Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Just then it seems that the Enthoo series had run its course in all of its various forms, Phanteks had another idea still on the shelf. Someone over there had the idea that they should take the Enthoo Series, and rather than make it a chassis for the bigger motherboards, make it more for those who like smaller motherboards, but still like style, modularity, and plenty of liquid cooling options. While they were at it, they realized they had a fair bit of extra room left over with Micro-ATX support as its largest form factor, what if, and stick with us here, what if with a couple of extra parts sold in a secondary kit you could also put a Mini-ITX system in this chassis. Not instead of, along with another Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX system in the bottom.
It is highly unlikely at this point that you have not seen the Enthoo series in some form. That being said, what we are used to is a unique style and way of offsetting the chassis with the side panel of mesh and or lighting. What we also know about these designs is that with the Enthoo lineup, what is build thoroughly and is indeed well thought out in its layout and ways of construction, but using screws to assemble major components makes it so these cases can be gutted to accommodate all sorts of extra goodies. We also find that this series delivers the goodies as far as hardware and accessories are concerned. Things like pump brackets, reservoir brackets, and in this instance an optional water cooling bracket, oh and, of course, we get a plastic sorter full of screws and mounting bits.
We know there are a lot of Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX builders out there looking for a chassis that can take on all sorts of water cooling, offering enough room for huge video cards that are out now, but don't necessarily want to stick their system into some of the smallest cases offered either. On the flip side of that, we realize multiple systems inside of one chassis is not normal, but there are plenty of ways to look at this. Two people in the same office can now condense the hardware into this. Then you can have a gamer at the bottom and a web surfing machine up top to save on the electric bill when the high power rig isn't needed. We can see the benefits of this design, and feel it is well worth the time to check out, because even if the thought of multiple systems in a single case hadn't crossed your mind, after seeing this, the ideas would surely come rolling in.
Phanteks offers a pretty serious chart full of information. Things start off with the 260mm width, its 550mm height, its 480mm depth, and tells us this is a Super Micro tower chassis. Making up this chassis is a mix of steel used throughout most of the chassis, receiving a non-textured black paint finish inside and out. The front of the chassis is made of aluminum and is anodized to match the black on the rest of the chassis. There are bits of ABS plastic as well, but that is confined to the top of the chassis and the front bay covers. This chassis can house a Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX chassis out of the box, and the front I/O offers two USB 3.0 ports, HD Audio jacks, and even offers an LED color change and dimmer button. Just like the other Enthoo cases, this left side panel offers a pair of tinted windows.
Inside of the chassis, you are given five expansion slots at the bottom of the chassis, as the PSU installs at the top in this design. The front of the chassis offers three 5.25" bays, and below that is a rack with six trays in it, each capable of either a 3.5" or 2.5" drive installing on them. If you are using 2.5" drives only, you can install up to eight of them, as there are two trays that slide on and off the back of the motherboard tray.
Air and water cooling options are pretty good for this chassis. The front can take on a pair of 120mm fans, although there is a pair of 140mm fans installed there already. The top of the chassis offers room for a trio of 120mm fans, and if you choose to use 140mm fans here, you are reduced to just a pair of them. The rear of the chassis can also support a pair of 120mm or 140mm fans, and from the factor the last included fan is the 140mm fan screwed into the back. Even the floor of the chassis is well ventilated and matches the options that the top affords. The right side of the chassis also allows for air flow in the form of optional water cooling. Removing the HDD rack, you can add in an adapter plate that offers a pair of 120mm fans to be installed. As for water cooling options, all fan locations are fully supported with the same abilities for a radiator as they do fans, except in the front, where only a single 140mm radiator is specified to fit there.
We like that these next measurements are referred to as clearances rather than limitations, as these do not limit you much at all. Video cards can be up to 289mm long with the HDD rack in play, without it the entire space is open, with possibilities of water cooling conflicting at the front with overall length. If you plan to use air cooling for the CPU, there is plenty of room with 215mm shown from the motherboard to the door panel. Behind the motherboard tray, there is 30mm of room for wire management, and they do mention the radiator clearance above the motherboard that is an astonishing 206mm away. Outside of the packaging information and the 13.8kg weight of this chassis when empty, the last thing you need to know is that the Enthoo Mini XL is backed by a five-year warranty.
Since this chassis has been on the market for a bit now, it is fairly easy to find. That being said, Amazon and Newegg both offer the chassis with no apparent stock issues. We did make mention earlier that there is an option to put a second system into this chassis, and the specs make no mention of it, and this is because it requires a second purchase. In this purchase, you will get a new rear I/O panel, a motherboard tray, and a front I/O panel that slides into the 5.25" bays. All of this comes at the cost of $26.70 on top of the initial cost, but for what it and this chassis offers, while you feel like over $200 should buy you two cases, here it is.
Chad's Chassis Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: x (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: x (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: x (buy from Amazon)
- Memory: x (buy from Amazon)
- Video Card: x (buy from Amazon)
- Storage: x (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: x (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Professional 64-bit (buy from Amazon)
Packaging is high-end as they opt for a shiny finish and a splash of bright light behind the large image of the Enthoo Mini XL. That is it; not even the company name is on there to distract your eyes from that image.
On this panel we see half of the front of the chassis off to the left, flanking the same specifications chart we just covered.
Around to the back, we find a small box at the top listing appearance, functionality, air cooling and water cooling features. That is followed by ten images of these features shown off. At the bottom, there is a description of the chassis and what goes into it.
Along with the company name on the handle, below we find twelve versions of what was at the top of the back panel, just his time in various other languages to suit their markets.
There is plastic clinging inside and outside of the windows in the door panel, and it even covers the lighting system on the right side of the chassis. It is then wrapped in a plastic liner and uses thick Styrofoam above and below, as well as down the face to keep this chassis safe. It seems to have worked as there is no blemishes or damage in any regards to this sample.
Phanteks Enthoo Mini XL Super Micro-Tower Chassis
The front of the Enthoo Mini XL looks like the rest with the offset drop on the right side, and then that panel continues down the side and under the higher section of chassis. The entire front panel is aluminum, the trio of bays covers at the top have aluminum plate applied, and even the lower section with mesh surrounding it is a solid hunk of aluminum.
The front I/O panel is tucked away at the top on the right, on the top of the dropped down section. There you will find the LED button, the reset button, the pair of USB 3.0 ports with dust covers in them, and the HD Audio jacks at the back.
Both the lower section nearest in the image, as well as the frame of the larger taller section, are made of plastic. The top is removable, and the venting stays in place this time for fan access, and on that note, the lower section is also removable.
All of the body lines, all around the panel and the way the plastic components meet are tight and true. The left side panel offers a large window for the motherboard area and a smaller one to see the logo and possibly an SSD or two. There are also slide out the side dust covers at the bottom of the chassis.
As it leaves the factor, the Mini XL has an odd looking rear panel. The PSU is at the top, and to the right is a long expanse of mesh to use with multiple fans, and below the PSU is the rear I/O. Then at the bottom are five expansion slots and a mesh area off to their right.
The right side of the chassis has the same tight lines on all panels, and rather than just flat steel here, at the front of the chassis is ventilation for the optional water cooling location. At the top right corner, there is also more ventilation as this is where the PSU draws its intake of fresh air.
Inside the Enthoo Mini XL
With the panels off the chassis, we get our first peek inside of this unusual layout. We can also see the wiring isn't laying around inside the chassis, and there is a large box of hardware strapped to the HDD rack.
The top of the chassis at the front offers a solid side to the trio of 5.25" bays in this case. Not only can you remove a bunch of screws and pull out the entire bay, but should you need to remove the tool-free clips, those too are screwed into place.
Phanteks puts the name on a plate at the bottom of the HDD cover plate, but above it ate two groups of holes. Those are to allow the mounting of SSDs, and there are even wire routing holes in the left edge.
There is a thumbscrew at the back of the top cover, and then the cover slides back a bit before it lifts off. You then have full access to the top of the chassis and cooling options, and if you want to, the entire steel top will unscrew and come off as well.
The top third of the motherboard area is taken up with the PSU cover plate. At the top, there are a few holes to route wiring, and to the right are a couple of wire tie points and another management hole, this time with a grommet in it.
The motherboard tray is at the bottom and offers room for Mini-ITX or Micro-ATX motherboards, and even offers a pair of helper standoffs to hold the board when the case is upright. Tie points are slim in number, but there are plenty of grommeted holes to get wires to the board.
The bottom of the chassis is as open as the top is. At this point, you can only use two locations, but if the HDD cage is removed, it offers up a third location as well.
The back of the chassis offers thumbscrews in the expansion slots, and above that is a 140mm fan to exhaust this chassis. In this configuration, there is also room for a second fan, or a dual radiator AIO or custom cooling here too.
The wiring is all routed and held in place with the Phanteks hook and loop strips. There are SATA power clips for the LED system as well as the fan hub in the middle. At the bottom, under the cooler access holes, there is a pair of trays waiting to be filled with 2.5" drives.
Removing the front panel needs gentle hands, as these cases with lighting in them have leads that can be disconnected, but since wired already, do not go too far. Inside of the bezel, we find the dust filter slides out the side, and we see the pair of 140mm fans in the face of the chassis off to the left.
While we knew to be careful and were sure not to stress the wire, it seems whoever routed and tied the cables may have pulled it a bit too tight. One of the three wires to the front LED strip was found like this.
Since the fans are wired to the hub, and the LEDs are all wired for us, aside from the two SATA power leads and a PWM cable from the hub to connect to the motherboard, this is what is left. Just like the rest of the wiring, everything is black, and along with the button and LED wiring from the front, there is also the HD Audio cable and the Native USB 3.0 connection.
Accessories and Documentation
Inside that big box we found earlier inside the chassis, we found this rubber isolated pump mounting plate seen on the left that can mount to the floor of the chassis. To the right is a reservoir plate that works on the inside of the HDD cage, put on the side closest to the motherboard, it allows you to hang various sizes of tube reservoirs.
If you remove the HDD cage entirely, the optional dual 120mm fan bracket can be installed to run on the same plane as the motherboard tray, allowing that right side ventilation to be used that we found in the side panel. In a bag, we find an extra wire hook and loop strip along with eight zip ties.
We also really dig that we get all of the screws, HDD isolation spacers, fan screws, whatever you need, it's right here in this handy sorter. Not only do they keep all the screws sorted without needing to pick through a huge mass of hardware, but the sorter case is much easier to find later as well.
The manual isn't the average run of the mill manual. This thing explains in minute detail everything about this chassis. It will take you from a parts list, through a standard build, shows optional ways to go about things, and no doubt will get the most novice user up and running in no time at all.
We were also sent the optional PH-ITXKT-01 accessory kit to add to our review and show what this kit has to offer.
In that box, you are given a new rear to the chassis. This offers now two rear I/O areas and an additional pair of expansion slots while also offering a location for an SFF PSU to be installed. There is also an additional insert with instructions for all of this.
Since the case cannot be use to turn on and access, they also send along this 5.25" bay front I/O panel. This allows you to have LEDs, buttons, even USB 3.0 access to the second system.
Then of course you need a place to mount that second Mini-ITX based system. Phanteks sends this steel plate that screws into the chassis just for that, and also include additional hardware to use with all of this gear.
This is optional, and comes at an additional cost, but Phanteks wanted to show off that the chassis can take on extra LED strips that can be controlled with their built in system. This is why we were sent the one meter and two-meter versions of these PH-LEDKT-M1 and M2 kits, respectively.
They also sent this SSD tray that is a match to those used in the back of the chassis. So if you want to use the pair in the back, but still want to hang SSDs above the nameplate on the HDD rack, you can get more of these to use there as well.
Case Build and Finished Product
Before we tore things apart, we went ahead and built a setup in the chassis as it was shipped from the factory. There is plenty of room for anything we need cooling wise, but it is a little tight getting the motherboard, card in, and the wiring done.
Behind the scenes, there isn't much to mention. The PSU slid right in, all of the wiring sort of spills down the chassis to where it needs to be connected, and the straps have no issues taming lots of wiring.
Then we changed things up a whole bunch. We now have both motherboards in, but we realized two issues. One was that with an AIO in there the smaller PSU won't fit at the bottom. The second issue is the wiring, and we suggest getting a PSU with as much as possible, or that view through the window won't be so nice.
Using the tool-free clips to hold in the new front I/O bay device, it lays flush with the rest of the front bezel and does not disturb the look all that much at all.
Since the PSU did not fit, we removed it, and truth be told, we didn't have a CPU in the ITX system, it was just a mock up. Point being, while tinted, the widows still afford a view inside, and that PSU would just destroy the looks.
The back of the chassis is now pretty crowded with the PSU and motherboard up top, and the motherboard, AIO, and what should be an SFF PSU sitting in the hole at the bottom right corner. All of it will screw in, and we tested the dust shield locations, and they fit easily too.
We do like the styling and lines of this chassis, or all of the Enthoo series for that matter. You are not going to find a knock-off, so if this design strikes you as it did us when we first saw these cases, Phanteks is the only place to go.
Powering the main system, we found that the shiny black thin section to the right has a fine line in it for the LEDs to shine through. This line continues along the top as well. The button for these LEDs, when clicked, will change various preset colors, and if you select a new color and keep the button pressed, it will dim the lights, just release the button at the appropriate brightness level.
What at first looks like a cavernous Micro-ATX tower chassis with plenty of room for everything under the sun, proves to do exactly that with an optional kit that transforms this into a dual system beast. The styling and build is everything we expected in a Phanteks chassis, and we love that they design the cases with screws, so it is ready to come apart, and not just the bays either. Remember, the entire top of this chassis comes off to ease any pains you might find putting gear inside of this chassis.
As it is shipped from the factory, there is good air flow from the trio of 140mm fans that at a foot away only touch the 30dB mark. While this is a huge chassis for a single Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX system, even with dual loops, we completely dig the idea of what can happen here, and it was a great way to introduce a whole new way to look at the Enthoo series, as not just huge towers for huge builds.
We did find some issues here and there, but some were due to our choices, and others we had no hand in at all. I guess the biggest issue was the wiring on the front panel, but even with the wire severed from its connection, the LEDs still worked as intended, so we are fine with the results but still wish it hadn't happened. Our PSU would not fit with the AIO in there, and even if we moved it, wiring was atrocious as it ran across everything to connect. This brings up three points. It won't count against the standard chassis as it is not part of it as point one. Secondly the PSU would have fit had we not used an AIO, but brings forth that certain layouts can cause clearance issues, so plan wisely. Lastly, we strongly recommend find that PSU with as much cabling as possible, otherwise all of the work for a clean system build at the bottom will look like poop with the standard offerings, even a full set of cable extensions is an option, but keep this in mind as well. That all being said, the PH-ITXKT-01 is likely the best $26 addition to a chassis we have ever seen. Taking a "normal" chassis into a dual system chassis with a little work involved, seems a pretty sweet deal to us.
Overall, even with the things we found, we see the path Phanteks was taking, and while many makers won't attempt something like this, we are glad they stepped up and did it. There were many times in the past that a chassis like this could have cleared so much clutter in our office, but back then ITX was still very basic and didn't have half the options afforded today. So as the technology is peaking, Phanteks stepped in and offered one huge chassis for a single system with plans of water cooling grandeur.
While slightly more than $180 is a tough pill to swallow for a Micro-ATX chassis, you are getting the full-tower treatment and all the options you could ever ask for. Then add in the second system kit, and now you essentially halve the investment cost as you split it between builds and can enjoy what has to be the largest and most serious Micro-ATX case we have ever seen.
Chad's Chassis Test System Specifications
|Quality including Design and Build||91%|
|Bundle and Packaging||100%|
|Value for Money||89%|
The Bottom Line: While the cost is a bit steep, the Enthoo Mini XL is one case that truly keeps on giving! From a massive water cooling beast to a chassis that supports two systems, and on top of that looks great no matter your choice of layout.
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