In and Around the BitFenix Ronin

Where BitFenix has been consistently successful in my opinion is their ability to produce cases that are aesthetically pleasing and look more expensive than they are. The soft-touch surface treatment goes a long way in differentiating their products from conventional steel boxes, and the Ronin is no exception. Also atypical is their tendency to avoid gaudy enclosure designs and styles; BitFenix is one of those rare companies able to produce a distinctive black box. If absolutely nothing else, the Ronin is at least a looker.

The front and top panels of the Ronin feature black mesh trims along the sides that sandwich a perforated soft-touch shell that allows air to flow in and out of the enclosure. At the front of the top panel are a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, and the traditional mic and headphone jacks. The power button is large; the reset button tiny and recessed, and the power LED and IDE activity LED are blue and red respectively. It's a clean and simple design and it works. Both panels also pop on and off easily enough, but require just enough force that they feel secure when in place.

BitFenix differentiates the Ronin from other cases through the use of their "Stealth Cover"; there's a large window on the left side panel, but the stealth cover hides cabling and drives and endeavors to provide a fairly clean look at the case interior. While I'm used to dealing with reflective case windows, the one on the Ronin seems to be particularly reflective, so my apologies there. The stealth cover itself is an interesting wrinkle, though.

The side panels are held in place with thumbscrews, but unfortunately they're notched instead of hinged. This is less of an issue on a case this small; on larger cases it can be difficult to properly apply pressure everywhere it needs to be to get the notches to line up. The stealth cover is held in place with three snaps.

Once you're inside, there isn't anything too exciting to report. The cage housing the top trio of drive sleds is easily removable, and BitFenix's traditional toolless mechanisms for the 5.25" drive bays are in place. Of some concern are the slightly narrow cable routing holes, the extremely small one where the AUX 12V line would go, and the unusually small cutout in the motherboard tray for cooler backplates. You'll want to pay attention to this when we get to assembly.

As I mentioned before, the Ronin is ultimately on the smaller side of ATX cases. That's a trade-off individual consumers will have to make; the reduction in case width means 120mm fans are the order of the day during a period when many manufacturers are transitioning to 140mm fans. The two fans are placed in the rear exhaust and the top front intake, leaving the bottom one unoccupied. Whether or not the stealth cover is appealing is for the individual user to decide, but it's at least unique to the Ronin and I can see its purpose.

Introducing the BitFenix Ronin Assembling the BitFenix Ronin
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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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