Cougar Evolution Chassis Review

While Cougar is a well-known manufacturer of Power Supplies, you may have not yet seen many Cougar Chassis’ on the market. Currently they have five models to purchase; the Cougar Solution, Volant, 6XR9, Evolution and the Evolution Galaxy.  The Cougar Evolution Chassis was released at the end of last year and is trying to cram in many features into a fairly small case. While it classes itself as a ‘Full Tower ATX case’ it is more in the league of a mid tower and in fact is no bigger than the CM 690 II chassis.
While it may look very similar to several other cases on the market Cougar have crammed many features into this case. For instance, the dual- fan controller has the ability to control up to 6 fans via two separate channels, one for intake and one for exhaust. This is something you rarely see included with a case, although it is a very useful feature.
On top of this, Cougar have fitted 2xUSB 3.0 ports via a motherboard header while including space for seven fans, two of which can be 140mm.
Specifications:
Case Type
Full Tower
Motherboard Type Micro ATX / ATX
Dimensions 223(W) x 514(H) x 523(D)
Available Color Black
External  5.25″ Drive Bays 6
External  3.5″ Drive Bays 1(Converted from 5.25” bay)
Internal 3.5″ HDD Trays 4
Internal 2.5″ HDD/SDD Trays 4(Installed from 3.5” HDD tray)
External 5.25”&3.5” Hotswap Device 1
Expansion Slots 8
I/O Panel USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2
MIC x 1, Audio x 1
5.25″  Screw-less Mechanism 6
Fan Speed Control System Dual-way (Total control:6pcs fans)
Cooling
System

Max installed : 7pcs fans
Front 120mm Fan x 2
Top 120mm Fan x 2
Rear 120mm Fan x 1
Bottom 120/140mm Fan x 1
Left side 140mm Fan x 1
Bottom Fan Filter 1
Rear Water Cooling Hole 2
Maximum VGA Length
305mm
The Cougar Evolution case is packaged in a thick black cardboard box with a very large product image on the front. The theme is simple but very clear.
The back of the box shows some of the key features of the Evolution model, using several diagrams.
The case is protected between two large Styrofoam blocks on either side and a fabric protective wrap to keep the case from getting scratched or damaged.
Removing all of the packaging and looking at the left-hand side of the case, we can see it has a fairly sleek look with the addition of the bright blue model name, ‘Evolution’ written across the lower side of the case. The window has a slightly chunky design, but does have space for a huge 140mm intake fan.
As I said earlier the front of the case reminds me a bit of the CM 690 II, mainly due to the mesh design, however Cougar have used a large plastic grill on top of the mesh.
The top of the case has a few more special features when compared to similar cases. Cougar have incorporated a 2.5″/3.5″ SATA dock on top of the case and a dual-fan controller. There is also plenty of space to fit 2 x 120mm fans across the top.
The top of the Cougar Evolution case with a dual-fan controller, this incorporates the start button. There is also 2 x USB 3.0 and 2 x USB 2.0 ports, a headphone and microphone socket and a reset switch.
The bottom of the case  has two ridges which each have two rubber feet. The underside of the case is raised off the ground allowing a high level of airflow inside the case. Additionally, there are dust filters on the bottom, which slide off from the rear.
The back of the case is fairly standard for a bottom-mounted PSU design, as it features two push-out holes for water-cooling pipes as well as space for 8 PCI cards. The Cougar Evolution comes fitted with a 120mm exhaust fan at the back as standard.
Cougar have included a 3.5″ to 5.25″ bay adapter allowing you to use card readers or even floppy disk drives in the 5.25″ bays.
As you’d expect with any case, there is a selection of screws, however Cougar have also included two fan controller cables which each have three fan sockets, giving you a total of six fans.
Cougar have included a well written, illustrated user guide. Useful for building the system.
Taking one side of the case off, we can see the inside maintains the matt black theme and is fairly spacious.
The bottom of the case has space for the power supply and a 120/140 mm fan.
The hard drive mounting system is a series of trays which can be easily removed just by squeezing the ends into the middle and pulling the tray out.
There is, however, only space for 5 x 3.5″/2.5″ HDD’s, but this should be enough for most users demands.
The trays themselves are a very simple design with four pins that push into the side of the 3.5″ drives, locking in place. If you are using a 2.5″ SSD for instance, you will have to screw the SSD down in the holes provided.
While there are only 5 x 3.5″ bays, there are 6 x 5.25″ bays, which is plenty. Cougar have adopted a system very similar to other cases on the market which involves a screwless locking mechanism and only requires one side to be locked in place.
Moving to the back of the case, we can see that there is a large CPU cut-out which allows plenty of working space when installing a new motherboard backplate for a new CPU cooler.
There is also a bright 120mm orange fan included, but two more 120mm fans could be fitted into the top of the case.
Removing the other side of the case we can see that Cougar have kept it all fairly simple, there are several holes in and around the motherboard tray to aid with routing cables neatly. They have however adopted a sloped motherboard tray, meaning the gap between the side of the case and the motherboard tray in the middle is a lot less than at the back. This may cause a few problems with power supply cables for instance.
While Cougar haven’t included any locking mechanisms for the 5.25″ bays on this side of the case (as you shouldn’t need them) you could still revert to the old fashioned method of screwing the drives in. The locking mechanism is designed to hold the drive tightly enough that it shouldn’t be necessary to secure the drives from the other side.
Taking the front of the case off was a bit fiddly as it was quite stiff, but after some gentle levering, we were left with a very bare bone chassis. Two 120mm fans can be fitted to the front of this case, although the top one does of course block several of the 5.25″ bays.
The top fan is included from Cougar, and has a decent dust filter fitted. It is possible to also move this higher up the front of the case.
The bottom fan mount looks a bit out of place and doesn’t even have a proper dust filter – although the front of the case does. Unfortunately due to the mounting design it is not possible to fit a 140mm fan which is a bit of a shame considering there is plenty of physical space.
First off, we install the Akasa Venom 750W Modular Power Supply.
We then installed our motherboard with no problems at all, as there was plenty of space around the motherboard tray.
We then installed the Akasa Venom Voodoo CPU Cooler and as you can see there is limited space at the top of the case and we would struggle to fit in at least one of the 120mm fans on top.
The mounting system for the 3.5″ bays is fairly simple, and involves just clipping our 3.5″ drives into place and sliding back the tray in. With a 2.5″ SSD however you will have to get a screwdriver out to screw it in place. That said, it is a simple method for mounting both 2.5″ and 3.5″ within the same tray system.
We installed the SSD first, but as you can see the trays are quite ‘bendy’ without much weight placed on them.
We then installed 2 x 1TB 3.5″ drives, which was extremely straightforward.
Today’s test system will give us a good idea of how well this case works in terms of thermal and acoustic performance.
Processor: AMD Phenom X4 965 Black Edition @ 3.9 GHz.
Motherboard: ASUS M4A785TD- M Evo
Cooler: Akasa Venom Voodoo CPU Cooler
Memory: 4GB Corsair DDR3 1600MHz
Graphics Cards: AMD Radeon 6450 HD (GPU @ 850 MHZ, Memory Clock @ 1000 MHz)
Power Supply: Akasa Venom Power 750W
Boot Drive: OCZ Vertex II 60GB SSD (OS only)
OS: Windows 7 Home Edition 64bit
Digital Sound Level Noise Decibel Meter Style 2
Firstly, we are using the stock fan configuration, which includes 1 intake fan, and 1 exhaust fan as well as the power supply intake and exhaust. In total, a further 5 fans could be fitted.

There is certainly nothing wrong with these temperatures and the case seems to be very efficient, which is mainly due to the huge 140mm grill on the the left-hand side of the case. Even without installing a fan this acts as a massive air intake vent. This, coupled with the Akasa Venom Voodoo and dual case fans results in good performance.
Today to test this chassis we have set our Digital Sound Level Noise Decibel Meter Style 2 one meter away from the case. The room rates as 22dBa before powering on the system.
We then removed the discrete graphics card, and temporarily turned the two Akasa Venom Voodoo fans off. This leaves us with only the included case fans and very little noise from the power supply fan.
As this can be a little confusing for people, here are various dBa ratings in with real world situations to help describe the various levels.
KitGuru noise guide
10dBA - Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA – High Quality Computer fan
40dBA – A Bubbling Brook, or a Refrigerator
50dBA - Normal Conversation
60dBA - Laughter
70dBA - Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA - City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA - Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA - MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA - Orchestra
120dBA - Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA - Threshold of Pain
140dBA - Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA - Instant Perforation of eardrum
As the Cougar Evolution includes a fan controller we first set both intake and exhaust to the maximum settings and then the minimum settings to record two different sound level readings.

While you can hardly feel the difference between the two extremes of the fans’ speeds, the difference in the sound level is certainly noticeable. However, even at full speed these two fans are fairly quiet.
The Cougar Evolution Chassis is a commendable design and we encountered no problems during the installation and testing procedure.
The Evolution offers a long list of features in a chassis that is the size of any other mid tower case. While I was initially dubious about the fan controller, it is unbelievably simple to use and has upgrade potential, especially if you were to fit some nice Scythe, Phanteks or Noctua fans.
The fan controller offers a large amount of control over the speed for intake and exhaust fans, but, unfortunately, you can’t turn either of the fan channels off completely. You also have no idea as to what speeds they are running at, and the corresponding temperature within the case.
From the outside the case looks reasonably attractive. It is certainly not stunning but does have a powerful presence within the room due to the large grill covering the case. The side window section also means that the user can showcase components and watercooling features, and it would look rather attractive with a large array of lighting or led fans.
The top of the case with the fan controller and hard drive mount is very streamlined and well designed. As the USB ports are on top it is easier to keep the cables tidy and you are less likely to trip over them as they aren’t lying in front of the case.
It isn’t a perfect design and there are some faults we need to mention. For instance, the 3.5″ tray design is simple, but it is a little flimsy. It is also extremely difficult to remove a tray once a large 3.5″ drive has been installed as it doesn’t allow the front clips to flex far enough to clear the chassis.
My other main issue is a lack of space behind the motherboard tray in the center, which is exactly where I want to have several large power supply cables running to power both the motherboard and other components. Unfortunately I had to get a little more inventive with my cable routing to allow the side of the case to close.
Turning to the ‘out of  the box’ performance, we were pleasantly surprised that with only two fans installed we achieved good thermal results, even when running our hot AMD Phenom II Quad-Core 965 overclocked at 4.0 GHz.
It is testament to the case that the motherboard temperature held steady even when the processor and graphics were both under huge load. The case is basically a huge grill and as such delivers massive levels of airflow. If you add a further give fans then the cooling would cope with high end components, however we expect the acoustic performance to be compromised considerably.
While the acoustic performance is excellent ‘out of box’ this will rise quickly with a high powered graphics card or additional case fans installed, as the chassis design offers minimal sound proofing. That said, including the fan controller does mean that this is less of a worry, and you could quite easily install seven low noise fans for a more balanced approach. Cougar have given you the choice between performance and noise, and we can’t ask for much more than that.
Currently the price of this case is an impressive $89.99 which certainly makes it extremely good value for money. We have no UK retailers as yet.
Pros
  • Dual-fan controller.
  • Huge cooling potential with 7 fans.
  • USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 on front of case.
  • Very good value for money.
  • Well built and sturdy.
Cons
  • 3.5″ trays are thin and flimsy.
  • Case is not the quietest.
  • Limited space behind motherboard tray.
  • Only space for 5*3.5/2.5″ drives.
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