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Phanteks Evolv Shift 2 Review: Pretty Mini-ITX Power Tower

Shifting up a gear

Phanteks Evolv Shift 2
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Because this system is different from any standardized test bench, we’re keeping testing simple this time around. We’re keeping all the hardware at stock settings, only setting the fan speeds at a constant level so that we can easily tell if there is a difference between the ventilated ‘air’ panels and the tempered-glass side panels.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The end goal here is not to compare this chassis to other cases, but rather to decide whether the provided thermal capabilities are adequate – because let’s be honest, if you’re buying this case, you’re buying it because you like its style, and not because it runs a couple degrees hotter or colder than another – so our test is just to see whether it’s sufficient so that we can give you the go-ahead on buying.

So without further ado, the charts:

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Phanteks Evolv Shift 2

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Phanteks Evolv Shift 2

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Phanteks was kind enough to provide us with the panels that go on the Air version of the Evolv Shift 2, and as you can tell from these tables, there is a stark difference in performance from the glass paneled version. CPU temperatures didn’t vary much between the two, but swapping the mesh panels onto the case dropped the GPU temperature by a whopping 10 degrees, which is substantial.

Phanteks Evolv Shift 2

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Of course, that thermal improvement came at the cost of acoustics, and I can tell you that the chassis ran noticeably louder with the mesh leaking sound all over the place. With the GPU at full blast we recorded the biggest difference in acoustics with as much as 2 dB of a penalty. In the other scenarios, the chassis also ran louder and subjectively, much less dampened – the sound level might only have been slightly lower, but the glass panels do a great job of keeping the harshness of fan bearing and pump noise in, resulting in a smoother sound.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

So, I’d put it this way: If you’re running an RTX 2070 Super, or RTX 3070, you ‘can’ get away with using the glass panels. Yes, you’ll sacrifice thermals and a tiny amount of performance, but it’s within safe margins and no cause for concern. But, any GPU with a TDP above 250 W, and you should seriously consider the Evolv Shift 2 Air over the variant with tempered glass – unless you’re okay with sacrificing GPU Boost performance in favor of pretty looks and quieter operation.

For CPU cooling, consider a thicker 120mm radiator instead of the thin radiator we used, and a Noctua NF-A12x25 fan wouldn’t be a crazy consideration either if you want to keep noise levels down, especially if you’re using a recent high-end Intel processor. Dual-fan will help, but you’ll need a grille for the intake fan as otherwise the cables will jam into the blades.

Conclusion

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The Evolv Shift 2 is one of the prettiest cases I’ve had the honor of working on all year. Building in it was tight, and came with the typical frustrations associated with Mini-ITX systems, but I still managed a build within about 3 hours, and the end result was well worth the effort.

That’s not to say that it’s a difficult system to build in – there’s only one way to install your hardware, so there’s not a lot of thought that needs to go into it: Mini-ITX motherboard? 120mm radiator? No more than one 3.5-inch drive? SFX or SFX-L PSU? If you’ve checked those boxes, you’re good to go. And yes, you can fit big GPUs in here. An extra 140mm spinner as bottom intake helps CPU temperatures and overall cooling.

With a small footprint and beautiful finish in both the tempered-glass and mesh variants, the Evolv Shift 2 is perfect as an SFF PC for use in the living room, moving around the house wherever you need it or taking to LAN parties. The easily accessible top IO makes plugging devices in a breeze too.

Priced at $100 for the air variant, or $110 for the glass version of the Evolv Shift 2, it’s not expensive either and therefore easy to recommend. This one deserves a spot on our Best PC Cases list as Best Mini-ITX case, at least until something better comes along. 

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  • Zescion
    Nice case and nice review.
    I would pick the air version, as to me the meshes are more "cool"
    Reply
  • imsurgical
    A bit off-topic and simply curious, but is there any reason why an NR200 review was not done on Tom's?

    Nice review, admittedly read a good portion of it and then jumped to the conclusion, but did I miss the release date of this case? Didn't see it, even during a search function.
    Reply
  • Zescion
    imsurgical said:
    A bit off-topic and simply curious, but is there any reason why an NR200 review was not done on Tom's?

    Nice review, admittedly read a good portion of it and then jumped to the conclusion, but did I miss the release date of this case? Didn't see it, even during a search function.
    Techpowerup reports availability in Dec 2020

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.techpowerup.com/275355/phanteks-launches-new-evolv-shift-2-and-shift-2-air-cases%3famp
    Reply
  • javiindo
    The case is not on the Best Mini-ITX case list.
    Also, we need a face to face with the cooler master NR200. :-)
    Reply