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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  • Chaitanya - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    BitFenix has some really good cases and they innovate when it comes to bringing new cases to market.
  • Pennanen - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    And what exactly has bitfenix given to the case markets? Assuming you werent sarcastic.
  • xbournex - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    SuperCharge, SofTouch, Prodigy, stock water cooling support, brightest LED strips, most dense sleeving extensions, first internet connectivity fan controller, and unnecessary flashy in-your-face look cases.
  • Pennanen - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Sorry i wasnt specific enought.

    What useful things have bitfenix given to the markets?
  • killerclick - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    Lack of girlfriend detected.
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    But the review is nice and thorough

    Dustin you really hit the nail "modern conventions are far from perfect and there's a lot of room for improvement".

    As an example, the case is wide - why not turn the PSU 90 degrees and have the cables feeding directly into the area behind the motherboard. Lian Li at least experiment with different locations.

    I would love to see a case where there is a built in power splitter for the 5.25 bays and Hard drive cages so one molex cable goes to a daughter board which has several socket to run short cables up to the hard drives for example - a bit of imagination would result in a very neat cabling job.

    This case really excels for watercooling. Perfect for using a 200x200 mm radiatior (or even 2, front and top)
  • xbournex - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    The review compares a mATX case 2/3 of the price of this case, an aluminum case with almost no water cooling support that's 2x the price, and ambient temperatures that vary with each review resulting in a default temperature, and noise level being already higher, or lower.

    The case was designed for watercooling in mind, which the reviewer poorly covered. Not thorough if you ask me.
  • xbournex - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    not as thorough as it could be**
  • Olaf van der Spek - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Hey xbournex,

    Anandtech doesn't test watercooling as far as I know.

    When can we expect some BitFenix mATX cases? :p
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Must admit I cannot remember Anandtech reviewing watercooling either.

    Watercooling is a niche for those who like to have a bit of fun and get their hands dirty (I think that should read "wet") on the innards of their computer.

    I love it, but I know it is not very everyone.

    The case looks as though it would be very good for watercooling possible even better than the legend that is the Silverstone TJ07. Certainly more than capable of cooling two hot running GPUs, a seriously overclocked CPU and maybe even the RAM as well without really breaking sweat. So would be pretty quiet compared to trying to air cool that lot

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