This enclosure from Phanteks is highly ambitious since it sets out to solve many issues that a PC builder would experience when it comes with SFF cases. The name of the game here is versatility because it grows in order to accommodate your desired components.

At its core, it’s a classic SFF sandwich layout design with a lot of emphasis on usability and functionality instead of maximum compactness, since most of the latest top tier GPUs for example, have 3-slot requirements and top end CPUs require plenty of extra cooling.

It can be configured in 3 main sizes depending on your choice of cooling per say, which means, for example, that in its 3rd and biggest form, it can accommodate up to a 240 AIO and a full length 324mm triple slot GPU.

Overall this case beggars belief because Phantkes may have achieved one of the best all time greats!

Phanteks was founded from a group of engineers with a total of 20 years of international experience in thermal solutions. They paired up with a Dutch design team and established Phanteks in 2007. Phanteks venture into the CPU cooling industry with two goals in mind, “High-end quality and innovative products in thermal solutions.” As a relatively young company, Phanteks strives to develop top quality and superior products with the motto “no job is impossible.”

 

Prices and Availability

 

It retails for just under $170 which is a great price considering it comes with a PCI-E 4.0 x16 riser card as stock, alongside a full metal construction and even a cool tempered glass RGB infinity mirror!

 

Highlights and Specification

 

*Courtesy of their website.

The Phanteks Evolv Shift XT is a truly unique small form-factor chassis that extends to tailor the cooling performance to your need. Even in its ultra-compact mode there is no compromise on performance with support for powerful hardware such as 324mm long triple-slot GPUs and 72mm tall CPU air coolers.

* Super compact small form-factor chassis that can be extended to tailor the cooling performance to your needs with 2x 120/140mm fans and/or a 240 AIO liquid cooler support.
* No compromise on performance with support for large 3-slot 324mm GPU’s and built in PCI-e x16 Gen4 Riser Cable.
Premium build quality known from the Phanteks Evolv series using 3mm thick anodized aluminum panels.
* Integrated D-RGB Infinity mirror with built-in lighting effects that can be expanded and/or synced with other system components.
* Well thought out component layout and removable radiator bracket to provide a smooth building process in a small form-factor.

 

Visual Inspection and Component Installation

 

It comes shipped in this minimalist box with just the model of the case printed on the sides.

Protection is excellent thanks to this ample amount of padding and thick black cover. At the same time while you open the box you get the feeling that a premium product lies beneath.

Let’s tackle the accessories. Phanteks is generous here and at the same time made sure that the instruction manual is easy to read with plenty of visual depictions. It’s one of the best we have seen so far.

Besides the regular installation screws, zip-ties and a Phanteks branded metal plaque, you get the unique plastic rear covers (one for each of the 3 possible configurations) and a custom PCI-E bracket securing clip.

Another cool item is the custom screwdriver that you will need in order to adjust some elements of the case.

Lastly these are some extra magnetic dust filter strips which are meant for the ceiling of the chassis when operating the case in the compact configuration.

It’s time to explore this wonder of design. Grab a drink and let’s do this.

This is the Phantkes Evolv Shift XT mITX enclosure which measures in its smallest form 371 mm x 173 mm x 211 mm (W x H x D) @ 13.5L in volume, this isn’t by all means the smallest ITX case out there since we all know the popular DAN A4-SFX for example at just 7.25L. But the Evolv Shift XT has a different focus, as we mentioned in the intro.

Worth mentioning that with each configuration the case rises as follows: +30mm for the ‘Air Boost’ configuration (where you just install 2x 120/140mm fans up top for extra ventilation) and brings the total volume to 15.6L and then finally another 30mm (+60mm in total over the stock ‘Compact’ configuration) which becomes the ‘Liquid Cooled’ variant, where the name implies, you are able to fit a 240mm AIO. (new total volume is 17.4L – pictured below)

The outside shells are made from aluminium whilst the chassis is from steel, which put the case at a net weight of 4.2 Kg. In regards to colour options, you can have it in ‘Satin Black’ or a ‘Galaxy Silver’ and as you can see, the case has this aggressive/SF-looking design to it, reminiscent to stealth fighters.

There is an elegant separation of the case that surrounds the middle, which also exposes the RGB infinity mirror at the front. As we are about to see, the case features plenty of airflow cut-outs on each side, including the top and bottom areas.

The underneath side has these chunky rubber feet that offer around 7-8mm of ground clearance that will help with airflow.

The top panel mirrors the underneath one with just the extra middle cut-outs for even more ventilation. Also the paintjob is excellent with this textured finish to it.

Then the back side reveals the PCI-E triple slot support, with the power connector port just underneath them and some extra airflow cut-outs on the motherboard side.

There is a lot happening at the front. The lower panel slides up and down, to reveal the front I/O connectivity. Thus we have from left to right:

1x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2
1x USB 3.0
1x Power button
1x Colour selection button for the RGB from the front infinity mirror
1x Mode selection button for the same above

Now the upper front panel comes off, just pull it out because it’s held in place by some strong magnets. Now we can see most of the tempered glass infinity mirror which is such a nice touch that compliments the overall design and look of the case, when lit up.

That was the first step into accessing the interior of the case. Next is to slide these clips that unlock the top hat/panel.

This is held in place by these screws on each corner, which will be adjusted depending how you configure the case – more on this in the build section.

Now we are seeing the main inner chassis. The side metal meshes are next and they just slide up with ease and more importantly they don’t rattle while in place.

To slide off the lower panel, you need to access the rear side of the case and unbolt this securing screw.

Now the case is fully stripped from the exterior parts and once you get the hang of it, you can even take half of it apart with only one hand.

The top tray will swing open as it’s on hinges, after you remove the front securing screws. This will make access even easier to the whole case while at the same time facilitates the instalment of your fans or the AIO on the said modular tray.

The Phanteks Evolv Shift XT has a classic SFF sandwich design, with two separate main chambers, one for the GPU and with the other reserved for the motherboard and PSU but the devil’s in the details with this one since it has so many! You can install up to a 3-slot 62mm thick, 147mm tall and 324mm long graphics card which should cover most of the top tier monsters of today.

Then on the bottom side, there is even an extra 2.5″ removable drive tray if you need the extra storage space. Also notice the extra rubber pads that will prevent the GPU from touching the metal divider.

The motherboard chamber will accommodate an ITX mobo, an SFX or SFX-L PSU and the clearance for a CPU air cooler if you don’t need the AIO, is up to 72mm – the Noctua L12S will fit perfectly for example. The extra cool details here that make such a big difference when compared to other cases, are as follows: there is extra space between the PSU and the middle divider of the case’s chassis, so that’s the perfect space to hide and route the cables out of the way. The other helpful detail revolves around the area that faces the PSU, it’s perforated – this will make the use of those stock NVIDIA RTX opposite fan design cards viable, since they need that space there to breathe and exhaust the heat.

Phanteks even includes these branded Velcro straps which are really handy to secure the GPU cables for example.

Still in the motherboard chamber, on the bottom section we notice even more perforations, to maximize airflow.

The Evolv Shift XT comes standard with a custom Gen 4.0 x16 riser cable which is overbuilt therefore it’s too rigid and solid which puts unnecessarily pressure onto the motherboard.

Connectivity wise, the case comes with a single cable for the power switch, (since there are no reset and HDD activity LED cables) and the USB 3.0 & Type-C 3.2 Gen2 combo. Lastly, the embedded ARGB (or D-RGB as Phanteks brands it) utilizes a SATA power connector and allows for both their own as well as generic lighting elements to be connected.

On the GPU chamber side, we have the PSU extension cable that is already routed nicely in its own WM section. Phanteks really over did themselves here!

The same metal bracket holds in place the front I/O cables as well.

Now this is how you configure the top hat to accept either the ‘air boost’ (just 2x 120/240mm fans) or ‘liquid cooled’ (240 AIO) forms. Each scenario has its own plastic rear bracket which slots perfectly in those metal tabs and then at the front just relocate the front securing lock-in screws.

Finally it’s time to proceed to the assembly part and this is what components we will use:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600x
CPU Cooling: SilentiumPC Navis F240 AIO
Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX B550-i Gaming mITX
RAM: 16GB Team Group T-Force Night Hawk RGB 3000 MHz CL16
Boot SSD: Samung 970 PRO 1TB M.2 Gen3x4 MLC PCIe NVMe 1.3
Video card: ASUS GTX 1080 STRIX A8G
PSU: Corsair SF750 SFX Platinum

The first component to go in is the motherboard backplate.

While the motherboard is out, now it’s a great opportunity to install the CPU with its cooling bracket and the rear M.2 SSD.

After the board goes it, next is to position the PCI-E riser card but this will require a lot of controlled force since it’s so stiff and rigid.

Then lock it with the provided clip.

It’s the power supply’s turn and since Phanteks did a great job here with the design, the installation is a breeze.

The extra gap behind the PSU is more than enough to hide any of the unwanted cables. Also the memory modules can go in.

The GPU slots right in and thanks to the strategic cut-out, you can safely route its cables without touching the future AIO, which will be on top.

The last piece of the puzzle is the CPU cooling and in our case, we will max out this section, by deploying a 240mm AIO (review here). Because the AIO bracket is removable, you can easily attach it to the AIO’s fans. Just make sure the exiting tube from the radiator face the front part of the case.

The same bracket has plenty of holes to route the AIO cables onwards to the motherboard.

Reinstall the bracket to the case and then swivel it back into place.

Install the CPU heatsink/pump assembly and for extra piece of mind you can zip-tie the AIO tubes to the case.

It’s easy to tell there are no clearance issues of any sorts. Also the stock I/O cables reached comfortably without any unnecessarily slack.

Then attach the lower exterior cage followed by sliding in the side metal mesh panels.

The final step is to install the top cage and the front magnetic panel. Suffice to say, that this has been one of the easiest and most straightforward ITX building experiences so far!

The front ARGB, when combined with the infinity mirror, this completes and compliments the build perfectly. You can control the light show either from the front buttons or via your motherboard lighting software.

 

Testing methodology

 

  • The CPU cooler will be tested in 3 different scenarios as follows: the AMD Ryzen 5 5600x CPU at stock settings, then at 4.0 GHz for 1.05v (as the main baseline to remove any inconsistencies in stock form where the BIOS will pump extra voltage for shorter periods) and finally an overclocked scenario of 4.7 GHz for 1.275v
  • The Phanteks case will be packed with a variations of component to test for any clearance issues and then we will test the build to record the CPU & GPU temperatures
  • As the main torture test, we will employ a 2 minute run in AIDA64
  • Room temperature was recorded at ~20°C
  • For the noise testing, we used our Pyle PSPL01 placed 30 cm away from the setup – all other fans will will be off or set at minimum RPM and a lav mic was places at the same distance for the audio sample
  • Thermal paste used Noctua NH-H2
  • All of the side panels will be attached and the AIO F240’s fans will be left on auto % RPM to simulate real life usage or manually adjusted and pointed out accordingly
  • Any results over 90°C in any condition are considered a fail

Hardware used:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600x
CPU Cooling: SilentiumPC Navis F240 AIO
Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX B550-i Gaming mITX @ BIOS 2803
RAM: 16GB Team Group T-Force Night Hawk RGB 3000 MHz CL16
Boot SSD: Samung 970 PRO 1TB M.2 Gen3x4 MLC PCIe NVMe 1.3
Video card: ASUS GTX 1080 STRIX A8G
PSU: Corsair SF750 SFX Platinum
Case: Phanteks Evolv Shift XT ARGB mITX

Software:

OS: Windows 10 Pro x64 Version 21H2
NVIDIA Drivers516.59
CPU-Z v1.95To verify the CPU’s and RAM’s statistics
Core Temp v1.17 – To see the temperatures in real time
AIDA64 Extreme v6.60Memory analysis and Benchmark suite
MSI Afterburner v4.62 – To record the FPS and load/temperatures
Cinebench R23Great overall CPU benchmark tool
3D/Game(s)Assassin’s Creed Valhalla with latest updated, set at 1080p, with everything at Ultra quality Settings, no V-Sync

 

Testing, Results and Analysis

 

The first series of tests come from Cinebench R23 which will put a serious load on the CPU while it renders a specific frame. From top to bottom, as mentioned above, the 5600x CPU will be tested in the following sequence: 4.0 GHz @ 1.05v, stock settings and OC’d to 4.7 GHz @ 1.275v.

The 5600x despite its ‘official’ 65W TDP rating, we all know, since the release of 3000 Ryzen series from AMD, that it will not respect that when it boosts. Thus, this is a hot CPU even in stock form. To further point out that there is no additional airflow in the Phanteks Evolv SHift XT enclosure and the AIO acts as an exhaust to the entire build, so the temps are really good even in the OC scenario.

The 2 minute long AIDA64 stress test should impose the maximum workload just for the CPU, therefore we should get the highest stress scenario.

Nothing new to report here that the case is facilitating nicely the AIO’s hot air exhaust pattern through the multitude of cut-outs all-over its panels.

If a CPU cooler manages to survive the torture tests, then a benchmark run in a gaming scenario, should be a walk in the park. Games are not as stressful as a synthetic torture tests but are a great indicator of real life usage.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla averaged around 40-50% total CPU usage in all CPU scenarios and thus the SilentiumPC AIO cooler barely flinched. Check the video as well for the complete perspective since the full workload in this scenario goes to the GPU.

The noise output test is an important challenge for any PC build, if you can’t live with the noise, this negates any of the other advantages, especially in this ITX niche. Overall, the case is as good as the components you choose since there is no sound insulation, which is understandable in an ITX enclosure.

 

Conclusion

 

Phantkes may have designed and built one of the most complete ITX enclosures ever made for your money! This is a clear example when a company gives carte blanche to their engineers which can express themselves and create such an impressive and capable overall product. It’s one of the easiest and straightforward SFF ITX cases to build in, that we have ever tested so far! Then the feature set and overall specs you get for the asking price is truly epic; from the all metal construction (which includes the mesh side panels as well), to the triple GPU slot support, 240 AIO, plenty of accessories provided and such cool eye candy details like the controllable tempered glass RGB infinity mirror. The fact that it grows to accommodate your component selection and it does it in such an elegant way, would have been enough to consider it. But no, the Phanteks Evolv Shift XT wants to make sure that nothing gets close to it for a long time in terms of usability, functionality, versatility and even sheer cool factor! This is, without any doubt, the ITX case of the year!

The good:

+ A joy to build in it
+ Highly capable (up to triple slot 324mm long GPUs, 240 AIO for the CPU)
+ Extremely well engineered and designed
+ Unique 3 fully functional, easily adjustable configurations
+ Superb value for money considering what you get
+ Highly sturdy all metal construction
+ PCI-E 4.0 x16 riser card included
+ Tempered glass RGB infinity mirror
+ Aggressive but futuristic and stunning look
+ Effortless WM despite its ITX nature
+ Very easy to take it apart and access all of the major components
+ Rubber padding and Velcro straps across key strategic places

The bad:

– The front power button can easily be pressed by accident
– The PCI-E 4.0 x16 cable bracket implementation is unnecessarily bulky and thus puts too much strain on the motherboard and its x16 slot
– Not the most compact SFF ITX case in terms of the footprint it requires

Glob3trotters “Editor’s Choice” Award – 5 out of 5

GG

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