Monday, 28 October 2013

The BitFenix Shinobi XL: Massive potential, not such massive abilities (Review)

Today I'll be giving my opinions on BitFenix's Shinobi XL - an enlarged version of the popular Shinobi. The Shinobi XL is currently available for £129.99 at the time of reviewing (http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=CA-076-BX).


Exterior


When you see the case for the first time, it does provide a bit of a shock. The sheer size of the thing is unbelievable - especially considering I had got myself used to the CM Storm Scout I was using last. 

The design is very similar to the original Shinobi - one of BitFenix's most popular enclosures. It features mesh strips which run along the front and top of the case and the BitFenix logo at the front of the case. Both the strips and badge are available in different colours from most established PC hardware stores - I got mine in Red from OverclockersUK. 

The front and top of the case is coated in BitFenix's signature 'SofTouch' surface treatment. This gives the case a much more premium feel than many I've used. Be careful though - I've found that the surface may be easy to scratch due to the unique texture of the coating.

In terms of ports you get four USB3.0 ports and a 'SuperCharge' port, as well as the standard Audio input and output ports. 'The SuperCharge' port is basically a standard USB slot that, instead of being connected to the USB ports on the motherboard, is connected to a SATA cable from the power supply. It's designed with the purpose of charging your electronic devices much faster than the standard USB slots, at the sacrifice of data transfer in its entirety. The power button is sturdy, and, although difficult to depress with my sausage fingers, the Reset button is a welcome low profile addition.

Moving to the side of the case we find the party piece of the selected case - a large acrylic window that isn't tinted - allowing you to easily see your system.



Interior


The case is called the Shinobi XL for exactly that reason - it's extra large! With full XL-ATX motherboard support it's unlikely you'll ever need more space than this in a case. 

The case possesses 5x 5.25" drive bays and the removable 3.5" drive cage houses 7 bays for storage drives. There is an adapter included that allows you to both fit a 3.5" bay device and use a 5.25" bay for a 2.5" or 3.5" storage device, should 
you want to completely remove the drive cage for better case airflow.

The case also features a good number of cable management holes, of which all are fitted with rubber grommets. I much prefer cable management with grommets, as they aid the pursuit of a cleaner, more refined look. On the subject of cable management, it's an absolute doddle in this case. With 32mm of space behind the motherboard tray, I was able to hide every last cable from my non-modular 850W PSU behind it, once again helping with case airflow.

In terms of cooling, you get three fans with the case - a 230mm at the front, a 230mm at the top and a 120mm fan at the rear of the case. This is promising, until you remember that there is no front mesh, just two mesh strips for the fan to draw air in through. This is very restrictive, and due to the low static pressure of the 230mm fan the airflow is barely noticeable if you put your hand in front of it - even at full speed. BitFenix claim that the 120mm fan can throw 43.5 CFM of air at <20 dB-A, although I feel this may, as usual with manufacturers claims, be a little exaggerated. I also feel that the same is the case with their 230mm fan, which apparently is capable of passing 97.8 CFM of air at <20 dB-A.

The case itself is capable of taking a 360 Radiator at the top and a 360 radiator at the front - although be wary! Installing a 360 radiator at the top will mean the top 5.25" drive bay is blocked, and the installation of the 360 radiator at the front depends on the bottom blanking plate for fitting - so be careful not to snap it off.

If you want silent cooling, this case isn't for you in its standard form. No integrated fan controller means that you either put up with the fans at full speed or fork out another £20 for a fan controller. If you choose to stick with the standard fans and no controller, you'll be subjected to a very noticeable noise level. If you choose to go with a fan controller, you'll be blessed with the ability to control the noise levels, but you'll be sacrificing airflow. If you do choose to go with a fan controller, I hold the NZXT Sentry Mix 2* in very high regard 
(review soon).

In terms of fixing the complete lack of airflow coming from the front of the case, the best thing to do would be to bag yourself a pair of Yate Loon D12SL-12** fans for £5 each and replace the front fan with those. The increased static pressure will mean they can draw the air through the restricted passage a little easier.



Conclusion

The Shinobi XL is a brilliant piece of kit - there's no doubting that. However, I can't give it full marks simply due to the cooling inefficiencies at the front of the case and the lack of an integrated fan controller. Although it kept my system cool, the fans were clearly audible, so I had to fork out £25 for a new fan controller - worth it, but I shouldn't have had to buy a separate one. I loved the design, but if that wasn't important for me I most likely would have gone for the NZXT Switch 810.

Scores:
Exterior: 9/10
Interior: 9/10
Cooling: 6/10

HardwarePilot score: 24/30 (80%)

Finished Build:




*NZXT Sentry Mix 2 Fan Controller: 
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=BB-002-NX&tool=3

**Yate Loon D12SL-12 120mm Fan:
http://www.watercoolinguk.co.uk/p/Yate-Loon-120mm-D12SL-12-1350-RPM_239.html


I hope you enjoyed reading this review. Please take a look around my blog, and I'll be posting more reviews soon!

Regards
Luke

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