’s pretty normal for this type of case. It’s divided into three main sections.
In the lower part of the case, there’s space for SFX-L power supplies and a 120mm radiator. There’s some extra room here, but if you have a long GPU, it will take up most of it, and any remaining space will get filled with cables.
The main upper part of the case has the motherboard on the right side, and the graphics card is on the other side connected with a PCIe riser cable. It’s important to note that this riser cable supports only PCIe 3.0, as it seems many case manufacturers are having trouble making PCIe 4.0 work over riser cables.
Towards the front of the case, you’ll see some thumbscrews where you can attach a 3.5-inch drive, and there’s also a tray where you can install up to two 2.5-inch SSDs.
To keep the system cool, Phanteks provides only one 140mm fan with addressable-RGB lights. If you choose the ‘air’ version of this case with vented side panels instead of glass, you’ll receive a fan without RGB lights since you won’t be able to see it anyway. However, you’ll still get the RGB controller. This is mainly because there’s a power light with RGB in the top vent.
For cooling the CPU, the most common method I expect to be used here is 120mm AIOs, which will fit at the bottom of the case. This places the pump above the radiator. Yes, this is usually a style that’s criticized, but the Evolv Shift 2 is designed for you to mount the outlets on the side. This means the air bubble can move to a spot on the radiator’s reservoirs where it won’t rise to the pump and cause damage.
If you take off the feet at the bottom of the chassis, you can add another 140mm fan. Both the top and bottom of the case have filters. The bottom intake filter can be easily removed after taking off the right glass panel, and the top filter will catch any falling dust.
Does it fit an RTX 3080?
Certainly, the Evolv Shift 2 has been improved to accommodate larger 2.9 slot graphics cards. These cards can be as long as 13.2 inches (335mm), as wide as 5.9 inches (150mm), and have a thickness of up to 2.9 slots (59mm). It’s important to note that this also applies to the IO (input/output) area: the bracket can only accommodate dual expansion slots, so graphics cards with an IO shield that’s three expansion slots thick won’t fit. Thankfully, such cards are not very common nowadays.
However, it’s worth noting that the tempered glass version of the case is best suited for use with graphics cards up to the RTX 3070. This limitation is not due to the RTX 3080’s physical fit, but rather because the tempered glass side panel negatively impacts thermal performance. It’s advisable to avoid using a GPU with a power consumption exceeding 250 watts in this version of the case.
Because this system is not like other standard test setups, we’re going to keep the testing straightforward this time. We won’t make any changes to the hardware settings; we’ll only keep the fan speeds constant. This way, we can easily see if there’s a difference between the panels that allow air to flow and the ones made of tempered glass.
Our main aim here is not to compare this case to other cases on the market. Instead, we want to find out if the cooling capabilities it offers are good enough. Let’s be clear; if you’re buying this case, it’s probably because you like how it looks, not because it runs a few degrees hotter or colder than another case. So, our test is simply to determine if it provides sufficient cooling performance to give you the green light to buy it.
Phanteks was generous enough to supply us with the panels designed for the Air version of the Evolv Shift 2. As you can see from these tables, there’s a noticeable difference in performance between the glass-paneled version and the mesh-paneled version. The CPU temperatures didn’t vary much between the two, but when we put the mesh panels on the case, the GPU temperature dropped significantly by a whopping 10 degrees.
Glass Panels vs. Mesh Panels
However, it’s important to note that this thermal improvement comes at the cost of increased noise. The chassis was noticeably louder with the mesh panels, allowing sound to escape more freely. When the GPU was running at full throttle, we recorded the most significant difference in noise, with up to a 2 dB increase. In other situations, the chassis was also louder and subjectively less soundproofed. While the sound level may have only been slightly lower, the glass panels did a great job of containing fan and pump noise, resulting in a smoother overall sound.
So, here’s the bottom line: If you’re using an RTX 2070 Super or RTX 3070, you can get away with using the glass panels. Yes, you’ll sacrifice a bit of cooling performance, but it’s still within safe limits and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if you have a GPU with a TDP above 250 watts, you should seriously consider the Evolv Shift 2 Air with the mesh panels, unless you’re willing to trade off some GPU Boost performance for aesthetics and quieter operation.
For CPU cooling, think about using a thicker 120mm radiator instead of the slim one we used, and consider adding a Noctua NF-A12x25 fan if you want to keep noise levels low, especially if you’re using a high-end Intel processor. Having a dual-fan setup can help, but you’ll need a grille for the intake fan to prevent cables from getting tangled in the blades.
The Evolv Shift 2 is one of the most attractive cases I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year. It was a bit challenging to build in, and I encountered the usual frustrations that come with Mini-ITX systems. However, I managed to complete the build in around 3 hours, and the final result was certainly worth it.
I should clarify that it’s not a complicated system to assemble. There’s only one way to install your hardware, so you don’t need to put too much thought into it. Do you have a Mini-ITX motherboard, a 120mm radiator, no more than one 3.5-inch drive, and an SFX or SFX-L PSU? If you’ve ticked all those boxes, you’re ready to proceed. And yes, you can even accommodate large GPUs in this case. Adding an extra 140mm fan as a bottom intake can help with CPU temperatures and overall cooling.
With its small size and stylish finish in both the tempered glass and mesh versions, the Evolv Shift 2 is an ideal choice for a compact PC that can be used in the living room, moved around the house as needed, or taken to LAN parties. The conveniently accessible top I/O ports make connecting devices a breeze as well.
At a price of $100 for the air variant or $110 for the glass version, the Evolv Shift 2 is also quite affordable. Therefore, I have no hesitation in recommending it. This case certainly deserves a spot on our list of the Best PC Cases, specifically as the Best Mini-ITX case, at least until something better comes along.
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In the case of the Evolv Shift 2, Phanteks has delivered a compelling and updated iteration of their ITX chassis. This tall and compact case, adorned with stunning anodized aluminum panels, caters to the tastes of those who appreciate both design aesthetics and functionality. Available in two versions, one with mesh priced at $100 and another with tempered glass and an addressable-RGB fan priced at $110, it certainly presents an intriguing option for PC enthusiasts.