In and Around the BitFenix Shinobi XL

Aesthetics are a very subjective thing, but I have to admit I'm not hugely infatuated with the look of the Shinobi XL. It's true that black goes with everything, and there's nothing terribly wrong with a good black monolithic tower. My problem is that the way the original Shinobi styling has scaled up leaves me wanting. Try to imagine how the original Unreal Tournament looked back when it came out when we were all running it at 640x480 (or 320x200 in my case; my computer was terrible), then think about how it looks running on a modern system at 1920x1200. The detail doesn't scale up well, and there's a lot of empty space. I feel like that's what's going on here.

The shell of the Shinobi XL consists of black, soft-touch plastic and black steel. I'm very fond of the plastic, as it usually feels fairly sturdy and the texture feels classy at almost any point on the price continuum. The front maintains the parallel ventilation lines and features five 5.25" bays. Yet while these ventilation points felt adequate on the original Shinobi, on the Shinobi XL they seem too thin and I'm concerned that they don't draw in enough air on their own.

When we move to the top of the Shinobi XL, we find the I/O cluster with an impressive four USB 3.0 ports, a single USB charging port (no data, only power), and the standard mic and headphone jacks alongside the power and reset buttons. Beyond that is pretty much a front-to-back ventilated grate capable of supporting a whopping two 230mm fans or three 120mm fans.

The left side panel features an acrylic window designed to highlight the primary motherboard area, while the right side panel is a basic flat black panel. The rear of the enclosure is also matte black steel, and in fact even the bottom is painted black. When you do look at the rear, though, you can get a feel for just how much space is hidden behind the motherboard tray. The Shinobi XL is as wide as it is for a reason.

Four thumbscrews hold the side panels on, and when you remove them you'll find an interior that's largely bog standard for current generation enclosures: bottom-mounted PSU, optical drive bays with toolless clamps, removable hard drive cage oriented laterally with plastic drive trays, and a motherboard tray with rubber-grommet-lined routing holes. Users expecting the kind of creativity we've seen on enclosures like the Outlaw and Prodigy are bound to be disappointed; the Shinobi XL is as fundamental as it gets.

That adherence to the fundamentals works fine in the regular Shinobi at half the price, but when you go north of about $120 to $140, you start to expect a little more verve in enclosure designs. While BitFenix excels in making the Shinobi XL water-cooling friendly (how many vendors do you know who find ways to fit three 120mm intake fans in the front of the case?), the overall design is incredibly tame. That's a shame, too, because modern conventions are far from perfect and there's a lot of room for improvement.

Introducing the BitFenix Shinobi XL Assembling the BitFenix Shinobi XL
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    I've thought about it a few times. It's just a matter of one of the case manufacturers being crazy enough to let me come up with something. ;)
  • romany8806 - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Hey Dustin, I enjoy your reviews more and read them more thoroughly than any others on Anandtech, despite not currently being in the market for anything you've covered.

    I don't suppose you have a CM690-II in your review backlog do you? I'd love to know how my case compares with those that have gone through your new test suite. If you have any anecdotal experience to share I'd be happy with that.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    I wish I did, but for some odd reason CoolerMaster stuff can be a bit hard to come by around here and I don't have any business requesting new kit until I've cleared out my (massive) backlog.

    So unfortunately no anecdotal experience, but just from looking at it I'd expect it to perform comparably to Antec's 1100, albeit probably a bit louder.

    I sincerely appreciate the kind words, though. The internet breeds negativity, so it's always nice when someone chooses to put something positive out there. :)
  • Darkhynde - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    I have to agree with his high opinion of your reviews. It saddens me to hear that the Cooler Master stuff is hard to come by as I am in the early stages of researching parts fro a new build I want to by myself for my birthday in about two months and had my eyes on the Cooler Master HAF XM. My current case is an OLD OLD OLD Thermaltake Kandalf circa 2003 that has served me well through my last two or three builds since then.

    Out of curiosity, just what do you consider massive when you mention this massive backlog of yours? Can We get a ballpark figure of how many cases are in your backlog?

    One other question. What do you do with the cases once they are reviewed and the data recorded for future use. Do you have a room stock piled with cases or do you ship them back to the vendor that supplied them?
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Right now my backlog is about six cases deep, so basically about two months worth of reviews. Also keep in mind that as new cases are released, they get moved to the front of the line, so unfortunately when something is sitting at the tends to sit at the back for a long time, potentially indefinitely. I do my best to keep up on my workload, though, and maintain contact with the vendors.

    And also keep in mind that, as you've seen, cases aren't the only thing I handle around here. They keep me busy. :)
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Silence, slave! Back to work! [Cracks whip]
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Yes sir! Right away sir!
  • xaviergzz - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    "as the case is capable of supporting a cumulative 1080x120mm of radiators"

    what does that mean???

    1080x120mm...1080mm X 120mm ...3 three foot long rad???
  • Galcobar - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    The key phrase is "cumulative."

    Dustin's not explicit about the location of the radiators -- as far as I can read -- but if fan mounts = radiator mounts, then three 120 mm x 120 mm across the top, three across the front, two on the bottom and one at the back.

    120 x 9 = 1080 mm. So nine radiators, 120 mm wide, lined up would produce a 3.5-foot-long radiator.

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