Not having dealt with Cougar before on any of its previous chassis releases, over a few emails I was asked if I would like to take a look at one of its latest releases, so I thought I better go and check out what they have to offer. I have seen many news blasts for the PSU line they produce, I even see them for the Vortex and Turbine fans, and these are things I am very familiar with from Cougar. As far as the chassis lineup is concerned, the only one that I remembered off the top of my head was the Challenger, and it was the super aggressive and bold styling that made for a case that sticks in your brain.
For those of you like me who really aren't aware of what Cougar is all about, let me give you a brief synopsis. They are targeting the enthusiast market of people who demand the latest and greatest, most advanced components, but still leaves the window open for creative styling for buyers to be able to express themselves. They have found that in the last 20 years nothing has really changed, we are still dealing with regular looking cases and keeping the trend of boring looks and low quality parts. Since 2007 Cougar has been trying to make a change in that trend, and from what I have seen in ten minutes of looking through its current products, this is clearly evident. With Cougar it is function over form with a mix of innovation and creative solutions, but they put in 100% effort to deliver everything you would conceivably demand of any product they offer.
Today we are going to be having a close look at the Cougar Evolution Galaxy, one of a trio of cases to carry the Evolution naming. There is an all black variant called the Evolution, there is yet another that is a black chassis with red accents billed as the Evolution BO. What sets this version of the chassis apart from the other two is that the Evolution Galaxy you are about to see comes in white on the outside with black on the inside. The white color combined with the industrial feel of the outside design is appealing to say the least at this point, but with the tag line of this chassis claiming this is the ideal chassis for enthusiasts, they set the bar rather high it seems, and with that my expectations soar as well.
Let's see if Cougar has what it takes in this full tower chassis, the Evolution Galaxy.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Visually the Evolution Galaxy has an industrial look with the large expanse down the front of the honeycomb mesh used as the intake for the chassis. As you step back just a bit it will definitely remind you of an expanded metal grid. This same thing can be found on the top of the chassis behind a hidden HDD dock and the front I/O panel. On both sides, at the top and front of the chassis, designed into the ABS plastic, you find an angled steel beam look. As for the panels, both sides are bumped out to allow for more space behind them, but the left side of the chassis offers a large window with a black grill over the fan mounting position in the lower left corner. Adding just a bit of "flash" to an all-white external design, Cougar accents this case with black inserts behind the honeycomb mesh, and on the door of the HDD dock.
On the technical side of things, the front of the Evolution can hold two 120mm fans, but only one is shipped. At the top there is room for up to six 5.25" devices with one side of the bays equipped with tool-less latches. Below that you find a removable hard drive rack that will hold four drives, both 3.5" as well as 2.5" drives. In the roof of the chassis there is also room for another pair of 120mm fans although none are shipped in there either. The motherboard tray offers plenty of wire management options and will hold either an m-ATX or an ATX motherboard. On the floor there is room for a 120mm fan depending on if the PSU in the back is short enough not to block its access. In the back of the chassis you have two water cooling holes near the top for external loops, and eight expansion slots. I mentioned the chassis offers a HDD dock in the top, but I have yet to cover the dual zone fan controller system that in incorporated into the front I/O. There is channel A and B, and the chassis comes with some 3-way Y-splitter cables so you can power and control up to six fans right out of the box with it.
For a full tower chassis to have both a fan controller and an hard drive dock, while still being aesthetically pleasing to a vast majority of users, I would have expected to see that when I was able to locate this chassis, that the Evolution Galaxy was going to be priced in the $150 to $200 segment in cases. Low and behold, when I did locate this chassis at Newegg, I was a bit shocked to see a $94.99 base price. It shows that is currently marked down from $119.99, and to obtain one you will have to shell out another $19.99 to ship it.
So, for a grand total of only $114.98, you could have this Evolution Galaxy at your door and begin to reap its benefits.
Helping to keep the cost down the Evolution Galaxy uses the same box as the other two variations, and stays with the simple black screening on plain brown cardboard. You are offered a look at a bit of the chassis, but the company and chassis name are what is displayed best here.
With the Cougar logo and chassis name starting things off, an image of the chassis here gives you a better idea of what is inside. At the bottom is a statement about what drove Cougar and what they wanted to deliver customers with the Evolution series of cases.
On the back, a list of features tops the panel. The bulk of the panel is taken up with renderings of inside and outside of the chassis as it points out various features, dimensions, and compatibilities.
This last panel offers all of the same information we saw on the opposite side. What is different though is the tag in the bottom right corner that denoted we have the Evolution-W, in white.
Inside of the box, the inner packaging around the chassis consists of a cloth mesh bag used to surround the chassis to keep anything from scratching the white paint. To center and absorb damages the Evolutions come with Styrofoam end caps to do that for them.
Cougar Evolution Galaxy Full-Tower Chassis
On the front of Cougar's Evolution Galaxy the white exterior makes the design elements really stand forward, with thick sides adding an industrial style design surrounding the honeycomb design of the six removable covers, and the panel covering the intake fan at the bottom.
Just behind the front of the case as it rolls over the front and displays the Cougar name, you will find the front I/O panels. You get all the basics like audio jacks, USB 2.0 and 3.0, and the power and reset buttons, but you also get a dial fan controller with channel controls on either side of it. Just behind that you can also see a rubber pad behind the I/O with the Cougar logo on it.
That rubber pad is on the top of a door panel that swings down to allow you to slide a drive into the HDD dock. Behind the dock you find more of the honeycomb mesh over the top of the chassis to let optional fans breathe through the top of the Evolution.
The left side of the chassis offers a bumped out section that surrounds the placement of the large window in this chassis. To aid in cooling multiple video cards, this chassis offers a black grille and clip combo unit that will allow you to just clip a 120mm fan to the door.
Behind the chassis the top starts with a pair of knock-outs to allow for water cooling tubes if you plan to run an external loop. You then get the 120mm exhaust fan next to the rear I/O, the eight expansion slots, and the PSU mounts in the bottom.
The right side of the chassis is all white and offers only the bump-out in the panel to allow for extra wiring to be able to be packed in behind it. Another thing that lends to easy wire management is that these doors open from the back with the front of the panel "hinged" on the front of the chassis.
Under the chassis you will find that the plastic on the sides comes all the way down, and with the aid of four rubber pads applied to it, the sides then act to support the chassis, too. The power supply at the left and the optional 120mm fan mounting position are both protected from dust with the filter that removes out the back of the chassis.
Inside the Cougar Evolution Galaxy
With the panels now off of the case you can see this Evolution comes with a black interior with accents of bright orange everywhere. The wiring is neatly tied in the optical bays, but the hardware box has gotten lose and is last left resting on the floor of the chassis.
There are a total of six 5.25" bays and on this side there are tool-less latches to secure the devices. On the other side there is a hole to add a screw in the front hole of every device, but the rear holes is a bit of sprung steel from the cage to keep that in position.
Below the optical drive bays you will find room for up to four storage drives. The bays are made for 3.5" drives, but the orange trays will easy accept a 2.5" drive as well.
Loosening a pair of thumbscrews on the front of the HDD rack allows it to be removable to allow you to take better advantage of the Turbine Fan, or give you room for a pump and reservoir. The screws are even made to not come out of the cage so there is no chance of losing them.
Under the roof of the chassis there are clips installed that will allow a user to simply clip their fans into these and plug them in. There is no need to mess around with trying to take the top off and screw them in.
The motherboard tray that accepts both ATX and m-ATX motherboards offers six places for wires to run through, but they lack grommets. It also lacks places to tie up the wiring, only providing two near the bottom. Also notice that most of the risers are bumps in the steel, and not actual brass stand-offs.
In the back there is the other 120mm Turbine fan that comes in the Evolution. It also installs on one of the same clips found everywhere else, but the floor of the chassis. To hold the ventilated expansion slot covers in place, or your cards, they will be secured with these thumbscrews.
In the floor of the chassis you do have the option of a 120mm or a 140mm fan to go here, but that depends on the length of the PSU just behind it. To hold the PSU in place there is a top and bottom support on the rear of the chassis as well as a pair of dense rubber pads that will help support the weight.
There is a bunch of wiring to deal with in this chassis. There is the power lead and fan leads for the fan controller, there is the power lead and the SATA cable to deal with for the HDD dock. These are on top of the F-panel wires, the native USB 3.0 connection, the USB 2.0 connection and the HD Audio connection.
Accessories and Documentation
Inside of the cardboard box with all the hardware you will locate a couple of bags. There is a large bag that contained the manual, and a smaller bag, but this is what was floating around. There is a pair of 3-way fan splitters to work with each channel of the fan controller. You also get a pair of grommets for the knock-outs so that the bare steel edge doesn't cut the tubing, and three wire ties.
In the smaller bag you will find six of these seven piles in there. There are risers, PSU support stick on pads, fan screws, PSU screws, motherboard and optical drive screws, SSD screws, and three screws that just fell out of the case as I opened it.
You also get his adapter tray for converting a 5.25" bay to a 3.5" bay for things like a floppy drive or a card reader.
The front of the manual looks just like the front of the box, and to help cut costs here too, the use of black, grey, and white is all you get.
Unfolding it all and laying it out for this image, this side offers a specs list on the left, while the right side offers an exploded view of the chassis and points out all of the features and gives you an idea of how it all works.
When you flip it over is when you get into finer detail. This side shows how to install the drives in the front, how to use the adapter tray, how the fan controller works, and even how to wire it.
The Build and Finished Product
The front bezel is held on with metal clips and allows you access behind it for the removable bay covers. Inside of the chassis you can see the dust filter in front of the intake fan, but there is also an empty one just above it that allows you to just clip in the fan like the others do.
I went without the optical drive this time, and I think I may leave it out from here forward. With this chassis the black face just didn't go well at all and really broke up the design, so to look better, and the fact that I don't need it, it's gone from the front of the Evolution Galaxy.
Installing the motherboard was easy enough, and you can see that there is plenty of room for the Radeon HD 7950 I have in here. While they do offer room behind the tray for all of the wiring, I did find it fit better with the PSU wires all inside of the chassis rather than behind the motherboard tray.
In the back the rear I/O shield went in easily and installing the video card is simple with the thumbscrews securing that. The PSU is a little snug fitting it in, but once screwed in, it is rock solid.
Since most of the PSU wiring is in the front, I bundled the wiring where I was given something to tie it to. All of the wiring is long enough to easily reach its connections, and since the panel lays over this instead of sliding on, the wires are no issue to the fit.
With the panels now back in place I spun the case around so that you could see just what sort of a view you have in the Evolution Galaxy. You get a full view of the CPU cooler and the right end of the video card. You can also see the alignment of the side fan corresponds well to keep the GPUs cool.
As I usually do, I wanted to take a step back and look at this build one last time before we add the power and see what happens.
When the chassis is powered up, the Turbine fans don't offer any LED lighting, so it is advantageous to get a cooler with LEDs if you want to see anything inside the chassis when it gets darker in the room.
What does come to life when the Evolution Galaxy gets power is the ring around the centralized power button, and the two lines on the fan control channel buttons. You also get the flicker of the tiny blue LED denoting the storage drives activity.
As I click on the A channel button to adjust the fan speeds, I find that the ring around the power button is now blinking green, and as I decreased the dial the ring gets dimmer. As I increase the dial the light then returns to its bright state as you see here.
To tell you the truth there isn't much about the Evolution Galaxy that doesn't ring true from the claims made by Cougar, or for that matter surprised me at almost every turn with something a little extra. I try not to read too much about anything I review until after I have seen the product myself, and with the plain packaging the Evolution Galaxy is a chassis that almost deserved a better box, you almost feel bad that such a nice chassis gets shipped in such drab clothing to arrive at your door. Once the box is opened thought all bets are off as you look over the chassis and discover what all is in store for you.
There were a lot of things, small things, which just made me smile when I saw them used in this chassis. The clip system used for all of the optional fans besides the one on the floor to make it so I just push a fan into position and plug in the wires is genius. The way they have a bottom shelf where the PSU mounts as well as a lip on the top, combined with the support pads, this has to be the tightest and most secure chassis I have had a PSU mounted in. The removable HDD rack is nice, even the splash of orange here and there between the fans, tool-less mechanisms, and the drive tray is a nice addition. Having considered the fans installation, they even filtered every fan as well as the optional fan mounting positions that are designed to intake air. A very handy addition, and done very well hidden under the rubberized black logo on the top of the chassis was the HDD dock to allow you to be able to plug in any drive and search it or scan it without taking anything apart.
The chassis ships with only the pair of 120mm fans, but I feel the price allows you to be able to spend money on the fans you want to use. During the testing, this pair of fans was enough without the HDD rack in the way, to beat the heat this system delivered. With the fan controller in the lowest position, these fans are barely audible. Spinning the dial all the way to the right to maximize the voltage and fan speed, even then all you hear is a mild hum coming from the Evolution Galaxy. I do like that while you have the option to pick and choose the fans, Cougar sent along a pair of 3-way splitters so that you can then have control of six fans, three on either channel.
Cougar was right, that they do give 100% into every detail to try to deliver a product that even an enthusiast would like to build rigs in. I have to say that with the Evolution Galaxy full tower chassis, everything you need to do with an m-ATX or ATX motherboard is easily handled inside of this chassis. There is plenty of room for devices in the front, room enough for four hard drives without trying, room for long video cards, beyond the specs and features the chassis has to just work, and this one does that and makes the time you have to be inside of it very pleasurable with no hassles at all.
Considering all of this is only going to cost you $94.99 and a little for shipping, there is no way this case isn't going to make a name for itself and be a really great selling chassis for Cougar.