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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  • Peter_s - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    I bought in 2004 this case. Looks like a MacPro? Not realy. But it is keeps my stuff cool.
    I removed the lower handle (stand). The cas had not a good stand with it. As one posted the Bitfenix lacks stability too.

    P.S. I own a lot of Apple's hardware too. Simply for convenience ;-)

    But will I (you) buy a MacProCase and do all fiddling to fit a PC in? I will go this route.

    Probably I will buy th Bitfenix and remove the handle the plastic stand immediatly.
    Reply
  • Peter_s - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    Oops
    got this case in 2004 (MacPro inspired)

    http://www.caseumbau.de/test263/bild002.jpg
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    I recently bought a Shuttle SZ77R5 (apparently one of the first Shuttle XPC units to support replacing the mobo with a mini ITX mobo). One of my friends kept insisting that it was, at $340, supremely overpriced. On the other hand, it's not just a case, it also comprises a motherboard, power supply, and CPU cooler (although I won't count that since Intel CPUs come with one free).

    So, how expensive is it, relatively speaking? I'll compare the cost of a similarly built BitFenix:

    BitFenix Prodigy: $79
    80+ bronze PSU: $65
    Asus Z77 mini-itx mobo: $200

    The mobo is expensive, but NewEgg only sells two mini ITX Z77 models. The other one is cheaper, but neither of these have as much connectivity options as the Shuttle (neither has 4 DIMM slots, a second 4x PCIe slot, a miniPCI slot, or an mSATA slot), so it's probably still a fair comparison.

    What do we get? A fully configured BitFenix would be $344 and still not match the featureset... Suddenly that Shuttle doesn't seem so expensive anymore, does it?

    I'm not knocking the Fenix, mind you, I'm just venting at my friend who will probably never see this.
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    I really like the layout of this case. The quality seems to be very good and I personally don't care about the name on the case....as long as the build quality is good. Being able to add my choice of PS is a good feature. I'd be interested in getting this case if it was just a little smaller in size. I'm currently using a modified APEX MI-008 for my WHS. I pulled out the 5.25 drive cage and have four drives suspended in the front. I only need a box large enough to hold the ITX board and HD's. I rip my content on my main system and then load onto the server, so no need for an optical drive in the server. I'll be keeping my eye on this company and their case selection.

    Good article and appreciate the photos and not limiting reviews to only 'Big" name brands. Only a fool would accept limiting their options IMO.
    Reply
  • DesertCat - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    To be fair, many of the cases that are competitors to this unit also do best with ATX PSUs that are only 140mm long. I think some people with the Lian Li PC-Q11 have been able to use 150mm long PSUs but things start to get really crowded between the front intake fan and the back of the PSU. Having about half of your front intake fan blowing onto the back of the PSU at a distance of 1 cm isn't exactly ideal. With some of their other models, long PSUs will run into the drive cage. So... I think BitFenix is going with a PSU length that is typical for many of these cases (though people may still not like that).

    For those that don't mind having a non-modular PSU (and the associated cable tucking), an ideal solution for many of these little cases is the Nexus NX-5000 R3 (530W) or NX-6000 R3 (630W). They are only 125mm long. That is a model that doesn't show up at many of our favorite online retailers though, but a bit of search engine magic will allow people to find a U.S. retailer that carries them.
    Reply
  • versesuvius - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    The case is 25 cm thick? And this is supposed to house a micro ATX board? At 40 cm height, it is already an ATX case. So, what is the point of the micro ATX board? Who is this case trying to fool? Reply
  • LOUiECOG - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    Mini-ITX Reply
  • versesuvius - Saturday, June 02, 2012 - link

    Just the same. This case is just too big for the board. No point in using it for any purpose. BitFenix already produces cases that are cheaper than this, look a lot better and have the same volume, that can house boards and cards much larger than this case can accommodate, with the most important benefit that they have a %20 less footprint. When people are talking about small in workplace or home they are not usually talking about the height, it is mostly about width and depth. This case fails on both accounts. Reply
  • Sogekihei - Monday, June 04, 2012 - link

    And yet this probably wouldn't exist if there wasn't some demand for such a product. Clearly somebody wants to build mini-ITX for whatever reason (lowered power consumption, integrated components such as Bluetooth and WiFi adapters) but still have a moderately powerful system, perhaps for home theatre purposes or as a game console/arcade game emulator. Considering all of the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge-based mini-ITX boards available as well as the presence of moderately powerful single slot-width graphics cards such as some revisions of nVidia's GTS 450, this is not only possible but to some extent wanted by consumers, as such things would end production after their first iteration if they weren't commercially successful.

    As the article mentioned, mATX basically has the same features as ATX at this point with both offering multiple PCI-e slots and numerous slots for additional system memory. For purpose-built systems that don't need large quantities of RAM or multiple graphics cards, RAID controllers, dedicated sound cards, etc, mini-ITX might become the new low-end/mainstream form factor and replace mATX in that regard.

    I really feel like your complaints about this would have been equally applied back in the days when mid-tower and smaller case sizes first became prevalent, where you aren't seeing the full appeal of either the new mainboard form factor or you're under/over-estimating size differences; these days height can be a limiting factor with a lot of people wanting to have systems that they can place on a shelf of their entertainment center like a DVD player or video game console.
    Reply
  • HardwareDufus - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    I have a heavily modified Travala C138 2Din Mini-ITX enclosure.

    It began life as a Stock C138 enclosure with a Via C7 mini-ITX board. CPU and Case Fans were 40mm. Held a slimCD/DVD and one 3 1/2 drive. (Travala has modified this model recently and now there is the option for two 2 1/2 drives.)

    I drilled many, many ventalation holes, machined out extra metal inside that blocked airflow, machined custom rails to accept the 2.5" drives, but allow for airspace on all 4 sides of the drives, etc...

    Now it holds an 80mm Silenex 11dba Intake on the right side, 80mm Silenex 11dba Exhaust on the left side... and a 80mm Silexex 14dba Fan on the low profile heatpiped copper cpu cooler. Upgraded the powersupply to 120W.

    I shortened/soldered/etc.. all cables for minimum space/folding.

    It is equipped with the Gigabye H55N motherboard, two Seagate 2.5" 7200pm 500MB harddrives, A clarksdale I5 DualCore HT processor (655K) overclocked to 3.8Ghz, and a Sony slim BlueRay DVD, 8 GBs of Ram.

    It is whipser quiet. Temps are reasonable... at full load I have seen the temps climb above 60degC, but normally stay around 40degC....not bad for living in the mexican desert...

    Well now I want to go to IvyBridge..at 4Ghz with 16GB of Ram.. and I want to swap out the harddrives for SSD. And I want to stay mini-ITX... The Asus Z77 mini-ITX Deluxe board looks fantastic.. but it has that weird raised power daughter card that will get in the way of my 80mm Intake....

    So, I'm looking for a better case. How frustrated I am that I cannot find one that matches mine..... I don't mind going a little bigger... But it seems you go tiny and fanless... or huge with space for 4 to 6 harddrives?

    The search is frustrating..
    Reply

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