A mini-ITX Case Designed For Enthusiasts
Early in May of this year, I had a build mostly planned out for myself. It involved the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, Intel Core i7 3930K Hex-core processor, and NVIDIA's latest offering the GTX 680. In fact I had already purchased most of the parts, all that I was undecided on was a case, and that was the only thing holding me back from completing my build. The rest of the parts I had already purchased! I was already ~$1500 in the hole with just those three parts! May 11th rolled around and Nate showed off his latest build in his 'How to Build a Water Cooled Mini-ITX SFF PC w/ Ivy Bridge & Keplar' article. His article got me thinking about building a small form factor PC for myself, for the few LAN games I go to with my buddies hauling my beast of a system around was getting old. Even if it was for just a few games a year. After giving it some careful consideration, and determining that I wouldn't be able to use the Intel Core i7 3930K or the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme i quickly shelved the idea, at least for a short time! Fast forwarding a couple of weeks, BitFenix sent out a press release that was promptly put up in our forums about the Prodigy mini-ITX chassis. Just a couple of posts down, you can find my forum post:
"I was thinking that this is a sharp case as well, almost makes me want to rethink my current build with an eATX LGA2011 motherboard and 680. But I've already dropped over a grand on hardware for it and I haven't seen a mITX LGA 2011 board yet. Haven't look to hard for one yet either"
Once I saw the BitFenix Prodigy mini-ITX chassis the idea once again reared its head to build a small form factor PC, this time it stuck! There was just something about the BitFenix Prodigy that I simply fell in love with. I haven't figured out if it's the simplistic yet sleek styling, the cooling options, the low retail price of only $79.99 plus shipping, or a combination of everything, I decided this is the case I wanted for my build. So after beating down Nate's door to get my hands on the Prodigy he
finally caved and sent it on to me once we got it. So now I have the BitFenix Prodigy
mini-ITX chassis is sitting on the desk behind me, and as much as I wanted to use the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme and my LGA2011 3930K processor, people much smarter than me said it wouldn't fit in the BitFenix Prodigy and they frowned on trimming the edges of the Rampage IV Extreme EATX motherboard with a sawzall! After rethinking and retooling my build I have a new pile of hardware to
squeeze into it that includes a board that will fit right!
As you have likely guessed already, the BitFenix Prodigy is design for the enthusiast, who either doesn't have room for a giant tower like the BitFenix Shinobi XL full tower such as a college student in a dorm or various other circumstances, or simply likes to see how much hardware they can fit into a small space. Whether you lack the room for a full tower/mid tower or simply want the small form factor the BitFenix Prodigy looks like it may fit the bill! Though let's not jump to conclusion just yet. It may be a small chassis, but it has a lot of features that will make, or break the Prodigy. I mentioned above that the BitFenix Prodigy retails for $79.99 plus shipping which isn't a whole lot of money in the grand scheme of top tier components, for many it's not a drop in the bucket either.
BitFenix built up a lot of hype for the Prodigy mini-ITX chassis! Is it going to live up to the hype, let's take a quick look at the specifications below and then we will continue on with our tour and find out!
BitFenix Prodigy mini-ITX Chassis Specifications
|Colors (Int/Ext)||Black/Black, White/White|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||250 x 404 x 359mm|
|Internal Dimensions (WxHxD)||250 x 310 x 340 = 26.35 liters|
|5.25" Drive Bays||x 1 (removable)|
|3.5" Drive Bays||x 5 (3 + 2 modular)|
|2.5" Drive Bays||x 9 (5 + 2 + 1 +1 )|
|Cooling Front||120mm x 2 (120mm x 1included) or 140/180/200/230mm x 1(optional)|
|Cooling Rear||120mm x 1 (included) or 140mm x 1(optional)|
|Cooling Top||120mm x 2 (optional)|
|PCI Slots||x 2|
|I/O||USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio|
|Power Supply||PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)|
|Extras||FyberFlex Composite handles, SofTouch surface treatment, filtered intakes, tool-free drive locking|
Unboxing the BitFenix Prodigy
The packaging for the BitFenix Prodigy isn't real exciting so we will breeze through this rather quick. The front of the packaging features the web address for BitFenix, the company logo, and the name of the product inside. In this case, the Prodigy.
Spinning the box for the BitFenix Prodigy around, it looks as if it has been sliding around the FedEx truck for a couple of days, no real damage here, just some wear and tear from the hazards of shipping. Underneath the wear and tear the back of the Prodigy packaging points out some of the key features. Among the features listed for the BitFenix Prodigy are the BitFenix SoftTouch surface treatment, FyberFlex composite handles, 2x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, tool free design, FlexCage hard disk rack, and the support for long graphics cards and radiators up to 240mm in length! Considering this is a mini-ITX chassis, support for a 240mm radiator is impressive.
The shipping weight of the BitFenix Prodigy is only 7.8kg so it seems that someone tried to carry it with one handle rather than using both sides. The lighting doesn't show it well, but we have a clear shot to the Prodigy mini-ITX chassis through the handle. If we look just below the carry handle we can see that the BitFenix Prodigy that we were sent is the Midnight Black (BFC-PRO-300-KKXSK-RP)version, though it also comes in an arctic white version.
Taking a look at the other side, we can see that the handle here is torn as well, guess they didn't learn the first time to carry it with both handles. Along the bottom of the case we can see that the specification are listed out on this side as well.
The top of the BitFenix Prodigy mini-ITX chassis doesn't show us anything we haven't already seen, the logo and name are all that we can find here.
Opening up the BitFenix Prodigy packaging we can see the installation guide right on top, with the front of the chassis just below. Despite the signs of wear and tear everything looks to be in order.
The BitFenix Prodigy was nice and snug inside the cardboard packaging. Though it wasn't anything a little elbow grease couldn't handle. After a quick inspection of the Prodigy, we didn't see any signs of damage from shipping. On the next page we will strip of the remnants of the packaging and take a closer look at the outside!
External Impressions of the BitFenix Prodigy
If we didn't already know that the BitFenix Prodigy was a chassis for a mini-ITX motherboard exclusively, I don't think we would be able to tell at first glance. At least not when looking at the pictures, it has a style that could easily transfer to a much larger case.
Starting our tour of the BitFenix Prodigy, there isn't much excitement on this side. Though there is plenty of ventilation here.
The front of the BitFenix Prodigy is pretty simple, we have the BitFenix Logo, and a spot for a single 5.25" drive. The entire front is mesh to allow for plenty of airflow. Beneath the mesh there are several options for fan configurations, we'll get to that on the next page once we head inside of the Prodigy
Spinning the BitFenix Prodigy 180 degrees we can see the 'front panel'. I'm not real wild about the location of the 'front panel'. On my desk I have one panel of my current system against the wall, while the other is facing me. With the cooling options that the BitFenix Prodigy offers, I can understand this location as it doesn't take away from the cooling options by blocking any of the fans or radiator space. Though it's definitely something to consider when thinking about cases.
Tuning the BitFenix Prodigy around to look at the back of the chassis, we can begin to get a feel of just how small this chassis is. It only offers two expansion slots! Considering that a mini-ITX motherboard only has one expansion slot this is more than enough for most graphics cards today. Of course there are a couple out there that will take up three expansion slots. Up top there is a single 120mm fan installed inside the BitFenix Prodigy, though if you should so choose you can install a 140mm fan or radiator. Below the fan is the I/O panel cutout, with the power supply mount just below that. In order to install the power supply you must first remove the four thumb screws, attach it to the power supply, and then slide the whole assembly in and put the thumb screws back in.
Taking a look at the top of the BitFenix Prodigy we can see the removable cover for the radiator, below it we can fit up to a 240mm radiator. An all in one cooling option like the Corsair H100 would likely be an ideal fit here. Of course there is always the option for a custom loop as well.
The mesh top is easily removable by the latch on the end of it. On the end opposite the latch there is a pair of tabs that will keep that end securely in place. Once the cover is removed we can see that the BitFenix Prodigy will easily accept a 240mm radiator. Though we may have to sacrifice the optical drive, that's something that we are going to have to look at when we start installing some parts soon.
The bottom of the BitFenix Prodigy features the same style handles as the top of the chassis, though in this case they are used for the feet. Underneath the power supply we can find a removable fan filter.
The fan filter easily slides out the back of the chassis without having to pick it up. Many times have I neglected the filter under the power supply because I didn't feel like moving the chassis, with the Prodigy you don't have to worry about that since there is 1.5" between the fan filter and the bottom of the feet.
Inside the BitFenix Prodigy
When I first opened up the BitFenix Prodigy mini-ITX chassis, I was truly surprised how roomy it felt. The overall layout inside is well throughout and implemented.
The upper drive bay will support three 3.5" hard drives or 2.5" hard drives/SSD's. Ultimately though, the BitFenix Prodigy will support up to nine drives in various places.
If we remove the upper drive carriage, it opens a lot of space that can increase the airflow by reducing the obstacles that block the front intake fans.
Looking at the back of the case we can see the included 120mm fan that BitFenix is using for the system exhaust. We can remove the included fan and replace it with a 140mm fan.
I was a little surprise that there is only four motherboard standoffs on the motherboard tray. Perhaps I'm simply to accustomed to the typical ATX layout that has nine or more standoffs. This matches the motherboard we will be using for our build, just expected more of them. On either side of the motherboard tray there is a pair of cutouts for your cables to pass through to help keep the case clean looking for the build.
Along the front of the PSU housing, there is another cutout for your cables to pass through on each side of the housing. Looking at the front intake fan, there are a number of different options that you can implement. BitFenix includes a single 120mm fan for the front, but the Prodigy will support 2x120mm fans, or a single 140mm fan, 180mm fan, 200mm fan, or a 230mm fan. It could also be used for radiators of the same size if wanted to leave out the BitFenix FlexCages.
The inside of the solid side panel has all of the connections for the SuperSpeed USB 3.0, power and reset buttons, as well as the activity lights. The cable for the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports also features the connector for USB 2.0. If the motherboard that you are using in the BitFenix Prodigy doesn't have USB 3.0, these ports wont go to waste! This is the first time that I have seen this feature in the cable. I have seen cases come with an adapter, but not wired in!
BitFenix Prodigy mITX Build
The BitFenix Prodigy will support a 240mm radiator on the top of the chassis. I was a little bit disappointed that we would have to sacrifice our only 5.25" drive bay to do this. The 5.25" drive bay is removable and we did have to remove it to install the Corsair H100, but wanted to replace it to display the sacrifice that needs to be made to run a dual radiator up top.
BitFenix has the cutout on the top of the Prodigy well done for the Corsair H100 or any dual 120mm radiator.
Since we weren't able to run an optical drive with the Corsair H100, we switched it out for the Corsair H60. This wasn't without issues either. Looking at the above photo, you may notice that the ASUS optical drive is right up against the H60. We are using a standard 170mm deep optical drive, so it is 6.7" long.
Unfortunately the optical drive isn't fully installed and was sticking out of the front of the case by nearly half an inch. The shallowest optical drive we could find was 165mm or 6.5-inches, so the only solution to this would be to use a notebook drive and an adapter like we did here. Notebook optical drives are just 140mm (5.5") deep, so that would work.
We tried rotating the Corsair H60, and we were able to get the optical drive fully installed but we weren't able to plug it in. The SATA and power plugs were completely covered by the fan on the H60.
We mentioned earlier about how to install the power supply, here we can see how that's done. First remove the plate on the back and screw it to the power supply, slide the power supply in and replace the thumb screws. You can see that I opted not to fully tighten the plate to the power supply which gave me a little wiggle room when running the thumb screws in.
We had the Corsair AX750 installed to see how much clearance we would have for our cabling. Unfortunately, there is only 11/16" (.6875") between the front of the power supply and the front wall of the housing. Once we tried to install the power supply with the cables we realized that there wasn't enough room for the cables to fold over. and run out the sides of the housing. We ended up using our Corsair TX750 for the build, without the plugs for the modular aspect of the AX750 we were able to fold the cables over enough to fully install the power supply.
Since we weren't able to run an optical drive with the Corsair H100, we switch it out for the Corsair H60. This wasn't without issues either. Looking at the above photo, you may notice that the optical drive is right up against the H60.
Unfortunately the optical drive isn't fully installed and was sticking out of the front of the case by nearly half an inch.
We tried rotating the Corsair H60, and we were able to get the optical drive fully installed but we weren't able to plug it in. The SATA and power plugs were completely covered by the fan on the H60.
After determining that we weren't able to mount either of our Corsair water coolers on the top of the BitFenix Prodigy, we opted to mount it as the exhaust fan. Despite being a small form factor case we were able to pack a ton of hardware in here. If you have used a Corsair TX750 in the past, you know it's more like an octopus than a power supply, there are cables every where. We were able to successfully hide all of those cables without an issue and have a pretty clean looking build.
Swinging the BitFenix Prodigy it's plain to see that we had a few cables left over from the Corsair TX750 power supply. Much more and we may not have been able to tuck them away so neatly. As it is though, they don't block the airflow and they are all hidden away from view. You can hardly see the ASRock Z77E-ITX Mini ITX Intel motherboard, but trust us it is there.
In order to install the AMD Radeon HD7950 we were forced to remove the upper drive cage. We would be able to install the 3.5" hard drive below and relocate the SSD's elsewhere in the case if we still wanted to run the storage drive.
I have seen several builds out on the interweb that have taken out both of the flex cages, I was curious as to how they were mounting their drives. Well, now we (I) know! The solid side panel features two spots for 2.5" drives! They will slide in further that what I have shown, but then our Corsair Force GT SSD's wouldn't be very visible. We can also mount a pair of 2.5" drives on the front of the power supply housing. Without the flex cages we would be able to mount up to four drives, or nine with the cages!
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
I said it on the first page of today's article, I fell in love with this case when I first saw the press release. From that point on I decided to ditch my planned and mostly purchased Intel LGA2011 build. The decision was mostly based on the a few pictures and the information in the original press release. Now that I have the BitFenix Prodigy on hand, am I as impressed with the Prodigy as I was when I first saw it? For the most part I would have to say yes. There are a couple of items that caught me off guard, mainly because I didn't do enough research on the BitFenix Prodigy before I would have purchased it. That's not the fault of BitFenix so I won't hold my errors against them.
The first thing that I wasn't as impressed with as I had hoped was the cooling options. Having to sacrifice the optical drive bay in order to use a dual 120mm radiator was a bit disappointing. If I would have actually read the entire press release it's clearly stated in there: Remove FlexCage and the ODD bay all together to make room for a thick 240mm water cooling radiator. I knew it would fit a dual 120mm radiator which I was ecstatic about, and I still am. Is it worth sacrificing the optical drive though? Not quite sure on that one just yet.
The other issue I have with the BitFenix Prodigy is the location of the 'front panel'. Instead of being on the actual front of the Prodigy, it is built into the side panel. The first flaw I see with this design is that in order to remove the panel, you will have to first unplug the cables. If all of your cables are passing through the holes in the PSU cage or zip tied together for a clean look, that can be troublesome to accomplish. The other issue I have with this is more of a personal set up issue. The current location of my computer will put those buttons against the wall. If I rotate the case so that these are accessible the ventilation for the graphics card will be blocked. Once again this is more of a configuration issue with my desk than the case. It is simply something that you may need to be aware of depending on your setup.
The above issues that I have with the BitFenix Prodigy are easily outweighed by the advantages and features that are packed into this tiny wonder! Before we even opened up the chassis, just handling it was a pleasure. The BitFenix SofTouch surface was a huge change from the cold steel that is typically found on most cases. The top and bottom of the BitFenix Prodigy feature the BitFenix FyberFlex composite handles, at first I was a little worried about them holding up when carrying the Prodigy around. I kept being overly cautious at first, by the time I was done building the system and had been moving in and out of the light box for photos, I was carrying it around by just one handle without an issue. The handles may flex, but they have always come right back to where they belong and seem to be incredibly strong!
Once we moved into the BitFenix Prodigy I continued to be impressed. For starters I am not the most graceful individual out there, and when building a PC I will typically end up with cuts and scrapes all across my hands. All of the edges in the Prodigy were rolled over so I didn't have to worry about that with this build, that says volumes about the build quality of the BitFenix Prodigy. When it comes to the build itself, I was impressed with the configuration options! The simple fact that you can remove all of the BitFenix FlexCages and still have room for five SSD's is impressive in itself! Toss in the fact that we can fit in graphics cards that measure up to 320mm (12.6 inches) which is nearly double the length of the mini-ITX motherboard that measures 6.7 inches x 6.7 inches just adds to the WOW factor. Let's not forget the ability to build a full custom water cooling with a 240mm radiator the BitFenix Prodigy is a winner in my book!
If you are looking for something other than a black case, BitFenix also offers the Prodigy in white. Personally I think I like the white better between the two of them. Which ever one you choose, you will pay the same price as both of them are available for only $79.99 plus shipping!
Legit Bottom Line: The BitFenix Prodigy mini-ITX chassis is a beautifully crafted case that has the features to meet the demands of an enthusiast and all in a small form factor chassis!