BitFenix Colossus M Case Review
Way back in 2010 a large proportion of the design team at Cooler Master’s CM Storm division left to form BitFenix. Their first case to be released was the incredibly striking BitFenix Colossus. What we have on hand today is the love child (of sorts) for their first case and arguably their most successful case to date, the BitFenix Prodigy. The BitFenix Colossus M (BFC-CLM-300-KKLS1-RP). This little case offers support for both Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards (also available as M-ITX only), a rather cool futuristic form, BitFenix LiteTrak™ Technology (more on this a little later), BitFenix SofTouch™ Surface Treatment, high speed USB 3.0 connectivity, magnetic heat shield and ‘Colossal Flexibility!
Don’t let the small size fool you the Colossus Micro-ATX packs quite a punch. Dual graphics cards up to 320mm in length can be installed along with tower coolers up to 160mm in height. Alternatively, users can opt for a slim 240mm water cooling radiator with a single graphics card installed. Along with a fully flexible storage system that allows for up to four 3.5″ hard drives or three 2.5″ SSDs, Colossus Micro-ATX brings colossal flexibility to the micro-ATX form factor.
|‘Styled after the legendary BitFenix Colossus, Colossus Mini-ITX brings a futuristic yet refined design to the mini-ITX form factor. The top and sides feature our signature SofTouch™ Surface Treatment for an undeniably quality finish, and exclusive LiteTrak™ Technology forms a virtually unbroken line of light across the front and sides of the case that can not only switch color, but also pulsate at the touch of a button. On the inside, users will be treated to an epically flexible interior that can accommodate multiple expansion cards and storage options. Two USB 3.0 ports enable lightning-quick file transfers, while small refinements such as rolled-edge cable pass-throughs, magnetic heat shield, and a powder-coated interior make Colossus Micro-ATX a joy to build in. Delivering aggressive looks with the flexibility to match, the small yet powerful Colossus Micro-ATX is the next big thing. ‘|
On paper the Colossus M looks very promising, has a pretty small form factor (250mm x 330mm x 374mm) and has a rather unique look, but will it have the same success as BitFenix’s other M-ATX cases, the Prodigy M and Phenom? Or will it prove to be the runt of the litter?
The BitFenix Colossus M arrived in a now familiar and unassuming brown box. On the front is a large black BitFenix logo with the case model beneath it. Underneath that you can also clearly see the company web address.
On the right side of the box we again see the BitFenix logo and model name, a picture of the Colossus M and its specifications. On the back of the box are three images of the Colossus M highlighting the main features of the case. The left side of the box displays the product SKU information and model number.
- BitFenix SofTouch™ Surface Treatment
- BitFenix LiteTrak™
- Up to 240mm Slim Radiators
- Five PCI Slots
- Magnetic heat shield
- Inverted Motherboard Tray
- Front Mounted PSU
- Removable Storage Rack
- Fits Long Graphics Cards (up to 320mm)
The BitFenix Colossus came well packed in a protective bag and sandwiched between two polystyrene blocks (as you can see in the above right photo, the packaging has done its job well).
Once out of the box we can see clearly (as is usually the case) the unique design of the BitFenix Colossus M and I must say I like it… A lot!
Included in the box is a Quick Installation Guide, Warranty Information, cable ties, stand-off socket, an assortment of fittings and a rather handy USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 conversion lead (the Colossus M I/O panel features two USB 3.0 sockets).
courtesy of BitFenix
|Material||Steel, Plastic, SofTouch™|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||250mm x 330mm x 374mm|
|Motherboard Sizes||Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX|
|5.25” Drive Bays||x 1|
|3.5” Drive Bays||x 4|
|2.5” Drive Bays||x 3|
|Cooling Top||120mm x 2 (optional)|
|Cooling Bottom||120mm x 2 (1 included) or 200mm x 1(optional) or 230mm x 1 (optional)|
|Cooling Rear||120mm x 1 (included) or 140mm x 1 (optional)|
|I/O Panel||USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio|
|Power Supply||PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)|
|Extras||LiteTrak™ lighting system, SofTouch™ surface treatment, magnetic heat shield|
The front of the Colossus M is predominately matt black, but not only that it’s covered in SofTouch! Which lends it a very premium feel. As you can see it also features a large matt silver BitFenix logo and a bloody great big white V. This V is the major part of the new LiteTrak™ lighting system which differs greatly to your typical LED illumination (more on this later). Just above the V is a nicely concealed (yet in clear site!) magnetic door.
At the back we see the exhaust port (compatible with 1x120mm fan (included) or 1x140mm (optional)), cut-out for the motherboard I/O and five expansion slots. Just to the left of the expansion slots you’ll see a black bar. This is a single-screw PCI lock, which should make it easier to install your expansion cards. In the bottom right corner you’ll see a PSU power socket, but no PSU cut-out? This is because the PSU is mounted at the front and this socket is effectively an extension lead.
Up above you can yet again see the drool worthy BitFenix SofTouch which dominates the top. You can also see the top of the door is vented to help allow air-flow to the front mounted PSU. Right slap bang in the middle is a removable grill with in-built dust filter. Maybe this may seem odd for a case of this size!? But beneath it’s possible to hide two 120mm fans and, more surprisingly a 240mm radiator!
Beneath the base we can see the vent for a huge 230mm fan (optional), this also has fittings for two 120mm fans (one included) if you’d prefer. Or perhaps you want neither type of fan? Looking between the 120mm fan mounts there are also some 3.5′ HDD mounts, you could very well have a combination! Right at the front is the exhaust mount for the previously mentioned front PSU mount. In each of the four corners, you will also find four legs. These are nice and sturdy plastic castors with an aluminium trim and anti-slip rubber pads.
The left side is predominately black with a good finish, although a little disappointingly not SofTouch :(. The inverted tick or the LiteTrak V shape is also clearly visible. What isn’t so clearly visible is the tiny little button right at the front, underneath the LiteTrak. This is LiteTrak control!
The right is nigh on identical (but opposite) apart from the I/O panel (ED: seems to be in an odd place!), this simply consists of a power button, reset, mic in, audio out and two USB 3.0 ports.
With the left panel off you can clearly see the… Back of the motherboard panel? That’s right! BitFenix have chosen to mount the motherboard in reverse! This means your GPU will suck in cold air from the shortest route possible being the top of the case, in an attempt to aide cooling. Whilst peering at the back of the motherboard tray you’ll also notice another exceptional powder coated finish by BitFenix, this one being matt black.
Inside the BitFenix Colossus M is very spacious due to its box like design. On the far left is a large cut-out to help with cable management, while over on the right is a massive cut-out to help when mounting your chosen CPU cooler. Again this has the same high quality powder coated finish. You’ll also notice in the top left corner a black bracket, this is the 5.25 bay adapter which is also removable.
The I/O Panel lives on the right panel as is the typical style of BitFenix. This consists of two USB 3.0 sockets, Mic In, Audio Out, Reset and Power button.
Upon removing the right panel you can see that most of the I/O cables are removable, the only exception being the USB 3.0. The big white bar underneath this is part of the LiteTrak lighting system.
Taking a closer look inside the Colossus M shows how surprisingly flexible the case is for its size. On the floor you see the removable PSU mount at the front (this is accompanied by a PSU extension cable), with the main floor space giving a plethora of options. You could mount two 120mm fans (one pre-fitted), two 3.5 HDD, a combination of the two, a rather massive 230mm fan or perhaps leave it entirely clear! Of course, for the more adventurous of you, perhaps this could be an ideal spot to mount a pump for a custom water loop! 😉
Looking at the back you have the option of a 120mm fan (pre-fitted) or 140mm fan. Just slightly obscured in the photo by the fan is also the motherboard I/O cut-out.
Taking another look underneath the case shows yet another optional extra, the magnetic heat shield. This has a rather nice carbon fibre look and is there to prevent hot air from the PSU exhaust from re-entering the case. Chances are you’ll most likely never see it, perhaps not even use it as I’d guess you’ll be wanting to make extra use from the additional fan mounts above it.
Back to the top shows the BitFenix case with the dust-filter removed. You can see clearly the two 120mm fan mounts, which also means that the Colussos M is compatible with a 240mm radiator! Rather disappointingly, the actual roof cavity isn’t quite deep enough to mount either radiator or fans, so in fitting either or even both, could mean it gets a little tight on the inside.
One thing I’m sure you’ve noticed is the lack of cables for LEDs on either side panel. This is because the BitFenix LiteTrak lighting system utilises a fibre optic design!
So straight to business. Out comes the drive caddy, in go the stand-offs, using the ever so handy stand-off socket tool, motherboard I/O shield and in slips the motherboard…
I know what your thinking ‘but the pcG Test Rig has the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING installed which is a full sized ATX motherboard and the BitFenix Colossus M is an M-ATX case?’ and you’d be right! So instead of shoehorning our usual test board into the case (which of course is not possible), we have a rather nice new MSI Z87M Gaming Motherboard (you can look forward to our review very soon!). The Intel I5-4670K was then fitted and our test CPU cooler, the Raijintek Themis easily fitted atop. Into two of the DIMM slots we installed our proprietary test RAM, the Kingston HyperX Beast 8GB Kit (2x4GB). At this point I’m very surprised at how nice and simple and surprisingly spacious the BitFenix Colossus M actually is!
Next up the PSU bracket is released using a nice and simple thumbscrew. The PSU extension is plugged into the Corsair AX760i PSU and the combination replaced. In go the 24 pin, 8 pin, GPU and MSATA power cables. The 8 pin simply lays along the bottom of the case, but not to worry as it’s nicely obscured by the 120mm floor fan. The 24 pin cable is fitted and tucked/wedged between the PSU and motherboard and the 120mm fan cables neatly trailed around the motherboard and plugged into the fan headers.
The MSI R9 290 GAMING 4GB is then then slotted into place… Or not! It seems the 5.25 drive bay bracket it a little bit of a tight squeeze for the R9 290 GPU, even though it’s not particularly long at 276mm long. So off comes the front panel, out comes the bay and in goes the card, which is then wired up. Given the case size, I had huge doubts about the ease of cable management and trying to keep the case tidy, but the bay behind the PSU is actually pretty big and any excess cables can easily be hidden there.
As the Colossus M is a new build and to save some of my precious gaming data, the storage option consists of a Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB, which will be used for the OS, but seeing as the caddy can hold more drives (3×2.5 and 2×3.25) and to check out the available space, I’ve also fitted a Seagate Barracuda 2TB and a OCZ Vertex 3 120GB. The two SSDs fit atop the bracket while the HDD is beneath (just under the Vertex 3). This fits on the bracket caddy nice and easily, which then in turn attaches to the case.
However as you can see in the photo below, by the time you have attached the MSATA power cable and SATA data lead it pretty soon looks like spaghetti. This is made even worse when the LiteTrak lighting system (that plugs in via a MSATA power cable) and the right panel I/O cables are connected. 🙁
I wasn’t especially happy with this so I went with a slightly different approach (this is also because pcG have something very special planned for the Colossus M coming up shortly 😉 ). So to tidy up and make the cable management a damn sight easier, I’ve taken out the caddy all together, along with the HDD and the Vertex 3 SSD! To remedy the lack of drive storage, I’ve used some sticky Velcro on the back of the motherboard tray for the Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD (for anyone planning to do this, it would make sense if you had a pretty high capacity SSD). The LiteTrak MSATA cable is then threaded behind the PSU and plugged into the MSATA power lead, which nicely fits into the PSU cavity.
As you can see this makes the main chamber for the BitFenix Colossus M much tidier and should help the case air-flow now there’s no messy cables in the way.
Although cable wise it’s still not quite perfect. The motherboard audio header and I/O header are both situated across the top of the board whilst the USB 3.0 header lives on the left (remember the board is reversed hence so are the headers), so you’re still left with a cable trail. This could be avoided with cable extensions routed behind the motherboard and behind the PSU or even better still if the case I/O had been mounted on the left panel instead. Personally I find this to be a pretty silly flaw in the case’s design and admit I’m a little disappointed…
Now all the pcG Test Rig (inc new mATX MSI motherboard) seems happy in its temporary new home . The BitFenix Colossus M is very nicely built, surprisingly flexible and above all desirable (even despite its flaws!). Yet how does this M-ATX based case fare as a performance Gaming rig and compare with its bigger competition?
At pcGameware we use Prime95 and CoreTemp to evaluate CPU temperatures and we use MSI Afterburner to evaluate the GPU temperatures. Of course Prime95 being a CPU stress test also helps to generate heat for us to check the case thermals, but what about GPU’s? Why we use UNiGiNE Heaven 4.0 of course!
CPU performance testing is carried out using Prime95 to stress the CPU. Each run is timed for 15 mins and the maximum temperature is recorded for all cores and then the average core heat is taken. Testing was carried out at both 3.4GHz (Stock) and at 4.0GHz (MSI OC Genie).
GPU performance testing is carried out by running UNiGiNE Heaven 4.0 for 15 minutes and then by recording the maximum GPU temperature.
|Case Fan Speed||CPU Cooler Fan Speed||Ambient Temperature||Max CPU Temperature (core average)||Delta Temperature||Noise Level|
As you can see from the above table, the BitFenix Colossus M/I5-4670K/Raijintek Themis combo doesn’t have any real issue with thermals at stock, well it’s not throttling put it that way! Perhaps it is a little warmer than you’d (10 degrees warmer than it was in the BitFenix Comrade) expect but with a maximum temperature of 70.75 the i5-4670K will do it’s job quite happily. You can also see that the noisiest component within the build is the Themis knocking out 45db which in reality is not that loud at all.
What happens when we introduce a small Overclock courtesy of MSI OC Genie?
|Case Fan Speed||CPU Cooler Fan Speed||Ambient Temperature||Max CPU Temperature (core average)||Delta Temperature||Noise Level|
Toasty! 😮 With the lowest fan settings on both the Colossus M and the Themis, the maximum temperature reaches 92.75! Al tough with the fans at their highest settings the maximum temperature hits 81.25, whilst still warm it’s no cause for concern (especially as most of us don’t sit down for an evening of Prime95!). I’d hazard a guess that the reason for the heat is a combination of the two pre-fitted 120mm fans and their respective locations. Both are pre-fitted as exhausts and the bottom one could be pulling cool air away from the CPU cooler!
|Case Fan Speed||Ambient Temperature||Max GPU Temperature||Delta Temperature||Noise Level|
We all know the Hawaii based AMD R9 290 can be one hot card, but rather surprisingly out of all our recent test cases the BitFenix Colossus turns out to be the coolest! Although at stock there are no fans pushing cold air onto the GPU, the card itself sits very closely to the roof of the case allowing it to pull in cool air for itself. Given the GPU’s proximity to the roof (sadly this also means the GPU is a little louder at 50db), it would be easy to believe that if a couple of 120mm fans were mounted as an intake (to aide GPU cooling further) the case could be a colossal (haha!) performer!
Now for a little performance comparison between some of the cases we have seen so far here at pcG. All fans are set at 100%, so although a little noisier than probably necessary, at least we get to see the maximum performance values. All data is taken from the 4.0GHz test.
|Case||Case Fan Speed||CPU Cooler Fan Speed||Ambient Temperature||Max CPU Temperature (core average)||Delta Temperature||Noise Level|
|Cooler Master Cosmos SE||100%||100%||19.50||63.00||43.50||54db|
|Cooler Master HAF XB||100%||100%||19.50||68.00||48.50||47db|
|BitFenix Colossus M||100%||100%||22.50||81.25||58.75||45db|
Colossal name, but not performance? Looking at the above charts, the out-of-the-box performance is in fact the worst of our recent review cases when it comes to CPU cooling. The case does offer huge potential with all of its mounts for optional fans, which I believe will place it higher in our charts (something you may see very soon 😉 ).
Acoustically you can’t really fault the BitFenix Colossus M. Sure it’s not silent but the maximum case noise is 43db, which is still pretty low. The component that caused the most noise was easily the MSI R9 290 GAMING 4GB at 50db. This of course could be remedied with better and/or additional fans…
One of the biggest features on the Colossus M is clearly the BitFenix LiteTrak lighting system, something I had concerns over… Luckily my concerns were unfounded, no doubt due to BitFenix’s vast experience with LED illumination. The LiteTrak system is based around fibre optics. So rather than being covered in LEDs, the majority of the illumination is actually one solid clear tube. This works very well, very well indeed. The LiteTrak even offers a choice of red, blue or green illumination and is very bright with concise colours, it’s the best case illumination I’ve ever seen! If that wasn’t enough BitFenix have also thrown in a breathing effect for all you fans out there too.
The BitFenix Colossus M arrived well packaged in the now familiar (to us) subdued brown cardboard box. Once out of the box all thoughts of subdued go straight out of the window! The case follows the usual high quality, solid build and flair for design that many of BitFenix products have. The Colossus M features SofTouch for an extra premium feel, high quality powder coated interior and the blindingly brilliant new LiteTrak lighting system (kinda reminds me of Maximilian from Disney’s ‘Black Hole’). The hardware installation was pretty simple and surprisingly the cable management works incredibly well (with a tiny bit of forethought 😉 ). In addition to this, the flexibility to add a variety of cooling solutions (inc both AIO and custom water cooling) to a case this size (W250mm x H330mm x D374mm) is simply stunning!
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its flaws… Straight out of the box with both 120mm fans mounted mounted as exhausts, the CPU cooling is certainly not the greatest in the world and all you Overclockers out there will most certainly want to change one to an intake or better still, put in more fans (it’s not like there’s any shortage of mounts!). You could of course argue that the GPU cooling is pretty bloody good by comparison, even without any additional fans which makes up for the poor CPU cooling (ED: this is especially true for a Gaming build as it’s far more important to keep the GPU cool than the CPU). The biggest flaw in my mind is the right panel mounted I/O panel, why oh why was this not moved to the left or better still the front or top, I just don’t know!?
I honestly wasn’t too excited when I heard I was to receive the Colossus M for review (ED: sorry Mike). I’ve never been sold on the idea of a small performance PC and thought this would be a case of all style and no substance. Yet once you see this BitFenix in the flesh and start playing with it, all of a sudden you get that excited feeling of something new and wondrous again.
The flexibility is phenomenal. You have the option to squeeze in any combination of 4x 3.25 HDD, 3x 2.5 SSD, 5x 120mm fan (2x included, 1x 140mm fan, 1x 230mm fan or even a 140mm or 240 radiator for an AIO or custom loop!
BitFenix offers you something a little bit special with the Colossus M. At just under £85.00, it’s a small, well priced package with colossal features! More importantly it has something that most cases don’t have these days, it is a case you want to own. In short, it is something you desire.
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Many thanks to BitFenix for providing this sample for review