This month has just been full of cases from many manufacturers as of late in my list of things to review. It is now BitFenix's turn to step up to the plate with their latest mid-tower chassis concept. Being part of the "inner circle" at the BitFenix forums, I get to peek at these case designs long before they make it to reality, even as a concept. I don't remember the exact date, but I do remember this chassis being one of five or six other chassis that were concepts as well. With a vote from the "inner circle" to top cases by vote are taken to the next stages of development and this chassis just happens to be one of the inside winners long before the chassis ever made it into steel and plastic.
On their site, BitFenix lists what they want to deliver in this new chassis. They start off with the line "defeat system-crashing heat" which alludes to the trio of supplied Spectre 120mm fans, but there is an added feature that allows 200mm fans in the front as well as the top of the chassis to take the "system-crashing heat" out of the chassis even more efficiently.
Along with a long list of features in the middle of their mission statement, they end with something along the lines of delivering a chassis with top notch performance and quality with "unstoppable value". So, it seems we are in for a very feature rich mid-tower with a smoking hot price; at least that is my guess right now.
Today we are going to be looking at sleek and simple styling with a SofTouch front and top in the new Raider mid-tower chassis. Well, to be honest, not exactly new to those over the pond, but it is new to the US market. The sub-$100 solution, in both my eyes as well as those of BitFenix, does offer plenty of up to date "must haves". On top of that, they have made one of the most ingenious fixes. If I were to give you two native USB 3.0 ports, most users would be in trouble at this point. Instead of adapters, they wired a USB 2.0 connector right into the back of the 3.0 connector just to make life that much simpler! There is plenty more to see in the BitFenix Raider, so tag along as I rattle off the specifications and lay down the price, so we can get to the sleek looking chassis images.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
On the outside of the raider you are met with a sleek and understated bezel that is rounded to the sides of the case and to the top and bottom, just to a lesser degree. The SofTouch coating from BitFenix covers the thick sides of the front and removable top piece as both panels use the thick sides to support the large expanses of steel mesh installed into both areas.
Down the face of the Raider there is a long dropped U shape of mesh that houses the four 5.25" bays covers while the lower section of mesh is backed by a pair of Spectre 120mm fans and has a BitFenix logo at the bottom. The top of the chassis offers four USB 3.0 (swappable to USB 2.0) and audio jacks on the left front, while the right front hold the buttons, LEDs and the slider style fan controller. Down the center is another large expanse of mesh that can be backed by a 200mm fan optionally. The rest of the exterior of the chassis is pretty basic with plain side panels, but there is a pair of dust filters on the bottom of the Raider.
On the inside of the Raider you will find things like compatibility for Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX and ATX motherboards on the offset motherboard tray to allow room for wire management. There is room for up to four 5.25" drives behind each of the mesh covers, up to six 3.5" hard drives and seven spots if you are using 2.5" drives. Included in the chassis is a trio of 120mm fan, the two I mentioned in the front and one on the rear of the chassis. Optionally, you can swap the pair in the front for a 200mm fan, a 200mm fan can be added to the top and there is room for a 120mm fan on the floor. In the back under the exhaust fan you will find seven expansion slots for cards up to 380mm if you remove the center section of hard drive bays.
As I mentioned, in the markets abroad, the Raider has been doing a bit of circulation already. As I write this up, I can only find two e-tailers showing stock of this in the US. I mentioned that this would be a sub-$100 solution and from what I am seeing, it is just making it in under that mark. Both HeatsinkFactory and FrozenCPU are just under that mark with four pennies separating their pricing just less than $95 US dollars. Keep in mind, neither of them are offering free shipping, so you do need to consider another $15-$20 US dollars to that for the total price.
BitFenix is another company that offers a plainer packaging to put more of the cost into the chassis and not the box it comes in. On the front things are kept simple with a large BitFenix logo on the top left and the Rader name above what appears to be a mesh section of the box.
This side panel is used for the logo above the handle and a large font for the Raider name. There is a rendering of the front and top of the chassis followed by the specifications chart to complete this panel.
The back panel starts with the Raider name and company logo. The majority of the panel is then used to show features on the outside of the chassis on the left, inside the chassis at the right and the Spectre fans at the bottom that come included with the Raider.
The last panel of the packaging is very brief with its contents. Again there is the logo and the Raider naming, but this side only offers the BFC-RDR-300-KKN1-RP case naming, the site address, who designed it and where it was made.
The inner packaging sticks to the basics as well. With lighter mid-tower cases, there is nothing wrong with some thick Styrofoam end caps and a plastic liner to keep the chassis safe while in transit. As for this sample, it arrived in perfect condition!
BitFenix Raider Mid Tower Chassis
Without all of the packaging to block the view, we can now see the Raider in full form. BitFenix used the SofTouch coating to line the outside edges of the front and top to enclose the large mesh area on both sections of the chassis. It also has a curved appeal to the front, much like that of the 600T. The sides are painted steel panels with just a couple of bumps to grab with your dingers at the rear.
The top of the chassis offers mesh from front to back as it splits the front I/O in two as they flank both sides of the mesh with bits of its contents.
The left side contains the super speed USB 3.0 ports along with a pair of 3.5mm jacks for the MIC and headphones. Something to note, since the top is removable, these devices are mounted to the top, so keep that in mind when wiring the Raider.
The right side of the I/O contains the power and activity LEDs, the power and reset buttons and lastly a slider fan controller for up to five fans inside the chassis.
Removing the top takes removing some of the tidying done with the wires from the factory. Once they are loose, when the top is removed, the wiring will slide out easily and allow this to happen. Removal of this panel is mostly to gain access to the fan screws that mount the fan in the top of the Raider.
Now you can see what I mean! There aren't any other fan holes pre-drilled in the roof besides the ones for the optional 200mm fan. With the opening they chose to use here, I can see where mounting smaller fans just isn't feasible. The long hole near the front is where the I/O wiring passes through.
In the back, at the top, there is the hole to grab for the tops removal followed on the case by a pair of water cooling holes with an additional wiring hole. Then you have the rear I/O next to the 120mm exhaust fan and seven expansion slots above the PSU.
Both sides of the chassis are identical, just an expanse of black texture painted steel with a pair of bumps to gain traction on the panel to open it.
Under the chassis you will see two dust filters toward the rear of the Raider. The one furthest back is for the PSU while the one in the middle is for an optional 120mm fan of your choice. As of yet there are no feet, they are in the hardware box packed inside the Raider.
Inside the BitFenix Raider
The first look inside the case shows the wiring for the I/O has been run behind the tray and back into the case for transit. This also means there is a fair amount of room there for your wiring. There is a box of hardware, but it is tucked in the front of the ODD bays and is not visible from this angle.
The four ODD bays, or the 5.25" bays all have tool-free mechanisms on this side to easily keep the devices in place. Keep in mind the wiring has to go through the top of the case here as well, so the top bay could be partially blocked depending on how you've routed the I/O panel wiring.
There are six total drive bays for both 3.5" drives as well as 2.5" drives. At the very top of this assembly there a dedicated 2.5" drive spot making up that extra 2.5" bay. One thing to note is that the mid section is removable to extend the room here to 380mm.
To remove the midsection you must first remove the three plastic trays. On the side you will locate a thumbscrew, remove it and then slide the left plate to you, it will then go free and you can set this aside. This also allows the top one, of the two fans in the front, to blow more directly into the chassis.
Inside of the top of the Raider you can see that with the top in place, the clips fill the large holes we saw before. I'm sure if you get creative you can mount other fans, but the provided mounting is strictly for a 200mm fan.
The motherboard tray has a good offset to allow things behind it. Where the board sits is in a lowered section of the tray and as with my board, it made some of the SATA ports unusable. There are good options around the tray as far as holes with grommets, cutouts and wire tie points.
In the rear of the case you can see you have good access to the tubing and wiring holes at the top of the chassis. The seven expansion cards use hex-head screws to secure your cards and there is plenty of room for longer PSUs, but not if you want to install the optional 120mm fan in front of it.
Behind the motherboard tray there is plenty of room to wire just about anything you need anywhere you want it to go. There is extra room behind the hard drive bays for the larger bundles. But you will see it can take quite a lot of cabling here.
Just as a rough idea of the space, my tape shows just about 15/16 of an inch of room. For those using the metric system it equates roughly to 24mm of space for your cables.
The pair of USB 3.0 connections was a real "facepalm" moment when I saw what BitFenix has done. They simply added a USB 2.0 tail to them to make the switch for users' super simple with no adapters. The rest of the wiring has the button controls, five fan header and Molex power for the fan controller.
Accessories and Documentation
Here are the feet for the Raider! You get large plastic discs with a ring of brushed aluminum to spice it up. On one side you have large rubber pads to protect the surface and keep the chassis on one place. On the reverse you will find discs of double sided tape to apply the feet to the bottom of the chassis.
Getting some of the large parts out of the way, you can check off the motherboard speaker and nine wiring zip ties to help manage wiring wherever you want to run it.
The assortment of screws covers the drives, PSU and motherboard mounting screws. You also get black risers, Kensington lock loop and an extra pointed thumbscrew. Along with the motherboard riser socket, I got a large screw head without any threads attached to it; odd!
The quick installation guide for the Raider is pretty thorough. It looks as if a little money was saved here as well, keeping things simple in black and white. Don't let the lack of money spent here fool you; the information contained inside is better than most manufacturers offer.
On top of the basics of listing the parts and showing how to remove the doors, install the PSU and such, BitFenix goes on to cover the tops removal and the fan installation for that fan and the 120mm in the rear of the case.
Something to note here is that when they show gaining access to the front bezel for removal, the top is shown as removed first. They do interlock at the top and it must be removed in that order to avoid any breakage. If you should choose to remove the 120mm Spectre fans supplied here, you can see a 200mm fan is also an option.
I was a bit confused about just how BitFenix even got the 120mm fans in the front in the first place looking at it from the sides. As you go through the instructions you can see they must be slid in and out through the 5.25" bays.
The Build and Finished Product
As I mentioned, in order to install the optical drive, you need the top off to remove the front bezel. Once the bezel is off, you can now remove the bay covers and if needed some of the steel left in the 5.25" bays. This is also when you should add that 200mm fan if you have one.
All packed back up and ready for the last go-around before we power up the Raider and see what happens then. The drive does break up the facade as it is very much rounded and the drive is flat as a board. Either way I like this design, even if the drive doesn't look so hot, personally I would leave it out.
Inside the chassis I only had slight trouble aligning the expansion cards in the back of the case, but I got that sorted with a touch of brute force. With the midsection of drives removed, you can see SLI or X-Fire won't be an issue even with longer cards - 380mm worth, in fact!
I already addressed the expansion slots and the rest of the rear of the chassis was in line for the PSU and rear I/O plate. I really do like the extra pass through for wiring, something no one thinks about when offering tubing holes and saying they are "water cooling ready" without even a PCI cover with access.
Behind the tray I grouped as much of the wiring together as I could to stress the amount of room available here. Even with five leads back here including the 24-pin and 8-pin EPS and the front I/O wiring, the Raider ate it all for breakfast as the door slides on past it.
The last image before we add the cord and get to working everything, like the fan controller and see what sort of LEDs it has that may or may not disrupt the environment its places in.
Adding the cord and powering up the Raider, there is nothing really visible going on with the chassis and to be quite honest, there isn't much of the sound level rising with the Raider either.
It isn't until you spin the Raider around that you get any real indication of it being powered up. From the distance I was at for this image, I could barely hear the chassis and the only LEDs to bother you are the blue LED designating PC power and the red LED the flashes designating HDD activity.
Let's be super honest here. The Xigmatek Midgard II we just looked at not too long ago does offer a bit more of a feature set for near the same price. In defense of the Raider, the Midgard II doesn't have the sleek, simple, slightly rounded exterior that I know everyone likes.
They both have the ability to remove part of the drives, but the Raider takes the native USB 3.0 connection issues to a new level of awesome. Personally the adapters out there, well, kind of suck! I like that BitFenix did the obvious here and just added a USB 2.0 tail to the USB 3.0 lead to make either connection as simple for the user as possible. I like the slider style fan controller here, as it makes slamming the fans on full speed just as easy as gently dialing the fans back for better sound levels while not gaming.
The included fans are near silent when the fan controller has them at low speed. For testing both the fans and the controller, all three of the included fans are connected to each other to obtain my results. I found that the fan when moved to the high position didn't offer much more CFM and equally a limited amount of noise gets added. With the potential for the fan controller to power two other fans as well, if you have aftermarket cooling for the CPU and GPU, both fans could also be on the slider and allow you to drop the noise levels of everything with one finger. For the run of testing I do to the chassis I found the temperatures to be in the average range with the provided fans. With the options to install a pair of 200mm fans, that can only get better.
For those of you on that large slab of rock on the other side of the globe, you should be able to hop onto any of your favorite e-tailers that carry BitFenix cases and find one with limited issues. The lowest price I saw in the UK market was right around £64. For those of you sitting on this big rock called the Americas, well, you have two options right now. One of them is Frozen CPU.com and the other is HeatsinkFactory.com, both of which are pennies apart near $95. While I have seen better equipped cases for this amount, you are going to be hard pressed to find these options that are here, in a case that looks this damn good!
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