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August 31, 2014

Unboxing & Review: BitFenix Comrade


Throughout the years, countless people who is on a tight budget for their PC build and decided to spend less on the chassis to have the extra cash to be allocated for higher end components. Most will ended up with a less desirable budget chassis that doesn't support long graphics card and decent cable management. The guys at BitFenix introduced their budget oriented chassis, the BitFenix Neos as the game changer in the scene of budget oriented chassis.

In today's review, we will be reviewing another budget oriented chassis from BitFenix, a big thanks to BitFenix and Inter-Asia Technology for providing us the BitFenix Comrade - our celebrity for today's review. Priced at the same as the BifFenix Neos (RM169), let's check out what does the Comrade has to offer.

Specifications


Packaging


BitFenix is on the cardboard box packaging as usual, a large BitFenix logo and the model of the chassis is printed at the front.


At the back of the packaging, we can see some highlighted feature of the BitFenix Comrade.

Accessories



Accessories included are the mounting screws, quick installation guide, PCIe slot cover and some zip ties.

Closer Look


Protection wise, there's 2 pieces of polystyrene foam encasing the top and bottom of the Comrade with a clear plastic covering the chassis to prevent dust and possible minor scratches during transport. 


And we have a windowed version of the BitFenix Comrade with black matte finish.


The shiny metallic BitFenix logo always fits well on a dark colored chassis. 


The front I/O panel is located at the right side of the front panel, where you'll find the power and reset buttons, audio jacks, power and HDD LEDs and a single USB2.0 and USB3.0 port each.


We find that removing the front panel is extremely easy as it only requires a very little amount of force to remove it. 


On the other hand, the ODD bay cover is a little tricky to remove because the short clips that is holding it to the front panel is what makes it hard to remove. 


Just like Noes, Comrade comes with a clip-on dust filter that is specially made to fit both Comrade or Noes.
The only difference we can see is that there's no front intake fan included.


Unlike most budget chassis, these extra holes allows air to move through the chassis easier for better overall airflow and lower temperature.


Just like Neos, the breakaway type optical drive bay covers are made reusable so that it can be screwed back in place in case if you feel like having them back.


Due to the odd placement of the front I/O panel, installing the dust filter back in place is quite tricky as the cables connected to the front panel I/O is blocking the filter clip at the bottom right.


Thumbs up to BitFenix for including the removable PSU dust filter, as is not something you commonly see on a budget chassis.


We're not expecting any rubber case feet with shiny metallic rings, but having a plastic feet is still better than majority of the budget chassis that doesn't even comes with any.


The back layout of Comrade is the standard I/O cutout, 2 holes covered with rubber grommets for external watercooling setup, a 120mm exhaust fan mount, seven breakaway expansion slots and a bottom mounted PSU bay.


Not only that the rubber grommets does gives the Comrade an upgrade visually, it allows external watercooling setup with needing to go through the hassle of cutting holes on your own - this is another feature you won't probably see on most budget chassis.


The expansion slots are covered by a plastic cover to make it look neat on the outside. While most of the breakaway expansion slot covers are not reusable after it is removed, the first PCIe slot cover is absent since the beginning. According to BitFenix, the reason for this implementation is because most  people will be using the first slot anyway, therefore they have it removed and included a PCIe slot cover inside the accessory box.


The side panel window size is just right, allowing you to display your components while keeping the HDD bay out of sight.


Due to the fact that both Noes and Comrade are sharing the similar design, the additional windowed side panel used in our BitFenix Neos review will fit on the BitFenix Comrade without any issue.


Moving on to the interior of the BitFenix Comrade, we must say that this looks nothing like a budget chassis at all. Motherboard tray cutout, cable routing holes, 2.5" drive bay were all features of higher end chassis that will cost you at least RM200 or more.


The front I/O connectors: Audio jacks header, USB 2.0 header, USB 3.0 header, HDD LED, Power and reset button header.


Tool-free drive lock for dual 5.25" bays is also a nice feature which is rarely found on budget chassis, kudos to BitFenix for supplying these.


Instead of having two 3.5" hard drive bay, BitFenix has opted for a 2.5" hard drive / SSD bay above the 3.5" hard drive bay. This gives extra clearance for long graphics card while retaining the hard drive bay for 2.5" hard drive and SSD.


While installing 3.5" to the bracket is tool free, the 2.5" hard drive / SSD requires to be secured to the bracket with the screws provided.


The large cutout on the motherboard tray allows easier CPU cooler swapping, cable routing holes near the drive cages for a clean and neat cable management and last but not least, stands off built on the motherboard tray for quick and easier motherboard installation.


Instead of the usual BitFenix Spectre 120mm fan, this is something rather new from BitFenix themselves (OEM fans?).


PSU bay doesn't have rubber mounts to dampen any vibrations that may come from the PSU, a bit disappointed but we suppose that it is to be expected judging from the competitive pricing of the Comrade.


Finally we're at the back of the motherboard tray and somehow we did overestimated this budget chassis by having hopes to see 2.5" drive mount after seeing all the higher end features in the interior - well, we are being quite greedy really.


There's hardly any space left and unless you're on flat ribbon cables or individual sleeved cables, it's very likely that you'll have to give thicker cables like the 24pin a squeeze to get the side panel closed.


If you don't feel like giving your cables a squeeze behind the motherboard tray, spaces behind the 2.5" and 3.5" drive bay will still be sufficient, but we strongly recommend the use of modular PSU for better cable management.

Installation


With all the components installed inside, the BitFenix Comrade looks nothing like a low cost budget oriented chassis. All geared up and ready to launch!


Concern of clearance for long graphics card? The EVGA GTX770 SuperClocked w/ ACX cooling is a no issue to the BitFenix Comrade.

Performance Test

Test Rig Configuration
CPU Cooler
Intel Stock Cooler
CPU
Intel Core i5 760
Motherboard
Gigabyte H55M-S2V
Memory
Mushkin Essentials 2GB x 2
Primary Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB
Power Supply
Silverstone ST60F-P 600W 80 Plus
Chassis
Bitfenix Comrade
Graphics Card
EVGA GTX770 SuperClocked with ACX Cooling

Moving on with our performance test, we're using the CPU stress test utility Prime95 with the option 'In-place large FFTs' and GPU stress test utility FurMark with its Furry Donut stress test for maximum heat output from both the CPU and GPU. Our room temperature throughout the test is 30ÂșC in average and the stress test is repeated for several times in order to get a stable temperature reading.

The stress tests is conducted under 2 different scenario:
  • side panel opened
  • side panel closed
The final result is presented in the following graph:



Do note that it is very unlikely for both components to hit this temperature reading in most of real world usage (gaming, office work, music, video,etc) as both CPU/GPU are being stressed to the limit only for performance testing purposes.

Despite of having only one non-performance fan for exhaust, the temperatures we're getting here is pretty reasonable. Adding some extra fans or replacing the existing fans with high performance fans is recommended to improve the air circulation in the chassis for better results / lower temperatures.

Final Thoughts

The BitFenix Comrade is basically a BitFenix Neos with a different appearance, as from what we've seen by comparing the design of both chassis. The overall construction might not be as solid as any higher end mid tower, but it's undeniable that both Comrade and Neos totally beats majority of budget oriented chassis when it comes to appearance, hardware compatibility and features.

Pros
  • Good appearance and features 
  • Compatible with wide range of components
  • Dust filters included for PSU air intake and chassis front intake 
  • Tool-free drive bay
  • Windowed side panel is available to purchase from BitFenix Parts Store
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Limited space at the back of the motherboard for cable routing
  • Less solid construction compared to other BitFenix budget chassis
  • PCIe expansion slot plastic cover is not compatible with non-reference graphics card
  • Front I/O panel is oddly placed and obstructing the installation of the front dust filter included



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