OK, let’s lay this right out there before I really get started… Here at Pure Overclock I sometimes like to create mods for our PCs that are not strictly about performance. Yes indeed, on occasion, I also mod our PCs to make them look great, or make them quieter, or to make a statement. Today’s review is about two of these: making your PC look great and making a statement by using Bitfenix Alchemy 2.0 Magnetic LED-Strip lighting kits.
Today, I am going to be looking at the newly released Bitfenix Alchemy 2.0 Magnetic LED-Strip lighting kits. As part of the BitFenix Premium Modding Series, the Alchemy 2.0 Magnetic LED Strips are an update of the BitFenix Alchemy LED Strip line. They do have a couple of significant new features, which we’ll get to a bit later in the review.
Closer Look at Bitfenix Alchemy 2.0 Magnetic LED Strips
Packaging and Contents
BitFenix has packaged the Alchemy 2.0 Magnetic LED-Strip in a straightforward easy-to-open transparent blister pack. The blister pack isn’t heat sealed, and is easy to pop open. Contained in the blister pack are: the LED Strips, the MOLEX pass through DC Adapter, a bridge that allows you to connect multiple strips together, a single double-sided card that serves as advertising for the product, a spec sheet, and a minimalist set of instructions and warnings.
Frankly, while the packaging is minimalist in the extreme, it is truly well thought out and seems to perform its various purposes well.
The core of the packaging is the card. The base color on the front and back of the card is the color of the LEDs in the strip, and each card is also clearly labeled in a large font as to the contained LED Color. As if that wasn’t enough, there is also a somewhat random flame-like “digital” pattern that is placed behind each LED Strip and the adapter blister also in the color of the strip.
The back of the card presents a few photos that present the strips in use, and show the bridge and MOLEX pass through assembly. There’s also a close-up of an individual LED.
As you can see, BitFenix sent us all 5 colors currently available: White, Blue, Red, Purple and Green. Purple is new to the Alchemy 2.0, having replaced Orange in the original Alchemy product line-up.OK enough about the packaging then. Let’s get on with it!
The Alchemy Strips
This is actually quite interesting, as one can see the LEDs and the resistors that step the voltage down enough to operate the LED at its native voltage . The LEDs are spaced about 1/2″ apart, with the resistors in a 2 and 1 pattern between sets of 3 LEDs. At both ends of the strip are 4-pin connectors, which are used to power the strip and to daisy-chain another strip to the first by way of the provided 4 pin bridge.
End to End, the strip measures 12″ (32cm). The bridge is a little more than 1.5″ (roughly 4cm). The provided power lead is 20″ (~51cm) from the tip of the 4-pin connector to the back of the MOLEX adapter. My only complaint about this assembly is that it should be a 3 or 4-pin fan connector or a SATA power connector, as I generally don’t bother installing the MOLEX leads on my PSU. This is a minor niggle really, and it would be simple enough to re-wire the adapter such that it would work off another type connector. The MOLEX does have the advantage of being a very common connector, and it’s easy to buy extensions and adapters for it, which are no doubt some of the reasons that BitFenix chose this connector.
The really interesting and NEW bit to the Alchemy 2.0 over the original is the addition of magnets to the strips and power cable. There is a fairly strong magnet placed approximately every 2 inches along the back of the strip. They aren’t visible through the backing but are easily felt when holding the strip near the steel of your case. Further, there is a magnet in the 4-pin connector on the end of the power lead.
This really makes the Alchemy 2.0 an quite interesting product. Essentially it means that you can place the strip anywhere in the case that has steel (Rad, PSU, Case Frame, outer case panels, drive bay frame, etc) and the strip will stick and stay. The magnets are quite strong, and one every two inches pretty much assures that there will be no dangling portions.
Now. You may have noticed on the packaging a nice triangular warning label. The interesting part of this label is that it is a sticker, and appears to have been added after the packaging was designed.
LEDs in Action
So, now I have a dilemma. These are really meant to be used inside a case, but if I put them in and try to photograph them, all you’ll see is a pretty glow.
What to do? I know, let’s steal the side from one of the cases in the house, and see if we can get some good photos of the LEDs on the case.
In this first shot, I;. have 5 strips all on the side of my Fractal Design R4 Blackout case. You’ll notice that there is good separation of each individual LED, and that the colors are pretty true to what you’d expect.
The white looks a little blue in this photo, but it is pretty white in real life. I’d guess it is in the upper 5K range of light color. Red, Blue and Green are all right in the range you’d expect, and BitFenix says the green is tuned to nVidia green, but all I can say for sure is that it is a nice green.
The purple tends towards the pink end of the spectrum, but is a nice color nonetheless!As you can see in the next photo (taken with a flash), 4 of the LED strips are daisy-chained from one power line. As you can see, they cling nicely to the case, and aside from the odd twist caused by trying to fit them all in one small area, they lay flat. Notice too, that the power connector is flat on the case side.
BitFenix says on the package that up to 4 strips can be connected into one array. Since I didn’t notice any diminished brightness as a result of daisy-chaining four strips, I went ahead and tried all five. It worked great, and all 5 looked just as bright as 4 or 1.
I’d imagine that each strip has slightly different current requirements, and if you tried to connect more than 4 of one color which happened to be the higher current requirement LEDs, you may run into diminished brightness, or the strips at the end of the chain may not light up, due to low current or voltage.
Taking photos of these was a challenge, and I can’t claim these photos are great, but I took a closeup of the green, both with and without flash.This interplay of colors got me to thinking. Typically, I tend to use light in a case in a rather monochromatic fashion, but these LED strips are so easy to use, perhaps I’ll see what we can do with several colors in different locations in the case.
Before we try that though, here’s another look at the White and Blue combo.From this angle, you can see a little more of how the blue glows nicely from it’s position on the Rad, and the White back-lights the pump and drive bays.
What’s interesting about this configuration is that the white LED strip is actually mounted on the back side of the side panel, and the magnets are strong enough to hold it in place through the 1/8″ of decidedly non-magnetic sound deadening material in place on the Fractals’ side panel.
It’s pretty hard to see in this photo, but the side panel is laying on the floor and the white LED strip is attached. You can see the Blue LED strip at the top of the image attached to the side of the radiator.
I’m not even going to try to exhaustively describe the next few photos. I think they illustrate fairly well how versatile these light strips are, and how combining them results in a number of neat effects.
Frankly, I think BitFenix has hit it out of the park with the Alchemy 2.0 line of LED Strips.
The magnetic mounting is just so much better than 3M Tape (sorry 3M) for most use cases of LED strips. They are easier to put in, definitely easier to reposition, and certainly easier to re-use than tape.
Not to mention, tape is a bit unsightly, and you have to be careful to hide the mounting so nobody sees it. The magnets allow you to ignore the mounting and put the LED strips wherever there’s enough steel to hold them. I can imagine wrapping them around reservoirs, attaching them to the side of your radiator, or putting them almost anywhere on the frame of your case.
With minimal wiring/soldering skills, it would also be easy to build custom bridge connectors allowing you to hide what little cabling there is much easier, or to daisy-chain these strips across longer distances. So too, you could relatively easily modify them to connect to a 3 or 4 pin fan connector, and given a fan controller with voltage control, I can imagine it would be easy to adjust the brightness to suit.
My ONLY complaints with the strips are the bridge cables being a bit short, and the power cables being MOLEX, which are becoming scarce in my PC. SATA or 3/4 pin Fan connectors would make so much more sense to me.
The only other case lighting I’ve used is CCFL, and frankly, the BitFenix Alchemy 2.0 Magnetic LED-Strips are so much better than CCFL on just about every front, I can’t imagine using CCFL instead of the LED strips in most cases.If you simply want to make your case “pretty”, or you flat out want to make a statement (“Purple Rules!”), BitFenix has you covered with the Alchemy 2.0 Magnetic LED-Strips!