Phanteks Evolv Shift SFF Chassis Review

Phanteks' newest case creation, the Evolv Shift SFF chassis, goes under the lights today as we see what it's all about.

Published Jul 25, 2017 10:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:58 PM CST
Manufacturer: Phanteks
17 minute read time
TweakTown's Rating: 99%
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The Bottom Line

It does take proper planning and lots of homework, but with all the right parts, the Phanteks Evolv Shift can be an amazing chassis! Nearly perfect in every way, an unbeatable look and display of components, and at a price loads of customers will appreciate.

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

Phanteks Evolv Shift SFF Chassis Review 99

In the time we have been reviewing cases for Phanteks, what started out as an odd-duck company coming into the market from left field, has since developed quite the following. It does not matter if you wish to discuss the Enthoo Series or the Eclipse Series, three things are guaranteed. Outstanding build quality, and by this we mean that attention to detail is paid, they tend to use high-quality materials, and if needed, their cases can be used as a stool; they are just that sturdy. The second thing you are given, in spades, is aesthetics. There is not a single chassis in either lineup that does not deliver sleek elegance, with a design that is uniquely Phanteks and can be easily spotted amongst any other chassis out there. The third and most important thing that tends to ring true with Phanteks cases is that you are given great bang-for-the-buck. In all of the cases we have reviewed from Phanteks, not once have we sat there thinking "the price is going to send buyers elsewhere."

What we have been given last, is yet another addition to the Elite Series, and going a tad further, is another of the Evolv cases that we have seen much of recently. With the Evolv cases, no matter the size or internal features, two things are consistent across all three of them. All of them have an individual look, with the dog bone shaped front panels, streamlined external design, and have panels which pop off the chassis to make life easier on the user. The second thing that rings true through the series is that with the latest trend of using tempered glass side panels, any of the Evolv cases can be had with this option. Since the series spans various dimensions externally, what is inside can be found in some form across the lineup, but with the Evolv Series getting smaller and now smaller as the cases have been released to the public, not all share the same capabilities.

The chassis we are about to discuss just arrived at our doorstep a couple of days ago, that is how fresh this product is. Before we get too far though, there is one major thing to note when it comes to what you are going to look at today. There are two new cases which share this new moniker. We have been sent the Phanteks Evolv Shift, the smaller of the two, but there is another, slightly better equipped, and slightly taller, Evolv Shift X that is also released as you read this. We will be sure to address what changes between the two options, but if you are looking for a chassis with most of the benefits of much larger solutions, all within a small footprint, then the Phanteks Evolve Shift or Shift X is certainly worth your attention.

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The specifications discussed here were taken from the manual, and comparisons between the models were ascertained by looking at the media provided from Phanteks for either model. The chart shown is that of the Evolv Shift, which we were sent for review, yet we will make sure to mention any changes. As for the Shift, it is 170mm wide, it stands 470mm tall, 484mm with the feet, and the case is 274mm deep. As for the Shift X, the heights change to 650mm and 664mm with the feet. Both designs are sold as Small Form Factor models, as both will only support Mini-ITX motherboards. The materials chose to comprise these case is the use of anodized aluminum, which can be Anthracite Gray or could also be Satin Black on the front and back panels. The interior of the chassis is made from powder coated steel segments screwed and riveted together, while both of the side panels of these cases are delivered with tinted tempered glass panels.

In the inside, you will first need to know, that only an SFX or SFX-L PSU will fit inside of it, and since it is to be used with a Mini-ITX motherboard, there are two expansion slots found at the top of the Evolv Shift. There is a location at the back of the chassis for a single hard drive, but the Shift also offers a pair of trays for 2.5" drives. The Shift X differs slightly. It still houses only a single HDD, but there are trays for four 2.5" drives. If you plan to air cool the processor, you have 82mm of room, which limits choices a bit. Graphics cards can be 350mm in length, depending on the type of CPU cooling used. Speaking of which, if you plan to water cool the CPU, the thickness of the radiator cannot exceed 55mm.

With the Shift, cooling can be handled with a pair of 120mm or 140mm fans in the front of the case, which can be accompanied by a single 120mm or 140mm fan at the bottom. As to how the chassis arrives, only one of the front slots is filled with a 140mm fan. For those with plans to water cool components, the Shift allows for a 120mm or 140mm radiator in the front, or a 120mm radiator on the floor. When it comes to the Shift X, the fan arrangement is similar, but the literature we looked at, shows the front to allow for a trio of 120mm or 140mm fans, but it is now possible to install a 240mm or 280mm radiator into the front of the Shift X as well.

In the manual and the literature, we are told the warranty is five years in duration. That is partially correct, depending on which part of the chassis is giving you problems. If the fan or fans go bad, Phanteks will replace them for five years. The I/O port gets two years of coverage, and the same can be said for the LED on/off switch. The chassis is covered for the full five years, and so is the top and bottom panels of the Shift and Shift X

Since we are preparing this review for launch day, we cannot verify the pricing, or see if there are any deals to be had, as the Shift and Shift X are not yet listed. Upon our request to look at the chassis, we were also sent the MSRP for both cases in that email chain. What we are being told is that the Shift, as you are about to see it, will be sold at $109.99, which we think is appropriate. As for the Shift X, for the additional room, a couple of extra drive trays, and the increase of fan locations, increase of water cooling options, as well as having more space for longer video cards and things like pumps and reservoirs, the fifty-dollar hike to $159.99 seems to be worth the asking price as well. With two options of virtually the same case, it appears that Phanteks is covering all that might want to delve into the Shift and Shift X, which allows anyone with a Mini-ITX motherboard to be able to enjoy what we are about to show off.

Chad's Chassis Test System Specifications


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Covering our Evolv Shift is a plain brown cardboard box, where the front of it has nothing to offer outside of the name of the case, and some Phanteks tape on the edges.

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The right side of the box provides the Phanteks company name, and we can see more of the special tape, but the rest of the panel is blank, again made of plain cardboard.

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The front and back panels are identical, except for the amount of Phanteks tape visible. Both just offer the chassis name in the middle of the panel.

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The last of the panels provide the company name again but also has some additional information this time. We see that the case was designed in the Netherlands, but built in China, and we can also see the sticker with the PH-ES217E_BK model number, with a mention of tempered glass windows, and that it is black.

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Inside of the box, we find the Evolv Shift to be wrapped in clear plastic, protecting finishes on the aluminum, and helping to keep the glass free of marks. On the top, as well as the bottom, we find thick Styrofoam used to protect the chassis from drops, with the literature set into the top cap, so it is easy to find.

Phanteks Evolv Shift SFF Chassis

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From the front of the Shift, we see the dog bone shape is present here, like the rest of the series. At the top, are strips, which show through the cut away section, while the side sections are ventilation for the intake of air. The bottom also carries the same shape, but it is to allow a place to remove the panel.

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The ribs on the top of the Shift run from the front to the back with mesh under them. This covers the rear I/O of the chassis and can be opened by pressing down on the front edge of it. We also see the large power button next to the smaller RGB color button, and in the middle of the cover is a single power LED, which can be changed into nine color options when it's on.

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The left side of the chassis is entirely made of tempered glass, and like all other external panels is easily removed. The round metal bits seen on the glass, mount the panel to an inner steel frame but hold the tinted tempered glass in place, not used to remove the panel from the chassis.

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The front I/O panel is actually at the back of the Shift and is basic in what is delivered. Since the buttons are on the top, all we have here are a pair of USB 2.0 ports, with no signs of HD Audio connectivity.

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The back of the chassis uses the same anodized aluminum we saw on the front and is also nearly solid from top to bottom. Along with matching the dog bone shape, the back offers a hole at the top to route wires to the I/O of the motherboard at the top, and another opening at the bottom for the power cord to connect to the adapter cable used in the Shift.

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Just like we saw on the left side of the case, the right side of the chassis is also visible through a tinted tempered glass panel. This will give a user a view of the video card, but without perfect wire management, you may also see some of the wires, and you will also be able to see the back of the motherboard, at least what the GPU is not covering.

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The bottom of the chassis has ribs just like the top, along with a hidden dust filter for the optional fan location. This will be seen if you choose the horizontal orientation of the Shift, and the feet are removable to clean up the look when doing so.

Inside the Evolv Shift

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The reason the instructions are shipped externally is simple, without them, many may find it hard to get into the Shift. Everything happens under the lid, which needs to be opened to gain access. The first thing we found is the box of hardware for use a bit later, and we can see a pair of thumb screws which allow the panel to be removed. Not visible, but there is a set of two screws for each of the panels found in here.

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Under the lid, we see the fine mesh panel which keeps anything from falling into the top of the case, and at the top, we also see the ball which locks into the latch built into the frame. The plastic cover contains the switches, and the power LED light. Coming from the bottom of the panel is a lead for the power switch, a SATA power lead, and a pair of RGB cables for options LED light strip control.

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With the hardware out of the way, we can see the rear I/O panel of the Shift. There is a lot of passive honey comb ventilation surrounding where the I/O dust shield goes, and at the bottom of this image, we can see a pair of expansion slots. Notice too, all the room to either side of them, as the slots can be adjusted for fitment.

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Down the steel front of the Shift, we see two of the panel clips with a hook and loop strap with the Phanteks name on it between them. There is a 140mm fan installed just below them, and a pair of openings and another hook and loop strap there too. At the bottom is where the second fan can be placed, but for now, it is left open as the Shift is shipped from the factory, and the second set of clips to hold the panel.

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The left side of the chassis has thin layers of foam running down both sides as well as across the bottom to keep the glass from rubbing it. We do see the panel clips in each of the corners, but at the top is where the motherboard sits, with a center section to hide wires behind. The lower section is used for cooling options and placement of an SFX or SFX-L PSU.

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Just in front of the motherboard tray with a huge access hole and the standoffs already placed on the tray, we find the only fan that comes equipped with the Shift. This a 140mm fan used to keep the motherboard and memory cool, but also adds airflow to the section behind the tray as well.

Inside the Evolv Shift Continued

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On the left side of the motherboard tray, we find a couple of thi9ngs to discuss. First, we can see the sleeved PCI extension cable which allows for the GPU to be placed behind the motherboard. We also see the pair of easily removable trays for installing 2.5" drives.

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The large hole in the frame, under the motherboard tray, at the back of the case, is intended to allow the PSU used in the case a way to intake cooler outside air. What we can see there now is part of the USB 3.0 cable and the SATA power lead which runs the RGB lighting on top of the case.

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The floor of the chassis has room for the PSU to be mounted on the left side. The larger area on the right can be used to install an optional fan, water cooling, and is set up in such a way that most of the area is open to allow for convective passive ventilation air in here and out the top.

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The back-frame section has the panel clips as we saw on the front, but we also see room for a 34.5" drive to be installed here as well. Another pair of hook and loop straps to help contain wires, and the cover USB 3.0 ports next to the opening for the PSU fan. At the very bottom, we can see the PSU connection as well. With the PSU oriented the way it is, an adapter is a much easier way to go.

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The right side of the chassis is open, with just the GPU support bracket screwed in at the top, and also into the motherboard tray from the other side. This bracket can be slid to the right if issues arise with cooling, but otherwise, there is thin foam on the edges, again, to keep the glass off the steel.

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Inside of the GPU bracket is a PCI-e slot, and it even comes with a locking mechanism to ensure the card is seated properly. From the back of this slot is where the sleeved cable comes from, and wraps around by the SSDs to connect to the slot on the Mini-ITX motherboard.

Hardware & Documentation

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As all of the Phanteks cases do, the Shift comes with a case containing the screws and odd bits of hardware. In it, we find fan screws, motherboard and SSD screws, PSU and GPU screws, HDD screws, an extra thumb screw, and rubber rings and Drop-N-Lock screws for an SSD.

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We also found a set of six zip-ties to help with wire management, a case badge to apply as you see fit, and a set of dense foam feet to be used if the case needs to be used horizontally. There is also an insert which mentions how an RMA should be handled, or if service is required, you should contact Phanteks, not the location you purchased it.

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The user manual is essential when it comes to the Shift. It starts with features and specifications, moves into an exploded diagram, and immediately covers the hardware. What follows from there is a step-by-step progression of how to get into the chassis, what all comes out and can be filled with parts, describes all of the options, and explains every bit of the Shift. While this may be slightly challenging for the novice builders, the manual provided will answer any questions you may run into when using this case.

Case Build & Finished Product

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Once built, the front of the chassis does not look much different from where we started. We did not need to use the straps for any of our wires, but at the bottom, we can see the Corsair H80 GT sitting there, which eliminates the option to fill the front, optional fan hole with a fan.

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Looking into the left side of the Shift, we can see the motherboard installed with the I/O panel at the top, the RAM at the bottom, and the PCI-e slot on the left. Keeping wires out of the intake fan is a concern, but we managed, and if using an AIO to cool the CPU, the tubing can get in the way, and we found it best to strap them down to aid in replacing the glass panel later.

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Had we installed an HDD on the back of the Shift, we would have used the hook and loop straps, but as of now, we did not need to use them either. At the bottom, we did have to install our PSU backward, drawing air from inside of the case, and that was due to the location of the power switch on our unit to conflict with the chassis support bar that runs across the middle.

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The 350mm measurement of clearance for the GPU is without any cooling at the bottom of the chassis. We tried cards we typically use for builds and found they were too long to go into the Shift. However, we were able to use a thick radiator at the bottom, and still, have room for this NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti. There are fewer issues if you do not have a custom cooled video card.

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At the top of the case, we have filled in all the holes with the rear I/O panel of the motherboard, and the dual slot video card. You do have to route the LAN cable, the video cable, audio cable, and any USB cables through the back, but we found no issues with the height of the connectors causing the top not to close properly.

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The bottom of the chassis now has the Corsair fan installed near the front of the case, cooling the radiator just above it. At the back, we find the PSU, which the adapter cable has been plugged into here. We also see the support bar near the adapter cable, which cause the issues with PSU orientation.

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This is the optional way the Shift can be used, for something like an HTPC where horizontal devices fit easier than vertical ones. The dense foam pads are to be installed around the grommets on the glass, which keeps the grommets from cutting into whatever surface they rest on, and also adds grip to the case.

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We feel this to be the better option though, as you can see in the glass side panels of the chassis much easier. While the tempered glass is ever so slightly tinted, the view of the components is relatively unimpeded, and any additional lighting would make it look that much better.

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The view from the other side can be just as good. If you have a card with a fancy backplate or fancy side lighting, the card can be shifted towards the back, allowing the lighting to show through the glass here. We also show only one wire, which is powering the GPU, as SFX PSU wires are not that long, but an adapter cable would come in very handy to hide it from view completely.

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Once the Shift is powered, we found the front fan to deliver 30 dB of noise at full power, and the sides have to be off of the case to get that reading. Closed up, the Shift can barely be heard, as all noise is directed out the top of the chassis.

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Since we do not have additional RGB lighting to add to the Shift, at this time the RGB LED button on the case only works the power LED on the top of the Shift. There are nine color choices that it can run through, and you can turn it off if you wish. Since this tiny stripe of light is hidden from view most times, there is not much to see where lighting is concerned as it is.

Final Thoughts

There are many things we can say about what is fantastic about the Shift from Phanteks. For such a small case, it is a beast when it comes to weight and being structurally sound. Every panel but the top can be easily removed; there is orientation of use options, the use of thick aluminum, tempered glass, and powder coated steel on the inside, which all lend to a pleasing aesthetic, and a case which seems bomb proof. While taking up very little room on the desktop, Phanteks chose vertical space to provide you with room for everything essential to a superior Mini-ITX gaming system, which no reason to compromise. Hiding wires behind a magnetic cover, which flops down for access, flip flips up to cover any mess, using grommets and hook and loop straps to help maintain any longer cables, and of course, that super cool GPU bracket in the back, all of which prove that Phanteks put a ton of thought into this design, and wanted to deliver the best chassis possible.

There are some down sides to the chassis which we must address, but none of them are deal breakers to us. The first of which is the PSU issue. We realize a company needs to make concessions when it comes to building a solid structure, but we do wish that extra support bar below the PSU was not there. With the SFX PSU we typically use, the power switch conflicts with this bar, and caused us to have to turn our PSU fan to the inside of the case. Not detrimental to the PSU or chassis function, but something simple like switch placement makes us have to install things against what was intended. With the Asrock motherboard we use, the USB 3.0 port is at the top edge of the motherboard, and the cable inside was not long enough to reach. Again, not tragic, just make sure the motherboard has the connection on the right side and you will be fine.

Lastly, planning and contemplation is a must. While not overly complicated to the point of frustration, we did have to install components in a trial and error fashion to ensure everything fit. On top of that, wires near the front have to be wired correctly not to get caught in the fan, and you need to run the PCI-e cable around the left of the motherboard tray before installing the SSDs, or you will spend forever trying to fight it through the small gap. As long as you are aware of these slight issues, with correct planning, you too can house a monster of a machine in this tall sleek and sexy Phanteks Shift.

When it comes down to the bottom line, we feel the price is more than justified with the Phanteks Shift. Considering that it will cost only $99.99 for this chassis, and you get the option of the satin black as we received, or anthracite gray as an alternative, you are given a significantly more solid chassis with aesthetics and views which are nearly unparalleled right now in Mini-ITX cases. As for the Shift X, from what we have seen on paper, the upgrades are nice, but it is the possibilities of its increased height which holds much of that value.

Without having one in hand, we can only surmise that it compares in structural integrity and style to match the Shift, and if you need the room, the $50 increase could be well worth it. For us, as it stands, we like this better than our previous favorites. The Shift is the most well thought out, convertible to HTPC, Mini-ITX chassis on the market, and as long as the height isn't a problem, the Phanteks Evolv Shift Is the superior choice at the moment for those that want their cake and eat it too.

Chad's Chassis Test System Specifications

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The Bottom Line: It does take proper planning and lots of homework, but with all the right parts, the Phanteks Evolv Shift can be an amazing chassis! Nearly perfect in every way, an unbeatable look and display of components, and at a price loads of customers will appreciate.

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Chad joined the TweakTown team in 2009 and has since reviewed 100s of new techy items. After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM and coolers.

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