Bitfenix Comrade Unboxing and Review

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Hello folks, thank you for stopping by. Today I have, for you, an unboxing and product review of the Bitfenix Comrade PC case. Firstly, if you’re the kind of individual who enjoys videos, I recommend watching this  (warning: it’s ~48 minutes in length):

Next, now that you’ve had the opportunity to see what to expect upon opening one of these for yourself, let’s delve deeper into the analysis of this case. At first glance, there isn’t much to it, and I mean that quite literally. The front is made of plastic, with the rest of the case being cold-rolled steel. It’s extremely lightweight, yet not flimsy at all. I’ve had many a case in my hands throughout the years, some very heavy and felt like they could withstand a nuclear bomb, while others were so thin and flimsy that they would bend just from me attempting to pull off a side panel or remove it from the box. This case falls into the middle area, it seems. In some areas, such as the hex mesh under the PSU mounting section, this causes some concern as to structural integrity, while nearly everywhere else it appears to not be an issue whatsoever. It’s a very sturdy case indeed. Another (very) nice touch, is that the entire steel structure – from the mobo tray to the side panels – is powder coated. It’s very possible that this also adds to the integrity, however I honestly am unsure of this, so don’t take that as a firm yes.

The motherboard tray is riveted to the case, non-removable, and riveted also to the drive cages (which are riveted to the case itself and to each other), apparently for overall stability. The built-in standoffs, which are of course pre-threaded for 6-32 screws, are a bit of a risk for Bitfenix to take. My experience with this particular unit, thus far, has shown that it was a risk well worth the effort. There are also many holes punched through the tray, even all the way up the right-side, which is where they’ve implemented a cable/wire-routing harness (the large holes of which are cold-rolled-edged). There is a large hole – measuring 109mm x 109mm – behind the motherboard’s CPU section also, allowing for easy access to rear brackets for CPU coolers (and also possible wire-runs, if you’re anything like me). At it’s furthest point from the side panel, the tray gives you 9mm of space to work with, while at it’s nearest (the cold-rolled edge of the 109x109mm CPU bracket hole) you get only ~6.5-7mm. The reason I specify these distances as differing, is because Bitfenix pressed this mobo tray in such a manner as to provide some extra stability to the mobo and the added components’ weights and structures. From the CPU cooler to the RAM, GPU(s), etc., this tray has been designed to handle a lot of weight, and the channeled structure also gives you a better idea of where to run wires, whether you do so behind the tray, between the mobo and tray, or both. Additionally, I’ve noticed where at least one person (online) has mentioned that the Front Panel wiring doesn’t reach the connections on Gigabyte (and some EVGA) Mini-ITX motherboards. This is not a design flaw of the case, it is in fact one made by the mobo manufacturer(s). Why do I say this? Because they placed the connections either directly next to the CPU socket area or directly above it, which is almost all the way across the case. This design is a bit backwards for mid towers or larger, obviously, and the mobo manufacturer(s) designed these boards specifically for M-ITX cases (the Bitfenix Prodigy, Phenom & Colossus M would be great examples). Although the Comrade is designed to accommodate M-ITX mobos, that’s one little thing to be aware of. The likelihood of many folks doing that, honestly, is very slim at best, but for those few who would, take that simple fact into consideration please. Thank you.

There are, of course, some other shortcuts which possibly added to the cut in production costs. Though as you’ll read in the following commentary, may/not be worth it:

  1. The expansion slots do not have normal screw-in cover plates (there is one powder-coated black blank in the accessory pack, for the top-most expansion port, which is completely open, out of the box), but rather are the push-out type, and have fairly-large square holes punched through them. Being that this is designed for up-to-full-ATX motherboards, there are 7 expansion slots total.

  2. Only 1x 120mm Bitfenix fan is included (it’s mounted in the rear, using 4x black-painted self-tapping screws), and it’s not anything special (such as the Spectre model), but rather just a standard 120mm case fan. The Spectre 120mm is model BFF-SCF-12025KK-RP, while this fan is model R1225L12S.

  3. The HDD cages are all riveted to each other, with the 2.5 and 3.5 cages being almost entirely one unit, and also riveted to the bottom and top of the case itself. This design, in a way, takes me back to the aftermarket and oem cases of the late 90’s to early 00’s, especially the ones in this same price range. It’s not a knock-down, don’t get me wrong, just makes me feel a tad bit nostalgic.

  4. The feet, what can I say? The feet on this case are made of hard plastic, appear to be as generic as can be and have no grip to them whatsoever. That being said, at least it actually has some feet at all. I’ve seen much worse quality feet on some cases, and even some which had no feet at all, but rather just a circle-shape stamped into each corner of the bottom panel. No matter what you do, however, if you choose to use the feet which come pre-installed, most definitely you will need to give them some sort of grip, somehow. Whether you add adhesive foam pads to the bottom, you set the PC onto a shelf liner sheet, or whatever, you’ll need to do something. That is, unless you want that precious little beast you just built to end up on the floor very soon.

  5. The twist-lock 5.25 drive fasteners are next up. First off, there are only 3 of them, placed on the left side of the drive cage. I mean really, what’s the point of claiming a tool-free drive installation if you’re only mounting it half-way? I’ll use screws, thanks. Secondly, these things give the impression that they’re fragile and will break if you apply too much pressure when twisting the knobs. They’re not rickety, but they are definitely not favorable either. Again, I’ll use screws, on both sides of the cage, and toss these buggers into a small box.

  6. The front panel (which includes 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x headphone jack, 1x microphone jack, power button, power LED, reset button and HDD activity LED) is a bit too compressed… and faces to the right side of the case. Now, if this were to be placed on the left side of a desk, on top of it, that could likely be ideal, however for every other setup I do not recommend this case if you wish to utilize that area of it. The reason I say it’s too compressed, is because everything is soldered into a custom-designed PCB. Whilst this could prove to have some decent modding potential, it does create a bit more headache than is necessary, and likely cost more to produce than it was worth. Why not just go simple, Bitfenix? I know I sure would feel a little better about it. Additionally, the way they designed that section, it also makes it a headache to remove/replace the front fans + filter. When I say headache, I mean almost migraine-level, honestly. What should easily take 5 seconds to do, took me almost 2 minutes instead. It should be a simple pop-and-go deal, but it’s not. The wiring for the front panel connections gets in the way, by a large margin. That brings us to the next point…

  7. The front fan filter – a dual-120mm plastic frame, which has the filter melted to it and Bitfenix logos stamped into it – while easy on the eyes, is not much of a blessing. In fact, it’s actually a headache all on it’s own. The fans mount to the filter (either by self-tapping case fan screws, or if you prefer silent operation – vinyl/plastic/ rubber push-in pegs/anti-vibration “screws”), so when you remove the filter in order to clean it, to get to both sides (many of us like to give them a thorough rinse and sometimes use a brush as well) the fans have to be removed, then re-mounted once the filter is clean (and dried if washed). Given the design of the front panel’s wiring, this is even more a problem, as the fans take up much more space (the average fan’s frame depth is 25mm) and are a royal pain to maneuver in and out of the hole they’re designed to fit into. Was it really necessary to make it such a pain to get the fans in and out of a case, all for the sake of supposedly lowering costs? I highly doubt it. Honestly, just stamping holes into that front steel plate would’ve done the job, and a magnetically-attaching filter frame to finish it off, of course. It doesn’t even have to be anything special, just something basic, molded Bitfenix logos or not, no biggie.

  8. There isn’t a lot of space between the top of the mobo and the roof of the case, only ~7-8mm, leaving no room for internally-mounting top-mount exhaust fans, even slim ones. There’s, of course, always the option to mount them outside of the case, however.

  9. The width of the case is cause for a slight bit of concern. Firstly, there isn’t enough space for many tower-style CPU air coolers, and secondly the placement of the rear exhaust fan causes 2 of the holes to be covered by the side panel. It appears to be a slight overlook on Bitfenix’s part, as they could’ve punched the holes out of the side panels (both panels are universally-compatible with each side), but since they didn’t do so, I suppose it’s now the end-user’s duty to either cut/punch them out or just deal with the slight nuisance. I mean, it’s not likely anyone will be removing the fan with the left side panel still on, but it’s the principle, really, though not a deal-breaker.

There are some really nice options to be had, however, so don’t get too overloaded by the negatives. In my opinion, the potential for this case does outweigh the downsides. For instance, I present to you a few perks and some respective potential mod ideas to implement.

  1. The side panels and top are flat and completely blank, leaving room for mods ranging from fan holes to windows, elegant paint jobs and so on. As much as one might be hesitant to get rid of the beautiful powder coated paint job, if you’re looking to do any modding at all, you have to be prepared to get your hands – and canvas – dirty.

  2. The front fan mounting section is cold-rolled in a way that it provides a general directional pathway for airflow. Despite the filter frame being designed for 120mm fans, there is exactly 140mm in width here, so a 140mm fan will fit perfectly into this spot. There are 2 things to note, however. First, if you add a 140mm fan here, you’ll likely want/need to put a thin frame of vibration-dampening material (of some sort, whether thin rubber, foam, etc.) around either the fan’s frame or along the cold-rolled steel. Secondly, only 1 140mm fan will fit here by default. If you wish to have 2 of them (running vertically, obviously), then you’ll need to cut more out of the area above this pre-stamped hole, which runs into the 5.25 drive cage area. Obviously, this will also require modification of the front bezel, but if you’re going to do it, do it all the way, right? Right.

  3. The hex mesh below the PSU can be cut/stamped out, but it’s not necessary. If you do choose to do so, and correctly, however, then it will not compromise the integrity of the removable fan filter’s slide-mounting rails. I would recommend doing so, if you wish to improve airflow to the PSU fan and for extra silence (hex mesh can tend to be very noisy).

  4. The expansion slots have a plastic clip-in cover (on the outside of the case), which is not only easy on the eyes, but also is extremely easy to use. Once removed, one will notice that getting to the screw-in portion of the expansion cards’ bracket is extremely easy and convenient. Another thing to notice, is that Bitfenix pre-drilled and threaded screw holes, which fit 6-32 screws (like those for mounting HDDs, SSDs, mobos, etc.). Why would they do that? Perhaps they were looking at the possibility that we might want to add a special locking mechanism there, custom-design our own expansion slot cover (instead of using their pop-and-lock-style one), or some other potentially-epic mod. I’m unsure, and I’m sure you are as well, but I’m glad they’re looking out for us nonetheless.

  5. The snap-fit drive sleds are an optimal design over original sleds, such as the ones in the Cooler Master CM690 for instance. Older designs gave the impression of possible easy breakage, although the plastic used was actually fairly flexible. These new sleds are actually 2 pieces, using a buckle-type snap-fit design, allowing one to pop it open, set the drive in and then pop it closed for a snug and secured fit. There isn’t much to say about this, other than it’s a great design and I’m very glad to see that even a supposedly-low-end case has these. There are 6 total, 3 for each of 3.5 and 2.5 drives, however it is imperative that I mention that Bitfenix only used this design on the 3.5 sleds. The 2.5 sleds don’t have any posts to hold the drives in place, but rather have holes, for screws, both on the rail portions and the base-plate portion as well. Admittedly, this is a tad annoying, given that one would expect the same style of sled to be used on both, but at least it’s not something which completely throws it off altogether, and it’s not – in my opinion – really worth knocking any points from it either.

  6. If you don’t absolutely, 100% need to use more than 3 drives, in any size (2.5, 3.5, 5.25) configuration, inside of this case, there’s lots of hope. Although it will take a bit of work, removing the 2.5 and 3.5 drive cage section from the case is very possible. While they are riveted to the 5.25 cage, removing the rivets from the entire cage section is very easy, and removing them from where the 5.25 cage attaches to the 2.5 cage is just as much so. Once you’ve done this, you can then re-rivet (or thread the holes and screw in) the 5.25 cage back into the case. To note, this will add a slight bit of flimsiness to the bottom corner of the mobo tray, but not enough to matter. The mobo tray mounts to the 5.25 cage and the 3.5 cage with 2 rivets each, but on the 3.5 cage the rivets are 30mm apart and on the 5.25 cage they are 102mm apart. What removing those cages will do, is open up a world of possibilities for liquid cooling, additional fans, custom HDD/SSD brackets, the list goes on and on.

  7. The front bezel is also a fairly blank canvas, even the 5.25 covers benefit from this. If you want to, you can replace them with one of Bitfenix’s units, from the Recon or Hydra Pro fan controllers to the combo of the 5.25 Drive Bay Adapter and USB 3.0 Front Panel (or SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Card Reader, your choice). If you wish to do your own custom work on the covers which come pre-installed, however, they’re made of plastic, so have at it! A few ideas that you could do are USB 3.0 ports, a small LCD screen for CPU temp reading/fan speed reading, a custom-cut/etched/engraved/stickered image (such as a logo, name, emblem, etc.) or even perhaps some little device you made using an Arduino.

  8. If you don’t need to even use the 5.25 cage for drives, that also leaves plenty of room to make a custom wind tunnel for air-cooled systems, wherein the air intake from the front could have a fan (perhaps a 140mm) mounted in the hole left after removing the 5.25 bay covers, with a plastic/acrylic/lexan/steel/aluminum tube (round is probably the best option, but not necessary, square-shaped could work also) guiding the incoming air exclusively to the front-facing fan on the CPU cooler, giving it pure, unadulterated and dedicated cool air. Given the placement of the rear-exhaust 120mm fan, the wind tunnel could possibly run from the front to the back, isolating the CPU cooler altogether. Of course, this is all assuming that you’re using a tower-style cooler. A little extra work would be required if your cooler is designed to blow the air down at the mobo. If you remove the 5.25 cage altogether, I highly recommend implementing some sort of support system for the right side of the mobo tray, to ensure it’s stability.

  9. Along the right side of the mobo tray, Bitfenix gave us a gift: a rounded wire harness, with large rolled-edge ovals punched through it and holes for zip/twist ties (I like to use either, depending on application). There is actually a bit more potential for this, if you really think about it. Perhaps you can mount a reservoir there, and cut a hole into the right side panel to accommodate it, or maybe even add some really cool LED lighting instead. The list isn’t endless, but it’s not too difficult to get creative with this little add-on-of-sorts.

  10. There are holes in the upper-rear of the case, above the 120mm exhaust fan, which also have grommets in them. While at first one might think to only use them for running the tubing for externally-mounted liquid cooling, there are plenty of other options to consider. You could run the wires from externally-mounted fans through there. You could install 1 or 2 12v lighter adapters, such as used in motorized vehicles (those kits do exist, priced usually at $20 USD), adding a lot of really nice power options for charging cell phones, iPods, tablets, you name it! Even switches, such as Bulgin Vandal switches could be mounted here, instead of using the front power switch. Maybe you’d like to install your own custom locking mechanism, so as to prevent sticky-fingered Hobbitses from running off with your precious? Well have at it, Smeagol.

  11. Holes, holes, everywhere are holes! All kidding aside, along the left and right sides, on the bottom panel of the case, Bitfenix have punched out some special little holes. At first glance, it may be easy for one to not even notice them, honestly, and even Bitfenix’s own website doesn’t mention them anywhere. So, I got to thinking about their design and layout, and it didn’t take long before I remembered the Alchemy LED strips. Why Bitfenix doesn’t mention this little bonus is beyond me, but I also noticed that none of the other reviews I’ve seen did either. Nevertheless, these holes are (as you can see in the following photo) 4 sets consisting of a small rectangle and a small numeral 8 per each, with a single circle hole in each far corner as well. One other really neat idea that I can throw you, utilizing these holes (and perhaps possibly the ones for the feet), is to construct custom feet/footing brackets. The possibilities there are almost endless, from materials to color scheme, using LEDs or mesh, etc. and so on.

  12. The Bitfenix logo badge, although pretty to look at, isn’t permanently adhered. It’s actually the same aluminum badge that you can buy from them or one of their partner retailers. Being as such, it uses an adhesive pad to stick to the plastic. I haven’t yet contacted Bitfenix, to ask how to easily remove it and replace it with a different one (I might want to switch to the all-black badge instead of the chrome-finish one, maybe something else), but I will do so soon (or a fellow modder who already knows). Once that badge is removed, however, even more beautiful possibilities open up for us. From blower-style fan holes to windows to a whole world of other options, there are quite a few mods one can do with such a canvas.

To go along with the video and the above text, I now present you an assortment of photos…

Final word:

I won’t do a positives and negatives list, which is what a lot of other reviewers do, because quite frankly it’s redundant and just wastes time and space (seems slightly hypocritical, considering I just typed all of this out, but oh well). What I will do, however, is say that I am actually pretty well impressed with this case thus far. Sure, it has it’s downsides, but for $49 USD, it’s not worth wasting the stress on them, especially with all of the great features and potential this thing has. If you bypass this case for a more expensive unit, due to all of the things it lacks, yet you’re looking for a mid tower, you’re definitely selling yourself short. Bitfenix, in my opinion, hit the nail on the head with this design. I can’t honestly say I’m impressed by much these days, but the Bitfenix Comrade actually got me pretty good. If you do get one, or already have one, feel free to tell me what you think. There’s a comment section below, and I’m very interested in your take, both of this review as well as the subject matter. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read all of this, I hope to have been able to help inform your decision(s), and/or at least provide you some decent entertainment. Have a great day!

We are influencers and brand affiliates.  This post contains affiliate links, most which go to Amazon and are Geo-Affiliate links to nearest Amazon store.