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BitFenix Colossus Computer Case Revisited

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Testing & Results

First things first: I decided to ignore CPU temperatures for both of these chassis. While graphics cards have essentially maintained their power requirements over the past few years (they’ll still dissipate between 150-250+ watts of heat), most CPUs have moved into the sub-100W range. With the popularity of all-in-one liquid coolers it has become much easier to isolate the temperature of the CPU from the rest of the components anyway, so for this comparison I’ll focus on GPU temperatures. To make it easier to test the Colossi side by side, I’ll use a slightly different platform for each case – although there’ll be enough room in both cases and motherboards to leave one PCI-slot spacing between the crossfired Radeon R9 270Xs. I started with a full GPU compute test (100% load) to warm up the chassis – when temperatures plateaued, I recorded the temperatures of each card and ran the Heaven and 3D Mark 11 benchmarks once (recording the maximum temperature reached for each test). Ambient temperatures hovered around 17.3C. Results from these benchmarks will follow a picture of each configuration tested.

First up, the original Colossus running 270Xs in Crossfire:

Colossus_Final

 Colossus CrossFire Heaven 3DMark 11 GPU Compute
XFX 270X (Top) 53  49  73
XFX 270X (Bottom)  n/a  48  66

For some reason the Heaven benchmark refused to use the second R9 270X (it worked fine in 3DMark 11 and the GPU compute tests). I’ll update this figure once I determine why! Generally the Heaven temperatures are just a bit higher than 3DMark, so take that for what it’s worth.

Now for a similar configuration in the Colossus M:

Colossus_M270Xv2

Colossus M CrossFire Heaven 3D Mark 11 GPU Compute
XFX 270X (“Top”) 48 49  56
XFX 270X (“Bottom”) 64 59  77

 

 

The smaller Colossus M does a remarkable job at keeping the 270X’s cool, especially for the card that sits at the top of the case (right next to the intakes up top). The original Colossus cooled both cards better overall, but the Colossus M still kept things manageable. The open-air cooler design of the 270X’s didn’t do the smaller Colossus M any favors, but that’s what tends to happen when the card design shifts the cooling responsibilities to the chassis.

Taking out the two R9 270X’s and using a single R9 290 (this one using XFX’s Double Dissipation cooler instead of the reference design) should give us an idea of how each chassis will handle a notoriously hot card.

Colossus_GPU2v2

Colossus Heaven 3D Mark 11 GPU Compute
XFX R9 290DD 67  63  73

 

Not much to say yet, until we place the R9 290 in the Colossus M:

Colossus_M290v2

Colossus M Heaven 3D Mark 11 GPU Compute
XFX R9 290DD  64  64  69

 

Again we see the benefit of having those intake fans pointing directly at a GPU (the Colossus M, with a single GPU, has the stock Spectre 120mm fans installed as top intakes). Really though, both chassis have enough airflow with the additional fans to keep the R9 290’s ~300W at bay (although the original Colossus’ stock 230mm configuration is far superior to the Colossus M stock fans).

Results

The added 140 and 230mm fans in both chassis were run on their highest settings for each test, and the Colossus M had the original 120mm Spectre fans installed as top intakes for the R9 290 test. The results are actually pretty interesting – the smaller Colossus M more than holds its own against the massive Colossus. What these numbers don’t really tell you are the noises though – the larger Colossus did an incredible job of swallowing up some of the fan noise, where it was more apparent with the Colossus M. Still, the smaller Colossus M worked wonders with the Crossfired 270Xs and a synthetic 100% compute load – the peak temperature was 4C higher on the “top” card (bottom in the Colossus M), but the “bottom” card was a full 10C cooler than in the Colossus! Most of the difference probably comes from the fact that this card in the smaller Colossus M is sitting right up against the intake ports on top of the case – it essentially has its own isolated direct intake with cool, outside air, while the Colossus holds the two cards much deeper inside. There’s definitely enough airflow in both chassis to keep each configuration cool though, and for normal gaming situations the larger volume of the original Colossus helps keep temperatures more similar between the two cards.

The Colossus M stays surprisingly cool given how much smaller it is, but overall it’s tough to beat the larger volume of the original Colossus. It’s amazing to me that they’re even close – BitFenix did a great job packing a lot of performance potential into that Colossus M. You’ll need some extra fans to match the Colossus, but it’s certainly possible.


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4 comments

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  1. Rich Paul

    Thanks for another very thorough review Tom. Personally, I think you put this one about 1.5 points too high but that’s me.

    I think the case is overpriced and has that “teenager”/racing stripe” look to it that I stopped seeing as “cool” 40 years ago, (unfortunately).

    My biggest concern and disappointment was the cooling config availability. I have to select my 5Ghz profile for my CPU whenever I want to ‘fly’, (long-time FSX hobbyist), because the FSX program is notoriously CPU intensive. That means I need it to keep cool, (under 73C in my case), and to do that, it takes a 120 x 240 CLS liquid-cooled radiator system or bigger.

    This is probably where this case truly falls by the wayside for me. I saw no place to install the 120mm x 240mm radiator let alone the (4) 120mm fans that the radiator would be sandwiched in for a push/pull config.

    I won’t go into the entire reasoning about radiator configurations and why it’s so important to take-in the coolest available air at the highest cubic foot rate per minute, (not the time or place).

    But the fact that the front closes over the fan grids and forces the incoming or outgoing air to snake around a panel, is definitely not good for maximizing serious closed-loop, liquid-cooling configurations w/o going into external systems.

    In fact, the 120mm x 360mm CLS radiators seem to be gaining some popularity and now many look for a case that has the potential to mount that type of system. In other words, Bitfenix may have even gone backwards here.

    (Full Tower Needs)
    I have a mid-tower, (Corsair Carbide 500R), that I have now filled with SSD’s and HDD’s and though the cable management is still clean, I’m going to have to face the fact that I really can’t put anymore in it.

    My point here is that I’m not so sure I agree with you when you say that the need for a full size tower case is dwindling, (paraphrasing).

    As I added several SSD’s over a period, the HDD’s they replaced were still very much needed in a ‘support role’. At this point, I have 5 internal drives, two of which are SSD’s and the other 3 are all 1TB in size. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be looking at a full-size tower of the “Obsidian” persuasion soon. ;)

    Well that’s probably more than you wanted to hear but nevertheless, your review has once again been incredibly insightful leaving me with no need to ‘guess’ at what I would get if I bought the case.

    Oh! The gif LED pics were GREAT! Really, I haven’t seen that technique used in quite some time and I thought it was a very clever inclusion. Very Good!
    Thanks, Rich Paul

    1. Tom Jaskulka

      Hello Rich, and thanks for reading! I appreciate that you took the time to throw in your perspective; one of the things I like most about PCs are the endless configurations that are possible. It’s almost impossible to consider every viewpoint, so I appreciate the readers that send a little feedback our way! Out of curiosity, which category would you have taken the 1.5 points from? From your comments, I would expect the appearance category would take a hit ;) Appearance is always the difficult/subjective one, and if you’ve read any of my other reviews you know I’m a sucker for LEDs, much as I wish I could grow out of it :) If you haven’t seen the Colossus in person though, I’d implore you to check it out before forming an opinion. I thought it would resemble my Thor V2, and while they’re similar in size and layout they make entirely different impressions visually.

      Comparing the Colossus next to the Colossus M is what generated my thoughts on dwindling full-tower usage. I generally build gaming-oriented systems, usually with a single SSD (at most, another HDD for storage). Since I’m constantly switching hardware and trying out different configurations, any personal/long-term data ends up in a NAS or cloud-based storage (to survive the fervent and constant hardware experimentation). I just don’t have the need for arrays of drives for the majority of my builds any more, and with ITX/mATX gaining in popularity it’s pretty simple to build comparable systems in much smaller chassis. Multiple GPUs end up as the last major reason (for me) to use a larger chassis, but as I found out in this article smaller cases are starting to perform similar there too. Of course, that’s my own experience – I’m always curious to hear about others’ configurations. As I mentioned before, that’s my favorite part of the PC ecosystem – options!

      I should reiterate, the Colossus does accommodate 240mm closed-loop coolers (check out the detailed features page); if I have time, I’ll try a few that I have on hand to double-check any clearances. If you needed the additional airflow, you could always leave the front door open – I didn’t have the time to test it, but I’m willing to bet airflow would be improved, however slight. Perhaps if BitFenix ever updates the Colossus, they’ll make some accommodations for radiators up front too. Out of curiosity, which CPU are you running at 5GHz? I’m going to assume a 2500K, but if it’s an FX CPU (the 73C limit?) you’ll have to let me know which board you’re using and the voltage you needed to get it stable – my i5-2500K will run at 5, but I’d love to reach 5GHz with the FX-8320 I have sitting around too :)

      And thanks for the feedback on the LED .gif! Glad to hear it was helpful!

  2. Tom Jaskulka

    I should add a little clarification – the BitFenix Colossus (the Venom Edition, anyway) does make a few provisions for watercooling in the front panel. The 3.5″ drive cage can be removed with a few screws (you can see them by the fan filters on the bottom), and the front 230mm fan can be replaced with two 120mm fans (or a 240mm radiator + fans).

    A Corsair H100i and SilverStone TD02 fit in this location, but the hoses wouldn’t be long enough to reach the CPU socket (each of those coolers would fit just fine up top as well). A Swiftech H220 would reach, but the extra reservoir attached to the radiator is a few millimeters too “tall” to fit underneath the 5.25″ bays. All three coolers would fit in place of the top 230mm fan, although the TD02’s thicker radiator might start to interfere with motherboard components, depending on your motherboard (in the system in the article, the 8-pin CPU power connector would definitely need to be plugged in first!).

  3. Rich

    Hey Tom, I Had just posted a reply to your first response a few moments ago and then I saw this one. I’m not sure if my post went through because I don’t see it. If I don’t see it when I return in a little while, I’ll repost it. I also need to steal a moment from some appointments to read this response more carefully, (I haven’t done that yet, I’m getting hammered by biz emails!).
    Rich

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