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BitFenix Ronin Mid-Tower Chassis Review

BitFenix Ronin Mid-Tower Chassis Review

BitFenix brings forth the Ronin: a mid-tower design full of features, but which has some tricks up its sleeve. Let's take a close look.

@chad_sebring
Chad Sebring
Published Thu, Jan 30 2014 9:01 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: BitFenix

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 39 IMAGES

BitFenix is one of those companies that, in a very short span of time, went from being relatively unknown, to a company that is in the minds of just about anyone who is up to speed on what is what in terms of cases. After starting off with designs like the Colossus, a lot of their potential customer base was still on the fence about their offerings, but as time progressed, and as they came to market with the Prodigy, you simply must live under a rock if that chassis does not pop right into a mental image whenever its name is mentioned. Of course, there have been many other designs along the way too, and in what we are about to see, there is that same lineage that makes someone know instantly where this chassis came from.

While the market truly is flooded with mid-tower designs, BitFenix took measures to be sure that they were not at the bottom of the barrel, and in this new design, they are taking all of the best parts of previous designs, and delivering a familiar, yet completely new take on what a mid-tower chassis should be. They kept the SofTouch coating, and the simple aluminum logo on the face of the chassis.

There are also plenty of features that we expect to see in designs such as this in 2014, where the plan is to give customers a unique take on what to build a very clean PC for gaming in. With this concept, we need room for longer video cards, good airflow and options, as well as wire management options. With this design, BitFenix brings out the mod skills, and offers a stealth cover that cleans up any mess that may have been, and makes for a very presentable finished product.

Today, we are having an up close and personal look at the Ronin from BitFenix. While images of samurai fighting are clashing in my head, I don't quite think that is the angle here. The idea of this name was to offer a mid-tower chassis that has no real master, and also brings out that take no prisoners attitude that a twelfth century warrior, and more specifically the Ronin, brought to the field of battle. BitFenix really puts together a slick design, and love it or hate it on the outside, the inside will make you wish your chassis has what this offers.

Specifications, Availability and Pricing

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With the Ronin, we are given a mid-tower chassis that is made mostly of steel, but is also comprised in part with ABS plastic. These components would be the removable top and front panels. The front is covered in the SofTouch coating, offers three external bay covers, very small holes to breathe through, and an aluminum "Fenix" placed near the bottom. The sides of the bezel offer thin mesh strips that run up the entire face, and as the top edge curls back to the top, they continue along the top edges as well. We also find the front I/O panel in the top, along with similar holes for ventilation.

The left side offers a very large widow, but the panel is flat across its span. At the back, we find water cooling grommets, seven expansion slots, and a bottom mounted power supply. The right side of the chassis is flat as the left is, but the only thing to see there is the textured paint applied to both the outside, as well as the inside of this chassis.

Inside we find tool-free bays for the 5.25" devices, and there is also an adapter tray to convert one of them to 3.5". Below is a modular rack for the hard drives that use trays for 3.5" and 2.5" storage drives, and by modular we mean that the top three of the six bays are removable to allow for longer video cards. In front of these bays there is one pre-installed 120mm fan with a dust filter, and room for an optional 120mm fan; they do provide the extra fan filter. The top of the chassis will hold a pair of 120mm fans, and also 140mm fans, and will also take on a dual radiator of the 240mm flavor.

The motherboard tray offers room for ATX or Micro-ATX motherboards, offers five strategically placed wire management holes, and offers well over twenty places to tie wiring to. The floor of the chassis will hold the PSU on rubber pads, and also offers room for another optional 120mm fan. As for the back of the chassis, this is where the second and last pre-installed fan is placed.

The Ronin has been on the market for some time at this point, and should be very easy to obtain. As we look around the internet, we find that they do put the MSRP just shy of that magic $100 mark that we like to see fully featured mid-tower designs come under, but is it worth it? We also see that in the retail segment, their MSRP doesn't seem to ring true on actual pricing we found. Hopefully by the time we are done, even if this turns out not to be your favorite chassis aesthetically, you can see why BitFenix is a strong contender in the chassis game. If they keep going with ideas such as this, they may find themselves on the fast track to the top of the food chain.

PRICING: You can find the BitFenix Ronin for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The BitFenix Ronin retails for $133.43 at Amazon.

Packaging

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Keeping the packaging simple to help save costs, the front panel of this packaging is not only done on plain brown cardboard, but the design is kept simple as well. Here, we are only given the company name and logo at the top right, a larger logo at the left, and the website address at the bottom.

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Spinning the box to the left, we now see the right side panel. BitFenix placed their name and logo at the top, just above the Ronin naming. Near the bottom is a look at a rendering of the front and top of the chassis, with a very small specifications chart provided last.

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The back is where you will find most of what BitFenix wants you to know about the Ronin. It covers the SofTouch, interchangeable mesh inserts, side window, room for longer VGAs, and water cooling readiness, along with a peek at the stealth cover inside; most of the features are addressed.

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The last panel on the packaging offers the BitFenix name and logo, along with the Ronin naming at the top. As you move down, there is the rest of the logo from the front panel, and at the bottom is a sticker with the model and serial numbers for this chassis.

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Inside of the box the chassis is centered in Styrofoam end caps that do most of the protecting while this chassis is on the way to your door. Under that is a layer of plastic that keeps the foam from messing with the paint, or the SofTouch coating. The window did have plastic clinging to the outside, but the inside is left without. The tried and trusted method across the industry has done very well, and the Ronin is in perfect shape.

BitFenix Ronin Mid-Tower Chassis

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At the front of the Ronin, the sides protrude from the rest of the front Bezel, and have interchangeable mesh inserts that run the entire length. The center section is covered in the SofTouch coating, and offers three bay covers above the small diameter holes used to allow this chassis to intake fresh air.

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Just behind the line from where the front bezel meets the top section, we ran into the front I/O panel. Here, they offer two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, HD Audio jacks under the LEDs, and a large power and tiny reset button.

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Not only do the thin mesh strips continue down the sides of the top panel (and yes other colored inserts can be bought for these as well), but also notice that the bulk of the area has the same diameter holes we found on the front to allow the fan to ventilate through the top.

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The left side of the chassis offers a flat panel with no bump on it or any other styling; instead, the majority of the area has been used for the large window that BitFenix offers in the Ronin chassis.

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Around the back, we find room to grab and remove the top panel just above the rear I/O and exhaust fan. Continuing down the chassis, we then see seven expansion slots, and in the mesh area next to it, we also find grommets to allow for external water cooling, if you choose that route.

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The right side offers just a large flat panel that has texture to it from the paint that has been applied. I will say this though, both side panels have very tight lines as parts meet, and with the offset of the motherboard tray, there isn't a need for an ugly bump in this panel.

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Under the chassis are large plastic discs wrapped in a brushed aluminium wrapper to look good from the sides, and the bottoms have rubber feet to give this chassis grip on smooth surfaces. There is a fan filter for both the PSU as well as the optional fan locations, but this is magnetic, and removes simply for cleaning.

Inside the Ronin

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As we removed both side panels and glanced into the chassis, what first stuck us was the sleek stealth cover designed into this chassis. It offers a small honeycomb pattern on it, resembling the Crysis Nano-suit. This covers the PSU, wiring, and the bays from view when the build is done, and easily pops in and out with very little effort.

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With the cover now gone, we can see that the trio of 5.25" bays do offer tool-free mechanisms on this side of the bays, but the other still needs screws for very secure mounting. We also see that there is some gear tied into the inside of the bays, along with the hardware box. We have all seen six hard drive bays, so I will be covering them in different sections as we continue.

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Something to consider is that if you want to add fans or install a radiator to the top of the chassis, tend to it prior to wiring the chassis. Since the I/O is part of the top panel, the wiring has to have some give in order to fully remove it.

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The motherboard tray has two "helper" standoffs installed, and is marked in the center with where to install standoffs for various motherboards. There is also plenty of room to wire and route, to keep this build looking good even without that cover.

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On the floor there is room at the back for the power supply, and there are four rubber pads to set it on around the mesh. The optional fan location has been moved as close to the bays as possible, so that using a longer PSU won't block the potential to use this location.

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The black on black, nine bladed, 120mm exhaust fan requires a 3-pin fan header for power, as does the front 120mm fan. The expansion slot covers are held in place with the same hex-head screws used to install a power supply, and have worked well for many years.

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The motherboard tray is inset 25mm in some areas, and closer to 20mm in others where the structural shapes to solidify the tray are extended slightly. You can also see the six bays of the HDD rack at the left, and they are oriented to keep all of the wiring on this side as well.

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All of the wiring inside of the chassis is black to help it to blend into the chassis as it runs across the bottom of the board. Even the fan wiring is black with black connectors, to help them disappear. Included are the USB 2.0 plug, the native USB 3.0 plug, the front panel switch and LED wiring, and the HD or AC'97 audio connections at the right.

Accessories and Documentation

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One bag contains all of the hardware, and in it is what you see here. There is a Kensington lock loop and screw, a standoff socket, standoffs, and the PSU screws along the top row. At the bottom are screws to mount the bay adapter, motherboard and SSD screws, ODD screws, long fan screws for the front, and ten tie strips that are in the middle.

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Here, we have the 3.5" adapter for the 5.25" bays. It comes with the full cover in SofTouch coating to match the front, it allows for most 3.5" devices to be installed, and you can also hang a 2.5" drive under the tray, as we see it here.

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Tied in with the hardware box and the bay adapter, there is also this second fan filter that matches the one covering the pre-installed 120mm fan in the front of the chassis. If you do opt to install a second fan, you can then add this filter to keep the entire intake cleaned before cooling the hardware.

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In a glossy paper guide for the Ronin, everything from the parts list to each component being installed is covered. Both with the illustrations, and the text that accompanies it, there should be no real issues with getting the components we wanted installed into this chassis.

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I also wanted to show that the top section of the HDD rack is removable, but within those cages, the trays are a bit different. There is even a warning sticker to show not to flex these, as they slide open like the one with the drive in it, and then squeeze back together to secure the pins in the drives. For 2.5" drives, you can just screw through the frame of each tray.

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Along with the Ronin, we were also sent the cloth covered individually sleeved cables from the Alchemy series. We have the 24-pin, a pair of 6-pin PCI-E leads, and the 8-pin EPS cable, which will also disappear into the build, and look good when the chassis does happen to be open.

The Build and Finished Product

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As we get started, we removed the front of the chassis to remove the lowest bay cover for our DVD drive, but more on that later. You can now also see the 120mm fan, and the filter installed in the front, and also why there is the need for the long screws that they provide in the hardware.

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We were also able to install the Tundra AIO into this chassis. There is just a couple of millimeters of space above our bare memory sticks, and this is also why we went with the ODD in the lowest bay; there just isn't room up top.

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Even with such an odd placement for the DVD drive, it does not really break up the design of the Ronin. While it is the only thing textured up front, the black isn't too far off, and leaves an attractive front bezel to deal with.

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Ready for a bit of testing; I thought we should show the Ronin as we would with any other chassis on the market. Even without the cover in place to block messes, we were able to come up with a clean and pleasing layout when we were done.

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Then of course, once the cover is back in place, very little of the effort put forth into wire management and wire tending shines through. That is the point though. This will hide things for those without management skills, and also blocks the view of the bays and PSU from view through the window.

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The back fills out well, and there were no issues snapping in the dust shield, aligning the video cards in the slots, or getting the PSU mounted into the bottom; it all went smooth as silk.

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Just to prove how much room can be found in the back of the motherboard try, I ran as much of the wiring as I could back here, including the 24-pin clips, and running it over the front I/O wiring. Even stacking them as we did, replacing this side panel was as if there was nothing there anyways.

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With the chassis back together, you can also get a grasp of what can be viewed through the window when the build is finished. There is a great view of all the things you want to see, and a sleek patterned cover to block the view of things you really don't want to see.

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In the six images we took over various boots, and many times trying to get both LEDs on at once, it just didn't seem possible, as the red HDD activity LED just flashed too fast for it to be caught. However, we had no issues capturing the blue power LED. Another bonus is that these are at the top, and in normal situations, they won't blind or distract you.

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As you can tell from just stepping back a little bit, the LEDs are now not visible at all. If not for the exhaust fan running, you would think the chassis was off. Helping in this deception is the fact that while the fans do provide sufficient airflow through the chassis to keep thing manageable, the 34 dB of sound coming from them makes this chassis inaudible at this distance.

Final Thoughts

The Ronin may not have a master, but it comes ready for battle as it hacks and slashes its way into the top of the mid-tower chassis segment. The way this chassis is designed, it offers things like a smudge proof finish on the top and front with the SofTouch coating, and even the textured paint that is used helps to keep prints off the doors. It offers classy styling, and even has the option to replace the thin mesh strips with other colored versions to add some uniqueness, while also offering a way to tie the outside of the chassis to the colors used inside. While low profile or standard memory without a heat spreader will allow for a dual radiator to be installed, most other memory will cause a conflict when attempting this.

We also liked being able to remove the center section of the drive bays to allow not only for longer video cards, but to also fee up the airflow coming from the front intake fan, and this helps to bring temperatures down a couple degrees on all components. Then of course, there is that trick stealth panel that snaps into place, and makes any build look like a profession mod artist had gotten a hold of your rig, and given you the fully custom treatment.

A couple of things struck me as odd during the build process though. While we did have the water cooling option, it did leave the top two bays only usable for smaller devices like bay reservoirs, fan controllers, or card readers; however, that isn't all bad, it is just for those that still use multiple ODDs in their builds that may find they will need to stick with air cooling. The things that stick out most in our minds though are the standoffs. Now they supply a socket to help drive the standoffs all the way home, without having to resort to pliers and damaging the paint.

The issue on our case is that only some of the standoffs fit in the socket. Essentially, we were given two different sized standoffs, although they all had the same internal threads, it did make the installation a bit more complicated. Other than that, the Ronin stands strong with or without the panels on, and with or without hardware installed; it is just sturdy and stable. Once we took into account the cleanliness of the design, the features, and the aesthetic appeal when it was finished, those oddities seem less of an issue, and more of just minor setbacks.

What it usually comes down to in the end is the pricing, and while you may be able to find cheaper solutions with one or two other features, not one of those designs look as custom, and have the option to personalize it with add on parts. While not going too far outside of the box with the internal design, it simply takes a plastic component with a cool design printed on it to take any level of builders finished product, and make it look this professional and customized.

We were very pleased with the amount of gear we were able to cram into this mid-tower, and that it stood strong and willing to take on more abuse if necessary. The BitFenix Ronin is a winner in my book, and love it or hate it, BitFenix is always thinking of how to get the next leg up on the market. The Ronin is again proof that they are doing things right.

PRICING: You can find the BitFenix Ronin for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The BitFenix Ronin retails for $133.43 at Amazon.

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After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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