In and Around the BitFenix Shinobi XL

Aesthetics are a very subjective thing, but I have to admit I'm not hugely infatuated with the look of the Shinobi XL. It's true that black goes with everything, and there's nothing terribly wrong with a good black monolithic tower. My problem is that the way the original Shinobi styling has scaled up leaves me wanting. Try to imagine how the original Unreal Tournament looked back when it came out when we were all running it at 640x480 (or 320x200 in my case; my computer was terrible), then think about how it looks running on a modern system at 1920x1200. The detail doesn't scale up well, and there's a lot of empty space. I feel like that's what's going on here.

The shell of the Shinobi XL consists of black, soft-touch plastic and black steel. I'm very fond of the plastic, as it usually feels fairly sturdy and the texture feels classy at almost any point on the price continuum. The front maintains the parallel ventilation lines and features five 5.25" bays. Yet while these ventilation points felt adequate on the original Shinobi, on the Shinobi XL they seem too thin and I'm concerned that they don't draw in enough air on their own.

When we move to the top of the Shinobi XL, we find the I/O cluster with an impressive four USB 3.0 ports, a single USB charging port (no data, only power), and the standard mic and headphone jacks alongside the power and reset buttons. Beyond that is pretty much a front-to-back ventilated grate capable of supporting a whopping two 230mm fans or three 120mm fans.

The left side panel features an acrylic window designed to highlight the primary motherboard area, while the right side panel is a basic flat black panel. The rear of the enclosure is also matte black steel, and in fact even the bottom is painted black. When you do look at the rear, though, you can get a feel for just how much space is hidden behind the motherboard tray. The Shinobi XL is as wide as it is for a reason.

Four thumbscrews hold the side panels on, and when you remove them you'll find an interior that's largely bog standard for current generation enclosures: bottom-mounted PSU, optical drive bays with toolless clamps, removable hard drive cage oriented laterally with plastic drive trays, and a motherboard tray with rubber-grommet-lined routing holes. Users expecting the kind of creativity we've seen on enclosures like the Outlaw and Prodigy are bound to be disappointed; the Shinobi XL is as fundamental as it gets.

That adherence to the fundamentals works fine in the regular Shinobi at half the price, but when you go north of about $120 to $140, you start to expect a little more verve in enclosure designs. While BitFenix excels in making the Shinobi XL water-cooling friendly (how many vendors do you know who find ways to fit three 120mm intake fans in the front of the case?), the overall design is incredibly tame. That's a shame, too, because modern conventions are far from perfect and there's a lot of room for improvement.

Introducing the BitFenix Shinobi XL Assembling the BitFenix Shinobi XL
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Of course it's not thorough if we ask you, I'm 95% certain you're BitFenix PR.
  • soloburrito - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Hi Dustin I enjoy reading your reviews.

    Are there are fan filters integrated into the case? Are they easily accessible? Also is the hard drive cage module/removable? For the same price, it seems the Switch 810 comes with a few more bells and whistles. I personally don't like the cheap, glossy plastic though. I like the clean, subdued design of the XL personally.

    Anyway, can Anandtech invest in a 360/240mm rad so at the very least you all can demonstrate the water cooling potential of cases in future reviews?

    I know assembling a full loop would be very time-consuming and not really provide any extra insight, but just some pictures of a radiator installed in the supported areas would be a great addition to case reviews.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    There's a filter over the front 230mm intake, but you have to remove the fascia to get to it. There's also a filter under the PSU intake that slides out from the back.

    The Switch 810 isn't a bad case and the boutiques seem to like it (though that may be because NZXT seems to have a very thriving business with boutiques), but honestly unless you're doing any serious watercooling I'd look elsewhere. The Shinobi XL seems pretty ideal under those circumstances, although Azza's cases seem to be good for it, too.

    I feel like the problem with investing in a radiator just for the sake of pictures is that it seems like all it really does is just demonstrate "this radiator fits here." Watercooling is pretty niche to begin with, and I feel like with a lot of these you should be able to at least eyeball it and get a good feeling for whether or not a radiator can fit. Of course, the problem there is admittedly that I get to manhandle these cases all I want while you guys have to make do with the photos I post. :|

    I'll keep it in mind, but it's an interesting thing that many manufacturers are really attacking what's a fairly small minority of end users. "Our case is fantastic for custom watercooling!" Yeah, but what about the aircooling that the lion's share of end users are going to use?
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Dustin: I do hope you are accusing Xbounrnex and not me of being BitFenix PR.

    I have nothing to do with Bitfenix, I own no products by them, although I do have a water cooled Silverstone TJ07 so entirely capable of comparing the Bitfenix to that.

    If anything I am a fan of Silverstone (with qualifications mostly related to build quality) as the TJ07 is the king for water cooled ATX cases and the TJ08-e (my next case) equally good for m-atx as long as you stick to one GPU
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    I'm referring to xbournex and it's not really an "accusation" necessarily...if you check out the review of the Prodigy, xbournex replies there basically as a rep for the company.
  • Galcobar - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    You may be 100 per cent certain Xbournex is Bitfenix-employed. He's a manufacturer representative who self-identifies as such on other sites, such as Hardware Canucks.

    Which to give him credit makes it pretty clear he's not trying to hide his status, since he uses the same screen name.

    Personally, I like the idea that manufacturers are paying enough attention to reviews to not only read them, but provide feedback. It's only fair that they have the opportunity to respond, and it indicates they're interested in what's being said -- which makes it more likely for them to consider the comments when it comes time to do the next design.
  • danjw - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    It isn't common for 5.25" bays, but what you describe is called a backplane and is available in some cases with integrated data connections for 3.5"/2.5" bays. With 5.25" devices have a great deal of difference in their lengths, whereas most 3.5"/2.5" devices are standard size and connector positioning. I don't see how this would work well for 5.25" bays.
  • Olaf van der Spek - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    > the larger scale allows two of the fans to be upgraded to 200mm parts

    Shouldn't that be 230mm?
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Shouldnt I get one of these for free or something? meh anyway... i thought windowed cases were out of style now.
  • SilthDraeth - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Dustin, have you ever ventured into building your own case, and experimenting with design elements?

    You do a lot of reviews, and I am sure you have a good idea what works, and what doesn't, and I would think you could design a fairly well layed out ATX case with good thermals, and acoustics.

    I often think about doing one myself and wonder if any of the case manufacturers would ever consider a contest of letting users submit their own prototypes for consideration with some sort of deal worked out for the winner.

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