BitFenix Comrade Case Review
Here we have the rather interesting BitFenix Comrade (BFC-COM-100-WWXS1-RP). Interesting because this is the smallest (W185mm x H428.55mm x D470.5mm) and cheapest (£29.99!) case I’ve laid my hands on so far, but it does this with a twist. The Comrade has several features that you wouldn’t expect to find in such a entry-level case. These include tool-free drive bays, dust filters and a powder coated interior. Of course budget friendly/entry-level cases seem to be the ‘in-thing’ at the moment with Silverstone having recently release their Precision PS10, the Zalman Z1 and of course the Corsair Carbide Spec series are just on the horizon, but even on a tight budget is the Comrade worthy of your money?
|‘Aimed squarely at builders on a budget, Comrade delivers high-end features at an incredibly competitive price point. Available in two classic colors, Comrade brings a sleek, no-nonsense design that’s ideal for the first-time builder. Dedicated 3.5″ and 2.5″ drive racks offer ample expansion possibilities, as well as room for long graphics cards up to 30cm in length. Tool-free drive locking mechanisms make installing storage a breeze, while dual dust filters enable quick and easy cleanup. A high-speed USB 3.0 port has also been included to save you time during file transfers. Adorned with premium touches like a powder-coated interior and an aluminium-finish BitFenix badge, Comrade is a trusty mid-tower design and an unprecedented value.’|
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to PC Hardware and Peripherals, I always associate a premium price with a premium product, but SpeedLink have recently proved me wrong with their rather excellent Ledos Gaming mouse. I wonder if BitFenix can prove me wrong again?
The BitFenix Comrade arrived on my doorstep hidden within a rather 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 Comrade itself and a specifications list (see below).
- 120mm Rear Fan
- Bottom and Front Dust Filters
- Side I/O Panel for easy access (Single USB 3.0 port)
- Tool Free Drive Locking
- Retaining holes for easy cable management
On the back of the box are three images of the Comrade highlighting the main features of the case (see above right).
The left side of the box displays the product SKU information and model number.
The BitFenix Comrade came fairly well packaged in a protective bag and sandwiched between two polystyrene blocks.
Having removed all the packaging we get to see the Comrade itself. This particular sample is, as you can see, a white model (the Comrade is also available in black).
Included in the box is a Quick Installation Guide, Warranty Information, PCI-E blanking plate and an assortment of fittings. Hang on a minute… Only three stand-off’s for the motherboard? Read on to find out why!
courtesy of BitFenix
|Color (Int/Ext)||Black/Black, White/White|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||185mm x 428.55mm x 470.5mm|
|Motherboard Sizes||Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX|
|5.25” Drive Bays||x 3|
|3.5” Drive Bays||x 3|
|2.5” Drive Bays||x 3|
|Cooling Front||120mm x 2 (optional)|
|Cooling Rear||120mm x 1 (1 included)|
|I/O Panel||1 x USB3.0, 1 x USB2.0, HD Audio|
|Power Supply||PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)|
|Power Supply Type||Standard ATX PS2|
|Extras||Front Dust Filter, PSU Dust Filter, Tool-Free Drive Locking|
Up front, due to the server styling, it’s pretty sparse. You can clearly see the 5.25 bay covers, a few accented details near the bottom and a rather nice powder coated black aluminium BitFenix badge. This is made all the more striking by the ocean of white surrounding it.
Round the back shows the 120mm exhaust port, cut-out for the motherboard I/O, 7 x expansion slots (all bar one of these are press out, so once removed you’ll have to find replacements yourself), PSU cut-out, as well as two rubber grommeted ports for water cooling. Looking to the right of the expansion slots you’ll see a black bar. This is a clip-on retainer bracket and cover for the PCI-E expansion slots so there is no need for thumb screws.
From a birds-eye view, the simple server styling shows again, but this also shows there is actually two different shades of white used on the case. The plastic front panel is more a creamy white, where as the rest of the external areas of the case are a greyish white.
Taking a look at the opposite end shows off the PSU dust filter at one end, with an air intake at the front for the two optional 120mm fans. The feet on the BitFenix Comrade are made of a fairly hollow (brittle) black plastic. Sadly one of these fell off when I looked at it!
On the left there is no window panel as is the case for many cases these days (ED: wow that was a lot of cases). I suppose you could say it looks all white. Although it draws to your attention the mismatch of whites, again.
The right is nigh on identical apart from the I/O panel, this simply consists of a power button, reset, mic in, audio out, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. One thing that is worth mentioning is, once removed both side panels are identical, so if you accidentally mark the side you’ll see most often, just switch them over and never think about it again! 😉
The interior of the BitFenix Comrade looks deceptively larger than it really is, no doubt this is down to the high quality white powder coating. Whilst viewing clockwise and in order, we see the three ODD (Optical Disk Drive) retention mechanisms, three SSD racks, three HDD racks, 120mm PSU intake, PSU exhaust, seven PCI-E expansion slots, 120mm BitFenix exhaust fan and of course the motherboard tray.
Behind the motherboard tray is again finished in the same white powder coating. As usual there isn’t a lot to excite visually, but looking at the central cable ports you’ll notice quite a wide channel and instead of the usual cable ports beside the PSU, there’s a singular massive hole. These should make cable management quite a lot easier, especially with all the tie off points dotted around the motherboard area. Of course you could argue the lack of window means it doesn’t matter anyway.
The IO Panel consists of Power button, Reset button, Mic In, Audio Out, USB 2.0, & USB 3.0.
Pulling off the front panel shows us more clearly the 5.25 ODD bays, two of which have press out blanking plates. More interestingly this also shows a removable air filter with mounts for two optional 120mm fans.
Earlier in the unboxing I mentioned that BitFenix had only included three motherboard stand-off’s in the fittings kit. This is because the Comrade motherboard tray has them already built in. In my mind this design decision is a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side stand-off’s can be a little fiddly and this means less work is involved. On the downside your going to be in trouble if you cross-thread one of the screw holes. Of course this doesn’t actually explain what the three mysterious stand-off screws are actually for!?
Given the size of the BitFenix Comrade, the back of the motherboard tray is surprisingly roomy with 2.8cm working space. That combined with the tie-off points and a central cable channel should make cable management relatively hassle free.
With all the removable bits out, the main chassis looks incredibly roomy and you can see how good the white powder coating is.
Normally at this point I’d be fitting the motherboard stand-offs, but as they are already fitted I opted for a brew instead! 😉
So in pops the motherboard I/O shield for the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING. Given the slight space restriction between the PSU and motherboard, I chose to fit the motherboard first. This as it turns out highlights a slight problem. The top left cable hole that you would normally associate with an 8 pin power cable is far too tight and almost entirely covered by the motherboard which means it can’t be used for this purpose (see photo below right). Of course this perhaps may have been remedied by placing stand-offs on the stand-offs!? But then I guess I only had three…
Next up is the Corsair AX760i PSU. Given the space this proves to be a nice and simple job, given the entry-level price of the BitFenix Comrade, it’s worth remembering there are no rubber mounts in the case, so if you’ve got a loud PSU you’ll be wanting to pick some up to help combat any noise caused by vibration.
In slips the Intel I5-4670K, on top of which goes the Raijintek Themis. Because the area surrounding the 8 pin socket is relatively small, it would be worth fitting your CPU cooler before hand (not like I did), this would make the job a little easier and less fiddly. In goes our proprietary test RAM, the Kingston HyperX Beast 8GB Kit (2x4GB) and now the fun task of wiring it all up.
During the wiring I noticed two things, the first being the 8 pin power cable cut out is nigh on useless, the second being all other cut out’s are more or less perfectly placed. Although for ease of use the large cut out by the PSU is great, it does make a quick, clean and tidy build somewhat difficult to attain (you can’t just go down my normal route of stuffing the cables though :().
The Seagate Barracuda 2TB pops neatly into place in the tool-free 3.5 sled, but oddly BitFenix have not chosen a tool-free design for the 2.5 SSD sleds, so I had to screw the OCZ Vertex 3 120GB into position. This is no problem of course, I just find it a little strange that all of the storage space is tool-free except the 2.5 sleds.
Then the final part of the build. I go to pop in the MSI R9 290 GAMING 4GB and hit a small issue. I seem to have forgotten to remove the necessary PCI-E blanking plates (school boy error, I know). Now this would normally not be an issue as you’d normally release the brackets with a thumbscrew or two, but in this case the BitFenix Comrade has push-out blanking plates, so in order to avoid potential damage to your motherboard it would be advisable to remove them before you install your motherboard. Fixing the GPU also highlights another potential problem, because BitFenix have chosen a locking plate rather than thumbscrews, there is a fair amount of movement on the PCI-E slot end. Where possible I’d still go down the route of using a thumbscrew just to make your GPU sit more securely. Space wise as you can see in the photos, the BitFenix Comrade will happily house any current GPU on the market, regardless of its length!
Now the entire pcG Test Rig is quite happily situated inside the Comrade, but during the build I did come across two things of concern. Although the main chassis is solidly built and well painted, the side and front panels are incredibly thin. Will this effect the overall performance of the case? We best find out…
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 Comrade/I5-4670K/Raijintek Themis combo has no problems with thermals at stock. Admittedly it’s a little louder than I’d like with the Themis fan speed running at 100% (53db, not quite enough to cause partial deafness), but it is certainly something some people would happily live with.
Now how about a minor Overclock courtesy of MSI OC Genie?
|Case Fan Speed||CPU Cooler Fan Speed||Ambient Temperature||Max CPU Temperature (core average)||Delta Temperature||Noise Level|
Things are certainly warming up! With the most aurally comfortable fan settings (36db), the maximum average temperature recorded was 87.25. With the case fan at 100% and the Themis fan still at 25% this drops a full 9.00 to 78.25 which is far more within my comfort zone. Of course with all fans set to 100% this will drop further still down to 74.00. This in my mind would also mean that 4.0GHz is the maximum overclock you would want with this particular combination if you chose to build within the Comrade, certainly if you plan to use the case straight out of the box. An additional front intake fan should help here…
|Case Fan Speed||Ambient Temperature||Max GPU Temperature||Delta Temperature||Noise Level|
Ok, so as mentioned in previous reviews, the AMD R9 290 has a very high maximum temperature. With the custom coolers now widely available, the R9 290 shows exactly what the Hawaii based GPU is capable of. However if you take a look at the results above you’ll notice even with the incredibly cool Twin Frozr IV cooler on the MSI R9 290 GAMING 4GB, the maximum temperature of 94 Celsius is reached and therefore the GPU start to throttle (meaning it will reduce its Core clock speed) resulting in a loss in performance. More alarmingly so, this happens within a couple of minutes of the highest fan settings on the Comrade! There is a very simple explanation for this, ‘Air-Flow’, or lack thereof! The BiFenix Comrade ships with only one 120mm fan and that’s used as an exhaust for the CPU. There are two front mounts for two additional 120mm fans (optional) which should help to cool your rig immensely, but more importantly keep your GPU a damn site cooler. Personally I would have been happy to pay a little extra on the ticket price to have both of these fan mounts already filled.
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|
Out of the box, the BitFenix Comrade’s thermal performance is perfectly adequate for the I5-4670K used for testing purposes. However even with a small Overclock the performance takes a sharp drop. With all fans at 100% there’s a difference of 4.00 degrees (52.50 vs 48.50) between the HAF XB and the Comrade, this may not seem a lot, but when you take into the GPU temperatures and the Comrade’s acoustics (see below) the whole picture isn’t quite as rosy.
The bigger issue at hand is for GPU thermals. Using UNiGiNE Heaven 4.0 the MSI R9 290 Gaming 4G would easily hit its throttle limit at 94.00 degrees Celsius and consequently throttle back giving a massive drop in performance. One could argue that anyone using a case with an SRRP of £29.99 would most likely not be using a £300.00 GPU, but we’ve all been in a position where we try to work within a budget and gain the best for our money. Undeniably this means a huge wedge of your budget will be consumed by your all important GPU as we all know this is the most important part for any Gaming PC.
The above could easily be helped and perhaps even remedied with the two additional 120mm fan mounts filled and I for one would have been happier paying a little bit more than the SRRP £29.99 to have them pre-fitted!
Out of the box the BitFenix Comrade proves more than adequate even with a small Overclock dialled in and the Themis fan on its lowest setting it’s audibly unobtrusive, but cranking up the CPU cooler fan to its highest setting knocks out 53db! The MSI R9 290 Gaming 4G knocks out 56db, which in my mind is too loud. This I believe is down to the relatively thin panels surrounding the case which rather than dampen the vibration and noise, help to amplify it a little. You could of course use a sound dampening material of some sort (also available to buy pre-dampened at OverclockersUK for £54.95), but this will of course increase your costs.
The BitFenix Comrade arrived in a fairly generic and typical brown box and was well packaged. The main chassis is well built and has a quality white powder coating, offers three tool-free 5.25 ODD bays, three 3.5 tool-free drive sleds and three 2.5 sleds, mostly well placed cut-outs for cable management, a large CPU cut-out, two good quality dust filters and a rather nice BitFenix badge on the front. Which at only £29.99 is phenomenal value and I don’t believe there is any other case out there that offers the same features at such a low price.
However there are a few gripes with the BitFenix Comrade. The biggest being the placement of the nigh on useless 8 pin CPU power cable hole. This really isn’t good and means your left trailing the 8 pin cable across the top of your motherboard, which is made worse as the cable management for the Comrade is actually very good. Also the colour scheme may be all white, but it’s also two different shades of white! The overall design of the Comrade although very solid and externally clean looking, does look a little dated too.
The other gripes are in all honesty, very easily fixed. I’d most certainly want to add one or two 120mm fans to the front intakes to bring in some cooler airflow and anyone conscious of the Comrade’s acoustic performance, sound dampening materials are certainly worth thinking about. Of course these would all increase the price, which to some degree misses the point…
The whole package the BitFenix Comrade offers is very good. Yes, you could fixate on what it doesn’t have, but at only £29.99 you should be looking at what it does offer. There are very few cases available that offer the same or even similar features in this price range and all of the minor issues can easily be remedied without having to dig too deeply into your pocket. For anyone not looking for an entry-level case, looking towards their first build or perhaps even their very first case modifications the BitFenix Comrade is very hard to ignore and is easy to recommend.
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Many thanks to BitFenix for providing this sample for review