Pros: Small, rubberised finish, ergonomic carry hanles, well designed interior, build quality
Cons: Cable management limitations, restrictive upgrade possibilities,
So I have recently converted from one extreme to the other and purchased a BitFenix Prodigy to replace my current Antec P182 case.
As you can imagine this is quite a change and as such i had to buy various alternative parts in the process including a first encounter with the Mini Itx form factor.
Firstly before i go into the review in detail, my advice to anyone keen on using this case and form factor, try to find a motherboard with good inbuilt wireless as this will save headaches later and i have never been keen on wireless USB dongles.
Aesthetics and Ergonomics 5/5
This for me is where the case really stands out. The finish and choice of materials used by BitFenix is really impressive. The handles pictured top and bottom are excellent for portability and the lower handles/feet double up as shock reduction. One of my main uses for my PC is music recording and production and as such i often have the PC in loud environments where there is a lot of kit being moved around etc. My old case was quite "creaky" and the door vibrating against the case was often audible through the microphone. This case is almost silent when used in this environment with the added bonus that its small size means it is now an insignificance alongside all the other kit i use.
I am more of a fan of sleek cases that don't scream "modded" (just personal preference) and as such this design is perfect. Very subtle and professional looking, however if you are more in to the bells and whistles, BitFenix sell interchangeable side panels, grilles, meshes and cables/cable tidy solutions so there really is something for every preference.
The one thing I changed, however was the blue L.E.D. lights for HDD activity as it is just too blue and bright. I think they took the L.E.D. out of a BT home hub! It had to be disconnected.
Whilst they have done an excellent job of cramming so much variety into such a small package, you cannot ignore the fact that someone with fingers as sausage like as mine will struggle to keep their temperament in check whilst building into this case.
The motherboard installs towards the bottom of the case and is mounted horizontally. The power supply then mounts just under the motherboard platform and has its own easy to clean air filter panel on the bottom of the case to reduce the amount of dust etc drawn in by the PSU fan.
The main thing that struck me as a negative from the outset was the fact that you have to make hard choices when building the case up. For example, in order to make way for a full size graphics card you need to sacrifice one of the easy clip HDD bays which remove at least 3 HDD slots from the machine. Due to this i had to bite the bullet and upgrade both HDD and SSD to larger single units rather than just adding a second/third bay.
Also, once the graphics card is in, it is game over for any other changes or cable management you may wish to do as it totally blocks access to the rest of the components. An obvious solution is to install the graphics last but if you want to make a tweak after this or improve the heat sink or anything interior for that matter, the card must come out!
On the plus side, there is a remove able top mesh for accessing any fans or other components if the fan slots are not utilised, both sides are remove able and so too is the front mesh and entire plastic housing. Once all panels are off it really is a skeleton of its former self and provides good 270 degree access to the insides. Also, depending on preference, you could use a motherboard with onboard graphics if this is not a priority which would make accessibility a much smaller issue.
As long as you do your research before purchasing the components, there is a surprising amount you can do with the case. For example the entire front has room for a varying number of fan sizes from 12cm all the way up to at least a 23cm fan which is what i currently have installed. Due to the larger fan availability i am able to reduce the rpm and subsequent noise levels whilst maintaining adequate air circulation.
To my surprise, i was able to fit an Arctic Freezer pro 7 heat sink and fan in the case alongside the full sized graphics, memory, Blu Ray drive and hard drives whilst maintaining decent air gaps inside the case. This is a little closer to the underside of the graphics card than i would like but has provided no running issues or temperature inflation's at all.
I have a friend who is an avid modder and he has grand plans for buying 2 of these cases and creating custom cable to join the components of the 2 cases together. He envisages having one BitFenix full of the PSU, hard drives and the optical drive and the other with the motherboard and graphics card in it. He maintains that after seeing mine, it would be easier to take 2 of these cases to a LAN party than his current Lian-Li full tower. (I am dubious, and am sure there is a happy medium out there that does not require this Dexters Laboratory style approach) but will insist on pictures if he follows through with his plans)
Whilst i think 4/5 is a high score for adaptability i have scored it against what they are trying to achieve rather than what a larger case can achieve in the BitFenix's lieu as i think it is obvious that a larger case would be more adaptable and therefore not very informative to say so. Also to take into account is the fact that you can really go to town with the changeable panels etc without entering into pro modding territory.
Whilst it is not the most user friendly case i have built in to it is surely one of the most impressive. The interior is very well laid out, the quality of all the cuts is superb with any raw edges rolled and smoothed. There are various channels for cables to flow in/around/through and if you have smaller fingers and more patience than me you can achieve a very tidy and compact build.
The most satisfying moment (as with many builds) is when it is all together, all the panels are on and the first press of the power button makes the thing whir to life. Looking back at what you have just fitted into it is a really satisfying feeling.
If you are looking for something different, something compact or something a little bit quirky but do not want to sacrifice too much performance, this case ticks all the boxes but be prepared to have to spend more money on residual parts in the process in order for everything to fit. This case is like the butterfly's wing analogy whereby changing one part may well have a knock on effect to other parts around the case.
The fact that (if you can do without them) all the drive bays are removable including the optical drive bay and HDD bays means that you can gain a lot of room inside and the presentation of the case is a real match winner for me. And disregarding having to buy more limited parts, i have not had to sacrifice performance.
P.S. My apologies for the use of the word “Buildability”. I am yet to write to Mr Oxford to add this word to the Dictionary and admit responsibility for use of “Bad England speech”
BitFenix Prodigy Case
Corsair 650w modular PSU
Gigabyte Z77N-WIFI Intel Z77 (Socket 1155) DDR3 Mini ITX Motherboard
Intel core i5 2300
Corsair Vengeance Low Profile 16Gb (2 x 8Gb) DDR 3 1600mhz
325mb/s write 225mb/sread OCZ SSD 120 Gb
2TB Storage HDD
Gainward 560 Ti Golden Sample
Pioneer Blu Ray Drive
Saitek Cyborg R.A.T. 3 3500 DPI Gaming Mouse
Logitech DiNovo Edge Wireless Keyboard
Dell 24" Ultra Sharp Monitor (1920 x 1200 max resolution)