In the relatively short time that BitFenix have been in the marketplace they have carved out something of a name for themselves. They are particularly well known for innovative design and build quality. With thir new case, the "Ghost" Bitfenix try their hand at something a little more traditional. Eschewing the big windows and bold sweeps of the styling brush in favour of sleek looks and hopefully silent performance. As this is something of a departure for the company, lets look at what Bitfenix themselves are saying about the Ghost.
"The most dangerous opponent is the one you can't hear. Designed for silence, Ghost features BitFenix Serenitek™ Silencing material on the front door and side panels to keep unwanted system noise from throwing you off your game. Ghost comes ready for 240mm water cooling radiators, while the top-mounted S4™ storage compartment houses a SATA hot swap port for convenient file transfers. The outside is coated with BitFenix NanoChrome™, a new surface treatment which gives both metal and plastic a uniform look. The dual-hinge door design gives you the flexibility to open the door from the left or the right on-the-fly. Whisper-quiet Spectre™ fans keep both noise and temperatures down, and anti-vibration HDD trays dampen noise even further. With support for long graphics cards, Alchemy LED strips, the latest solid-state drives and USB 3.0, Ghost gives you everything you need to strike fear in the hearts of your opposition".
210 x 522 x 510mm
Mini-ITX, mATX, ATX
5.25” Drive Bays
3.5” Drive Bays
2.5” Drive Bays
Hot Swap Bay
x 1 (SATA III 6Gbit/s)
140mm x 1 or 120mm x 2 (120mm x 1 included)
120mm x 1 (included)
230mm x 1 or 200mm x 1 or 140mm x 2 or 120mm x 2 (optional)
140mm x 1 or 120mm x 1 (optional)
USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, HD audio, SATA III hot swap bay
PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)
Serenitek™ silencing material, NanoChrome™ surface treatment, S4™ hot swap and storage, Spectre™ cooling, dedicated locations for Alchemy™ LED Strips, anti-vibration HDD trays, 240mm radiator ready, removable dust filters (front, top, bottom), tool-free drive locking
Up Close: Exterior
Finished in a deep anthracite as opposed to an outright black, and measuring 210x522x510mm, the Ghost appears as a demur dark monolith on the desk beside you. At first sight almost wholly featureless, however look closer and you'll see the design engineers at Bitfenix have never the less been allowed to sharpen their aesthetics pencils and add the odd little point of detail to the design. In particular the arched base of the case with slim brushed ally effect accent and the similarly arched recess in the door panel. The use of NanoChrome (which I have to admit at first I though was the stuff my crysis suite was coated in) ensures that both the metal and the plastic parts look identical in both colour and sheen.
Opening up the Serenitek lined front door we can see that BitFenix have provided 3x5.25" bays along with a cut out for a Floppy drive (seriously, this is 2012, how many of you have floppy drives?). in addition to being lined with an acoustic insulator the door can be easily swapped around to enable opening from either the left or right hand side. This is accomplished by means of a pair of simple plastic clips and it has to be said is one of the most simple methods we've ever seen employed.
Below the 5.25" bay area we find a large mesh panel filter area. This mesh panel is easily removed my means of push/click release mechanism, permitting us access to the front intake fan area. Bitfenix have included one of their very quiet Spectre fans in this position however in total 2x 120mm fans or 1x140mm fans can be fitted here.
The top of the case as you would expect is where you'll find the power, reset and front I/O options. Along with the usual switches and lights you'll get a pair of USB2 and USB3s along with a mic and phono jack connection.
Behind the front I/O area lies a barely noticeable panel. Again secured by means of the push/click/release catch. Once opened a small chamber is revealed in which you can stow all those little gadgets that are so crucial to modern living. I suspect it's also possible to get a large supply of Haribo sweets in there but have not been able to confirm this as yet. The true purpose of this chamber though is to provide hot swap functionality for your HDD and SSD drives. Able to take a full size 3.5" HDD the tray also has subtle padded ridges to provide a degree of isolation. A protective cover is also provided in the accessories pack to prevent damage to the pins when not in use as a drive bay.
At the rear of the roof we again find a large mesh area, which is released in the now established fashion. It's actually quite nice when a manufacturer keeps to the same theme for opening and closing areas at it's little touches like this that make our lives that little bit easier. Popping out the filter mesh panel reveals a large chamber, which although devoid of fans can be used to house a veritable smorgasbord of cooling solutions. In addition to housing fans this area provides native support for radiators up to 35mm thick, shown below with the XSPC EX 240. Although providing an escape route for hot air, for a case that is intended to be silent, we can't help thinking that such a large un-obscured aperture in the roof will do little to improve the case's sonic characteristics. Perhaps the inclusion of the radiator will serve to better insulate the noise.
The rear of the case has things laid out as you would expect, with the rear I/O and rear case fan (again a spectre 120mm) at the upper end of the rear, along with 3 metal punch-outs should you wish to add external water-cooling. Although in the images below it might appear that these are rubber grommetted they are not, so should you use them after you have removed the punchouts you will need to be wary of the metal edges damaging your tubing. At the base of the case we find the PSU cut out and 7 solid PCI covers. To the right of these is a perforated area allowing for additional ventilation.
Last but not least on our trip around the exterior of the Ghost we look at the base. Standing on 4 rubber feet the base is raised by means of a wide arch, this not only allows for good airflow up and under to the PSU area but also lends a certain aesthetic sweep to an otherwise bland area of any case. 3/4 of the base is taken up by a large removable mesh filter panel. The panel is sturdy and is held securely in place by 6 small magnets. Two small troughs run alongside either case edge, being specifically designed to accommodate the BitFenix Alchemy LED strips, but more of them later when we get to the build.
Up Close: Interior
The interior of the case is finished in the same deep anthracite as the exterior, with the quality of the workmanship being as you would expect from BitFenix. A large cut out is provided to make CPU cooler changing easier, with four other cutouts available for cable management. Strangely these cutouts do not come with the rubber grommets pre installed, instead they are supplied in the accessories pack and have to be installed by the system builder. Had it not been for the grommets having a really nice soft touch feel to them, installing them would have been a detestable job. As it was though it was merely just a pain in the arse. Come on BitFenix, since when was it acceptable to have to install your own grommets? Another trend bucking choice is the exclusion of the normal hex bolt motherboard stand offs. Instead BitFenix have opted for raised domes pressed through from the reverse with threaded holes to accept motherboard screws. We do have a few concerns as to whether this method opens up the risk of shorting your motherboard, however it is easily mitigated by the addition of a small piece of insulating tape to the top of the dome. Still an odd choice though.
Three 5.25" bays are available, with the uppermost bay being open up to the roof of the case. Why is this important? well it shows BitFenix are listening to their feedback that's why. Having the open space up there means that should the owner wish to add a longer radiator to the roof than the 240 the case is already able to accept, his life is made easier by not having to chop through the top of the 5.25" bays.
The Ghost has native support for 4 x 3.5" and 3 x 2.5" drives. The upper bay assembly however can be increased in size by moving the innermost side panel, enabling 7 X 3.5" drives to be accommodated, or, should you wish, removed completely enabling the accommodation of GPUs up to 430mm in length. That said, with the drive bay configured for 2.5" drives the case will still take GPUs up to 335mm in length, or up to 310mm in length should you opt for the 7 x 3.5" drive configuration. Although the wall itself is removed by means of screws, the rest of the bay assembly is riveted in place. Should you wish to remove it you'll be pleased to know there's just enough room between the floor and the base of the 5.25" bays to accommodate a 240mm radiator.
As we saw from the outside, the floor of the case is dominated by a large mesh panel. There's space here for either a 140mm or 120mm fan (if you're that way inclined), otherwise there's plenty of room for even a large PSU. Although BitFenix do include a set of adhesive rubber PSU isolation feet in the accessories pack, the case does not ship with these in place, neither is it immediately clear where they're meant to go as the instructions don't cover it. Instead the PSU is supported by 4 raised metal nipples, much like the motherboard stand offs. We can't help thinking that as these metal stand offs are exactly the right height to line the PSU up with the mounting holes on the rear then the rubber additions must raise it up higher still, other wise the PSU would not sit on them. raising the PSU up too high of course will cause it not to line up with it's mounting holes. I guess we'll see when we come to the build. The image below and right is of the interior of the door which as you can see is covered in a layer of Serenitek sound absorbing material.
Moving up the rear of the Ghost from the PSU area we find 7 PCI expansion bay covers. The covers are of the non vented variety which is in keeping with the silent theme of the case but any advantage this may give in preventing sound exiting the case is largely negated by the vented area immediately adjacent to them. The covers themselves are not held in place by screws, instead sort of clipped in to the case edge. We initially thought this might be a disaster waiting to happen but despite a few good prods and shakes we unable to dislodge any. Needless to say large knurled thumb bolts are included to enable a secure fitting of any expansion cards. Above the PCI slots we find a single 120mm Spectre fans and the rear U/O area. As mentioned when we looked at the exterior there are also metal punch-outs for external water-cooling.
If you've spent any real time with a PC case you'll know that to achieve a good quality build with good cable management, the rear of the Case is more important than the front. It's here that we manage our cables, so it's here that the time and effort goes. there are two main factors that make this an easy job or a hard job; space and cable tie points. With 20mm or so of space the Ghost has ample room to route cables although fitting in some of the bulky ATX power extenders may require careful planning. Unfortunately where the Ghost lets the side down is in the area of cable tie points. There are 4. Yes you read that correctly 4! Maybe BitFenix have assumed that as there's no window in the case you're not going to be bothered about a tidy wiring job. Also, as the motherboard tray joins the roof by mans of an angled plate there's also no convenient trough along the roof line to stash away unwanted cables and fan cables making their way rearward. Either way with just 4 points to anchor the many cables to. it's going to make for an interesting build
An integral part to any build process is ripping open the accessories bag with expectant glee and seeing what goodies await you inside (in addition of course to the usual bags of screws). If you're one of those namby pamby new age sort of men you may also want to have a look at the instructions. So what do we get in the way of goodies? Well depends on how you want to look at it really. Along with the usual bag-o-screws you get a set of four rubber grommets for the cable management holes, you know, the ones that usually come fitted to a case already when you buy it, and also a set of four rubber isolation feet for the PSU. To be honest I don't really see these so much as accessories, more as parts of the case that should already be fitted! Aside from that you get a selection of 3.5" drive bay drawers (again, shouldn't they already be in the case), and a little cap that fits over the hot swap bay SATA and power connections should you choose to store nuts and bolts in there as opposed to soft things such as Haribo sweets that won't cause damage to the connections. If you're the sort who reads instructions then you're probably already sitting there, relaxed on your chaise Lounge with a chilled Amontillado wondering whether the instructions will be spiffing or simply dreadful. If that's the case then you'll be delighted to know the instructions are clear and concise, with good sized images and clear text.
By now you've also probably noticed the image below left. While perhaps not included by every retailer as a bundled accessory it is highly recommended by BitFenix (and us for that matter) that you add a set of BitFenix Alchemy LED strips to your Basket at checkout. We'll go into a little more detail further down the page.
The other thing we like to do here at OC3D is strip a case down to it's bare bones. Partly because we have a low attention span, and partly because only with the case in this state do you get an idea of how easy it is to work on. Also if you're inclined to mod anything that moves, as we are, in this state you get a feel for how good the case will be to chop up/paint/deface in any matter you feel fitting. Although the main chassis is metal, the top and front, like a great many cases are made from plastic. good quality and thick mind, with no feeling that it's going to break any time soon. The clips that hold the panels in place are also sturdy surviving a good many ham-fisted attempts to pull them off in the wrong way (Ahem...before I poured myself a sherry and read the instructions that is). With the top panel removed and the knowledge of the 5.25" bays being open at the top you get a good idea of what sort of job it would be to cut in and make room for a 360 radiator.
You're probably aware by now that we're not too enamored by having to fit our own cable management grommets. A job turned from detestable to merely a pain in the arse by their being made from the sexy soft touch rubber that BitFenix are known for covering their cases in. Imagine then how our displeasure turned to utter disgust with how they performed when we tried to push cables through them. Basically the're about as likely to stay put as a spanial at the world sausage throwing championships. OK, so the the ones that had only one or two smaller cables to pass through them weren't too bad, but in the process of passing the main bulk of the cables from front to back by the PSU we had to re-fit the grommet three times, and as re fitting involved pulling all the cables back through and starting again you start to get a feel for how utterly self defeating this feels, especially as this is a very crowded area at the best of times. On the plus side, the grommets are well placed and a good size, and as already stated, are made from that lovely soft touch rubber that somehow feels a little bit naughty.
Although with 20mm to play with there's plenty of space at the rear of the case, the absolute dearth of cable tie points does make it very hard to achieve a decent cable management job. We suspect that if we spent hours and hours on the management we could do a bit better, but a the end of the day with only four places to secure to, and all of them running down the mid line and none off to the sides there's really very little room for manoeuvre. with the top channel also closed off as a result of the way the motherboard tray joins the roof panel your options for hiding and routing cables across the top also start to get quite limited.
It's not all doom and gloom though as the Alchemy LED accessory strip fits like a dream to the special channels rebated into either side of the underneath of the case. a pair of holes cut into the floor of the case adjacent to the PSU area enable the power cables for these to be passed up and into the case interior. Be aware though that these holes become obscured by the PSU once it's fitted so you'll want to to fit the strips first. Once installed they power up with the system and add a truly ghostly ethereal glow to the underside of the case. The ones shown below are white, but are available in a range of colours. Each self adhesive 30cm strip has 15 bright LEDs mounted within a rubberised layer to aid flexibility and provide protection. Mrs Dubs on seeing them said she thought they made the case look "Fast and Furious", but to me the effect is more subtle, anyway, I think you get the idea.
Performance Testing and Conclusion
The Ghost as it's name might suggest is marketed as a "silent" case, and as must go about it's business as quietly as possible. The quest for noise reduction in cases is often traded for cooling performance. Not a problem if you just want a case to sit quietly and elegantly beside you on the desk while you browse T'interweb, but more of an issue if you want it to stuff it full of performance kit and then clock the twangers off it. In this quest for silence BitFenix open the batting well with the inclusion of two of their very quiet Spectre fans. These are the original Spectres and as such are a lower RPM and quieter than the Pro's. Bitfenix have also lined the majority of the internal surfaces with their proprietary sound deadening material Serenitek, so we can tick that box. However things do get a bit confusing when we examine the decision to put in a large open roof vent. Why go to all the effort of enclosing the front and sides if you're going to open the roof and let the noise out? Well I think I have the answer. First off, the amount of noise that actually escapes through this aperture is negligible, and what does is focused straight up. You'll need to select a CPU cooler with a quiet fan to make the most of it, but then if you're building a quiet rig that's a bit of a no brainer anyway. Secondly, and more importantly Although primarily marketed as an air cooling case this roof apperture is key in providing native water-cooling support. Pop a 240 radiator in there and strap on a set of quiet fans and you have a very quiet set up indeed.
If you've read the rest of the review (as we're sure you have) then you'll know that the cable management options are less than perfect. Sure with 20mm of space behid the Motherboard there's plenty of room to manouver, but with only 4 cable tie points it gets hard to acheive a good job. Another odd decission on behalf of BitFenix was too not factory fit the grommets or the rubber PSU mounts. I can only assume that these exclusions played a major part in bringing the cost of the case down as otherwise I can't see the logic there.
Aesthetics wise the Ghost is quite a looker. Not actually black, more of a very very very very very dark grey. Anthracite I guess, with a slight metallic or perhaps pearlescant quality too it, but nothing too in your face. The use of Nanochrome (sorry, but it still makes me think of my Crysis suit) really does give an even colour effect to both the plastic and the metal, ensuring that the finish and blend is perfect, so no two tone paint jobs here. All the metal panels are straight and strong, with the sides and doors lined with Serenitek, which along with sound deadening provides additional rigidity. The door itself can easily be swapped to open in either direction. As with many cases the roof and front are made from plastic, but be assured there's strength and rigidity here also. BitFenix tick all the right boxes with the inclusion of easily removable filters on all vented areas, and again the materials and workmanship seen are of a high level. Inside the case things continue to impress. Ample storage for up to 7x3.5" or 4x3.5 and 3x2.5" drives is offered, with the case able to accept coolers up to 160mm and GPUs up to 430mm in length with the upper bay removed, 335mm with the bays configured for 2.5" drives and 310mm with the bays configured for 3.5" drives. We were a little worried about the inclusion of self adhesive PSU mounting feet, but in reality when used the fit was still fine and there was no discernible vibration transmission from the PSU to the case, so I guess BitFenix must've gotten their tolerances just right.
So what of the competition? Although the "silent" case market is not perhaps quite as saturated as the gaming/performance case side, that's no to say there's no one in goal at the other end of the pitch. However at just a smidge over £70 the Ghost stacks up quite well from a price perspective against the other main contenders. Closest to the Ghost from price wise is the Define R4 which ofers a lot that the Ghost does but at £10 more. Although the R4 lacks the native watercooling support offered by the ghost it does offer better sound deadening capabilities with the option to blank of any unsued fan mounts. In all other respects the R4 and Ghost trade punches quite evenly so if you're looking to choose between the two we stronly reccomend you take the time to peruse both reviews. Further up the food chain are the likes of the Silencio 650, reviewed by us not too long ago. The Silencio is a good £40 more than the Ghost and although it offers an arguably higher build quality and finish and a few little extras here and there, there's little to justify the additional cost.
When we first started looking at the Ghost there were more than a few niggles that put it in a less than favourable light. Time spent with it however has shown that as an overall entity it comes together well. It's clear that Bitfenix have had to make choices to get the price of the case down as low as they have, but what we're left with is the feel of a quality case where the essentials are present and a few of the bells and whistles, such as a built in fan controller for example are missing. This feeling of quality can be attributed in no small part to the use of the nanotech paint finish and the overall level of workmanship. Although we heartily applaud the native water-cooling support we can't help thinking that the ability to blank the roof vent off would have had us grinning from ear to ear. I guess the decision not to offer this was one of the many cost option choices BitFenix had to make along the way.
What we have then is a basic but very good value case. Quality is good, with a feature set you would expect for the price. Ok so a few little niggles to get in the way of perfention. Put it this way, if you've been looking at the R4 as a budget silent case your decission just got a little harder. A Ghost it may ben but a Slimmer it isn't
Thanks to BitFenix for sending the Ghost in for review, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.