Pros

Exceptional build quality, packaging, and manual; showpiece-quality exterior; unique modular drive trays

Cons

Aluminum panels resonate at odd frequencies; not the quietest or coolest case

Star Rating

The Evolv

Introduction

Here at The Tech Buyer's Guru, we really like reviewing cases. In fact, we've reviewed more cases than any other PC component, and that's saying something, because to review a case, you actually have to build a whole new system! So it is with great pleasure that we take a look at our very first Phanteks case, the Enthoo Evolv ATX. Phanteks is a relatively-new manufacturer in the PC space, but it clearly has lofty goals. It started out producing high-end, and only high-end, CPU coolers, and then moved into PC cases, an area ripe for innovation.

And that's what the Evolv ATX delivers, along with a nice helping of style. Is this the top-performing case ever? No, it's not, but we think case "performance" has received a bit too much attention in recent years, at the expense of aesthetic design, ease of use, and yes, innovation. Sure, a case with large amount of airflow will "perform" better than one with less airflow, but with most cases now offering sufficient airflow to cool today's components, Phanteks has gone in another direction with the Evolv ATX, and in case we haven't made it clear yet, we absolutely love it!

Description and Features

There are in fact three models of the Evolv ATX, the standard matte black model, the Galaxy Silver model, and the Anthracite Grey model we tested. As you might have guessed, they only differ in color, with each appealing to a different segment of the market, while also highlighting the innate beauty of the aluminum panels used to clad the Evolv ATX. You want shiny red, white, or blue? You're not going to find that here, as unpainted aluminum is never going to be that color. We think Phanteks has made the right decision, going with a high-class finish to complement the high-cost materials being used.

Parts

Right off the bat, we were amazed at Phantek's attention to detail in packaging the Evolv ATX. All fasteners were pre-sorted into a handy storage case, and the manual provided an excellent guide to all of the modular components that make up the case. That includes three 3.5" drive sleds, two 2.5" drive sleds, and a reservoir mount (for ultra-high end custom liquid cooling setups). Phanteks even included three alternative front LEDs, in case the pre-installed white LED doesn't match your system's color scheme.

The hard drive trays, seen to the far left in the photo, deserve special mention. These are the very first fully-modular individual sleds we've seen in a PC case, and unless Phanteks has patented the design, they surely won't be the last. Removable drive cages are nothing new, but they're clunky and restrict airflow when in use, even if just one hard drive is mounted. These individual sleds are the future of PC case design, allowing you to only use the number of sleds you need, and more importantly, taking up no more space than the hard drives themselves. That means airflow is optimized, whether you're using hard drives or not.

We should also note that there are two fixed sleds available in the lower-front corner of the case, so  you'll probably want to use those first and only employ the modular sleds if you have more drives than will fit "below decks." That keeps things nice and tidy up top!

To put the case to the test, we loaded it up with the following components:

  1. CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K
  2. Motherboard: Asus Z170-A (thanks to Newegg and Asus for providing this review sample)
  3. Memory: G.Skill 2x8GB Ripjaws 4 DDR4-3000
  4. Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 SC 4GB
  5. Solid-State Drive #1: Samsung 850 Evo 500GB M.2
  6. Solid-State Drive #2: Crucial MX200 1TB
  7. Power Supply: EVGA Supernova 850 GS
  8. CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U14S (thanks to Noctua for providing this review sample)
  9. Operating System: Windows 10 Home Download

Note that the Core i5-6700K is cooled by one of the best air coolers on the market, the Noctua NH-U14S, rivaled only by Phanteks' own offerings. While Phanteks has incorporated a pull-out radiator tray at the top of the case (another PC design first!), it doesn't market liquid coolers itself, so it surely intended this case to work well with high-end air coolers as well. We decided that was the configuration we'd go with, as we think it's the best option for a high-end system designed to be powerful yet quiet.

open the door!

As can be seen above, the Evolv ATX looks fantastic once built up, and the hinged side panels and foam padding around the entirety of the interior door frame really make it feel like a premium design. Handling the the Evolv ATX provides the same satisfying feel as closing the door on a fine German motorcar!

So let's go ahead and step inside that open door to see what it's like to build up a system with the Phanteks Evolv ATX!

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