Conclusion: Shortlist It

While my experiences with the BitFenix Prodigy weren't universally positive, they were pretty close. The Prodigy is a pretty auspicious design for BitFenix; their previous cases were generally stellar, but this is a remarkably unique design. It may not be aluminum like Lian Li's mini-ITX enclosures, but its internal design is in many ways light years ahead of what they're doing. At the same time, despite being very smitten by the SilverStone FT03 Mini, I have to confess the Prodigy stole my heart. Really, though, the two shouldn't be strictly compared as they're intended for different use cases.

When you're dealing with a fairly daring design like the Prodigy, it's a little easier to let the designers off the hook for decisions that turned out questionable. I think the side-mounted I/O might be problematic, but the real issue is having all of the cabling coming off the side panel. While you can disconnect most of those cables from the side panel, this is a problem Lian Li has already solved by simply having the I/O cluster be a part of the chassis and having the side panel snap in around it. I also think the handles and supports should absolutely be metal. I love the look, but they feel chintzy. Alignment of the screws around the expansion slots in the back needs to be rethought, too, and I think BitFenix might want to either consider switching to just using an SFX power supply or adjusting the orientation of the power supply. As it stands, not being able to use a modular power supply in a small case like this hurts.

Of course, problems like these are a lot easier to forgive when you're looking at a $79 price tag. Yet what makes that price tag turn from reasonable into a virtual steal is the fact that the Prodigy's thermal and acoustic performance is stellar. The vast amount of expandability in the enclosure also gives enthusiasts more room to play, experiment, and optimize. As a hobbyist, there's real appeal for me in reviewing a case that not only functions admirably out of the box but also offers the promise of still better performance and flexibility.

Going with mini-ITX for a main desktop has traditionally involved a series of major compromises, but BitFenix takes a lot of them off the board with the Prodigy. The price tag is incredibly competitive, the performance is there, and it has room to grow. BitFenix's engineers need to work out some of the teething issues with the design, but the territory here feels uncharted enough to cut them some slack. As it stands, for $79 you're simply not going to do better than the Prodigy for a mini-ITX case, end of discussion. And that absolutely makes it worthy of AnandTech's Bronze Editors' Choice award.

Noise and Thermal Testing, Dedicated GPU
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  • xbournex - Friday, June 1, 2012 - link

    Yes. It can fit 330mm cards.
  • 7amood - Friday, June 1, 2012 - link

    I would love to see anandtech review of silverstone SG08
  • Termie - Friday, June 1, 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.
  • Termie - Friday, June 1, 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!
  • Olaf van der Spek - Friday, June 1, 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.
  • Taft12 - Friday, June 1, 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!
  • MichaelD - Friday, June 1, 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.
  • snajk138 - Sunday, June 3, 2012 - link

    It looks like you can take them off.
  • zcat - Friday, June 1, 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.
  • mars2k - Friday, June 1, 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.

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