Cougar Evolution Chassis Review

BluePanda - 2012-03-02 23:41:34 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: April 1, 2012
Price: $89.99

Introduction:

The COUGAR brand was originally founded in 2007 by a group of computer enthusiasts and professionals in Germany. Feeling that too many computers had the same square boxes over the years, they wanted a way to provide enthusiasts and gamers with more stylish product concepts and higher quality manufacturing. Today, COUGAR has become a global brand manufacturer, delivering high-performance and high-quality components to the PC market.

Personally, I can’t say I’ve heard much about COUGAR before, hence why I thought I’d share a quick little bio about them with you. They seem to have quite few different components to offer up, ranging from a variety of PSUs, to fans, and some different looking cases. One thing to note, though, orange definitely seems to be their color. From their website to their fans, COUGAR decks out everything in orange and black; they might as well be called Tiger for their color scheme. Anyhow, that’s enough of an intro to COUGAR; today, we’ll be taking a look at one of their most recent creations, the Evolution – an enthusiastic full tower chassis. Let’s dive right into this one and take a closer look – less talk, more pictures!

 

Closer Look:

Okay, so I’m not starting out with the most exciting pictures, and I know many of you will skip right on to the next page without even having read this line, but the box often says a lot about the product. Sometimes, companies clearly spend too much on the box and not on the product; other times, there is a simple box and an excellent product. Sometimes, there’s no correlation at all. Nonetheless, you’re getting the box pictures whether you want them or not.

This box is one of my favorite types; simple, plain, and just brown cardboard with black print. It has nice hand holes to pick up and carry into the house – something a lot of case boxes still don’t have for whatever reason. The front of the box has an inverse drawing of the case itself, along with a large COUGAR logo and “Evolution” written out twice. A nice UPS packing slip covers up the box a little, but having to destroy the box when removing it, you’ll need to use your imagination to “see” the black color beneath.

The back of the box presents a little information about the features of the chassis. There are nice HDD trays compatible with 3.5” and 2.5” drives, support for long (12”) video cards, and an integrated fan speed controller. We also see here – for the first time – the reference to the case as a “midi” tower, which makes it sound smaller than it ought to be. Regardless of this name, it is still officially classified as a full tower chassis. The left and right sides of the box are about identical; you’ll find here another large shipping label on one side and a color denotation panel on the other. The case only comes in black, so I’m not so sure it’s 100% necessary to have the color panel, but perhaps they will plan to market an orange version in the future. Either way, that’s the box; don’t feel so overwhelmed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting open the top of the box, you will find your usual foam caps and cloth chassis-protecting bag inside; not really too much to say about that. I do find this to be the most exciting part of getting any new hardware though; opening it up. Pulling it out of the box and setting the case down, I find the case enclosed in a great packing job and in one piece; just as it should.

 

Closer Look:

Now that the boring pictures and talk are out of the way, we can take a look at the case itself. Like it was shown on the box, there is a honeycomb structure patter on the bay slots and entire front portion of the case. It’s symmetrical and very clean in appearance, with a small COUGAR logo at the very top. Above that, you will see the fan controller knob sitting even in height with the top rails of the case. I expect this case to give lots of air flow from the front to back, especially as I can nearly see through the chassis from the bay slots.

The back of the case is about the same as what you’ll find on any other case. It has the rear 120 mm mounted COUGAR fan, 8 PCI-E slots, PSU bay, and the motherboard I/O plate holder. There is also a handle for the fan filter below the PSU bay, which we’ll take a little closer look at up ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a look at the two sides of the case, you’ll find pretty similar appearances, each held on by thumb screws. The left panel features a window and spot for a 140 mm fan if you want some extra cooling across your GPU. Under it, blue lettering spells out “Evolution”, as if you want to brag about exactly the case you have. I generally prefer cases with few or no logos, so I surely don’t see how this gives me an incentive to buy this chassis over something else. It would be nice to not have the lettering in my opinion. The right panel is pretty much the same; just lacking the window.

 

 

Looking at the top of the case, you can see the fan controller that we previously mentioned. The full I/O panel is complete with 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, a mic jack, headphone jack, an HDD light, and a tiny reset button (you might need a pen for this one). The center of the fan control knob is the case power button. I’m not sure that placement was really thought out, however, by having the power button on something that you may be frequently changing. The left and right of the knob houses buttons to select between controlling fan group A and B, respectively (all the connecting fan cables are marked for grouping). Best of all, these buttons light up; I’ve got a couple shots at the end after everything was hooked up.

 

 

If you were like me, based on the previous pictures, you might have thought that the rubberized COUGAR pad was a nifty little drink holder or pad for placing screws while you are working. Well, you don’t want to be setting a full drink there…it’s actually a trap door for a hot swap bay for an HDD or SSD. Press it down and you will see power and SATA connectors inside. Sliding in your drive, you will find that the rubber helps hold it in place, as well as reduce noise of older HDDs. When it’s not in use, the spring-loaded door closes for a nice streamlined finish.

 

 

From an external perspective, this is a pretty nice looking case. It’s not monstrous in size, but it’s not a tiny shoebox case either. Besides the blue lettering, the outer body has a very nice appearance in my opinion. It’s not too plain and not too over-the-top either. The case features lots of potential for modding and making it your own, or otherwise leaving it as is for a nice subtle look that says, “Look at me” without saying, “I’m the most important thing in this room.”

Closer Look:

Alright, so the outside has my approval, but what does it matter if the innards aren’t worth while? Let’s take a look inside and see if this chassis still gets my liking after getting some hardware in and cooking up the temperatures. Cable work and cooling are two key features that no case can do without, no matter how good it may look.

Inside, you’ve got a 120 mm tiger-orange fan mounted at the rear. Although you can’t see it in these shots, another 120 mm orange fan is mounted up in front of the HDD bays. The typical arrangement of external and internal bays is in order and if you so desire to, you can even remove the HDD cage completely. A hodge-podge of cables is tied up in the external bay area, waiting for some hardware to plug into. There is an extra SATA and Molex connector to power the front docking station – a couple extra cables that shouldn’t be an issue (especially for the added bonus of the docking station).

There doesn’t look to be a lot of room on the backside for cable management, though it’s important to remember the side panel has a nice little convex region to accommodate some extra bulge. Otherwise, there are not a ton of places to be hiding things, other than down by the HDD carrier unless you have 4 drives already mounted there. For me, it involved some typical panel squeezing skill and quick thumbs to get the panel on. Overall, it is no different than your average side panel of cables. I will note, however, that there are no water cooling grommets on the cable pass-through holes. The edges aren’t rough, but it was odd not seeing grommets as they’ve become so standard in cases these days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The external bay drives are held in with the typical plastic clips that seem common to every modern case. I haven’t run an optical drive in a long time nor have I had the need to mount any HDDs in this area in the last few years, but it’s nice to see a somewhat effective standard between companies.

The drive trays for HDDs and SSDs are the best design I’ve come across in some time. A lot of these are made of stiff plastic that involve popping out the metal nubs designed to hold your drive in and even snapping the trays in half. The super flexible ones seem to be too weak and cheap-feeling. There just hasn’t been a happy medium I’ve found…until now. The part with the nub actually slides out, allowing you to set your drive in place and simply pop the nubs in; no more fighting to keep them in place as you try to get the other half of your drive in place. The SSD mounting option is centered so you don’t have to pull out nubs to mount your SSD. (I always seem to lose the nubs once I remove them). Enough said; these are AWESOME!

 

 

Looking at the back of the case from the inside, you can see a closer look at the 120 mm COUGAR fan. If you’ve never seen one before, it’s pretty nifty looking with ribs on the fins and a COUGAR logo in the center. They look like some pretty quality fans; perhaps, this adds to the cost of the case a little, but they may also add to cooling. I guess we shall see if they do.

If you take a look at the motherboard tray from this angle, you will see a little brass pin in the center for holding your board in place. I was pretty happy to see that it wasn’t plastic, like many cases in the past; you’ll find solid brass mounts here. If you also look around at the mounting positions where you might usually screw in risers, you’ll see some raised bumps. With the excessive number of standoffs you are given, don’t let it trick you into thinking you need to screw them into these bumps. Instead they are already the right height to line up with the brass peg. You’ll only actually need a couple of the standoffs; why they give so many, I’m still not sure. If you use them on the bumps your board will be torqued wrong – just think level and you should be good.

 

If you look down by the PSU mount, you’ll see what looks a bit like a small handle. Pull on this and you will find a nice removable fan filter from the bottom of the case. This makes it quick and easy to get rid of any cat hair or other build-ups that your PSU has helped collect down there. These also seem to be becoming standard on cases, but it’s nice to have found one with a nice removing method that isn’t awkward to pull out.

 

 

Looking at the back side still, you might have not noticed before, but there is a raised portion on both the back and the left side panel. It’s a place to lock your closed case and keep people out – though to be honest, if they were going to steal your stuff, they’d probably just take the whole rig. I’ve never been a fan of locks, but I guess it’d be a good way of keeping your parents out of your or even their own case; it keeps them from unplugging things they shouldn’t (though this causes issues for cleaning). I don’t know many people who use locks, but the option is there.

The usual case manual is packed in a bag with extra screws and two 3-way splitters for the fan controller. However the controller only supports 1 amp for each of the two channels, which gives you a total of 12 W to work with – probably best for case fan cooling (just something to consider when hooking things up). A few zip ties are included to help you route cables and a couple of hard plastic grommets are there to put in the back for water tube routing.

 

 

Getting everything in wasn’t much of a hassle; you just have to be a little careful with cable routing, just as with many smaller cases. If you are used to larger full tower cases like the HAF 932 or CM Storm Trooper, then you might be a little disappointed with the space you have to work with. I wouldn’t really call the Evolution a full tower case; it might accomplish the dimensions to be called a full tower, but I think it really should be considered a mid-tower. Size is something to consider when you are looking to buy this one – it’s quite a bit smaller than most full tower caliber chassis.

 

While I had it plugged in, I grabbed a couple shots of the fan controller to give you an idea of how it works out. If you press the power button and turn on your rig, the lighting around the button lights up in blue. It stays blue unless you change fan speeds. In that case, pressing the left button for group A fans changes the color to green. The color dims or brightens with reduced or increased fan speeds respectively. As an infinite nob that spins with no stops, the light will flash when you reach either minimum or maximum fan speeds. Leaving it alone when you are done making adjustments and it will go back to its standby blue color in about 5 seconds. The group B control works the same, though with green lighting. It’s a pretty nifty little thing; just be careful not to accidentally power down your rig with the big power button in the center.

 

Specifications:

 

Case Type:
Full Tower
Motherboard Types:
Micro ATX / ATX
Dimensions:
223(W) x 514(H) x 523(D) mm
Color:
Black
External 5.25” Bays:
6
External 3.5” Bays:
1 converted from 5.25”
Internal 3.5” Bays:
4
Internal 2.5” Bays:
4 converted from 3.5” trays
External 5.25”/3.25” Bay:
1
Expansion Slots:
8
I/O Panel
USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, Mic, Audio
5.25” Screwless Mechanism:
6
Fan Speed Control System:
Control up to 6 fans
Max VGA Length:
305 mm

 

Cooling:

 

Features:

 

 

All information provided by: http://www.cougar-world.com/products/pc_case/evolution.html

 

Testing:

Testing the COUGAR Evolution required pushing my hardware to heat things up. Testing involved recording temperatures for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and overall system during idle and load phases. Load was simulated by running Prime95’s small FFTs, HD Tune, and 3Dmark Vantage for one hour. The maximum temperatures were recorded using HW Monitor. It is important to note that each case is tested from its factory setup, including location of included fans, unless otherwise noted.

Lucky for you, I’ve got plenty of chassis’ here for review, so expect to be seeing some more results for comparison over the next few weeks. New hardware always puts a damper on the number of comparable results for a short time.

 

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:

 

Results:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall performance was about average. Idle temps were consistently a smidge higher than the other comparison cases and the chipset was noticeably warmer at idle as well. I’m not really sure what contributed to these higher temperatures, as the case body isn’t much different than the others. Either way, it didn’t perform significantly well or poor; it was on par with other cases in its category, which is a positive. At this point now, it’s a matter of a degree or two and the comparison of appearance with competing cases.

Conclusion:

Overall, I didn’t love this case, but I didn’t hate it either. It left me right in the middle of plenty other cases that I’ve previously reviewed. However, it does have a hot swap bay available right on top, as I like. I’ve mentioned it time and time again; it’s just a nice feature that really adds to any chassis. It makes life so much easier from time to time and really doesn’t take up any extra build space. The fan controller is nifty, but its function falls short in my opinion. The power button being where it is and the flashy lights made it awkward and gave me no real feel of where the group A set of fans was, in comparison to that of group B. Additionally, it would be nice to be able to set the two at the exact same speeds (not just by having both maxed or both minimized).

The Evolution is a nice affordable case at its price and makes for a nice build when compared to other cases at this price. The docking station and fan controller put it ahead of some higher cost cases, but its size and execution of the fan controller hold it back a little in my opinion. I feel that it isn’t quite the full size case many of you associate with a full tower, so when they say midi size, think just like midi files, smaller. In any case, it’s a good buy and a great way to spice up a low-end gaming build.

 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: