BitFenix’s Survivor enclosure, take two

In November of last year, we reviewed a pre-release version of BitFenix’s Survivor enclosure, a rather interesting product from an equally interesting Taiwanese start-up made up partly of former Abit staffers. (If you don’t remember Abit, I recommend hitting the great TR archive.)

The Survivor showed a lot of promise, but unfortunately, we found a number of nagging little issues with it. Some of those issues were attributable to our review unit being a pre-production sample, while others, in my view, were simple design shortcomings. After publishing the review, we discussed those problems with the folks at BitFenix, who graciously sent a production sample of the enclosure our way. That sample, they said, reflected the shipping product consumers would get their hands on.

Right around then, I received an order from the top to drop everything and begin work on The Tech Report v3.0. The Consumer Electronics Show and Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors came next, postponing my second look at the Survivor by quite a bit. The Survivor made its way into European and Asian e-tail listings during that time. BitFenix’s own online store services customers Stateside, too, but the Survivor isn’t due to hit U.S. e-tailers until later this month. So, I’m totally not late. I was just waiting for the right time—honest!

Before we get started, I strongly recommend that anyone who hasn’t read our Survivor review do so right now. The rest of this article will only highlight the differences between the retail Survivor and the pre-release model we reviewed. All of the key information about how the Survivor works, how much it costs, and so on can be found in the original review.

The good

To begin, let’s take a look at the shortcomings that were addressed in the production unit.

As you can see above, the wiring for the fan LEDs and the LED on-off switch is pre-connected out of the box, so there’s zero work involved for the user. Just plug in the power. Having to dig up the manual and connect wires to unlabeled pins was a major headache with the pre-production sample, so BitFenix gets a big thumbs-up for this change. Be careful not to pull the wires loose by accident!

The front fan filter is installed as it should be, too, without a trace of inappropriate adhesives. I wasn’t expecting any less from the production Survivor, but finding the filter partially hot-glued to the front bezel on the pre-release sample raised some concerns. I don’t know what goes on in those factories half a world away—clearly, gangs of kids with hot-glue guns are common, but they must’ve been kept out of whatever factory produces BitFenix’s cases. Another thumbs up.

True to its promise, BitFenix has moved the 5.25″-to-3.5″ drive adapter from the top external bay to the bottom one. That way, your optical drive can slip into the uppermost bay (where it belongs) without a fight. This might be a minor change, but with the pre-production chassis, encountering the adapter in the wrong position and being unable to move it after having installed the motherboard proved frustrating. BitFenix gets a third thumbs up here.

Last, but not least, the power button in our production Survivor was connected properly and operated without issue. I wasn’t expecting any less from the retail product in this respect, either, but my adventures with the pre-release unit (which I had to start up with a paperclip) forced me to ensure this wasn’t a continuing problem.

The still not-so-good

Now, this production sample wasn’t all sunshine and kittens. One issue in particular persisted:

Just like with the pre-production unit, some of the motherboard standoffs simply refused to go in all the way when screwed in by hand (two at the top, in this case). The same standoffs fit happily into other screw holes on the motherboard tray, so my guess is that some of the threads were just too tight. BitFenix explains, “The internals are currently coated by hand, which means that a small number of samples will have slightly thicker coating in some areas. This is causing the motherboard standoffs to be harder to install than normal, but not outrageously so, and not with all samples.”

To get around this problem, you’ll either need to grab a wrench or put a screw inside the standoff and use that to get it in all the way. Alternatively, wait a bit—BitFenix says that, in the very near future, it will shift Survivor production to a different factory that will take care of this problem.

My complaints about other problems unrelated to fit and finish still hold. For one, the side panels are still a chore to take off; doing so requires the removal of two rounded plastic pieces at the top and bottom, each held in place by two screws, and the removal of a pair of thumbscrews for each panel. Putting everything back together is no fun, either. BitFenix says the rounded plastic bits serve as bumpers to absorb shocks, which is a neat idea, but the practical execution is going to get in the way if you need to dig inside your PC on a regular basis.

Also, the amount of space behind the motherboard tray doesn’t appear to have increased. That means getting all of your cables to fit might take some work, and that some cables might have to remain on the other side, especially if your power supply lacks modular cabling. The Survivor is a compact, LAN-friendly design, though, so I don’t want to give BitFenix too hard a time over this.

Conclusions

Now that we have a clearer notion of what exactly retail Survivor enclosures will look and behave like, I have no problem updating the recommendations from our original review.

If you don’t work inside your PC very often but are an inveterate LAN gamer who requires a quiet, compact, and portable machine packed to the brim with enthusiast-friendly features like USB 3.0 connectivity, liquid-cooling support, and childishly easy-to-use hard-drive bays, the Survivor is undeniably a solid choice—just don’t be intimidated by the uncooperative standoffs. There are cheaper enthusiast cases around, like the Antec One Hundred, but the $109 Survivor is more compact, more portable, and more feature-packed.

For a cheaper alternative, the $89 Survivor Core isn’t a bad step down. You only lose USB 3.0 connectivity, fan LEDs, and BitFenix’s S2 cable-locking scheme, none of which are really crucial.

What about more serious enthusiasts who spend a decent chunk of their day hands-deep inside their PCs? Because the Survivor is a compact LAN party case, and especially because of the aforementioned problem with the side panels, you’re probably best off looking elsewhere. A roomier, full-sized enthusiast chassis with easy-to-remove side panels, like Corsair’s Graphite Series 600T, is undeniably a better purchase for a die-hard tweaker’s stationary gaming PC.

That’s about all there is to it. As I said in the original Survivor review, BitFenix is definitely a player to watch. I can now add that the company’s diligence when dealing with negative feedback bodes well for future products, too.

Comments closed
    • spigzone
    • 9 years ago

    Utter Piece of CRAP!!!

    What kind of cretins design an ‘enthusiast’ case that makes it a difficult and time consuming chore just to access the inside of the case?????

    That alone utterly disqualifies this case. It’s idiotic beyond comprehension. WTF were they thinking?

    They must have gotten massive negative feedback on this … looks like a serious cash flow problem … no funds to do a substantial redesign.

    No way this company succeeds.

    • A_Pickle
    • 9 years ago

    This case is really goddamn cool. I recently purchased and built a PC inside of Cooler Master’s COSMOS case, which is also awesome, but also bigger [i<]than the Earth[/i<]. I really like the look of this case, it's front panel ports are pretty badass, and it would actually [i<]fit[/i<] in the computer nook of my desk (I think -- this one *might* have too much girth width-wise...)...

      • just brew it!
      • 9 years ago

      The COSMOS is still smaller than my Chieftec full towers! 😀

      • spigzone
      • 9 years ago

      This case is really goddamn idiotic.

    • Duck
    • 9 years ago

    My god this is compact???

    Wait till you see mini ITX!

      • Cyril
      • 9 years ago

      For a mid-tower case, sure. With a motherboard inside it, there’s not a whole lot of spare room:

      [url<]https://techreport.com/articles.x/20007/5[/url<]

        • flip-mode
        • 9 years ago

        But, wait, there’s 3″ extra height and probably 1″ extra width added to the case due to that… that rubber bumper looking thing wrapping around the case. So there’s all that volume added to the case as an object but none of that volume is usable interior space.

        And tell me, did you give that handle a trial run? As in carrying that fully assembled computer, say, 300 meters and then telling us how your hand feels? I think the handle idea is fantastic, but the way the handle was designed looks pretty uncomfortable – no rounded edges.

        The case definitely has an aesthetic appeal. I wish that the rubber bumper profile carried around the full perimeter of the case – i.e. wrapped around the back too – even only as an edge treatment to complete the look.

        The air flow seems very nice.

        The case could stand to be an inch longer.

    • ludi
    • 9 years ago

    Too big. This looks like the box my Antec Sonata came in.

    • BiffStroganoffsky
    • 9 years ago

    It’s a good thing they hadn’t moved production as I was wondering when Cyril would run out of thumbs. Thanks for the third-half of the review.

    • glynor
    • 9 years ago

    Cyril, the link to the Corsair Graphite Series 600T on the second page of the article goes to the original review of the BitFenix case, rather than to the review of the actual Corsair case.

      • Cyril
      • 9 years ago

      Oops, fixed. Thanks.

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    C’mon, all that matters is that cool Battlestar Galactica logo!

      • scuba
      • 9 years ago

      Logo is a major turn off for me…as are the white LEDs on fans of the referenced 600T..which cannot be (easily) disabled.

      Do case manufacturers realize that there are many folks who just want a stylish and plain box with decent industrial design? How has Apple’s industrial design and the success of their products escaped Asia’s attention? LEDs, dragon cutouts, big plastic windows, glossy fingerprint magnet plastic, faux chrome trim, etc. Jesus, it’s like these things are designed by 7th grade boys.

      The 600T is close, but who the heck wants LEDs or a large plastic fan control knob? Some guy here I’m sure…but not me. Of course, if that was the only issue with the 600T, I might jump, but non-standard narrow fans, a whacked USB 3.0 cable run, and a handful of other warts that the TR review missed are more nails in the coffin.

      Logo…WTF.

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