• Home
  • blog
  • Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX Mini Tower

Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX Mini Tower

The Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX is a bulky mini-ITX tower with enthusiast grade features including support for thick 240/280 mm radiators, mounting points for a reservoir and pump, and a monstrous 200 mm front fan.

Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX Mini Tower

May 26, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX
Mini-ITX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$65
US$70 with window

The Enthoo Evolv ITX is based on the larger Enthoo Evolv microATX tower, which is a higher-end model with an aluminum exterior. The mini-ITX version is not as flashy, attempting to bring a similar enthusiast feature-set to a smaller form factor and lower price-point. The Evolv ITX hits the US$60 (US$65 for the windowed version) mark thanks to its smaller size and more typical steel/plastic construction. The front and top panels are mostly solid but doesn’t follow a boxy minimalist aesthetic. The case is octagonal with angled corners which makes it a little less conventional, though it still doesn’t really stand out in any way. The wide slits on each side of the front panel have an odd look; it’s necessary to help feed air to the front fan.


The Enthoo Evolv ITX (windowed version)

The single stock fan is one of its big selling points. Secured under the front panel is a 200 mm monster large enough to help cool the CPU, GPU, and hard drive all on its own. Otherwise, it has all the cooling features you would expect with an additional fan mount at the rear, room for a dual radiator at the top, and enough clearance for a fairly tall CPU cooler and long video card. It has similar functionality to the BitFenix Prodigy, but the bulkier Evolv ITX can accept larger radiators/fans, the motherboard orientation is vertical rather than horizontal, and the hard drive bays are designed with a secondary function: They can be removed so that a pump and reservoir can be mounted in their place. These dedicated positions make it easy to install a custom watercooling loop rather than just a basic AIO model.


Unboxed.


Accessories.

Inside the package is a small accessory box with a set of screws, standoffs, and zip-ties in a plastic baggy along with a very brief installation guide. Our sample also shipped with optional hard drive and pump brackets which are actually sold separately and are not included with the retail version of the case.

Relevant Specifications: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX
(from the
product web page
)
Case Specifications
Dimension230 mm x 375 mm x 395 mm (W x H x D)
9.1 in x 14.8 in x15.6 in
Form Factor Mini ITX Tower Chassis
Material(s)Steel plates, Plastic, Steel chassis
Motherboard SupportMini ITX
Front I/O2x USB 3.0, Mic, Headphone, Reset
Side WindowYes
Expansion & Drive Bays
Expansion slots2
Internal 3.5"2 (1 slot for upgrade)
Internal 2.5"1 (1 slot for upgrade)
Cooling
120 mm fan
140 mm fan
200 mm fan
Front2x2x1x (included)
Top2x2x
Rear1x1x
Liquid Cooling
120 mm radiator
140 mm radiator
FrontUp to 240
TopUp to 240Up to 280
Rear120140
Clearance
Graphics card330 mm (13 in)
CPU cooler200 mm (7.9 in)
Cable Management28 mm (1.1 in)
Radiator (Top) 120 mm form factor: 74 mm (2.9 in)
140 mm form factor: 54 mm (2.1 in)
Packaging Information
Package Dimension310 mm x 480 mm x 460 mm (WxHxD)
12.2 in x 18,9 in x 18.1 in
Net Weight5.4 kg (12 lbs)
Gross Weight8 kg (17.7 lbs)
Warranty
Length5 Years Limited

EXTERIOR & SIDE PANELS

The Enthoo Evolv ITX is a steel case with a plastic front panel. Its dimensions are 23.0 cm x 37.5 cm x 39.5 mm or 9.1 in x 14.8 in x15.6 (W x H x D), for a total volume of 34 Liters. It’s fairly big for a mini-ITX case and in fact is larger than small microATX models.


The front of the case is covered by a thick plastic panel with a trench running along the perimeter but most of the airflow is pulled in from the wider gaps on either side. Near the bottom is a slit that diffuses the white power LED inside.


The control panel at the front includes USB 3.0 and audio ports and a small reset button while the larger pill-shaped power button is located on the top of the case. Also on the top are very small ventilation slits on either side.


The only things of note at the back is a larger exhaust grill at the top and a 120/140 mm fan mount with rails that allow position adjustment. The side panels are held on with simple thumbscrews with washers to prevent scratches.


On the underside, there’s an oddly shaped power supply vent covered with a removable mesh dust filter.


The side window is attached fairly firmly and has a slight tint that darkens the interior. The panel is lightweight, being about 0.70 mm thick, but it fits well against the chassis.

INTERIOR

The interior has similarly thin construction to the side panels with the multipurpose bracket and radiator frame feeling particularly weak. The main drive cage on the otherhand is well secured and thick removable front panel is easily the best built component.


The front panel is thick and requires some force to pull off. Underneath is the case’s lone fan, a 200 mm monster serviced by an even larger pop-off filter.


Hidden on the sides are the front panel’s main intake vents, which are about 5 mm wide. [Editor’s Note: As with so many vents in cases these days, this vent looks far to small to feed the big fan anywhere near the airflow it deserves.]


The bottom section of the case is cordoned off for the power supply and a pair of 2.5/3.5 inch dries. An extra drive can be mounted to the top of the multipurpose bracket in front of the fan but the frame for this is sold separately. Alternatively, the bracket has mounting points to install a reservoir.


The fan is positioned strategically to cool the video card, CPU, and two of the three hard drive positions.


A thin steel bracket at the top is reserved for mounting two additional 120/140 mm fans or equivalently sized radiators. Removing a few screws allows it to slide out for easier installation. Its mounting points are also offset, closer to the left side panel rather than centered, so thicker radiators are less likely to interfere with components sticking out along the top edge of the motherboard. However, the top is so poorly ventilated, this seems like a wasted feature.


Two 2.5/3.5 inch drives can be placed in the small cage toward the front/bottom or the cage can be removed completely to make room for a pump. Interestingly, if you install both a pump and reservoir, there’s no place left to install 3.5 inch drives. A single 2.5 inch drive can be secured to a metal bracket near the top. Two velcro straps help keep wiring pinned down.

ASSEMBLY

The assembly process is similar to that of a typical larger tower, so it’s fairly uncomplicated. The interior is quite user friendly with plenty of room behind the motherboard tray, cable management features, rolled edges, and removable brackets/trays to make drive/radiator installation less of a hassle in the small space provided.


The removable drive trays are lined with grommets on the mounting holes and use swinging plastic arms to lock the drive in place.


Alternatively, you can screw the drive into an optional (not included) metal frame and use the bayonet mount on top of the removable bracket at the front of the case. The bracket has a flap at the side that rotates so it’s not very secure and a drive installed here will impede the front fan somewhat.


Our test system fully assembled. Everything fits comfortably but there’s a noticeable lack of clearance underneath the graphics card. The Asus GTX 980 Strix also sags somewhat, so a small piece of foam is used to help prop it up. There is an additional 4.2 cm of space to the right, making the GPU length limit about 33.0 cm or 13 inches.


By my measurements, CPU heatsink clearance is a generous 18.9 cm, so no worries in that department.


The velcro straps are incredibly useful for dealing with cables, making the whole process less tedious than most cases.


With an ample 18~27 mm of room for the cabling, it doesn’t take much effort to ensure the side panel slides on without issue.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital

    audio interfaces.

  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

Testing Procedures

The system is placed in two states: idle, and load using Prime95 (2/4 instances, large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility. This puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application. Throughout testing, system temperatures, noise levels, and power consumption are recorded. During the load test, the system and GPU fans speeds are adjusted to various levels in an attempt to find an optimal balance between cooling and noise while maintaining a GPU temperature of 85°C (at an ambient temperature of 22°C).

Baseline Noise

For our baseline noise tests, the system is left idle, the CPU fan is set to its minimum speed under PWM control (630 RPM), and the GPU fans are off by default. The system fan(s) are connected to controllable fan header(s) and are set to a variety of speeds using SpeedFan. This gives us a good idea of what the stock fan(s) sound like at different speeds with minimal interference from other sources.

Baseline Noise Level
(Idle, CPU fan at 400 RPM, GPU fans off)
Setting
Fan Speed
SPL @1m
0%
N/A
15 dBA
40%
380 RPM
15~16 dBA
60%
520 RPM
18 dBA
80%
620 RPM
22 dBA
100%
720 RPM
25 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA@1m.

The 200 mm fan that ships with the Evolv ITX is a retail model from Phanteks, the PH-F200SP, which retails for US$20 on its own. It’s a gentle giant though, with a rated speed of just 800 RPM while our sample spins slightly above 700 RPM. At full speed, the noise level tops out at a moderately loud 25 dBA@1m; users looking for a quiet experience should dial it down to around 600 RPM or lower. The fan has a standard 3-pin connector and is rated for only 0.25A (for a maximum of 3W) so it’s safe to use with motherboard fan control.

The stock fan uses a similar design to the PH-F140TS, which ships with some of Phanteks’ heatsinks. It also happens to be my personal favorite 140 mm fan both in terms of performance and acoustics. I’m happy to report this larger variant is every bit its equal, with a pleasantly smooth broad profile and completely lacking in tonality throughout its range. It’s easily the best sounding oversized fan I’ve ever encountered.

Most cases have vibration issues with our 7200 RPM SSHD, but it’s a complete non-factor in the Evolv ITX. The drive is held fairly securely and the tray snaps solidly into place into the drive cage. There is a small peak at 120 Hz caused by the drive’s motor, but the amplitude is so low, it’s not audible.

TEST RESULTS

System Measurements (85°C Target GPU Temp)
System State
Idle
Prime95x2 + FurMark
CPU Fan Speed
630 RPM (Min)
900 RPM
(45%)
System Fan Speed
380 RPM
(40%)
520 RPM
(60%)
620 PM
(80%)
720 RPM
(100%)
GPU Fan Speed*
Off
1820 RPM
(58%)
1670 RPM
(54%)
1670 RPM
(54%)
CPU Temp
35°C
60°C
57°C
57°C
MB Temp
35°C
58°C
58°C
57°C
SSHD Temp
34°C
35°C
34°C
34°C
GPU Temp
41°C
85°C
85°C
85°C
System Power (AC)
52W
307W
308W
308W
SPL@1m
15~16 dBA
30 dBA
29 dBA
29~30 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

The results of our initial load tests are fairly discouraging. No matter what speed the system fan is set to, a high video card fan speed is required to keep the GPU at a modest 85°C, resulting in loud operation between 29 and 30 dBA@1m. What’s more, after a certain point, increasing the speed of the front fan no longer improves performance. The level of cooling at the 80% and 100% settings are virtually identical.

The video card fans’ contribution to the overall system noise drowns out the system fan and its agreeable sound quality, giving the system a harsher, higher pitched profile with a few tonal peaks emerging at various points between 600 and 1000 Hz.

System Measurements: Prime95x2 + FurMark (85°C GPU Temp)
Modification
stock
CPU fan set to 100%
front filter removed
front panel removed
SSHD moved up one position
GPU Fan Speed*
1670 RPM
(54%)
1410 RPM
(48%)
1560 RPM
(51%)
1130 RPM
(42%)
2090 RPM
(65%)
CPU Temp
57°C
50°C
53°C
49°C
57°C
MB Temp
58°C
48°C
50°C
46°C
56°C
SSHD Temp
34°C
31°C
31°C
31°C
37°C
System Power (AC)
308W
306W
307W
305W
310W
SPL@1m
29 dBA
29 dBA
28 dBA
25~26 dBA
33 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
System fan set to 80%, CPU fan set to 45% (unless otherwise noted).
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

With the 80% system speed setting achieving the best results, that was used as the starting point for analyzing the Evolv ITX’s performance problems. The first thing I tried was setting the CPU fan to 100%, even though the level of CPU cooling seemed adequate during the initial testing phase. This definitely helped alleviate some of the thermal stress as the fan blows toward the rear, effectively acting as an exhaust fan. The system ran cool enough that I was able to slow the GPU fans by 260 RPM, but unfortunately the noise level stayed about the same as the faster spinning CPU fan was loud enough to offset the difference. A proper dedicated exhaust fan at a lower speed would be more efficient.

A restrictive filter is often a factor in limiting performance and this was true of the Evolv ITX. Taking it out allowed more fresh air in, and while it didn’t make as much of a cooling difference as increasing the CPU fan speed, it did result in a small net noise reduction. Pulling the front panel off had the greatest effect on temperatures, so much so that the GPU fans could be slowed by 540 RPM compared to stock. This left the fan more exposed to our mic, but it still produced a tremendous overall noise savings, bringing the rig down to a more tolerable 25~26 dBA@1m.

Predictably, inadequate of intake is clearly the limiting factor and it’s so critical that even moving the hard drive has serious consequences. Positioning the drive in the upper tray (but still below the PSU "tunnel") seems like a choice many users would make as it gives the drive a bit of airflow from the front fan. However, this also slightly decreases how much fresh air gets to the GPU, both by directly impeding the fan, and by reducing the amount of physical clearance underneath the card. This small change wreaked havoc on the system, forcing the GPU fans to increase to over 2000 RPM to maintain the same temperature, driving up the noise level by a substantial 4 dB.

Case Comparison: Prime95x2 + FurMark (85°C GPU Temp)
Case
Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX
Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX
(filter removed)
BitFenix Prodigy Black
CPU Heatsink/Fan
Scythe Kotetsu at 900 RPM
Scythe Mugen Max at 500 RPM
System Fan Speed
630 RPM
(1 x 80%)
500 RPM
(2 x 60%)
GPU Fan Speed*
1670 RPM
1560 RPM
880 RPM
CPU Temp
57°C
53°C
55°C
MB Temp
58°C
50°C
50°C
SPL@1m
29 dBA
28 dBA
20~21 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Our test system is similar to the Mini-ITX Gaming Build I assembled last winter using the BitFenix Prodigy. The CPU cooler and power supply are different and an M.2 SSD was used instead of a hybrid SATA drive, but none of these changes are significant enough to make a direct comparison unfair. For that build, we chose the black version of the Prodigy because it has a more open front panel than the other color variants.

The Prodigy build maintained the same GPU temperature on load with the CPU fan and two 120 mm system fans spinning at only 500 RPM. The Prodigy also achieved this result with GPU fan speeds of just 880 RPM, almost half that of the Evolv ITX. The resulting 7~8 dB difference is enormous considering the logarithmic nature of the decibel scale.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

  • SPCR Mini-ITX Test System in Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX
    — idle, CPU fan at 630 RPM, system fan at 40%, GPU fans off (15~16 dBA@1m)
    — Prime95x2 + FurMark, CPU fan at 900 RPM, system fan at 80%, GPU fans at 51%, filter removed (28 dBA@1m)
    — Prime95x2 + FurMark, CPU fan at 900 RPM, system fan at 80%, GPU fans at 54% (29 dBA@1m)

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Enthoo Evolv ITX is an attempt by Phanteks at a budget mini-ITX tower for enthusiasts but it sadly can’t provide enough airflow to succeed. The front panel allows fresh air to enter through moderately-sized slits on the sides but it’s simply not enough. As a result, the giant fan, which could have been a killer feature, is crippled. With the system starved for airflow, our GTX 980 had to run at fairly high fan speeds to keep it adequately cooled on load. I can only imagine how a more power hungry 250W+ card would fare under the same conditions. An exhaust fan would certainly help but the fact a single 200 mm fan isn’t sufficient is indicative of a critically flawed design. Ventilation is such a problem that even moving a hard drive an inch closer to the underside of the video card caused a substantial cooling deficit.

Appeasing watercooling aficionados seems to a big part of the Evolv ITX’s strategy with heavy emphasis placed on the mounting options provided for a pump and reservoir, along with a clever offset 120~280 mm radiator placement on to the ceiling that makes it more compatible with thicker variants. However, the exhaust points on the top of the case are just as restrictive, if not more so, than the front panel, hampering this capability. The top panel only has a handful of thin slits along the sides and a modest sized grill at the back. It should also be noted that if you install a custom loop, 3.5 inch drive support is lost as they use the same mounting positions.

Overshadowed by airflow problems are a few redeeming features. The 3.5 inch drive mounting system in the PSU compartment is excellent with fairly secure drive trays snapping tightly into place in a solidly constructed drive cage. Hard drive vibration effects are effectively nonexistent, which is rare to see in a tower of any size. The 200 mm fan has the same sublime acoustics as its smaller brethren and is easily the best sounding big fan my ears have encountered. And finally, the combination of the spacious right side along with the included velcro straps makes cable management a breeze, something that is usually a problem in mini-ITX cases.

Overall, the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX reminds me a lot of the NZXT H440, a seemingly well put-together tower that sacrifices too much airflow in favor of a more solid, less ventilated exterior. However, the H440 uses the larger ATX form factor which is more forgiving. Within the more cramped confines of a mini-ITX tower, it’s a game of inches where every mistake is amplified. And while sacrificing some performance or functionality to achieve a certain aesthetic is OK, the Evolv ITX’s plain looks aren’t worth any sort of compromise, IMO.

Our thanks to Phanteks
for the Enthoo Evolv ITX case sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
Zalman Z11 Neo ATX Case
Corsair Carbide 500R Performance Midtower
BitFenix Pandora MicroATX Case
Be Quiet! Silent Base 800 ATX Tower
Cooler Master Silencio 652S Tower Case

* * *

Discuss
this article in the SPCR Forums.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *