Introduction, Packaging, and Specifications
A small case with some big flexibility
The BitFenix Colossus has grown into a family of enclosures, from the massive E-ATX original all the way down to their diminutive mini-ITX version. But somewhere in between there lies a case offering some impressive flexibility, while still retaining a small footprint.
As the PC industry has evolved over the last decade, the days of high-performance rigs requiring large towers and full-size ATX and E-ATX motherboards are gone. Of course there is still a market (and need) for full tower systems, and the majority of enthusiast motherboards available are still full ATX. But the evolution in process technology and platforms has allowed for more and more to be done within a smaller footprint, and the micro-ATX form factor has emerged as a solid option for anything from budget systems to extreme multi-GPU gaming powerhouses. Regardless of the path you choose, all of those sweet components need a home, and finding the right computer case has long been a very personal odyssey.
BitFenix entered the PC enclosure market in 2010 with the original Colossus, and since then they have grown into a respected brand with a large and differentiated product offering. From that first massive Colossus to the popular Prodigy mini-ITX, they have created an enclosure for just about any build. And while many cases specialize in one or two particular areas, once in a while you will find an enclosure that just begs for experimentation. The micro-ATX variant of the Colossus from BitFenix is just such a case. Every aspect of this small enclosure has been given a close look by BitFenix, and there are options galore for a variety of builds.
One of the questions for anyone considering a small form factor (SFF) build has to be whether to opt for mini-ITX, or stick with the mature micro-ATX standard. Obviously there are advantages to both form factors, but in years past mini-ITX had been a more specialized option, likely chosen more for low power/low noise applications such as a home theater PC (HTPC), than seriously considered for a gaming rig. The present market is very different. Mini-ITX boards, still the smallest mainstream motherboard form factor, are available at reasonable prices and often at feature parity with larger boards. For a single-GPU system a mini-ITX computer can be built today that could rival any larger rig in performance. Far beyond "concessions" to size, there are elite-level motherboard options at the mini-ITX form factor available, such as the ASUS Maximus VI Impact which Morry reviewed recently.
Why all of this talk of mini-ITX in a micro-ATX case review? It is the evolution of smaller system components – such as mini-ITX motherboards – that has created a situation where micro-ATX could almost be viewed as the "full-size" option by comparison. There just aren't really any compromises with a micro-ATX build compared to ATX anymore, other than the limitations on expansion slots. There are few if any missed features between the best micro and full-size ATX boards, and no loss of performance to consider if the board design is correctly implemented. Simply put, micro-ATX is a mature standard, and any cost or performance drawbacks to building around this smaller form factor have diminished tremendously over the last few years.
With performance no longer a consideration, the choice in form factor for a smaller system often comes down to budget, particularly with regard to initial investment. But what if you could build up either platform with the same common group of components, and use the same enclosure? The BitFenix Colossus Micro-ATX is actually a very good mini-ITX case as well, and has the added benefit of supporting a full-size ATX power supply and standard optical drive. In fact, for this build I decided to try both motherboard form factors out, as the ability to swap between them created a number of interesting build options. And even with the versatility and features of this case, BitFenix has priced it very competitively. The Colossus Micro-ATX is currently selling for around $120 shipped, putting it in the same price range as popular micro-ATX cases like the Corsair Obsidion D350 and SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E.
After we check out the specs it's time to take this case out of the box!
"Styled after the legendary BitFenix Colossus, Colossus Micro-ATX brings a futuristic yet refined design to the micro-ATX form factor. The top and sides feature our signature SofTouch™ Surface Treatment for an undeniably quality finish, and exclusive LiteTrak™ Technology forms a virtually unbroken line of light across the front and sides of the case that can not only switch color, but also pulsate at the touch of a button. On the inside, users will be treated to an epically flexible interior that can accommodate multiple expansion cards and storage options."
|Specs from BitFenix:|
|Materials||Steel, Plastic, SofTouch™|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||250 x 330 x 374 mm|
|Form Factor||Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX|
|Drive Bays||1x 5.25", 4x 3.5", 3x 2.5"|
|Cooling (Top)||120mm x2|
|Cooling (Bottom)||120mm x2, 140mm x1, 200mm x1, 230mm x1|
|I/O||USB 3.0 x2, HD Audio|
|Extras||LiteTrak™ lighting system, SofTouch™ surface treatment, magnetic heat shield|
Our thanks to BitFenix for supplying the Colossus Micro-ATX case for review.
The Colossus Micro-ATX is modestly packaged in a brown box with some basic information on the outside. The shipper was kind to this one, and there is minimal damage to the carton.
Inside, the case is sandwiched between layers of dense Styrofoam. Judging by the thickness of the padding it looks to be protected against even rough treatment in transit.
Armored to survive the perils of domestic ground shipping
There's a 'quick installation guide' included, which provides some basic information about setup. A small box inside the enclosure contains the hardware packet, which includes a USB 3.0 to 2.0 motheboard header adapter, some zip ties, and the necessary screws and washers.