In and Around the BitFenix Prodigy

You could be forgiven for mistaking the BitFenix Prodigy for a tiny plastic-and-steel Mac Pro tower. The Prodigy isn't quite as small as some Mini-ITX cases are, but it's still a remarkably wee enclosure for the expandability it provides.

The front of the Prodigy is entirely plastic mesh except for the BitFenix logo, including the shield for the single external 5.25" bay. It's a clean design, but given the soft plastic handles and supports of the enclosure (more on those in a second), it means that the power button, LEDs, and I/O cluster had to go somewhere else. That somewhere else is the right side panel; this won't seem too unusual to users familiar with some of Lian Li's designs, but it does limit how you can place and orient the Prodigy. As for the left side panel, that simply includes a substantial vent to help cool full-length video cards.

When the BitFenix rep asked me what I thought of the Prodigy, I did point out that I wasn't a fan of the plastic handles and supports. If you look at the photos, you can see the bottom supports bow in a little bit. This is by design, but the problem is that the material feels too flexible and I don't think it's quite stable enough on carpet. It's easy to get the case to rock back and forth, something I'm not fond of when a desktop build often includes things like optical drives and mechanical hard disks. The justification was that using the soft, flexible plastic keeps the weight of the Prodigy down (and probably costs along with it), but I personally would've taken an extra couple of pounds if it meant a more stable support. The top features a lockable, removable 240mm vent for accessing the two mounts on the top of the case.

Moving to the back of the case, we can start to get an idea of how BitFenix intended the Prodigy to come together. The power supply bay is almost dead center of the bottom, and there's a removable faceplate for it to allow you to slide the PSU in from the back. Having the supports give the bottom of the case some clearance is perfect for the PSU air intake--necessary, really--but again I wish they were sturdier. There are also a pair of expansion slots held in place by thumbscrews, and the exhaust fan mount is equipped with a 120mm fan but is capable of supporting 140mm.

Taking the side panels off is as easy as removing the four thumbscrews on the back of the case, but in the process we discover what I consider one of the major flaws of the design: the I/O cluster in the right panel is completely mounted to the panel itself. This runs the risk of making the Prodigy harder to wire than it needs to be. There are also two 2.5" drive bays built into the side panel, again complicating wiring but not as much.

The interior is pretty ingenious, though. The standoffs for a mini-ITX board are already in place, and there are holes in the left and right of the tray for routing power cables from the power supply mounted below. The primary drive cage is also very easily removable by simply squeezing the two plastic levers, and the included instruction manual details how virtually all of the drive cages (including the bottom one and the optical drive bay) can be removed.

Frankly, I quite like how the Prodigy looks and feels. Apart from two issues at first sight (the material used for the handles and supports and the I/O cluster being mounted to the side panel), this promises to actually be a fairly easy assembly given we're dealing with a mini-ITX case. More than that, it's the kind of case that pretty much begs to be tinkered with.

Introducing the BitFenix Prodigy Assembling the BitFenix Prodigy
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  • xbournex - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    Yes. It can fit 330mm cards. Reply
  • 7amood - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    I would love to see anandtech review of silverstone SG08 Reply
  • Termie - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    My problem right off the bat with this case is that its dimensions (9.84" x 15.9" x 14.1") are almost identical to the Temjin: 15.16" x 8.27" x 14.72". Sure, the handles make it taller than it really is, but ultimately, the case is just too big. It is both wider and deeper than the Temjin. I just can't see a reason for going with this case if you're trying to be compact. Reply
  • Termie - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    Sorry - upon looking at the pictures again, it seems it's not deeper than the Temjin, but actually taller (hard to match up those dimensions). Either way, it sure is wide! Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    How well is the Prodigy doing with the 560 Ti vs a regular mATX case?
    You just say: "Thermals for the Prodigy are still quite good, but the 560 Ti does push it a little." but some more words wouldn't hurt. The cooling in the Prodigy shouldn't be worse than in a mATX case IMO.
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    On the contrary, I think the short depth with front/back 120mm fans and "tunnel" for air to travel through front-to-back will provide BETTER cooling than most mATX cases.

    A terrific design worthy of the Editor's Choice award!
    Reply
  • MichaelD - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    Case is great except for the feet. They let the designer people overrule the engineering people, which is usually not a good idea. Yes; the top handles are symmetrical with the bottom feet. And the case will tip over if you try to set it down on carpet. The "feet" have rounded edges which will just encourage the case to fall on it's side should you accidentally bump it. I can work around every other "negative" or shortcoming this nice case has, except the feet. That makes it a failure in my book. Side note: All that mesh ventilation looks nice on paper. Two weeks after building your system you'll be vacuuming dust out of that mesh on a weekly basis if you want the thing to run cool. Reply
  • snajk138 - Sunday, June 03, 2012 - link

    It looks like you can take them off.

    http://i46.tinypic.com/2h8b9lv.jpg
    Reply
  • zcat - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    This BitFenix is a nice case that certainly would've been on my shortlist a few weeks ago, but I think I still would have gone with the slightly more expensive ($99) Lian Li PC-Q11A case that I did choose, as it's much prettier (all alluminum) and more minimal-looking.

    CPU: i7-3770S (65W)
    MB: Asus P8H77-I
    PSU: SeaSonic SS-300ET 300W 80+
    RAM: 16GB DDR3 1600
    SSD: 256GB Samsung 830
    HDDs: 2x 2TB 5900rpm in RAID1
    HSF: Xigmatek CAC-D9HH4-U02 PRAETON (one of the few that would fit, and quieter than stock)

    It went together quite easily, except for a few minor problems:
    1) Lian-li still uses a 3-pin connector for the power-led, so you have to re-pin it for 2.
    2) Had to order the rarer "left-angle" sata cables in order to connect the HDD sitting directly above the SSD on the drive cage.
    3) The side panel is attached with 8 tiny screws instead of 2 quick thumb screws like my previous full-ATX and micro-ATX LianLi's, but mini-itx cases are rarely opened anyway.

    Without the 2 HDDs, the system idles at just ~29W, and with at ~41W. Under full load it sucks ~118W so there's still headroom for me to add a 75W PCIe-powered card down the road (waiting on nvidia's more efficient mid/low-end kepler cards).

    If I had no plans to upgrade from intel's integrated HD4000 to a full-length/full-height/double-width card, I probably would've chosen the MUCH SMALLER Antec ISK110 case instead (same case used in pugetsystems 'overpriced' builds).

    Anyway... I guess this turned into a mini-itx mini-review of my own. Thanks Anandtech - looking forward to more mini & micro-ATX reviews as full-ATX fades to the fringes.
    Reply
  • mars2k - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    Enter the poster child for Chinese plagiarism. All the positives aside, I would never buy a product that was a cheap copy of an iconic industrial design like a Mac Pro…and it’s blue.

    Take all the careful design in the world and wrap it in a blatant counterfeit skin..voila…worthless.
    Reply

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