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BitFenix Colossus Computer Case Revisited

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ATX Case Final Thoughts

Seeing the Colossus M staged right next to its full-tower predecessor was a neat experience. It was interesting to see the changes and decisions made to take the soul of the Colossus and shrink it to micro/mini size, while ultimately retaining most of the performance. At the same time, the unique LiteTrak systems evolved into an even better version on the newer Colossus M (while the older Colossus still outshines the competition even today in that area). It’s too bad the other unique features of the original Colossus didn’t make the transition (lockable storage container, cable management) and I still like the multiple recessed LED stripes and front panel design of the original better, but both chassis were enjoyable to work with and would make stylish additions to any setup.

Colossus_Lit34x2

BitFenix Colossus Conclusion

Two Colossi for two different times. While full towers aren’t as necessary as they used to be for multi-GPU configurations, it’s still hard to beat massive 230mm fans and a huge internal volume. The Prodigy-based Colossus M still manages to hold its own though. You’ll need to add to the stock configuration to compete, but fully outfitted the Colossus M was just as viable as the massive Colossus (especially for gaming). It’s amazing that the main choice you have to make between the two chassis is how much weight you feel like lugging around (or whether you wanted to be restricted to micro-ATX or smaller motherboards) – the performance of both Colossi, especially with carefully chosen components, ends up being pretty similar.

While Benchmark Reviews has reviewed the BitFenix Colossus before, I’ll still run down our Performance, Appearance, Construction, Functionality and Value categories as they would apply today. The Colossus is still available at a few online retailers, but stock seems to be hit or miss at times.

The Colossus was a great performer in 2010, and with today’s focus on energy efficiency and performance-per-watt components it has even more headroom. The newer components allow smaller chassis like the Colossus M to keep up, but there’s still “no replacement for displacement” when it comes to the massive internal volume of the Colossus. The stock fan arrangement strikes a nice balance between noise and performance, and there’s room to expand if necessary. The Colossus should be able to handle most enthusiast grade systems without a hassle, and remains one of the top performers through the years.

BitFenix picked the right case to start off their portfolio – it’s appearance turned some heads when it was introduced in 2010, and still does today. However you feel about LED case lighting, the Colossus is a sight to behold (even though the side panels need more diffusion or frosted acrylic to look evenly lit). The SofTouch finish is exquisite and really provides a unique effect, helping to further differentiate the Colossus from other cases. Rarely does a case so fully earn its name – the Colossus is just that, in styling, weight and volume. I hope they use the same monolith/ancient alien artifact/Tron look if they ever update the original Colossus with another full tower. Maybe it isn’t for everyone (you can turn the lights off, fun-haters!) but the effect is absolutely striking.

For a first try, BitFenix didn’t cut many corners with the construction of the Colossus – or weight, for that matter. It. Is. Heavy. There is little doubt about the stability and sturdiness of this chassis. This is the Venom Edition, which was released after the original chassis and received a few updates (ninth PCI slot, thumbscrews instead of tool-less PCI covers) but unfortunately the flimsy tool-less hard drive trays remain. They work sufficiently when loaded with drives, but when they are empty they have a tendency to fall out of their slots. Due to the overall weight, I wouldn’t expect you’d want to transport this thing around too often, so it’s a problem that ultimately isn’t a deal-breaker (but hopefully is addressed in any future revisions – I would expect so, considering it isn’t an issue on any newer chassis from BitFenix).

I appreciated the extra functionality the original Colossus offers. I’ve never used a case that integrated cable/cord management for peripherals so well, and the lockable storage container was a nice addition too. I can see some users might be annoyed about having to flip up the cover to turn the machine on (there are other ways to turn on a PC…), but the benefit of the S3 container could easily outweigh those concerns if you are concerned about the security of your peripherals/external drives. The lighting controls and analog fan controller (with multiple fan headers) were ahead of their time, and still provide a surprising amount of functionality for this class of tower.

While it may be getting harder to find in stock, the Colossus is still available online for $159.99 (Newegg | Amazon). That places it in a “premium tower” bracket, competing with chassis like Corsair’s Obsidian series, Silverstone’s Fortress and Raven towers, Cooler Master’s Cosmo SE/HAF Stackers, and NZXT’s Phantom 630. There are a lot of great cases to choose from both below and above that price point, but very few of them combine the price, performance, looks and features of the BitFenix Colossus. If you like the way it looks and don’t mind the size/weight, I feel like you’d get your money’s worth with the Colossus. If you don’t care as much about the lighting and opt for the windowed versions instead you could get into a Colossus for a bit less (they usually run ~$30 cheaper).

The imposing profile of the original Colossus still makes a statement a few years after its release; it would still be a great home for enthusiast-class systems. It’s fascinating, really. Since the release of the Colossus, BitFenix has churned out quite a few chassis: Shinobi (regular/XL), Survivor, Raider, Ghost, Ronin, Shadow, Outlaw, Merc (Alpha/Beta), Prodigy/M, Phenom, Colossus M, Comrade, and Neos (with a Pandora/Atlas/Aegis announcement just ahead of Computex 2014). They came out swinging with the Colossus, and I hope they don’t lose track of what captured the imaginations of so many back in 2010. If they updated the lighting, drive trays and added provisions for 2.5″ drives while keeping everything else the same, the Colossus could easily hold its own in today’s market, in my opinion. As it is, I’d still have no problems recommending the Colossus to anyone in the market for a unique, colossal enclosure that brings a lot of performance and features for its price point.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award Logo (Small)

+ Great performance with today’s hardware
+ Unique, colossal appearance that still makes an impression four years later
+ SofTouch finish minimizes fingerprints
+ LED lighting system, while starting to show its age, still more innovative than most of the competition
+ S3 secure storage a plus
+ Cable management for peripherals
+ Reversible front door

Cons:

- Very heavy
– Flimsy drive trays
– Only Green/Red or Blue/Red LED combos to choose from, no blends or custom colors

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.50
  • Appearance: 9.50
  • Construction: 8.75
  • Functionality: 9.25
  • Value: 8.50

Final Score: 9.10 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

NewEgg.com

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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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