OVERALL RESULTS AND OBSERVATIONS
Unlike the BitFenix Shinobi, the XL performed the best out of the all the chassis tested. It was on par with the Cooler Master HAF-X, even beating it in most tests, and easily ahead of the Antec Sonata P280. Clearly BitFenix levelled-up their ventilation game, a fact easily seen by the addition of ventilated mesh coverings for their PCI expansion area in the benchmarks. The massive amounts of space in the XL, coupled with three large and custom made BitFenix Spectre fans certainly contribute as well.
One of the negatives of the Shinobi is that it cannot accommodate large CPU heatsinks with outward protrusions, such as the Noctua NH-D14 and Cooler Master V10. The XL does not suffer from this, having more than enough clearance for an NH-D14 coupled with a 240mm radiator installed above on the top panel. There is also more than enough room to house the largest graphics cards on the market, with ~12″ of space without having to remove the hard drive cage.
There are a few problems at the front of the case however. For one, the 230mm Spectre fan does not really have much to work with in terms of airflow aside from the ventilated mesh strips and the raised handle that has aeration grills. Furthermore, the installation of radiators, especially the one in the front, will require removable of drive bays. Credit this to the design of the XL, primarily SofTouch which makes the entire front solid. It is a welcome feature, and an very aesthetic one at that, but undoubtedly does lead to many complications and trade-off situations.
The plastic trays are a bit flimsy and wobbly, especially when trying to secure 2.5″ drives, and the optical drive bay locking mechanism is not totally rigid and leaves some flex room. Integration of a fan controller, eSata port, FireWire port, and hot-swap bay at the top of the case would have been welcome additions, as well as the case lock present in the original Shinobi’s packaging. Extra rubber-coated thumbscrews would have been handy too in case they get misplaced.
Finally coming to the wire management, as mentioned before, there is copious amounts of clearance allowed for running cables (~35mm), which resulted in a nice, clean interior, and contributed heavily to the overall benchmark results.
I am not quite sure what to think about the Shinobi XL. It is a mix between contempt and loss. Do not get me wrong, the XL is a brilliant case, just as the original was…but that is where the problem lies; It is just as good, even though it is double the price ($75 versus $150), but not necessarily better, and I feel BitFenix just barely missed an opportunity here to step-up the Shinobi line from great to grand.
The main area that plagues the XL is the front. Lack of proper ventilation and having to remove drive bays to accommodate for that should not be the case for such a unique chassis. The lack of extra goodies, I/O ports, and swappable bays just compounds this.
After everything has been tested and mentioned, the BitFenix Shinobi XL is still a marvel of a case. It is easily one of the cheapest XL-ATX cases in the market for what you receive. Heck, most mid-towers still go for roughly the same price, offering much less.
The Shinobi XL brings four USB 3.0 ports, a neat SuperCharge port, SofTouch, FlexCage, Spectre fans, tool-less mechanisms, copious amounts of clearance for installation and wire management, and an overall aesthetically pleasing look to entire chassis theme. More than perhaps any other XL case on the market, the XL allows for a variety of water cooling options, allowing enough space for three radiators.
Overall, I give the BitFenix Shinobi XL my complete acclimation, and it should certainly be highly considered if you are looking for a chassis. A perfect port and a modest price tag, reinforced with upgrades to strengthen its overall appeal, the XL extension will surely build on the popularity and successes of the Shinobi line.
Check out the BitFenix Hardware at Amazon.com.