Assembling the BitFenix Ronin

There are a few reasons to go with larger cases if you're assembling a full ATX system: a larger ATX case will typically offer support for larger fan sizes (which can move more air at lower fan speeds and thus run at lower noise levels), and it's liable to be less cramped when you're working on it. That's not to say the BitFenix Ronin is particularly cramped, but it's definitely a change when you consider the last case I assembled was the NZXT Phantom 530.

Installing the motherboard could've been a little more convenient; there's no alignment stud like Corsair typically includes, and only two standoffs come preinstalled in the tray. BitFenix at least includes a socket with a phillips head to make tightening the standoffs easier. I've taken to connecting SATA leads and case headers at this step as the dual GeForce GTX 580s hang over the SATA ports on our test board, and found that the routing holes in the motherboard tray are just a little on the small side.

Where I think BitFenix made a really brilliant design choice is in the toolless drive trays. Typically there have been two ways to go about designing these: bendable plastic ones that snap around the 3.5" drive and don't feel secure but don't require tools, or firm steel ones (like the ones Fractal Design employs) that use screws but also feel secure as a result. Enter a third way: BitFenix's trays actually separate about a half inch, then close around the drive. These are really the best of both worlds; they feel secure while being toolless, and it's a very slick bit of engineering. You'll have to screw 2.5" drives into the trays still, but 3.5" drives go in easy. Meanwhile, the toolless clamps on the 5.25" drive bays are the standard BitFenix ones and get the job done nicely.

Lining up the power supply is easy enough, but if you're building a multi-GPU system the space for the cards is going to feel cramped. If I'd planned things a little more carefully I might have been able to do a better job of routing the power leads for the two 580s, but you can see in the photo above that we're really working with a fairly limited amount of space. If you put a high performance system in the Ronin, it's going to look and feel full.

That problem gets compounded with cabling. There's a limited amount of space to route cables, and the hole for the AUX 12V line above the motherboard is just too small for the lead. Recognizing that I'm unusually daft when it comes to clean cabling jobs, it should nonetheless be evident that the reduced dimensions of the BitFenix Ronin will make it extremely difficult to do a clean build if you're installing a high performance system. Thankfully there's enough space behind the motherboard tray that getting the rear panel slotted back on wasn't too difficult, but I have to wonder if there wouldn't have been some way to make organizing cabling a bit easier.

In and Around the BitFenix Ronin Testing Methodology
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  • Liquid_Static - Monday, July 22, 2013 - link

    Disappointing to say the least. It seems like it's been a long time since we've seen any REAL innovation in the desktop case market, and frankly this was a step backwards. Although I do like the smaller size, the way it was implemented here (at the expense of temperature and noise levels) is not necessary or acceptable. Reply
  • Kaihekoa - Monday, July 22, 2013 - link

    Check out the Corsair Carbide Air 540. It's been receiving great reviews everywhere, has great thermal performance, immense functionality and versatility, and looks mean. There isn't much room for major innovation in a product whose function is to hold your components, but the Corsair case separates your heat-producing components from your PSU, 5.25" drives, and all your cabling/wiring and then blows a lot of cool intake air across your CPU/GPU. Really I think the last time there was a major innovation in cases was the Silverstone FT02, but Silvertek has abandoned the 90 degree inverted motherboard principle in its latest Fortress & Raven enclosures. Reply
  • Liquid_Static - Monday, July 22, 2013 - link

    I have a Corsair 500r, and I love their enclosures, however even they were getting stagnant up until the Air 540. I'd certainly consider one if I didn't have to worry about where I was going to find space for the cube in my dorm room... Reply
  • ggathagan - Monday, July 22, 2013 - link

    What areas of innovation would you expect to see?

    I'm not being snarky; I'm asking seriously.

    I see comments like this fairly often with full ATX case reviews, but I don't see where there can be much innovation.

    At a minimum, any ATX-capable case will have to accommodate:
    an ATX motherboard, a decent size CPU fan/heatsink, a full size PSU, a fairly long GPU card, a single optical drive and a single hard drive of any size. Now add the space necessary to provide decent air flow from the case fans.

    To me, it seems that the need to accommodate the above severely limits what can be done with the design.

    Kaihekoa mentions compartmentalization; Apple, Antec and others have been doing that for some time, with varying amounts of success.

    Others have discussed changing the number of 5.25" and 3.5" bays, but that's not really innovation.
    Once you decide that you need to make room for even a single optical drive and a single hard drive of any size, you now have a fair amount of empty space that might as well be used for additional drives.

    M-ATX and ITX form factors allow case makers to be more creative (FT03-MINI comes to mind), since users are focusing on minimal size and expect to give up some of the above for the privilege.

    There are only two things I could imagine doing:
    Taking a Fortress FT-02 and cutting off the drive bays to reduce the depth of the case.
    There's enough room in front of the expansion slots to allow for a single 3.5 drive and a slim-line optical drive.

    Similarly, creating an ATX version of the FT03/FT03-MINI

    Lastly, the bottom line for any manufacturer is profit.
    Any product they make must be sold in enough quantity to pay for itself.
    For the ATX form factor, I have difficulty believing that there's a large enough market to justify the effort
    Reply
  • Grok42 - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    I would point to the new Mac Pro if you want to see innovation. The core machine is a beast and the design is 10" x 6", basically an over-sized coke can. No 5.25" drive in that thing, no 3.5" drive either. Two GPUs and up to 12 cores for the CPU. Can the PC market do the same? Probably not without giving up important values such as open designs, but the answer isn't to keep doing the same thing. mITX is a pretty good platform, we just need more innovation around the form factor. Much more can be done to make the essential MB + CPU + GPU + SSD combo more integrated and streamlined. Reply
  • fluxtatic - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    Innovative? Arguably. A disaster in a real-world environment? Probably. Expansion is pretty well Thunderbolt only, so the good looks (if you find fancy garbage cans attractive) will be wrecked by the cable running to a snarl of external drive bays, HDD enclosures, etc. Might not be a big deal for the sorts that actually need a Mac Pro, but I'd just as soon not drop half again the money on what I'd need to make it useful (storage, etc, from massively expensive TB accessories). Reply
  • ioconnor - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    What areas of innovation would I like to see?

    1) Separate area to store the extra cables for the power supply, motherboard, etc.. For the extra screws. For the zip ties. For the manuals, instructions, and software. (It's always nice to store the windows OS CD with the computer it goes with.)
    2) Super large slow moving fans.
    3) Detachable L-plate the motherboard and cards attach to. So the L-plate is put on the desk, motherboard and cards are attached, then the L-plate is put back in case. The L-plate should be easily, under 5 seconds, removed or installed into the case.
    4) The case should be made of thick aluminum and no sharp corners. Things should be spaced nicely so those of us with huge hands and arms can still work comfortably. Without tools.

    Those are just some of the things that come immediately to mind. I could go on though.
    Reply
  • 1Angelreloaded - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    So you basically want a case from Mountain Mods for cheap. Reply
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - link

    ggathagan: The sum total of innovation in ATX cases over last 10 years has been to move the PSU from the top of the case to the bottom. Both Silverstone and Lian Li have experimented but I have issues with the build quality of both.

    Obvious areas of potential innovation:

    1. Turning PSU 90 degrees for better cable management. (Lian Li have tried this)
    2. Noise dampening for optical drives
    3. Proper cable routing on back side of motherboard tray
    4. Some thought applied to cable routing for hard drive cages, maybe all fed of a single molex.
    5. Given the weight of some GPUs some form of support - again I think Lian li have tried this

    Heck: it is only in last 3 years that fan filters have become standard
    Reply
  • lwatcdr - Friday, July 26, 2013 - link

    Optical drives are not long for this world.
    There is a real limit to what you can do with a case. The big change I would like to see is in the power supply I would like the cables to come out the left hand side of the power supply so you can run them right to the back side of the motherboard tray. Then relocate the fan from the bottom to the front of the power supply. This would allow you to mount the drive bays in front of the power supply on the bottom and have the PS draw air over the drive bays. This would allow room long video cards and water cooling in the front of the case and maybe the top as well. Of course I would like to see a new SATA connector that supplies power as well so you only need one cable going to the drives.
    Reply

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