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"Skylake Evolv ITX Classified" (ASUS Z170i Pro Gaming)

Level 8

This is my first home PC build, completed in the middle of March 2016. I think the Phanteks' Enthoo Evolv ITX windowed chassis is a very sexy looking mini-ITX case. It's not too small yet not too big. It has plenty of room for both tall custom graphics cards and CPU coolers. It also has some very nice features found in more expensive cases being very well made and looks fantastic. I decided to improve case airflow out of the box by adding a rear 140mm exhaust fan and replaced the stock 200mm intake fan with dual 140mm fans. I was worried the front panel might have to be modified with extra air vents, but found it wasn't an issue for me at all.

I like an air-cooled system using a large performance CPU heatsink cooler that doesn't block tall RAM modules. Thermalright's Silver Arrow ITX was a perfect fit in this regard. Its universal mounting system allows for 3-5mm of horizontal wiggle room next to installed RAM. It's also been ASUS ROG certified, originally designed for their premium Maximus Impact series of ITX motherboards. I had no issues mounting this to my beautiful ASUS Z170i Pro Gaming motherboard, although it's a shame the cooler hides almost all of it, except for the pretty heat spreader fins of my stylish G.Skill TridentZ DDR4 memory modules rising up tall and proud.

By request Thermalright sent me their new special LGA1151 CPU Support Spacer (and 4 Special Mounting Nut Washers) free of charge. Even though no Thermalright coolers were involved, it's a voluntary proactive measure by them after reports by some showing Intel's thinner Skylake processor PCB bending at the corners due to excessive cooler mounting screw pressure or pre-built system shipping vibration damage. Thermalright recommends their free support spacer for any of their coolers weighing over 500g. Their beefy Silver Arrow ITX cooler weighs in at 700g and includes a red 'ROG' style TY-149 fan weighing 170g. They are not required but I felt like not taking any chances since it was the first time I ever mounted an aftermarket CPU cooler.

Product case badges are cool but I didn't want to use them as normal stickers on my case. Instead I came up with the idea to make movable magnetic case badges. A roll of 1" wide magnetic tape cut to size did the trick. Right now they occupy the rather empty space next to the rubber cable grommets. I also removed the unused mid-plate Phanteks logo (gently peeled away using a plastic bread bag clip) and made a magnetic case badge out of it too!

To avoid heavy GPU sag that typically occurs, I planned ahead and made myself a DIY standoff by cutting down a stiff plastic 2.1mm power connector strain relief cone. I inserted it through one of the PSU shroud holes where acts as a sturdy support column between the PSU and GPU cooler shroud. My massive EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified Gaming ACX 2.0+ graphics card sits perfectly level and will never sag. This also insures plenty of intake airflow to the dual 100mm ACX cooling fans. One thing that I wish they would have done was make the large EVGA logo LED lit through the backplate. 😉

I think the Phanteks 140mm fans are very good. They use a very similar airfoil design like Noctua's blades. Mine seem very quiet. I have one in the rear as exhaust and two up front for intakes, replacing the stock 200mm fan. My temps have been great even though my living room gets in the upper 70's F in the Summer. Check out the complete parts list on my PCPartPicker ( page.

I'll be using my new PC for FPS gaming playing DOOM (2016), multimedia editing, and productivity purposes. I manually XMP overclocked my i7-6700K to 4.5 GHz at 1.28V, Core/Cache Limit Max to 255.50, Min/Max Cache Ratios to 41, LLC to Level 5, and enabled Core Voltage Adaptive Mode. The XMP profile in the ASUS Z170i UEFI BIOS clocked my G.Skill DDR4 TridentZ memory to its rated 3200 MHz speed. After much Maxon CineBench benchmarking and ASUS RealBench stress testing, the 12% CPU performance increase is a good 24/7 overclock using adaptive voltage so I'm happy with it.

The ASUS Z170-based Pro Gaming series motherboards are really great and could be thought of as a 'Pseudo-ROG' (Republic of Gamers) board due to it's high end feature set, overclocking performance, and beautiful styling - but at a much lower cost. Their Z170i Pro Gaming version doesn't disappoint with its 4-Phase power delivery and VRM heatsinks, making it great for overclocking. While testing I got as high as 4.7 GHz at 1.35V, but instead I went with a respectful 4.5 GHz since I was able to get stable stress test passes at a much lower 1.28V.

Even though I used the EVGA 650W SuperNova G2 modular power supply there was still a lot of cable routing to contend with. The Phanteks Evolv ITX case gave me plenty of room for cable management behind the motherboard tray.

While building, because I had to use a fan cable splitter for the bottom fan header on my ASUS Z170i Pro Gaming motherboard next to the PCIe slot to power the 2 front fans, I elected to install the dual 140mm fans in the front. I didn't test with the 200mm stock fan because I already bought a set of three Phanteks 140mm fans for my system cooling and was eager to get my system done. The two 140mm fans pull more air in than the single 200mm fan and I wanted to insure that my GPU got most of the lower fan airflow. I was worried about the front case panel air gaps but they proved to be sufficient and no need to modify with extra opening like I was expecting to do. It's fine as is and I like the clean look.

One word of advice though. To remove the stock 200mm intake fan (unless you want to snip the cable) you have to remove the Evolv ITX roof panel to fish out the cable. There is a plastic tie strap in a cable bundle that you have to cut so you can't just pull it through. Also, I only have the bottom HDD tray populated with my data drive so the top tray just acts as a GPU power cable shelf and lets air flow around it to the HDD and GPU. My SSD boot drive is mounted on the back wall bracket.

To finish I added some PC lighting bling with a BitFenix Alchemy 2.0 Red Magnetic LED Strip. It really sets it off and looks better in person than in my photographs. Oh and want to cut down on dust sticking to the inside of your case window? Wipe it off with some Monster ScreenClean! It's a great safe non-alcohol display LCD cleaner you can find online or wherever big screen TV's are sold.

I'm not using the included ASUS WiFi antenna on top even though it's attached for show, but WiFi is currently disabled. It was only used during the initial Windows 10 setup for Ethernet adapter driver downloads in order for me to be direct connect wired to my Internet cable router.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

ASUS RealBench Benchmark scores: Image Editing: 198532 Time: 25.628, Encoding: 180939 Time: 52.99, OpenCL: 100032 KSamples/sec: 2612, Heavy Multitasking: 184933 Time: 52.884, System Score: 146102 (CPUID HWMonitor: 4.5 GHz @ 1.28V, 88.43W, 71c Max Load)

CineBench CPU score: 997cb

ASUS RealBench 15min StressTest: Passed (CPUID HWMonitor: 4.5 GHz @ 1.28V, 83.73W, 79c Max Load)

3DMark Fire Strike: 16,723 (June 2016 @76 F ambient room temp) -

3DMark 11: 20,809 (June 2016 @76 F ambient room temp) -