Always look at the date when you read a hardware article. Some of the content in this article is most likely out of date, as it was written on August 8, 2011. For newer information, see our more recent articles.
The BitFenix Shinobi is a chassis designed with budget consumers in mind. This chassis is clear proof that a cheap price does not necessarily mean cheap construction. All too often, budget cases feel flimsy and the design not fully thought through. Luckily, the Shinobi has neither of those problems.
Unlike most cases on the market, the interior of the windowed and non-windowed versions of the Bitfenix Shinobi have minor differences. The internal structure is the same, but the windowed version includes tool-less drive mounting while the non-windowed does not. Otherwise, there are no major differences between the two models, so this review can easily be used to get a good idea of the non-windowed version as well as the windowed.
The chassis itself is a combination of a steel frame with plastic front/top panels and feels very solid. The painted black interior is a nice touch that we normally do not expect to see with budget chassis. Unfortunately, there are no USB 3.0 ports, but there are four USB 2.0 ports as well as headphone/mic ports that are easily accessable on the top of the chassis.
There is room for an impressive six 120mm fans in the non-windowed version, and seven 120mm fans in the windowed version. All the intake fans are equipped with dust filters, which require the removal of the front panel for cleaning access. To see the full specifications for the windowed version of the BitFenix Shinobi, expand the section below:
The BitFenix Shinobi has a fairly subtle look to it, and is almost identical in size to the Lancool PC-K7B. At Puget Systems, we tend to prefer this over the flashy, over-the-top look that some chassis manufactures go for - but as always looks are largely a personal preference. The chassis itself is steel, but the top and front panels are plastic. The plastic has a rubber coating over it that BitFenix calls "SofTouch". This finish is resistant to picking up fingerprints and appears to be decently durable.
The front of the chassis has the three 5.25" bays as well as the front intake grills and the BitFenix logo. The 5.25" bays are set a little lower than we are used to, which is due to the fact that the front ports are actually located on the top of the chassis.
The intakes are a type of metal mesh that we are not very fond of. While it looks great, it is so dense that it greatly reduces airflow. Since this chassis is not intended for ultra high-end machines, the reduced airflow will likely not be a big problem for most users.
The front is held in place with plastic plugs and while a little stiff, is easily removed by pulling from the bottom. Removing the front, we see the dust filter for the front fans and the metal 5.25" bay covers that would need to be removed if you are installing a 5.25" device. The dust filter is plastic, and has the same style mesh as the front intakes. This mesh is likely too open to reliably stop smaller particles of dust, but should work for larger objects (like cat or dog hair)
From here you can also access the screws for the front fans if you want to change or add a front fan.
The top panel has all the front ports as well as the top exhaust. The reset button is very close to the power button but due to it's size, there should not be a problem with accidentally pressing it.
The top panel removes just like the front and gives access to the top 120/140mm fan mounts. This also further exposes the front USB and audio ports - which all have removable cables, so just replacing either the ports themselves or the cables should be a relatively easy job. The power and reset switches are held in place with a combination of hot glue and plastic clips. Power and HDD LED's are held in place with just hot glue.
As a system builder, we tend to steer clear of the type of tool-less mounting used in the Shinobi as they can rarely survive the rigors of shipping. Shipping can cause suprising amounts of damage under the right conditions as we've shown in the past in other articles such as "Dealing with shipping damage", so we try to avoid anything that can potentially cause problems. Luckily, all the tool-less drive mounting is easily removable in the BitFenix Shinobi so it is not a big problem. This allows us at Puget Systems to use screws to securely install the drives purchased with the machine, but leave the tool-less mounting in the un-used bays to allow our customer's the convenience of tool-less mounting for any drives they install themselves.
While we examine the interior, we will largely be looking at the tool-less mounting with end-users in mind. All the bays have standard screw holes for typical screw mounting so we will not be closely looking at the screw-based mounting.
The tool-less mounting for the 5.25" bays is fairly simple. The latch is hinged on the rear, with a pair of pins that latch in place on the front. The latch is only on one side, with the opposite side being only friction fit. This mounting only holds the front of the drive in place and only one one side, so the drive does have some play to it especially on the side without the latch.
If you regularly access your DVD drive, we recommend not using the tool-less mounting. If you only use it once a week or less, the tool-less mounting will probably work just fine.
The 3.5" tool-less drive mounting is a little different than the 5.25" as it is actually two seperate pieces. The first is a plastic plate with two pegs that pass through the screw holes and into the threaded holes in the 3.5" drive. The second piece goes through both the plate and the drive cage and by turning it 90 degrees locks it in place.
Unfortunately, this type of mounting is very loose. A hard drive installed with this mounting has alot of play so vibration noise is a real concern. Unless you are only mounting the hard drive temporarily, we recommend taking the time to secure the drive with screws.
There is also no attempt at vibration dampening, which while normal with budget chassis, is a bit disappointing given the quality of the rest of the chassis. Drives that produce a lot of vibration (from our product line, the Western Digital VelociRaptor or Black edition drives are two examples) may cause a bit more noise than they would if vibration dampening was available.
All of the fan mounts in this chassis are fairly easy to access. The front fans require the removal of the front panel to access, and the top fans require removal of the top panel. Both panels are easy to remove by simply pulling them off. The top panel does have all the wiring for the front ports connected so you do have to be a little careful removing it to prevent the cables from being damaged.
The power supply is intended to be mounted fan down with the fan drawing fresh air through the vent in the bottom of the chassis. There is only one small tab above the PSU to hold it in place so larger power supplies may need some modding to ensure they have no problems in shipping.
The motherboard mounts with the typical screw/standoff combination. One thing we do like is that all the standoff holes are labeled for the different sizes of motherboards (ATX, micro-ATX, etc). It is a nice touch that you rarely see in a budget chassis.
The rear of the motherboard tray has plenty of points to secure cables using zip ties. There is only 3/4" between the motherboard tray and the side panel which while it should be enough for thick 24-pin ATX cables does mean that you need to be careful not to have to many wires crossing each other or you risk causing a bulge when you install the rear side panel.
Unfortunately, we are not currently equipped to accurately measure the airflow and noise of fans. We can however give a comparison of the fans to our two most common fans; the Antec Tri-Cool (used in our Tri-Cool kits) and the Scythe Slip Stream 800RPM (used in our quiet kits running at 5v).
The airflow of the BitFenix fans is almost identical to the Antec Tri-Cool on low, and are actually a little bit quieter. Compared to the Scythe Slip Stream 800RPM running at 5V, the BitFenix fans are louder as expected, but also have much better airflow.
Overall, we are very satisfied with these fans. We tend to not expect anything amazing from stock fans, so the fact that they basically match the Antec Tri-cools on low is a nice suprise. Unfortunately, these fans do not work well undervolted, so you cannot run them at 5 or 7V.
Overall, we were very impressed with this chassis. Normally we end up with a long list of things we don't like about a chassis (the big cons for us are usually things like tool-less mounting which is great for end-users, but would not so great for shipping) but in this chassis that list was fairly short.
Given the cost, this chassis would be an excellent choice for a budget-oriented system. The large number of hard drive bays with intake fans directly in front of them also makes this great for systems that need large amounts of data storage. It does not have any acoustic dampening though, so it will not be as quiet as a chassis that was specifically designed to be quiet (like the Antec P183 V3 or Antec Mini P180)
The tool-less mounting isn't great, but is easily removable allowing for the best of both worlds.
Stock fans will work great for most configurations.
Plenty of fan mounts to provide additional cooling if necessary.
Top and front panels are easily removable, but don't feel like they will fall off.