BitFenix Colossus Review

Many of you may not have heard of BitFenix, a relatively new company on the scene. If you have been following KitGuru over the last few months however, you will have noticed that we have been focusing on them quite a bit. With industry veterans such as Coco Lee (ex Coolermaster) making up their ranks, BitFenix has been working to create the perception that their new chassis designs will redefine the market. With the launch of the Colossus, we get to see if this bit of tech has got what it takes to attract the enthusiast hordes.

A while ago we were offered a pre-production model of the Colossus, but we wanted to wait until a final production model was available and today we tear it apart to see if it is going to be worth your money. This is their only product to hit retail, a full tower case with the demanding enthusiast in mind.
The Colossus is a full tower chassis and it offers a long list of features to tempt a prospective customer. There are two colour schemes, Glacial White with a white interior and Monolith Black with a black interior. The top and front of the chassis are coated with ‘SofTouch’ material – a much lauded feature that BitFenix have been mentioning regularly in their PR literature. This coating is developed to protect against markings and stains while giving it a very distinctive appearance.

Main Features:
  • Ready for the Future: The next generation of USB connectivity is here. Equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, Colossus allows you to connect an ever-growing number of USB 3.0 devices and experience data transfer speeds up to ten times that of USB 2.0. With USB 3.0 already built-in, Colossus can last you several upgrades, further future-proofing your system.
  • At Your Command: Designed to be the center of your digital domain, Colossus puts you in command with a PWM fan controller and multimode light controls. Tune your fans down for silence or up for extra cooling. Select your desired lighting color or turn them off completely. With Colossus, control is always at your fingertips.
  • Advanced LED Lighting System: Perhaps the most striking feature of Colossus at first glance is the advanced LED lighting system. Not only is the light evenly distributed for a truly inspired look, but the LED color is also dual-mode, which means that users can switch between red and blue lighting with the touch of a button.
  • Unmatched Security with BitFenix S3: Colossus introduces a BitFenix exclusive – S3. S3 is a storage compartment and security system in one. Place your iPhone, hard disk, or other valuables in S3 and lock them away for safe keeping. S3 will even lock down peripherals like USB mice and keyboards plugged into it, and secure everything under lock and key. Simple, safe and secure – that’s BitFenix S3.
  • Complete Cable Management: Messy cables not only look bad, but they can also restrict airflow in a chassis. That’s why Colossus is designed to manage cables both inside and out. Keep cables from cluttering the inside of the chassis with Colossus’ strategically-placed cable holes. Prevent cables from getting caught in opening optical drives with the unique cable-holding front bezel.
  • Epic Expandability: Colossus gives you the space to build your own supercomputer. Capable of accommodating eight PCI express devices and seven 2.5″ SSDs or seven 3.5″ hard disk drives, Colossus is ready for multiple upgrades – perfect for a rig of epic proportions.
  • Massive Cooling: When the action heats up, your system needs to keep its cool. Colossus can be outfitted with up to two 230mm fans, three 140mm fans or three 120mm fans, meaning huge cooling potential for all system components.
  • Easy Installation: Big doesn’t have to mean unwieldy. Featuring a motherboard CPU cooler cutout on the motherboard tray, specially-designed motherboard standoffs, and an almost completely tool-free design, getting your system up and running with Colossus is a joy. Large yet welcoming, if Colossus reminds you of a friendly giant, we wouldn’t blame you.
  • Materials: SECC, ABS
  • Color (Int/Ext): Black/Black or White/White
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 245 x 558 x 582 mm (ATX Full Tower)
  • Motherboard Sizes: Mini-ITX, mATX, ATX, E-ATX
  • 5.25″ Drive Bays: x 5 (1 x external 3.5″; tool-free)
  • 3.5″ Drive Bays: x 7
  • 2.5″ Drive Bays: x 7 (using standard 3.5″ drive bays)
  • Cooling Front: 1 x 230mm
  • Cooling Rear: 1 x 140/120mm (optional)
  • Cooling Side Panel: n/a
  • Cooling Top: 1 x 230mm (or 1 x 140/120mm optional)
  • Cooling Bottom: 1 x 140/120mm (optional)
  • PCI Slots: 8 (tool-free)
  • I/O: 2 x USB3.0, 2 x USB2.0, eSATA, Audio
  • Power Supply: PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)

The Colossus is supplied in a very large, eye catching box with information on the case.

Inside the chassis is wrapped in plastic and has two thick pieces of styrofoam on each end for added protection.

The case has been designed to be identical on both sides and has an unusual finish – which almost feels like a mixture of rubber and plastic. It’s similar to the coating on some high quality USB flash drives. It is very large incidentally – even taller than the giant Antec Dark Fleet DF 85. Colossus is a very fitting name.

The BitFenix logo takes pride of place at the top of the front door. Underneath is a meshed bay area for the 5.25 drives.

The top has a large mesh area to allow for vented air, courtesy of a whopping 230mm fan. At the front there is a door which can be pulled open to reveal a power and reset switch as well as LED buttons to control the lighting. There is a knob to adjust fan speeds as well which we will look at later. Additionally there are two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports and a single eSATA connector as well as headphone and microphone ports. You can also route cables into various grooves here, but it looks really ugly and we don’t see many people using this.
You can remove the 230mm fan at the top and install a dual 120mm radiator if you are using a watercooling system.

The back of the chassis is finished in black and the top has 4 holes for watercooling, these are rubber mounted for protection. Underneath is a vented area for a 140mm or 120mm fan. Under this are the PCI slots (eight in total) and space for a bottom mounted power supply.

The bottom of the chassis has two vented areas, one for a PSU intake and another for a 140mm/120mm fan. We noticed that our dust filter was snapped out of the box, which was concerning and apparently happened during rough transit (image above).

Each of the side doors is locked by two thumbscrews which are rubber coated to blend in better with the chassis design. A very nice touch.

Removing the side panels is a straighforward process and requires no special tools. Once opened, the insides of the case are finished in a very high quality black finish.

The side panels are extremely heavy and contain the LED lighting system inside. On the flip side (inside), the doors are covered with a thick plastic paper style material which is screwed into the main unit. No, we have never seen anything like this before either.

I have to say, I was not impressed with the build quality of the side doors, while I can appreciate the fact that they have layered a multicoloured plastic to brighten up the lighting when looking at it from the outside it just felt extremely flimsy. As you can see above, the power cable is glued to the panel with a nasty big blob of material. The plastic cover also moves very easily and isn’t flat either, rising and dipping across the area.

The bundle includes screws, cable ties, tidies and various brackets to aid with the system build. There was unfortunately no manual or literature whatsoever, so the end user would be flying blind. Bitfenix are going to offer a downloadable manual, which is not going to be an ideal situation if this is your only PC and you are building it.

The bottom of the case has rubber stoppers for the power supply to rest upon. In front there is a 120mm filtered area to add an optional fan if you wish. This filter is removable, although for some reason you have to remove four screws from underneath the chassis. As we noted on the last page, our rear dust filter was damaged in transit and had snapped. We repaired it quickly with a little Blutak. While we were repairing the filter we noticed that one of the feet of the Colossus was also falling apart so we had to reattach it.

The front of the case houses a 230mm fan, used as an intake solution. At the top is another 230mm fan which is used in an exhaust position.

The Colossus can hold a total of five 5.25 inch devices. These have plastic locks on both sides which allow for a screw less installation of all drives. Below this are seven hard drive trays which can be removed individually and do not require any tools for fitting. Our 5.25 inch bay metal placeholders were very loose and one had almost moved 90 degrees during shipping.

There are plenty of holes and locations for storing and routing cables and we were pleased to see the almost obligatory hole for easy access to CPU backplates.

The other side of the case has a plethora of recesses for storing cables, which is just as well as there are already a multitude there.

Installing the power supply is a simple process, requiring four screws to be attached to mount into the case. Above this is a clever system of PCI card mounting similar to the Lian Li 8FIB chassis we recently reviewed, but unfortunately not metal, just plastic. It seems tough enough however.

Mounting our Corsair H70 cooler was a little tricky as BitFenix have adopted a 140mm sized slot at the rear. As we could see no 140mm to 120mm conversion bracket and had no manual for reference we managed to just bolt the H70 into some spaces within the vented area. Hardly ideal.
At this stage I had begun to lose a little faith in BitFenix. So far we have had a broken bottom filter, a loose plastic ring on one of the feet, rather flimsy designed doors and a rear mounted fan position which is best suited to an unusual 140mm size. Until CoolIT, Corsair and a plethora of other manufacturers adopt a 140mm fan size then we see no reason for BitFenix to do so either. Don’t worry, there are positives, but we need to flag these issues on an early sample from a new manufacturer so that they have the chance to review their materials, designs, assembly partners, packaging and QA processes.

A quick overview of the case from the underside.

After we spent a while getting the Corsair H70 120mm fan mounted into the 140mm slot the rest of the build was pretty easy. There is plenty of room to fit the biggest graphics cards and our HD5870 was not a problem. We also like the fact BitFenix have left plenty of space at the top of the case for the largest of coolers, such as the Noctua NH D14.

There are six fan mount plugs for control from the top panel knob if you wish to use it.

The Colossus is well designed for cable routing and we were able to use one of the holes on the back to run our USB 3.0 cables into the motherboard for front mount access if we needed them later (you can also use the motherboard for USB if you wish, as Bitfenix supply an adapter cable).

Another area of issue is the quality of the hard drive mounting brackets, they are without a doubt the weakest I have ever seen. One of them actually snapped under slight pressure when I was pulling it out (seen above). They can literally flex in your hand with the slightest of pressure.
When I approached BitFenix about this, they said that the HDD trays have already been changed on the production line, so the model you receive should be stronger.

Installing an SSD is a straightforward process, you simply mount from the underside with four screws and slide in. I still can’t get over how weak these trays are, you can even see them bent in the picture above with nothing in them.

The case looks attractive when the LED’s are enabled. Both colours can also be set to ‘pulse’ if you want something different.
For our testing today we are using a Core i5 760 system which we will overclock to 4.4ghz later.
Chassis: BitFenix Colossus
Processor: Intel Core i5 760
Motherboard: ASRock P55 Extreme 4
Cooler: Corsair H70 Liquid Cooling
Memory: Corsair 4GB DDR3 1600mhz Dominator & AirFlow Pro
Storage: Corsair F40 SSD
Graphics: eVGA GTX460 SC
Power Supply: ThermalTake ToughPower XT775
Windows 7 Ultimate Edition 64bit
Thermal Diodes
Raytek Laser Temp Gun 3i LSRC/MT4 Mini Temp
Digital Sound Level Noise Decibel Meter Style 2
Firstly let us have a look at the chassis design and airflow, as it comes ‘out of the box’.

The Colossus relies on two massive fans to move air from front to back in a traditional design ethic. Cool air is rammed in from the front over the motherboard and components, then the top exhaust fan pulls hot air upwards and out of the case.
Although Corsair recommend the H70 is mounted with the fans pulling cool air in, we have swapped fan positions for this review as we feel it works better in this particular case. We have discussed the Corsair H70 airflow principle before and you can check it out over here.
One 230mm fan at the front acting as intake and one on the top which is used as an exhaust.
We have placed thermal diodes in 5 case positions – 1; top optical drive bay position. 2; hard drive position. 3; top area between CPU and fan exhaust positions. 4; above PSU, graphics card (s) area. 5; motherboard central ‘dead zone’ area. Ambient room temperatures were maintained at 23c throughout.

In our default configuration the CPU was maintained around 43c under load with all the ambient diodes holding the same idle temperatures, when under load. The airflow in this case is massive and flows well from front to top.
We then overclock the CPU to 4.4ghz which is as far as it will go.

The Corsair H70 manages to keep the 4.4ghz overclock around 60-62 degrees under load, without any increase in temperatures when idle. The only diode temperature to increase is Diode 3 which is around the position of the CPU. The airflow in this chassis is one of the best we have seen to date and is close to the Silverstone Raven 02.
We take the issue of noise very seriously at KitGuru and this is why we have built a special home brew system as a reference point when we test noise levels of various components. Why do this? Well this means we can eliminate secondary noise pollution in the test room and concentrate on components we are testing. It also brings us slightly closer to industry standards, such as DIN 45635.
Today to test the chassis we have taken it into our acoustics room environment and have set our Digital Sound Level Noise Decibel Meter Style 2 one meter away from the case. The room rates as 21dBa before powering on the system (air conditioning unit in the far corner of the room causes this).
As this can be a little confusing for people, here are various dBa ratings in with real world situations to help describe the various levels.
KitGuru noise guide
10dBA - Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA - High Quality Computer fan
40dBA - A Bubbling Brook, or a Refridgerator
50dBA - Normal Conversation
60dBA - Laughter
70dBA - Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA - City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA - Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA - MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA - Orchestra
120dBA - Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA - Threshold of Pain
140dBA - Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA - Instant Perforation of eardrum
We have replaced the graphics card with a Sapphire HD5670 Ultimate edition.

The system is relatively quiet and the two 230mm fans generate the same level of noise we would expect from two  quality fans with high air flow capabilities.
The Colossus is a solid first effort from newcomer BitFenix, but it does present a series of contradictions.
KitGuru is all about the engineering. While we’re all for the stylish and the sexy, the first priority for a case is to provide the best possible environment for your components. Key to that is cooling, so we’ll start there. Cooling performance is great, easily rating as one of the best we’ve tested. While it has not won the right to claim ‘champion standing’, it’s certainly doing battle in the same arena as the Antec Dark Fleet DF 85 and the Silverstone Raven 02. The dual 230mm fan configuration pushes a massive amount of air, while keeping noise levels to a minimum.
The next task of a chassis is to make you proud of the machine you’ve built. For that, it needs to look great. Here’s where opinion will be divided deeper than the Marianas Trench. It certainly looks different to any other case in the market and love it or hate it, change in general is a good thing. Aesthetically I find the case different enough to be worth checking out, and the LED system is certainly attractive enough if you happen to be a fan of glowing lights. We like the RED lighting as it looks sexy at night.
Those are the two biggest factors in the case’s favour.
Unfortunately, the case is not without issue and we ran into several areas where build quality could definitely be improved. While we can forgive the broken dust filter on the PSU as a rough shipping issue, we were not happy with the build quality of the side panel system and the hard drive tray material is very flimsy. Considering the effort that the design team has gone to, it’s a surprise that the QA team has missed these issues.
KitGuru raised all of these issues with senior staff at BitFenix and we were told that the Hard Drive trays have already been changed on the production line. The inside cover of the side panel is also apparently ‘only applicable’ to media samples which means if you buy one next month, the inside door is likely to have been changed. BitFenix has promised to keep your beloved KitGuru’s up to speed with developments in this area.
Our single biggest area of concern is the single 140mm rear mount. It is a very unusual choice. While we can appreciate that a 140mm fan will push more air than a 120mm fan, all primary manufacturers such as Corsair and CoolIT are bundling their pre-fab liquid coolers (such as Vantage, ECO, H50 and H70) with 120mm fans.From what we can tell, BitFenix does not - at present – sell a 140mm fan either. We expect some changes here, either in fan availability or rear mount size. Even if Bitfenix supplied a fan adapter kit it would help ease potential heartache.
BitFenix intends to supply the Colossus with a downloadable manual only. Most people have web access on more than one device, but we do love a paper manual here in the KitGuru office. The case is more complicated than most so a simple, clearly presented manual would have been appreciated.
All in all we have been reasonably impressed with the BitFenix Colossus as a first effort. While applauding their efforts to create innovative solutions we do need to highlight the early build quality. It’s simply lacking in places. Easily fixed – but certainly needs addressing.
BitFenix has convinced us that they are listening to the key media, will take all of these observations on board and expect to keep raising their game in the coming months. If you buy one retail, then we’d really appreciate you giving us your views in the KitGuru forums.
Pricing is going to be around £130 inc vat within the UK.
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