There aren’t many mini-ITX chassis that are actually mini. But while the Phanteks Evolv Shift XT might have a big, old-fashioned name, it’s one of the smallest gaming cases that accepts a full-sized graphics card.
Although sometimes it isn’t. The smart thing about this tiny little case is that it can evolve), depending on how much cooling you want. With three different sized profiles, the Evolv Shift XT lets you have a super-compact system, something with a little more cooling, or a system that can include a 240mm AIO CPU cooler without compromising too much on scale.
I’ll be honest, I was hoping for some sort of mechanized method of changing the size profiles, like some whirring, sliding action where the chassis grows in front of my eyes. But that’s not how it works, and yes, it would be really pointlessly complex if it did. All you really need to do to change the size is move two spacers between three different points on the roof of the case and screw or remove the relevant back plates to support it.
It’s delightfully simple, something that the Phanteks chassis has a hallmark of use for. Access to the inside of the case is completely tool-free, and to break it completely, you only need to remove a single screw.
Evolv Shift XT Specifications
Motherboard support: mini-ITX
Dimensions: 371 x 173 x 211 – 272 millimeters
GPU release: 324 millimeters
Front I/O: USB 3.2 Type-C Gen2, USB 3.0 Type-A
PSU: Supports SFX and SFX-L (SFX recommended)
Ascent cable: PCIe 4.0×16
Guarantee: 5 years
Price: $180 | £160
This makes diving in and changing things really simple… but only when your machine is actually built. While the actual building process remains simple, it’s definitely not fun. This is a common problem with mini-ITX machines; the cramped confines of the box inevitably make for an awkward build experience most of the time.
That’s what makes something like the NZXT H1 V2 a breath of fresh air when it comes to actually building your rig.
It must be said, however, that once you have your system up and running, you will quickly forget about the initial problems. Well, as long as you haven’t cut a finger or scraped the skin off a gasket on a particularly notorious motherboard heatsink.
And that’s where things get tighter with the Evolv Shift XT; around the motherboard. It’s so firmly positioned on the edge of the chassis frame that trying to connect all the necessary cables takes serious digital gymnastics. Especially if your mini-ITX board also has these notorious heatsinks.
Your choice of power supply will affect your build and also how nice it will be in the end. I have a 750W SFX-L PSU that I’ve been using for mini-ITX builds, and while it fits comfortably in Shift XT, it restricts your build. Phanteks recommends that you opt for an SFX option.
Most notably, using an SFX-L PSU prevents you from putting in an AIO cooler, even with the case at its largest configuration, as there is not enough space for the liquid piping and power cables to coexist.
What I will say, however, is that there is still plenty of room for a graphics card to live. The entire left side of the case is dedicated to your GPU, and with dual fans installed with the chassis in its mid-size configuration, you also get a healthy amount of airflow.
@pcgamer_mag ♬ Joel Beam-JP – Carlton Banksy
However, not all graphics cards. We tried the new Radeon RX 6950XT and it didn’t work very well. I mean, with the PCIe 4.0 riser cable unscrewed, we could make it work… but the cover wouldn’t. quite in shape.
I will admit that I had a slightly negative experience building the Phanteks, and that initially colored my feelings about the case. But the more time I spent with it, the more I tweaked and poked and poked, the more I liked it.
I really appreciate how small it can be the tiniest and still include a full GPU. You can fit a low-profile CPU air cooler into the case and not have to expand it. But if you’re looking for something above mid-range GPUs or processors, you’ll benefit from the extra cooling that installing a pair of 240mm fans in the ceiling will provide.
And, with an SFX PSU right inside it, having a 240mm AIO CPU cooler installed will keep a powerful processor in line, while still providing extra ambient cooling for your GPU and motherboard.
In a world where mini-ITX gaming chassis aren’t so mini, the Phanteks Evolv Shift XT can deliver a small-sized gaming PC that can run. But it’s also a tiny chassis that can literally grow with your PC, and that’s a definite bonus. Just try to stay calm during the building process and know that the fallibility of human memory will erase the inevitable pain.