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October 07, 2013

Unboxing & Review: BitFenix Shinobi XL White

BitFenix Shinobi XL White – Window Version

BitFenix is one of the newer brands in Malaysia as opposed to the likes of Cooler Master and Silverstone but already it has churned up quite a storm, among PC enthusiast starting with their well-known Colossus that brought a new ‘facelift’ to the chassis market. Since then, BitFenix now offers a wide range of accessories such as their Alchemy™ sleeved cable extensions, Spectre™ chassis fans, Alchemy™ LED strip chassis lighting, fan controllers, 5.25” bay adaptors and many more that compliments each other for users like you & I to customize our personal builds.

Today, I have a detailed unboxing and review of the White Shinobi XL - Window version, courtesy of BitFenix that I picked up from the good people in A.P.E.S. This is the “big-brother” of the original Shinobi that showed us how a high quality chassis can also be affordable. The Shinobi XL is the second full-tower chassis from BitFenix (the first being the Colossus) that has supports for dual 360mm radiators   which will keep our enthusiastic water-cooling brothers and sisters happy looking at HWMonitor. You could also stick to air cooling in this chassis should you prefer and as a bonus, there is no cause to worry about the clearance from the side panel like most mid-tower chassis, believe me, it’s kinda hard to find a cooler that’s’ 181mm in height.

Just a friendly reminder to those who are driving a compact car to not bring passengers in the back seat as the chassis is indeed huge and require a little more than half of my passenger seats of the Proton Wira I'm driving in.

Unboxing




Unlike my previous CM690II Advanced, the Shinobi XL came in a brown box instead of a glossy-pictured surface. The BitFenix logo dominates the front side and from the sticker, already you can see that I have the windowed version here.




The opposite side of the box has an illustration of the Shinobi XL along with some description of the main features of the chassis, we’ll get to that later so hold your horses.




Nothing much on the sides and top of the box except for more illustration of the chassis and we can see the specs of the chassis on one side letting us take a good measure of our PC table before purchasing.








It is only when I opened the box that I know that I have a White Shinobi XL, this sure is a pleasant surprise as the white hue really is refreshing compared to the black colour most chassis these days come in. One strange thing is that the manual belongs to a BitFenix Outlaw chassis. I don’t mind this as I don’t think a missing manual will affect me, having done a few builds on my own, but I do hope the one buying the outlaw knows his/her way around the upside-down orientation of the outlaw with an XL chassis manual


The high-density packaging foam feels flexible and IMHO provides better protection compared to the hard Styrofoam type that cracks and shatters if too much force is applied, and as with any packaged chassis, wrapped in plastic to prevent scratches during transport. This gives a better sense of security especially that if you’re ordering it through the local mail. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t particularly trust the local mailman in Malaysia to be gentle with a package this big.

Voila! Out of the box in pristine condition. Ain’t she a beauty?


The Exterior
The front bezel has a very clean design and it feels uniquely different with the SoftTouch™ surface treatment from BitFenix. Here we can see the 5 exposed 5.25” drive bays, a BitFenix logo (I would’ve expected brushed aluminum but black will do I guess), and the meshed intakes at the side that supply to the 230mm Spectre™ fan hiding behind the bezel. There are also ventilation holes at the bottom of the front bezel which you can see when we take a look at the bottom view in a while.

The front bezel can be easily removed by tugging at the bottom, I had to pull a bit harder to take it off but it is a new chassis we have here  no wires are connected to the front bezel. Inside we find the perforated intakes for the 230mm Spectre fan™ with an easily removable meshed dust filter. You could also swap the 230mm Spectre™ fan for the optional triple 120mm fan intake setup should you wish to mount a 360mm radiator. You do have to remove the 230mm fan before doing so though, but the good people at BitFenix have designed the 5.25” with an opening to allow 360mm radiators to protrude through so not cutting and drilling is necessary.



The top cover also receives the same SoftTouch™ surface treatment. Here you can see a big meshed surface for exhaust (under which another Spectre™ 230mm fan is mounted), the continuous ventilated meshed strip to the front bezel and the i/o ports.


Here is a close-up of the i/o ports where we can see the SuperCharge™ port (in yellow), 4 (yes FOUR) super-speed USB3.0 ports, microphone and headphone jacks as well as the power and recessed-reset button (prevents you from accidentally pressing it). The SuperCharge™ port allows charging of devices up to 5 times quicker than USB2.0 ports, to achieve this it supplies up to 2.5A of current through a Sata power connector instead of 1.5A that of USB2.0. However, this port is not for data transmissions so don’t expect to transfer any files from your portable hard drives from here so use the USB3.0 ports instead.


Removing the top panel is easily done by tugging at the back. Honeycomb mesh dominates most of the surface where you can see that a 230mm Spectre™ fan is already included. You could mount another 230mm fan there as well or 3x 120mm fans, which means a 360mm radiator mount without having to modify anything. The i/o cables is attached to the panel so do take care not to pull too hard to avoid damaging the connectors.

Instead of the SoftTouch™ treatment, the side panel is powder coated, but BitFenix did a great job with the white colour as it blends nicely with the front and top bezels I can’t even distinguish the surface type without touching the chassis. This model has a huge window on the left side allowing you to show the innards of your rig without having to open the side panel, perfect for those who wish to show off the aesthetics of their high-end setups. The right side panel is plain but windowed or not, these side panels are solid and don’t have much flex to them. I have seen chassis that has side panels so flimsy and boy were they a pain as they rattle and contributed to the noise of the system.


 Oh and I do like the thumbscrews securing the side panels, adds a feel of quality to them, just perfect.

 


At the back of the chassis, we have 4 rubber-grommet holes for water-cooling and/or wire pass troughs, an exhaust where a 120mm Spectre™ fan is currently mounted, an i/o shield slot, 9 ventilated expansion slots (every chassis should come with these IMHO) and a PSU mount at the bottom. Just to highlight once again that there are 4 of those nice thumbscrews shown earlier holding the side panels.



At the bottom of the Shinobi XL are filtered intakes for the PSU and bottom mounted fans as well as the ventilation hole for the front 230mm Spectre™ fan. The filter on the PSU intake is easily removable by sliding it out from behind the chassis so keep in mind on the placement of the chassis should you wish to clean that filter often. I would have thought the dual 120mm filters are magnetic but they are attached with screw-like pegs which are only removable from the inside of the chassis. This kinda kills the thought of placing intake fans at the bottom.



The 4 soft rubber feet has a premium feel and look to it and is removable with a standard Philips screwdriver should you fancy to replace them with something different  .



The Interior

Now to look at the inner being of this bad boy. First thing I noticed when I popped out the side panel is that the interior is spacious indeed. You could see the included fans that I was talking about. These fans feature the same Fluid Dynamic Bearings and through my own experience, are one of the most reliable next to the classic ball bearings type of fans. The rubber grommets and the tool-less mechanisms as well as the black cables compliments the white interior nicely.


The accessories that come with the Shinobi XL consist of a 5.25" to 3.5" adapter for your smaller front panel devices such as a card reader, 10x cable ties, 5 cable management clips that stick to wherever you want to, a motherboard speaker and a small bag of 3.5" screws, risers, fan screws, fan filter in the floor screws, PSU screws, 2.5" drive screws and a socket to aid in riser installation.





Tracing around the interior with my hand, I could feel no sharp edges, not at the sides, not where the cutout for the CPU cooler retention is, and not even under the soft rubber gromets! The workmanship is just sublime. At the middle you’d find the standoff legend etched to the motherboard tray. I like this compared to some that has them on the manual which most of us tend misplace after a while. Oh did I mention that the Shinobi XL supports XL-Atx and E-Atx motherboards as well?


At the back of the motherboard tray, we can see that there are lots of cable management options available. Aside from the clips provided in the accessories box, there are also punch outs for the cable ties to attach to.. and get this.. the space between the mobo tray with the side panel is about 3cm! Hiding that fat 24-pin cable most of us cram behind the HDDs is no longer a problem.



The tool-less mechanism for the 5,25” bays are well designed and is present on both sides of the bays, you could also use the included screws to further secure your 5.25” bay devices should you find the mounting mechanism insufficient. Note that there is a cable routing hole at the top of the mounting mechanisms. This is particularly useful to route wires to CCFL or LED strips and probably water-cooling loops as well, nicely done BitFenix   . Inside is where the opening for the 360mm radiator can be seen.





The HDD sleds are somewhat similar to the ones present in most modern chassis and supports 2.5” Drives as well. The FlexCage™ system allows you to rotate the HDD cage 90 degrees or remove it altogether should you desire but I wish that it would be easier as you’d have to remove a few screws from around and under the HDD cage to do so. But you’d have to if you’re thinking placing a radiator there








The 9 ventilated expansion slots are secured with basic black thumbscrews. PSU mount is supported by 4 soft rubber stands which should isolate any vibrations coming from the PSU. Rubber grommets on the cable routing cutouts adds to the internal aesthetics of the chassis. And here is another shot of the 120mm and 230mm Spectre™ exhaust fans at the top and back of the Shinobi XLI can see and feel that everything is well thought out and so far, I’m impressed
 
The internal connectors consist of a Sata power connector for the SuperCharge™ port, Dual USB3.0 internal connectors, Front Panel Audio and connectors for the On/Off Button, Reset button, HDD activity LED and Power LED. The USB3.0 connectors are wired to connect to USB2.0 headers as well in case you do not have a USB3.0 enabled motherboard like myself... so that the ports at the top is still useable albeit it being USB2.0 speed.

So now we need to get from this…


To this!


Oh it’s done? Hmm haven’t noticed really… maybe it’s because of the ease of use and less cramming of cables that the Shinobi XL offers. I know, I know.. the cable management is not done properly but I’d like to see anyone try migrating hardware in less than 40 minutes and do cable management. As you can see, my system is dwarfed inside the chassis… it does make it harder to hide the cables as the motherboard tray is white but BitFenix do offer Alchemy™ Sleeved cable extensions (like the 24-pin that I have   ) to enhance the outlook of the system. Thanks to the dual 230mm fans, the rig is operating at lower noise... well the CM690II does have a total of 9 fans in it so I guess that leaves the temperature test to determine if this setup affects the temperatures.

Temperature Comparison
Anyway I did some basic temp recording of the components in the CM690II to compare with the same setup in the Shinobi XL. Bear in mind that the HWMonitor readings are done in a small, non-air-conditioned room at night in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) weather (yes with side panels closed). The CM690II might have an advantage here having been tweaked for maximum airflow with 9 fans but we’ll let the results speak for themselves won’t we?

These are the components that are currently running in my system:
AMD PhenomII x3 710 (cooled by a Cooler Master Hyper 212+ on AC F12 Pro & AC F12)
Asus M4A785TD-V Evo
Kingston Value RAM 1333 2GB x4
Samsung HD502HJ
Western Digital WD10EALX
Sapphire HD7850 2GB
Huntkey APFC 700W

And these are the HWMonitor screenshots taken after a 30 minute gaming session for each chassis. Do note that the HWMonitor is only activated after 30 minutes on idle to get more precise idle temperatures.

CM690II Adv

White Shinobi XL


Temps are about the same here between both chassis but the CM690II had 9 fans in total therefore it is much more noisier. The Shinobi XL on default fans generate about the same result but take a look at the GPU temperature. The Shinobi XL manage to provide a cooler operation temperature by a small margin but with a lot less noise thanks to the dual 230mm Spectre™ fans.

Conclusion
If there is anything that’s making the installation difficult, it’s probably the tool-less mounting mechanism for the first 5.25” bay where it seems that it doesn’t work as intended to, though I think that's a one off case. I ended up mounting my ODD on the second slot instead. I would also liked if the air filters for the underside is easier to remove, be it by magnets or a side-sliding mechanism would do fine.

Overall, the Shinobi XL is a great chassis, especially for water-cooling enthusiasts. I can see that a lot of thought went into designing the Shinobi XL, from the folded edges of every nook and cranny, the colour coordination of the interior, use of premium parts (Those rubber feets!!   ) and last but not least, having cable routing options and cutouts where it mattered! One does not simply claim that the chassis can support dual 360mm rads without providing the means to do so easily. The Shonobi XL is indeed spacious which makes installing the system easy and fast. The space at the top should allow for a push/pull radiator setup on the top, space at the back of the motherboard tray is a bonus as well. I ended up having to cross the thick 24-pin with several wires but the side panel closes as if they’re not there! those who want to run a small water cooling loop to the back may actually do so and tons of fan options makes the chassis a viable choice for air cooling as well.

Retailing at about RM500 in KL, the Shonibi XL is well placed in rivalry of other full tower chassis. All those unique touches that separates the Shinobi XL from other full towers makes it a viable choice for those who are looking to hide a monster rig behind a subtle chassis that looks good and IMHO worthy to be placed in the living room for others to ogle at the same time. True to the name of a Shinobi.

Pros:
  • Unique SofTouch coating
  • Competitively Priced
  • Native 360mm Radiator support
  • Premium construction and materials

Cons:
  • Bottom dual air filters is hard to remove
  • Tooless mechanism doesn't work very well in the 1st 5.25" bay

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