BitFenix Ronin Review Page: 1

 BitFenix Ronin Review  

 

Introduction

The term Ronin is most commonly used to describe the Samurai Warrior who, whether through the death of his master or his own dishonour finds himself a free agent.  In modern japan however it can also be used to describe a professional who is between jobs or a High school graduate who has yet to start University.  And what better way to spend that glorious free time than gaming away until the wee small hours. 

On the face of it there's little to differentiate the Ronin from the plethora of other smallish ATX cases on the market.  The Ronin though does have a few features that cause it to stand out just that little bit from the crowd, Although not entirely unique, the Ronin does provide native water cooling support in the roof, along with an innovative stealth panel that fits just inside the windowed side panel, but more of this later, for now lets have a look at the spec sheet and see if the Ronin's vital statistics are pleasing to the eye.

 

Technical Specification

Materials

SofTouch™, Plastic, Steel

Colors (Int/Ext)

Black/Black

Dimensions (WxHxD)

205 x 483 x 505mm

Motherboard Sizes

ATX, mATX, mini-ITX

5.25” Drive Bays

x 3

3.5” Drive Bays

x 6 (3 + 3)

2.5” Drive Bays

x 6 (using 3.5" trays)

Cooling Front

120mm x 2 (1 included)

Cooling Rear

120mm x 1 (included)

Cooling Top

120mm x 2 (optional) or 140mm x 2 (optional)

Cooling Bottom

120mm x 1 (optional)

PCI Slots

x 7

I/O

2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, HD Audio

Power Supply

PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)

Extras

Stealth Cover, SofTouch™ surface treatment,   filtered intakes, tool-free drive locking

Model Number

BFC-RON-300-KKWSK-RP

Note

LED lighting not included. Sold separately



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BitFenix Ronin Review

 

Up Close:  Exterior

Measuring 205 x 483 x 505mm (WxHxD) Like other cases from BitFenix, the front and roof of the new Ronin have been given the soft touch treatment.  Silky smooth to the touch there's something inherently "naughty" about how it feels.  While the right side of the case is feature free, the left side is dominated by a very large clear high gloss window

BitFenix Ronin Review     BitFenix Ronin Review

BitFenix provide 3 x 5.25" drive bays along with an adapter to convert one into an external 3.5" should you so desire.  looking at the space available above the top bay it appears that for just a few mm more BitFenix could have actually placed a 4th bay into the front.  Still 3 it is though, which with the impending demise of optical drives should be plenty for anyone.  Below the drives a large ventilation panel covers the front intake for up to 2x120mm fans (1 included).

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The majority of the case roof is given over to ventilation.  Forward of this lies the front I/O with the usual power/reset, audio, 2xUSB2.0 and 2xUSB3.0

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Removing the window panel we get our first look at The Ronin's Stealth panel.  The contoured plastic panel is easily removed, being held in place by 3 push pins.  With the panel in place the system builder can show off the sexiest bits of kit whilst keeping the less attractive under wraps.  If you happen to want to show off the entire interior through the large side window, then just pop the panel off and you'll be able to see the lot, drive bays, PSU everything.

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As it's not unusual for manufacturers to add a few creases into the rear panel to aid rigidity, we find the rear of the case is remarkably flat.  That said the structural rigidity seems un affected.  Beside the rear I/O sits the grill for the rear 120mm fan grill.  With a 120mm fan included on extract it's mighty strange that BitFenix have thought to also include 92mm fan mounts in this position.  Also included are two small grommeted tubing holes should you wish to regress back to the late 90s and mount an external radiator

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 BitFenix Ronin Review

 

Up Close:  Interior, Dive bays, Base, Rear and Roof

Able to house ATX as well as well as mATX and mini-ITX, the Ronin has the major bases covered, with a large CPU cut out ensuring that the work involved in changing your cooler is kept to a minimum.  We do however feel that for a case with such a large "look in me" side window, the lack of rubber grommets on the 3 cable management holes is a gross oversight.  Surely they can't add too much to the price?  In total there are mounts for up to 6 fans with just 1x120mm being provided in the front.  Two would have been nice especially taking into account the £70 price tag.

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The tool-less mounting system for the 3 x 5.25" bays is very secure, enabling BitBenix to do away with an unsightly perforated rack.  Underneath there's room for up to 6 x 3.5" or 6 x 2.5" drives (using the 3.5" bays). 

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The rack is split into two equal sized parts with the upper most being removable, increasing the max GPU length from 310mm to 410mm.

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Immediately posterior to the lower drive rack lies a grilled mount for a 120mm fan (please don't).  At the rear four small foam pads sit atop metal dimples giving the bear minimum of sound dampening for PSUs.  BitFenix state support for PSUs up to 220mm in length however you will be covering up a small portion of the lower cable management hole if you use a monster PSU.

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Seven perforated expansion bay covers sit alongside small external tubing holes with a BitFenix badged fan sitting above in the usual position.  When viewed from the inside you get a real feel for just how much of the roof is given over to ventilation.  Those holes might not be massive, but there's a hell of a lot of them.  The beedy peeper'd amongst you will also have noticed that there are fan mounts for both 120mm and 140mm up here, and the even keener eyed will have noted that they are offset away from the motherboard thus enabling Radiator installation and so native water-cooling support.  More of this when we come to the build and cooling sections later on the review.

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The case stands on four good sized rubber feet helping to ensure a supply of fresh air to the underside of the case.  A large, magnetically attached single piece mesh filter covers the PSU and base fan areas.    

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BitFenix Ronin Review

 

Up Close:  Rear and Strip Down

The reverse side of the Ronin is bestrewn with a grand total of 22 cable tie points.  Our experience of case building assures us that although there's only 20mm of room back there the plethora of well distributed cable tie points means we will have no problem achiving a clean and tidy build.  Still a shame about those grommet-less management holes though. 

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Let's show you what we mean by well distributed.  In the image below left there's a line of cable tie points running up the midline of the case just to the right of the main management holes.  This placement will enable you to secure the main loom and to branch off the PCI and Mother board cables exactly where you want them, not to mention the countless other lesser cables.  Below right we see a row of cable tie points running up the far right hand side of the case.  Whereas we often tuck the 8 pin CPU cable under the lip of the case this row can actually be used to secure it along with and fan cables passing down from the roof.

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Pulling firmly on the rigid plastic top and front covers, they come away easily leaving us with "The Naked Ronin" (I'm sure I saw that on Channel 4 years ago).  As you can see with the Ronin on the small side for ATX cases there's little wasted real estate and its slim 205mm width means you're limited to 120mm fans up front (an additional filter is provided in the box should you wish to add a second fan)  

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Although there are mounting holes for 2x120mm or 2x140mm fans none are provided in the roof position.  However as noted previously the screws are offset away from the motherboard meaning that rads can be placed up here.  BitFenix give native compatibility for 240mm rads, but provided your 280 has a 15mm screw spacing there's a possibility you might be able to squeeze one up here also.  We say maybe as there are a few other factors to consider which we will come to in the build section

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With 32mm of clearance, the underside of the roof panel is clean and devoid of extraneous knobs and excresancies, so there should be no problems getting fans under here.  As all the front I/O cables are hard wired to the roof panel case should be taken when lifting it off.

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Below we see the unique feature of the Ronin, the plastic "Stealth cover" panel that is used selectively to mask off areas of the case interior that the builder does not wish to be seen.  The panel is gloss black with a honeycomb/carbon fibre effect to it on the presenting side, being just plain black plastic on the reverse.  It is held into the case by means of 3 plastic push pins and is easy to remove and replace.

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BitFenix Ronin Review

 

The Build

Although the Ronin comes with a decent set of Black and White instructions, there's no bulging accessories bow to be found.  Instead a small brown box holds a small selection of screws and standoffs and a generous 10 cable ties

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We've mentioned that the Ronin is on the small side for a Mid tower, but even so there's still plenty of room to get those ham fists inside.  Lean principles appear to have been applied with the interior having just enough room with little to no wasted space.   

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An otherwise crisp and clean build is slightly marred by the lack of any rubber grommets covering the management holes.  It's also not immediately obvious that there's a small aperture up top for the 8pin CPU power cable, but look and ye shall find.

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Round the back the adequate 20mm of space is made supremely usable by no less than 22 cable tie points, "Chapeau" to BitFenix for their generosity.  Unused cables can of course always be stashed away under a low drive bay, and as such we're actually able to achieve a tidier job here than round the front. 

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If you get a bit annoyed by the lack of rigidity offered by the common "flex to open" 3.5" bay trays, or right peed off by the rigid yet rattling metal trays then you might be quite taken by the BitFenix solution.  Finding the best of both worlds the rigid plastic trays pull apart to accept the 3.5" drive and are then slid together clamping it firmly.  Warning notices are in place instructing you not to flex to open as this will invariably result in a broken tray and buckets of tears.  2.5" drives are housed in the same trays but are screwed in place in the traditional manner.

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With or without the Stealth Cover?  You choose.  We suspect this is going to be a Marmite feature, splitting opinion as only innovation can.  Whether you like it or not is up to you, but fact is it actually does a good job of hiding away those parts you may not wish to see.

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BitFenix Ronin Review     BitFenix Ronin Review  

 

Fully assembled with the very high gloss clear side panel in place (which is a real pain in the arse to photograph) you get a better is idea of how the Stealth cover looks.  The Jury is still out here at OC3D as to how we feel about it, partly we think as we're always suckers for a huge unfettered window.  The images below also show well one of the other things we're not to sure about with regards to the Ronin.  Don't get us wrong, we're big fans of the soft touch coating given to the front and roof, but we think if as it's not applied to the case sides more care should have been taken to better tonally match these surfaces.  As it stands the sides are are noticeably different and in fact are quite textured to the touch.

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BitFenix Ronin Review     BitFenix Ronin Review



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BitFenix Ronin Review

 

Cooling Options 

With 170mm of clearance there should be no problem fitting all but the most gargantuan of CPU tower heat sinks into the Ronin.  Certainly our NZXT Havik 120 which we use as a basis for comparison fits in just fine. 

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The abilty to house large conventional heatsinks isn't the end of the story though.  Regulars to OC3D will know that it's long been a desire of ours to see native water cooling support for mid towers, pointing out that the problems of interference at the top of the case can easily be overcome by means of off-setting the radiator further out into the case.  It seems Case manufacturers have been listening, certainly BitFenix have as the Ronin has native water-cooling support for 240mm rads in the roof. 

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To better help demonstrate the clearances and limitations  we're using the XSPC RS240.  This rad measures 121x35x277mm (WxHxD).  If you're using tall RAM then the max depth of rad you're realistically going to get away with is 50mm, failing that, a rad of no greater than 25mm can be used with fans mounted in push pull conguration. 

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If you're using low profile or some of the smaller more conventional RAM and providing it doesn't project more than 40mm form the motherboard tray or 34mm from the surface of the Motherboard then the world is pretty much your Oyster, and push pull set ups are certainly on the cards

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BitFenix also provide holes in the roof for 140mm fans.  Like the 240mm fittings the screws have a 15mm spacing so theoretically a 280 Rad no thicker than 40mm could be placed in the roof.  We say theoretically as there are likely to be end tank clearance issues with the rear of the 5.25" bays as shown with the RS240 in the image below left.  Also bear in mind that the deeper your rad, the more you're going to obscure the rear exhaust fan, and again, a 280 rad may in fact foul this fan position. 

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BitFenix Ronin Review

 

Conclusion

With it's large window all black styling, Soft touch finish and native water cooling support the BitFenix Ronin appears to have it all covered.  The Devil they say is in the detail though so let's delve a little deeper.

Certainly on the small side for a mid tower at 205x483x505mm the Ronin is no less imposing.  It is perhaps though it's slim 205mm width that limits the maximum fan size in the front to 120mm.  With only one fan included in this position you may wish to add another if you're going to be running a high overclock or are overly concerned about temps.  All that said, the fan you do get in the front is in fact one of the excellent Bitfenix Spectre fans as opposed to the all to common OEM units seen in a great deal of other manufacturers cases.

With 6 x 3.5"/2.5" bays there's plenty of storage.  As optical drives are beginning to die a death there's no longer a need for oodles of 5.25" bays.  The 3 x 5.25" bays provided should be more than enough for a bay res, fan controller (for none is included) and if you absolutely have to a good old fashioned optical drive.

In these days of monster GPUs it's absolutely essential that any modern PC case worth its salt can hold a Graphics card the size of a surf board.  With the upper drive cage removed you may lose 3x3.5" drive placements however the max GPU length is upped from a very reasonable 310mm to a more than generous 420mm.  Looking at the rest of the interior, when it comes to space BitFenix appear to have become proponents of the Japanese "Lean" principles.  Although the case is small it's not cramped on any way, there's just enough room for everything with nothing left to spare, so no wastage.  And no wasted space means no wasted materials and therefor cheaper production costs and a lower retail price.  This approach has been carried through to the oft neglected rear of motherboard area.  20mm of space isn't a great deal by modern case standards, however 22 well distributed cable tie points mean this space becomes more than enough as cables can be routed exactly where they are needed as opposed to having to be bunched together around available tie points.

While on the subject of space, we've seen many a larger case that does not offer native water cooling support.  By means of off-set bolt holes and the fans mounted in the roof space, rads of up to 50mm thick can be used even with tall RAM.  If you have low profile or even more normally proportioned RAM where the top of the RAM is no higher than 34mm from the surface of the motherboard then a push pull set up is certainly on the cards.  BitFenix also provide holes in the roof for 140mm fans.  Like the 240mm fittings the screws have a 15mm spacing so theoretically a 280 Rad no thicker than 40mm could be placed in the roof.  We say theoretically as there are likely to be end tank clearance issues with the rear of the 5.25" bays, still, that's what the Dremmel was invented for.  If water cooling's not your thing then take solace in having 170mm of clearance for a honking great CPU tower heatsink of your choice

Turning back to aesthetics, BitFenix have realised that opinion is very much divided between those who love to have a massive case window and those that would rather limit the scope of the window to merely presenting the "sexy" part of the interior.  To answer this BitFenix have developed the Stealth Cover.  Essentially an L shaped piece of contoured carbon fibre effect plastic that is clipped inside the case in such a way as to mask off the drive bays and PSU areas of the interior.  We suspect this will something of a Marmite feature, but whether you like it not there's no denying it does its job well.

So far so good then, but as we said at the beginning, the devil is in the detail and we're not OC3D with no good reason.  The BitFenix Ronin does have a few areas where things could be improved.  Whether these are important to you is up to you.  Firstly we feel that in a case with such a large side window that is obviously making a feature of showing off the interior it's a bit of a bad decision not to garnish the 3 cable management holes with rubber grommets.  The similarly priced Ghost and the Raider both have grommets, and they don't even have "look at me" windows, making it quite hard to follow BitFenix's logic.  We're also a bit disappointed that the tint and texture of the side panels aren't better in keeping with that of the soft touch coated roof and front.

At a smidge under £70 the Ronin drops right into the heart of enemy territory.  It's up against some pretty stiff competition, and not only from its own team mates in the shape of the Raider and the Ghost, the latter of which also supports roof mounted 240mm rads.  Basic flavours of the stalwart CM690 II can also be had for less than £70 with more advanced models costing a bit more, again with native water cooling support in the roof, albeit without quite as much room to play with.  If you're into sleek and silent then both the Nanoxia Deep Silence and DS2 also have native water cooling support, with the original DS1 offering both roof and front rad options.  The real thorn in the side of the Ronin though has to be the Arc Midi V2.  Admittedly it'll set you back a fiver or so more, but it water cooling's you're thing and you're looking to mount some seriously thick rads with low speed low noise fans then it can offer what the Ronin can't.

The Ronin is by no means a bad case, far from it.  However, our standards are high here at OC3D and the Ronin just fails to meet the grade when it comes to the coveted Gold award.  Second step it is then for a well earned Silver. 

            

Thanks to BitFenix for the Ronin on review today, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.