BitFenix Pandora Core Window mATX PC Case

Many case manufacturers have been around for many years, BitFenix is a relatively new contender in the world of computer cases.  In four years, they have gone from a new unknown company, to one that is recognized in the industry and recommended along with the big names in cases.  Today, we are looking at the newest case offered by BitFenix, the Pandora.  Like most cases, there are multiple versions of the Pandora, designed to meet as many needs as possible, while keeping the overall look and feel of the case the same. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Full-Overview There are two main models of the Pandora, with several variants of each of the models.  The main model, the Pandora includes a solid side panel and a 2.4" TFT LCD on the front panel, there is a sub-model that includes a Window on the side panel.  The second model, is the Pandora Core, which includes everything in the Pandora, without the 2.4" TFT LCD screen, a sub-model of the Pandora Core includes the Window on the side panel as well.  Both cases are available in solid black, and another variant Silver and Black. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-SSD-Window The Pandora line is a mATX case, that measures 160mm x 420mm x 465mm (W x H x D).  Other than the side panel and the TFT LCD screen, the Pandora supports a range of other computer hardware.  There are two dedicated 2.5" drive mounts, and two 3.5" drive mounts internally; however one of the 3.5" drives could be swapped for a 2.5" drive.  One of the two 2.5" drive locations is designed to be seen through the side window which allows users to show off a single drive. As the Pandora supports most of the latest enthusiast grade hardware, cooling is always something to take into consideration.  In each of the Pandora cases, BitFenix includes two 120mm fans, one at the front and one on top; another 120mm fan can be added to the front to increase the air intake.  Small cases, typically mean there is a limitation on the CPU cooler, in the Pandora it is limited to 134mm in height.  If liquid cooling is preferred, up to a 240mm radiator can be installed at the front of the case [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Qt6e9B10g[/youtube] With a total of eight different Pandora cases, it can be a little difficult to make sure you are getting the version you want.  Each of the cases is available now, and can be found on Amazon.com, they range in price from $126 plus shipping to  $148 plus shipping.  Like most cases, BitFenix includes a 1 year warranty.
BitFenix Pandora Model Number Price Live Pricing
Pandora - Black BFC-PAN-300-KKXL1-RP $148.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora - Silver BFC-PAN-300-KSXL1-RP $148.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora Window - Black BFC-PAN-300-KKWL1-RP $139.00 Free Shipping Cick Here
Pandora Window - Silver BFC-PAN-300-KSWL1-RP $139.00 Free Shipping Click Here
Pandora Core - Black BFC-PAN-300-KKXN1-RP $126.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora Core - Silver BFC-PAN-300-KSXN1-RP $126.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora Core Window - Black BFC-PAN-300-KKWN1-RP $143.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora Core Window - Silver BFC-PAN-300-KSWN1-RP $137.00 + Shipping Click Here
  Features and Specifications
BitFenix Pandora Core Specifications
Materials Aluminum, Steel, Plastic
Colors (Interior / Exterior) Black/Black, Black/Silver
Dimensions (WxHxD) 160mm x 420mm x 465mm
Motherboard Sizes Micro ATX, Mini-ITX
3.5" Drive Bays x2
2.5" Drive Bays x3
Cooling Top 120mm x 1 (included)
Cooling Front 120mm x 2 (1 included)
PCI Slots x5
I/O USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio
Power Supply PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)
Extras Brushed Aluminum Side Panels, Cable Management
Warranty 1 Year
 
Compatibility
GPU Length (with fan) 350mm
CPU Cooler Height 134mm
Power Supply 180mm
Liquid Cooling Up to 240mm

BitFenix Pandora Packaging

The BitFenix Pandora arrived in standard plain cardboard packaging.  The front of the box is made to look like the front of the case, and presents just the BitFenix logo, model name, and website.  As the Pandora is meant to fix up to mATX motherboards, the box isn't very large, measuring 19 1/4 in x 8 3/4 in x 20 3/4 in (L x W x H). Bitfenix-Pandora-Packaging-Box-Front For those that are unfamiliar with the Pandora, on the back of the box, BitFenix has provided just a little more information, pointing out the key features of the Pandora such as the ICON Programmable Display, Brushed Aluminum Side panes, and support for 240mm liquid cooling radiators, along with a couple other features. Bitfenix-Pandora-Packaging-Box-Back The sides of the box is where you get a list of the specific models that the Pandora is available in, along with the specifications on the opposite side of the box. Bitfenix-Pandora-Packaging-Box-Sides Opening the box, we find the Pandora is packed in standard case packaging.  Two large Styrofoam blocks are on two sides, while the case is packaged in a plastic bag. Bitfenix-Pandora-Packaging-Box-Internal Included with the Pandora is a number of accessories, many of which are expected to be included with cases.  First, we have a detailed Quick Installation Guide (I actually received two), that does a rather decent job at instructing users on how to install their components.  Next, there is a motherboard standoff installation bit, a BitFenix case badge, and an allen wrench.  To secure your cables, five cable ties are included (the install guide says there should be six), and two large velcro straps (not mentioned in the install guide).  Ten anti-vibration washers for the hard drive installation is included, as you can see I received eleven.  For screws, there are seventeen (should have been eighteen), two thumbscrews, four power supply screws, four 3.5" hard drive screws (should have been six), and one additional standoff.  It appears there is a bit of a slip-up on packing the accessories. Bitfenix-Pandora-Packaging-Accessories

Pandora External Impressions

The BitFenix Pandora review sample we received is the Core Window Black.  From the normal Pandora Window, this means it does not have the LCD on the front bezel.  The two side panels and the back panel that wraps around the corners are made out of aluminum and has a vertical brushed feel to them.  The overall dimensions of the Pandora are 160mm x 420mm x 465mm (W x H x D), or 6.3in x 16.5in x 18.3in.  Before taking a look at the interior, let's take a quick look at what the exterior of the Pandora can tell us. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Full-Overview The front of the Pandora has the side panels wrapping around the front corner of the case, which covers a shiny black plastic bezel.  When the side panels are removed, we can see the plastic portion of the case, which has some large air vents down the sides.  The middle piece is where you might attach the included BitFenix logo if you have the Pandora Core, however if you have the Pandora model with the LCD screen, it will show up in this area. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Front-Bezel Turning to the side panel, we can see the large window BitFenix has installed on the Pandora models with Window.  It is slightly unusually shaped, with a section designed to hide the power supply.  The other small section, is in a perfect place to show off a SSD, should you decide to install one in that location. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Side-Window On the side window, the external part of the acrylic was protected by a sheet of plastic.  However, the side on the inside of the case was not protected.  During shipment, the included cables were not secured, so they rubbed and scratched the inside of the side window.  While the picture doesn't show all the scratches, you can follow the scratches from the right side of the panel, all the way to the top along the trajectory that the cables would rub against. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Side-Window-Scratches The back panel doesn't provide any real surprises.  At the bottom of the case is the standard power supply port, then five expansion slots, and then finally the motherboard back I/O cluster port.  The five expansion slot covers have the thumbscrews on the outside of the case, hidden behind a plastic removable panel.  Above the motherboard I/O cluster is a mesh area that measures 5 1/2 in x 2 1/2 in; this would be enough room to fit two small 60mm fans for a rear exhaust if necessary.  There is a hidden handle on the back panel, at the top of the case in the back BitFenix has included a little handle disguised as a part of the case, this makes it extremely easy to move around. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Back Like most back side panels, there isn't much to look at on this panel for the Pandora.  It has a brushed aluminum look and feel to it, but it otherwise plain.  If you are into modding, this give a nice canvas for some custom art. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Back-Side There are many locations the "front" I/O cluster can be placed on cases, with a design such as the Pandora, the options get limited.  BitFenix has placed the I/O cluster on the top panel, and curved it to seemlessly fit with the design of the case.  This I/O cluster has the common items, a large power button, headphone/microphone jack, two SuperSpeed USB 3.0, and a large reset button. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Top-IO Taking a look at the rest of the top panel, we find that the majority of the top is a wire mesh cover.  Where most will pop off from either the front of the case or the back of the case, BitFenix has changed it a little, and it pops off from the Window side of the case.  Using a couple of push-lock latches on one side, and notches on the other it comes off easily.  Once removed we can see the top 120mm exhaust fan, which is model BFF-SCF-12025KK-RP, with specification of being Non-LED, speed of 1,000 RPM, CFM 43.5, at a noise level of <20dBA.  It appears to be room for a second fan, however this is where one of the 3.5" hard drives can be installed. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Top On the bottom of the case, we find that the power supply intake has a magnetic filter on it, which the case will need to be picked up in order to be removed for cleaning.  At the front half of the bottom panel, are a couple sets of screw holes, which will be used to secure either 3.5" or 2.5" drive to the bottom of the case.  There are also two sets of strap holes if you wish to use the velcro straps to secure your cables to the bottom of the case. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Bottom With the side panels removed, the plastic front bezel can be removed as well.  Behind it, we find a magnetic air filter from the bottom to the top, which can be removed from the bottom of the case, you'll need to live the case in order to remove it from there.  With the filter removed, the included 120mm front intake fan is visible.  There is room for a second 120mm fan if you wish to increase the airflow. Bitfenix-Pandora-External-Front-Bezel-Off

Pandora Internal Impressions

On unusual feature on the Pandora is that the side panels are not secured to the case with screws or thumbscrews, instead it uses push pins to secure it to the case in four locations (two at the top and two at the bottom).  This isn't unheard of, other cases have done it before.  Pulling the side panel off, we can take a look at the interior which has been painted black.  On the motherboard tray we find exactly what we would expect, a large hole to install CPU coolers after the motherboard has been installed, pre-installed standoffs and several holes in the tray for cable management, which there are four of on the tray, none of them have rubber cable guides, instead the edges are just rolled. Bitfenix-Pandora-Internal-Main-Side We saw the front panel from the exterior, here we take a look at the interior.  BitFenix has pre-installed another BFF-SCF-12025KK-RP, exactly like the one on the top panel.  There is room here for another 120mm fan if desired.  Otherwise, it could be removed an a liquid cooling radiator placed here. Bitfenix-Pandora-Internal-Front The bottom of the case we have several features to discuss.  For the power supply, there are four rubber feet to reduce noise from the fan.  In front of the power supply is a cage to  hide the majority of the cables.  This also plays double duty as a 2.5" drive mount which will be visible once the side panel is in place.  On top of the cage are two additional cable management holes, this time, BitFenix has installed rubber cable guides, which will make things look a little nicer.  The cage could be removed if desired to make it easier to secure the cables beneath it.  Below the cage is room to install a 2.5" or 3.5" drive on the bottom of the case. Bitfenix-Pandora-Internal-Bottom Nothing too unusual about the back panel.  The five expansion slot covers are held in place with thumbscrews, which use a hex pattern, thus the reason BitFenix includes the hex key.  As the case is only 160mm wide, it does make for some tight quarters, I have heard of some issues installing some of the newer video cards in different cases due to GPU height limitations. Bitfenix-Pandora-Internal-Back Taking a look at the back side of the case we can see a few different features that should be pointed out.  First in the top left area, is a place for another 2.5" drive, once again using two rubber coated pins for one side of the drive and screws for the other (along with the anti-vibration rubber guards).  Next we can see that the motherboard tray is actually at two different levels.  This should help with cable management, however there isn't a lot of space for cables. Bitfenix-Pandora-Internal-Back-Side BitFenix recommends installing the power supply from this side so it doesn't interfere with the cage on the front side of the case.  

Pandora Hardware Installation

For the most part, if you have built a computer before, installing a system in the Pandora won't be difficult.  There are a few tips that would make an install go a little easier, but none of them are difficult to figure out when installing the components. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-MB-Side The top mounted 3.5" drive was one of the easiest to place and connect.  Two rubber coated pins help line it up, and then secure the drive through the bottom of the tray.  Route the power and data cables to the drive and get it connected.  A right-angle or straight SATA cable can be used here, , where on some of the other drive connections a straight SATA connection was necessary.  Nothing difficult at all about this one. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-Top-HD Installing a 2.5" hard drive on the side of the case was extremely simple, place the drive onto the rubber coated pins, and then use screws to secure it on the other edge.  Once it is installed, the cables are extremely easy to attach.  A right-angle SATA connection can be used  here as well. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-Front-SSD Originally, an ASUS STRIX GTX 970 was going to be installed in the Pandora, however that specific card is a bit too tall for the Pandora; the ASUS Strix GTX 970 is 5.5" tall.  So we  had to resort to a back-up card, a Sapphire Radeon R7 260x.  Be aware of the GPU height limitations on the Pandora before jumping in and buying all of your hardware.  There used to be a time when all we  had to worry about was the length of the GPU, now it's also the height.  From the top of the PCI-E slot, there is approximately 5 1/8" of space.  However, you still have to get the card under the edge of the case, so the maximum height of the card would have to be under 5" in order to get it under the edge and push it into the PCI-E slot. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-GPU-Space The back side of the motherboard tray is nice and clean once everything is properly routed and hidden.  There appears to be plenty of room to install a CPU cooler after the motherboard has been installed.  We installed the power supply from this side, which is recommended by BitFenix to avoid any issues with the power cables and the front cage.  It was surprising how easy it was to install the pwoer supply from this side.  There is just enough space for the power supply to side under the motherboard tray and be pushed into place. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-Back-Side Behind the motherboard tray, there is a place to install a 2.5" drive, this is done using two integrated rubber coated pins that go into the side screw holes on one side, while using screws on the other side through the motherboard tray.  As space is at a premium behind the tray for cable management, I had to use a straight SATA cable, and not an angled one. Also, for the power, it might be easiest to use the SATA connector on the end of the cable to avoid space issues.  Finally, the other cables can be a little troublesome with the limited amount of space.  I found the best way to do them is to tie them in a couple different locations and run them down the little channel next to the SSD.  The power cable, had to be placed on the front side of the case rather than being routed behind the motherboard tray. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-Back-SSD One of the mistakes I made was trying to install the bottom 3.5" drive after I had all the cables in place.  While it was still possible to do, it would have been much easier to install this drive before the power supply and the other cables.  Using four of the anti-vibration washers, this 3.5" drive is secured to the case through the bottom panel.  Very easy to do, just easier if the power supply wasn't in place.  Like the SSD located on the back of the motherboard tray, a straight SATA connection is necessary as the drive sits on the bottom of the case and there is not enough room for a right angle SATA connection.  Likewise, there could be issues with the power connection if it is in the middle of the cable, depending on how flat you can bend the SATA power connections. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-Bottom-35

BitFenix Pandora Core Window Final Thoughts and Conclusions

There are many options for building a system around a mATX or mini-ITX motherboard, most use similar designs to accomplish nearly the same thing.  BitFenix broke the model with the Pandora and gave us a new style of case.  Instead of the common cube type case, the Pandora looks like a mid-tower case, just a bit smaller, it measures  160mm x 420mm x 465mm (W x H x D), which makes it about 60mm (2.4in) too short to support a standard ATX motherboard.   Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-Full-Build Being a small case, doesn't mean that BitFenix cut corners on hardware support.  The Pandora will support up to one 240mm liquid cooler, graphics cards up to 350mm with a front intake fan (less if using liquid cooling), and multiple hard drive configurations supporting up to a maximum of four drive (2x 2.5" and 1x 3.5", plus one location that will support either a 2.5" or 3.5").  However, there is a limitation on the CPU cooler height, 134mm is the maximum height of the CPU cooler, using liquid cooling this wont' be an issue.  The Pandora Window on the side panel has a slightly unique feature that allows you to show off a 2.5" drive, which makes it nice to show off your best SSD. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-SSD-Window The exterior of the Pandora is made out of brushed aluminum and has two exterior color options, black and silver.  Possible configurations do not stop there, each version of the Pandora is available with a solid side panel or a side panel with a window.  The configuration includes a 2.4" TFT LCD on the front panel which you can customize with a static picture, the BitFenix ICON system is a unique way to customize your case.  Each of the various configurations come with a slight increase in price.  The Pandora Core is the base model, which steps up to the Pandora Core Window.  The configuration with the TFT LCD is the Pandora, and the Pandora Window. Bitfenix-Pandora-Build-Back-SSD One of the nice things about the Pandora is the size, at being 160mm wide it won't take up a lot of space.  However, that is also one of the drawbacks, especially when it comes to cable management.  There is an extremely small amount of space behind the motherboard tray for routing cables.  It took several tries to get the cable management just right, ultimately the power cable had to be routed on the front of the motherboard tray and the other cables secured next to the back 2.5" drive, along the little channel.  In the next version of the Pandora, maybe BitFenix could consider going a little wider to provide a little more space so all the cables can be routed behind the motherboard tray.  Of course that defeats part of what makes the Pandora great.
Pandora Model Number Price Live Pricing
Pandora - Black BFC-PAN-300-KKXL1-RP $148.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora - Silver BFC-PAN-300-KSXL1-RP $148.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora Window - Black BFC-PAN-300-KKWL1-RP $139.00 Free Shipping Cick Here
Pandora Window - Silver BFC-PAN-300-KSWL1-RP $139.00 Free Shipping Click Here
Pandora Core - Black BFC-PAN-300-KKXN1-RP $126.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora Core - Silver BFC-PAN-300-KSXN1-RP $126.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora Core Window - Black BFC-PAN-300-KKWN1-RP $143.00 + Shipping Click Here
Pandora Core Window - Silver BFC-PAN-300-KSWN1-RP $137.00 + Shipping Click Here
The BitFenix Pandora is in limited supply right now as it has been just released, looking around it is available at Amazon starting at $126 plus shipping and goes up from there depending on the configuration.  With a price premium of around $25 for the high end Pandora Window that includes the 2.4" TFT LCD, I can see that model being the most popular.  Don't forget that BitFenix also provides a 1 year warranty on their cases. Legit Bottom Line:  If you pick your components wisely with the space limitations of the Pandora in mind, then the Pandora will make an excellent mATX or mini-ITX system.  It has a very stylish exterior and provides many of the features enthusiasts demand in their cases.