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BitFenix Shinobi XL review: BitFenix Shinobi XL

The Shinobi XL has quite a bit of flexibility if you choose to build up a highly custom rig — we'd just like a little more attention spent on the fit and finish.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
4 min read

BitFenix's Shinobi XL is as its name would suggest — a larger version of its earlier Shinobi. There's three variants available: black, black with window and white with window, with the latter's black-on-white colour scheme making it impossible to avoid Stormtrooper comparisons. What you order will affect how much you pay — at one local store, they were priced at AU$155, AU$165 and AU$175, respectively.


BitFenix Shinobi XL

The Good

USB 3.0 cable has USB 2.0 cable built in for backwards compatibility. Removable, re-positionable drive bay. Quite flexible for water coolers.

The Bad

Top and front incredibly hard to get off. Drive caddies don't insert or remove as well as they could, often slipping down.

The Bottom Line

The Shinobi XL has quite a bit of flexibility if you choose to build up a highly custom rig — we'd just like a little more attention spent on the fit and finish.

The Fenix shall rise! The black racing stripes actually hide cut-outs in the case for air flow.
(Credit: Craig Simms)

This full tower case is covered with a rubberised material on the top and front, while the sides and rear are typical steel. The window is quite strong, and smartly only shows the interesting bits, hiding the drive bay.

A window into your PC is a window into your soul.
(Credit: Craig Simms)

The black racing stripes aren't just for show, but provide airflow through holes in the case, as does the perforated grille on top.

Air is also provided by a huge 230mm fan on top, a matching beast at the front and a 120mm fan at the rear (although, it can take a 140mm). You can customise this set up, but first you have to remove the front and top panels, something that requires excessive force. We ended up using pliers initially to loosen the pegs holding the panels in place, but in the end, only sheer brute strength moved them, with the panels exploding off. Replacing them requires a solid bashing as well — we can only hope that this gets easier as time goes on.

The after-effects of removing the top.
(Credit: Craig Simms)

Once removed, you'll find three 120mm mounts at the top, or optionally, you can add another 230mm fan. There's about 80mm between roof and board, so you have a little wiggle room for water cooling. There are four 22mm-diameter water cooling holes at the top rear, should you decide to get quite serious.

The naked front after excessive force was applied. Note the slip-in air filter for the front 230mm fan.
(Credit: Craig Simms)

The front 200mm fan is protected by a slip of a dust filter, and it can be replaced by dual 120mm fans if you so wish. This is used to cool the seven 3.5-inch drive bays behind, in which seven quick removable hard drive caddies sit, and which also have mounting points for 2.5-inch drives. These could do with a bit of refining — when pulling out or inserting a mounted drive, we found that the caddy would often slip down a level, rather than just cleanly inserting or removing.

The removable drive caddies, and a shot of the 5.25-inch quick release mechanism above.
(Credit: Craig Simms)

The entire hard drive rack can be removed if you like, with BitFenix providing easily removable screws to do so. Doing this not only frees up the front for radiators, but can allow you to mount two 120mm fans on the base, each already pre-filtered. As an extra trick, the disk rack can also be aligned to be parallel with the case.

The 5.25-inch bays, of which there are five, aren't removable at all. A 5.25 to 3.5-inch adapter is included, but is clearly included for a bay-device of 3.5-inch floppy, as the front panel is open.

Like most case manufacturers, BitFenix includes a quick release mechanism for the 5.25-inch bays, although at first, it's not immediately obvious how to operate them. A quick consultation of the manual and all becomes clear: the BitFenix logo in the centre is actually a button, which when pushed down and slid left or right, locks a drive into place. It works reasonably well, but if you're not a fan, BitFenix has designed the system so that you can just use screws instead.

The case has nine expansion slots, plus four rubber stoppers to stop the PSU scratching and to keep the fan off the base. Underneath the PSU is a removable dust filter.

Number nine. Number nine. Number nine.
(Credit: Craig Simms)

The now standard motherboard holes with rubber grommets are in place, with BitFenix using a different grommet design to Corsair and Cooler Master. They're not as wide, but depending on the cables you loop through, you may be able to get a neater build with them, thanks to the smart way the grommets have been cut — vertical holes for flat cables, and larger circles at the end for round ones. Those looking for cable management space will find about 30mm to work with behind the tray.

There's a decent amount of room to work with behind.
(Credit: Craig Simms)

BitFenix puts its IO on the top, a position we prefer to front mounted. It provides a generous and potentially future-proofing four USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0 port that supports charging and the requisite headphone and microphone jacks. There's no need to worry about USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 converters either — BitFenix has built them right into the cable. Apart from the inclusion of an internal speaker (useful for diagnosing board issues), accessories are the otherwise standard screws, motherboard mounts and cable ties.

The Shinobi XL has quite a bit of flexibility if you choose to build up a highly custom rig, and handy touches, like the built in USB 2.0 header for the USB 3.0 ports and removable drive tray, are much appreciated. Still, we'd like to see a little more time spent on the fit and finish, particularly with the hard drive trays and the mechanism used to remove the top and front panels.