BitFenix Outlaw Case Review

BluePanda - 2011-09-27 19:35:48 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: October 5, 2011
Price: $49

Introduction:

A case can really make or break a final build. Many times, you start out by choosing key hardware such as the CPU, motherboard, GPU, and RAM, but end up with little money left for anything else. Depending on your preferences, it’s common to see the case either neglected or over-budgeted. However, it appears that several companies are finally catching on to this issue!

These days, it seems every case company is looking to provide consumers with affordable product options. With the recent OCC reviews of NZXT’s low-budget cases, it isn’t surprising to see more and more low-cost options following suit. Back in July, we reviewed the BitFenix Shinobi with crowd-pleasing results. Today, BitFenix is back to OCC as we take a peek at the BitFenix Outlaw – what seems to be a spinoff of their Merc Alpha and Merc Beta cases that were released in August. At a $10 premium above the Merc mid-towers, let’s see how this Outlaw compares. I hope it doesn’t break too many laws. (Har har!)

 

Closer Look:

Arriving on my doorstep, this was one of the smaller boxes I’ve seen for a case – at first glance, I wasn’t even sure there was a case inside! After turning it to its back side, however, the packaging quickly proved that it indeed housed the mid-tower. With its plain cardboard and black-printed imaging, it looked like a nice one at that. My only fear was whether my hardware would fit – while it does promise to support long VGA cards, I’ll have to be the judge on that one.

Other than its small size, the box doesn’t give away too much cosmetic detail about the case itself. However, the side of the box reveals a few of its key features, including ATX support and three optical drive slots. This is important to me, as installing my water bay would otherwise be tricky, especially if I didn’t want to dismantle the entire loop. Four USB 2.0 slots are also promised to accompany the power/reset buttons and microphone/headphone jacks – a nice start considering we haven’t even opened the box yet.

At this point, I’m dying to see what is inside this box. If it has protective foam as thick as I’ve seen in the past, there is no telling whether there really is a case inside. Let’s get to opening the box and find out!

 

 

 

Cutting the box open, you will come across the standard plastic wrap and foam end-caps – if you were expecting more, you may be disappointed. However, they managed to place the step-by-step manual on top, for you to read the directions before even digging in. It was nice having it right on top, rather than tucked away inside the case or in the bottom of the box, but I naturally tossed it aside to get to the main point of the unboxing; seeing the case! Of course, although a case often doesn’t need many instructions, it’s a nice guide to use when you aren’t sure what “that” button does.

 

 

Now that we’ve got it out of the box, it’s time to see how well the diagrams on the packaging represent the case itself. Head on over to the next page to see what’s under that plastic and foam.

Closer Look:

As I take away the packaging, I uncover a rather simple case – it is basic and black, but painted on the inside, which is a major bonus for the price. That aside, it sure doesn’t weight much, which might speak for its thin paneling, though I need to open it up first to find out. Before taking a look inside, let’s take a gander at what the outside has to offer.

The front panel has a soft rubbery feel – it is nice and smooth with a flat black finish. I really like the way it looks. However, it will be interesting to see how an optical drive or water bay would mount, considering the curvature on the front edge. I hope it doesn’t look too goofy when a plate or two is removed from the front. The back of the case looks like that of many others – it has seven PCI slots, a 120 mm exhaust fan, a PSU slot, and even a couple of grommet-filled holes for water cooling or any external-to-internal piping needs. It does appear, though, that even from the outside perspective, this case isn’t something you’ll be counting on to support much weight – no sitting on your case!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving along, we can really get a feel of the small size of the case. It seems narrower than most cases I’ve used, so I definitely have to wonder if there is any room for cable management on the back panel. Nonetheless, it does have a rather professional look and with no window to expose messy cabling, I’m not too concerned about the issue.

There isn’t much to say about the sides of the case except its touted “backwards” orientation. Compared to most cases these days, you’ll be mounting your motherboard upside-down on the tray. It shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but if you are used to opening up the left side of the case to access your hardware, it may be a good idea to keep this in mind. The right panel provides mounts for two 120 mm fans, which appear to blow over the CPU and GPU areas. While not too aesthetically displeasing, the plain, machine-pounded mesh sections do make the case look a little cheap.

 

 

Overall, the case doesn't look too bad – it has a nice simple look that makes a subtle addition to any build. The top of the front panel houses all the case’s key features including the power button, reset button, four USB 2.0 ports, a headphone and mic jack, a red HDD indicator, and a blue power indicator. It’s pretty simple, with everything labeled well. I think it is important to note that the reset button is significantly smaller in size in comparison to that of many other cases. This helps to prevent accidental reboots – a problem I’ve had in the past. 

 

 

A final look at this Outlaw disappoints me, as it houses no reference to old western shows or the simple cowboys of my childhood. All kidding aside, it does appear to be a pretty nice case on the outside. For the price, this isn’t half bad. Structurally, I can “feel” the price, but I’m pretty confident that the case will be alright, even in the odd occurrence that my fat cat decides to make it his new perch. Let’s open up this case and find out how things go on the inside.

Closer Look:

Opening the case, I am once again introduced to its “backwards” orientation. With that all figured out and my brain working with the upside-down motherboard configuration, I can finally start visualizing how my build will fit inside. As a note, it looks like my radiator might have to find a home at the top of this case – the back 120 mm fan slot is rather closed-in on two sides, significantly limiting the amount of space to mount anything other than a fan.

Looking at the opened case, I find room for 4 HDD and 3 optical drives of my choice. The two bottom HDD slots seem to have soundproofing rubber grommets to help reduce noise inside the case. I wonder, though, about the extent of effort to get drives in there while my PSU is installed. Turning it around to the backside, I start to question why this back panel even comes off – there isn’t even a bit of space between the back panel and the actual back of the case. There is a little nook where they have placed the tiny cardboard box of screws and zip-ties – maybe they think I’ll cram some cables there? On a rather serious note, there is maybe a millimeter of space back there. Don’t count on running any “secret” cables behind the motherboard tray.

 

 

 

With both panels removed, we get a better look at the internal guts of the case. The build quality, as noted prior, is pretty feeble. The panels are thin and easily bendable, but they bounce back to their original shape without a problem. While I am saddened to find only one fan in the case – a simple exhaust out the back – I am not too surprised and just glad to see a fan included, given the price. There are, however, two spots on the top, one spot on the bottom, and two spots on the side panel for additional cooling. I think this case would perform best with more fans, but for review purposes, I will be testing it as delivered.

 

 

Looking at a few of the case’s “key” features, there really isn’t a whole lot to talk about it really is about as basic as you can get. I’m not complaining on that point, as it is intended as such and ends up coming at an affordable price. I must remind you, however, there aren’t going to be a lot of “bonus features” with this case. The thumb screws on the back (holding on the panels) are plastic-capped screws; this isn’t really an uncommon feature, but something I’m still surprised to find on cases today. The front panel cables are already fed through the back and ready to be plugged in. Unfortunately, it seems they have forgotten about the upside-down motherboard placement (or are using a standard set of cables) and lack of need for such an extensive length of cable. It will be a bit difficult to hide these wires, but it shouldn’t be too big a deal in the end. And to make you feel a little better about setting up your rig, they pre-mounted two of your mobo standoffs in the case! These feature lips that hold the standoff in place while you screw it in. It’s a nice feature that seems to be showing up on cases of every price level.

 

 

Taking things apart, I decided to pop off the front bay covers. There is nothing behind the first slot, but the second and third slots hide the old-school punch-outs. It only takes a couple twists to take out, but I’m not quite sure why they would even be left here during manufacturing. While I’m up here, I pull off the entire front panel to take a look at the front fan mount. Perhaps they use this front panel on another case, but there is a removable slot below the third bay that also contains mounting holes – this seems silly and unnecessary – if you take it out, it is gone for good and if you put a fan here for some odd reason, it will only be held by only two screws. A little engineering failure here – if it somehow helps decrease the price of the case though, then it is an understandable oversight.

 

 

It’s time to get all my hardware in this tiny little case. I’m a little worried about it all fitting, but I’m confident I can make it work. My little radiator did end up on top – the back fan slot didn’t allow for my ECO ALC radiator to fit, due to some constricting metal fins around the stock fan. However, I managed to fit both 120 mm fans and the radiator up top without too much of a problem. Most enthusiasts won’t have my water setup, though, so your mileage may vary. Otherwise, I squished the front panel USB cables quite a bit, but they technically do fit. My long 4870 X2 heat-dumping video card fits in there just fine. An unusually long optical drive may prevent this, but my board features more than one PCI Express slots, so I can move it down (or up, in this case) a slot or two – again, this is not a big issue.

No matter how much I tried, the cables became quite the mess in the case. What you see is about my best attempt, short of re-tubing my water loop and somehow making my PSU cables shorter. I’m just impressed that I got everything in there – I am used to working in much larger cases. Overall, it doesn’t look too bad – with the side panel attached, you won’t even see that mess inside.

I must note that with the build finished, the biggest pain dealt with the little front covers for the drive bays. Not only are they directional, but each one has a slight difference in depth that requires them to be inserted in a certain order or they will fall into the case. In my build, I went through all three to get my water bay in. Needless to say, putting them back in required some puzzle skill, especially because they were not numbered. Don’t feel bad if it takes you some time to figure it out (or if you are smart, you’ll number them as you pull them out). For the price, I can deal with it.

 

Specifications:

Dimensions:
438 mm x 180 mm x 478 mm (ATX Mid-tower)
Materials:
Steel, Plastic
Motherboard Support:
Mini-ITX, mATX, ATX
External Connections:
4 x USB 2.0, Microphone/Headphone
5.25” Bay Slots:
4
3.5” Bay Slots:
4
2.5” Bay Slots:
1
PCI Slots:
7
PSU Support:
PS2-ATX (bottom, multi-direction)

 

Features:

Cooling:

 

 

 

All information courtesy ofwww.bitfenix.com/global/en/products/chassis/outlaw

Testing:

Testing the BitFenix Outlaw requires heating it up! This involves recording temperatures for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and overall system during idle and load phases. Load was simulated by running Prime95’s small FFTs, HD Tune, and 3Dmark Vantage for one hour. The maximum temperatures were recorded using HW Monitor. It is important to note that each case is tested from its factory setup, including location of fans, unless otherwise noted.

Although the Outlaw has multiple locations for fans, the case is shipped with only one 120 mm fan in the rear. Due to my water cooling setup, the radiator was mounted on the top of the case, since the back mount had spacing issues. With the 120 mm in the back and the 2x120 mm fans exhausting out the radiator on top, the temperatures were recorded. Adding more fans would likely improve these numbers greatly – I’d hope.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Cases:

 

Results:

 

 

 

 

 

The Outlaw was a little disappointing in its performance. Compared to a few cases that are only $10 more expensive, it really does start lacking. I wasn’t pleased with the overall build of the case to begin with, and these high temperatures definitely do not help. Adding fans wouldn’t be much more expensive, but for an additional $10 or less, I could buy a different case with better stock temps. I’m really not impressed. 

Conclusion:

Overall, the BitFenix Outlaw might not have proved to be the best low-cost case on the market. The temperatures were nothing to call mom about and the thin panels made the inner structure a bit weak. However, the interior is fully coated in black paint, which gives the case a nice overall feel. It supported the full load of all my extensive hardware without too much extra effort and when left alone, doesn’t really cause an issue. I feel like it can be a perfect case if you don’t touch it often. If you add a couple more fans, it would probably keep the temps down fairly well too.

One noteworthy point is the insane HDD noise from this case. I did have to mount my two hard drives in the upper two slots without rubber dampers, but this was the loudest that I have ever heard from my drives. The constant mechanical sound during defragging or disc accessing seems amplified in this case. Due to the setup of my hardware, I cannot really try out the rubber mounted slots, but I’m not so sure they would remedy the issue.

Having run a few other low-cost small-stature cases, I wouldn’t recommend the Outlaw. This truly isn’t a “bad” case, but if you are looking for good cooling and ease of use out of the box, this isn’t really for you. However, if you are looking for a simple chassis that won’t be accessed frequently and requires little cooling, then it might be worth the slight savings in coin. It isn’t for everyone, but in all honesty, the real criminal in the Outlaw is its price – it’s quite the steal.

Pros:

Cons: