Time to build a mini ITX gaming PC.

That was the thought I had as I looked at my liquid cooled, SLI-enabled, full-tower gaming computer that sat next to me on the desk. It was time for a hardware refresh and I was intrigued at the challenge of building a smaller form-factor, air-cooled PC. My previous system had been the best watercooled build I had done to date with a full system watercooling loop and two heavy-duty radiators. I was quite proud of this build but it was aging and SLI support seemed to be going away.

 

My old SLI gaming PC

My old SLI gaming PC

 

I needed a newer PC but I didn’t want to go all out on expensive custom watercooling as I had done before. I had spent almost as much on the watercooling parts as the computer hardware and while the end result was awesome, I couldn’t see myself spending that much again. I settled on building a micro-atx system inside the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv Shift.

 

Phanteks Enthoo Evolv Shift

Phanteks Enthoo Evolv Shift in Anthracite Gray.

 

Build Specs

With SLI support fading away, I definitely wanted to go with a single card setup that would be good for a future monitor upgrade (I currently have a 27″ 1080p ASUS monitor). I also wanted a few more CPU cores so here are the components I chose for this build:

 

Build Considerations

This Mini ITX Gaming PC is also my daily driver and it has no trouble doing just about anything I can throw at it. I suppose if I had to do some heavy video editing, a processor with hyperthreading would have been a better choice, but if I do get into video editing in the future, I would likely just build a dedicated video editing system. The six-core i9600K is fine for occasional editing of HD video.

Another consideration for this build was that it needs to be smaller than my previous full-tower atx PC. The upright case fits the bill perfectly and saves a ton of desk space. One last change that I made for this build was not to include a lot of local storage in this build. I have a Synology NAS that I use for the majority of my slow-storage needs and the Samsung M.2 SSD included in this build is enough space for a handful of games.

 

Build Layout

The layout for this build was a little challenging, but far from the toughest build I’ve ever done. There is not a lot of space for hiding bunches of cables so you need to be crafty in how you route your cables. It also helps to have a modular power supply so you can use as few cables as possible. The Corsair SF600 is perfect for this but you can also go with the Corsair SF450 which is also modular but slightly less expensive.

450 watts is still plenty of power for most mid-range full-sized Nvidia GPUs and a modern CPU. I only went with the SF600 because I was not yet sure if I would need extra power for future watercooling components or a larger GPU later down the line. Also, the price difference between the two was not a deal breaker, so I figured, why not go for more power?

Mini ITX Gaming PC

This Phanteks case has an interesting stacked / sandwich layout with the GPU behind the motherboard.

 

Mini ITX Gaming PC

With minimal space for hiding cables, some creative routing of the PCI power cables hides them from the front view.

 

Build Issues

I really like the Phanteks Shift for its build quality and the design concept. The exterior panels are solid aluminum and thick tempered glass which really enhances the look and feel of the exterior.

However, there are a few minor issues that I found with the case.

Reversible GPU Mount

First, the PCI extension cable is just a little too short to allow a full-size graphics card to be mounted with the fans facing out toward the glass side panel. When I reversed the GPU mounting bracket, the PCI extension cable would need to go behind the GPU between it and the back of the motherboard. This can be done, but it’s not ideal in my opinion. You would need to really stretch the PCI cable and I was not comfortable putting that much strain on such an important cable.

That said, Phanteks recommends mounting the GPU with the backplate facing the glass and the fans facing the motherboard tray. With my Windforce 2070, there is a solid 1-inch (24mm) space between the fans and the tray, so there’s plenty of breathing room there. Blower style cards will have no problem since most of those designs have a single fan at the bottom, which gets plenty of air from the lower chamber.

Power Cable Extension Position

The power supply for this case is mounted in the lower left of the bottom chamber and the case has an ATX plug built into the chassis. This requires that the other end of the ATX power extension be plugged into the power supply within a tight space. The Case looks like it was designed to have the power supply mounted with its fan facing outward (there is a cutout for the fan in the chassis), so it can draw in air from the side panel vents and exhaust through the bottom. In practice though, this orientation puts a strain on the ATX extension and also hides the nice label side on the Corsair SFX power supplies.

Most of the time though, the Corsair SFX 600 runs in hybrid mode which means the fan doesn’t spin unless it’s under high thermal or power load. I am not concerned about the PSU pulling in hotter air from the lower chamber of the case.

Cable Tray

The cable tray below the motherboard is pretty nice to have since you can run some of the power and header cables and hide them pretty well. However, it would be nice to have a similar sort of recess or flap to cover the lower part of the tray (lower chamber) since there are cutouts for running wires there too.

Mini ITX Gaming PC

The bottom of the cable tray (below the Phanteks logo) could use a small cover to help hide cables down here.

Temperatures

One of the most common complaints I see about this case is high load temperatures for the CPU and GPU.

I don’t think it’s necessary to point out specific reviews but sufficed to say, I have found many video reviews and benchmarking articles mention that “the case is too cramped for air cooling” or that the temperatures are simply “unacceptable” when components are air cooled in this case.

There are a lot of variables to consider when it comes to thermal performance for any computer case so opinions are going to vary based on what type of hardware and cooling solutions someone might try to use with a particular build.

That said, in Part 2 of this review, I will go over my setup and environment, the PC’s thermal performance, and why I think this case is perfectly fine for air-cooling when you choose the right hardware and consider the variables.

Part 2 will be coming soon so be sure to check back for an update and thanks for reading!

 

Mini ITX Gaming PC Build Specs:

PC Part Picker List: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/W6nwRJ

 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *