BitFenix Shadow Case Review
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BitFenix Shadow Case Review

June 11th, 2014 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

After taking a look at the mighty impressive BitFenix Colossus M case a few weeks ago, I was excited to take a look at another BitFenix case, here we have the BitFenix Shadow. The Shadow is a regular case (especially when compared to the Colossus) being a mid-tower case with an ATX form factor. The Shadow sports BitFenix’s modern styling and is coated in their smart SoftTouch coating.

The case itself is made from steel and plastic, comes equipped with two Spectre fans, features removable dust filters (front, bottom and PSU) and can support up to three 5.25″ drives (in bays), seven 3.5″ drives, a single 2.5″ SSD and has seven PCI slots.

 

BitFenix Shadow - box front BitFenix Shadow - box back

 

The BitFenix Shadow was well packaged in a plain brown box with a large Bitfenix logo on the front.

The back of the box shows various features of the Shadow including the magnetic door, removable dust filter, the ample storage capacity (7 drives) support for long graphics cards (up to 310mm), the switchable LED lighting (red or blue) and of course the awesome BitFenix SoftTouch surface treatment.

 

BitFenix Shadow - box side

 

On the side of the box is a list of specifications (see image above).

 

BitFenix Shadow - box open BitFenix Shadow - accessories

 

Opening the box we can see that the Shadow was well packaged in hard foam and covered with a plastic bag, not the best packaging but certainly good enough and in-line with its cost.

Included in the box other than the case itself we find a Quick Installation Guide and a bag of screws etc.

At the time of review, the BitFenix Shadow is retailing for approximately £60 on Amazonand comes with a 1 year warranty.

 

Specifications/Features

courtesy of BitFenix

Materials Steel, Plastic
Color (Int/Ext) Black/Black
Dimensions (WxHxD) 190 x 440 x 506mm
Motherboard Sizes ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
5.25” Drive Bays x 3
3.5” Drive Bays x 7
2.5” Drive Bays x 1
Cooling Front 120mm x 2 (1 included)
Cooling Bottom 120mm x 1 (optional)
Cooling Rear 120mm x 1 (included) or 92mm x 1 (optional) or 80mm x 1 (optional)
PCI Slots x 7
I/O USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, HD Audio
Power Supply PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)
Extras SofTouch™ Surface Treatment, selectable red/blue LEDs, removable dust filters, tool-free drive locking mechanisms

* Additional details available here

 

First Impressions

 

BitFenix Shadow BitFenix Shadow - open

 

First impressions of the BitFenix Shadow are actually very good, I was quite surprised how much I liked the subtle styling of the case, it’s kind of cool in that understated way. It’s one of those cases that almost all of us are likely to like, I asked a few others and all have been impressed…

BitFenix Shadow - top BitFenix Shadow - underside

Looking at the top of the case there’s not much to see, but the top is made from steel and not covered in the SoftTouch surface texture like the front. At the front of the case we see the main controls, more on those in a minute.

On the underside of the case we can see four feet made from hard plastic and the two main fan mount points. The one at the back is designed to be used in conjunction with your power supply, with the forward one being an optional 120mm fan mount. Between the two front feet there are also four screw locations these are for the internal mounting of an SSD and is the only location provided for a 2.5″ drive in the case! Which is a little odd and a bit of a shame…

 

BitFenix Shadow - side

 

The left side of the Shadow is the same as the right (not pictured) and is somewhat uneventful as there’s no side window. Each side panel is made from steel and painted black (no SoftTouch) and slots into the front of the case and secured by way of two thumbscrews, two per side.

 

BitFenix Shadow - inside BitFenix Shadow - cable management
BitFenix Shadow - motherboard stand-offs BitFenix Shadow - rear fan

 

Looking at the interior of the Shadow we can see a good deal of space, although the long Graphics Card support is going to be limited by the drive cages that cannot be removed as they are riveted in position, maximum length is approximately 310mm. Also note the use of pre-installed (punched) stand-offs, I rather like this idea myself, just seems to make sense, along with the central locating stand-off/pin. As you can see the 5.25″, 3.5″ bays dominate the design, and to be fair (from a Gaming point of view) it’s a shame as 5.25″ bays and HDDs are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, especially with the advent of SSD, mSATA amd M.2. All of the drive bays feature a quick release tool-less design which is always good to see. Also note the pre-installed 120mm rear exhaust fan (a BitFenix Spectre) and the seven PCI slots. Unfortunately there are no rubber grommets in the holes for cable management, but at least the holes are covered with an additional smooth flange of steel. Finally we see the bundle of cabling hanging within the case, most of which is black (again nice to see), apart from the main LED lighting cable that’s red and connects by way of a SATA power connector and not the now rather archaic Molex connector.

Looking at the other side of the case, there’s not really much to see, but worth noting is the large CPU cut-out and the strange (but very deliberate) notch at the top. This is actually for the 8-pin CPU power cable that MUST be installed prior to the motherboard. There also seems to be a lack of cable management space, but surprisingly there isn’t, read on to find out more…

 

BitFenix Shadow - fan filters

 

Shown above are the two (with PSU filter installed) lower fan filters one for the PSU and one for an additional 120mm fan should you wish to fit one. A total of four 120mm fans can be installed, with two pre-installed.

 

BitFenix Shadow - controls

 

Finally let’s take a look at the BitFenix controls located at the top of the case. From left to right we find audio and microphone ports and the two LED indicators, power and drive access. Next we find two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports. The next two buttons are a little more interesting as the first is the LED colour change button, the second allows the LED lighting to be switched on/off. Finally we have the main power button and its associated reset switch.

 

Hardware Installation

 

The first job was to fit the Corsair AX 760i power supply, it fitted easily with the four screws provided. Now although the next job is to fit the motherboard, I opted to install a new motherboard this time an ASRock H97 Performance (review coming soon). And as this motherboard sports ten mount points a single additional stand-off needed to be added to the Shadow as the rest are effectively built into the chassis (nice!). Also due to the design of the Shadow the 8-pin CPU power connector cable MUST be installed first and slotted into place in the cut-out provided (see below) before the motherboard is installed.

 

BitFenix Shadow - CPU 8-pin power cable

 

Next I installed our test Intel Core i5-4670K and the Riajintek Themis CPU cooler. I found that due to the large cut-out at the back of the chassis I could easily mount the CPU cooler back-plate with the motherboard in situ. Our test RAM of choice the Kingston Beast was then installed without issue. The single test SSD of choice a Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB was installed in the only position the Shadow supports at the base of the case, and was secured from underneath with the four screws provided. Finally our test Graphics card, an MSI R9 290 GAMING was installed and although long at 280mm it was easily swallowed within the Bitfenix Shadow. Unfortunately BitFenix have used a locking plate with a single thumbscrew for the PCI slots, and while this seems like a good idea I just found myself fighting with it, as all of the blanking plates just float about as I tried to secure the GPU in position. Once installed though everything seems securely held.

 

BitFenix Shadow - complete (above)

BitFenix Shadow - complete (angle)

 

A relatively straight forward and enjoyable build, brought about by the simplistic design of the interior of the Shadow. No real high points, but the case needs more SSD mounting locations and I’m not a lover of the locking plate for the PCI blanking plates either…

 

BitFenix Shadow - Lighting (red)

BitFenix Shadow - Lighting (blue)

 

Testing Methodology/Setup

 

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.

* All case fans (x2 in the case of the BitFenix Shadow) and the CPU Cooler (Raijintek Themis) are ran at 100% throughout testing.

 

Hardware Performance

 

  • CPU RESULTS – BitFenix Shadow with Raijintek Themis and Intel I5-4670K @ 3.4GHz (Stock)
  • Case Ambient Temperature Max CPU Temperature (core average) Delta Temperature
    Cooler Master Cosmos SE 19.00 47.25 28.25
    BitFenix Shadow 23.50 64.25 40.75
    BitFenix Comrade 20.00 63.00 43.00
    BitFenix Colossus 20.50 64.75 44.25

     

    As you can see thermally we’re looking good with our stock Intel Core i5-4670K with only two case fans, with the CPU peaking out at just 64 degrees Celsius. So no issues with themals at this point, but let’s dial in a small overclock and see what happens…

     

  • CPU RESULTS – BitFenix Shadow with Raijintek Themis and Intel I5-4670K @ 4.0GHz (via UEFI)
  • Case Ambient Temperature Max CPU Temperature (core average) Delta Temperature
    Cooler Master Cosmos SE 19.50 63.00 43.50
    BitFenix Shadow 24.00 70.25 46.25
    BitFenix Comrade 21.50 74.00 52.50
    BitFenix Colossus 22.50 81.25 58.75

     

    Again you can see although things have warmed up a little, we are still well within thermal limits of the CPU at around 70 degrees. And let’s face it, who sits down for an evening of Prime95!?

    Not only is the overclocked temperature of 70 degrees a testament to the Shadow, but it’s also worth bearing in mind we’re using a £20 cooler the Raijintek Themis. With the two optional 120mm fans added, cooling’s likely to get even better… ;)

     

  • GPU RESULTS – BitFenix Shadow with MSI R9 290 GAMING – OC MODE (Core: Core: 1007MHz / Mem: 5000MHz)
  • Case Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temperature Delta Temperature Noise Level
    Cooler Master Cosmos SE 21.50 86.00 64.50 49db
    BitFenix Colossus 21.00 87.00 66.00 50db
    BitFenix Shadow 24.50 94.00 69.50 56db
    BitFenix Comrade 20.00 94.00 74.00 56db

     

    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 (within 15 minutes) and therefore the GPU starts to throttle (meaning it will reduce its Core Clock speed) resulting in a loss in performance. As you can see the BitFenix Shadow is not helping with this due to the fact that out of the box it only has two 120mm fans, adding additional fans here would undoubtedly help. It’s not so much an issue with the case as it is with the R9 290. If you’re going to get a case like this and install a hot GPU, you’re going to need more fans. Or maybe opt for a cooler GPU such as the Nvidia GTX 780.

     

  • Acoustic Performance
  • Due to its lack of high speed fans and there being only two, the BitFenix Shadow is an undeniably quiet case, with both fans at 100% it still comes in at less than 40db. During testing the only sound heard was that of the MSI R9 290 GAMING 4GB (56db) and that of the CPU Cooler (53db).

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    I have really enjoyed my time with the BitFenix Shadow, and if someone asked why, it would be difficult for me to answer; there’s just something really cool about its simple yet elegant styling, that seems to make it stand out from the crowd…

    The case came well packaged, albeit in a rather dull (but no doubt environmentally friendly) box, and there wasn’t much in the box either, other than the case itself, a Quick Installation Guide (quite a good one at that!) and some screws. But that’s all we we need so it’s not really a complaint. Once out of the box, I immediately warmed to the Shadow’s understated styling, its kind of cool looking in that understated way, no need for crazy windows and cut-outs, just a simple, elegant design. This is of course enhanced by the use of BitFenix’s SoftTouch coating, unfortunately only found on the front panel.

    Inside is a little basic and there are no bells ‘n whistles to speak of, but most of what one would expect is here; plenty of space for drives (albeit only 3.5″ HDDs), large CPU cut-out, dust filters, holes for cable management, USB 3.0 support etc. The biggest issue is the lack of SSD (2.5″ drive) support as there is only one designated position at the base of the case, and as the 3.5″ drive bays have no caddies there’s no support there either.

    Turn it on and the Shadow continues to impress with the 2 installed BitFenix 120mm fans pumping out less than 40dbs (at 100%) and the accent lighting just adding further to the overall aesthetics of the case. Although I’m unsure why BitFenix couldn’t stretch to adding green to the lighting effect, only red and blue I’m afraid!

    What BitFenix have here is a really solid case, it ticks most of the boxes it should at this price point and it looks damn good thanks to its simple yet elegant design and that SoftTouch surface. If you’re in the market for a case at around £60 and you like the look (I do!) of the BitFenix Shadow, then go for it, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed…

     

    Verdict

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    Where possible we always use Amazon’s price for Value…
      Design/Quality pcGameware awards the BitFenix Shadow Case a Silver
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

     

    Many thanks to BitFenix for providing this sample for review

     



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