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Old March 29, 2014, 07:25 PM
Mycelus's Avatar
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Default [Skyforge Labs] - BitFenix Comrade Review

Hey everyone! A brief introduction is surely due, so I’ll start with that. My name is Mycelus and I am the founder of Skyforge Labs, a new PC hardware and technology oriented blog.

As a tech website, product reviews are a great way to educate and inform users about the latest and greatest products. With BitFenix’ support, Skyforge Labs is bringing you our very first review.

BitFenix Comrade Review

Introduction

The BitFenix Comrade is a small, budget oriented case that was released alongside several other cases by BitFenix last year. It retails for around $40 USD and is available in both black and white.

Packaging & Specifications

The Comrade comes in a nice package with BitFenix logos liberally placed all around the box. Specifications and features come listed as well for retail purposes. The case itself comes in an environment friendly box with the standard upper and bottom styrofoam packaging, as well as a plastic cover to prevent any debris and scratching. The packaging was surprisingly thick, and that’s something I really like to see. Customers can rest assured that their Comrade will arrive at their doorstep safe and sound.

After removing all the contents, you are greeted with:
  • The case itself
  • A quick installation guide
  • An accessory bag with screws, a few zip ties, some standoffs, and a PCI-E bracket

The quick installation guide highlights the main installation instructions, although I found it to be quite lacking. The motherboard installation was not included, and despite not being a problem for experienced builders, an amateur builder might find themselves a bit confused. I would highly recommend BitFenix to give a little more attention to the installation guide to make sure each installation portion of the building process is included.

Exterior

Moving on, we find ourselves at the exterior. The BitFenix Comrade features a steel chassis with a plastic exterior. Being such a small case, the use of plastic is minimal, being mainly on the front panel and some of the smaller components such as the case feet and tool-less drive locks. On the front panel, we see a flush panel with a reflective silver BitFenix badge centered near the bottom. The front panel is reminiscent of the Silverstone TJ07 with the curved bottom. The I/O panel is located on the bottom of the right side of the case. I usually wouldn't recommend this for a mid tower due to the fact that when placed on the ground, it may be inconvenient for the user. Locating the I/O panel on top of the case or near the top of the front bezel would make this a non issue. On top we have a bare panel, something which I was rather surprised to see. Despite being a budget case, the top panel is usually reserved for fan slots, something this case lacks. I would have really liked to see the top panel being utilized and I trust BitFenix will take note of this for their forthcoming budget cases. Going around to the back, we are presented with the standard I/O shield plate and power supply cutouts, as well as 7 expansion bays. An interesting addition is an 8th expansion slot, that is placed vertically. This is great for single slot expansion cards such as sound cards and wireless adapters, and a great way to make use of the extra space. Kudos to BitFenix. Lastly, we do see 2 rubber grommeted holes for water cooling, although this makes me wonder why manufacturers still include this. External radiators are no longer used with cases and were simply a trend from a long time ago. While it doesn't take away from the case, it could be replaced with something more useful perhaps.

Interior

The internal layout of the Comrade is great. After removing the side panel and taking a look at the interior, I immediately noticed the user friendly features.

Drive cages

Support for both 2.5" and 3.5" drives is included, with 2 separate drive cages. The 2.5" drive cage being in the middle is a smart design choice, allowing more room for longer video cards, although I was saddened to see that neither of the drive cages are removable. This isn't so much of a compatibility issue as it is a choice issue. Users want more options, and making the cages removable would not have been a costly addition. The 3.5" drive sleds slide open to fit the drive, and close to lock the drive in place. Surprisingly enough, BitFenix managed to find a viable solution for a hard drive sled that is simple and quick, and this leaves me wondering why some other manufacturers have such a hard time with drive sleds on even their most expensive cases.
The cages feature large sized holes for maximum ventilation, and while not being the most optimal solution, it is a welcome addition. Personally I think the drive cages could have offered mounting for 120mm and 140mm fans, and find this as a missed opportunity, considering that fan mounting options are on the lacking side with this chassis.

5.25" expansion bays

Moving onto the 5.25" front expansion bays, we find 3 tool-less bays with a simple plastic lock to hold things in place. After playing around with it, I found that the locks simply come off when unlocked. While this isn't a daunting issue, I'd like to see a more elegant solution such as a snug metallic latch perhaps. Upon taking off the front panel, I discovered that there are metallic tabs which must be pulled off in order to insert the devices. This isn't a pressing issue since it's not visible from the outside, but is a makeshift solution that could use a bit of reworking.

Fan & Radiator compatibility

The Comrade comes with a single 120mm rear exhaust fan included. The included fan features large blades which is optimal for static pressure environments, such as moving air through a water cooling radiator. Looking around, we only see space for 2 x 120mm fans in the front which is a bit unfortunate considering fan slots for the top, drive cages, as well as one for the bottom could have easily been included, but were overlooked. Again, this is more about giving the user options, rather than being a performance concern. The Comrade will not suffer from poor airflow despite having such few fan slots, but the lack of fan slots brings up frustrating issues such as not being able to mount dual slot radiators such as the Corsair H100. While I understand the clearance inside doesn't make this possible, a smarter choice would be to increase the size of the case slightly to add compatibility for a dual 120mm radiator setup. With the market at it's current state, a dual 120mm and/or 140mm radiator compatibility is simply a must for any mid tower.

Cooling

Cooling is something that many amateur builders are concerned about when building their first rig. It kind of baffles me as I have never really heard of a case that has such poor airflow that it actually causes problems for the user. Despite the Comrade only having a total of 3 fan slots, users will not see a considerable hit in performance. A PC running at an average of 30C temperature inside is not going to behave any differently from one running at 50C. Having said that, cooling is definitely difficult with the Comrade. The non removable drive cages do not leave much room for any additional cooling components, and the lack of any ventilation in the front is rather questionable. A PC performs best when a wind tunnel environment is created, keeping high static pressure inside the chassis. With the bottom cutout for removing the front panel being the only entryway for cool air from outside the case, this reduces the potential for an optimal cooling setup, however, I must stress, this is by no means an issue that is going to have any effect. It's merely a design flaw that should be improved in the future. The lack of the fan slots up top once again does not allow for radiators, however, a single 120mm radiator can be placed in the rear. The front fan slots do come with a dust filter, as well as the ventilation area for the bottom of the power supply, which helps keep the interior free of dust. Dust filters to not come installed on the rear fan slot as it is meant to be used as an exhaust, so there's no issue there.

Chassis

The chassis is something that is overlooked in many reviews, and I wanna make sure that the Comrade's doesn't go unnoticed. The first thing you notice is the standoffs. In most cases, you must either individually screw in the motherboard standoffs, or you must remove additional ones. With the Comrade, the chassis is actually has the standoff points raised off the chassis so that you simply have to screw in the motherboard screws for securing the motherboard, rather than having to deal with pesky standoffs. This is a very user friendly feature and saves a TON of time when building. To the side of the standoffs, we see cutouts for our connectors. The cutouts are slightly angled to allow for more cable management room in the back side which is a plus. The bottom also includes an open design for any cable routing to things like the USB and audio header ports. A cutout is included in the left side for the 8-pin CPU connector which is fantastic to see. On the rear side, is where I found my biggest gripe with this case. BitFenix opted to have expansion bay covers that were not really covers, but rather just placeholders. To get access to the slots, you have to pull off the metallic cover that is in place. This is rather frustrating and I'm not quite why BitFenix chose this route, as it doesn't allow users to cover up the slot again once the metal tab is pulled out. On a positive note however, the top slot does come empty by default, which saves a bit of time. A cover for it is strangely enough, included in the accessory baggie. On the back side, we see a clearance of 10-15mm for cable routing. This is something that I would like to see improvement on from all manufacturers. Ample amounts of space in the back is necessary for easy cable management. Cables causing the side panels to bulge out is unacceptable. Cable management with the Comrade is good, but could be great with just a little extra space. Lastly, the power supply slot is raised with small metal feet. This is an industry standard and I'm glad to see it wasn't left out in the Comrade. A big improvement would be to add rubber feet rather than bare metal, which would be more effective at reducing noise and vibration.

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

After days of inspecting this case inside out and taking the time to write this review, I can confidently say that the BitFenix Comrade is a fantastic budget case for the price, and has great modding potential. It is a great case for beginner builders, as well as modders, and comes with lots of user friendly features and support for modern features such as USB 3.0 headers and 2.5" SSD drive support. With it's simple yet unique styling, the BitFenix Comrade is a great case for users who prefer a smaller tower that doesn't scream for attention, without looking like other boring budget cases.

As with any case, there are things that can be improved. The lack of fan and radiator support is something to improve upon for future products, as well as the lack of proper ventilation in the front panel's design. Small additions like rubber power supply feet, tool less PCI-E brackets, and increased cable management space will go a long way in simplifying the end user's build experience. For any modern mid tower, dual 120mm radiator support on top is an absolute must, and removable drive cages are always welcome.

Rating: - 8/10

If you would like to purchase this case, support Skyforge Labs by using our affiliate link.

I would like to sincerely thank BitFenix for providing me with this case for review. It is our very first review at Skyforge Labs, and will without a doubt hold a special place in our history. We hope to bring our readers more great cases from BitFenix, as well as all sorts of other products, and we hope you found this review informative.

We will also be doing a build guide with the BitFenix Comrade outlining the features we listed above, so make sure to stay tuned!

Last edited by Mycelus; March 31, 2014 at 03:21 PM.
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