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Build: Optane Enhanced Phanteks Evolv ITX

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to builds, that’s the whole reason ITX mobos exist. It’s awesome to see how much performance you can get out of a itty bitty rig, especially if you’re living in a dorm or a small apartment.

Bigger IS always better when it comes to storage however. You can never, ever have enough space. SSDs have dropped in price considerably, but they’re still significantly more expensive than standard spinner drives.

Enter Optane, Intel’s bridge memory that enhances HDD performance to rival that of a standard SSD build.

With our Phanteks Evolv Optane build we wanted the best of both worlds. Tons of storage, quick data retrieval times via Optane, all in a relatively small ITX package.

We like to think we succeeded.

It’s Time to Evolv

Dutch company Phanteks has been on the scene for ten years now, and they’ve put out some of our favorite cases. Attractive design and stellar cable management is the name of the game here, and their ITX offerings are no different. We went with the Enthoo Evolv in black and red, because red is super awesome, and we wanted to go with a miniature Cylon look. The case is available with or without a window, but we wanted to show off our internals, so windowed it is.

The Evolv has an unassuming profile; the steel construction with hints of red give it an almost monolithic look despite the smaller footprint. The red internals of the case pop against the black, so keeping that color theme going was a no brainer.

Seeing Red

You think red and black, you think MSI, so we went with a MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon AC mini ITX board. The Evolv is a little larger than some ITX cases, and special attention is paid to layout, so dropping it in was pain free. Not always the case when it comes to SFF builds.

The brain of this rig is an i5-7600 CPU. We want performance of course, but the priority of this build is looks, form factor, and storage performance instead of overclocking, so a non-K Kaby Lake CPU seemed like a perfect medium.

Even without overclocking you need a good CPU cooler, and so we went with a Deepcool Gaming Storm Captain 120mm AIO. This unit is a solid value at $70, and a great way to keep our temps and acoustics low while furthering our red color scheme. For even more red, we swapped the 120mm fan on the radiator of the Captain with a red RGB Thermaltake Riing fan.

Though the Evolv is on the larger side of ITX cases, getting a full size GPU in any SFF build is always a bit harrowing due to potential clearance conflicts. Luckily, clearances are taken into account over at Phanteks, and the MSI Aero 1070 (to go with the mobo) was a perfect fit, both physically and conceptually. We’re not going for the HIGHEST performance here, but a 1070 is a more than happy medium.

To finish off the front of the board, we dropped in 16 GB of G Skill TrdientZ DDR4 RAM. It’s not red, but the touch of white adds a little variety.

The Evolv has an interesting PSU shroud, in that the majority of the power supply is exposed, while the storage bays are hidden. We went with the modular Thermaltake Smart DPS G 750 watt power supply to keep our build running. Plenty of juice, and the red and and black fit in nicely.

We finally got around to some cable management, not always the most fun thing in a SFF case. The Evolv stands out as cable management friendly, and the 28 mm of space and included velcro straps made it about as easy as it could be.

All that’s left is storage, and that’s where things get fun.

Storage Wars

The idea here is to have plenty of space, to not be limited by the lower storage capacity of newer affordable SSDs, while still getting the quick access times power users crave.

Intel’s Optane is a good way of enhancing a traditional HDD’s performance to get that combination of speed and capacity.

We went with a 2TB Seagate Barracuda HDD, and 16GB of Optane memory on the back of the board. This combination gave us just what we were looking for; a large, fast, and convenient drive that makes this build perfect for small living quarters or a crowded desk.

This ITX build hits the spot. The large capacity, quick performance, and good looks in a small package are the exact crossover between affordability and performance.

We purposefully avoided RGB, but the red LEDs look awesome, and knowing we have two terabytes of SSD speed storage makes it all the better.