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BitFenix Colossus M MicroATX Computer Case Review

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Building in the Colossus M, Continued

Most of the components are installed now, so let the cable management commence!  There’s still a few items to finish before placing the side panels back on, so let’s get to it.

ColossusM_20

You can probably see why I mentioned my unnecessarily large power supply earlier.  While a card like the Radeon 7850 pictured above will fit without an issue, once you get into GPUs that extend past the motherboard you’ll run into clearance problems with larger power supplies (an XFX Radeon 270X fit, but it was touching the power supply unit.  It was just the plastic frame making contact, but anything longer and you’d have to use a different PCI-E slot).  A 140mm unit would be just fine, and even 150/160mm modular PSU units should still have enough clearance.  Like I said, the 180mm Rosewill Lightning PSU I used just isn’t necessary for an enclosure like this; there are 750W + power supplies in a 140mm size if you’re willing to look.  It is nice to know you aren’t really limited though, larger power supplies will fit without a problem – just be aware of the size of your graphics cards.  Whatever PSU you choose, there is enough room on either side to stow cables (or tie them to the front mesh) – while the quarters get cramped, cable management isn’t as difficult as you would expect.

ColossusM_21

Most modern graphics cards will consume much more power than a typical CPU, so I’ve taken to using a top-down approach to cooling in the micro-ATX BitFenix chassis.  While it isn’t always the best idea to take warm air straight from a heated graphics card to cool a CPU, you could always flip the rear exhaust fan to an intake and let a giant 230mm fan (like the BitFenix Spectre Pro seen above) exhaust everything out of the bottom.  While this would be another article’s worth of testing, it seems to be a pretty optimal configuration for keeping heat and noise down.  I’ve tried using that bottom fan mount as an intake, but placing fans directly against mesh usually increases the noise substantially – the recessed mounts above seem better suited for hitting the optimum spot on that noise/performance curve.

Of course, this is assuming the use of open-air coolers like the 7850 above; blower-style GPUs that exhaust air out of the back of the case should perform better in smaller enclosures.  For what it’s worth, a Sapphire Radeon 7970 with a Dual-X cooler stayed around 70C under a full compute load with the configuration shown above, so the Colossus M didn’t have any problem dealing with the heat.  Still, if you want to try a Crossfire/SLI configuration I’d strongly recommend choosing graphics cards that use rear-exhausting blowers for cooling.

ColossusM_22

That’s the fun part of building your own system though, you can experiment with different fan configurations and choose a setup that fits your own components.  I initially thought it was strange for BitFenix to only include two 120mm fans for the micro-ATX cases, but I would imagine each user will want to choose their own fan configuration (so keeping the price down and the options open might be the best way to ship a stock enclosure).  Unless you plan to use the drive mounts on the bottom, I’d recommend picking up a 200mm or 230mm fan to get the best performance out of the Colossus M.  Since BitFenix has the largest selection of 200/230mm fans in a variety of colors, you should be able to find something that matches – perhaps that’s the point, the only fan that might make sense here and appeal to the vast majority would be a switching red/green/blue LED fan.  Since those don’t exist commercially (that I know of) and everyone has their own favorite color, it’s understandable that BitFenix would allow you to choose your own aftermarket components.

ColossusM_24

Finally, we arrive at the most frustrating part of the install – depending on where your motherboard places the USB 3.0 header and front panel/audio headers, routing these cables from the side panel might be simple or extremely complex.  Waiting to insert the GPU and vertical drive bracket until after you attach these cables is by far the best option, but once you do get them connected to the appropriate headers it is almost impossible to tie them down or out of the way – you’ll just have to carefully place the side panel back on the chassis while peering over the top to make sure the cables don’t get caught in any fans.  For a one-time install, the enhanced aesthetics of the Colossus M makes this a non-issue; the tinkerers out there may want to spend some time thinking of ways to deal with this if they plan on constantly removing the side panel.

Original Image Source: BitFenix.com

Original Image Source: BitFenix.com

Now for the best part: glowy lights!  Let’s be honest, you’re probably not going to buy a chassis with a giant LED stripe if you’re going to leave the lights off, so this LiteTrack™ interpretation of the original Colossus is one of the main selling points of the Colossus M.  You’ll be glad to see BitFenix’s diffused lighting match very closely to their stock images – I had trouble capturing the color accurately (I didn’t want to mess with any shift or saturation, and the LED colors always seemed washed out in a photo compared to how they looked to the eye) but in my opinion this is one of the best uses of diffused LED light I’ve seen on a commercial computer case.  The red is a fiery red (not a dark, blood red), the blue is just a step brighter than that pure LED blue (it’s a bright blue, not a deep/purple blue) and the green has just a hint of a “mint,” although it’s more similar to a neon green.  There are still a few hot spots, but overall the evenly-lit stripe is a very unique and eye-catching effect.  My only complaint with the lighting system is this: you need to turn it on every time you power on your machine, then cycle through the three colors again to display the color that you had before.  It would be nice if the controller just stayed on last color selected – while a small detail, hopefully BitFenix will be able to include such an option on future revisions.  While I’m wishing, hopefully BitFenix will find a way to add a controller to those LEDs to allow for combining colors – options are good, and pink/purple/cyan/aqua/orange/yellow/white would be wonderful as well!


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10 comments

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  1. David Ramsey

    I’m personally a little disappointed in this case: it annoys me when cases advertise room for a 240mm radiator, but then you discover that in order to utilize this, you can have a 5.25″ device or two graphics cards. Sigh.

    1. Tom Jaskulka

      I think the Prodigy-based cases from BitFenix make more sense as mATX enclosures, but even with the additional space there are trade-offs. I would imagine those users that need space for two graphics cards would be fine without an optical drive (5.25″ bay devices should still fit – depending on the device of course…), but the 240mm radiator is much more of a tradeoff. It may be possible to fit both though (two GPUs and rad) – I don’t have one on hand to test, but it looks like an H100i *could* fit on the bottom of the case in place of that 230mm fan. If I get a chance to install one, I’ll have to update the article!

  2. Kharntiitar

    Just wondering what CPU cooler that you used?

    1. Tom Jaskulka

      It’s a Xigmatek Dark Knight II , a 120mm tower cooler similar in size and performance to most other 120mm coolers (like the Hyper/EVO 212+, Argon AR01, etc.). The ceramic coating is what gives it the black color! Any other 120mm cooler should fit in this case as well, depending on your motherboard of course (for GPU clearance, etc.).

  3. Neon

    So what is the best orientation of fans? Bottom exhaust and rear intake? Or both exhaust? Or… Something elese?)

    1. Neon

      *else.
      Btw nice review, thanks)

    2. Tom Jaskulka

      Glad you liked it! Fan orientations in the Prodigy-based chassis are numerous, so the unfortunate answer to your question is…it depends :) If I did have to pick one fan configuration though for a *typical* gaming build (one GPU), I had some of the best results with two 120mm fans up top as intakes, then the bottom 230mm fan as exhaust (along with a 140mm exhausting as well). That configuration kept the GPU’s fans (an XFX 270X, in this example, a little more heat than the 7850 in the article) from having to spin up too high, keeping overall noise down. SLI or Crossfire configurations in the mATX cases would almost have to use blower-style coolers (or water cooling), unless you’re willing to deal with the extra noise.

      If you want to overclock the CPU too, that 230mm fan does a decent job of getting rid of the heat – still, you’ll probably have better results with a 120/140mm AIO cooler set as an intake on the rear 140mm fan location (then let the 230mm dump the heat out of the bottom).

      I realize that most users would say “well, heat rises” so the above configuration would run contrary to common sense, but with a GPU installed you run the risk of hot pockets (of air, not the “magma in a croissant” variety) getting trapped. With fans up top directing cool air to the GPU’s fans, and those dumping heat into the case, that 230mm fan spot on the bottom seems best put to use by getting rid of the heated air. You can then adjust CPU temps with the rear fan by flipping it to intake (improve CPU temps slightly at the expense of overall system temps) or exhaust as needed.

      Sorry for the long reply – incidentally, I’d be interested to know how many more users out there would like to see the effect of different fan configurations…but I hope this helps for now!

      1. Neon

        Wow, thank you for such detailed reply) I’m planning to use a little bit overclocked intel core i5 4690k and nvidia gtx780 or gtx780ti in this case. And i’m afraid there will be too hot in there. noise doesn’t scare me, but temps do) So, what do u think? Your opinion is really important to me =)

        1. Tom Jaskulka

          That’s a pretty similar build to what I have running in a Prodigy M right now, and I’m even using the stock Intel cooler for now with a slight overclock (4.2 GHz i5-4670K) – runs very quiet, even with the case fans undervolted to 5V. You should be just fine! Do you know if you’ll be getting the reference cooler for the GTX780/ti? Or will you use one of the open-air custom coolers (like the EVGA ACX model, etc.)?

          1. Neon

            I’m pretty sure I’m gonna use non-reference cooler for the GPU. I suppose the temps will be fine and some overclocking too

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