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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)

Our Verdict

Phanteks’ Evolv Shift 2 changes just what’s needed to accommodate today’s hardware. It’s a challenging build due to the confined space, but the end result is well worth the effort.

For

  • Beautiful, thick glass & aluminum paneling.
  • Small footprint
  • Straightforward interior layout
  • Integrated D-RGB Lighting & Controller
  • Fits big GPUs
  • Air variant with fabric mesh paneling also available

Against

  • Only fits 120mm AIOs for CPU cooling
  • Challenging build due to tight space
  • Tempered-glass variant only suited for GPUs up to about 250W
  • Riser cable only does PCIe 3.0
  • Wobbly switchgear at top

The Evolv Shift 2 is a case you buy because you love its towering, small footprint design – and those oh-so-beautiful anodized aluminum panels. Priced at $100 for the mesh version and $110 for the variant with TG and an addressable-RGB fan, lets find out if the Evolv Shift 2 deserves a spot on our Best PC Cases list.

I’ve been on the verge of purchasing Phanteks’ Evolv Shift ITX chassis a handful of times throughout the years, but I never did. Why? Because I didn’t ‘need’ another chassis. If you’ve ever felt this way about a case, welcome to my life. Of course, when Phanteks told me roughly half a year ago that a version 2 was on its way, it got me all giddy, but then like so many other things in 2020, it got delayed and delayed and ... you get the idea.

But now the new Evolv Shift is here, and I’m telling you, the wait was worth it for one simple reason: It appears Phanteks waited out the release of the newest GPUs to make sure they all fit in here.

The Evolv Shift 2 takes the first iteration and merely chisels away at its design to bring it up to 2020’s standards. There are now things like addressable-RGB with a built-in controller, better filtration, a slightly altered layout, and most importantly: room for today’s monolithic graphics cards.

These are all good developments, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is still a challenging case to build in, and performance enthusiasts aiming for the lowest possible temps won’t feel welcome here due to the limited cooling potential on the CPU.

Specifications

TypeITX Tower
Motherboard SupportMini-ITX
Dimensions (HxWxD)19.0 x 6.7 x 10.8 inches (490 x 170 x 274 mm)
Max GPU Length13.2 inches (335 mm)
CPU Cooler Height3.3 inches (85 mm)
Max PSU LengthSFX-L (I recommend SFX to make space for thicker radiators)
External Bays✗ 
Internal Bays1x 3.5-inch, 2x 2.5-inch
Expansion Slots2x
Front I/O2x USB 3.0
Other2x Tempered Glass Panel, RGB Controller
Front FansNone
Rear Fans1x 140mm (Up to 2x 140mm)
Top FansNone
Bottom FansUp to 1x 140mm
Side Fans
RGBYes. Fan With A-RGB, A-RGB Power Light, & Built-in Controller for added devices.
DampingNo
Warranty2 - 5 Years (Main chassis 5 yrs, all other parts 2 yrs).

Features

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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)

The first thing you’ll notice about the Evolv Shift 2 is that it’s extremely tall at 19 inches (490mm), but that it has a very small footprint, meaning it doesn’t actually occupy a lot of space on your desk. Its footprint measures just 6.7 x 10.8 inches (170 x 274 mm), which including its feet give the case a volume of 22.9 liters. This isn’t small in the world of ITX cases, but because of its small footprint, the chassis gets away with its large format.

The outside of the chassis is tiled, with beautiful anthracite-gray aluminum panels at the front and back, while the sides are clad with tempered glass.

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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)

You might therefore wonder how to get to the case’s IO, but everything you do goes through the top of the chassis. Press down on the top vented panel to pop it open, and you’ll reveal the ‘rear’ IO and thumbscrews to loosen and remove the case’s paneling.

Being at the top, the rear IO is easy to access like this, and the cables coming out the back can be managed tidy as a single bundle. If you don’t like the cables coming out the top of the rear of the case, there are also cable guides behind the panel so that you can route them down, out of sight.

With the top vent closed, you have access to three buttons at the top that control power, RGB mode, and RGB color. It’s all very premium feeling around here, despite the $110 price point for this tempered glass version, though these three buttons do wobble around a bit– not that you’ll interact with them much if you just keep your system in sleep mode.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Around the bottom of the chassis are two USB 3.0 ports.

You’ll notice that there are no dedicated headphone or mic jacks to be found, but this is for good reason: the ‘rear’ IO is so easily accessible at the top that they’re simply not needed, and these dedicated ports always introduce a ton of interference to the audio signal anyway, so it’s no major loss.

Internal Layout

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The interior of the Evolv Shift 2 has one of the most unusual layouts I’ve ever seen, though ‘unusual’ is basically the norm in the world of Mini-ITX. The entire lot is divided into three main sections.

At the bottom of the chassis, in the lower cubicle, there is room for up to SFX-L power supplies and a 120mm radiator. There is more space left here, but long GPUs will eat it up, and anything that remains will get filled with cable clutter.

The top main cubicle houses the motherboard on the right of the chassis, with the graphics card sandwiched on the other side via a PCIe riser cable. Note that the riser cable only does PCIe 3.0, as at this time, many case makers seem to be struggling getting a PCIe 4.0 signal working over riser cables.

At the front of the case you’ll spot a few thumbscrews to attach a 3.5-inch drive to, along with a tray that can house up to two 2.5-inch SSDs.

Cooling

To cool the system, Phanteks only includes a single 140mm spinner with addressable-RGB. If you’re buying the ‘air’ variant of this case with vented side panels instead of glass, you’ll get a fan without RGB instead as you won’t see it anyway, but you will still get the RGB controller, mainly because in the top vent is a power light that has RGB.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

To cool the CPU, the most common method I expect to see here is 120mm AIOs, which will fit at the bottom of the case. This pushes the pump above the radiator, and yes, that’s normally a style worth scolding at, but the Evolv Shift 2 means for you to mount the outlets on the side, meaning the air bubble can move to a spot on the radiator’s reservoirs where it won’t rise to the pump and break it.

By removing the feet at the bottom of the chassis, you can add another 140mm spinner.

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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)

The top and bottom of the case are filtered. The bottom intake filter is easily removable after removing the right glass panel, and the top will catch falling dust.

Planning Your Build: Look at the manual before ordering

If you’re planning a build for the Evolv Shift 2, Phanteks has already published the manual, and it’s surprisingly good. You can find it here, and in it you’ll find detailed information on exactly which hardware combinations fit and which don’t, so do give it a glance if you’re planning a build. Or just order the case before any other parts.

Does it fit an RTX 3080?

Yes, the Evolv Shift 2 has been updated to fit larger 2.9 slot graphics cards. They can be up to 13.2 inches in length (335mm), 5.9 inches wide (150mm), and up to 2.9 slots thick (59mm). Note that this also goes for the IO: the bracket only has room for dual expansion slots, and GPUs with an IO shield that’s three expansion slots thick won’t fit. Fortunately, those aren’t very common anymore.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the tempered glass version of the case is only suitable for use with up to an RTX 3070. This isn’t because the RTX 3080 doesn’t fit, but because the TG side panel takes a heavy hit on thermals, and I reckon you wouldn’t want a GPU with a TDP over 250 W in that version.

  • 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