BitFenix Shinobi: The Budget Ninjaby Dustin Sklavos on June 22, 2011 12:45 AM EST
Conclusion: Solid Choice for the Budget Builder
The BitFenix Shinobi leaves me of two minds at the end of this review. As far as assembly goes, I can't really argue with what BitFenix has done here: the Shinobi is just plain incredibly easy to build, among one of the easiest I've ever worked with. Nothing about it feels particularly cheap although the case itself is light enough that I worry it's not the sturdiest thing in the world. That shouldn't be a big deal: if you're putting your case in situations where it's liable to get consistently banged up, you may want to reconsider some of your computing habits.
Aesthetically, I personally love the Shinobi's look, and the tinted window on the side is a nice touch that allows you to give your build a little flair without overdoing it. The hard angles, smooth textures, and generally subdued appearance are all very appealing and some would even say preferable compared to other, louder-looking cases (like the In-Win BUC). At the price BitFenix is asking for the Shinobi line ($59 for the windowless version, $69 for the windowed one), you'd really expect something gaudier or chintzier, but the Shinobi looks like it could reasonably sell for at least $100. It's the difference between cheap and inexpensive.
The problem is that to get the most out of the Shinobi's design, you're probably going to have to move the fans around if not buy more fans, and that does add to the price. The In-Win BUC remains our gold standard for budget cases with flexible designs and excellent performance, and the Shinobi unfortunately doesn't unseat it. I can see the Shinobi performing much better with the addition of a couple more quiet fans; as the Sonata IV proved against the BUC, three fans that don't have to work very hard are going to be quieter and more efficient than a single fan that has to do all the heavy lifting. If you're willing to pop the front off and move things around and experiment, the Shinobi will probably serve you well.
Unfortunately, those questionable thermals keep me from giving the Shinobi an editor's choice award. It would be a great enclosure if it ran better out of the box, but it doesn't. It's still among the quieter cases we've tested, the thermals aren't horrible, and I really do love how easy it is to work with. But we need something quiet and cool.
I'm forced to give it a bit of an odd recommendation. The Shinobi is the least expensive case we've tested, but in terms of build quality and aesthetics it easily competes with the In-Win BUC. With a little bit of thermal re-engineering and maybe an extra front fan, this could be a stellar case. It's certainly a good choice for someone building a machine they want to tinker with, and I'd personally love to see it employed by boutique builders looking for a classy case with a low price tag. So I recommend it with reservations: if you're willing to invest the time to work with the fans and airflow, or if you plan on a midrange build with a moderate GPU and no overclocking, it should serve you very well. But out of the box, I'd rather pay the extra $30 for the In-Win BUC.
Addendum: Some of you have expressed concerns as to how the Shinobi was tested compared to other enclosures, and those concerns are in line with those of the manufacturer. I installed the hard drive where I did for the same reason I've done similarly on previous enclosures: to illustrate any potential clearance issues. In the process, though, this likely skewed the testing results against the Shinobi. This is coupled with the manufacturer's concern that the Shinobi is being pit against enclosures at least $30 more expensive. I'm not sure how unfair the comparison is, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. BitFenix intended the case to be an affordable option capable of a fair amount of tweaking for the end user, and it is successful in that.