BitFenix Prodigy Review: The Affordable Performable Mini-ITXby Dustin Sklavos on June 1, 2012 1:55 AM EST
Assembling the BitFenix Prodigy
Putting together a mini-ITX system is almost never easy, necessarily, but the BitFenix Prodigy seems to be designed to simplify the process as much as possible. Part of that is because the Prodigy is admittedly a bit larger than I'm used to seeing mini-ITX cases be, but not by much. Most of it has to do with a smart, modular design.
Being able to easily remove both the top vent and the main drive cage without having to remove any screws made it very easy to get started. The I/O shield for the testbed motherboard fit in snugly, and then the motherboard itself was surprisingly easy to mount into place. Ordinarily with a smaller build like this one I'd connect modular power cables to the motherboard and components first and then slot in the power supply, and it was at this juncture that I first encountered arguably the biggest problem with the Prodigy: power supply clearance.
Our testbed power supply is 160mm, but the modular connectors make it impossible to actually fit inside the power supply bay, and I suspect even a non-modular 160mm PSU would be a tight fit at best. As a result I wound up re-using the SFX power supply from the SilverStone FT03 Mini with an adapter plate, and the much smaller power supply made cabling worlds easier. I feel like if anything about the Prodigy is going to hang up end users, this will be it, so buyer beware: if you're planning a build in this case, get a 140mm power supply. Honestly even going the route I did and using an SFX power supply with an adaptor wouldn't be a bad idea.
For the drives, I wound up installing the 2.5" SSD in one of the bays built into the right side panel and the 3.5" Corsair Link in one of the trays in the bottom cage. Installing the optical drive involves removing the front panel (easy enough to do), twisting out the bay cover from the chassis, and then popping the shield out of the panel. From there, BitFenix includes thumbscrews for securing the 5.25" drive in place. I'd gripe about a lack of toolless installation here, but realistically this is a $79 case with an awful lot to offer. I'll take the hit, plus I don't know many mini-ITX builds that get opened up and tinkered with on a regular basis once they're in service.
Installing expansion cards is a little more fraught, though. Due to the height of the case, I couldn't use my comparatively short power screwdriver to loosen the thumbscrews in the expansion slots. You also have to loosen the screw above the slots, which locks a plate into place. It's involved to be sure, but could've been made a lot easier if the screw above the slots wasn't almost perfectly lined up with the screw for the second expansion slot. These are thumbscrews and they mean it; you're not fitting a screwdriver in there. This is something I think BitFenix could probably fix on the next iteration by moving that top screw between the two expansion slot screws. Still, I was able to swap graphics cards in and out of the Prodigy for testing without too much trouble.
Finally getting everything wired up wound up being a little more difficult, but that was due almost entirely to the drive and I/O being mounted to the right side panel. BitFenix made what allowances they could for routing cabling, but in a case this small you're still fundamentally going to have to just squeeze things in here and there. While I ran into a couple of hiccups putting the Prodigy together, ultimately it was still far easier than Mini-ITX cases typically are.