Date Joined: 10/23/12
Pros: - Beautiful case if you appreciate a minimalist aesthetic
- Very well built, high quality materials used throughout with *some* exceptions
- Flexibility, can house a variety of configurations
- Ease of use (front, top, side panels); fairly easy to build in
- Bright/vivid LEDs used for RGB lighting
Cons: - some cheap/weak plastic used in crucial locations
- vertical GPU riser cable *NOT* included
Overall Review: This is a part 2 continuation of my watercooling custom loop journey, started with a Fractal Design Define R6 (Black) in February 2018. My review is listed for that case if you wanted a comparison. In brief, I loved the R6, and I love the Evolv X even more however there are some tradeoffs which I will cover later.
The good: this is a beautiful case. As a fan of a minimal, industrial looks, this is perfect for me. I must say Phanteks premium cases are top shelf, and (for the most part) it shows in the build quality and materials used. The case can be (almost) completely disassembled, my preferred first step when building a system. The top/front/side panels are removable; the cable management covers on the front as well, and the cable cover panels on the back. You can also remove the included fan hub to reduce wire clutter if desired. The top radiator/fan bracket comes out for easier installation. When the case is completely disassembled like this, the remaining frame is very sturdy/rigid. Moreso than the Define R6.
The enclosure can house a variety of configurations, although I would venture that a pure airflow setup would be the poorest performing option. Even with the increased gap for airflow in the front panel, and the reworked top panel system, airflow is still fairly restricted. This enclosure probably works best with AIO or custom loop. If you choose that route, you have options in terms of rad/fan size; you can go up to 360/360 top and front concurrently; and up to a 420 in the front (with probably a max 280 in the top). Speaking from experience, 360/360 is doable but will be tight and if using in a custom loop be mindful of where the ports on your rads are when figuring out your runs.
Build process was painless and enjoyable; plenty of space on back for routing PSU cables and included cable covers and velcro straps make management a breeze.
Build quality revisited: most of the plastic used throughout is hard, durable, and will likely last (hopefully) many years and builds. However, care must be taken. For instance, the front panel uses very hard plastic tabs on the bottom, and thinner (but sturdy) tabs on top. This should be fine for most users for the long haul if they are careful. The top panel system works very well, as long as some care is taken. The side panel system is very well done, with the panels sliding onto the chassis on metal hinges; this is a well thought out design that should definitely last unless you are actively trying to assault your system. A word of warning is that in my case, one of the hinges was a little stuck; I was about to bust out some WD40 but was able to slide it off with a little effort (and much care).
The LED system is well designed IMO; the front panel LEDs are using strips from Phanteks new Digital RGB line and they look very nice, and work well with the "accent" LED on the side. If you're in their ecosystem, you can daisy chain your existing RGB devices, which I did (3x DRGB fan frames + 1 60cm DRGB LED strip + 2 40 cm DRGB LED strips). This way you can forgo motherboard control if you like and switch modes/colours from the front panel, or just chain and let the mobo handle if you prefer. Tested/works well with ASUS Aura Sync; MSI and Gigabyte also supported.
Random likes: best manual I've ever seen for a case. Included accessory kit is pretty good, I appreciate the organized screw box, and there are plenty of extra screws just in case. Enough hard drive trays to get you started, and also included the mount for vertical GPU installation (BUT NOT THE CABLE).
What didn't I like? I'll start with what I feel is objective and make my way to subjective opinions. Some of the plastic used in the case is cheap, and unfortunately located in crucial locations. For instance, the plastic latches holding the cable cover panels on the backside of the case are weak. While being careful, I broke one of the latches during initial assembly. It's unworkable if you care about the panel because it won't stay in place if either latch is missing.
The left side ("show side") cable management covers are questionable in value... I use them, and they work well enough but I would almost prefer having that entire side simply open. You can't open it up because the rails for the covers are built into that part of the frame.
The cutout at the front of the case for rad/pump res isn't long enough IMO, and might force you to adjust your build.
I feel vertical GPU riser cable should be included since Phanteks uses vendor specific screw spacing and a generic card won't work with their mount. Also believe SSD caddies should have been included; premium case premium accessory bundle.
Final note: love the case, loved building in it, looks fantastic complete. Side note: great support from Phanteks, created issue for broken latch and they are sending replacements.
Pros: - excellent cooling performance at low speeds
- very quiet at lower speeds (normal operation)
- new colour options for anti-vibration pads
- excellent customer support, long warranty
Cons: - pricey
Overall Review: You get what you pay for. I'm somewhat of a Noctua snob/addict, having owned both the NH-D14/D15, NH-U12S/14S, NH-C14, NH-L9i... that's just CPU heatsink coolers. I am also the proud owner of various F12/A14/A15 fans as well as some "golden oldies" that are still in production: the P12 and P14 fans. Send a PM if you'd like a picture of my Noctua collection, just kidding.
In all seriousness, I have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on various Noctua products and I don't intend on stopping, ever. On one hand, they are pricey. And until recently, there was very limited selection in terms of colour, with no RGB support, if you care about that sort of thing.
But the many reviews are correct, and I can attest to this. These fans provide excellent cooling capabilities, even at low speeds. At these speeds, which is your typical "normal" operation, the fans are very quiet. I do want to point out, to me (and most "normal" people) the fans are *obviously* loud at high speed. It's a stretch to think that a fan running at max rpm wouldn't be audible, but I digress. These fans are meant to perform well at low speeds, and provide the extra cooling you need in "bursts" at high speed.
A final note: one of my fans was dying (made a very noticeable clicking sound at any speed). This fan was over 5 years old, and the RMA process was smooth, painless and *quick*. I live in a major city and received the replacement fan in just over a week: 8 days. I can't say enough about their support and was already completely sold on their products. Thanks again, Noctua, please continue to make great products and take my money!!!
Pros: - robust feature set in MicroATX form factor
- reliable in 24/7 setting
- 4 NICs (if you need it)
Cons: - will likely need a BIOS update before the mobo will support Kaby Lake CPU
- not really a con because this board is meant to be used with high RPM fans: will need to use ipmitool or something similar to set proper thresholds for low speed fans (Noctua)
- because it's an older chipset, only supports M.2 PCI-e 3.0 x2
Overall Review: This is my 3rd Supermicro board, having owned two X9SCM-iif (1 ESXi host, another FreeNAS). I decided to upgrade the ESXi host last year, and turned the previous ESXi into a FreeNAS backup (to have the production and backup on basically the same hardware). All the servers run headless, so IPMI is key.
I chose this board because I wanted more RAM on this iteration (64GB vs 32GB). It came with the IPMI that I've come to love and rely on. It also had the same hassles with Noctua fans as my last two boards :) But I really can't fault Supermicro for this since those fans aren't really meant to be used in servers. They still can; you can use a command line utility like ipmitool to do the job. I prefer higher RPM than what IPMI will set in the non-critical state, so I just use a fan controller in my builds.
This chipset is getting a little long in tooth, so although it does include an M.2 slot directly on the mobo, it's only x2. Since I'm not using any of the PCI-e slots normally, I just used an M.2 PCI-e 3.0 x4 adapter instead.
If you get the "1.0" version of the board... you will need to update the BIOS before you can use a Kaby Lake CPU with the mobo. You can either get an updated license for IPMI which will allow you to update the BIOS without a CPU, or you can buy a Skylake CPU (the cheapest Celeron will do) to get the BIOS updated.
Like the last Supermicro, the new board is the lynchpin of an ESXi host that runs 8 VMs concurrently, 24/7. It's also my lab, so there's VMs being spun up all the time and there's no issue. I'm not doing anything hardcore, but it's been steady and reliable.
For those interested, the system is using a Samsung 960 Pro 1TB as the main datastore. As mentioned, the M.2 is installed in a PCI-e adapter card, and it has run flawlessly. I have not used the M.2 as the primary boot device since ESXi boots from USB, so I can't speak to any issues with that.
I'm happy with all my Supermicros, and they are the backbone for my very modest "datacentre." This one's another keeper!
Pros: Excellent air cooling
Outstanding build quality/packaging
Overall Review: I had the Noctua NH-D14 in my previous 2 rigs, and it served me well. Despite getting the FT05 case from Silverstone, I couldn't resist getting the NH-D15 for my latest rig.
This isn't Noctua's fault, but I had to make some compromises to get the NH-D15 to fit into the FT05... if you're interested in how I did it, there's a review up for the case.
The cooler like every Noctua product comes carefully packaged with high quality cardboard throughout. This sounds silly but you're paying a premium price and you get a premium box. Included is Noctua's high quality thermal compound, as well as some adapter cables for low noise and a Y splitter if you need them. They've included a handy screwdriver which can be reused for those hard to reach screws (it's long and narrow).
The installation for such a large cooler is very straightforward and well documented. You are able to install on basically any modern socket, Intel or AMD.
The included fans are typical Noctua: excellent cooling with low noise profile. Now some people will claim you can't hear these fans at full power, I respectfully disagree. The best fans in the world are all loud at full power regardless of the fan. Where this cooler shines is at <1000RPM speeds at which point the cooler, depending where your case is positioned, is fairly inaudible. If have your ears by the case, of course you will hear it but if it's a little away from you, at this speed and lower the fan noise will probably blend in with any other background noise.
The cooling performance is exceptional especially when paired with a case with proper airflow. The reviews are all true!
Some points of contention with this case: the cooler is massive. I was used to this coming from a D14 but I can't stress this enough. On one hand it is lends itself to the superior cooling performance, such a large heatsink combined with large, powerful fans. However it does limit you. If you want to properly position the fans, you'll need 165mm of clearance for the middle fan, and likely even more for the rear fan to clear your RAM, depending on the RAM height and heatspreaders. The case also needs good airflow to properly "feed" the cooling fans.
Depending on your usage profile this cooler could with great performance using just a single fan, or even passively (no fan). Of course if you're overclocking/stability testing/intentionally stressing your CPU then use 2 fans. But you have options.
In summary, this is an expensive cooler but it's geared for those who want low temperatures with a low noise profile. It's expensive, but you get what you pay for. AIO liquid cooling such as the Corsair H100 may perform better, but TBH, IMO, the speeds the fans have to run at to beat something like the D15 are simply unacceptable. It's subjective but I'd gladly take slightly higher temperatures for a quieter computing experience.
Pros: Stable power
Hybrid mode works flawlessly
Runs cool and quiet
Cons: Almost unnoticeable, but distinct buzzing or coil whine
Would have preferred flat cables, or option to buy other cables
Overall Review: This is a great PSU powering my current rig. It's 160mm in length, so it should easily fit most cases (it was tight, but fit in my FT05)
The hybrid mode is great. I've left it switched in the hybrid position and even after stress testing my machine with Prime95, OCCT, and 3DMark, the PSU fan hardly ever turns on. Combined with my case and the rest of the parts, it's cool and quiet.
I have two knocks against the PSU, but neither warrant docking an egg. The first is the cable selection for the 24 pin motherboard connector; I would have preferred a flat cable set or at least the option to purchase this from Seasonic. I've looked online for custom cable sets but the costs are ridiculous (almost $150 USD).
Second, and I should probably dock an egg for this, is the almost inaudible coil whine/buzzing sound. I won't dock an egg because where the case is positioned (under my desk), I can't hear it. In fact if my ears are close to the case I can't hear it above the background noise. In other words if it's on my desk, I still don't hear it. But if I have my ear pressed up against the PSU intake on the case, or around where the exhaust is, I can hear it. It's not a condition which manifests under load, it's almost always there. Like I said, I have to go out of my way to hear it, but I do wonder if I'm barely hearing it and trying to ignore it.
All in all, another great Seasonic PSU (my third, fourth if you count the rebranded PSU from Corsair that's in my previous rig). The previous three have been running 24/7 for 2-3 years now, with nary an issue.
Pros: See above
Cons: See above/below
Overall Review: I ran out of characters so there's some things I missed.
First, although the case looks largish, you don't have much volume inside. This is due to the orientation of the case (rotated 90 degrees). The bottom of the case has a fairly large gap for the bottom fans to pull air from. The top of the case has another gap where you would feed all your cables underneath the plastic grill. Because of this design, several tradeoffs are made.
First, as mentioned previously, you are limited to which PSUs you can use. The manual states "up to 160mm" but in practice I found this is really cutting it close. My PSU (seasonic platinum 860 xp2) is 160mm and the modular cables were squished against the hard drive cage. It was a struggle getting the connectors to fit into the PSU. I resolved this issue by splitting the HDD cage in half. Before you throw up on your keyboard, the cage is held together by a set of screws. Removing those screws leaves you with two halves, and a single HDD fits nicely in the "left" half, the half that still slides in securely into its mounting location. This has several benefits. First and foremost, even with a 160mm modular PSU, the connectors are a better fit. Second, if you care, the HDD will have better airflow going across its "backside".
The second tradeoff for the case's size is there is very little room on the "cable side" of the case for cable management. With careful planning you can make it work but the panel on that side will bump against the cables, you cannot avoid this. The bulge is still within the rails, i.e. it doesn't bulge past the slots but I know its there.
The third tradeoff for me is the most egregious. You are limited to the air coolers you can use in this case, it's up to 162 mm according to the manual. Unfortunately, in it's "default" configuration, the Noctua NH-D15 is 165mm, and probably taller for the rear fan to account for the RAM.
I find this a terrible tradeoff since this case, as I noted in my first review, is almost begging for air cooling. The Noctua NH-D15 is the cadillac of air cooling, yet this case cannot fit it unless you make the adjustment which I suggest below.
To make the NH-D15 fit, I had to lower the middle fan, and use a different fan (NF-F12 120mm) fan on the "back side". This isn't the most ideal solution, but it works. This has two obvious drawbacks: neither fan is the "proper" height, so you don't get proper cooling across the tops of the heatpipes, and you lose the benefit of the second fan going from 150mm to 120mm, and thus lose a major benefit of the NH-D15. This is my fault, I shouldn't have been so stubborn (I'm very loyal to Noctua lol).
I won't change my rating but in summary:
if your PSU is 160mm, you probably want to use a single HDD
If you want to use the NH-D15, you'll have to make a compromise.
Having said all this, I still love the case.
Pros: Storage potential (8 x 3.5" drive trays + 2 x 5.25" bays)
Ease of assembly
Plenty of "extras"
Cons: Included fans a little noisy
Overall Review: I got this case on sale in late 2013 for $85.99 CDN and haven't looked back since.
I didn't do a standard gamer build (already have my main rig in a Silverstone TJ04-E). This case was bought for a NAS (FreeNAS) build. What sold me was:
# of 3.5" hard drive bays
Cooling for the bays
Fractal Design (already had the Define Mini, and love it)
Price was a bonus, and made it a no-brainer.
While putting together the NAS system, I seriously fell in love with this case and considered using it for my main rig. It's a really easy case to build in, there's plenty of room behind the motherboard for cable management. Fractal goes above and beyond providing you with extra screws etc...
The cooling system is fantastic. Being a Noctua lover, I immediately swapped out the front fan for 2 x PF14 in the front. All 8 hard drive bays are filled, and the temps never exceed 35C on the NAS, even after heavy load.
The included fan controller is a bonus, but I just leave it on the middle setting (Low doesn't push enough air, High is too loud, Medium is JUST RIGHT!!!)
For those looking to OC and use AIO cooling, you have space for 3 x 120mm or 2 x 140mm fans at the top with an easy to use removable filter. The front of the case also includes a removable filter, as well as the bottom (covering PSU/fan mount at the bottom).
You could go totally nuts and build a beast air cooled system, or do the same with AIO liquid cooling. The looks are a little understated, but this actually works for some people. Like most Fractal cases, most of the bays/cages including the 5.25" bays are removable, so the case is flexible to fit your needs, especially if you're looking to maximize airflow.
This case is suited for a gamer/overclock system, and is underrated as a NAS/server system.
Supermicro X9SCM-iif motherboard
Intel Xeon 1230 V2
2 x 8GB Kingston DDR3 1600Mhz ECC RAM
3 x Noctua PF14 140mm case fans
8 x Western Digital Red NAS HDD 3TB
Kingston Datatraveller 8GB USB Flash Drive
Pros: Loaded with features
2 USB ports
Gigabit throughout, including WAN port
Stock firmware is good at this point
Ability to flash to DD WRT, etc...
Cons: Can be pricey
Runs fairly hot
Not as "future proof", i.e. ASUS RT-AC66U
Overall Review: In the process of upgrading a home lab I decided to spring for a decent gateway/router.
Found this on sale and have to say I am thoroughly impressed. I browsed many reviews including the feedback here and I have to say this late in the game, ASUS has gotten their act together and the firmware I received was good enough.
The ability to flash to DDWRT is something I'd like to try down the road but TBH I have the features I need at this point.
I don't leverage the USB (have a NAS for that) except to load the apps the router can run concurrently. e.g. snmp. You can run bit torrent clients, transmission, media servers through dlna, etc... however in my case I have computers to assign these tasks to.
After several months of abuse (I download ALOT), this thing has run rock solid the whole time. If there is one thing that worries me its the fact the unit runs hot... if it's possible I would mount it standing up. Related to this, any USB you leave connected will also be hot. Curious to see how the affects the apps on the USB drive.
Pros: Decent price for Xeon class
Low power usage
Cons: More expensive than faster AMD solution
Overall Review: Xeon class processor at a reasonable price point. This has been running stable in a homelab powering ESXi 5.1 with vCenter. No hiccups.
If you need a faster proc, you will know, and will pay the premium. For testing ESXi, this is simply more than enough. If you're budget constrained, a desktop solution is something to consider. Your primary constraints will be memory and disk I/O in either case.
I have a related review for the Supermicro X9SCM-iif motherboard which is also part of my lab. The price you pay now for server class hardware will pay later, IMO.
Long story short: rock solid, fast enough for my needs, runs cool at low power. An absolute champion when combo'd with the X9SCM-iif and ECC memory (I went with 32GB of Kingston) you'll have a powerful little host.
Pros: IPMI (killer feature including KVM over IP)
2 Onboard Intel NICs
Cons: CPU socket is in "non-standard" location
Automated fan control doesn't seem to work well with low speed/low noise fans
Overall Review: I bought this board for an ESXi build. It exceeded my expectations and was totally worth the wait.
A little more expensive, but you get:
2 Intel NICs onboard
Onboard USB (for the ESXi install)
ECC Memory support
You pay a little more, but you get server grade options.
The BIOS fan control doesn't seem to work with my fans, but I'll let it slide (even though it was listed as a con). I'm using low power/low noise Noctua fans throughout, and my research says the board doesn't expect to be working with fans operating at that speed.
I worked around this issue by using the low noise adapter cables supplied with the fans, works just fine. Won't dock an egg because I'm using an unexpected configuration, so to speak.
It has been rock solid hosting a home lab running 7 VMs concurrently. Nothing crazy, but it's run cool and quiet at low power the whole time.
I had some issues with upgrading the IPMI firmware which turned out to be 100% user error.
I will be buying this board again next year to upgrade my NAS. I'm doing it for the IPMI support alone... the onboard USB, NICs, and ECC memory support are just icing on the cake.