Introducing the BitFenix Ronin

I've been championing BitFenix as a stellar brand for builders on a budget (hooray alliteration) for some time now. Cases like the Shinobi are attractive options in their price bracket, and the Merc series enclosures are almost unbeatable for the money. There's also the incredibly popular Prodigy, a case BitFenix has had a hard time even producing enough of, that helped bring enthusiast level mini-ITX performance to market at a very reasonable price.

In the midst of these successes, BitFenix is releasing the Ronin, a more standard ATX enclosure with a couple of interesting wrinkles. Superficially it looks pretty similar to the Shinobi, but BitFenix has made a few changes internally and raised the price accordingly. The problem with the Ronin is unfortunately that at $99, it prices itself largely out of BitFenix's prime real estate and worse, it has a hard time justifying its existence alongside superior (and less expensive) options in BitFenix's lineup. That's before heavyweights like the Antec Eleven Hundred hit sales and get to $99 or less.

BitFenix Ronin Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX
Drive Bays External 3x 5.25"
Internal 6x 2.5"/3.5"
Cooling Front 1x 120mm intake fan (supports 2x 120mm)
Rear 1x 120mm exhaust fan
Top 2x 120mm/140mm fan mounts
Side -
Bottom 1x 120mm fan mount
Expansion Slots 7
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 170mm
PSU 220mm
GPU 310mm with drive cage / 420mm without
Dimensions 8.07" x 19.02" x 19.88"
205mm x 483mm x 505mm
Special Features USB 3.0 via internal header
Supports 280mm radiator in top
Interior component shield
Modular drive cage
Price $99

Not every case needs to be a giant, powerful cooling monstrosity, and the Ronin is definitely on the small side for full ATX cases. It's not even necessarily the number of fans included, it's the quality and placement of the fans themselves, and the way the airflow is engineered. Yet with these considerations, it's hard not to feel like the Ronin is a little bit light for a $99 enclosure. BitFenix has up to this point offered pretty healthy value with their cases, but $99 for a case with two 120mm fans and a side window is hard to justify.

In and Around 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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